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|Wed, September 08, 2010 at 8:45 PM|Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Rich Cronin, former lead singer of the boy band LFO and the writer of its 1999 hit "Summer Girls," died on Wednesday after a battle with leukemia, celebrity news site TMZ reported. He was 35.
The news was also reported via Twitter by Lance Bass, a former member of 'N Sync, who described Cronin as "an amazing guy." It was not clear where Cronin died.
The Boston native co-founded LFO -- short for "Lyte Funky Ones" -- in 1995 with Brad Fischetti and Brian Gillis (who was later replaced by Devin Lima). They signed a deal with Lou Pearlman, the now-imprisoned pop impresario behind 'N Sync and the Backstreet Boys.
But Cronin sought to differentiate his band from other male vocal groups, which relied on outside songwriters and producers to deliver soulful pop hits. LFO introduced hip-hop and rock into the equation, and hit No. 3 on Billboard's Hot 100 singles chart with the inescapable summer anthem "Summer Girls."
The follow-up, "Girl on TV," reached No. 10, but subsequent singles failed to crack the top 40. The band broke up in 2003.
Cronin was diagnosed with cancer in 2005, and set up a foundation to raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
(Reporting by Dean Goodman; editing by Belinda Goldsmith)
|Wed, September 08, 2010 at 10:39 AM|Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
LOS ANGELES – There are music documentaries that are all about the music — concert films that focus solely on the artistry and thrill of live performance — and then there are juicy ones that are all about backstage ego and volatility.
"I'm Still Here," which follows Joaquin Phoenix's tumultuous transformation from Oscar-nominated actor to shaggy, doughy rapper, would seem to fall into the latter category — if it truly is a documentary, that is, and not an elaborate put-on. Here are some other examples of serious rock-star behavior:
• "Bob Dylan: Don't Look Back" (1967): A classic from legendary documentarian D.A. Pennebaker, this behind-the-scenes look at the 23-year-old Dylan set the standard for this kind of film. It's got all that famous imagery: the black-and-white verite photography, Dylan standing there tossing away cue cards with the lyrics to "Subterranean Homesick Blues." All impish charisma and childish impulse, Dylan tours England in 1965 with Joan Baez and Donovan, tussles with reporters and forges one of the many facets of his persona we'd come to know, or at least think we know. "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story" parodies this time in Dylan's life with dead-on hilarity.
• "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart" (2002): Visually similar to "Don't Look Back" with its grainy, black-and-white cinematography, this documentary began life as an up-close depiction of the Chicago band Wilco as it stood on the brink of stardom. It ended up being an indictment of the corporations that run the recording industry. Led by singer-songwriter Jeff Tweedy, the band records its fourth album, "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot," only to reach an impasse with the label over its content. Frustrations lead to infighting. But director Sam Jones' film also functions beautifully in its performance scenes, whether in the intimacy of rehearsal or on stage, where Wilco enjoys a cult-like fan following.
• "Metallica: Some Kind of Monster" (2004): A riveting look at a turbulent time in the monstrously popular metal band's history. You don't have to be a Metallica fan to enjoy this movie (though there are plenty of recording sessions to watch if you are). Through the group's brutally honest therapy sessions, filmmakers Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky tell a story of loyalty, communication, redemption and the challenges that come with continuing a career in your 40s. The members of Metallica fight, record their album "St. Anger," fight some more, and eventually find some kind of peace. The film is so nonjudgmental — and often so insightful — it never falls into "Spinal Tap"-style parody.
• "Gimme Shelter" (1970): Another classic from another legendary documentarian, Albert Maysles. Here, the volatility doesn't just exist backstage, it permeates every scene, swelling as the film leads up to its explosive climax: the Rolling Stones' concert at Altamont, where a clash between Hell's Angels and fans results in death. Maysles follows the band's 1969 tour, and the feeling of dread is inescapable; the fact that we know what's coming at the end in no way depletes it of its suspense. Mick Jagger tries to quell tensions from the stage, but even being a sexy and charming rock star does no good in a violent crowd of hundreds of thousands. The band's reaction to the footage afterward is chilling.
