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|Tue, February 15, 2011 at 5:36 AM|Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Nick Cassavetes, who co-wrote the drug film "Blow" and directed romantic drama "The Notebook," has signed on to direct a new biopic about notorious drug dealer Rick Ross, the director and Ross have confirmed.
Cassavetes and Ross -- also known as "Freeway" Rick Ross -- said the film would explore Ross's masterminding of the crack cocaine trade from his base in Los Angeles during the early 1980s and his claims of being supplied by Nicaraguan Contras.
"My brother was a mercenary. He worked in Central America training the Contras, so in a way the story is personal to me," Cassavetes told Reuters in an email. "The fact that our government may have been complicit in destroying an entire community of people makes the story personal for everyone."
The film will explore the height of Ross' career when he says he often moved 100 kilograms of cocaine every day from his headquarters in the South Central section of Los Angeles and distributed it across the Unites States.
He claims to have been supplied by rebels (Contras) fighting the government of Nicaragua, and the film is expected to touch on the Iran-Contra affair of the late 1980s, when some officials in the administration of former U.S. President Ronald Reagan were convicted of secretly facilitating arms sales to Iran and funneling money to Nicaraguan Contras.
Cassavetes, the son of indie film pioneer John Cassavetes, signed on to write the untitled film in June last year, but only just agreed to direct it several weeks ago.
Cassavetes said that while he did not like comparing past films, "if I had to compare this movie to another that's been made in terms of a feeling, a point of view, maybe 'Traffic'," referring to the 2000 drama that explored the illegal drug trade from a number of different perspectives.
The writer/director has finished a script and hopes to begin shooting this year, but a start date depends on gaining full financing from independent investors, Ross said.
Ross said the film would not touch on his childhood but would focus mostly on his adult life. He spent 20 years in prison, but the film is not expected to center on his time behind bars. Rather, it will cover his career selling drugs.
"We become addicted to the power, the money, the manipulation, the whole lifestyle, the whole drug culture," Ross said about dealers, "And you are going to get to see this in the movie, how a guy goes from being a novice to being a drug expert."
The former drug trafficker, from whom the rapper Rick Ross derived his stage name, said he has talked directly Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Wahlberg about acting in or producing the movie, but no actor has been signed to star in the film.
Ross said he now travels the country speaking to ex-offenders and rehabilitation programs.
(Reporting by Christine Kearney, editing by Bob Tourtellotte)
|Mon, February 14, 2011 at 12:28 PM|Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
LOS ANGELES – Television's groundbreaking "The Nat 'King' Cole Show" is getting a digital release more than 50 years after it aired.
Cole's widow, Maria, saved kinescopes — copies made by filming a TV monitor — of the 1956-57 show that have been remastered for release on Apple Inc.'s iTunes beginning Tuesday.
Cole was the first African-American to star in a network variety program and he attracted a constellation of major black singers and musicians as guests, including Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie, Sammy Davis Jr. and Cab Calloway.
Mel Torme, Peggy Lee and Tony Bennett were among the white performers who appeared.
"I knew these TV shows were too important to have something happen to them, so that's why I held on them all these years," Maria Cole said in a statement.
"Nat never looked or sounded better in those shows. It's just a shame that the show lasted just a little more than a year."
At least 25 episodes will be released, four a month, with a suggested retail price of $1.99 an episode for download and 99 cents an episode for video on demand or rental. Some videos will be available for sale.
Not all the show's 64 original episodes have survived, according to a project spokesman.
Cole, who started as a jazz pianist, was a smoothly elegant vocalist who became a pop star in the 1940s. His hit songs included "Unforgettable," "Mona Lisa" and "Walking My Baby Back Home."
But viewers and advertisers snubbed his TV show, which debuted in November 1956. NBC kept it on the air despite low ratings and lack of national sponsors but it ended in December 1957.
"Madison Avenue is afraid of the dark," Cole is quoted as saying later about advertisers' racial skittishness.
TV historians have noted that variety shows with other celebrated singers, including Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland, were short-lived.
