Category Archives: Uncategorized

Andrew Lloyd Webber becomes “Unmasked,” dropping names and sharing tales both serious and snarky

“I have long resisted writing an autobiography,” coos Andrew Lloyd Webber. “Autobiographies are by definition self-serving and mine is no exception. It is the result of my nearest and dearest, moaning at me ‘to tell your story your way.’ I meekly agreed, primarily to shut them up. Consequently this tome is not my fault. I intended to write my memoirs in one volume and I have failed spectacularly. Quite how I have been able to be so verbose about the most boring person I have ever written about eludes me.”

Published to coincide with his 70th birthday (on March 22), Unmasked: A Memoir (Harper, $28.99) is a candid memoir by the legendary composer,  recounts his fascinating life and remarkable career.

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Norma Desmond would say it was “big.” Like her pictures.

A natural storyteller, with his signature humor and self-deprecating tone, Webber shares the details of his early personal and professional years, including his early artistic influences. In the book, Webber takes stock of his achievements, the twists of fate and circumstance which brought him both success and disappointment, and the passions that inspire and sustain him.

A record of several exciting and turbulent decades of British and American musical theater and the transformation of popular music itself, Unmaked is ultimately a chronicle of artistic creation. Lloyd Webber looks back at the development of some of his most famous works and illuminates his collaborations with luminaries such as Tim Rice, Robert Stigwood, Harold Prince, Cameron Mackintosh and Trevor Nunn. Taking us behind the scenes of his productions, Lloyd Webber reveals fascinating details about each show, including the rich cast of characters involved with making them, and the creative and logistical challenges and artistic political battles that ensued.

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Reflecting a life that included many passions (from architecture to Turkish Van swimming cats), full of witty and revealing anecdotes, and featuring cameo appearances by numerous celebrities–Elaine Paige, Sarah Brightman, David Frost, Judi Dench, A.R. Rahman, Mandy Patinkin, Richard Rodgers, Placido Domingo, Barbra Streisand, Michael Crawford, Betty Buckley–Unmasked at last reveals the true face of the extraordinary man beneath the storied legend. Make sure you check out the snarky Liza Minnelli “stories.”

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Full of colorful characters, rich storytelling and illustrated with 16 pages of color photos, Unmaksed provides unique insight into the life of the man who has entertained millions of audiences around the world with his music.

“The Read Mad Men of Advertising” provides an inside look into the men and women who re-invented the advertising industry

Ah, men. Real men. Who know how to sell. Anything. Public Media Distribution has released the Smithsonian Channel series The Read Mad Men of Advertising on DVD. The series provides an inside look into the men and women who re-invented the advertising industry from post-WWII America through the ’80s. Driven by memorable, classic ad campaigns, many of which are in the collections of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, the series also features clips and interviews with the creators of the groundbreaking series Mad Men.

In 2015, the National Museum of American History accepted a donation of artifacts, costumes and props from the series Mad Men against the backdrop of actual advertising history as displayed in its exhibition, American Enterprise. The Real Mad Men of Advertising uses these museum objects to explore the fascinating commercials and ad campaigns of mid-century America. Ads from Howdy Doody to MTV reveal the impact of commercial culture, while clips and interviews with Mad Men cast and crew members offer a glimpse into the meticulously constructed world of the iconic series.

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Their stories are set alongside interviews with the real ad men and women of the ’50s through the ’80s–from the top ad creators of the ’50s to Brooke Shields, who as a teen model was the centerpiece of a controversial early ’80s Calvin Klein ad campaign.

 

 

Never use Shutterfly. They are a scam. A true story.

Christmas 2017.

A pathological liar, racist, misogynist, homophobe and xenophobe “heads” the country.

Shutterfly heads the scam process.

Let me explain.
On November 25, I ordered a personalized photo pillow as a gift.
It never arrived.
I complained to Shutterfly, spoke to an outsourced (!)  woman in some foreign country who could barely speak English. She had another sent.
It never arrived.
A third one was sent. It never arrived.
They never arrived to the legitimate Boston PO Box to which they were addressed; they were delivered to Tempe, Arizona.