• "Madonna: Truth or Dare" (1991): A striking mix of black and white with bursts of color during the concert scenes, which seems fitting for Madonna, given the dramatically fluctuating images of herself she presents to the world. Director Alek Keshishian follows Madonna on her grueling 1990 Blond Ambition tour and provides many of the moments we've come to associate with the pop star: the pre-show prayer circles, the sex games with her dancers, the backsta
|Wed, September 08, 2010 at 9:00 AM|Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
New Book, “How to Rap: The Art & Science of the Hip-Hop MC”, Features Exclusive Interviews with Black Eyed Peas, Public Enemy, Nelly, Cypress Hill, A Tribe Called Quest, and 100 Others About Rapping—Book Acclaimed as “Classic” by Top US Poet Nikki Giovanni.
(PRWEB) September 8, 2010 -- Over 100 Hip-Hop legends teach the art form of rapping in a new book recently released by Chicago Review Press. “How to Rap: The Art & Science of the Hip-Hop MC” guides the reader through the science of rap in the words of the artists themselves, giving an inside look behind their creative processes and techniques.
Dana Gioia, acclaimed US poet and former Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, has lauded the book, saying, “How to Rap marks a cultural coming-of-age for Hip-Hop—the first comprehensive poetics of this new literary form.” The book has also been described as “classic” by poet Nikki Giovanni, “excellent” by the Washington Post, and “highly recommended” by Library Journal.
Acts interviewed exclusively for the book include some of Hip-Hop’s most prominent names, such as Black Eyed Peas, Public Enemy, Nelly, Cypress Hill, and A Tribe Called Quest. The foreword to the book was written by Kool G Rap, a rapper named as a major influence by most of the current generation of Hip-Hop artists, including Eminem and Jay-Z.
How to Rap has received offers from Japanese and Korean publishers to be translated and published outside the US, with further translation deals lined up.
The book has an accompanying Youtube channel featuring audio clips from the How to Rap interviews, with a combined viewing total of over 190,000 views since March: youtube.com/user/howtorapbook
How to Rap is available at bookstores, or from amazon.com at – amazon.com/How-Rap-Art-Science-Hip-Hop/dp/1556528167
For more info on the book, visit - howtorapbook.com Or email – howtorapbook (at) gmail (dot) com
About the Author:
Paul Edwards has been interviewed as a leading expert on Hip-Hop and rap by the Chicago Tribune, HipHopDX, Chuck D ‘s New York radio show, the New York Amsterdam News, Australia’s Acclaim Magazine, UK’s Echoes Magazine, Germany’s HHV Magazine, and Time Out Dubai.
He holds a master’s degree in postmodernism, literature, and contemporary culture from the University of London and has done extensive research on Hip-Hop lyrics, interviewing 104 rappers for How to Rap.
"How to Rap: The Art and Science of the Hip-Hop MC" book Paul Edwards 011 97150 4545275 E-mail Information Trackback URL: http://prweb.com/pingpr.php/SW5zZS1Db3VwLVpldGEtUGlnZy1TcXVhLVNxdWEtWmVybw==
|Wed, September 08, 2010 at 8:42 AM|Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
VENICE (Reuters) – Ben Affleck directs and stars in "The Town," a tense cops-and-robbers thriller set in Boston which is premiering out of competition at the Venice film festival.
Affleck, who made his directorial debut in 2007 with "Gone Baby Gone," also a Boston crime drama, plays the leader of a crew of ruthless bank robbers who dangerously falls for a woman the gang briefly takes hostage.
Overall his character, Doug, is painted in a sympathetic light as the FBI is closing in on him and he is torn between a desire to change life and the loyalty to his partners in crime who want to go for one last heist.
"The idea of whether or not I was glorifying a criminal character or minimizing the impact of violence was on my mind throughout and was really important," Affleck told reporters after a press screening.
