Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Killing the Messenger (BOOK REVIEW)

Killing the Messenger:
A Story of Radical Faith, Racism’s Backlash, and the Assassination of a Journalist
by Thomas Peele
Crown Publishing
Hardcover, $26.00
464 pages, Illustrated
ISBN: 978-0-307-71755-9

Book Review by Kam Williams

“When a 19 year-old member of a Black Muslim cult assassinated Chauncey Bailey in 2007—the most shocking killing of a journalist in the U.S. in 30 years—the question was: Why? Killing the Messenger… explores one of the most blatant attacks on the 1st Amendment and free speech in American history and the… cult that carried it out…
Yusuf Bey… created a radical religion of bloodshed and fear…through a business called Your Black Muslim Bakery, beating and raping dozens of women… and fathering more than 40 children… [while] the police looked the other way as his violent soldiers ruled the streets. [culminating] in a journalist’s murder.”
-- Excerpted from the inside cover of the book’s dust jacket

Any Western journalist who’s honest will admit that they’re scared to write anything critical about Islam, since it doesn’t take much to make a mullah put a price on your head. Consider the recent history. Everyone from novelist Salman Rushdie to Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard have had to go into hiding because of all the death threats they received after publishing material Muslims deemed offensive. And Dutch director Theo van Gogh was stabbed to death by a disgruntled fundamentalist because he made a movie about honor killings and other forms of violence still being perpetrated against innocent females in the name of Allah.
Much closer to home, Chauncey Bailey, editor-in-chief of the Oakland Post, was shot dead on the morning of August 2, 2007. He was about to expose a store called Your Black Muslim Bakery as a front for a criminal operation dealing in drugs, sex slaves and murder.
Chauncey’s assassination touched me personally, since he was an editor of mine at the time. In fact, the two of us had spoken just a couple of days before he was gunned down on the street by a Muslim goon squad on orders from their imam, a madman known as Yusuf Bey IV.
Disfigured by a bad case of acne, Bey preached a racist interpretation of the Koran that said white people were devils invented only 6,000 years ago by a big-headed black scientist named Yakub. I am not making this up. Bey was also a Holocaust denier who denigrated Christianity as a spook religion, while predicting the prophet Muhammad’s Second Coming to Earth from outer space in a mile-wide mother ship in order to exterminate Caucasians and Jews.
The delusional cleric boasted about eliminating Bailey while selling bean pies in his store, because he felt that he was untouchable. After all, Bey was already in bed with corrupt Oakland cops willing to look the other way whenever “employees” of the bakery broke the law.
In this case, however, a number of California journalists, outraged by Chauncey’s murder, banded together not only to complete their colleague’s story but to make sure that justice was served. Spearheading that effort was Thomas Peele, an investigative reporter for the Bay Area News Group.
In Killing the Messenger: A Story of Radical Faith, Racism’s Backlash, and the Assassination of a Journalist, Peele recounts the history of Black Muslims in America, the chain of events leading to Chauncey’s slaying, and the court case leading to the convictions of everyone responsible. A riveting opus recounting a bittersweet victory for the fourth estate over radical Islam in the name of freedom of the press.
Rest in Peace, Brother Chauncey.

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Pruitt-Igoe Myth (FILM REVIEW)

The Pruitt-Igoe Myth
Film Review by Kam Williams

Urban Renewal Documentary Deconstructs Demise of Doomed St. Louis Housing Project

When the Pruitt-Igoe housing project opened to considerable fanfare back in 1956, its 33 high-rise towers were hailed as a proud symbol of the future of American urban renewal. Located on a 57-acre tract on St. Louis’ north side, the federally-funded development had been created to house 12,000 African-American refugees from the city’s crumbling slums.
However, the federal government only built Pruitt-Igoe, but subsequently declined to underwrite its maintenance. Abandoned by the public sector, the costly burden of the premises’ upkeep was immediately shifted to the shoulders of its poor and working-class tenants.
Consequently, it was merely a matter of time before the same host of ghetto woes they had just escaped began to manifest again around Pruitt-Igoe, since its modest tax base inexorably led to a rapid deterioration of infrastructure and support services. Spiraling from a utopian oasis into a neverending nightmare, the apartments’ vacancy rate escalated as the place became infested with drugs, prostitution and violent crime.
The upshot is that, less than two decades after it was built, Pruitt-Igoe was reluctantly ordered flattened via planned detonation, once the bureaucrats, architects and politicians were forced to face the fact that their grand experiment had failed. All of the above is recounted in captivating fashion (including the iconic video of the project’s implosion by dynamite) in The Pruitt-Igoe Myth, a chilling documentary directed by Chad Freidrichs.
What makes the movie oh so engaging are the earnest reminiscences by former residents, most of whom recount a similar sorry story about how their initial enthusiasm about the complex had ultimately been supplanted by a deep bitterness and distrust of the establishment. Today, courtesy of 20-20 hindsight, it is easy for them to see that Pruitt-Igoe was never really given a chance to blossom once it had been marginalized by polite society as a haven for crooks, cheats and Welfare Queens deserving of their lot.
A thought-provoking, cinematic picking of the bones of the scattered exoskeleton of a once-promising “poor man’s penthouse.”

Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 83 minutes
Distributor: First Run Features

Cymphonique Miller (INTERVIEW)

Cymphonique Miller
The “How to Rock” Interview
with Kam Williams

I Hear a Cymphonique

Born in New Orleans on August 1, 1996, Cymphonique Miller stars as Kacey Simon on the Nickelodeon’s new TV series How to Rock. Prior to landing her own sitcom, Miller made guest appearances on several Nick series, including Big Time Rush, True Jackson VP, Just Jordan and The Troop. In addition to her television roles, Miller has also made many national television commercials and public service announcements. And her big screen credits include the feature films Scarecrow Joe and Opposite Day.
Besides acting, Cymphonique is an accomplished singer who has performed on numerous national school tours and at theme parks all across the country. She also sings the theme song and provides the voices of “Nova” and “Krystal” on the Nickelodeon animated series Winx.
Daughter of businessman, music mogul and philanthropist Percy Miller and sister of Romeo Miller, Cymphonique has built a diverse R&B, pop and hip hop fan base online, enjoying over 20 million web views and counting. When she is not busy working and upholding her honors student status, the Los Angeles native is committed to her passion for helping others and giving back to her community.
She has created a book series to empower young girls called Fabulous Girls and has founded a Fabulous Girls charity to help bring support and awareness to kids with cancer. Furthermore, she is the founder and president of Fabulous Girls clothing and spokesperson for BYOU (Be Your Own You). Currently, she is partnering with Urban Born Foundation to build a performing arts school in downtown Los Angeles.
On top of her career as a singer, writer and actress, Cymphonique enjoys competitive kickboxing, swimming, drawing, and playing the piano. Here, she talks about How to Rock, which premieres on Nickelodeon on Saturday, February 4th with back-to-back episodes airing at 8:30 and 9:00 p.m. (ET/PT).

Kam Williams: Hi, Cymphonique, thanks for the interview.
Cymphonique Miller: My pleasure, Kam.

KW: What interested you in How to Rock?
CM: I loved the message and the music.

KW: Tell me a little about your character, Kacey Simon?
CM: Kacey was the most popular girl in school, but then got braces AND glasses and her friends disowned her. She learned that through just being yourself that’s where your true friends come from.

KW: How would you describe the transformation she undergoes?
CM: As transforming and as a great example for others because she learns that you can change and make yourself better when you do what’s right.

KW: Is it hard having to play a girl who loses her popularity?
CM: Not really.

KW: What messages do you think people will take away from the show?
CM: That it’s okay not to be perfect, to follow your dreams and to be yourself.

KW: You are multi-talented: singing, acting and dancing. Which one is your favorite?
CM: I really can’t choose between the three… I love them all equally.

KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would? CM: Can’t think of one right now. [LOL]

KW: The Tasha Smith question: Are you ever afraid?
CM: No. My family has taught me to trust in God and stay grounded. Although, I am afraid of spiders!

KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?
CM: Yes!

KW: The Teri Emerson question: When was the last time you had a good laugh?
CM: A minute ago, while watching “Superstar,” although I recently saw “Bridesmaids” which made me laugh, too.

KW: What is your guiltiest pleasure?
CM: Frozen yogurt with Oreos, and mochi with strawberries and mangos. Yummy!

KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?
CM: The Hunger Games.

KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What was the last song you listened to?
CM: Domino, By Jessie J.

KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?
CM: Breakfast is my favorite meal. I love waffles and French toast.

KW: The Sanaa Lathan question: What excites you?
CM: Reading scripts excites me. I get to act them out. The ones I’m reading now for the show are really cool

KW: The Uduak Oduok question: Who is your favorite clothes designer?
CM: I don’t really have one. I just like what’s cute. I’m creating my own line called BYOU.

KW: Dante Lee, author of "Black Business Secrets,” asks: What was the best business decision you ever made?
CM: Attending an audition alone without anyone knowing my family connection to my father or brother and getting the job on my own merits. It meant everything to me that it was based on my own talent and ability.

KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
CM: A girl that loves God, family and entertaining.

KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?
CM: To cure world hunger.

KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?
CM: Watching Shirley Temple movies with my grandmother. That inspired me because I realized she was only a child but already acting with the adults at a very early age.

KW: The Pastor Alex Kendrick question: When do you feel the most content?
CM: When I’m performing.

KW: The Toure question: Who is the person who led you to become the person you are today?
CM: My family.

KW: The Judyth Piazza question: What key quality do you believe all successful people share?
CM: That they had to learn how to deal with rejection.

KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
CM: Be yourself. Be the best you.

KW: Thanks again for the time, Cymphonique, and best of luck with the show.
CM: Thanks!

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (FILM REVIEW)

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Morbid Meditation on Mortality Chronicles 9/11 Orphan’s Relentless Quest for Closure

Oskar Schell (Thomas Horn) was left traumatized when his father (Tom Hanks) perished in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. After being dismissed early from school that morning, the anguished, 11 year-old had rushed home only to see the Twin Towers collapse as he listened to a half dozen, increasingly-urgent phone messages from his dad trapped on the 106th floor.
Fast-forward a year, and while rummaging through his father’s belongings, the still-inconsolable youngster discovers a mysterious key hidden in a tiny envelope marked “Black” when he accidentally breaks a blue vase. Desperate to remain connected, Oskar starts to fantasize that the key can unlock a secret treasure chest of messages and keepsakes deliberately left behind by his dad in the event of his early demise.
After a search of their Manhattan apartment proves fruitless, he concludes that “Black” must be the surname of the person aware of the box’s whereabouts. So, he starts crisscrossing New York City by foot to visit every “Black” listed in the telephone directory until he finds the right one.
Although this doesn’t sit well with his mom (Sandra Bullock), she opts to not interfere with her son’s grieving process. Luckily, Grandma Schell’s (Zoe Caldwell) elderly, mute tenant (Max von Sydow) has plenty of time on his hands and is willing to accompany Oskar on his appointed rounds.
Thus unfolds Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, a morbid, meditation on mortality chronicling a 9/11 orphan’s peripatetic quest for closure. Based on Jonathan Safran Foer’s best-seller of the same name, the movie was adapted to the big screen by three-time Academy Award-nominee Stephen Daldry (for directing The Hours, Billy Elliot and The Reader).
Unfortunately, this version was doomed ab initio by the fatal flaw of casting a Kids Week Jeopardy-winner in the pivotal role as the picture’s narrator/protagonist. Ostensibly-blessed with a brilliant memory but crippled by a lack of any emotional range, Thomas Horn flatly spits out his every line in staccato fashion, machine gun-style, as if he’s not making his acting debut but rather competing to answer a trivia question before fellow game show contestants.
Consequently, precocious Oskar ends-up coming off as unlikable and unsympathetic which is the polar opposite of what was intended. The upshot is that the movie does a disservice to 9/11 survivors by suggesting that a child orphaned by the disaster might be an insufferable little monster.
Furthermore, the production suffers from a relentlessly-grim storyline and a tendency to lift ideas from iconic screen classics. For example, the film’s final line, “Now, it’s time to go home.” sounds suspiciously similar to the unforgettable last line also uttered by Tom Hanks in Steven Spielberg’s The Terminal. Even this flick’s “boy with hands over mouth” marketing campaign poster was borrowed from the one featuring Macaulay Culkin for Home Alone.
Extremely tacky and incredibly unimaginative.

Fair (1 star)
Rated PG-13 for profanity, disturbing images and mature themes.
Running time: 129 minutes
Distributor: Warner Brothers

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Big Year (DVD REVIEW)

The Big Year
DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Bird Watching Comedy Comes to DVD

Brad Harris (Jack Black) is an unemployed slacker who moved back in with his parents (Brian Dennehy and Dianne Wiest) after getting a divorce and dropping out of graduate school. Kenny Bostick (Owen Wilson) is a roofer whose hard-to-impregnate spouse (Rosamund Pike) is impatient to have a baby. And Stu Preissler (Steve Martin) is a recently-retired CEO whose business partners have been begging him to come back to the company.
These strangers’ paths probably would never have crossed had they not shared an obsession with bird watching. But in 1998, all three opted to enter an annual tournament in which participants compete to spot the most species in North America over the course of a calendar year.
Loosely-based on Mark Obmascik’s best-seller of the same name, The Big Year is a buddy comedy which recounts their spirited contest for the coveted crown while simultaneously highlighting the toll the time-consuming endeavor took on each of the protagonist’s personal lives. After all, such an undertaking involves being away from home for long stretches at a time.
Directed by Oscar-winner David Frankel (for Dear Diary), The Big Year is just funny enough to warrant this critic’s stamp of approval, even if the awkward puns, silly sight gags and pithy dialogue seem a tad forced for a cast stocked with so many seasoned comics. The production suffers from the choice of the over-the-top Jack Black as its omniscient narrator, when either Steve Martin or Owen Wilson’s relatively-droll delivery would’ve been far better suited to the story’s subtle brand of humor.
Another slight flaw is the script’s lack of tension surrounding the outcome of the contest which is not only run on the honor system but allows the entrants to keep their mounting bird counts confidential. Consequently, the character-driven adventure has the audience caring less about the winner than whether these peripatetic, decadent divas will exhibit a sense of family responsibility and return from the road when duty calls, whether it’s Brad’s father suffering a heart attack, Stu becoming a grandfather for the first time, or Kenny’s ovulating wife calling from a fertility clinic.
Still, when at its best, The Big Year devotes itself to the visually-captivating treat of displaying dozens of rare, winged creatures, ranging from the Black-footed Albatross to the Great Spotted Woodpecker to the Pink-footed Goose, either in flight or right in their natural habitats. An ornithological diversion designed with the bird fancier in mind!

Very Good (2.5 stars)
Rated PG for profanity and some sensuality.
Running time: 100 Minutes
Studio: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Thunder Soul (DVD REVIEW)

Thunder Soul
DVD Review
by Kam Williams

Headline: Tribute to Legendary H.S. Bandleader Released on DVD

After graduating from Wiley College (of “The Great Debaters” fame) back in the Thirties, Conrad “Prof” Johnson (1915-2008) briefly embarked on a promising career as a jazz musician, joining big band orchestras led by the likes of Count Basie and Erskine Hawkins. However, he decided to come off the road in 1940, right after meeting the love of his life, Birdie.
The couple soon married and decided to settle down in his native Texas, where for the next 37 years, Prof would teach music at Kashmere High in Houston. There, he formed a stage band to compete in tournaments against other schools, and as conductor taught his students how to achieve a professional quality sound on their instruments.
By the late Sixties, Kashmere had developed an enviable reputation as a world-class powerhouse, courtesy of a funky brand of music dubbed Thunder Soul. But perhaps more important than forging youngsters into a competitive, top-flight band capable of winning national championships was the fact that Prof simultaneously served as a father figure to so many who were being raised without a male role model.
Although he retired in 1978, Conrad Johnson had made such a lasting impression on his Kashmere kids that numerous band alumni decided to pay tribute to him 30 years later by reuniting to do a show when they learned their hero was in failing health. That Herculean effort is the subject of Thunder Soul, a reverential bio-pic directed by Mark Landsman.
Produced by fellow Texan Jamie Foxx, the picture features file footage of the group performing in the Seventies when they were mostly sporting big afros and wearing bell bottoms pants and platform shoes. That retro reminder is deftly juxtaposed against the same individuals now middle-aged, yet somehow still summoning up the funkified fire of old as they “practice, practice, practice” just to please their former mentor in one glorious, toe-tapping last hurrah.
Mixed in with those preparations are a host of heartfelt reminiscences about how much Prof meant to each of them. And if you aren’t moved by those teary-eyed testimonials, then the floodgates will certainly open on reunion night when their 92 year-old mentor is wheeled up the aisle from a hospital bed to attend the magnificent concert in his honor.
They don’t make ‘em like Prof anymore!

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG for smoking and mild epithets
Running time: 88 minutes
Distributor: Lionsgate Home Entertainment
DVD Extras: Audio commentary with the director and editor; never before seen footage from “Prof & the Band” documentary; and “The Making of” featurette.


DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: This Critic’s Favorite Low-Budget Adventure of 2011 Comes to DVD

This riveting cat-and-mouse thriller was the #1 artsy adventure on my annual Top 100 List for 2011. The film represents another solid outing by Ryan Gosling in which the underappreciated actor further establishes himself as among the best actors yet to win an Academy Award.
Here, he plays a Hollywood stuntman whose secret dream is to save enough money to become a professional race car driver on the NASCAR circuit one day. When not executing dangerous rollovers on movie sets, he supplements his meager income by moonlighting as a getaway driver.
That modus operandi works well for the unnamed loner we’ll call Driver so long as he religiously protects his anonymity. But complications ensue soon after his Achilles heel, an attractive woman, rears its pretty head in the person of Irene (Carey Mulligan), a flirtatious neighbor living right down the hall.
Driver naturally assumes her to be a single-mom, since she shares the apartment only with her young son, Benicio (Kaden Leos). Sparks fly, and they start spending quality time together, almost like a family.
But before their budding friendship has a chance to blossom any further, Irene admits not only that she’s married, but that her husband, Standard (Oscar Isaac), is about to be paroled from prison.
Turns out that the ex-con wants to go straight but is being pressured to pull one last heist by a loan shark (James Biberi) he’s deeply indebted to. Against his better judgment, Driver decides to help by driving a getaway car for Standard.
Unfortunately, the robbery goes horribly wrong, and Driver ends up in sole possession of the million dollar take. He subsequently finds himself being hunted by an army of vengeful mobsters threatening to harm him, Irene and the boy unless the cash is delivered.
The chase is on and, again and again, Driver makes the most of opportunities to demonstrate his elusive skills behind the wheel. The slippery fugitive is forced to fight on occasion, too, and he’s not one to shy away from a good rumble either.
Based on the James Sallis best-seller of the same name, Drive is an alternately atmospheric and grisly crime saga which devotes as much attention to character development as to gruesome action sequences. The film was directed by Denmark’s Nicolas Winding Refn who boldly blends elements of the seemingly-incompatible blood sport and romance genres.
The picture features a profusion of spellbinding performances besides Gosling’s, most notably Carey Mulligan as the femme fatale, as well as Ron Perlman and Albert Brooks as a couple of the scariest villains to grace the screen this year. Provided you have a strong stomach for gore, don’t miss this novel cinematic treat offering both an adrenaline fix and a compelling love story.

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for profanity, ethnic slurs, nudity and graphic violence.
Running time: 100 minutes
Distributor: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
DVD Extras: An interview with director Nicolas Winding Refn, plus 4 featurettes: “I Drive,” “Under the Hood,” “Driver and Irene,” and “Cut to the Chase.”

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Kam's Movie Kapsules for 2-3-12

Kam's Kapsules:
Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun
by Kam Williams
For movies opening February 3, 2012


Big Miracle (PG for mild epithets) Drew Barrymore and John Krasinski co-star in this romance drama about the resurrected relationship of a reporter and his environmentalist ex-girlfriend in the wake of their joining forces to save a family of gray whales trapped under the ice near the Arctic Circle. Supporting cast includes Ted Danson, Kristen Bell, Dermot Mulroney, Vinessa Shaw and Tim Blake Nelson.

Chronicle (PG-13 for profanity, mature themes, sexuality, teen drinking and intense violence) Sci-fi thriller about three well-meaning, high school buddies (Michael B. Jordan, Dane DeHaan and Alex Russell) who find themselves drawn to the dark side after developing such superpowers as invulnerability, mental telepathy and the ability to fly. With Michael Kelly, Ashley Hinshaw and Anna Wood.

The Woman in Black (PG-13 for violence, disturbing images and mature themes) Eerie ghost tale about a London lawyer (Daniel Radcliffe) who travels out of town to settle an estate only to find his recently-deceased client’s (Alisa Khazanova) house haunted by a disembodied spirit (Liz White) bent on revenge. With Janet McTeer, Ciaran Hinds and Sophie Stuckey.


Bad Fever (Unrated) Thought-provoking meditation on the compulsion for companionship revolving around a mean-spirited hussy (Eleonoro Hendricks) with a video camera who cruelly exploits an awkward loner (Kentucker Audley) by filming his desperate efforts to win her heart. With Allison Baar, Hayward Buchanan and Scott Parisi.

The Innkeepers (R for profanity and bloody images) Harrowing horror flick about a closing country inn’s only two employees’ (Sarah Paxton and Pat Healy) ill-advised attempt to prove a persistent rumor that the desolate place is haunted. With Kelly McGillis, Lena Dunham and George Riddle.

Kill List (Unrated) Grisly crime caper about a hit man (Neil Maskell) who unwittingly agrees to perform assassinations for a cult which he has no idea worships him as the anti-Christ. With MyAnna Buring, Harry Simpson and Struan Rodger.

W.E. (Unrated) Madonna wrote and directed this flashback flick revisiting the forbidden romance of divorcee Wallis Simpson (Andrea Riseborough) and King Edward VIII (James D’Arcy) as reflected upon six decades later through the eyes of an American Southerner (Abbie Cornish) stuck in an abusive marriage. With Katie McGrath, Oscar Isaac and Richard Coyle.

Windfall (Unrated) Eco-expose’ uncovering the ugly underbelly of the green movement as discovered by the naïve natives of a town in upstate New York scammed by a shady, wind-energy developer.

Round & Round Together (BOOK REVIEW)

Round & Round Together
by Amy Nathan
Paul Dry Books
Paperback, $12.95
260 pages, Illustrated
ISBN: 978-1-58988-071-9

Book Review by Kam Williams

“About four months before the March on Washington, Dr. Martin Luther King was arrested during demonstrations in Birmingham, Alabama. While in jail, he wrote a letter in which he explained why he protested…
‘When you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year-old daughter why she can’t go to the amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her little eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see the depressing clouds of inferiority begin to form in her mental sky… then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait.’
This book tells the tale of the nearly decade-long struggle to liberate [Gwynn Oak’s] once whites-only merry-go-round, weaving its story into that of the civil rights movement as a whole.”
-- Excerpted from Chapter One (pgs. 9 & 12)

One of my earliest childhood memories from back in the Fifties was asking my mother if the family could go to Palisades Amusement Park right after watching a TV commercial featuring kids enjoying its rides and swimming pool. My hopes were dashed when she patiently explained that we couldn’t because colored people weren’t allowed in.
Who knows whether a kid ever fully recovers from having it ingrained in your brain at such a tender age that you’re a second-class citizen? And yet, just such a scenario ostensibly played out in millions of other African-American homes back then, even that of Dr. Martin Luther King, who specifically referred to his frustration with precisely the same predicament in his historic Letter from a Birmingham Jail.
For this reason, America owes a debt of gratitude to Amy Nathan for writing Round & Round Together, a welcome reminder of the ten-year struggle to integrate Baltimore’s Gwynn Oak Amusement Park. It was whites-only from its opening in 1894 right up until Sharon Langley became the first black child allowed on a ride there on August 28, 1963, the very same day that Dr. King delivered his prophetic “I Have a Dream” speech.
The title of Round & Round Together was inspired by the fact that it was the park’s merry-go-round that little Sharon rode that fateful afternoon. In the book, the author seamlessly interweaves eyewitness accounts of the long effort to desegregate Gwynn Oak with descriptions of what was simultaneously transpiring elsewhere around the country in the Civil Rights Movement.
The text arrives amply augmented by dozens of archival photos taken at Gwynn Oak, many of which show demonstrators being carted away by cops for trying to cross its strictly-enforced color line. It also includes a number of iconic images already emblazoned on the nation’s consciousness: of the March on Washington, of dogs being set loose on picketers in Birmingham, Alabama, of a firebombed Freedom Riders’ bus, and of Rosa Parks being arrested for refusing to sit on the back of the bus.
A profoundly moving tribute to the intrepid unsung heroes who risked their lives to help bring an end to Baltimore’s Jim Crow Era.

2012 Oscar Nominations (FEATURE)

2012 Oscar Nominations
by Kam Williams

“Hugo” Leads Pack with 11 Nominations;
“The Artist” Is Next Netting 10

Don’t be deceived by Hugo’s landing the most Oscar nominations, The Artist still remains the heavy favorite to win for Best Picture. The list of nominees doesn’t include much in the way of major surprises other than perhaps the conspicuous absence of Ryan Gosling (The Ides of March and Drive) and Kristen Wiig (Bridesmaids) in the lead acting categories, Albert Brooks (Drive) in the supporting, David Fincher (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) for Best Director, and The Adventures of Tintin for Best Animated Feature.
Brad Pitt enjoys a slight early edge over George Clooney for Best Actor, and the same goes for perennial-nominee Meryl Streep over Viola Davis for Best Actress. But the odds can change, so watch for every studio to employ some subtle marketing strategies over the next few weeks to position their nominees as the most deserving.
As for the support roles, Golden Globe-winner Octavia Spencer might have a tough time repeating that feat against Janet McTeer, given the Academy’s history of preferring British actresses in that category. By comparison, Supporting Actor is totally up for grabs, since four of the entrants, Nick Nolte, Christopher Plummer, Max von Sydow and Kenneth Branagh, have all been nominated multiple times before, but never won. Thus all qualify for the proverbial “body of work” vote.
The 84th Academy Awards will air live on ABC on Sunday, February 26th at 8 PM ET/5 PM PT, and will be hosted by Billy Crystal.


