May 03, 2018 

By Kam Williams 

Contributing Writer 

 

On March 3, 1991, five LAPD officers were caught on camera beating an unarmed black man who had led them on a high-speed chase instead of pulling over as directed. That driver, Rodney King suffered a broken ankle, a broken cheekbone, and numerous skull fractures and chipped teeth in the assault by billy clubs.

 

A year later, riots broke out all over South Central L.A. after a jury acquitted all the officers involved in the arrest. By the time the dust had settled a half-dozen days later, 63 people had died and thousands of businesses had been looted and burned to the ground, resulting in over a billion dollars in damages.

 

What was it like in the midst of the chaos and conflagration? That was the challenge accepted by Deniz Gamze Erguven in mounting Kings, a surreal saga chronicling a foster-mom's frantic search for her missing kids at the height of the Rodney King riots.

 

You may remember that the talented Turkish writer/director made a spectacular debut a couple of years ago with Mustang, a female-centric, coming-of-age adventure which landed an Oscar nomination in the Best Foreign Film category. So, Kings is just Ms. Erguven's second feature-length movie, and her first in English.

 

While the ambitious offering earns an A for the convincing way in which it recreates pandemonium, it only gets a C for coherency. For, the film unfolds less like a traditional narrative than a series of loosely-connected, impressionistic vignettes.

 

It stars Academy Award-winner Halle Berry (for Monster’s Ball) as Millie Dunbar, an overworked single-mom with 8 foster kids. When civil unrest breaks out, she embarks on a quest to round them up with the help of her agoraphobic next-door neighbor, Obie, the last white guy living in the ‘hood. The hunky shut-in, played by Daniel “007” Craig, summons up the courage to get out of the house for the sake of Millie’s missing brood.

 

The plot thickens when the two are mistaken for looters by a gruff cop (Kirk Baltz) too overwhelmed by the situation to listen to any explanations. Millie and Obie end up handcuffed to each other which might not be entirely bad, since the close quarters affords them an opportunity to get better acquainted. So who knows, the old maid might even find a man in the midst of the mayhem.

 

This otherwise grim period piece arrives blessed with a retro soundtrack featuring James Brown’s African-American anthem “Say It Loud, I’m Black & I’m Proud,” Bill Withers’ haunting, R&B classic “City of the Angels,” and Nina Simone’s searing rendition of “Ooh Child.” Nevertheless, consider Kings a harrowing descent into depravity that makes The Florida Project look like Leave It to Beaver.     

 

Very Good (3 stars)

 

Rated R for violence, sexuality, nudity and pervasive profanity

 

Running time: 92 minutes

 

Production Studios: Bliss Media/ CG Cinema / Maven Pictures

 

Distributor: The Orchard Com­pany

 

To see a trailer for Kings, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fSjkrVUnLuA   

Category: Arts & Culture

May 03, 2018

Aries 

MAR 21 - APR 19  

If you're in a relationship, then the level of intimacy between you and your partner this week will be off the charts. You'll feel connected on a deep soul level and might even experience an awakening of sorts because of your relationship. If you've been intimate recently, you might feel as if you're having the most fulfilling sex of your entire life. While it's somewhat due to the partnership you're in, there is a definite personal factor involved. For whatever reason, you've done enough work on an emotional and spiritual level to open yourself up and be vulnerable to sharing yourself completely with another person. That brave decision of yours is now something you'll reap the rewards of. If single, a sexual blockage you might have is disintegrating, allowing you to open up to someone new.

  

Taurus 

APR 20 - MAY 20 

A Full Moon in your partnership sector late Sunday night lingers into this week. You're likely to feel deeply fulfilled in your relationship, mainly because you and your partner are on the same spiritual and moral wavelength. There's a certain type of soul level nourishment that your connection is offering you now. What makes you feel this more than anything else is the fact that you know, without a doubt, that your partner is someone you can rely on. He or she is not only making their love for you known and felt deeply, but they are also keeping whatever promises to you that were made. That means everything.

  

Gemini 

MAY 21 - JUN 20 

If you're single, you'll enjoy a continued boost in confidence to help attract others your way without you having to do much of anything. With Venus still in your sign, you literally have a cosmic good luck charm on your side in matters of beauty, personal worth, and feeling positive about yourself and your future. The single greatest quality people are attracted to is the vibe a person gives off when they love and respect themselves. You've definitely got this going on now and as a result, you'll have no shortage of attention from others. If you're in a relationship, then you'll be wearing your heart on your sleeve from Tuesday-Thursday, feeling extra emotionally connected to your mate.

  

Cancer 

JUN 21 - JUL 22 

Your love life will be the most important consideration in your week ahead. The recent Full Moon in your romance sector on late Sunday night very likely has you feeling extremely loved and blessed in matters of the heart. If you are dating someone seriously, it's possible that you have made a decision to commit to one another in a more significant way. This can be as simple as dating exclusively -- but it might also be an engagement, marriage, or decision to move in together. If you're already in a committed partnership, then you and your partner might have a child together or receive incredibly fulfilling news about a child you already have.

