Thursday, March 29, 2007

Reel People: Richard Gere is Clifford Irving

The film is the Hoax, directed by Lasse Hallstrom.

Clifford Irving was an author, who initially survived off of a low level job at the New York Times while he was working on his work. Not so lucky in love, he and his first wife split up after two years of marriage, his second wife died in an auto accident, the relationship with the third didn't last long either. His relationship with his forth wife, Edith seemed to stick.

After writing a few novels, as well as Fake! (1969), the autobiograph of art forger Elmyr de Hory, Irving had begun to establish an image, especially with his publisher McGraw-Hill. Irving and spanish author Richard Suskind created a plan to fake an autobiography of Howard Hughes, since Hughes' had bought off everyone who wrote an unautorized biography and had completly withdrawn from public life. Irving and friends went to a lot of work to fake letters and create an image that Irving truly had authorized an autobiography. McGraw-Hill paid Irving and Hughes huge advances for the autobiography. The checks to Hughes though were deposited in a Swiss bank account by Irving and his wife.

Irving and Suskind were busted months before the books was too be published when Howard Hughes himself came forward and claimed the book was a fake. Although Irving tried to claim the Howard Hughes coming forward was fake, it was unsucsessful when Swiss authorities got involved and identified Edith as the one who was making the deposits. Irving served 14 months in jail and returned over $700,000 in advances to the publisher. Suskind served 5 months in jail.

Irving went on to continue to write books after his release. Portions of Hughes autobiography can be downloaded at Irving's website. Irving on his website claims that there are many hoaxes to his own life portrayed in the move, especially in it's portrayl of Dick Suskind.

Hallstrom has as usual gathered a great cast. Suskind is played by Alfred Molina, Edith Irving is played by Marcia Gay Harden. Other stars include Stanley Tucci, Hope Davis, Eli Wallach, and Julie Deply. (As a side note Michael J. Burge in a minor role will another film version of Truman Capote in this picture).

This portrayl of a real person could earn Gere some critical awards attention this year for his portrayal of this Real (Reel) Person.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

My Thoughts, My Thoughts on "My Country, My Country"

I certainly enjoyed the 2007 Academy Award best documentary nominated film, My Country, My Country.

The film follows Dr. Riyadh, a Sunni Muslim who is passionate about democracy, but also unhappy with the foreign occupation. The film follows him as he runs for office under the Islamic Party in the controversial 2005 election. The film follows him in dealing with his family of 6 children, his medical practice, an inspection of the Abu Gharib prison, and trying to gain supports of hostel and indifferent Sunni's in his district.

This film on many levels is very interesting. It plays more like a national geographic picture article than a tightly woven narrative story. It creates an emotion and shows images that leaves CNN and Fox News in the dust. At the same time, I felt like Laura Poitras had amazing film clips she didn't know what to do with, but really wanted to use, and so they sneaked there way into the film.

Probably more than anything, the part I found interesting was seeing how the United States military and UN went about organizing such massive elections for Iraq, and even more interesting was the ways in which they tried to make it appear that Iraqi's were the one's conducting the election.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Reel People: Cate Blanchett, Christian Bale, Marcus Carl Fanklin, Richard Gere, Heath Ledger, & Ben Whishaw are Bob Dylan

The Film is I'm Not There directed by Todd Haynes. In the film many characters play Bob Dylan (including Cate Blanchett pictured above) at different points of the artist life.

Dylan was born Born Robert Allen Zimmerman in 1941. Zimmerman/Dylan played and listened to music all the time when he was young. In college Zimmerman started introducting himself as Bob Dylan in college, his inspiration for the name came from author Dylan Thomas. Dylan quit college and began playing music where he eventually got signed by Columbia Records to do a record in 1962. Dylan a fan of Woody Guthrie, soon got labeled as a young Guthrie himself with songs that became deemed as protest songs for their messages. Before long Dylan was involved in the protest movement, especially as songs like "Blowin' in the Wind" became more popular.

While still creating a lot of hits, Dylan married Sarah Lownds in 1965 with whom they had 4 children (one of which is Jakob Dylan lead singer for the Wallflowers and director Jesse Dylan). 1966 Dylan had a severe motorcylce accident which caused him to re-evaluate his busy life, and caused him to disappear from society for a time, although he did release the album that contained the song "All Along the Watchtower" during this time. He reappeared to society when Woodie Guthrie died October 1967 and Dylan performed at Guthrie memorials.

