Category: Entertainment - Original Written by Michigan Chronicle Staff
Producer/director Lee Daniels, whose film "Lee Daniels' The Butler" has taken in well over $100 million at the box office, is not a man of fear, or of conformity.
People can debate his work...praise it...criticize it...dissect it...embrace it...dismiss it.
That matters little. What counts most is personal and artistic gratification.
"When I make movies I don't ever go out there to please everyone, just myself," said Daniels boldly. "I never try to make a film for the masses. I just try to tell a story. I won't sell my soul to Hollywood to make run-of-the-mill stuff."
But even so, Hollywood has been good to him. Another of his controversial films, "Precious," earned him a Best Director Academy Award nomination and a Best Supporting Actress win for Mo'Nique. The movie also brought Gabourney Sidibe to the public's attention.
Still another film that had tongues wagging, "Monster's Ball," resulted in star Halle Berry taking home a Best Actress Oscar.
Daniels elaborated further during an open discussion with Interview magazine.
"I think that when you have audacity, you will get polarization," he said. "I don't work with fear, and I don't work with actors who are fearful."
Regarding receiving brickbats, he stated, "I'm ready for it, but that's not going to change my view or outlook on filmmaking. I think I have to tell the truth. It hurts a little bit that it is polarizing and everybody doesn't get it.
"But it only hurts because of my actors. To go where they went, they had to be fearless, and bear their souls in a way that they hadn't before. I can take a bullet. I just don't like it for my actors."
Later he added, "I want to go places that are unexpected of me, because people really think they have me pegged."
Last Updated on Monday, 16 September 2013 09:42
Category: Entertainment - Original Written by Michigan Chronicle Staff
There is no doubt that "Blurred Lines" by White R&B singer Robin Thicke, who has long been popular in the Black community, is one of the most exciting songs of the year, and also without doubt the hottest recording of the summer.
Moreover, it found full acceptance on both Pop and R&B stations and the charts, reaching and holding on to the No. 1 spot for many weeks in the latter.
But the family of the late Marvin Gaye, most specifically his son, Marvin Gaye III, seem determined to not let go of the fact that the song bears a strong resemblance to Marvin Gaye's 1977 supercharged party classic, "Got To Give It Up."
As this is being written, it is still uncertain whether or not the Gaye family will sue, although a key member of the family has implied they will. However, the question remains whether or not "Blurred Sounds" sounds enough like "Blurred Lines" for a lawsuit to be successfully carried out.
Indeed, Jeffrey Osborne once recorded a song titled "Congratulations." Later, Vesta made a recording also titled "Congratulations" that was very similar. Osborne considered suing but lamented that it was "just different enough" to make a lawsuit unfeasible.
"Blurred Lines" was written by Robin Thicke, Pharrell Williams and T.I., who filed an action against the Gaye family, to "counteract" any potential suit by that family.
Thicke says he has "the utmost respect for and admiration of Marvin Gaye." And Marvin Gaye III said he is a fan of Robin Thicke, "but there's a way to do business and a way not to do business."
Further, Gaye's son says this is not about money — though some question that — it is about "upholding my father's legacy."
Last Updated on Friday, 13 September 2013 15:04
Category: Entertainment - Original Written by Steve Holsey
John Legend (real name: John Stephens) has clearly found his niche. He has a sound and style that are uniquely his (I love his expressive voice) and his new album, “Love in the Future,” clearly shows him in fine form.
This rather long awaited album is a must for his large and loyal following.
However, when artists primarily, or exclusively, record songs they wrote, there is the possibility of “sameness” sometimes creeping in. The music can be too predictable, at least for some of us. Two other artists who come to mind in that respect are Prince and Kem.
This is not to be considered a putdown of John Legend or his latest offering. Just something for him, and others, to ponder.
THE MARVIN GAYE “Got To Give It Up” controversy notwithstanding, “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke continues to be my favorite song. True, he crosses some “lines” with regard to good taste, but the song is exciting and almost hypnotic. One day I listened to it five times in a row.
I also just purchased Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” album. It’s very good — not a dud to be found anywhere — but this guy seems to be obsessed with songs about sex. He is always singing about the pleasures of the flesh. One would assume that he and his wife, Black actress Paula Patton, are very active.
DUKE FAKIR, the last remaining member of the legendary Four Tops, sure is healthy looking for a man his age. He is 78 and will be 79 in December. He currently sings with Ronnie McNeir, Lawrence Payton Jr. (son of fellow original member Lawrence Payton) and Spike Bonhart, but has said he will retire when he reaches 80.
