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Frankly My Dear...

    Frankly My Dear...

    Jamie Foxx talks about the role of music education in his life

    Posted: 23 Oct 2011 04:40 AM PDT

    "I love America," the Oscar winning actor Jamie Foxx says. "We all love our country. But we're weirdos when it comes to the things that matter. We might be the dumbest [expletive] I've ever seen in my life when it comes to education."

    Foxx, 43, has found himself a soap box. He's dismayed at the number of schools that are having to slash arts education in this down economy, dismayed largely because he is a living example of what arts education can do for someone.

    "My grandmother was a nursery school teacher for 30 years. She was big on music. She had a lady come over from Dallas, and she said 'Use our house, and teach our kids' music.' It wasn't just about the piano lessons. It was the fellowship, the discipline, the brain power that you get out of music.

    "We're just a weird country when it comes to basic things. You can't make education the first thing you cut…

    "I went to college on a classical piano scholarship. My grandmother made me practice one full hour a day.  Every day. Man. I thought all she wanted was for me not to have ANY fun. Next thing you know, you have a career in music. Now, not everybody's going to go on and be Mozart or Michael Jackson. But music makes you smarter. I know that music helped my motor skills. I know it helped me with my reading. It helps with your memorization, all these things you need in school."

    The makers of the documentary "Thunder Soul" got Foxx's attention because of what a music education has meant to him. It's why the chart-topping singer, stund-up comic and movie star threw his producer's weight on the film, showing in select cities, a documentary about one inspiring high school band teacher who brought Houston's Kashmere High School to glory and changed the aspirations of a generation of young black kids there.

    "I  had never heard of Kashmere," says Foxx, who grew up in Terrell, Texas. "I wasn't in high school when they were a big phenomenon, you know. The '70s. When they gave me a copy of the movie and I saw it in my office, I said, 'I don't know what I can do to get this out there. But whatever I can do to help, getting people to see this film, I'm in.' It's fantastic."

    "Thunder Soul" has been playing to ecstatic reviews, a film praised for its "righteousness" and it's "smoking hot music" (Tom Long, Detroit News). It catches up with former students of that teacher who made them who they are today. They stage a reunion concert in tribute to him."

    Foxx may someday make a feature film on Conrad "Prof" Johnson and the day he brought funk to the Kashmere High School jazz band. But for now, he's content to put his name behind a movie and a cause he believes in – "Thunder Soul" and music education.

    "Don't you need a good feeling, right about now? That's what I hope people take away from this movie. That, and that we need music in the schools. Like I say, you don't have to have a career in it to get something great out of it. But you won't want to do it like I did it. Man, after all my grandma put into me learning the piano, that was a hard day, telling her I was telling jokes for a living."

    ‘My Fair Lidy’ at the Orlando Film Festival

    Posted: 23 Oct 2011 04:38 AM PDT

    Saturday night, I checked in on the locally filmed and produced “My Fair Lidy” at the Orlando Film Festival. This was,  as festival director Daniel Springen, who was first AD and unit production manager on the summer shoot production, an “unheard of” turnaround. It wasn’t wholly finished,but close.

    Lots of crew was there — director Ralph Clemente, producer Sandi Bell, a few people with bit parts. Leigh Shannon, who is pretty good in the movie, was probably working — Saturday nights are big in the drag show world. Tom Nowicki, the heavy and always good, must have had another gig somewhere.

    Christopher Backus did not make his rumored trip back into town to see his work. He’s pretty good in it, looks a lot like Marlene Dietrich, whom his character is to resemble in drag, though he’s a less convincing woman than the ladies who make this a profession.

    Some decent laughs, a decent message. The loudest applause came for the Stetson Mansion, impossibly grand and gorgeous.

    They’re still prepping it for film festivals, and hunting for/hoping for a distributor.

    The OFF continues through tonight at the Plaza Cinema Cafe.

    ‘Paranormal’ opens huge — ‘biggest horror opening ever’ — ‘Johnny English’ and ‘Musketeers’ flop

    Posted: 22 Oct 2011 05:11 AM PDT

    UPDATED: About $8 million worth of ticket-buyers know that the best way to catch a “Paranormal Activity” movie is at midnight, so Thursday night’s midnight shows did that much business, and Friday pushed the third film in the series into the $28 million opening day range, Saturday didn’t fall off so much as to stop the inevitable.