Dylan's music was not received as strongly in the early 70s as in the mid-60s, although he still recorded some famous songs like "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" and "Hurricane" (his only protest song of 70s in response to Rubin "Hurricane" Carter being imprisoned). Lownds and Dylan divorced in 1977.

In 1979 Dylan's music turned to Gospel as he (with much skeptism) became a Christian, writing songs like "Gotta Serve Somebody" (to which Lennon responded with the song "Serve Yourself"). In this stage of life Dylan became good friends with Christian singer Steve Green.

Dylan became involved with Live Aid in the 80s and contributed to the song "We Are The World." In 1986 Dylan married his backup signer Carolyn Dennis.

Dylan has continued to make new music and tour, as well as receiving many honors including Kennedy Center honors, an academy award for the song "Things Change" from the film Wonderboys, and performing before the Pope.

This unique biographical film will certain get attention. It'll be curious to see if specific attention lands upon any of the people (Blanchett, Bale, Gere, etc) for portraying this Real (Reel) Person.

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Monday, March 26, 2007

Best of 2007: Deathbed by Relient K

I can't imagine there being a better song in 2007 than Deathbed by Relient K off of their newest album Five Score & Seven Years Ago.

At over 11 minutes long, lead singer Matt Theissen, takes on the 1st person voice of a man dying on his deathbed of lung cancer.

The old man discusses his life and faults, from his smoking habit, to his disconnected marriage that he entered when his wife got pregnant, to the alchol he consummed to pass his life away.

It is hear on his deathbed that he's facing the conflict of who Jesus is and whether Jesus really could forgive his sins. The lyrical and poetic explination of this struggle is beautiful. Especially at this point, the song is so similar in overall tone and feel of Don McLean's American Pie.

And as the old man dies, the song end with the grandest of finales as Jon Foreman (lead singer of Switchfoot) takes on the voice of Jesus speaking to the man in his first moments of death. Foreman has the perfect voice for this role who a calm but full and powerful voice that concludes the song (and the cd) with an amazing climax.

This song alone, gives me tremendous respect for Theissen and Relient K that I have never had before. Last week this cd premiered at number 6 on Billboard's Top 200 and while mtv and online downloaders might be drawn to songs like "I Must Have Done Something Right," and "Forgiven," it is this song that is the amazing standout of this album.

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Saturday, March 24, 2007

Fanning vs. Fanning: Best Picture Nominated Films

Frequent young artist award winner, and even Screen Actor's Guild nominee Dakota Fanning has certainly played a wide range of roles from War of the Worlds, I am Sam, Cat in The Hat, etc.

Yet, younger sister Elle Fanning has her own 1-up on older sister Dakota. Elle has appeared in a Best Picture nominated film, Babel. Sure Elle may not yet be a member of the academy like big-sister Dakota, but if Reservation Road does receive a best picture nod, Elle will have appeared in 2 best picture nominated films.

Dakota's child molestation picture Hounddog doesn't look like it'll be scoring with this years academy, but Elle's supporting role may put her in a 2nd academy best picture nominated film.

At this point Dakota has more notoriety, but come on Elle, celebrate in your successes like this one.

The race is on.

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

Is a spot reserved for Reservation Road?

Many of the front-runners people are already buzzing about seem logical, Sweeney Todd, Charlies Wilson's War, American Gangster, The Kite Runner, etc.

Yet obviously, certain "less-flashy" films play a role when it comes to critical prizes.

Everywhere there's people crazy enough to talk about this next years academy awards, people are buzzing about Reservation Road listing it as a 2007 front-runner.

Reservation Road is based off the novel by John Burnham Schwartz about two families whose lives interesect when a man is involved in a hit-and-run accident causing the death of a young boy.

Certainly not an uppity-feature film, but it does remind me of a film like In The Bedroom, with emotional acting opportunities for it's leads.

The film is written and directed by Terry George (two time oscar nominee for his co-writing of Hotel Rwanda and In The Name of The Father).

The film stars two-time Academy nominee Joaquin Phoenix (Gladiator, Walk The Line), along side Oscar winner Jennifer Connelly (A Beautiful Mind), and Mark Ruffalo, and academy award nominee Mira Sorvino (Mighty Aphrodite).