That would probably be a good idea because the Four Tops consisting entirely of replacements just doesn’t seem right.
By the way, the Four Tops recorded an album with the great Norman Whitfield producing, but there has been an inability to get a record company to release it, but Fakir is not giving up.
PHARRELL WILLIAMS, often just identified as Pharrell, is certainly a man of many talents — record producer, songwriter, rapper, singer, fashion designer, dancer. In one capacity or another he has been affiliated with many artists, in addition to making his own records.
One thing that is nearly impossible to believe is that Pharrell is 40 years old! He looks 17.
SHONDA RHIMES, director-producer and creator of the phenomenally successful TV series “Scandal,” takes issue with those who say the show promotes immorality.
“We’re not making adultery acceptable,” she said. “We’re telling the story of these two characters (‘professional fixer’ Olivia Pope portrayed by Kerry Washington and the president of the United States, Fitzgerald Grant, played by Tony Goldwyn) who very specifically have this kind of relationship. We’re not giving a judgment on it one way or the other.”
There are those who would beg to differ, but that’s life.
Joshua Ledet, top three finalist from season 11 of “American Idol,” has a top-quality heartbreak song oddly titled “Here to Die” that he is trying to get a label deal for. The title is kind of disconcerting, but it’s about the end of a relationship, not about a man actually wanting to depart this earth.
Justin Timberlake, megastar singer and actor, surprised the media and everyone else when he said recently that he would love to play the Riddler in a “Batman” movie. The idea of portraying a “sociopath” intrigues Timberlake.
People often talk about legendary screen star Elizabeth Taylor having been married eight times, but the great jazz, blues and pop songstress Dinah Washington was right up there with her. She was married seven times!
Love this Tina Turner quote: “My legacy is a person who strived for something better and got it.”
BETCHA DIDN’T KNOW…that when Motown changed the Supremes’ name to Diana Ross & the Supremes, Berry Gordy decided to automatically change Martha & the Vandellas to Martha Reeves & the Vandellas because he was sure Reeves would start complaining and he didn’t want to hear it.
MEMORIES: “Don’t Walk Away” (Jade), “Real Love” (Mary J. Blige), “Fight the Power” (the Isley Brothers), “Don’t Let It Go to Your Head” (Jean Carn), “Mighty Love” (the Spinners), “Slip Away” (Clarence Carter), “Careless Whisper” (Wham! featuring George Michael), “Flash Light” (Parliament), “I Feel Good All Over” (Stephanie Mills), “I Wanna Get Next to You” (Rose Royce).
BLESSINGS to Roderick Hairston, Carol Smith Dixon, Ken Coleman, Kim Trent Coleman, Ron Stevenson, Dan Aldridge, Mary Evans, Sylvia Quarles, Montez Miller, John Mason and Aaron Riser.
WORDS OF THE WEEK, from reader Greg Hendricks: “It is a travesty to deny or alter who you are in an attempt to appease people who don’t care about you anyway.”
Let the music play!
Last Updated on Wednesday, 11 September 2013 10:30
Category: Entertainment - Original Written by Jayson Lewis
Oscar Micheaux would be proud of the progress African-American filmmakers have made in the last 30 years or so, although there is still far to go.
For those unfamiliar with Oscar Micheaux, he was a pioneering Black film producer and director. Working against tremendous odds, Micheaux made nearly 50 films from 1919 to 1948.
At the time of this writing, “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” is the No. 1 movie in the United States, having taken in something like $100 million. That would have been unheard of in Micheaux’s day, all the more so for a Black filmmaker.
Throughout the years there has been an array of African-American filmmakers and many, such as John Singleton, Gordon Parks, Ossie Davis, Reginald and Warrington Hudlin, Robert Townsend, Julie Dash and Keenen Ivory Wayans, are generally familiar, but far more have labored without the rcognition they deserve.
THE FIRST to break out on a larger and consistent scale was Spike Lee.
Born Shelton Jackson Lee in Atlanta, the maverick film producer, director, writer and actor first came to the public’s attention in 1986 with a very unusual film titled “She’s Gotta Have It.” Despite having a paltry budget of $175,000 and being shot in only two weeks, “She’s Gotta Have It” wound up taking in $7,000,000 at the box office.
The much-discussed film was made via Lee’s production company, 40 Acres and a Mule.
Movies are by their very nature entertainment vehicles. However, Spike Lee has become known for the controversies — sometimes intense — that he deliberately courts.
One prime example was “Do the Right Thing,” a 1989 excursion into the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn where racial tensions mount with disastrous results.
