July 25, 2013
By RYAN PEARSON
Hours after President Barack Obama delivered remarks about Trayvon Martin and the George Zimmerman trial, Jamie Foxx and Samuel L. Jackson addressed the racially charged case at Comic-Con in San Diego.
Foxx was at the massive pop culture convention to promote his role as the villain Electro in “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.” Holding his 4-year-old daughter Annalise, who wore a Spider-Man backpack and shoes, Foxx said he was “disappointed” in the July 13 not guilty verdict in Florida.
He had been among the most vocal celebrities expressing support for Martin’s family, having met the teen’s mother Sybrina Fulton at an awards show.
“She’s always been courageous in saying this has never been about race. She said it’s about 17-year-old kids. We have to protect our kids. So I stand with her forever,” Foxx said.
“It was great to see Bruce Springsteen in Ireland dedicate a song to Trayvon. I think that’s what really makes it universal in the fact that we know that there's race involved, but to see all races coming together and saying that hey, there's something wrong,” Foxx said. “There’s something wrong when a 17-year-old child is on his way home and someone with a gun pursues him and he ends up losing his life.”
Foxx said Martin’s case was part of an “epidemic” of gun violence in the US.
“When you look at Sandy Hook and Aurora and all these different things where we’re losing our children. Chicago — 67 kids, people killed in a week — we have an epidemic,” he said. “And it’s up to us as the grown folks to be smart enough and intelligent and nice to each other to have a difference of opinion, but also understand that we have to come to a solution.”
Samuel L. Jackson was also on hand at the convention, promoting the remake of “RoboCop.” He said he'd been out of the country for much of the trial and during the verdict, but expected the result.
“I’m not really surprised by it considering the way the case was presented and the representation that the family had, and the portrayals that they put out there of the kid and how peoples’ attitudes are about those particular things,” Jackson said.
Still, he said, he was “encouraged by the attitude of people after the verdict, that people are willing to stand up and take a stand and get out in the streets, and let their voices be heard.”
July 18, 2013
By Kam Williams
LAWT Contributing Writer
Born in Oakland, California on May 23, 1986, Ryan Coogler attended college on a football scholarship, playing wide receiver as an undergrad before earning his MFA in Film and Television Production at the University of Southern California in 2011. He worked as a security guard and as a counselor to inmates at a juvenile prison in San Francisco before getting his big break with the help of Forest Whitaker.
The Oscar-winning actor agreed to produce Ryan’s first feature film, Fruitvale Station, a bittersweet biopic chronicling the last day in the life of Oscar Grant, a 22 year-old black man shot in the back by a cop on a train platform in Oakland, California on New Year’s Day 2009. The case became a cause célèbre because the killing was caught on camera by numerous passengers.
Here, Ryan talks about his critically-acclaimed writing and directorial debut, which has already won awards at both the Cannes and Sundance Film Festivals.
LAWT: Congratulations on winning at both the Sundance and Cannes Film Festivals. That’s pretty impressive for a first-time filmmaker. Your picture’s star, Michael B. Jordan, told me Fruitvale received a very long standing ovation at Cannes. What did that feel like?
RC: Just playing at Cannes was overwhelming, man. It was one of those moments I never imagined happening. I think a lot of the response was due to the audience’s connecting to the cast. The performances were incredible! I really felt happy for my actors, especially Michael [B. Jordan], Melonie [Diaz] and Octavia [Spencer]. None of them had ever been to Cannes before. They were really moved to have their work embraced like that. And it was very moving to me how this story that I wanted to relate about a real event that had happened in my hometown managed to touched people thousands of miles away.
LAWT: What interested you in making the movie?