It is certainly not a novice crew, but of the entire crew, only producer A. Kitman Ho has received an academy mention (Best Picture nods for JFK and Born on the Forth of July).

So why is this film receiving the buzz that is placing it in people's earliest top fives? I'm not sure.

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A Women's Need for Solitude: as presented in The Holiday

The recent film, The Holiday, strongly proposes the idea that no one wants to be alone, even when they think they do.

Both Kate Winslet's and Cameron Diaz's character (Iris and Amanda), both decide that they can't be around people any longer and seek out the opportunity to be alone. Yet as soon as they are alone, they also instantly are incapable of being alone. Amanda (Diaz) instantly is ready to fly home out of loneliness/boredom, and only changes her mind because of a physical relationship with Graham (Jude Law). Iris (Winslet) handles alone time much better, but instantly is willing to connect with old relations, as well as is very willing to make new friends (a decorated screenwriter and a film composer).

Allison post "Being Alone" on Explorations talked about the film/literary concept that "alone time is pretty much the panacea for all spiritual ills." She mentions some various books and films, Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, The Hours by Michael Cunningham, and To Room 19 by Doris Lessing. To these books, I will also add The Awakening by Kate Chopin. Yet Allison says that many of these books take female solitude too far.

I think that's what I appreciate about The Holiday. Although these women in the film found temporary respite from their ills and woes in film, Nancy Meyers also shows that these women (and the men they encounter) are not cut out for long term solitude, but rather have a deep need for meaningful relationships with others.

In light of my recent post ("I am a Lonely Soul") I actually agree with this principle. Normally, I am turned off by the concepts presented in Romantic-Comedies, and while there are some idyllic situations and contrived moments, I found the Holiday's presentation of solitude/companionship intriguing.

God made Eve because he said it was not God for man to be alone, but I wonder if Eve ever wanted some time to herself?

Sunday, March 18, 2007

$100 million in ads and still in the (Red)

In a recent post I mentioned CSR (Consumer Social Responsibility) as a long-term corporate strategy where companies will try to enhance their public image and increase consumer spending.

Clearly one of the most well advertised CSR campaign has been the Product (Red) Campaign which delivers high end products through companies like Gap, American Express, Apple, Motorolla and Converse.

On March 4, Mya Frazier of Ad Age wrote an article, "Costly RED Campaign Reaps Meager $18 million." Which criticized Product (Red) of spending $100 in advertising to raise only $18 million.

This has inspired a number of responses, including responses from Bob Shriver, Red CEO, and Richard Feachem the executive director of the Global Fund.

Yet Advertising Age is not the only whistle blower. The situation for many, like NYU economics professor William Easterly, is much larger, as many have recently been critical of foreign aid in Africa suggesting it supports a larger problem in Africa, which is government corruption, which hinders African countries from becoming democratic of achieving sustainable economic growth. (I instantly think of the movie The Constant Gardner)

Is criticism over the (Red) Campaign unnecessary criticism, and just a result of our critical culture? Or are these concerns legitimate?

Personally, in age of CSR, I think companies like Gap Inc. should back off from advertising their social responsibility by traditional ad means. Instead release press-releases and inform local activist groups of the project, and train company employees to be able to speak about the project. Using buzz marketing principles, this CSR campaign could potentially be very profitable and at the same time protect these companies from appearing as though they were exploiting disease and poverty to gain wealth, and spending 5 times as much to promote their campaign than they are able to donate.

I appreciate the Buy (Less) Crap campaign that encourages people simply to buy less and give instead of participating in these corporate campaigns which encourages consumption of unnecesary luxary products. And yet, I also acknowledge to power of large scale organizations to chanel the masses into opportunities to give big by everyone giving small. (It's like the money they made in Office Space by taking the rounded pennies and putting the money into one account).

It may be eutopian but I wish we could live with the mindset of the Buy (Less) Crap slogan: "Shopping is not a solution. Buy less. Give more."

You can also check out the Red Blog here.

(More here and here)

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Friday, March 16, 2007

"I am a Lonely Soul"

Brad Delp, the long-time lead singer of the classic rock band Boston commited suicide March 9th, and today nothing is sadder than reading the about his suicide notes, primarily the one pinned to his collar, reading:

"Mr. Brad Delp. J’ai une ame solitaire. I am a lonely soul.”

I am a lonely soul. These words find in a strange time.
I think most people suffer from some degree of loneliness, certainly I know that I do.

