My life changing experience with the anti-slavery forum at Not for Sale...
I just attended a life transforming, and exhilarating conference called the Not for Sale Global Forum. in Silicon Valley, and I want to share with you all of the valuable information I have gathered from this two day info-packed weekend on how to fight modern slavery. The conference attracted 1000 high-tech people, journalists, lawyers, doctors, artists, parents , business people--all with the like-minded goal of abolishing slavery in our lifetime. I felt like I was a part of a revolution that is still in its infancy, but ready to explode with ideas and an arsenal of high tech weapons. Let's start with some facts. Did you know there are 27 million slaves today, 50% are children, who are sold into labor or sexual slavery as young as 4 years old? Traffickers earn $32 billion from the slave trade every year. Most people think slavery died a long time ago, but unfortunately slavery is more prolific than ever and increasing at an alarming rate. The biggest myth I hear from people is, "well in these poor countries it is better to have a job that pays something than none at all." The fact is these people are held against their will, and are not getting paid a dime to work as much as 20 hours a day. Children are the most vulnerable to these atrocities. According to Scott Litton of the International Justice Mission, a team of lawyers dedicated to ending slavery, there is no restraint on traffickers today. The slave-drivers are having a "field day on the poor and vulnerable, with no deterrent, and no law enforcement." Police forces in these at risk communities have never been incentivized to help rescue the slaves. However, Litton has noticed that the wheels of justice begin to turn when police see the gratitude of the families when their relatives are rescued from slavery. Good behavior needs to be rewarded to stop the corruption, and the IJM is working on training police internationally to help achieve this. But, much more needs to be done to stop this global crisis.
Not for Sale not only outlines the problems, but more importantly provides tangible solutions. In this forum co-founder David Batstone and his staff created a high energy think tank, where activists, law enforcement and government officials, social workers and international heroes took the stage to explain the current state of slavery and what we can do to help. Interspersed with these presentations were some amazing musical performances by Daniel Beddingfield, Aloe Blacc, Enation, Jihae and many others. Celebrity appearances included Sarah Ferguson,the Duchess of York, Giants pitcher Jeffrey Affheldt, and actress Mira Sorvino, who are all passionate about the cause.
Look out for Sorvino's film on this very subject called "The Trade of Innocents" set for release in early 2012. There were also exhibitors in the back selling Fair trade products from linens to chocolate that benefit trafficking victims. Not for Sale demonstrated how they have created tangible solutions. For example they created the Montara Circle, where they developed the idea for the Rebbel tea company. This company, in collaboration with Headwaters Natural Products, has created jobs for people in the Amazon that would otherwise be susceptible to human trafficking. This tea uses indigenous and sustainable ingredients, and will be released to the market in the spring 2012. You can see the Duchess of York giving her approval of the tea in the photo below:
They also gave a $50,000 dollar check at the conference to Maria, the head of a program in Romania dedicated to saving underage victims of sex slavery. With the money from this check, she will be building a farm where the rehabilitating victims will grow and sell their own produce. You can see photos here.
The first day the speakers at the forum explained the facts of slavery today, and the second day they explained what we can do to stop slavery. I have compiled facts from the forum, along with information I gathered from www.freetheslaves.net to give you a synopsis in the same fashion:
First, what is slavery like today?
The average cost of a slave in 1860 was $1500. That would be nearly $200,000.00 in today's money. The average cost of a slave today is $90 in third world countries, so children are tormented over and over again as they are sold, then resold, and abused daily by multiple rapists and slave labor drivers. After the child is unable to function mentally or emotionally from constant trauma, some of them are killed so their organs can be sold as well.
Traffickers are turning from selling drugs to selling humans, because the penalties are lower and the profit margin is higher.
Slaves are forced to work without pay under threat of violence and unable to walk away. Violence includes rape, branding people and children on their faces and bodies like cattle, and torture if the adult or child is not working hard enough.
The most popular commodities involving slave labor are the three Cs: chocolate, coffee and cotton. Children are also most heavily trafficked to serve in brothels and as soldiers recruited to kill or be killed.
Slavery is not legal anywhere but happens everywhere.