FAR LESS intense was the film that preceded it, “School Daze” (1988), but it too focused on a controversial issue — division at a Black college based on something that has long been an issue, though not usually openly discussed, in the Black community — skin complexion.
In that film, Lee’s unconventionally delivered conclusion was an admonition to “Wake up!”
“Everything I do is scrutinized,” said Lee, with only a faint trace of resentment, adding that he is not one to be dictated to.
With "Malcolm X," released in 1992, Lee again stirred up controversy, though not nearly as much as the slain ’60s Muslim human rights activist himself routinely did.
In the process Lee also created a massive amount of renewed interest in Malcolm X. It was almost a fad. There were, for example, Malcolm X caps and T-shirts everywhere you looked.
That film starred Denzel Washington (who was featured in other Spike Lee films as well). Lee has never had trouble luring big stars to his films, including Halle Berry, Samuel L. Jackson, Hill Harper, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Laurence Fishburne, Giancarlo Esposito and Alfre Woodward.
Among his other films arer “Mo’ Better Blues,” “He Got Game,” “Clockers,” “Jungle Fever,” “Get on the Bus,” “She Hate Me,” “Girl 6” and “Crooklyn.”
INTERESTINGLY, Spike Lee had well-publicized issues with another Black filmmaker, Tyler Perry (Emmitt Perry, Jr.), whose success had surpassed his own.
It has been said that this is part of the reason for Lee’s biting words, but that is only speculation. In any event, Perry got tired of it and fired back, complete with expletive, and Lee subsequently issued an apology.
Lee felt that too often Perry’s movies, like his stage productions, made too much use of certain racial stereotypes, an accusation that Perry had heard before and has heard since, though not nearly as often because it is hard to argue with someone as phenomenally successful as director, producer, screenwriter, actor, playwright, songwriter and author as Tyler Perry.
His career was launched in 2005 with the onsite film “Diary of a Mad Black Woman.” It was there that he introduced the public to his most famous character played by himself, the sassy, frequently combative-but-often compassionate, wisdom-spouting Madea.
ALTHOUGH his movies are for anyone who wants to see them, Perry has said that he is largely focused on segments of the Black community that are traditionally overlooked by (White) filmmakers and playwrights.
“It’s attitudes (like Lee’s) that make Hollywood think that these people do not exist, and that is why there is no material speaking to them,” Perry once said. “Madea can talk about God, love, faith, forgiveness and family.”
Controversies notwithstanding, Perry has had one box office bonanza after another, among them “Meet the Browns,” “I Can Do Bad All By Myself,” “Meet the Browns,” “Madea’s Family Reunion” and “Why Did I Get Married?”
His stars have included Angela Bassett, Janet Jackson, Blair Underwood, Taraji P. Henson, Cecily Tyson, Maya Angelou, Lynn Whitfield and Rick Fox.
LEE DANIELS, producer, director and actor, has been a major presence for a number of years now. Indeed, the 2001 production, “Monster’s Ball,” was a box office success and, in fact, earned star Halle Berry an Oscar in the Best Actress category.
However, her character enraged a substantial number of African-Americans who felt it did a disservice to Black people, and to Black women in particular.
But Lee Daniels is obviously not afraid of a little, or even a lot, of controversy. This was proven again in 2009 with “Precious.”
It too was a success at the box office and the winner of critical acclaim, in addition to making Gabourey Sidibe an attraction and winning a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Mo’Nique. Daniels won a Best Director Academy Award nod.
Even so, the harshness of “Precious” was too much for some people.
But he has soared into the stratosphere with “Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” which has won praise all the way up to President Barack Obama. In this film, the real life story of Cecil Gaines, who served eight presidents during his White House tenure, is told.
Director Daniels assembled an impressive cast, including Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, Vanessa Redgrave, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Robin Williams and Lenny Kravitz.
“When I make movies, I don’t ever go out there to please everyone, just myself,” said Daniels. “I never try to make a film for the masses. I just try to tell a story. I won’t sell my soul to Hollywood to make run-of-the-mill stuff.”
Hopefully, no producer/director worthy of the title would either. — Steve Holsey contributed to this story.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 11 September 2013 17:35
Category: Entertainment - Original Written by Steve Holsey
In a manner of speaking, the Detroit Jazz Festival, now in its 34th year, is the crowning glory of summer in the Motor/Music City. It’s about the music, true enough, but that is just part of the story.
The Detroit Jazz Festival is a celebration, a diverse coming together of people — jazz lovers or not — from the city, from the suburbs, from outstate, from out of the country.