In the recently published book, Confessions of a Pastor by Craig Groeschel, the third chapter is entitled: "Most of the Time I Feel Incredibly Lonely."

This chapter was actually very moving to me, because while I have many great friends (most living a state or 7 away), a great wife, a great family, a great job, and see many people I know everyday, I often feel lonely. And yet at the same time, I find myself also asking, what would make me feel unlonely, and then too, I have no answer.

Groeschel in his book speaks of three myths of seclusion that are certainly beliefs I fall into some time.

Seclusion Conclusion #1: I have to perform for people.
Seclusion Conclusion #2: To survive in life, you can't trust anyone.
Seclusion Conclusion #3: People really don't care about us.

I know that I am frequently guilty of trying to please people, I think so many times I want to please people, whether in work, friendships, or whatever, and as a result people sometimes don't see the real me. Which leads to #2... it's as though I'm scared if people "really knew me" they wouldn't like me, or even care for me (#3).

The band Relient K's most recent album contains a song written by front-man Matthew Thiessen called Faking my Own Suicide (lyrics here) where in a sad/goofy way thoughts about love are explored where "the narrator" speaks of faking his own suicide so the girl he loves will realize how much she loved him, even though she didn't realize it.

It's in this vein of morbidness that there is truth, I think far too many people are asking if anyone would care if they died.

Brad Delp surely must have known people cared for him, otherwise he wouldn't have left notes to his family and fiancée, Pamela Sullivan.

I know for me I need to work on trusting more and not trying to please people. I know so many people care for me and my wife and I am so thankful for the dear friends that I have, even if many of them live in so many different places.

If ever I feel lonely (like Brad Delp, Craig Groeschel or Matt Theissen), I am deceived, for I am certainly not alone.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Reel People: Clive Owens is Sir Walter Raleigh

The film is The Golden Age were Clive Owens will star along-side Cate Blanchett as Queen Elizabeth I.

Sir Walter Raleigh is more famous for his association with Queen Elizabeth I, then she is for her association with him. Walter Raleigh was much younger than Elizabeth born in 1552, just six years before Elizabeth I would take the throne. He was born of a wealthy protestant family, which initially was unfortunate in some regards as Mary I was queen of England in his earliest days and trying to re-establish Catholicism as the church of England in his earliest childhood. Some attribute such events as creating a disdain for Catholics by Raleigh. He Attended Oxford for some time, and eventually joined with the Huguenots in the French Wars of Religion, and then returned to London to study law, although whether he actually attended school or studied law is up for historical debate. In the late 1570s/early 1580s Raleigh was very involved with fighting and suppressing Irish rebellions, and for a good time set up residence in Ireland.

To Americans Raleigh is most important for establishing the first colonies in the new world as he attempted twice to set up Virginia colony (named after the virgin queen herself) in Roanoke Island in 1584 and again in 1587. Raleigh paved the way for American colonization, although his initial attempts were relatively unsuccessful.

Elizabeth I first came in contact with Raleigh in the early 1580s as a result of his success in squelching the Irish rebellions, he was knighted, and later became captain of the Queen's guard. In 1591 Raleigh secretly married one of Elizabeth I's ladies-in-waiting, Elizabeth Throckmorton ("Bess"). When the Queen eventually learned of this unauthorized marriage Raleigh, and Raleigh was imprisoned and his wife dismissed from court. Raleigh was later released and was able to establish a respectable life with his wife, and in the community where he lived. He also went in search of El Dorado, a golden city along the Caroni River in the Orinoco River Basin (now, Venezuela).

In 1603, when Queen Elizabeth I died, Raleigh was imprisoned by the new king, James VI of Scotland. He was sentenced to death and spent 16 years in the tower of London where Raleigh wrote the first volume of "History of the World" about Greece and Rome. Raleigh was released from prison for a second journey in search of El Dorado. El Dorado was not discovered, and on the journey the crew led an unauthorized attack of the Spanish. The Spanish demanded that Raleigh's death sentence be reinstated. James VI followed the request of the Spanish, and Raleigh was beheaded in 1618.

In the Golden Age directed by Shekhar Kapur, will focus on the relationship between Raleigh (Owens) and the Queen (Blanchett). The role of Bess will be played by rising-star Abbie Cornish.

This biographical film could certainly earn Academy nominated actor Owens some critical awards attention this year for his portrayal of this Real (Reel) Person.