The majority of slaves can be found in India, African and Asian countries as well as Eastern Europe.
Each year, thousands of slaves are trafficked into the U.S. Currently over 200,000 slaves live in the U.S.
Slaves work in fields, brothels, homes, mines, restaurants--anywhere slave owners can feed their greed.
Human trafficking is the modern-day slave trade. Slave holders use many terms to avoid the word "slavery": like debt bondage, bonded labor, attached labor, forced labor, indentured servitude and human trafficking.
We can end slavery in our lifetime. Everyone has a role to play: in government, business, faith communities, schools, consumers, and YOU.
There is a human trafficking protection act in place to protect the victims in the United States
The biggest limitations to stopping slavery are budget, and the political environment.
Many children are arrested for prostitution when they are actually the victims.
1 million women in South Korea are forced into sexual servitude--usually exported to the US and to Japan.
Human traffickers are well networked, from the travel agents they use to export the victims, to the airlines, to bribing police and government officials.
This news is all very bleak. But at the heart of this mainly economic problem is an economic solution; that's where your power as a consumer comes in. What can you do? Well if you don't like the news, make your own, and here are some ways you can do that:
Tell people this is a massive issue that will only grow if we don't take steps to stop it.
Just as you check the calories of your food, check if slavery was part of the creation of the product you want to buy. Juniper Networks, in partnership with Not for Sale, started the Free2work campaign. Just download this Free2work app on your phone, and use the barcode to scan products to determine whether or not it was sourced from slave labor. The best way to penalize slave drivers is to hurt them with your pocketbook, as they are driven by greed and profit. This can be overwhelming considering how much we buy, but if you scan the top ten items that you purchase on a regular basis, you can make a difference. The app rates goods on a scale of A-F. An A grade means the company is transparent with their supply chain, or where they get their goods from. F means the company is evasive, and most likely sourcing slave labor goods. I was surprised to see Carter's clothing and Hershey's chocolate scored Fs, whereas the Gap and Old Navy scored Bs. Companies need to make their anti-trafficking policies a badge of honor just like they do with the organic food movement. Hopefully companies will aim for, and advertise "slavery free" in their merchandise. You can write to your legislators to expedite this type of labeling.
Call the National hotline in Washington D.C. to report trafficking at 1-888-3737-888. This is headed by the Polaris Project, a non-profit, non governmental organization dedicated to the issue of human trafficking.
Enroll in the Not for Sale Academy to become certified in fighting slavery not only in your own backyard but across the globe. You can then train others in police academies, medical personnel, foster care agencies, and even the hotel industry (where many traffickers conduct business) how to spot signs of trafficking.
Faith communities can help through their shared love of God. You can explain this problem to your church, mosque, or temple. As this is a moral issue, religious institutions can get involved to increase awareness and send money to victims in need. For instance in the Christian faith, Jesus was the first abolitionist, dedicated to freeing slaves in His time. The Bible stated we are all created in the image of God and meant to be born free. You can start a collection in your place of worship and send the money to reputable organizations, like Hagar House,Covenant House, or Lulan Artisans.
Follow Not for Sale, or the International Justice Mission on Twitter to be connected and get tips on how to help.
If you are doing social work here in the U.S, or interested in helping victims abroad you can do plenty to help. Most rescued victims need employment, education, housing, and emotional support. Some institutions working on creating this are Misssey, in Oakland California, or Hagar House. Hagar House has bases in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Switzerland and the United States and is expanding its programs into Afghanistan and Vietnam. Lulan Artisans, fights the economic problem of slavery with an economic solution: the creation of jobs in Vietnam.
Fundraising is crucial. You can give to Not for Sale, by holding various fundraisers, from car washes to bake sales. Or become a Not for Sale Ambassador.
To acquaint yourself with the people behind the stories, check out the CNN Freedom Project. If you think true journalism on television has faded, think again. The CNN freedom project does an outstanding job of not only researching areas most affected by slavery and showing their horrifying conditions, but they also highlight stories of courage and resilience giving us hope and action items so that we can create positive change. Every single one of us has been created equally and has a mission or vocation in this world. It's time that these traffickers get penalized for their abhorrent actions, and recognize that absolutely NO ONE is for sale.