But there was clearly an entrenched resistance to shows with black stars. It would be close to a decade before other series featuring African-Americans, including "I Spy" with Bill Cosby and "Julia" with Diahann Carroll, gained a place on network TV, and the medium still has an uneven grasp on ethnic diversity.
Cole died in 1965 at age 45. His daughter, Natalie Cole, recorded a Grammy-winning tribute album to her dad in 1991 that included a version of "Unforgettable" combining her voice with his recording of the song.
|Mon, February 14, 2011 at 11:12 AM|Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
LOS ANGELES – The Recording Academy week of Grammy festivities kicked off with the Grammy Museum's first exhibit on the history of hip-hop, exploring rap's triumphs over three decades while also presenting the academy's own history with the genre.
This year's awards, however, were the lowlights in the Grammys' complicated relationship with hip-hop. Eminem again found himself on the losing end in the album of the year category, trumped by rockers Arcade Fire for "The Suburbs" in an evening that saw him lose eight of his leading 10 possible Grammy bids.
It marked Eminem's third loss in the category over his 12-year career and underscored the Recording Academy's inability to fully embrace a type of music it only started to recognize in 1989, at least a decade after its birth in the Bronx.
Despite groundbreaking hip-hop albums that have changed music's landscape — from Dr. Dre's "Nothin' But a G Thang" to Jay-Z's "The Blueprint" to Eminem's "The Marshall Mathers LP" to Kanye West's masterpieces — a rap act has only won the coveted album of the year trophy twice.
The first award went to Lauryn Hill in 1999 for "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill," which featured the fierce Fugees rapper mostly singing. The second was in 2003 for OutKast's double album "Spearkerboxxx/The Love Below," which also featured singing, including the rock-tinged retro hit "Hey Ya."
While rap has enjoyed a major role in the Grammys broadcast over the last decade, it wasn't always so: It took a few years after the Grammys established a category for rap artists to be included in the television ceremony, leading some prominent rappers to boycott the show. And the Grammys were initially derided for their early honorees, including Vanilla Ice.
Now, though, rappers are taken more seriously by the Grammys and even best new artist nominee Drake raps about hopefully one day holding a trophy.
Eminem has 13 Grammys, but all have been in the rap categories. Jay-Z has 10; except for one award, all his wins were in the rap field (he won best rhythm and blues song with wife Beyonce for "Crazy in Love"). Kanye West has 14 trophies — four less than Rock and Roll Hall of Fame honoree Aretha Franklin — yet, he has never won outside of rap.
A rap song has never won for record or song of the year. This year, it seemed like that might change: Eminem's "Love the Way You Lie," featuring Rihanna, was up in both categories, while Jay-Z's anthem with Alicia Keys, "Empire State of Mind," and B.o.B's "Nothin' on You" featuring Bruno Mars, were both up for record of the year.
Instead of picking one of those hits, the Grammys — voted on by artists, executives, technical professionals and other industry insiders — instead went with "Need You Now," the mellow ballad from country's crossover trio, Lady Antebellum. The Academy also shunned "(Expletive) You" by Cee Lo Green, a retro groove sung by the former Goodie Mobb member.
A rare triumph for hip-hop outside the rap categories came in 2001, when Dr. Dre walked away with producer of the year. But that was also the year that the album he produced — Eminem's groundbreaking "The Marshall Mathers LP" — lost to Steely Dan in an upset that may only rival Jethro Tull's much-derided win in the hard rock/heavy metal category.
Earlier this month, in an interview with The Associated Press, Grammy CEO and President Neil Portnow said the Grammy Museum's "Hip-Hop: A Cultural Odyssey" exhibit, titled after the new book by the same name, was an opportunity to see how much the genre has grown since it's inception.
"Hip-hop really has a milestone this year, in the sense that it'
|Mon, February 14, 2011 at 4:39 AM|Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
The Grammys love Eminem. Over his decade plus career, they've showered him with 13 Grammy Awards — and gave him two during this year's ceremonies.
But their love for Eminem seems to only extend to the rap categories. Despite being regarded as one of music's geniuses, he has never won a Grammy outside of the genre — a streak that continued on Sunday.