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Reel People: Cate Blanchett is Queen Elizabeth I (again)

The movie is The Golden Age where Cate Blanchett will reprise her academy nominated role as Queen Elizabeth I in 1998's film Elizabeth. This follow up film is again directed by Shehkar Kapur, and screenwriter Michael Hirst.

Elizabeth was born in 1533, daughter of King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn (his second wife). Elizabeth's mother was accused of treason, and witchcraft and killed when Elizabeth was only three. In 1547, Elizabeth's half brother Edward VI (son of Henry VIII & Jane Seymoure) took the throne of England. Protestant Edward VI named in his will Lady Jane Grey as his successor, trying to keep his roman catholic half-sister Mary (as well as Elizabeth) from the throne. Queen Jane ruled 9 days, and then soon behind swept in Mary I (frequently called Mary Tudor or Bloody Mary). Queen Mary I of England reigned 1553-1558, when she died at the age of 42. This was then 1558, the year Elizabeth laid claim to the royal throne (Over Mary Queen of Scots, daughter of James V in the line of Henry VII. Mary Queen of Scots at this point was 16, she formally began ruling Scotland at the age of 9 months old).

Elizabeth I was the last monarchy of the Tudor dynasty. She never married or had children, and was often referred to as the virgin queen. She ruled almost 45 years, in a time period which became known as the Elizabethan age, in a time period in which England gained greater influence in world wide affairs. The crowning of Elizabeth I was complicated because there was no archbishop of Canterbury, and because she was protestant many bishops did not want to crown the queen feeling she was an illegitimate monarch.

During the early days of Elizabeth I's reign there was significant conflict between her and Mary Queen of Scots. By this point Mary was the wife of French King Francis II, claimed she was the real queen of England and exerted French authority over England. Once the French wars of Religion began between the Huguenots and the Catholics, Elizabeth gave support to the Huguenots over the French Catholics.

During Elizabeth I's reign England was very active militarily and politically as they established their role in Europe further. There were also tremendous art endeavors which expanded England's role in the world culturally, especially with Shakespearean theater. In 1603 Elizabeth I's reign ended upon her death when she feel into a deep melancholy and depression for days, eventually died in her sleep. James I king of Scotland succeeded Elizabeth upon her death.

The upcoming film does not of course tell the entire story of Elizabeth's life, but is said to focus on the relationship Elizabeth I (Blanchett) has with Sir Walter Raleigh (Clive Ownens). Geoffery Rush will reprise his role as Sir Francis Walsingham, and Samantha Morton will play the role of Mary Queen of Scots.

Will this biographical film earn Blanchett some critical awards again for her second portrayal of this Real (Reel) Person?

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Reel People: Adrien Brody is Manuel Laureano Rodríguez Sánchez

The film is Manolete and stars Academy Award winner Adrien Brody as the world famous Spanish bull fighter. The film is written and directed by academy award nominee Menno Meyjes (writer of the Color Purple).

Manuel Laureano Rodríguez Sánchez is better known for as Manolete. Born in 1917, Sánchez was born to the father of a blind bull-fighter. He began bull-fighting at the age of 17, and under a former matador (José Camará) who taught him how to refine his style.

Manolete was known for passionate cape work, while he himself maintained a sad and emotionless expression. Manolete became an icon of the Spanish, earning over $4 million dollars in eight years of the 1940s. Manolete became a valuable icon to many as his image helped sell dolls, alcohol, and anything else he promoted. It was not uncommon for bull-fighters to die, but Manolete's image was worth so much that his promoters often prepared the bulls he was fighting by shaving their horns so they would be less dangerous.

Manolete retired, but was lured out of retirment by a young rival (Luis Miguel Dominguín, who was dating Ava Gardner), Manolete re-entered bull fighting only to get gored to death in 1947.

This biographical film could certainly earn Brody some critical awards attention for his portrayal of this Real (Reel) Person.

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Saturday, March 10, 2007

Reel People: Catherine Keener is Gertrude Baniszewski

The film is An American Crime written and directed by Indianan Tommy O'Haver. Catherine Keener plays Indiana tortureress Gertrude Baniszewski co-staring with the up-and-coming Ellen Page as Sylvia Likens.