    “Paranormal Activity 3″ is having the biggest weekend ever for a horror movie — as much as $55 million for Paramount.

    Yeah, there’s a sucker — or $55 million worth of suckers – born every minute, but still, wow. That’s a well-needed kick in the pants for the box office overall, which has slumped since summer.

    “Footloose” is holding audience, as is “Real Steel.” They’re battling for second place.

    Way down the list, “The Three Musketeers 3D” may open with something just above or below $8 million. Flop. Shocking.

    There is no love for Johnny English/Rowan Atkinson here in the States. “Johnny English Reborn” may do a piddling $3 million here on its opening. It’s not getting good reviews here or anywhere, but it has earned some $100 million overseas.

    I loved “Blackadder,” and one of his BA co-stars turns up in “Johnny English Reborn,” and the movie isn’t an embarrassment to all concerned (a bit too Mr. Bean for my tastes). But the laughs are obvious and thin that word of mouth won’t help this one, I though I heard a few cacklers in the theaters when I saw it.  Rowanofiles — you find them everywhere.

    Where Rhys Ifans stands on the whole ‘Who wrote Shakespeare’s plays’ thing

    Posted: 22 Oct 2011 04:26 AM PDT

    Did William Shakespeare really write the plays that have borne his name for 400 years? That's been a lively subject for speculation for ages, with conspiracy buffs championing others, from famous writers Christopher Marlowe and Francis Bacon, to the "Oxfordians," who seek clues in the life of Edward De Vere, Earl of Oxford, that suggest this Elizabethan courtier wrote the plays, and not a common actor turned playwright from Stratford-upon-Avon.

    Rhys Ifans, who plays De Vere as the true author of "Hamlet," "Macbeth," and the rest in the new film, "Anonymous," is nothing if not diplomatic.

    "The body of evidence that supports the 'Stratfordian Theory,' is slim, to say the least," he says. "But I'm just happy, overjoyed, that SOMEone at least, wrote this extraordinary body of work. If the film ignites a re-visiting of those works by the public, it's all good."

    Ifans, best known for such films as "Notting Hill" and "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1" (as Luna Lovegood's journalist-father), has acted Shakespeare on the stage. He's not willing to commit to the "Anonymous" theory. He's just happy to play the part in "a great story, well told." And a period piece like this allowed the actor, who was in "Elizabeth: The Golden Age," to further immerse himself in Shakespeare's time, further convincing him that "Anonymous" might be onto something.

    "I was more aware of the Marlowe and Bacon theories of authorship. De Vere was a real revelation to me, and obviously, playing the part, I researched him and his life extensively. You know, it's a pretty convincing case, I must say. But who knows?

    "There is SO much material on this man. He was a really colorful, well-travelled, well-educated player in the Elizabethan court. He was flamboyant, well-dressed and well-known at the time."

    That was the key to playing him, Ifans says. Director Roland Emmerch's film goes further than just making De Vere's fingers ink-stained, a courtier with a secret love of writing.

    "Roland…kept saying to me, 'Karl Lagerfeld. Karl Lagerfeld!'" Ifans says, laughing. Emmerich say the dapper De Vere as a 16th century fashion plate, like the designer Lagerfeld, famed for his high-collared shirts. "I said, 'I'll do Karl Lagerfeld if I can bring a bit'o David Bowie in.'  So our Edward De Vere is kind of the bastard son of Karl Lagerfeld and David Bowie."

    The most convincing arguments that someone other than The Bard wrote Shakespeare's plays have to do with the historical context. There's an awful lot of veiled politics in Shakespeare, with the plays written amid England's struggles over religion, with the Puritan-Protestant aligned Queen Elizabeth and her court jabbed in such plays as "Twelfth Night,"

    "Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale?" Sir Toby Belch cracks to a would-be Puritan.

    "If you look at the time, the conflicts of the day, you learn WHY these plays were written," Ifans says. "If we presume that De Vere wrote them, the plays become inherently more political, and they become love letters to his queen, just across the river.

    "If you look at London at the time, it was a largely illiterate city. The theaters were the Internet of their day, with the power and force to create change. That's why these theaters were burned to the ground several times each. They were dangerous places supporting what would have been very dangerous ideas at the time."

    While most reviews of "Anonymous" dismiss it as history, almost all are filled with praise for the movie's recreation of the time, in setting and in politics. And Ifans has been singled out for managing a "smart and, yes, noble turn as Oxford," by the likes of Kirk Honeycutt of The Hollywood Reporter.