Actor in a Leading Role
• Demián Bichir in "A Better Life"
• George Clooney in "The Descendants"
• Jean Dujardin in "The Artist"
• Gary Oldman in "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy"
• Brad Pitt in "Moneyball"

Actor in a Supporting Role
• Kenneth Branagh in "My Week with Marilyn"
• Jonah Hill in "Moneyball"
• Nick Nolte in "Warrior"
• Christopher Plummer in "Beginners"
• Max von Sydow in "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close"

Actress in a Leading Role
• Glenn Close in "Albert Nobbs"
• Viola Davis in "The Help"
• Rooney Mara in "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo"
• Meryl Streep in "The Iron Lady"
• Michelle Williams in "My Week with Marilyn"

Actress in a Supporting Role
• Bérénice Bejo in "The Artist"
• Jessica Chastain in "The Help"
• Melissa McCarthy in "Bridesmaids"
• Janet McTeer in "Albert Nobbs"
• Octavia Spencer in "The Help"

Animated Feature Film
• "A Cat in Paris "Alain Gagnol and Jean-Loup Felicioli
• "Chico & Rita "Fernando Trueba and Javier Mariscal
• "Kung Fu Panda 2" Jennifer Yuh Nelson
• "Puss in Boots" Chris Miller
• "Rango" Gore Verbinski

Art Direction
• "The Artist" Production Design: Laurence Bennett; Set Decoration: Robert Gould
• "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2" Production Design: Stuart Craig; Set Decoration: Stephenie McMillan
• "Hugo" Production Design: Dante Ferretti; Set Decoration: Francesca Lo Schiavo
• "Midnight in Paris" Production Design: Anne Seibel; Set Decoration: Hélène Dubreuil
• "War Horse" Production Design: Rick Carter; Set Decoration: Lee Sandales

• "The Artist" Guillaume Schiffman
• "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" Jeff Cronenweth
• "Hugo" Robert Richardson
• "The Tree of Life" Emmanuel Lubezki
• "War Horse" Janusz Kaminski

Costume Design
• "Anonymous" Lisy Christl
• "The Artist" Mark Bridges
• "Hugo" Sandy Powell
• "Jane Eyre" Michael O'Connor
• "W.E." Arianne Phillips

• "The Artist" Michel Hazanavicius
• "The Descendants" Alexander Payne
• "Hugo" Martin Scorsese
• "Midnight in Paris" Woody Allen
• "The Tree of Life" Terrence Malick

Documentary (Feature)
• "Hell and Back Again" Danfung Dennis and Mike Lerner
• "If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front" Marshall Curry and Sam Cullman
• "Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory" Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky
• "Pina" Wim Wenders and Gian-Piero Ringel
• "Undefeated" TJ Martin, Dan Lindsay and Richard Middlemas

Documentary (Short Subject)
• "The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement" Robin Fryday and Gail Dolgin
• "God Is the Bigger Elvis" Rebecca Cammisa and Julie Anderson
• "Incident in New Baghdad" James Spione
• "Saving Face" Daniel Junge and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy
• "The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom" Lucy Walker and Kira Carstensen

Film Editing
• "The Artist" Anne-Sophie Bion and Michel Hazanavicius
• "The Descendants" Kevin Tent
• "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall
• "Hugo" Thelma Schoonmaker
• "Moneyball" Christopher Tellefsen

Foreign Language Film
• "Bullhead" (Belgium)
• "Footnote" (Israel)
• "In Darkness" (Poland)
• "Monsieur Lazhar" (Canada)
• "A Separation" (Iran)

• "Albert Nobbs" Martial Corneville, Lynn Johnston and Matthew W. Mungle
• "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2" Nick Dudman, Amanda Knight and Lisa Tomblin
• "The Iron Lady" Mark Coulier and J. Roy Helland

Music (Original Score)
• "The Adventures of Tintin" John Williams
• "The Artist" Ludovic Bource
• "Hugo" Howard Shore
• "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" Alberto Iglesias
• "War Horse" John Williams

Music (Original Song)
• "Man or Muppet" from "The Muppets" Music and Lyric by Bret McKenzie
• "Real in Rio"from "Rio" Music by Sergio Mendes and Carlinhos Brown Lyric by Siedah Garrett

Best Picture
• "The Artist" Thomas Langmann, Producer
• "The Descendants" Jim Burke, Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor, Producers
• "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" Scott Rudin, Producer
• "The Help" Brunson Green, Chris Columbus and Michael Barnathan, Producers
• "Hugo" Graham King and Martin Scorsese, Producers
• "Midnight in Paris" Letty Aronson and Stephen Tenenbaum, Producers
• "Moneyball" Michael De Luca, Rachael Horovitz and Brad Pitt, Producers
• "The Tree of Life" Nominees to be determined
• "War Horse" Steven Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy, Producers

Short Film (Animated)
• "Dimanche/Sunday" Patrick Doyon
• "The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore" William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg
• "La Luna" Enrico Casarosa
• "A Morning Stroll" Grant Orchard and Sue Goffe
• "Wild Life" Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby

Short Film (Live Action)
• "Pentecost" Peter McDonald and Eimear O'Kane
• "Raju" Max Zähle and Stefan Gieren
• "The Shore" Terry George and Oorlagh George
• "Time Freak" Andrew Bowler and Gigi Causey
• "Tuba Atlantic" Hallvar Witzø

Sound Editing
• "Drive" Lon Bender and Victor Ray Ennis
• "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" Ren Klyce
• "Hugo" Philip Stockton and Eugene Gearty
• "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" Ethan Van der Ryn and Erik Aadahl
• "War Horse" Richard Hymns and Gary Rydstrom

Sound Mixing
• "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" David Parker, Michael Semanick, Ren Klyce and Bo Persson
• "Hugo" Tom Fleischman and John Midgley
• "Moneyball" Deb Adair, Ron Bochar, Dave Giammarco and Ed Novick
• "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers, Jeffrey J. Haboush and Peter J. Devlin
• "War Horse" Gary Rydstrom, Andy Nelson, Tom Johnson and Stuart Wilson

Visual Effects
• "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2" Tim Burke, David Vickery, Greg Butler and John Richardson
• "Hugo" Rob Legato, Joss Williams, Ben Grossman and Alex Henning
• "Real Steel" Erik Nash, John Rosengrant, Dan Taylor and Swen Gillberg
• "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, R. Christopher White and Daniel Barrett
• "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" Scott Farrar, Scott Benza, Matthew Butler and John Frazier

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
• "The Descendants" Screenplay by Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash
• "Hugo" Screenplay by John Logan
• "The Ides of March" Screenplay by George Clooney & Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon
• "Moneyball" Screenplay by Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin. Story by Stan Chervin
• "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" Screenplay by Bridget O'Connor & Peter Straughan

Writing (Original Screenplay)
• "The Artist" Written by Michel Hazanavicius
• "Bridesmaids" Written by Annie Mumolo & Kristen Wiig
• "Margin Call" Written by J.C. Chandor
• "Midnight in Paris" Written by Woody Allen
• "A Separation" Written by Asghar Farhadi

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


Crazy Horse
Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Revealing Documentary Offers Eye-Opening Peek inside Parisian Strip Club

Opened in 1951 by owner Alain Bernardin, Crazy Horse is a popular Paris destination for open-minded tourists, ranking right up there with the Louvre and The Eiffel Tower as a must-see attraction. Known for its tasteful nude revues in which elegant females strip in synchronized fashion, the classy burlesque theater might best be thought of as France’s blue version of Radio City Music Hall’s Rockettes.
The curvy, acrobatic dancers slowly shed their costumes doing a daring bump and grind to pulsating music during flawlessly-choreographed routines designed to intensify sensuality. The skits often rely on innuendos courtesy of strategically-placed props reminiscent of the running joke repeatedly employed for laughs in the Austin Powers trilogy.
Producing such a successful, long-running stage show is no mean feat, which is probably why director Frederick Wiseman decided to make a documentary about the legendary landmark. Afforded unusual access to the erotic cabaret, Wiseman’s camera paints a behind-the-scenes picture which is less about sex than about dedicated, young ecdysiasts being put through the work grinder.
This is no surprise, given their grueling daily schedules and the proprietor’s emphasis on practice and perfection. So, while yes there is a fair amount of skin revealed onscreen, this eye-opening deconstruction of the burlesque biz is apt to disappoint anyone approaching it with titillation in mind.
Girls Gone Wild Paris style!

Very Good (3 stars)
In French and English with subtitles.
Running time: 134 minutes
Distributor: Zipporah Films

Monday, January 23, 2012


The “Red Tails” Interview
with Kam Williams

Yo! Ne-Yo!

Shaffer Chimere Smith, aka Ne-Yo, was born in Camden, Arkansas, but raised in Las Vegas, Nevada by his mom, a musician of Chinese and African-American descent. He began making a name for himself as a singer/songwriter in 1999, going on to compose hits for Mary J. Blige, Faith Evans, Christina Milian, B2K, Mario and others, and also to record four solo albums.
In 2006, he added acting to his repertoire, making his screen debut in Save the Last Dance, later appearing in Stomp the Yard and, more recently, in Battle: Los Angeles. Here, he talks about his co-starring opposite Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Terrence Howard as Andrew “Smoky” Salem in Red Tails, a World War II saga recounting the daring exploits of the Tuskegee Airmen in the skies over Europe.

Kam Williams: Hi Ne-Yo, thanks so much for the time.
Ne-Yo: No problem, brother. Thank you.

KW: What interested you in Red Tails?
NY: For starters, I wanted to do an acting role in a movie that had nothing to do with the music business or in which I would play a singer or a songwriter. When I act, I don’t even want to be thought of as Ne-Yo. I want to be Shaffer Smith, which is my government name. So, my initial attraction to Red Tails was the opportunity to play a character that was not me. Stomp the Yard was a great film, but I played myself there. When Red Tails came along, all I knew was that they were the first African-American fighter pilots in the U.S. Air Force. I had no idea how deep the story went or about all their amazing achievements. There were a few Tuskegee Airmen on the set to make sure everything was as authentic as possible. And just to sit back and listen to these cats talk about the discrimination they faced while fighting for their country really got to me. So, I was really happy to be a part of this film, and excited that their story is being told in the way it’s being told. It’s more than just entertainment. It’s educational at the same time. [Producer] George Lucas and [director] Anthony Hemingway knew what they were doing.