The story of Baniszewski and Likens is horrid, and takes place in the 1960s. Born in 1929 Baniszewski had her own sad life of family death, divorce, abuse, and miscarriages. But none of this compares to what happened in the 60s when Lester and Betty Likens truster their 15 and 16 year old daughters to the care of Baniszewski for 20 dollars a week. For various possible reasons, Gertrude did horrible things to the oldest daughter Sylvia...horrible things which are just too horrible to comprehend that involved intense torture, embarassment, mutilation, and eventually death. Beyond Gertrude's own sickness is the fact that she allowed many others to abuse Sylvia and participate in torture and no one reported anything. After the death of Sylvia, Gertrude was arrested, tried, and imprisoned. And despite the horrid events was eventually realeased on parole after 20 years in prison. Released in 1985 she died in 1990 of Lung Cancer.

This horrid story doesn't even sound like any type of entertainment at all. The story of abused children (like in Hounddog) certainly are horrifying, but that does not mean that challenging and dramatic roles like the one played by Keener and Page will perhaps will get them critical recognition for playing these Real (Reel) People.

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Friday, March 09, 2007

Reel People: Jared Leto is Mark David Chapman

The film is Chapter 27, which is the debut effort of the young writer/director J.P. Schaefer.

Mark David Chapman is infamous for the assassination of John Lenon December 8, 1980. Chapman, the son of an Air Force sergeant was born in 1955 in Fort Worth, Texas but grew up primarily in Atlanta. From all accounts, Chapman's life was somewhat rebellious until in high school his life turned around after becoming a Christian, at which point most accounts regard him as well respected, particularly as he worked as a YMCA counselor and with Vietnamese Refugee Camps. His anger for John Lennon seems to have been born out of Lennon's comment in 1966 that the Beatles were bigger than Jesus. Chapman also had disdain for the song "Imagine" because he had read John Lennon: One Day at a Time by Anthony Fawcett which detailed John Lennon's vast wealth.

Of all the books, this was not the most famous book associated with Chapman's assassination. Far more significant is the J.D. Salinger's Catcher in The Rye. At some point Chapman picked up this book and as his mental health began to slide identified with the main character's (Holden Caufield) isolation and drive to help protect children. Chapman attempted his own suicide in 1977 and actually attempted Lennon's assassination two months before the event. Chapman did not commit suicide because the vacuum cleaner hose attached to his car's exhaust pipe melted, and he didn't follow through with the assassination because the movie Ordinary People inspired him.

In December 6th of 1980 Chapman left items in his room and bought a copy of Catcher in The Rye which he signed and wrote in it "This is my statement." Chapman camped out that day in front of Lennon's home and earlier in the day had Lennon sign a copy of Yoko Ono and Lennon's latest album, which he had signed. That night when Lennon and Ono returned from dinner Chapman shot Lennon, at which point he bled to death.

Chapman was sentenced to prison where he currently is serving at Attica State Prison. He has come up for Parole four times in the past decade, all of which have been denied.

The upcoming film's title is based off Catcher in The Rye, in that it has 26 chapters. Vegetarian Leto reportedly gained 67 pounds for the film to look the part of Chapman. The film co-stars Lindsay Lohan.

This biographical film could certainly earn Leto some critical awards attention for his portrayl of this Real (Reel) Person.

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Thursday, March 08, 2007

Reel People: Anne Hathaway is Jane Austen

The film is Becoming Jane, a movie about the early days of Jane Austen.

Jane Austen was the author of classic novels Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Mansfield Park, Emma, Persuasion, and Northanger Abbey, all published in the 1810's (the same decade she died at the age of 41 for unclear health reasons). Jane's father was a member of the clergy, and was the member of a large family with a sister and four brothers. It was probably Jane's family influences and interest in literature, art, and drama that led her to become the renowned writer she is now known as. Jane lived in various parts of England her entire life and is clearly known for being a distinctive British voice. Austen's romances are uncharacteristic of other romance writings in that they do not encourage emotional reactions, but instead try to display a realistic view of romance, balancing thought and emotion. Jane Austen was a spinster, never marrying although she was for a short period engaged to man (Harris Big-Whitier) whom's proposal she accepted and quickly rejected.

Transitioning from teen films to adult films Anne has recently been by-passed while her co-stars work have been highlighted (The Devil Wears Prada & Brokeback Mountain). Hathaway as a Brooklyn born actresses has a challenging role of portraying the British author as she acts among a primarily British cast. The film becoming Jane is directed by Julian Jerolds and co-stars James McAvoy, James Cromwell and Julie Walters as Austen's parents, as well as academy award winner Maggie Smith.