"The need to reconcile those moral considerations with the demands of truthful storytelling was the central issue for me. I tried to be both as accurate and as complicated as I could because while I didn't want to glorify anything, I didn't want to oversimplify anything."
The film is based on Chuck Hogan's novel "Prince of Thieves" and set in Boston's Charlestown neighborhood, which has had more bank and armored car robberies than anywhere in the United States.
Raised near Boston, Affleck said he felt comfortable he had tried to make the film as realistic as possible, visiting prisons and talking to former bank robbers and FBI agents.
"I was a little bit hesitant actually to do this because I did not want to be pigeonholed as the Boston director guy but I liked the part, I wanted to play the part, I believed the story was good," he told reporters after a press screening.
"I don't think you can like a movie like this or believe in a movie like this if you don't have a really strong sense of place, if you don't really believe that the characters are from there and that what you are seeing is really happening."
WANTS TO KEEP DIRECTING
He said both his two films as a director and "Good Will Hunting," for which he won an Oscar for best original screenplay with Matt Damon, focused on similar themes -- the influence growing up in a certain place has on people, and the fact that children often pay the price for their parents' sins.
"I guess maybe it's time that I try something new," he said, adding that he hoped to carry on as a director.
"I was a little bit nervous the first time out, I wasn't even sure I'd be able to finish the movie having never been through the process. The second time I knew it was possible to kind of get to the finish line at the very least, so that gave me more confidence."
The film's cast includes Jeremy Renner, who also starred in this year's Oscar-winner "The Hurt Locker," Jon Hamm, a Golden Globe winner for his performance in the "Mad Men" TV series, and Rebecca Hall.
Affleck came to the Venice festival just days after his younger brother Casey took the Lido by storm with "I'm Still Here," his documentary -- some say hoax -- on Joaquin Phoenix and his transition from acclaimed actor to shambolic hip-hop singer wannabe.
|Wed, September 08, 2010 at 8:11 AM|Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
TORONTO – The Toronto International Film Festival may be a prime launching place for big Hollywood movies and Academy Awards contenders, but it gets under way Thursday with something purely Canadian: hockey.
Director Michael McGowan's "Score: A Hockey Musical" opens the 11-day festival, the film featuring Olivia Newton-John as the mother of a teenage hockey sensation whose adventures play out amid bursts of song from the cast.
"It seems like it's in the zeitgeist. Everything from `Glee' to `Once,' there's an appetite for musicals," McGowan said. "We do hockey and we do music really well in Canada, and the fact that they haven't been combined before seems really amazing."
With 258 feature films and 81 short films, the Toronto lineup includes entries from such filmmakers as Clint Eastwood, Robert Redford and Ben Affleck, and features such talent as Bruce Springsteen, Matt Damon, Helen Mirren, Hilary Swank, Keira Knightley and Robert De Niro.
"It's actually a really killer year, a great lineup," said Cameron Bailey, the festival's co-director. "The advantage we have in terms of being a fall festival is that fall is really when the film world gets serious. A lot of big films choose to premiere here because they're heading to a theatrical premiere and hopefully an awards run."
The timing is right for a banner year. The festival is marking its 35th year, having grown from a local showcase for Canadian films to an international stage to premiere many of the biggest releases in cinema.
The festival also is opening its new permanent home, the Bell Lightbox, a $181 million facility with theaters, restaurants, art galleries and other facilities.
With films ranging from stark drama and sober documentaries to wild comedy and bloody midnight horror flicks, Toronto is known as a place for movie fans of every sort, rather than the industry types who are the prime audience at many festivals.
Unlike such festivals as Cannes, Venice, Sundance and Berlin, Toronto is a noncompetitive event where filmmakers are not up against one another for prizes.
"It's way more laid back," said Damon, who stars in Eastwood's "Hereafter," a drama centered on three characters with unusual connections to the afterlife, and also narrates "Inside Job," director Charles Ferguson's documentary about the 2008 economic crisis. Both films play Toronto ahead of their theatrical release in October.