My interview with Gerard Butler & Michelle Monaghan for "Machine Gun Preacher September 23, 2011
I have never looked at a film with as much trepidation as Machine Gun Preacher. The film is based on the true story of Sam Childers, an ex-con and drug addict who went to Africa and experienced a complete transformation. He exchanged his old days of drug addiction and violence to become the impassioned founder of the Angels of East Africa, a rescue organization for children orphaned in Sudan.
I had already known about the unspeakable horrors that families have experienced in Sudan. I had vaguely known about Joseph Kony, the head of the Lord's resistance army (LRA), and how he kidnapped children and then enslaved them. I knew that it would be incredibly painful to see the depiction of children suffering this way and being stripped of their innocence. However, I felt it was my duty as a citizen of the world to see this movie. You bet I was a crying basketcase during this film, but I became a transformed activist as well after the credits rolled.
Sam Childers is a real flawed hero, a larger than life personality that Hollywood scriptwriters can only dream of creating. As an ex-biker-gang member, he found God and made the life-changing decision to go to East Africa to help repair homes destroyed by civil war. He became outraged by the horrific violence faced by the region's vulnerable populace, especially the children. Ignoring the warnings of more experienced aide workers, Sam breaks ground for an orphanage where it's most needed -- in the middle of territory controlled by the brutal LRA, the renegade militia that forces children younger than ten to become soldiers, or sold into sex slavery (which fortunately was not depicted in this film). But Sam not only builds a shelter, he leads armed missions deep into enemy territory to retrieve kidnapped children, restoring peace to their lives. He wields an AK-47 in one hand, and a bible in the other, channeling all of his anger into finding Joseph Kony. That a biker with lambchop sideburns and tattoos could single handedly save over a thousand orphans is an inspiring message that one person could indeed affect positive change. Here is my interview with the actors starring in the film, Gerard Butler and Michelle Monaghan
Actor Gerard Butler gives an intense performance, channeling the intimidating yet empathic Childers. While it is hard to empathize with his unlikable character in the beginning of the film, you transform along with him in his journey toward the end. You see his intensity and passion when he is preaching, even as his Scottish accent is replaced with a very believable Southern drawl. You can feel every bit of anger in the sweat beads on his brow as he pleads with community members to help him with his cause. Interesting because in person Butler had a gentle and sweet demeanor---only his piercing blue eyes showed that intensity that I saw in the film. Equally important to this narrative is his wife Lynn, who patiently and bravely supports him as he sells his business to use the money for the orphanage, flies to Sudan regularly to dangerous missions, and nearly forecloses his home to raise more money for the orphans' food and supplies. Michelle Monaghan was perfectly cast as a woman who appears vulnerable, but has the quiet strength and fortitude to counterbalance Sam's angry and unpredictable outbursts. Monaghan was absolutely lovely in person, with skin resembling a porcelain doll.
Some critics may argue that Machine Gun Preacher relies too much on Sam's boldness and not enough on the character exploration of the children, but I can see the motive. If the job of this film is to embolden people to do more to help the situation in Africa, then the goal has been accomplished. Perhaps the director, Mark Forster, wanted the audience to feel for the children's plight without exploiting them.
Anyone can identify with San Childers, whether wealthy, poor, a victim, a perpetrator, a religious person, or an atheist. If the point is to move people across the board into action to save these children, then I think Machine Gun Preacher does this brilliantly. Of course the children deserve their own narrative, as they are victims of a man that would make Osama Bin Laden look tame in comparison. But they need our immediate help even more. The primary question in my mind after the film was: why don't more Americans know about the so-called Lord's Resistance Army, and the hundreds of thousands of innocent people they have killed for nearly three decades? Why don't they know that this army forces children to hack their own parents with a machete to death in order to instill violence and self hatred in their young hearts... and making it impossible to return home? Why don't they know that this army decapitates the lips, ears, arms and legs of these children and other villagers to punish them?