Eminem, who went into the Grammys as the leading nominee with 10 nominations, including in the prestigious album, record and song of the year categories, walked away with just two: best solo rap performance and best rap album for "Recovery," which was last year's best-selling album and marked a triumphant comeback for an iconic figure who stumbled in recent years due to a former drug addiction.
He lost album of the year to Arcade Fire's "The Suburbs," and his Rihanna-assisted "Love The Way You Lie" lost to Lady Antebellum in the record and song of the year categories.
It marked the third loss in his career for Eminem in the album of the year category, as well as his Eminem's third loss in the record of the year and second with song of the year.
While the night was a disappointing one for Eminem, it was a dream come true for the night's top winner, Lady Antebellum. The country trio was the night's top winner, earning the song and record of the year trophies for "Need You Now." They won five of their six nominations.
It was their night on top in the pop world after a year of coming in second place. Their crossover hit, "Need You Now," peaked at No. 2 on the pop charts, and their album of the same name was 2010's second best-selling album, behind Eminem's "Recovery."
But on Sunday night, they were No. 1.
"That is the most humbling feeling in the entire world. It's going to make us work even harder to make a better record," said Hillary Scott, as bandmates Dave Haywood and Charles Kelley stood by her backstage.
It was the second year in a row that a country act with multiplatinum crossover appeal won big at the Grammys: Last year, it was Taylor Swift, who got four awards and won album of the year for "Fearless."
This year, that award went to "The Suburbs," which marked Arcade Fire's only Grammy win that evening, and in 10-year career in which they have been consistent critic's darlings. Though the album was considered to be among the year's best, Eminem was still the favorite — so much so that Arcade Fire's Win Butler uttered "What the hell?" when they went onstage to accept their award.
Immediately following the win, the group — who had just performed — headed to the stage in an apparently spontaneous move and played their song "Ready to Start," where band member Win Butler advised: "Everyone leave to this song."
The night's biggest upset came in the best new artist category, as jazz singer Esperanza Spalding picked up the coveted best new artist Grammy.
Spalding, 26, was the first jazz artist to win the award, and beat out 16-year-old pop phenom Justin Bieber, along with Drake, Florence and the Machine and Mumford and Sons.
"I feel really lucky today," she said backstage. "From the world that I come from this is the beginning of the beginning for me."
Other key winners on the night included Lady Gaga, Jay-Z and John Legend, who all won three awards each, tying them for most wins following Lady A. Usher, Herbie Hancock, Jeff Beck and the Black Keys joined Eminem with two wins each.
Gaga performed her new single "Bor
|Mon, February 14, 2011 at 12:55 AM|Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
LOS ANGELES – Lady Antebellum was the big winner at the Grammys with five awards, including record and song of the year for the band's yearning crossover ballad "Need You Now," but rockers Arcade Fire won Sunday's biggest prize, album of the year, for their highly acclaimed "The Suburbs."
Arcade Fire's Win Butler was visibly stunned as the group accepted their trophy and then quickly rushed to perform the last song of the night.
Eminem perhaps had reason to be stunned as well. Though nominated for a leading 10 awards, including record, song, and album of the year, he took home just two — both in the rap categories, for best album and solo performance. It was the third time Eminem lost in the category, despite a critically acclaimed work that marked his resurgence after time out of the spotlight, a few sub-par projects and successful recovery from a prescription drug addiction.
While Arcade Fire's win was a surprise, it wasn't totally unexpected, as "The Suburbs" dominated many critic's best-of lists of 2010. The true upset, however, came as Esperanza Spalding — a jazz bassist and singer who sold a fraction of Justin Bieber's music and is perhaps best identified by her voluminous Afro — beat the perfectly coifed 16-year-old pop phenomenon, and also Florence & the Machine, Mumford & Sons and Drake for best new artist.
She is the first jazz artist to ever win the category.
"I take this honor to heart so sincerely and I'll do my damnedest to make great music for all of you. It's such an honor and God bless," said a shocked Spalding, who released her third album, "The Chamber Music Society," last year.