Everyone wants to unwind, have a good time listening to the music, mingle, enjoy good food, “people watch,” and perhaps even reflect on the events of the year up to that point as the sweet sounds of jazz waft through the air.
This Labor Day weekend tradition is special — and, yes, something for Detroit to be proud of.
The festival begins on Friday, Aug. 30, and concludes on Monday (Labor Day), Sept. 2. Those who come to downtown Detroit for the festival will be entertained by hundreds of first-rate musicians and vocalists who promise to give the very best they have to offer.
“JAZZ” IS a word heard with great frequency, but what exactly is jazz?
Its roots can be traced back to the earliest days of the 20th century and, like blues, R&B, rock and roll and gospel, it developed in the African-American community.
What these pioneering Black musicians did was combine their African-based music with European form and harmony. As the music continued to develop, it also absorbed elements of rhythm and blues. The music, as would be expected, spread around the world, having a major and enduring influence wherever it was heard.
An array of jazz styles came into being, including bebop, big band swing, Latin jazz, cool jazz (the word “cool” emerged from the jazz world), New Orleans jazz, chamber jazz, avant-garde jazz, soul jazz, ragtime, jazz fusion, smooth jazz and numerous others.
The legendary, iconic bandleader, musician, composer Duke Ellington said simply, “It’s all music.” That is, to be created and enjoyed, not analyzed and debated ad nauseam.
AMONG THE greatest names in jazz history are Ellington, Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Betty Carter, Jelly Roll Morton, Count Basie, Dexter Gordon, Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, Art Blakey, Herbie Hancock and Billie Holiday.
Also, Cannonball Adderley, Freddie Hubbard, Lester Young, Dave Brubeck, the Modern Jazz Quartet, Stan Getz, Wes Montgomery, Lionel Hampton, Chick Corea, Wynton Marsalis, Ella Fitzgerald and Ramsey Lewis.
The importance of jazz was illustrated when, in 1987, Congressman John Conyers proposed a bill to the U.S. House of Representatives to define jazz as a unique form of American music.
The bill, which passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, said jazz was “hereby designated as a rare and valuable national American treasure to which we should devote our attention, support and resources to make certain it is preserved, understood and promulgated.”
The Detroit Jazz Festival makes a point of presenting an array of jazz styles, as well as music that is not jazz per se, but can be effectively presented in this setting.
THE DETROIT Jazz Festival, which is presented at no charge, was founded in 1980 by Robert McCabe and the Detroit Renaissance. From that year to 1991 the festival thrived with a connection to Switzerland’s famed Montreux Jazz Festival.
In 1991 a partnership was formed with the Music Hall Center For The Performing Arts, an arrangement that lasted until 2005.
At that point Gretchen Valade, president of Mack Avenue Records and Detroit philanthropist, became a major sponsor with support from the Knight Foundation.
Today, the Detroit Jazz Festival is produced and managed by the Detroit International Jazz Festival Foundation.
The 2013 lineup is as exciting, and as diverse, as any in the past.
The performers include the Dave Murray Big Band featuring Macy Gray, the David Berger Jazz Orchestra, the McCoy Tyner Trio with special guest Savion Glover, the Brubeck Brothers Quartet, Rodney Whitaker, Kirk Whalum, Gary Burton, Bill Charlap and Renee Rosnes, Theo Croker, David Liebman, Ravi Coltrane, the New Breed Be Bop Society, the Four Freshman and the Toledo Jazz Orchestra.
Also, Ahmad Jamal, the Alan Broadbent Trio featuring Sheila Jordan, Geri Allen, Bill Frisell, the John Scofield Uberjam, the Joshua Redman Quartet, Jon Faddis, Francisco Mora, Johnny Trudell, Richie Birach, the Yellowjackets, the Detroit Jazz Festival Orchestra, Robert Hurst, the Robert Glasper Experiment and George Bohannon, among many others.
Many high school and college bands will also play.
Danilo Pérez is artist in residence.
The Detroit Jazz Festival also offers Jazz Talk Tent, presented by Chrysler, which “brings greater depth to the music heard at the festival.”
That is in addition to the Jazz Infusion Program, the flagship of the festival’s educational wing created “to help foster the growth of young musicians from the city so they can better compete for college scholarships, pursue careers in music, and continue Detroit’s rich jazz tradition.”
Jazz Week @ Wayne is a workshop conducted in conjunction with the Wayne State University Department of Music.
For more detailed information about the Detroit Jazz Festival, visit detroitjazzfest.com. — SVH
Last Updated on Friday, 30 August 2013 13:45
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