While I have always been a donor to Unicef, UNRWA, and St Jude's Hospital, this film compelled me to do two things: First, I donated to Sam Childer's cause at Machinegunpreacher.org/donate. Secondly, I decided to register and participate in the Global Forum on Human Trafficking through Notforsalecampaign.org. The primary victims of slavery still alive in this world are women and children from Sudan to Armenia, Thailand to Brazil. Machine Gun Preacher challenges us to take part in this narrative -- through the eyes and experience of fellow American Sam Childers. As I wrote earlier, I was a basketcase after watching this film, but I have now filled my basket with an arsenal of tools to try and make a difference in these innocent lives, the start of my own journey from a Link TV journalist, to an activist. Machine Gun Preacher opens in theaters nationwide today.
Link TV line-up for September September 1, 2011
In is the age of more transparent information. Knowledge is certainly power and all kinds of information that was impossible to find before is now available at our fingertips. If your do have satellite television, I ask you to check out Link TV to get news that the corporate news networks tend to brush under the rug. I will be on Link TV today as well as in September introducing documentaries that will enlighten you and perhaps embolden you to improve your lives for the better. Today at 8:30 pm (Pacific time) I will introduce a riveting documentary called "Apology of an Economic Hitman." Author John Perkins is an American economic hitman, who tried to get foreign leaders to yield to US interests using debt as a weapon. He worked for a secret network that used loans from the World Bank, payoffs, extortion, sex, military coups and political assassinations to create the American empire. But now he is his sacrificing his own safety to tell the truth.
Tomorrow, September 1st I will be on Link TV three times! At 5:00pm I introduce "The Warning," where five authors expose shocking trends towards a police state, an accelerated corporate integration with the state, and the blatant subversion of the US Constitution. They ask questions the mainstream media refuses to ask and look into the dark corners of a closing democracy, a changing economy, and growing empire. After that at 8:00 pm I introduce "The World According to Monsanto," which investigates the company's checkered history and recounts its long string of alleged health scandals and environmental abuses. (This documentary will also air September 3rd at 10:00pm) Finally tomorrow night at 10:00pm join me as I introduce a special series of speeches celebrating the 25th anniversary of FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting). Speakers include Michael Moore , Noam Chomsky, Amy Goodman, Glenn Greenwald. If you appreciate this kind of programming, please support Link TV, as they are completely viewer supported, so are not beholden to corporate interests. Thank you!
A time for languid luxury...yeah right January 15, 2011
Happy New Year everyone! For some reason I am optimistic about this year more than previous years. Maybe it's because I just read the Chinese New Year horoscope, which said 2011, the year of the rabbit, is "a congenial time in which diplomacy, international relations and politics will be given a front seat again." I say hell to the freakin yeah--it's about damn time. The language of our nation, and many others, has been that of war for so many years. I am hoping that this supposed wave of diplomacy will come to fruition asap. I am all for fluffy bunny tails replacing the cantankerous tiger year of the past. The Chinese New Year also promises a lifestyle that "will be languid and leisurely as we allow ourselves the luxuries we have always craved for." After several years of people foreclosing, overdrafting, overtaxing, scrimping and saving--the definition of luxury has changed. Without sounding corny, I think a celebration of the simple gifts has overtaken that of extravagant expenditures. I'll take handmade artwork made by my child over a $1000 pair of Laboutin pumps anyday. Or a homecooked meal made with love over some foamy hooha restaurant special going for 35 bucks a plate. Under all of these circumstances I have been re-evaluating the direction in life I want to take. In my latest venture, I am going back to basics--the comfort food of my childhood. I want to revive the art of Middle Eastern food, and make it accessible to even the most novice cook. As some of you know I created a cooking pilot called Feast in the Middle East. This pilot got so much incredible feedback and support that I decided to go ahead with this project full force. I have a separate virtual house for this project, my new blog where you can more actively participate, whether you want to try some recipes or share some of your own. Just click on the Feast in the Middle East tab above! In the coming months expect to find plenty of blogging and short video demos--giving you ideas so that you can create your own authentic meals at home. Thank you for your support all of these years--here's to a year of languid leisure, and hopefully, peace in the Middle East and elsewhere.