KW: Harriet Pakula Teweles asks: How do you expect Red Tails to contribute to the public's rethinking about the historic role of the Tuskegee Airmen?
NY: By focusing on their triumphs as much on the tragedy. I like how Anthony decided not to hit the audience over the head about the racism. We all know that racism was rampant in the U.S. in 1942. So, instead of simply highlighting the segregation and discrimination these aviators had to endure, he accentuated their positive experiences, like the fact that they wound up doing their job better than anyone had before them.

KW: What message do you think people will take away from the film?
NY: For me, that any and everything is possible, if your heart is in it and your mind is in the right place. If you believe in yourself, it doesn’t matter what others might be telling you is impossible. It’s all up to you!

KW: Editor/legist Patricia Turnier asks: Did meeting the real-life Tuskegee Airmen affect how you approached your character, Smoky?
NY: Absolutely! They were there for authenticity, to help us get closer to our characters. Even though Smoky is fictional, I based him on one of the guys I spent time with. Having an opportunity to sit and listen to his stories and to hear how things really went down definitely helped.

KW: When will your next album, “The Cracks in Mr. Perfect,” be released?
NY: I’m thinking April or May. I’m still putting the finishing bells and whistles on it. I don’t want to call myself a perfectionist because perfection is imperfection. But, at the same time, I can’t give it away to the world until it’s all the way right.

KW: What should fans expect from the album?
NY: Everything that you’ve come to expect from me, plus a little bit more. This is slightly Ne-Yo unpolished. This is me with the tie loosened up a little bit and with the hat cocked to the side.

KW: Have you gone grunge?
NY: Not necessarily grunge, just a little imperfection.

KW: Why did you go over to Japan right after the earthquake and tsunami?
NY: We were scheduled to go over there anyway. So, we didn’t back out, like a lot of other artists, because we figured they needed us more than ever.

KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
NY: Not really, I’ve pretty much been an open book my whole career, so people don’t really pull punches with me. I’m 100% real, even when what’s real is ugly. I don’t take any pride in covering up, hiding and lying.

KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?
NY: I’m actually a lot happier now than I’ve ever been. I have to credit that to my two beautiful children. My daughter’s one and my son’s three months-old. They have definitely put life in perspective for me, by showing me just how unimportant a lot of things are I’d thought were important. Now my priorities are in order.

KW: The Tasha Smith question: Are you ever afraid?
NY: Oh, yeah. Fear is a healthy part of success.

KW: The Teri Emerson question: When was the last time you had a good laugh?
NY: Three days ago, when my son smiled for the first time. I fell over laughing.

KW: What is your guiltiest pleasure?
NY: Cartoons. I watch cartoons the way most adults watch reality-TV shows.

KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?
NY: “The 48 Laws of Power.”

KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What was the last song you listened to?
NY: “Love Me in a Special Way” by El Debarge.

KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?
NY: I do not cook. However, if I did, I’d cook all Italian food, all the time.

KW: The Sanaa Lathan question: What excites you?
NY: The creative process, a great necktie knot, and music.

KW: The Uduak Oduok question: Who is your favorite clothes designer?
NY: Tom Ford and Paul Smith are amazing. So are Gucci suits. I can wear them right off the rack.

KW: Dante Lee, author of "Black Business Secrets,” asks: What was the best business decision you ever made, and what was the worst?
NY: My worst and best are kind of the same: spending way too much money on something stupid. But it taught me the value of a dollar.

KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
NY: Me! [Laughs] That question was easy.

KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?
NY: That people appreciated music in the way they once did.

KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?
NY: Busting up my chin on an electric car I got for Christmas by driving it off a bike ramp. I never got on it again.

KW: The Melissa Harris-Perry question: How did your first big heartbreak impact who you are as a person?
NY: It definitely taught me the true meaning of pain. There is no pain like the first time you get your heart broken.

KW: The Judyth Piazza question: What key quality do you believe all successful people share?
NY: Above everything and anything, a good work ethic. The ability to keep going. When everybody else is partying, you’re in the office.

KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
NY: The same answer as the last question. If you want to be successful, you have to be the best person doing it. And in order to be the best person doing it, you have to get your work ethic right and keep going,

KW: The Tavis Smiley question: How do you want to be remembered?
NY: As a great singer/songwriter, but above all, as a great man.

KW: Are you still in touch with any folks back in your birthplace back in Arkansas?
NY: Yes, I am. You know what? It’s especially beautiful to be able to go back, visit family, hang out and help them out with bills and other stuff.

KW: Thanks again for the time, Ne-Yo, and best of luck with Red Tails and the new album.
NY: Thanks, Kam.

Sunday, January 22, 2012


Red Tails
Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: WWII Saga Recounts Heroic Exploits of Tuskegee Airmen

The Tuskegee Airmen is the nickname given the 332nd Fighter Group, the first squadron of African-American aviators ever trained by the U.S. Air Force. Formed in 1940, the historic unit had to be stationed at a base on the campus of the Tuskegee Institute in Macon County, Alabama, since the Armed Forces were still racially segregated at the time of its creation.
Even after America entered World War II, the government initially remained reluctant to deploy these pioneering pilots overseas, out of a concern that the presence of black officers in the midst of white soldiers might have a negative effect on military morale. Consequently, the Tuskegee Airmen languished stateside for several years, seeing no action until they were finally cleared for combat in the European theater of operations.
Upon arriving in Italy, their 2nd rate aircraft were upgraded from junky jalopies to state-of-the-art, P-51 Mustang fighter planes, thereby enabling them to escort B-17 bombers on dangerous raids behind enemy lines deep into Germany territory. The untested pilots proceeded to perform admirably on over 1,500 successful missions, demonstrating an unexpected combination of competence and valor in the process.
Red Tails is an eye-popping, special-f/x driven adventure which recreates these belatedly-appreciated veterans’ daring exploits in the skies, while chronicling their simultaneous, uncompromising quest for dignity in the face of the incessant humiliation mandated by Jim Crow. The movie marks the feature film debut of Anthony Hemingway, who is previously best known for having shot episodes of a host of TV series, including The Wire, True Blood, Treme, The Closer, and CSI: NY.
The picture was produced by Lucasfilm where it has been a pet project of the studio’s legendary founder, George Lucas, for the past quarter-century. And it features an ensemble cast topped by Academy Award-winner Cuba “Show me the money!” Gooding (for Jerry Maguire) and Oscar-nominee Terrence Howard (for Hustle & Flow).
Aside from raising the question of the arbitrary color line, the plot reads like a typical, cliché-ridden war flick revolving around a tight-knit, motley crew of colorful characters. Each is based on a simplistically-drawn archetype, like the ill-fated pilot you know isn’t long for this world the moment he’s shown sitting in his cockpit gazing fondly at a picture of his fiancée right before takeoff.
Another familiar figure is the cigar-chomping Major (Gooding), a paternalistic pontificator given to delivering inspirational speeches about God, mom and apple pie. He cares about each of the men under his command, including alcoholic “Easy” Julian (Parker); daredevil “Lightning” Little (David Oyelowo); class clown “Joker” George (Elijah Kelley); and “Junior” Gannon (Tristan Wilds), a youngster who yearns to be taken seriously by his teasing colleagues.
Meanwhile, back at the Pentagon, we find exasperated Colonel A.J. Bullard (Howard) tirelessly lobbying the military brass to put an end to racial discrimination in the ranks. In the end, the film proves more memorable for its eye-popping, action sequences than for its corny dialogue which ranges from preachy (“We’re on the side of God Almighty!”) to trite poster-speak (Let’s give those newspapers something to write about!).
Nonetheless, Red Tails amounts to a worthy, overdue tribute to a group of intrepid, World War II heroes who never let their second-class status diminish their patriotism even one iota.

Very Good (3 stars)
Rated PG-13 for violence and profanity.
Running time: 125 minutes
Distributor: 20th Century Fox

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Top Ten DVD List for 1-24-12

This Week’s DVD Releases
by Kam Williams

Top Ten DVD List for January 24th

Revenge of the Electric Car


WWII in 3D

Sarah Palin: You Betcha!

Roger Corman’s Lethal Ladies Collection – Volume Two

Real Steel

Beginning of the Great Revival

Hell and Back Again

Paranormal Activity 3


Honorable Mention

Shut Up Little Man!