Here is the tracking information for one pillow:

Delivered

  • TEMPE, AZ
    DEC 14

    OUT FOR DELIVERY TODAY
    TEMPE, AZ
    DEC 12

  •  

    PROCESSING FOR DELIVERY
    Tempe, AZ
    DEC 12

I learned that UPS is not legally allowed to deliver to the USPS (a post office), yet Shutterfly refuses to acknowledge they did something wrong.
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The Tempe, AZ scam room.
As a noted journalist since 1979, I contacted Nicole Steir, who is listed as the “media representative.” Emails were sent to  and nstier@shutterfly.com. Her photo is below, stolen from Linked IN. (That site descibes her as “Director, Public Relations & Corporate Communications/Shutterfly Inc./ – Present (3 years)”
She refused to return my calls and refused to answer my emails. Instead, she had someone named Levy Hamilton call me from South Carolina. He refused to leave a message on my machine. 
Nicole (Bender) Stier

Even a cursory web search  will lead you to the ONE STAR reviews Shutterfly has received. [Read them here: resellerratings.com/store/Shutterfly]

As a way to doing damage control, CEO Christopher North has been heading south . . . he has Shutterfly “Donating” and “giving away” $10,000 checks to various guests on Ellen DeGeneres’ show. Anything to make Shutterfly look good.

 

Their website claims their mission is “Make the world a better place by helping people share life’s joy.”

Bullshit! That’s why we refer to them as Shitterfly, away.

Edgar Allan Poe dead? Nonsense. He’s “Buried Alive”. Just ask Denis O’Hare and Kathleen Turner

No wonder we love Edgar Allan Poe’s works . . . the Gothic gems deal with questions of death, including its physical signs, the effects of decomposition, concerns of premature burial, the reanimation of the dead and mourning.

No surprise we ate PBS Distribution’s American Master: Edgar Allan Poe: Buried Alive. Missed it on TV? It’s now on DVD. Written and directed by Eric Stange, this new documentary draws on the rich palette of Poe’s evocative imagery and sharply drawn plots to tell the real story of the notorious author.

Starring Tony-winning and Emmy-nominated actor Denis O’Hare  and narrated by Oscar- and Tony-nominated, two-time Golden Globe-winner Kathleen Turner, the program explores the misrepresentations of Poe as a drug-addled madman akin to the narrators of his horror stories. This caricature is thanks, in large part, to a high-profile obituary filled with falsehoods, written by his literary rival Rufus W. Griswold. Determined to re-invent American literature, Poe was an influential–and brutally honest–literary critic and magazine editor, who also invented the detective protagonist with his character C. Auguste Dupin, refined the science fiction genre and popularized short stories, actually writing more comedies than horror.

An orphan in search of family, love and literary fame, Poe struggled with alcoholism and was also a product of early 19th century American urban life: depressed from the era’s culture of death due to the high mortality rate and the struggles of living in poverty. Poe famously died under mysterious circumstances and his cause of death remains unknown.

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Filmed in Boston Harbor’s historic Fort Independence at Castle Island, this program combines dramatized re-enactments with O’Hare of key moments in Poe’s life, readings from Poe’s works by O’Hare, Oscar-nominated actor Chris Sarandon and actor Ben Schnetzer, and interviews with authors including Marilynne Robinson, Matthew Pearl, Jeffrey Meyers and Zach Dundas, director Roger Corman and others who reveal how Poe tapped into what it means to be human in a modern and sometimes frightening world.

 

 

 

 

PBS Distribution offers a one-hour probe into the Worst. U.S. president. Ever.

How did Donald Trump transform himself from real estate developer to entertainer to sexual predator to the worse president? Through lies and hate. In Frontline’s President Trump, filmmaker Michael Kirk and his investigative team go behind the headlines to examine the key moments that shaped America’s 45th president—from his childhood, to his tumultuous career in the public eye.