 

Leo 

JUL 23 - AUG 22 

If you're single, you might notice plenty of attention coming your way from others. You might find out from one of your relatives this week that someone has a secret crush on you. If so, you may consider exploring it. Another possibility is that you and one of your friends have realized that your amazing intellectual connection and camaraderie is blossoming into something that's much more than a platonic relationship. Are you willing to risk your friendship to explore a romance together? If the answer is "yes," you're not likely to regret the decision. Your feelings are worth exploring.

  

Virgo 

AUG 23 - SEP 22 

 If you have a first date on your schedule with anyone this week, you're in for a pleasant surprise. Sometimes that first meeting can be awkward, with both people putting up a front and displaying their best behavior in an almost superficial manner. This week, however, if you meet someone for the first time, you'll experience something quite different. This person will be genuine right from the start and will have no problem delving into the topics of conversation that truly allow you to begin the journey of getting to know one another. You'll be impressed and will find yourself wanting to see this person again. Congratulations! You might have found an authentic partner.

 

Libra 

SEP 23 - OCT 22 

A recent awakening regarding your personal worth is likely to help you make important changes to your love life. If you haven't felt valued and appreciated by your mate, or if you have endured a recent betrayal, the sting of it all has likely taken a toll on you in many ways. For starters, you might have felt shocked, saddened, and even terrified about what you now have to address concerning your romantic situation. You might even feel angry if your sweetheart has done something to really tarnish the relationship you thought you had. Fortunately, you'll have enough strength and personal self-respect to push through this situation in the way you decide. You might be hurt but you are in your power. Own it.

 

Scorpio 

OCT 23 - NOV 21 

The intense Full Moon in your sign on Sunday night will make its presence known in your life for the coming week. You are likely to have experienced a complete emotional awareness about something significant in your life (most likely relating to your current romantic situation). If you're completely single, you might have put your finger on what it is that has been holding you back from truly delving back into the dating scene. If you have been dating with no luck, you may realize it's because you've been repeating a very unhealthy pattern concerning the type of person you attract. You're now ready to change this. If you're attached, you and your sweetheart are likely to enjoy a deepening of your bond. You'll feel inspired by each other.

 

Sagittarius 

NOV 22 - DEC 21 

You might feel as if everything in your love life is on point this week. You and your partner are not only feeling the love, but you'll also notice that your mate is inspiring and encouraging the part of your heart that is filled with childlike adventure. A new experience you crave is something that your partner wants to experience with you. Because of this, you're sure to deepen your emotional connection. This can be anything from hiking in the woods or bungee jumping to a more intellectual or spiritual adventure. Whatever the quest, it will lead you to even more fulfilling love.

 

Capricorn 

DEC 22 - JAN 19 

A social night out this week might turn into a sexy rendezvous you hadn't anticipated. It's possible that you and a friend will find yourselves wrapped in each other's arms in a passionate embrace. You might even sleep together, blurring the once clear lines of your friendship. This sharply intense shift in your relationship dynamic might feel as if it happened out of nowhere, but you both know that those feelings have been simmering for quite some time. Now the problem you'll both have is what to do next. Do you pretend this never happened and continue to shove your feelings away? Or do you both decide to be brave and confront the situation, making a clear decision about what to do next?

 

Aquarius 

JAN 20 - FEB 18 

If you're in a relationship where you and your partner are living together, this might be a week where the two of you decide to make a positive change in your living environment. You both seem to crave a home life that provides more of a peaceful sanctuary. Happily, you'll be able to work together in order to make this happen. It might be as simple as investing in a small redecorating project that brings more harmony such as a garden or meditation area. Another possibility is that you and your mate will hire a Feng Shui consultant, going all out to make sure that your home life is as spiritually fortified as possible.

 

Pisces

FEB 19 - MAR 20 

Whether you're single or attached, you might be in an "Eat, Pray, Love" state of mind. You know that you need to spend time alone in order to deeply consider what you want in terms of your love life and overall personal fulfillment. This would be an ideal week to participate in any type of spiritual retreat that can facilitate this process and help you get back in touch with your true inner voice. Another possibility is that you will hire a life coach or other mentor who is qualified to help you dig into this deeply personal conundrum you're facing. Fortunately, the more you're willing to go within now, the more chance there is for relationship fulfillment in your near future.

Category: Arts & Culture

April 19, 2018 

By MESFIN FEKADU 

AP Music Writer 

 

Beyoncé paid tribute to historically black colleges during her groundbreaking Coachella performance, and now the singer is donating $100,000 to four black universities.

 

The superstar singer an­nounced Monday the Home­coming Scholars Award Program for the 2018-2019 academic year through her BeyGOOD initiative. She plans to give $25,000 each to Tuskegee University, Bethune-Cookman University, Xavier University of Louisiana and Wilberforce University. One student from each school will receive the scholarship money.