RC: The incident itself and what happened immediately afterwards in the Bay area, which is where I was born and raised. I heard about the tragedy almost immediately after it happened, because I was home on Christmas break from film school. Then it was on the news, and I still remember the first time I saw the footage on the internet. I was very emotionally affected by it. Everybody in the Bay was. There were protests and rallies and riots. I saw myself in Oscar. We were the same age, he looked like me, and we wore the same type of clothes. Seeing someone getting shot like that, and not getting a chance to say goodbye to his loved ones was painful. I couldn’t imagine myself in that situation. With my being a filmmaker, I wondered whether there was a way I could do something. My mind immediately goes to that, whenever I’m affected by anything, since film is my outlet. Then, I saw how the incident got politicized, and how Oscar became a symbol, this icon, a martyr who had never done anything wrong in his life to some people, and how he was demonized by others as a criminal and a thug who got what he deserved. In truth, he was neither one of those things. He was just a normal person who had both flaws and good qualities. So, I wanted to tell his story from the perspective of the people he meant the most to and who knew him the best.
LAWT: Have you ever experienced racial profiling yourself?
RC: Yes, absolutely! The most recent situation happened one night while I was just minding my business, sitting in a car with a friend in Albany, California. The police rolled up on us and told me and her to get out of the car and sit on the wet sidewalk because there had been a robbery and I fit the description of the suspect. It was cold, and we had to just sit there shivering for about 30 minutes until I guess whoever it was that got robbed finally arrived and told the police from across the street that I wasn’t the guy.
LAWT: What sort of research did you do prior to writing the script? Did you interview any witnesses? The police? Oscar’s friends and family?
RC: I started by helping Oscar’s family’s lawyer organize some of the video footage that got turned in to the prosecutor’s office for the trial. That was really comprehensive. Then I pretty much interviewed anyone who had a meaningful relationship with Oscar, all of his friends and family members. That’s where the three-dimensionality of his character in the script came from. I was also able to bring the actors around his neighborhood, and they got to spend time with the characters they were portraying: his girlfriend, his mom, and the friends he was on the platform with the night he was shot. I based my decisions on all of that research.
LAWT: Did the police cooperate with the project?
RC: No, we left the cops alone. Most of them no longer work as police officers. They were only a very small portion of the film, and we had their court testimony, which we felt was enough.
LAWT: The officer who shot Oscar was only convicted of manslaughter. Your star, Michael, still characterized it as a murder. Which do you feel it was?
RC: To be honest, I think people can make up their own minds about the legal terminology. You can call it whatever you want, but regardless, a young man’s life was taken unnecessarily. It’s not for me to get caught up in the politics of it. What means the most to me is that he never made it back home to his loved ones.
LAWT: Why did you decide to paint a warts-and-all picture of Oscar Grant? Were you at all tempted to sanitize his image?
RC: No, I never was. It wouldn’t have made sense to make a film about Oscar and not show the struggles he was dealing with.
LAWT: What message do you hope people will take away from the picture?
RC: To me, the film is a domestic story about this 22 year-old and his relationships. It is my hope that people will see a little bit of themselves in the characters. And with that, I hope it will trigger a little bit of a thought process about how we connect to and treat each other, whether strangers or those we’re close to. Some people never come in contact with someone like Oscar, a young African-American male, at all. Their only access to his world is through media. So, I hope the film offers some insight for folks like that.
LAWT: Have you considered making a movie about the assassination of Oakland Post editor Chauncey Bailey by members of a Black Muslim sect, which is another story of national interest? I was writing for the paper at the time, and spoke to him just a couple of days before his murder.
RC: I’m sorry to hear that, man. I followed the case and know a lot about Chauncey, and was moved by what happened. Like I said before, whenever something happens in the community, I think about it in terms of my art form.
LAWT: You originally went to college on a football scholarship. How did you make the transition from jock to film student?
RC: Initially, I was majoring in chemistry and planning to become a doctor, if football didn’t work out. But in a creative writing class, I had a professor who encouraged me to go to Hollywood and write screenplays. I thought she was a little crazy at first, since it came out of nowhere, but it stuck in my head. I later transferred schools, switched majors, and started taking a bunch of filmmaking classes. Then I went to USC film school for my graduate degree.
LAWT: Well, we’re all glad you did, Ryan. Thanks again for the time and best of luck with Fruitvale Station during Academy Awards season.
RC: Thank you, Kam.
July 18, 2013
Possibilities of hearing good news about home are greatly expanded. Savor the news rather than thinking about other annoyances. Travel is on the horizon. Plan the trip this week. Soul Affirmation: Jewelry reflects the beauty of my feelings about myself.