Drawing on the critically acclaimed film The Choice 2016, the program features dozens of in-depth interviews from advisors, business associates, and biographers, and paints a revealing portrait of where Trump came from, how he leads and why he sought out one of the most difficult jobs imaginable.

PBS Distribution has released the DVD; the program will also be available for digital download.

We’re not kidding: “I Have a Voice” features more than 75 Broadway children raising their voices to stop bullying

We have always given Broadway Records President Van Dean standing ovations . . . for his off-stage work. (For those who have never heard of him, please Google him instead of admitting your theatrical and charitable ignorace.)

We now raise the curtain on the exciting news that Dean has now joined executive producers Gina Holland and Michelle Shapiro and launched the charitable recording, “I Have a Voice” with 100% of the profits to benefit www.NoBully.org. The song and videos feature more than 75 Broadway kids from shows such as Matilda the Musical, School of Rock, Kinky Boots, Fiddler on the Roof, The Lion King and On Your Feet!  We must share other important news: The song boasts music by Frank Wildhorn, lyrics by Robin Lerner and comes from the upcoming new musical The Song of Bernadette.

“In the recording industry, I often work with children and have seen how saddened they are by the increased bullying and intolerance in schools across the country over the past year,” says Dean. “The ‘I Have a Voice’ initiative is an opportunity for 75+ child performers from Broadway and beyond to express their own voice and let other children know they too, have a voice. I truly hope this song will inspire others to be more inclusive, tolerant and unite kids to celebrate our differences.”

“I am so honored and grateful for my music to be used for this cause, which as a father, is so very important to me,” says Wildhorn. “I believe music can heal and believe so strongly in its power to communicate. Being in the studio, watching and hearing these beautiful children sing Robin’s beautiful words was a truly inspiring moment, and one I’ll never forget.”

The digital download of “I Have a Voice” is $1.99 ($1.29 on iTunes) and is available for purchase at BroadwayRecords.com.

 

 

 

They are SuperBirds! Hummingbirds can fly backwards, upside-down and float in mid-air!

Hummingbirds are amazing creatures to behold. They are the tiniest of birds, yet possess natural born super powers that enable them to fly backwards, upside-down and float in mid-air. Their wings beat faster than the eye can see and the speed at which they travel makes people wonder if it was indeed a hummingbird they actually saw. They also are only found in the Americas. These attributes have both intrigued scientists and made it challenging to study the species, but with the latest high-speed cameras and other technologies, the program reveals new scientific breakthroughs about these magical birds.hummingbird_hero_roger_levien

See the magic in Nature: Super Hummingbirds (PBS Distribution). The program is also available for digital download.

Emmy-winning filmmaker Ann Johnson Prum  returns with her second film on hummers which presents new scientific discoveries such as how they drink a flower’s nectar so quickly or why they are able to thrive in the thin air at high altitudes. For the first time, viewers will see the birds mate, lay eggs, fight and raise families in intimate detail.

The program begins with the research of Dr. Alejandro Rico-Guevara, who returned to his native Colombia after getting his doctorate at the University of Connecticut (he’s currently a postdoctoral researcher at University of California at Berkeley), to determine how a hummer is able to lap up nectar inside a flower at a rate of 20 times a second. A hummingbird spends its days darting from flower to flower to drink the nectar so vital to fueling its metabolism to keep it in the air.

To solve the mystery, Rico-Guevara mounted a real flower onto a clear feeding tube containing the same amount of nectar found in a genuine bloom. After attracting a hummer to the test site, high-speed macro photography revealed that the hummingbird’s long tongue has forked tips that open as the tongue dips into the nectar. Grooves are created along the edges of the open tips that collect and fill the tongue with nectar. Identifying this highly efficient means to drink nectar so rapidly was a scientific breakthrough never seen before.