Eat, Pray, and Love... August 14, 2010
My favorite films are the ones that make me reflect looooong after I've left the movie theater. I not only wanted to see this film, but I felt I needed to see it pronto. I think most introspective people go though a period in their lives where they ask the question, "why am I here--what am I living for?" It would be nice to go on a solo journey of self discovery while traveling from country to country, but as responsibilities multiply that notion seems far fetched to folks like me. I don't have an army of nannies and personal assistants on call to take care of things while leaving the country so I figured I could watch Julia Roberts live out my dream instead. If you strip the film down to its core, the colorful and exotic scenes fill that adventurous need for those two hours in the theater. The film is based on the non-fiction book by author Elizabeth Gilbert who, plagued with despair after a nasty divorce, divided a year equally among three dissimilar countries, exploring her competing urges for earthly delights and divine spirituality. Never mind that Gilbert (Julia Roberts) seems self absorbed, indulgent, or irrational, she partakes of a guilty pleasure most women would love to experience. Roberts is more relatable than ever and the perfect casting choice for this film, because you feel you can empathize with her without judging her. She doesn't come off as smug or condescending, but vulnerable and childlike. One of my favorite scenes is when Roberts samples the food of Italy--edit after edit of food porn where she indulges in spaghetti marinara, pizza, gelato and prosciutto in lush cafes and restaurants from Rome to Naples.
You can feel that Roberts is savoring every bite as if it was her last (I swear this part made me even feel deep hunger pangs.) Contrast this with many Americans, who shovel fast food down their throats in their cars while changing lanes. Gilbert also discovers how Italians take pride in their sensuality. In contrast Americans seem to have mastered the art of the "quickie" between conference calls and business meetings. Her trek to India to practice yoga was just as stimulating to the senses--a blast of music, color, noise, and a dedication to spiritual practice amidst all the chaos. I think we could all learn Gilbert's lesson from watching this film: the importance of slowing down to savor all of the simple gifts life has to offer and finding unexpected passion along the way. I think we as Americans move at such a fast pace that life's pleasures are lost or fleeting--this film is a reminder to reclaim our lives in a more conscious and nurturing way. Amen to that...
My Interview with Annette Bening...(Spoiler Alert!) July 4, 2010
To all those who voted for me to get a spot on Oprah's network, thank you from the bottom of my heart! Over 40,000 votes is pretty impressive for a niche cooking show idea and the supportive e-mails that poured in encouraged me even more. If I hear anything I will keep you posted on my adventures. In the meantime, I am going to share with you details of my interview with actress Annette Bening in her latest film called "The Kids Are Alright." Sometimes you hear through the grapevine that a certain actor/actress is down to earth but you can never really believe it unless you meet them in person. Annette Bening, with her multiple Academy and Golden Globe Award nominations, and eighteen year marriage to Warren Beatty, is one of the most grounded actresses I have ever met. Her lean and tall frame was dressed in a simple black suit and patent leather wingtip shoes, her eyes were full of expression and her genuine smile lit up the room. No matter how famous or accomplished she is, she was completely approachable and open to conversation. She takes a departure from her previous acting roles in this film, due for release July 7th. You can see my interview with her below, where Bening reveals refreshingly that she struggles to hold it together as a working mother like the rest of us!
In the film, Bening plays the part of Nic, a lesbian mother of two who happens to be a control freak with a sarcastic sense of humor. She and her partner Jules, played by Julianne Moore, grapple with their children wanting to seek out their sperm donor. Now you might question if Julianne Moore and Annette Bening come off as a believable lesbian couple. The answer is yes. While their onscreen chemistry is palpable, the movie script is less believable. This movie posed a lot more questions than answers for me, but maybe that was the objective. Namely, do children bond so easily with their sperm donor dads? Do lesbians crave heterosexual sex, as Jules seemed to in this film? How do sperm donor dads really react when their long lost spawn comes knocking on the door? These serious situations seem a little contrived in "The Kids are Alright." What saves this film is Bening's impeccable acting and comic timing. There is one sequence in the film that is especially intriguing--when Nic realized her partner had an affair. The camera moves slowly around Bening's face with a low audio murmur of anxious thoughts and you could really feel her horror, anger, betrayal, and hurt all at once without her uttering a word. In sum, this film is entertaining as a character study, and approaches a serious subject with a sense of humor. If you are expecting a logical analysis of sperm donor child psychology you won't get here, but you will get a slice of American gay family life with some unrealistic twists.