"I like festivals in general as an alternative to the premieres, because you end up getting a bunch of filmmakers in the same place, and you can run around, catch other people's movies. You're always bumping into friends," Damon said.
Among Damon's friends at Toronto is Affleck, who directs and stars in the bank robbery thriller "The Town," which screens at the festival ahead of its theatrical debut next week.
His brother, Casey Affleck, is in town with "I'm Still Here," his documentary about brother-in-law Joaquin Phoenix's shift from acting to hip-hop music.
The film plays Toronto just as it arrives in theaters Friday, one of several movies using the festival for a last-minute publicity boost before going in front of general audiences.
"It's a testament to the prominence of this festival and it's growing influence that people are more commonly using it as a launching point for their movies," Ben Affleck said. "Everyone who's releasing a movie wants to get exposure, but they also want to do it in the right way, and Toronto works really well, because the audiences really like and appreciate movies. They think and talk about them in a way that you really want."
|Tue, September 07, 2010 at 12:20 PM|Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
VENICE (Reuters) – Whether a hoax or not, a new documentary about Joaquin Phoenix and his transition from acclaimed, brooding actor to bearded, shambolic hip-hop wannabe has captivated viewers at the Venice film festival.
"I'm Still Here" was directed by Casey Affleck, a successful actor and Phoenix's brother-in-law.
The guessing game over whether the picture was genuine documentary or ironic "mockumentary" poking fun at an intolerant and narrow-minded public and press began long before the release of the movie.
It mirrors internet chatter following Phoenix's now infamous television interview with David Letterman last year, when a confused, mumbling performance also prompted suspicions that it was all an elaborate act.
"I can tell you that there is no hoax," Affleck told reporters after his directorial debut was screened to reporters on Monday in Venice, where it is out of competition.
"That never even entered into my consciousness until other people began to talk about the movie," he added at a briefing where he was asked repeatedly about whether certain scenes, and the movie in general, were genuine.
But he conceded that audiences were likely to be confused.
"I'm very interested to hear those sorts of reactions and I appreciate that point of view, and I understand how a lot of this movie could be confusing in terms of, 'oh well, it seems like something's real or not real'."
Reporters filmed Phoenix arriving on the Lido, clean shaven, smartly dressed and looking in good shape -- in contrast with his disheveled, bearded and overweight appearance in the film. He did not turn up at the red carpet for the premiere.
Whether real or not, I'm Still Here offers a sometimes excruciating insight into the life of a celebrity and into the mind of Phoenix, whose best-known films include "To Die For," "Gladiator," "Walk the Line" and "Two Lovers."
He is at times funny and coherent and at others childish, aggressive and paranoid as he struggles to live with his decision in 2008, which the media greeted with breathless disbelief, to give up acting and take up hip hop.
After his Letterman appearance, Phoenix clasped his head in frustration at how badly it went.
"I'm just going to be a god damned joke forever," he said, before launching into an expletive-ridden tirade and bursting into tears.
The candid film includes footage of him apparently taking drugs, surfing the internet for call girls, hosting prostitutes, diving off a stage to attack a heckler and vomiting.
It also features rap star Sean Combs, who, after several failed attempts on Phoenix's part to set up a meeting, agrees to listen to a demo of his hip-hop music.
Combs's face as he listens to three demo tracks is one of the movie's highlights, and Phoenix leaves crestfallen when Combs makes clear he will not produce his record.
Again, though, reporters asked whether Combs was in on the joke. Affleck replied: "The role that he played in Joaquin's life was to be the bearer of bad news. He was the hammer that crushed the dream. All of that is a little bit of an act."
Comedian Ben Stiller also appears when he comes to Phoenix's home to ask him to consider playing a part in his recent movie "Greenberg."
(Editing by Paul Casciato
|Tue, September 07, 2010 at 11:05 AM|Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
WASHINGTON – The stately White House East Room, home to many a bill signing and ceremonial gathering, becomes a stage Tuesday for pirouettes, jetes, gravity-defying leaps and maybe even some bumps and grinds as Michelle Obama inaugurates a new dance series.