The program also chronicles a major discovery by Dr. Christopher Witt and his University of New Mexico team high in the Peruvian Andes where oxygen is 40 percent more scarce than it is at sea level. Tests were conducted on hummers living at high altitudes to determine how little oxygen they needed to fly and the results were impressive. For example, only when the oxygen level reached six percent did the Sparkling violetear reach her limit which is an altitude equivalent of 43,000 feet. Witt discovered that a protein called hemoglobin, which humans also have in our blood, has evolved in each hummingbird species to match its elevation. He also found that these flower feeders are able to fly at such dazzling speeds due to an ability to capture extra oxygen with every breath, a true super power.

In the rainforests of Costa Rica, Dr. Marcelo Araya-Salas of Cornell University has spent seven years studying and recording the vocal stylings and mating rituals of Long-billed hermit hummingbirds. As the film shows, male hermits gather in a place called a lek to attract and compete for females by singing and performing elaborate choreography. After shooting more than 2,000 hours of footage, Araya-Salas caught his first video of hummingbirds mating, one of the first times it has ever been filmed. The documentary then concludes with a life cycle of super hummingbirds, from the nest-building, to the motherhood, to the first flight!

Hummers may be the smallest birds in the world, but what they lack in size, they make up in speed and the ability to adapt in ways we’re just beginning to learn about as they continue to evolve.

 

The legendary book “Hitchcock/Truffaut” turns into a film that brings the pages to life

It’s been called “The Greatest Story Hitchcock Ever Told”. In 1962, Alfred Hitchcock, then at the height of his fame, sat down with acclaimed director Francois Truffaut, the rising star of the French New Wave, to reveal in detail the making of the long string of hits that earned him the title “Master of Suspense.”

The interviews became the basis for the book Hitchcock/Truffaut, one of the most acclaimed and widely read books about the cinematic process. Now, critic and filmmaker Kent Jones “brings the pages to life” (Robert Lloyd, Los Angeles Times) in a feature film that honors its source material while also serving as a moving and entertaining portrait of two great directors talking shop. Fresh off the heels of a successful theatrical release by Cohen Media Group, Hitchcock/Truffaut arrives on Blu-ray and DVD on December 20, 2016, from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.unnamed-1

Hitchcock and Truffaut locked themselves away in Hollywood for a week to excavate the secrets and meaning behind Hitchcock’s greatest achievements. Based on the original recordings of this meeting, Jones’ film illustrates the greatest cinema lesson of all time and plunges us into the world of the creator of Psycho, The Birds, Vertigo and dozens of other thrilling masterpieces.
Jones has expanded on the original book by including insightful new interviews with many of today’s most renowned directors and Hitchcock aficionados, including Martin Scorsese, David Fincher, Arnaud Desplechin, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Wes Anderson, James Gray, Olivier Assayas, Richard Linklater, Peter Bogdanovich and Paul Schrader.
This is a fascinating journey between two geniuses.

John Turturro on HBO’s “The Night Of” . . . “the story was just reeking of the human dilemma”

Remember the night of when you watched a fascinating TV show that left you panting for me? Think The Night Of. The acclaimed HBO limited crime series that captivated TV audiences this summer has now taken up life on Digital HD an DVD and Blu-ray. Starring John Turturro in “a mind-blowing performance” (thank you, Wall Street Journal) and the “extraordinary” (kudos Boston Globe) Riz Ahmed, The Night Of is “an anthem to television’s unique power to turn a series of understated performances into sustained magnificence” (our pals at Los Angeles Times).

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John Turturro as John Stone
The series delves into the intricacies of a complex New York City murder case with cultural and political overtones. Pakistani-American college student Nasir “Naz” Khan (a brilliant Riz Ahmed), who lives with his parents in Queens, New York, takes his father’s taxi to go to a party in Manhattan. But what starts as a perfect night for Naz becomes a nightmare when he’s arrested for murder. The series examines the police investigation, the legal proceedings, the criminal justice system and Rikers Island, where the accused await trial.

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Riz Ahmed as Nasir “Naz” Khan


The ensemble cast includes Michael Kenneth Williams, Bill Camp, Jeannie Berlin, Poorna Jagannathan, Payman Maadi, Glenne Headly, Amara Karan, Sofia Black-D’Elia, Paul Sparks, Ben Shenkman, Afton Williamson, Paulo Costanzo, Ned Eisenberg, Mohammad Bakri, Nabil Elouahabi, Ashley Thomas, Glenn Fleshler and Chip Zien.