My Feast in the Middle East May 29, 2010
Okay so I am feeling really guilty that I haven't updated this site since February. I have been busy creating my own cooking show--yes your read correctly, cooking show! I have been wanting to do this project for many years and finally completed the pilot this spring. You can check out the video below. If you want to create these dishes, there are 5 parts to the video.
Ironically, once I finished the pilot, this amazing opportunity came to me. In one single day I got three separate e-mails from close friends telling me to audition for Oprah Winfrey's new OWN television, and it just so happens one of the categories is in cooking! So here I ask you, can you please vote for me so I can make this dream a reality? All you have to do is click on this link and just click on "vote" as many times a day as you wish between now and July 3rd. It's free, quick and easy! I have a huge vision for this show, and am excited about sharing heirloom recipes with you that have originated from the Middle East. I thank you so much for your support in advance, and for visiting my site over the years. Hopefully you have gained lots of insights and information from my previous blog posts, and will travel on this journey with me to take this cooking show to the networks! Please feel welcome to join my page on Facebook, just click here. You will not only get updates on my show but behind the scenes photos and links to my celebrity interviews. Speaking of which I just interviewed the lovely actress Annette Bening for her latest film, The Kids Are Alright. Come back to see the interview and my film review!
My winter getaway to Playa Escondida March 1, 2010
Sometimes in life one needs to take a break from the everyday rut and focus on the sensual beauty of the earth. I never realized how out of tune with the nature I was until I arrived at Playa Escondida, literally meaning "hidden beach" about 40 minutes away from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. From the moment I stepped into the resort, I had to let go of all of the comforts of my conventional life as a concrete loving city girl. Vacation to me always meant a fancy hotel room with at least plush bedding, a bathtub, enclosed windows and lots of closet space. In contrast Playa Escondida was almost a camping experience. For one, there were no windows in the beach front bungalow we stayed in, so you can hear Pacific Ocean waves crashing all day and night long. The waves were certainly therapeutic by day. But at night in my semi-conscious state, the waves sounded like a thundering tsunami about to engulf the entire room. After three days however, the sound of the waves at night comforted me, as if the water pounded away at my stress until I succumbed to ocean.
Our "Love Nest" as it was called, was tiny by any hotel standard, but the pastel painted room felt bigger each day because the oceanview (complete with hammock) was so incredible. There was no television, so at night my husband and I would watch the geckos on the ceiling eat the variety of bugs that made their way into our room. They would move in short lighting quick movements to catch their prey--a small buffet of moths, beetles and mosquitoes. I would never take the time out in my everyday life to watch animals and insects in action, but seeing this predatory dance on the ceiling woke up an awe for nature I hadn't felt since I was a child. In order to leave our room we had to walk on a sandy and rocky trail that took us through rainforest, where I saw fragrant exotic flowers, banana trees, and garlands of bougainvillea winding around palm trees.
I had to let go of my fear of a possible scorpions or snakes and focus on the living beauty around me instead, and fortunately my fears were unfounded. One highlight of my day was the complimentary yoga on the beach, led by Fresia, a beautifully exotic woman who exuded positive and spiritual energy. I have always considered myself too impatient for yoga, but for the first time I saw the benefits of this practice. Holding myself in various challenging poses helped me focus on the serenity around me and let go of the anxiety I brought with me from home. Fresia explained that yoga is not just an exercise, but a lifestyle. I finally understood what this meant, as I did the downward dog looking at the crashing waves I wanted to take this lifestyle home with me, and practice it amidst the chaos of my everyday life. The restaurant at Playa Escondida was another highlight, shattering my conceptions of Mexican food. Growing up in California, I was never a fan of this cuisine-- usually a large plate brimming with cheese, sour cream, and fatty beans and rice, the food seemed heavy and uninspired. At Playa Escondida however, there is a delicate care and almost spirituality in the preparation of the food.