Feather the nest. Stock up on stuff for the long haul. Cement relationships. A friend needs your support. Enjoy giving it. You will receive good news about a pal. Soul Affirmation: Cheerfully handling what comes at me is the test of who I am.
Your mate has a sweet surprise. Open up to receive it. Choose your words carefully around a sensitive pal. Listen for good news about a loan or financial matter. Soul Affirmation: I let others toot my horn this week.
Enjoy the great insights you have in the area of career objectives. Take a look at what’s out there! An unanticipated financial matter may arise, find the good in it. Soul Affirmation: A cheerful soul should be wrapped in a cheerful package.
Be cautious and conservative with money. You are extremely witty this week. Allow others to enjoy your good humor. Your leadership skills are very high, and others will follow. Soul Affirmation: Luck is my best friend this week.
This is a good time for you to seek agreement on a plan that involves a relative. Take the time to remind your lover how much you care. Get a little sentimental if you have to. Don’t be too critical of that softer side of your personality. Soul Affirmation: Self confidence is the key to my success this week.
Push. Now is a good time to push. Your energy is higher than ever. Someone might get offended, but you can’t please everyone. Hire a
pro for something that you planned to do yourself, especially if a expertise is involved. Soul Affirmation: Success is mine because I feel successful.
Review your “to do” list again. You may need to slow down to discover something that you didn’t realize while you were in the flow of events. Your lover is going to be a little difficult to understand. Back off if an argument arises. You’re probably the one who is too busy. Forgiving yourself is often harder than getting someone else to forgive you. Soul Affirmation: Two hats fit well on my big head.
Make a special effort to spend all week with your lover, husband or wife. Your sense of the importance of relationships is keen and this is a good time to strengthen your passionate partnership. Take your lover to a party. Devote attention. Soul Affirmation: Change is my middle name.
The flock will come to you for direction. Give it gracefully. Know that your insights will help a lot if you deliver them in the right way. If you are a mother, guidance will be the best gift you can give others this week. Soul Affirmation: Knowing I can do it is the biggest preparation for getting it done.
Most people don’t know how often dreams and reality blend into that practical consciousness of yours. Knowledge comes from a dream you’ve had lately. This week is a good week to get started making that dream a reality. Soul Affirmation: My spirit gives me limitless possibilities.
Cooperation is key this week in your relationship with your partner. Even if you know you’re right, let your partner have his or her way in the early going. Your staying power will give you influence or control in the late rounds. Soul Affirmation: I let go and let the spirit run my life this week.
July 18, 2013
Stevie Wonder says he won’t perform in Florida and other states with a “stand your ground” law.
In a video posted on YouTube, the 63-year-old singer said at a concert in Quebec City, Canada, on Sunday “that until the ‘stand your ground’ law is abolished in Florida, I will never perform there again.”
Wonder added: “Wherever I find that law exists, I will not perform in that state or in that part of the world.”
The “stand your ground” law allows people to use deadly force if they believe their life is in danger.
George Zimmerman shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin during a February 2012 confrontation in Sanford, Fla. Zimmerman said he fired his gun in self-defense.
A six-member jury acquitted Zimmerman of second-degree murder and manslaughter charges on Saturday.
Wonder’s representative said the singer had no further comment.
July 18, 2013
(AP) — Nas has rapped his way to Harvard University.
The Ivy League school announced Tuesday that the 39-year-old rapper is being honored with the Nasir Jones Hip-Hop Fellowship at its W.E.B. Du Bois Institute. It’s a joint venture with Harvard’s Hip-Hop Archive.
The fellowship will assist students who excel in the arts “in connection with hip-hop.”
Nas is one of hip-hop’s most celebrated lyricists, best known for his reflective rhymes and deep storytelling. His 11th album, “Life Is Good,” was released last year. It earned four Grammy nominations. His hits include “If I Ruled the World (Imagine That),” “Street Dreams” and “I Can.”
The Hip-Hop Archive was established at Harvard in 2002. It supports growing research in hip-hop.