 

Beyoncé’s Coachella festival set was critically acclaimed, as Beyonce paid tribute to the marching bands, the dance troupes and step teams at historically black colleges.

 

Last year, the singer launched the Formation Scholars Awards Program, supporting creative and bold young women, in celebration of the one-year anniversary of her “Lemonade” album.

Category: Arts & Culture

April 19, 2018 

By MARK KENNEDY 

AP Entertainment Writer 

 

The decision to award rapper Kendrick Lamar the Pulitzer Prize for music represents a historic moment for hip-hop and American music, according to two of the music jurors who picked the album “DAMN.” as a finalist.

 

“It’s big for hip-hop. I think it’s big for our country. It’s big for music. But it's big for the Pulitzers, too. Institutions are not stuck in time, either. Institutions can change,” said Farah Jasmine Griffin, a Columbia professor.

 

Lamar’s win on Monday made history as the first non-classical or non-jazz artist to win the prestigious prize since the Pulitzers included music in 1943. Just having a rapper nominated for the prize is considered a stunning development for awards that usually honor musicians of European classical background.

 

“I knew that there would be some anger and some resentment and some people who wouldn’t like the idea, but surprisingly enough, I haven’t heard a lot of that,” Griffin said.

 

Another jury member was Grammy-nominated violinist Regina Carter, who linked the award to the recent waves of people speaking up, pushing boundaries and refusing to be told what and what is not worthy. “Great art has to be acknowledged,” she said. “If a work is great enough, you can’t deny it.”

 

The decision was hailed as a turning point in music history by Jetro Da Silva, a professor at the prestigious Berklee College of Music who teaches a class on hip-hop writing and production.

 

“We are at a time in history here perhaps there is a new way to analyze what is considered a contribution to music. Critical thinkers are asking what it really means to be a composer and what is a composition,” he said. “The sky’s the limit.”

 

In addition to Griffin and Carter, the music jury this year included music critic David Hajdu, Paul Cremo from the Metropolitan Opera and the composer David Lang.

 

The five-member music jury listened to about 180 pieces of music and after deliberating for a few days then submitted to the final board three works — Lamar’s album along with Michael Gilbertson’s “Quartet” and Ted Hearne’s “Sound from the Bench.” Adding “DAMN.” was a unanimous decision by all five.

 

“Everyone expects that there would have been some form of resistance. There was none,” said Griffin. “It was just welcomed by everyone as an opportunity to have a serious conversation about the art, about Mr. Lamar’s work, but also about what constitutes what kind of music that should be eligible for this.”

 

The final decision was made by the Pulitzer board, which hailed Lamar’s CD as “a virtuosic song collection unified by its vernacular authenticity and rhythmic dynamism that offers affecting vignettes capturing the complexity of modern African-American life.”

 

Carter admits she quietly thought to herself that the board was unlikely to give the award to Lamar. “Although we all strongly agreed that this would be such an important step — if this were to really happen — I just didn’t think it would, really.” She said she was happily shocked by the final decision.

 

The Pulitzers have been accused of past mistakes when it comes to African-American contributions to music. In 1965, jurors recommended awarding a special citation to Duke Ellington, but were rejected. And it was not until 1997 that the Pulitzer for music even went to a jazz work.

 

“All of us sitting at that table were fully aware of Duke Ellington in 1965 being passed over for the Pulitzer and a jazz artist not winning for some time,” said Griffin. “We all brought a history to the table and thought, ‘Why not?’ and ‘Why not now?’”

 

The Pulitzers have lately expanded their inclusion of popular music, including honoring Bob Dylan’s lyrics with the prize for literature and giving Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hip-hop-inspired score for “Hamilton” the Pulitzer for drama.

 

The Lamar news stunned many and was cheered by the rappers’ fans, including celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres and Anthony Bourdain, who wrote: “The album was brilliant and deserves every accolade.” Leon W. Russell, chairman of the NAACP, wrote on Twitter that the win conferred a literary legitimacy but that Lamar had already gotten “street credibility and artistic authority.”

 

TV personality Charlamagne Tha God noted that Lamar joined African-American luminaries such as playwright August Wilson, writers Alex Haley and Toni Morrison, and musician John Coltrane as Pulitzer winners. “Congrats to that brother! I’m inspired!” he wrote.

 

Carter, who was awarded a so-called “genius” grant by the MacArthur Fellows Program, said Lamar heartily deserved the award. “I think he’s a genius,” he said. “It’s part of our tapestry. We have to stop dividing the music and the art.”

 

Griffin, a professor of English and African-American studies who has written about Billie Holiday, Miles Davis and John Coltrane, was a rookie on the Pulitzer jury this year.

 

“I will cherish that experience, of going through that process,” she said. “On so many levels, I felt like this was major — both the music that we put forward but also what happened in those deliberations.”

Category: Arts & Culture

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