The ingredients are fresh and simple--pristine prawns and scallops, a light hand with dressings and sauces, fresh produce, and authentic Mexican specialties from pozole to chile relleno en nogada (walnut sauce). After their meals you feel energized instead of weighed down, and I now have a new fondness for fresh handmade corn tortillas (especially for breakfast with eggs and fresh tomato salsa.) The people I met in Mexico were so sincere and kind they felt like my extended family-- whether the sharp-witted waiter Jorge, the charming and boyish office manager Mario (who could have been Antonio Sabato Jr.'s kid brother), or Alejandra the soft spoken and sweet masseuse (did I mention she gave me the best massage I have ever had?). Sayulita the nearby town was a treat to experience--basically what Puerto Vallarta used to be like before the tourist hordes came in and corporatized the beaches. Families celebrating birthday parties outdoors, unpaved roads leading to beaches and taco stands, a clean beach perfect for surfing--these are the images most resonant to me from this beautiful little town, a 30 minute walk from our resort. I also conquered another fear during my trip--my fear of heights! I managed the courage to fly over rainforest canyons on 13 ziplines with our expert guides who had quite a sense of humor. My favorite line was from Miguel; "as we hike up this hill watch out for the snakes, they like white meat, not brown meat because we Mexicans are too spicy!" Spicy indeed! In the end, my idea of pampering was challenged and redefined--from plush beds, air conditioning and paved roads to tranquility, oneness with nature, and a spiritual connection to people you can never get with a cold and distant four star hotel.
Gaga for Gaga January 11, 2010
Happy New Year everyone! I thought I would start my first blog of the year writing about someone who strives for the extraordinary--Lady Gaga. I started listening to Lady Gaga back in the summer of 2008. An independent dance music radio station in San Francisco called Energy played her music often and her strong voice and catchy lyrics immediately caught my attention. I thought this young artist had the potential to be an enormous star. She certainly had stage presence, her outrageous costumes reminiscent of Cher and Freddie Mercury. Her music had both mass and underground appeal--hypnotic glam, retro, and electro beats all wrapped up into one. I also noticed that she not only wrote her own music, a rarity in pop music today, but she also wrote music for other huge stars, from Fergie to Akon. Here is a older video of Lady Gaga when she was simply Stefani Germonotta. A dark haired Italian American beauty, she was not afraid to lay out her emotions for all to see, and at times her body movements and voice are over the top. But she is indisputably a skilled singer and pianist in this raw form.
Her lyrics "I will change the world with my lips" are prophetic--just a few years later the music from her lips would be sung by fans all over the world. Her layers of theatrical embellishments that come afterwards as Lady Gaga made some people question her talent. Her true fans, however, saw the genuine artistry that was beneath her ripped fishnets and garish masks. Last week Lady Gaga made a guest appearance on the Bravo show called "Launch My Line" where potential fashion designers had to create clothing with Lady Gaga as a muse. When they asked Lady Gaga where she found her fashion inspiration, she described her aesthetic as "if I jump through a wooden wall, what shape or impression would the wall leave afterwards?" In essence, Lady Gaga thinks not only out of the box, but out of the walls that enclose the box. She could have tried to make a living as a talented, yet safely marketed singer like Colbie Callait or Leona Lewis. However she wants to not just be successful, but leave an indelible, iconic mark on the world. As evidenced by her latest "Bad Romance" video, which has topped 60 million views in less than two months, people have been waiting for a larger than life entertainer like this. In all of her videos, she uses sexuality to get viewers' attention, but not in a pretty Victoria's Secret way. She wears strong frightening make-up--her sexuality is not for consumption, she is never vulnerable, but in control of her every move. She knows what it takes to get mass attention without giving too much of herself away. In the meantime she has gotten people excited talking about her fashion, songs, and music videos in a manner not seen since the reign of Michael Jackson and Madonna back in the 80s. In interviews she comes across as extremely intelligent and eloquent, certainly not like the sophomoric, emotionally underdeveloped Britney Spears or the faux street affected speaking manner of Christina Aguilera. Her sense of surprise keeps everyone on their toes, leaving us wondering how she can outdo herself even at the tender age of 23. Perhaps when she has achieved all that she ever wanted she will revert to back to her core as Stefani Germanotta, the pretty girl with the heartfelt voice, barefoot at the piano?