This biographical film could certainly earn Hathaway some critical awards attention for her portrayl of this Real (Reel) Person.

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Reel People: Tom Hanks is Charles Wilson

The film is Charlie Wilson's War based on the 2002 non-fiction book written by the recenetly deceased journalist and 60 minutes producter George Crilie.

Tom Hanks plays the title role of Charlie Wilson, a Texas Congressman from small town Texas (Trinity, TX) who fought for many liberal causes (labor regulations, medicaid, and abortion rights). Charles Wilson became a lieutenant in the navy and served a post at the pentagon, despite the fact that he did poorly at the naval academy and is said to have had more demerits than any other graduate of the naval academy.

Charles Wilson never married, and was known for having many women around him. Wilson was a member of house of representatives from 1961-1967, then was a member of the senate from 1967-1973, and then returned to the house from 1973-1997.

Wilson was largely involved with the appropriations committee, especially in the early 1980's were he urged the CIA to increase funds to Afghanastan in 1982 to help the Muslim opposition group to fight against the Soviet Union during the cold war.

The film centers around these events and co-stars award winners/nominees Julia Roberts, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, and Emily Blunt. The film is directed by Mike Nicols (The Graduate, the Remains of the Day, Working Girl). The film is written by Aaron Sorkin who wrote over half of the episodes for the West Wing.

This biographical film could certainly earn Hanks some critical awards attention for his portrayl of the Real (Reel) Person.

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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Reel People: Denzel Washington is Frank Lucas

The film is American Gangster directed by Ridley Scott which stars Denzel Washington as 1970's heroin dealer Frank "Superfly" Lucas out of Harlem.

Frank Lucas claims to have made over one million dollars selling heroin on 116th street. And one time might have had as much as 56 million dollars sitting in Cayman Island banks as the result of his drug trade/smuggling where he would bring in high purity heroin in the coffins of dead Americans returning from Vietnam. His simple selling technique was that he owned the street, sold high quality dope, and would sell it around four in the afternoon when the day and night cops were changing shifts. Lucas was eventually caught and sentenced to jail where he released the names of over 100 other criminals, and later released for cooperation. (source)

The film, American Gangster co-stars Russell Crowe as Detective Richie Roberts. The screenplay is writen by screen-writer Steven Zaillian (Schindler's List, Gangs of New York). The film also stars Cuba Gooding Jr., Chiwetel Ejiofor and has appearances by rappers TI, Common, and RZA.

This biographical film could certainly earn Washington some critical awards attention for his portrayl of the Real (Reel) Person.

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Real (Reel) People win Oscars

  • In 2006 Helen Mirren played Queen Elizabeth II and won the Oscar for Best Actress.
  • In 2006 Forrest Whitaker played Ugandan dictator Idi Amin and won the Oscar for Best Actor
  • In 2005 Reese Witherspoon played country music celeb June Carter and won the Oscar for Best Actress.
  • In 2005 Philip Seymour Hoffman played author Truman Capote and won the Oscar for Best Actor.
  • In 2004 Jamie Foxx played musician Ray Charles and won the Oscar for Best Actor.
  • In 2003 Charlize Theron played prostitute/serial killer Aileen Wuornos and won the Best Actress oscar.
  • In 2002 Adrien Brody played Jewish pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman and won the Best Actor oscar.
  • In 2002 Nicole Kidman played author Virginia Woolf and won the Best Actress oscar.
  • In 2000 Julia Roberts plays the unlikely activist Erin Brokovich and won the Best Actress oscar.

The exceptions, Hillary Swank (Million Dollar Baby), Sean Penn (Mystic River), Denzel Washington (Training Day), Halle Berry (Monster's Ball), Russell Crowe (Gladiator).

So, of the 14 winners of the best actor/actress so far in the 2000's 9 of them (60%) have won for playing real people.

Biographical films and the lead actors and actresses who find them self in central roles in 2007 films:

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Sunday, March 04, 2007

Corporations, Psychopaths, Jesus and our Souls

In the 2003 documentary The Corporation a scary picture is painted about the danger the global socio-political world has a result of the corporation, by nature being profit driven, and hence exhibits psychopathic characteristics. The films major premise spring boards off the fact that the 14th amendment that gave the rights for slaves to be free to pursue life, liberty, and property ownership also opened up the opportunity for corporations to have all the rights as people.