Today’s Special

The Confession

Beware the Gonzo

Meet the Browns – Season Four

Essential Killing

Ancient Aliens – Season Three

Watching TV with the Red Chinese (FILM REVIEW)

Watching TV with the Red Chinese
Film Review by Kam Williams

East Meets West in Gritty, NYC Dramedy

Don’t let the political-sounding title mislead you. Watching TV with the Red Chinese is a cross-cultural period piece having precious little to do with the dissemination of propaganda behind the Bamboo Curtain. Set in the U.S. in the summer of 1980, this character-driven romantic dramedy is rather about a trio of transfer students’ awkward adjustment to life in New York City.
Born and raised in Communist China, Chen (Leonardo Nam), Tzu (James Chen) and Wa (Keong Sim) initially rely on a steady diet of television programming to understand the strange, new American culture. For their dorm is located in a rough area of the South Bronx, where they end up routinely mistreated, whether getting mugged or merely verbally assaulted with ethnic slurs whenever they venture outside.
Thus, they are very lucky to be shown the ropes by an affable next-door neighbor, Dexter (Ryan O’Nan), a grad student who decides to teach them everything from how to survive on the streets to how drive a car to how to play touch football. Meanwhile, much of the newcomers’ assimilation is being recorded for posterity by classmate Billy (Michael Esper), an invasive, aspiring filmmaker who figures it might be cool to shoot a documentary chronicling their fresh perspective on the Big Apple.
However, the plot thickens considerably when Dexter discovers that Chen has been secretly sleeping with Suzanne (Gillian Jacobs), his on-again/off-again girlfriend. This lusty liaison also upsets one of her exes (Peter Scanavino), a crazed stalker who starts leveling death threats.
Sensing that his very survival is at risk, Chen purchases a pistol, taking his cues from the way he sees differences settled all around him in the crime-infested ‘hood. So, brace yourself for a very messy finale, for better or worse.
A cautionary tale of innocence lost, delivering a prophetic message with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight that a generation ago America might have already been “a culture in decay.”

Very Good (3 stars)
In English and Chinese with subtitles.
Running time: 105 minutes
Distributor: Roam Films

To see a trailer for Watching TV with the Red Chinese, visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4WC_JrHVQNw

Sarah Palin: You Betcha! (DVD REVIEW)

Sarah Palin: You Betcha!
DVD Review by Kam Williams

Unflattering Palin Biopic Available on DVD

Fair warning: This damning bio-pic essentially paints the former Governor of Alaska as less of a Mama Grizzly Bear than a power-hungry witch who goes to great lengths to crush her adversaries of any nature, whether political or personal. Sarah Palin: You Betcha! is directed by Nick Broomfield, who also stars in the eye-opening documentary like a British cross of Borat and Michael Moore, crisscrossing Alaska, including his subject’s hometown of Wasilla, in order to sort the truth from fiction in terms of all the ugly rumors.
What he found was that most of the natives were reluctant to appear onscreen, ostensibly out of a fear of suffering reprisals for cooperating with his project. As a result, the only folks willing to talk were those who had been so betrayed by Palin that they were not inclined to mend fences.
For instance, John Stein laments how in 1996, when he was then the incumbent Mayor of Wasilla, he was stabbed in the back by his protégé Sarah who not only declared her candidacy for his job but proceeded to run campaign ads calling to replace him with a Christian. So much for separation of church and state!
In another sequence, her ex-brother-in-law recounts how at the top of her agenda upon becoming Governor was to try to have him fired from the State Police Force because he was divorcing her sister. Others testify that this sort of vindictiveness was typical, as she exhibited an unusual interest in matters which affected her family. Meanwhile, she ostensibly ignored the business of government, often emailing and text-messaging instead of paying attention during official meetings and hearings.
As for Sarah’s side of the story, the intrepid Broomfield is shown sticking a microphone in her face in public on several occasions. And while she politely agreed to a tete-a-tete at a more convenient time to talk, her office apparently never returned any of his calls.
A hatchet job or an accurate portrait of a Machiavellian manipulator? That’s apt to depend on whether you lean to the left or to the right.

Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 93 minutes
Distributor: Freestyle Releasing

The Ides of March (DVD REVIEW)

The Ides of March
DVD Review by Kam Williams

Presidential Race Thriller Arrives on DVD

Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling) joined Mike Morris’ (George Clooney) presidential campaign out of a heartfelt conviction that the Pennsylvania Governor was “the only one who’s going to make a difference in people’s lives.” And the idealistic press secretary’s bright-eyed enthusiasm has remained apparent even to casual observers like the NY Times reporter (Marisa Tomei) who can’t help but observe that “You really have drunk the Kool-Aid.”
By contrast, Stephen’s jaded boss, Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman), is a relatively-cynical veteran with plenty of campaigns under his belt. So, he’s intuitively decided to keep a close eye on his gullible protégé, given that Governor Morris is on the brink of securing the Democratic nomination. All he needs to do is keep his image clean until the upcoming Ohio primary, since the polls indicate he’s already the favorite to collect the Buckeye State’s 160+ convention delegates.
However, the street savvy Zara is well aware that the campaign of their only competitor, Arkansas Senator Pullman (Michael Mantell), is being run by Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti), a Machiavellian manipulator desperate to win at any cost. The cutthroat Duffy is not above stooping to dirty tricks such as dangling a plum cabinet position in front of a powerful politician (Jeffrey Wright) in return for a coveted, influential endorsement.
When they arrive in Cincinnati on the eve of the candidates’ final debate, Stephen has no idea he’s on the verge of having both his judgment and loyalty sorely tested. Between being tempted by a flirtatious intern (Evan Rachel Wood) and being invited to rendezvous for a drink at a sports bar by a disarmingly-affable rival with a hidden agenda, he finds himself having to negotiate a gauntlet of potential pitfalls. The trouble is that a failing might not merely reflect badly upon Stephen, but it could have some serious repercussions for the entire campaign.
This is the compelling premise of The Ides of March, a multi-layered thriller containing a number of cleverly-concealed twists highlighting precisely the sort of back-stabbing machinations apt to unfold behind-the-scenes of a hotly-contested political campaign. The movie was produced, directed and co-stars George Clooney who also helped adapt it to the screen from “Farragut North,” a play loosely based on Howard Dean’s ill-fated presidential bid.
The talented cast Clooney assembled, including Ryan Gosling, Marisa Tomei, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jeffrey Wright and Evan Rachel Wood, managed to execute his vision magnificently without once hitting a false note. Gosling’s powerful performance proves particularly noteworthy, as the underrated actor exhibits a credible combination of cockiness and naïveté as the picture’s compromised protagonist.
Presidential politics making for strange bedfellows, literally and figuratively.

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for pervasive profanity.
Running time: 101 minutes
Distributor: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
DVD Extras: Believe: George Clooney; On the Campaign: The Cast of Ides of March; and commentary with George Clooney and co-screenwriter Grant Heslov.

Real Steel (DVD REVIEW)

Real Steel
DVD Review by Kam Williams

Rock‘em-Sock‘em Robot Saga Released on DVD

Boxer-turned-fledgling fight promoter Charlie Kenton’s (Hugh Jackman) dreams of winning a world title were dashed the day robots began replacing human beings in the ring. Broke and in a losing battle with booze, he currently finds himself struggling to stay a step ahead of all the impatient loan sharks holding his IOUs.
Charlie first tries to pay off his debts in one fell swoop by placing a big bet on his only robot in a bout against a live bull being staged at a rodeo in the state fair. But that endeavor leads to disaster when his rusty, remote-controlled machine not only loses, but is reduced to a worthless pile of rubble in the process.
Charlie is about to hit bottom, when he receives word that an ex-girlfriend has just passed away, suddenly making him the legal guardian of an 11 year-old he’s never known. Max (Dakota Goyo) soon arrives accompanied by his filthy-rich Aunt Debra (Hope Davis) and Uncle Marvin (James Rebhorn) who assume that the down-and-out, deadbeat dad would be more than happy to let them raise the boy in the lap of luxury.
After conniving Charlie threatens to put Max up for adoption, he signs away his rights for what amounts to a $100,000 ransom and a chance to spend the summer with the boy before finally surrendering custody. The couple grudgingly agrees, thereby affording the two an opportunity to develop a deep bond while turning an obsolete android abandoned in a junk yard into a contender for the World Robot Boxing Federation crown.
So unfolds Real Steel, an overcoming-the-odds boxing flick packing a surprisingly-powerful emotional punch for a cliché-ridden sci-fi revolving around rock‘em-sock‘em robots. Set in 2020, the picture’s basic plotline superficially sounds like a futuristic version of Rocky, although the sentimental father-son drama actually features far more of the earmarks of a kid-friendly Steven Spielberg adventure than that Sly Stallone classic.
Credit director Shawn Levy for cultivating an endearing chemistry between co-stars Hugh Jackman and Dakota Goyo while simultaneously ratcheting up the tension around their pugilistic robot’s ring prospects. Consequently, you end up caring as much about Charlie and Max’s blossoming relationship as about their underdog’s quest for the crown. Maybe even more, as real heart trumps real steel.

Excellent (3.5 stars)
Rated PG-13 for violence, intense action and brief profanity.
Running time: 127 minutes
Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
2-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack Extras: Bloopers; Building the Bots; The Making of Metal Valley; Sugar Ray Leonard: Cornerman’s Champ; deleted and extended scenes; Real Steel Second Screen; and Countdown to the Fight—The Charlie Kenton Story.