Dancers of all types — ballet, modern, hip hop and Broadway — take over the room, first for an afternoon workshop, during which students from around the country will have the chance to work with some of the biggest names in dance.
Then, after a short break, the students return to see their mentors perform in an hour-long, star-studded show. Even Broadway's young "Billy Elliot" will be there — four Billys actually, from the show's rotating cast.
But the main attraction is the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and that's because its celebrated artistic director, Judith Jamison, soon to retire after two decades in the job, is the honoree of the event.
"What a rare opportunity, to be invited by your country's first lady to be honored like this," Jamison said in a weekend interview. "I've been to the White House a couple of times before, but this event is totally unique. It's so terribly important to recognize this art form and to understand how important it is to the fabric of this country."
"This will be another clarion call to people: Pay attention to your arts!" Jamison said. "My dancers are so excited."
The 67-year-old Jamison is an icon of the dance world. She joined the Ailey company in 1965 and became the choreographer's muse, her dramatic power as a dancer epitomized in the unforgettable 1971 solo piece "Cry." In 1989, after Ailey's death, she took over as artistic director. She is scheduled to step down in 2011.
Tuesday's program is directed by Damian Woetzel, the recently retired star of the New York City Ballet who is on the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities. He had a dizzying array of choices from which to cull an hour of the country's best dance. And he said it wasn't exactly hard to find dancers, no matter that the event comes just after a summer vacation weekend.
"Everyone was so excited to be a part of this," Woetzel said in an interview. "It's really an exciting opportunity to present the variety of dance in this country. And the student component makes it especially unique. It's a great way to start the school year."
Though the Obamas have spotlighted many varieties of music since they came to the White House — there have been events celebrating Latin music, rock, jazz, country, classical and Broadway show tunes — the dance world might have felt ignored, until now.
But Michelle Obama seems to be a dance fan. Jamison noted proudly that the Obamas and their daughters spent one of their first nights out as first family taking in an Ailey performance at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
"They came backstage, took pictures — the dancers were thrilled," she said.
Also on the program Tuesday: the Paul Taylor Dance Company, Broadway's "Billy Elliot the Musical," The Washington Ballet, Super Cr3w and the New York City Ballet.
The students are from dance schools around the country: The Alvin Ailey School, Ballet Hispanico, Cab Calloway School of the Arts, Dance Theatre of Harlem, the Chicago Multicultural Dance Center and others.
|Tue, September 07, 2010 at 10:29 AM|Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
NEW YORK – When Mike Tyson looks back on his friendship with Tupac Shakur, he thinks about the rapper's big heart, explosive anger — and the one regret he has about their relationship.
"He always wanted me to smoke weed with him, and I never did it, and I wish I did," Tyson said in a recent phone interview.
Tyson said he declined because he was a closet smoker and didn't want it to get out that he smoked the drug. Now, when he looks back on the lost opportunity, he says: "That's my biggest regret."
Tyson's friendship with Shakur is the subject of a new documentary, "One Night in Vegas: Tyson & Tupac," which airs Tuesday on ESPN (8 p.m. EDT).
The 25-year-old rapper was shot after a Tyson fight in Las Vegas on Sept. 7, 1996; he died six days later.
"He didn't last long, but the time he did last, every minute, every tenth of a moment was explosive," Tyson said.
The documentary chronicles their relationship, which Tyson said took hold when he was imprisoned in 1992 for rape.
"Every day, he would call me or get a chance to call me or send a message," said Tyson. "He would get word to me in prison."
By the time Tyson was released in 1995, Shakur would be jailed for sex abuse; he was released on bond later that year. When he got out of prison, Tyson and Shakur's friendship deepened. Both found it difficult to find people who truly cared for them, Tyson said.
"Our problem was we always had to worry about someone betraying us, our closest friends," Tyson said.