Yet, the difference between a corporation and a person is that a corporation has no soul, it strictly looks towards the bottom line.

The recently deceased genius Economist Milton Friedman is quoted saying in the film:
"Can a building have moral opinions? Can a building have social responsibility? If a building can't have social responsibility, what does it mean to say that a corporation can? A corporation is simply an artificial legal structure. But the people who are engaged in it, whether the stockholders, whether the executives in it, whether the employees, they all have moral responsibilities."

And Milton Friedman is completely accurate, that it does take the individual people (who do have souls) to try to do what's best with out exploiting individuals, people, and society to achieve and endgame with significant externalises.

Yet, the fact of the matter is that as July 2006's article in Fast Company discusses is that when looking at Robert Hare's Psychopathy checklist developed in 2002, most well respected and successful CEO's exhibit extreme psychopathic tendencies (fast company list John D. Rockefeller, Walt Disney, and Henry Ford in their list of top 10 bosses from Hell).

In this vein, it is very easy as an employee whether in a sales, manufacturing, marketing, or any other type of find your self as a tool being used to support a business enterprise that in it's profit driven mode might be hurting people and the environment.

In Rob Bell's (pictured left) book Velvet Elvis he says, "For Jesus, the new kind of life in him is not about escaping this world but about making it a better place, here and now. The goal for Jesus isn't to get into heaven. The goal is to get heaven here."

Which if that truly is Jesus' goal, you have to wonder how Jesus would react to the corporation. Obviously Jesus certainly offended political and social leaders of his day, and overturned the tables of the money changers and asked people to give away all the had for the sake of others, so how would he respond to the corporation?

Would Jesus have any thought for Andy Fastow on how he handled the Enron situation?

Or would Jesus encourage or discourage those who protest when the World Trade Organization meets?

Or would he tell the woman who does the accounting for a textile factory to quit her job because her company exploits the cheap labor of the third world?

It's hard to say?

At the beginning of this decade it was easy to hate the corporation, in fact I think that's why even in the past couple years many films targeted the corporation. But even in the second part of this decade more companies are increasingly becoming socially conscious.

In fact, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is becoming as Christina Arena, author of The High-Purpose Company says "more corporations are using CSR not for feel-good philanthropy or to polish their public image, but as long-term corporate strategy." (via)

That seems pretty clear as many commercials and ads are geared with that messages of social responsibility. Yet this too has intrinsic value, but I don't think many would be surprised to see socially conscious companies be exposed of doing too little, hiding corruption, or misrepresenting their social involvement.

It's all marketing, and it's hard in a highly corporatized world to know how one should respond in a world where many corporations have more global power than government, political bodies, and any organization.

Yet, I do believe that as individuals it is worth our effort to remember in the midst of the chaos that we have souls even within our corporately structured climate, and we can make choices to do what's right, care for people, and make value-oriented decisions even at the cost of corporate achievement, pay raises, and recognition.

Friedman is right, our buildings will never have souls -- but we do.

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Khalid Abdalla from United 93 to The Kite Runner

United 93 certainly gained recognition for director Paul Greengrass as well as member of the sound and film editing crew, but no reviews I read ever highlighted the acting work by any of the large unknown-ensamble.

In fact, the use of an unknown acting crew (unless you watch a lot of Law and Order) made United 93 all the more powerful.

Yet, one actor from this film Khalid Abdalla who played terrorist leader Ziad Jarrah who holds everything together for the attackers on the plane will have a very large role in the next project by Marc Forster (Finding Neverland, Monsters Ball, Stranger than Fiction).

Khalid Abdalla will be playing the lead role in Forster's film The Kite Runner, based on 2003 novel by Khaled Hosseini about the taliban regime and a well to do man (played by Adballa) who returns to Afghanastan to deal with his own betrayl of a friend, and son of his father's servant.

I think I'm slowly becoming a Marc Forster fan and am impressed with the variety of projects he has produced in just a few years. I expect this to be a great project, set to be released in November of this year. I am also excited to see the work of Shaun Toub in this project who did an excellent job in Crash.

I wonder if other actors will emerge in the coming years who appear in minor character roles in United 93. Perhaps someday I will watch United 93 and recognize more people in the film than just Rebecca Schull (who played on the TV show wings among other projects.)

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