Phil Ochs (TV REVIEW)

Phil Ochs: There But for Fortune
TV Review by Kam Williams

Profile of Fiery Folksinger Set to Debut on PBS

Phil Ochs (1940-1976) came to fame in the Sixties on the strength of his defiant, anti-establishment anthems which dared to indict American militarism, racism, imperialism and expansionism. Armed with nothing more than an acoustic guitar and an operatic voice to breathe life into his collection of consciousness-raising hymns, the inveterate rabble-rouser challenged authority every chance he could.
And while Phil was most famous for sold-out engagements at venues like Carnegie Hall, he was also known to make impromptu appearances in support of the oppressed not only in the U.S. but in Africa, South America, and anywhere else around the planet he thought could help. Unfortunately, as a thorn in the side of the U.S. government in terms of the antiwar and civil rights movements, he made enemies of many powerful politicians.
Consequently, Phil was strangled and left for dead while organizing over in Africa, and he suspected that the assailant had been a CIA operative, especially because the attack effectively ended his career. That’s because the choking of his vocal cords irreversibly rendered his once haunting singing voice a diminished shadow of its former self.
From that point forward, the trajectory of Phil’s life spiraled directly downward, as he fought a losing battle with both booze and depression. Sadly, he would commit suicide at the tender age of 35, leaving behind not only a wife but a young daughter.
All of the above is carefully chronicled in Phil Ochs: There But for Fortune, a reverential profile directed by Kenneth Bowser. What makes the bittersweet bio-pic so compelling is the participation in the project of so many folks who knew and loved the man.
Rife with archival concert footage as well as recent wistful remembrances by friends and family, the film opens with an examination of Phil’s early years as a band geek in high school, followed by his matriculating at Ohio State where he picked up the guitar. We next learn that he dropped out of college to become a folksinger in Greenwich Village where he was inspired to step up his game by virtue of a healthy competition in clubs with his new pal Bob Dylan.
A fond tribute to a troubled, traveling troubadour who never turned down an invite to lend support by performing and putting his life on the line for a socially-relevant cause.

Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 90 Minutes
Studio: First Run Features
Distributor: PBS

There But for Fortune premieres on PBS Monday, January 23 at 10 pm ET/PT (check local listings)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Cross and the Lynching Tree (BOOK REVIEW)

The Cross & the Lynching Tree
by James H. Cone
Orbis Books
Hardcover, $28.00
222 pages
ISBN: 978-1-57075-937-6

Book Review by Kam Williams

“The cross and the lynching tree are separated by nearly 2,000 years. One is the universal symbol of Christian faith; the other is the quintessential symbol of black oppression in America... Despite the obvious similarities between Jesus’ death on a cross and the death of thousands of black men and women strung up to die on a lamppost or a tree, relatively few people… have explored the symbolic connections.
Yet, I believe this is a challenge we must face. What is at stake is the credibility and promise of the Christian gospel and the hope that we may heal the wounds of racial violence that continue to divide our churches and our society…
[Those] who want to understand the true meaning of the American experience need to remember lynching. To forget this atrocity leaves us with a fraudulent perspective of this society and of the meaning of the Christian gospel for this nation.”
-- Excerpted from the Introduction (pgs. xiii-xiv)

It has been said that Sunday morning is still the most segregated time in America. An explanation for that phenomenon might rest in the fact that the white Church remains in denial about the country’s ugly legacy of lynching, while the black Church was on the front lines in the battle against that despicable form of state-sanctioned terrorism.
This is the thesis of James H. Cone in The Cross & the Lynching Tree, a scathing indictment of the silence of Caucasian clerics in the pulpit about the perilous plight of generations of African-Americans. The author, a Professor of Systematic Theology at Union Theological Seminary in New York, points out the obvious parallels between, “the crucifixion by the Romans in Jerusalem and the lynching of blacks by whites in the United States” before wondering “What blocks the American Christian imagination from seeing the connection?”
By contrast, many Jews did join African-Americans on the frontlines in their fight for equality. In this regard, Cone reminds us of Holocaust survivor-turned-civil rights activist Joachim Prinz who explained his prompting his congregation’s participation in the movement with, “When I was a rabbi of the Jewish community in Berlin under the Hitler regime… the most important thing I learned… was that bigotry and hatred are NOT the most urgent problem. The most urgent and most disgraceful, the most shameful, the most tragic problem is silence.”
Similar sentiments were echoed by many black leaders, such as James Baldwin who bemoaned the absence of white outrage in the wake of the 1963 church bombing which killed four little girls attending Sunday school by saying, “I don’t suppose that all the white people in Birmingham are monstrous… But they’re mainly silent… And that is a crime in itself.”
It was likely that belief which had led Ralph Ginzburg in 1961 to publish “100 Years of Lynchings,” a chilling encyclopedia which chronicled, in vivid detail via gruesome photos and eyewitness accounts, the systematic slaughter of thousands of African-Americans by bloodthirsty vigilante mobs.
In concluding, the author argues that, “Just as the Germans should never forget the Holocaust, Americans should never forget slavery, segregation, and the lynching tree.” A sobering clarion call to heed the history lessons of our horrifying past in these presumably post-racial times.

Kam's Movie Kapsules for 1-27-12

Kam's Kapsules:
Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun
by Kam Williams
For movies opening January 27, 2012


The Grey (R for violence, disturbing images and pervasive profanity) Arctic tale of survival chronicling a team of oil drillers’ harrowing ordeal after crash-landing in the Alaskan wilderness. Starring Liam Neeson, Dermot Mulroney and Frank Grillo.

Man on a Ledge (PG-13 for violence and brief profanity) Romance thriller about a police psychologist’s (Elizabeth Banks) attempt to talk a disgraced ex-cop (Sam Worthington) out of jumping off the roof of a Manhattan skyscraper. Ensemble includes Ed Harris, Kyra Sedgwick, Anthony Mackie, Jamie Bell and Edward Burns. (In English and Spanish with subtitles)

One for the Money (PG-13 for violence, profanity, sexual references, drug use and partial nudity) Katherine Heigl stars in this crime comedy as a broke divorcee who gets hired as a bounty hunter by her cousin (Patrick Fischler) only to discover that her first assignment is to track down a fugitive murder suspect (Jason O’Mara) she dated back in high school. With Sherri Shepherd, Debbie Reynolds and John Leguizamo.


Albert Nobbs (R for profanity, sexuality and brief nudity) Glenn Close plays the title character in this genderbending drama about a lesbian who passed as a man for over 30 years in order to survive in 19th Century Ireland. With Janet McTeer, Brenda Fricker, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Brendan Gleeson and Mia Wasikowska.

Declaration of War (Unrated) Bittersweet drama about a happy, young couple named Romeo (Jeremie Elkaim) and Juliette (Valerie Donzelli) whose sweet love story turns nightmarish when their baby (Cesar Desseix) is diagnosed with brain cancer. With Brigitte Sy, Elina Lowensohn and Michele Moretti. (In French with subtitles)

Five Time Champion (Unrated) Coming-of-age drama about a nerdy 14 year-old (Ryan Akin) who has to deal with the infidelity of members of his dysfunctional family while he’s competing for the affections of a cute classmate (Noell Coet). Cast includes Justin Arnold, Jill Blackwood and Betty Buckley.

How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr. Foster? (Unrated) Cinematic portrait retracing the rise of Norman Foster, an altruistic architect who dedicated his career to improving quality of life through design science.

We Need to Talk about Kevin (R for violence, disturbing behavior, sexuality and profanity) Ezra Miller plays the troubled title character in the screen adaptation of Lionel Shriver’s sobering best seller about a Columbine-style, high school massacre. With Tilda Swinton, John C. Reilly and Siobhan Fallon.

The Wicker Tree (R for sexuality, nudity and violence) Horror flick about a couple of Christian missionaries (Henry Garrett and Brittania Nicol) who venture from Texas to a tiny town in Scotland where they find themselves welcomed with open arms by locals under the spell of an affable aristocrat (Graham McTavish) with a hidden agenda.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Cuba Gooding (INTERVIEW)

Cuba Gooding, Jr.
The “Red Tails” Interview
with Kam Williams

Oscar-Winner Opines on Playing Tuskegee Airman

Cuba Gooding, Jr. was born in the Bronx, New York on January 2, 1968, to Shirley and Cuba, Sr., the lead singer of the R&B group The Main Ingredient But after his deadbeat dad abandoned the family in 1974, Jr. and his siblings were raised in L.A. by his struggling single-mom. He ended up attending four different high schools, but was still popular enough to be voted class president at three of them.
Cuba’s showbiz career began in 1984 as a breakdancer during the closing ceremonies of the Summer Olympics. He subsequently landed several bit roles on TV and in movies before enjoying a meteoric rise after his spellbinding performance as Tre in Boyz n the Hood.
In 1997, he won an Academy Award for his memorable outing as Rod “Show me the money!” Tidwell in Jerry Maguire, and was named one of the 50 Most Beautiful People in the World by People Magazine the same year. He has also earned two NAACP Image Awards (for Radio and Gifted Hands), a Screen Actors Guild Award (for Jerry Maguire), and he even has his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
A born-again Christian since the age of 13, Cuba married his childhood sweetheart, Sara Kapfer, whom he started dating in high school. They have three kids, Spencer, Mason and Piper. Here, he talks about his latest outing as Major Emanuelle Stance in Red Tails, a World War II epoch about the legendary Tuskegee Airmen.

Kam Williams: Hi Cuba, thanks for the interview.
CG: Anytime, brother, how are you?