While Bieber-nation was in an uproar, the teen sensation himself was cheerful backstage after the loss — perhaps assuaged by the fact that he's sold millions and owns the nation's No. 2 movie with his documentary "Never Say Never."
"I'm really happy for her and I had a great night. We performed, I got to perform with my mentor which is amazing," said Bieber, who playfully jumped on Usher in the press room. "I'm really happy for her and hopefully she has a good year."
The evening's other top winners included Jay-Z, John Legend, and Lady Gaga, who each had three trophies; Muse, who won best rock album; and Train, whose "Hey, Soul Sister (Live)," one of the year's top songs, captured best pop performance by a duo or group with vocals.
Lady Antebellum's wins mark the second straight year a country crossover act was the night's top story; Last year, Taylor Swift captured best album among her wins.
The Grammys give out 109 awards — but most of those are doled out before the live telecast in a ceremony before the CBS show. Instead of focusing on the awards, the Grammy show emphasized performances for the year's most celebrated artists, along with emerging acts and true legends.
Lady Gaga entered the Staples Center, where the Grammys were held, in dramatic fashion, encased in an egg as dancers carried her to the stage. When she "hatched," she seemed to have turned into Madonna, circa 1987, as she sashayed across the stage to her new song "Born This Way."
But the singer, normally the most outrageous performer on any bill, was out-Gaga'd by Cee Lo Green, Gwyneth Paltrow and Jim Henson Co.'s puppets, who gave a hilarious performance of "Forget You" that would have done Elton John proud.
Decked out in feathers of seemingly every hue, Green — who was nominated for record and song of the year for the dirty version of the song, "(Expletive) You," crooned alongside a sassy gaggle of puppets and Paltrow, who performed "Forget You" on the Fox T
|Sun, February 13, 2011 at 7:25 PM|Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) – Matthew Morrison took up the mandolin for "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" at the annual night-before Grammy party on Saturday.
In introducing Clive Davis, producer David Foster remarked how the legendary music executive's pre-Grammy gala, was a more coveted ticket than the Grammy Awards themselves.
"Sorry Neil," Foster cracked, looking in the direction of Recording Academy President Neil Portnow, who simply shrugged. After all, Foster was right.
More than 900 people are invited to the annual sit-down dinner, which has been held since 1976, but just as many clamor for a seat every year. Two nights earlier at an event held at the home of Geffen President Ron Fair, Britney Spears' manager Larry Rudolph remarked that he had to campaign for a ticket.
Looking around the room and seeing the likes of company chiefs Jeffrey Katzenberg, Les Moonves (CBS), Lucian Grainge (Universal Music Group), Jimmy Iovine (Interscope Geffen A&M), Doug Morris (UMG), LA Reid (Island Def Jam), Roger Faxon (EMI) Rob Stringer (Columbia-Epic) and Barry Weiss (RCA-Jive), it's easy to understand why.
Of course, the Clive Davis party is all about star power and there were plenty of those in attendance as well including Whitney Houston, Cher, Barry Manilow, Warren Beatty, Prince, Katy Perry, Lenny Kravitz, Jane Lynch, Jennifer Hudson, John Mayer and Usher.
Representing the rock contingent: all five members of the Foo Fighters, and the Grammy-nominated band Mumford & Sons, who'll be joined by Bob Dylan at the Grammy Awards on Sunday and were the first to take the stage at the Clive Davis event.
The stellar performance of "Little Lion Man" had people buzzing early on, but it was just the beginning of what's typically a five-plus hour affair (this year's fete let out just after midnight).
Among the highlights: Jennifer Hudson's take on Aretha Franklin's "(You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman," Glee's Matthew Morrison's impressive turn at the mandolin for "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," and a rousing rendition of Cee-Lo's "F--- You" (the uncensored version), which turned out to be a surprise since Cee-Lo had earlier canceled his appearance due to illness. Indeed, the Grammy nominee looked somewhat peaked during his performance, but gave it all he could and had the crowd on its feet in no time.