Friendship was so important to Shakur that he criticized Tyson when he selected a song from rapper Redman as his intro music at a fight.
"He said, 'Don't you ever play those (expletive) songs again, they don't give a (expletive) about you,'" Tyson recalled. "When he said that, it pierced my soul. ... I felt like I did something wrong."
After that talk, Tyson decided Shakur's raps would be his intro music for life.
It was partly because Tyson had chosen Shakur's music as his fight music that Shakur went to Tyson's fight in Las Vegas. He made a special rap for Tyson's big night. After the fight, which Tyson won by knockout, Shakur was to join Tyson at a victory party. But he never made it.
"I felt extremely guilty because I felt if he didn't come to this fight, that would have never have happened," he said. "It's just so crazy that we had talked every day for a week."
Tyson, 44, said the world never understood the real Shakur.
"He was probably a misguided warrior. He had a heart as big as this planet," Tyson said. "He had so much love and compassion, and you couldn't even see it under his rage."
It's because of those qualities that he remains larger than life in death, he said.
"He's going to last until the time this Earth comes to an end," he said. "I'm glad to be a part of his life and to have known him."
ESPN is owned by the Walt Disney Co.
|Mon, September 06, 2010 at 3:27 PM|Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
WASHINGTON (AFP) – Most US kids saw fewer TV food ads between 2003 and 2007, but black kids were bombarded with more calorie-rich advertising than whites, a study showed Monday.
Two- to five-year-olds saw nearly 14 percent fewer food ads, six- to 11-year-olds saw nearly four percent fewer, even though teens as a whole saw 3.7 percent more, said the study published in the Archives or Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine.
The racial gap in exposure also grew, the study's authors, Lisa Powell, Glen Szczypka and Frank Chaloupka of the Institute for Health Research and Policy, said after analyzing television ratings for children and adolescents from the Nielsen Media Research group.
African American children in all age groups saw more food ads per day than their white counterparts, which the authors of the study said was consistent with earlier findings that said US black kids watch more television than white cohorts.
In 2007, US children watched on average three hours and 23 minutes of TV per day.
More food advertisements appeared on after-school programs targeting African American kids than on shows aimed at a general audience, the study said.
African American kids in all three age groups saw around 1.5 times as many food ads a day as their white counterparts, and their exposure to fast-food ads was more than double that of their white counterparts, the study found.
Meanwhile, other studies have shown that obesity rates among African-American girls have risen in the past decade, while they have fallen for white boys and girls.
The Institute of Medicine has said there is strong evidence television advertising influences short-term food consumption among young children, and studies have shown that food advertising "significantly influences children's food preferences/choices, caloric intake and purchase requests," the study says.
Television viewing itself has also been linked with overweight and obesity in children, but fast food ad exposure was associated with even higher overweight prevalence among children, teens in particular.
Meanwhile, on the good-news front, the sharpest drop in food ads was for sweets -- in particular candy bars and cookies -- which were down by 41 percent for very young TV viewers, by 29 percent for six- to 11-year-olds and by 12 percent for teens.
Adverts for sugar-sweetened soft drinks were also down substantially, and ads for bottled water were up, the study said.
But fast-food ads were up among all three age groups, and the researchers suspect that companies are trying to instill brand-loyalty starting at an early age.
"Children have been found to recognize brand logos at very young ages and a recent study found that preschoolers exhibited significantly higher preferences for food and beverage items in branded versus plain packaging," the study said, calling for stepped-up scrutiny of fast-food advertising targeting children.
Americans, and especially teenagers, are getting more and more of their calories from "away-from-home" sources, with fast-food outlets leading the charge, the study said.
Eating at fast-food places has been associated with higher caloric intake, greater consumption of fats, carbohydrates, and sugars, and a lower intake of fresh food and micro-nutrients.
Obesity rates among US children aged two to five, six to 11, and 12 to 19 years were estimated to be 12.4 percent, 17 percent and 17.6 percent respectively between 2003 to 2006, the study said.
The study di