    The actor says he relished the vivid sense of the era that making "Anonymous" gave him. And as a native Welshman who did his first acting in Welsh, there was a secret thrill, as well.

    "We've been trying to take down England a notch or two  for 800 years," Ifans laughs. "On a personal note, I did take some joy in the ultimate subversion, robbing England of the Virgin Queen and Shakespeare, in one simple project.

    "But for all the academic chaos it may bring, which isn't really that important to me, I hope the film inspires people to look at these wonderful, wonderful plays again with a fresh eye.  I think Roland's film will do for live theater what 'Rocky' did for boxing."

    EXCLUSIVE: Johnny Depp on Hunter S. Thompson and ‘Rum Diary’

    Posted: 22 Oct 2011 04:16 AM PDT

    I wasn’t going to have a lot of time with Johnny Depp. And I have little interest in his endless “Pirates” sequels and only a little more in his upcoming Tonto turn in a “Lone Ranger” remake.

    What REALLY interests me is his long connection to writer/gonzo journalist and literary character Hunter S. Thompson, whose “Rum Diary” Depp stars in and has nursed to the big screen (it opens next Friday).

    So that’s what we talked about. Depp spent a lot of time with the late "gonzo" journalist, political gadfly and major league imbiber over the last dozen years of Thompson's life.

    Here’s just an excerpt from our conversation, some of the parts of it that didn’t make the final cut into the feature story I did on Depp and his connection to Thompson, which publishes Sunday. “Rum Diary” is an early, long-unpublished novel that Thompson based on his time as a hard-drinking, increasingly cynical young reporter in Puerto Rico in 1960.

    “The weird thing is when I was preparing for 'Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,' hanging out with Hunter, we were downstairs in 'The War Room,' which contained ridiculous amounts of literary history – all his letters, his books in manuscript form, all of it,” Depp says. “Lunacy!

    “We were going through the 'Fear and Loathing' stuff and I stumbled across this other box, with this folder in it, and in red letters on the cover, it said 'Rum Diary.' I brought it to Hunter's attention, and said 'Jesus, man, it's 'The Rum Diary.' I'd heard of it, but it hadn't been published. So I started reading from it, and he was kind of digging it. I gave him some pages and he started reading it.

    “We read it, sitting there cross-legged on the floor. And I said, 'Hunter, you're out of your mind if you don't publish this. It doesn't matter that it was written in 1959. It doesn't matter that it's a novel. You should f—–g publish this!

    "'I will. I shall. I must!" Depp says, reviving the dead-on impersonation of Thompson he acquired for "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas."

    "But, he said. You and I have to produce this as a movie. We'll partner up on this thing.' And I said, 'Yeah…Let's do this thing."

    “So as ‘Rum finally gets to cinemas, man, I think back. It's been a long, strange trip.”

    The version of Thompson (named Paul Kemp) in “The Rum  Diary” isn’t the same Thomps0n that Depp so wonderfully played in “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.”

    “The Raul Duke of 1971-72 was a more fully realized Hunter. That's the Hunter I knew all the way up to his exit. The '59-60 Hunter was the guy who was, yeah, LURKING, teetering on the brink of finding that avenue, that outlet for the rage, his voice. He was searching for his voice.”

    Depp has spent a lot of time in the company of two of pop culture’s most enduring imbibers, his pal and “Pirates” co-star Keith Richards, and Hunter S. Thompson. What did he learn from them? “Aside from NEVER try to keep up?” Depp laughs.

    "There is something about that, though, these guys who have taken it to the brink – Hunter, Keith Richards – who made it through. They must have the genetic predisposition of a cockroach, you know?"

    “I was locked in a hotel room with Hunter in San Francisco when his back went out on a book tour. Everything that we did and lived, in that hotel room over those five days when we didn't go out, was a book. Grapefruit halves [for tequila] everywhere, club sandwiches and butcher knives, salt and pepper shakers, empty bottles, all over the joint. Shrimp cocktails! It's like we were saving up for the end of the world!"

    “Keith will outlive all of us, for sure. No doubt about it. And you know what? Hunter would probably have, too, had he not hit the wall the way he did and taken his leave. When he hit the wall, he knew it. And as he did in life, he dictated the way he was going to go out.”

    Thompson committed suicide in Feb. of 2005.

    “I can't, as much as I miss him and curse him for taking himself away from us, I understand it and I salute it.”