Some, like Brandy, Monica, Hudson and Keri Hilson, all assigned tables in the front, barely sat the entire night. Whitney Houston took the stage to pay tribute to her cousin Dionne Warwick with the songs "Walk On By," "Say a Little Prayer," and "That's What Friends Are For" (a duet with Warwick herself who celebrates 50 years in the business).
But perhaps the biggest showstopper of the night was R. Kelly's performance, which found him entering the Hilton ballroom from the back trailed by more than twenty posse members and a reality show crew.
Kicking off his nearly 20-minute medley with "The Star Spangled Banner," by the time Kelly got into his 2003 hit "Ignition," he had the crowd eating out of his hands (while he grabbed a bottle of champagne off a front table and swiftly swigged from it), proving he still holds plenty of might among music biz heavies.
Speaking of which, this year's gala honored David Geffen, another iconic music man who defined music history by signing such talents as Joni Mitchell, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and Jackson Brown, but with such an R&B-heavy lineup, the honor felt like more of an afterthought.
A brief video outlined Geffen's awe-inspiring career, Mary J. Blige's soulful turn on Mitchell's "Free Man In Paris" received a rousing standin
|Sun, February 13, 2011 at 6:31 PM|Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
The Grammy music awards show paid tribute Sunday to recovering soul legend Aretha Franklin, in a star-studded evening including performances by veterans Mick Jagger, Bob Dylan and Barbra Streisand.
Lady Gaga was among early acts at the three-and-a-half-hour show, appearing in inimitable style from an egg to sing "Born this Way," while other acts on the bill included Katy Perry, Eminem and teen sensation Justin Bieber.
The glittering gala began with Christina Aguilera, Jennifer Hudson and Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine belting out a string of Franklin's hits including Respect, Think and "(You Make Me Feel Like) a Natural Woman."
Franklin, 68, has been mostly out of the public eye since she had surgery in December for an undisclosed ailment. Local media reported that she was battling cancer, after canceling concerts in October citing "health reasons."
On Sunday she sent a video message to the Grammys, played after the tribute section to her, thanking everyone who sent cards, flowers and "most importantly your prayers" when she was in hospital.
"I wish that I could have been you all tonight, but since I couldn't, next year, OK?" said Franklin, in a white dress and looking slimmed down from recent years.
While showcasing new talent, the glittering 53rd Grammys event will also pay tribute to past greats including "The King of Rock 'N Soul" Solomon Burke, who died last year.
Dylan, appearing at the Grammys for his fifth time, was to perform with country-tinged Brits Mumford and Son and folk-rock band the Avett Brothers in a special salute to acoustic music at the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles.
The Grammys are the music industry's equivalent of the Oscars, the climax of Hollywood's annual awards season that this year takes place in barely two weeks' time, on February 27.
Front-runners for Grammys glory include Eminem, nominated in 10 categories including best album and best song, in what could cap a comeback year for the once-troubled rap star.
The singer -- real name Marshall Bruce Mathers III -- dropped out of music-making in the middle of the past decade as he battled with drug problems. He returned with the album "Relapse" in 2009, before 2010's "Recovery."
"Recovery" was the top-selling album of 2010. Song "Love the Way You Lie" stood as number one in the charts for seven weeks, the year's second-longest run behind Ke$ha's "Tik Tok," while "Not Afraid" also hit the top spot.
Hawaiian-born singer Bruno Mars came second to Eminem with seven nominations including Best Male Pop Vocal, while US rap megastar Jay-Z, Nashville-born country trio Lady Antebellum and Lady Gaga each earned six nods.
Perry is also in the running for Best Album along with Lady Gaga, Arcade Fire and Lady Antebellum.
Best New Artist nominees were Canadian teen idol Bieber, quirky British singer Florence Welch, Mumford and Son, as well as Drake and Esperanza Spalding.
Nominations in the main categories include:
- Record of the Year: "Nothin' on You" by B.o.B with Bruno Mars; "Love the Way you Lie" by Eminem featuring Rihanna; "F*** You!" by Cee Lo Gr