KW: Just fine. How’re things with you?
CG: I’m good. It’s easy when you’re talking about a movie you’re passionate about.

KW: What made you so passionate about Red Tails?
CG: Well, I had first heard this story of the Tuskegee Airmen back in 1992 when I did that HBO movie. At the time, I was a young man just finishing his education, and it frustrated me that I hadn’t learned anything about these African-American pilots who had escorted bombers during World War II. It was one of those things where I was going, “What the hell! Why didn’t I already know this?” So, to tackle that subject-matter for HBO was monumental in my life. Of course, I moved on in my career and did other things, but when I heard that George Lucas was going to make a blockbuster about the Tuskegee Airmen, I was all over it. How often do we in Hollywood get an opportunity to tell a black tale on a scale like this, an action adventure? I knew it was going to be visually stunning, so, I told him, “Hey, I have to be involved even just to coach the actors or if l have to do Kraft Services.” When I met with [director] Anthony Hemingway, we just connected. It was the longest dinner, with tears and everything. He recognized that the passion I had to be a part of the movie was the same passion that these men had to do their part for their country. George even called and asked me to narrate his new documentary for the History Channel called “Double Victory” which chronicles both the Tuskegee Airmen’s triumphs in the skies over Europe and the racism they had to deal with back in the States. So, it’s been a fun ride, and I’ve been blessed to be involved in something that not only I’m passionate about but so is the man financing it.

KW: Larry Greenberg points out that you’ve played pilots and military men before, both real-life heroes like Carl Brashear in Men of Honor and Dorie Miller in Pearl Harbor, and also fictional characters in A Few Good Men, Judgement, Outbreak and other movies. He asks: Is this something you have a passion for?
CG: I guess so. I used to say, “No, no, I just got lucky being cast.” But the older I get, the more I ask myself, “Cube, what’s your deal here?” Truthfully, I think it’s playing real-life people that I’m attracted to. And the majority of them have been military men. But there’s also James Robert “Radio” Kennedy and some other guys I’ve played who are real-life people. I think there’s something about the heightened responsibility to tell the truth that attracts me to these roles, especially when you can have them on the set to help you do your job. And now that I have two sons who are 15 and 17 who love watching movies, you can count me in whenever I have an opportunity to do a movie that gives a history lesson about our contributions, especially to the military. I’m in! I’m involved!

KW: Editor/legist Patricia Turnier asks: How would you describe your character, Major Emanuelle Stance?
CG: Major Emanuelle Stance is the patriarch on the base. He’s like the football coach. He’s the person that gives the men their encouragement before they go back out onto the field.

KW: Teresa Emerson asks: What was it like to meet the surviving Tuskegee Airmen? Did they help you prepare for your role as Major Stance?
CG: Every day, literally! They helped me to prepare to be a man. And not only were they on the set every day, but one or two have attended each of the screenings on the junket from Dallas to Miami. And they’re in their 90s! It’s been a magical and emotional experience for me every, single time. So, it’s been great! [Chuckles]

KW: Attorney Bernadette Beekman says: You’ve played a lot of heroes. Who is your own personal hero?
CG: My mom, to do what she’s done to hold the family together. She raised me, my brother, Omar, and my sister, with all of us being homeless and having to live in the back of a car for a period of time. So, yeah, my mom’s my hero. If I had to pick one from the screen, it might be U.S. Navy Master Chief Carl Brashear.

KW: Film student Jamaal Green asks: Cuba, is there any material or genre out there that you have not yet covered in your career that you would like to try?
CG: Absolutely! I just heard about this magician named Black Herman who was a contemporary of Houdini back in the early 20th Century. Also, I’m an avid hockey fan and I’ve been playing for about 17 years, and somebody recently told me that the first organized hockey teams in Canada were all black. Telling those stories would be cool.

KW: Harriet Pakula Teweles asks: How do you expect the picture to contribute to the public's rethinking of the historic role of the Tuskegee airmen?
CG: I hope the picture makes an impact, and I know George Lucas is doing everything he can to make sure that happens. And then there’s the documentary Double Victory I mentioned which is serving as a tangent to the movie. That will be more of a history lesson than Red Tails which is an action adventure tale on the scale of Avatar, with 16,000 special effects. It’s something that I think people are going to be really impressed with, visually.

KW: Harriet also asks: What did you learn about yourself doing your role in Red Tails?
CG: I learned that not only am I a descendant of slaves, but that I am also a descendant of royalty, that there are politicians from the 1800s as well as Tuskegee Airmen in my lineage.

KW: Rudy Lewis asks: How inspirational can Red Tails be to those who who are not being educated in the skills necessary to compete nationally and globally with young men of their generation? Will Red Tails be relevant to those 50 percent of young black men who drop out of high school yearly?
CG: I hope so. If some youngsters are inspired to go back and complete their education based on the achievements of these warriors, that would be God’s gift.

KW: Patricia Turnier also says: One of my favorite roles you played in your career is Dr. Ben Carson. What did it mean to you to represent this great physician who became the first African-American medical doctor in history to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom?
CG: [Shouts] You see! I forgot about that one while we were just focusing on military men. It’s my passion to play all these types of characters that help educate how great it is to be not just African-American, but American.

KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?
CG: Yes, sir. Every day.

KW: The Tasha Smith question: Are you ever afraid?
CG: Yes, from time to time, but God has blessed me with the ability to be more happy than fearful.

KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
CG: Accomplishment. I’m 44. I made it. [Laughs]

KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?
CG: Watching it snow in the Bronx.

KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?
CG: Longevity.

KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?
CG: Top Ramen. [Laughs]

KW: The Sanaa Lathan question: What excites you?
CG: Adrenaline.

KW: Thanks again for the time, Cuba, and best of luck with both Red Tails and Double Victory.
CG: Nice talking with you, Kam.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Top Ten DVD List for January 17th

This Week’s DVD Releases
by Kam Williams

Headline: Top Ten DVD List for January 17th

The Ides of March



The Tuskegee Airmen

America in Primetime

The Josephine Baker Story

Kevin Hart: Laugh at My Pain

The Love Patient

Special Treatment

Answer This!

Honorable Mention

Division III – Football’s Finest

Dirty Girl

Over the Edge

Transform Your Body with Brooke Burke: Strengthen & Condition

Transform Your Body with Brooke Burke: Tone & Tighten

2012 Golden Globes Recap

Golden Globes Recap
by Kam Williams

Headline: The Artist and The Descendants Crowned Favorites of Foreign Press

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association jumpstarted the 2012 awards season Sunday evening with its annual recognition of the best in film and television. Simultaneously serving as an indicator of Oscar potential, the Golden Globes crowned The Artist and The Descendants as the early favorites by virtue of each one’s enjoying multiple wins, including in the Best Comedy or Musical and the Best Drama categories, respectively.
The former’s Jean Dujardin and the latter’s George Clooney landed acting accolades, with Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady) and Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn) winning as lead actresses. Streep’s victory ostensibly came primarily at the expense of The Help’s Viola Davis whose fellow cast member, Octavia Spencer, did prevail in her bid for Best Supporting Actress.
The only other people of color to take home trophies were Morgan Freeman who got a lifetime achievement award and Idris Elba for the made-for-TV movie Luther. This showing for minorities was a major improvement over 2011, when no blacks, Asians, Latinos or Native-Americans won anything.
As for the festivities, host Ricky Gervais toned down his act so severely he had everybody wondering what happened to the naughty bad boy who had been so edgy a year ago. After promising to take no prisoners again in anticipation of this event, he proceeded to do just the opposite, delivering a dull monologue and coming off as equally-boring while introducing presenters.
You know it’s a slow night when an appearance by the dog from The Artist, Uggie, is the highlight. Yawn.

Complete list of 2012 Golden Globe winners:

Film Categories

Best Drama
The Descendants

Best Comedy or Musical
The Artist

Best Animated Feature
The Adventures of TinTin

Best Actor in a Drama
George Clooney (The Descendants)

Best Actor in a Comedy or Musical
Jean Dujardin (The Artist)

Best Supporting Actor
Christopher Plummer (Beginners)

Best Actress in a Drama
Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady)

Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy
Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn)

Best Supporting Actress
Octavia Spencer (The Help)

Best Director

Martin Scorsese (Hugo)

Best Screenplay
Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris)

Best Score
Ludovic Bource (The Artist)

Best Original Song
Madonna, Julie Frost and Jimmy Harvey ("Masterpiece")

Best Foreign Language Film
A Separation (Iran)

Cecil B. Demille Award
Morgan Freeman

Television Categories

Best TV Series - Drama

Best TV Series - Comedy or Musical
Modern Family

Best Mini-Series
Downton Abbey

Best Actor in a TV Drama
Kelsey Grammer (Boss)

Best Actor in a TV Musical or Comedy
Matt LeBlanc (Episodes)

Best Supporting Actor
Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones)

Best Actress in a TV Drama
Claire Danes (Homeland)

Best Actress in a TV Musical or Comedy
Laura Dern (Enlightened)

Best Supporting Actress 

Jessica Lange (American Horror Story)

Best Actor in a TV Movie
Idris Elba (Luther)

Best Actress in a TV Movie
Kate Winslet (Mildred Pierce)