Inquiring minds want to know Turturro’s thoughts, so HBO worked some magic.

What appealed to you about The Night Of as a story and a project?
I felt that the story was just reeking of the human dilemma. Any time you have a prison film or anything about a crime, it’s kind of a microcosm of society. It reminded me of a Russian crime novel. And I know that [co-creator] Richard Price always had a Dostoyevsky-feel for this stuff. I really loved that you see these characters, all of them, as people.

Did you research or take inspiration from specific sources to inhabit the role of John Stone?
I got a lot of it from the writing. I was introduced to a very competent and well-regarded defense lawyer, Terry Montgomery. This guy, who looks like Idris Elba, he’s a star. I met with him a bunch of times, and he was able to take me through everything that he goes through. I went to court and I watched different guys, but with Terry I thought, that’s the kind of guy that Stone would have been if he had the stomach for it. I looked at a lot of old Sidney Lumet films, and I worked on a big vocal warm-up. I’m from New York, but I thought the accent was more from the ’70s. Like in The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, when they say “first,” they say “ferst.” That’s an older New York sound.

Did the initial casting of James Gandolfini as John Stone have any influence on your decision to take the role?
I was very good friends with James. And when they first mentioned it, I was like, this is maybe too difficult for me. But when I saw the pilot, James was barely in there. He still was interesting, of course — you see him with this big beard and everything — but he didn’t really talk very much, certainly not to Riz. I don’t think he knew yet what he was going to do, because he hadn’t done that much yet in the series. So for me, I didn’t have to erase that.

What did you make of the character’s eczema condition?
It’s an obstacle, and maybe it has something to do with John not being able to deal with everything because eczema does come out of stress. And then, it’s how it makes him feel and how it looks. When I had it on my face and walked around, some people looked away, some people were matter of fact. It’s another interesting element, and it also physicalizes. It physicalizes the world.

First Run Features offers a restored “Watermelon Woman” for its 20th anniversary

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Cheryl and Guinevere Turner in a sexy scene

First Run Features is always in first place. They make important moves, release important films. Check the case of the re-release of Cheryl Dunye’s landmark black queer film The Watermelon Woman.220px-watermelonwomanposter

Now remastered for its 20th Anniversary, with pristine 2K HD restoration overseen by 13 Gen, The Watermelon Woman will screen at Metrograph in New York City beginning Thursday,November 10. Following an international run on the LGBT festival circuit, the landmark film is connecting with a lively new generation of fans worldwide. First Run Features will then re-release the film on DVD and VOD January 31, 2017.

Set in Philadelphia, this is the story of Cheryl (Cheryl Dunye), a twenty-something black lesbian struggling to make a documentary about Fae Richards, a beautiful and elusive ’30s black film actress popularly known as “The Watermelon Woman.” While uncovering the meaning of Fae Richards’ life, Cheryl experiences a total upheaval in her personal life. Her love affair with Diana (Guinevere Turner), a beautiful white woman, and her interactions with the gay and black communities, are subject to the comic yet biting criticism of her best friend Tamara (Valerie Walker). Meanwhile, each answer Cheryl discovers about the Watermelon Woman evokes a flurry of new questions about herself and her future.


According to director Dunye, much about the character is autobiographical, but the historical references to the Watermelon Woman are fictional. “The idea came from the real lack of information about the lesbian and film history of African American women,” she explains, “Since it wasn’t happening, I invented it.”

The Watermelon Woman features cameo performances by notable LGBT figures including controversial cultural critic Camille Paglia, African American singer/songwriter Toshi Reagan, Pomo Afro Homo performer Brian Freeman, African American poet Cheryl Clark and novelist/activist Sarah Schulman.

The Watermelon Woman was Dunye’s first feature film and the first by a black lesbian. It was made on a budget of $300,000, financed by a $31,500 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), a fundraiser and donations from friends of Dunye.