My Interview with Michael Moore..September 29,2009
I believe the primary way one person can affect massive change is to inspire masses of people to take action. There is no better way to do this than to create a controversial film about a subject that touches almost everyone's lives--the collapsing economy. Michael Moore's latest film, "Capitalism, a Love Story," does just that--and clearly has the potential to cause a revolution in our country. I met Michael Moore at the MarketBar restaurant during his tour stop in San Francisco, and what you see with this man is what you get. He's down to earth, dressed casually with his signature red cap, and he gave all of the reporters as much time as he could, because he valued their time as much as his own--unlike the standard celebrities that fly through town. Check out my interview with him below:
"Capitalsm, A Love Story" outlines how the rich got richer and the poor got poorer. Most people might think this was by accident, but Moore shows how this transfer of wealth was all by calculated design. Capitalism, according to Moore, is legalized greed that knows no partisan limits. Democrats are just as guilty as Republicans in giving our tax dollars to the rich without our permission. Capitalistic greed knows no age limits, whether greedy lawmakers take advantage of troubled juveniles so they could buy their private jets, or lenders encourage the elderly to accrue high interest equity debt against their fully owned homes. This is a new cold-hearted world where real estate agents fly over foreclosures like vultures, and blue chip companies cash in on the deaths of their low wage earning employees. Moore says the rich are not only in love with their money, but in love with our money--their self indulgence has no limits. I won't give away anymore details, but my eyes popped out at the level of callousness and insatiable greed circulating throughout our government and the corporations that woo them. Moore encourages us to think out of the capitalism box and instead democratize the workplace, so that all citizens have a say. Currently the workplace is set up as a dictatorship, where wage earners are at the mercy of their bosses and CEOs. If everyone owned a fair share of their companies and had a voice in decision making, there would be a more equal distribution of wealth. Forget capitalism, socialism, or any "ism" for that matter, because these are all ideals from past centuries that don't fit into our modern and interdependent economy. Moore says just as marriage is an institution that became democratized (i.e. women actually having a say in who they marry with equality in assets) the workplace needs to follow suit. He basically encourages us to fight back and create a more equal and fair marketplace. Rumors have been circulating that this is Moore's last documentary. I am happy to say that he told me he will not quit this profession, although he's a sensitive guy and the constant criticism from Fox etc. does get to him at times. But he does want us to pick up where he left off, and I would say the first step in doing this is to get educated by watching this film. As Moore visits one guilty company after another, demanding his money back with his little burlap bag and armored vehicle, he knows that they won't give him the time of day. But he is creating an example of what we should all be doing, and I can only imagine the changes that can happen if every one of us stormed those offices demanding our hard earned money back. The world could use a million Michael Moores, an average guy with an extraordinary message, who demands justice, accountability, and a moral code of ethics in the workplace...because one man cannot do this alone.
My Review of The Proposal, featuring Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds..June 19, 2009
Now if you are wondering whether Sandra Bullock's latest film, The Proposal is a chick flick or a date flick, I would most certainly say it's a date flick. The men in the audience were laughing louder than the women, and in some instances, I even heard a couple of sensitive dudes sniffle during the sad part of the film. Bullock plays a high high-powered book editor named Margaret, who drives all of her employees INSANE. She faces deportation to her native Canada, but comes up with a conniving plan to marry her unsuspecting put-upon assistant Andrew, Ryan Reynolds, who she's tormented for years. He agrees to participate in the charade, but with a few conditions of his own.
As they embark on this journey together, hilarity ensues. So basically the roles are reversed here, it's the female that calls the shots in the corporate world. I would have to say Bullock gives her best comedic performance ever in this film. From dealing with a less than experienced stripper in bad need of manscaping (dudes if you're gonna wear a thong, in public, SHAVE!) to getting freaky with her outdoor fertility dance, to saying one of my favorite lines in a film ever touch my ass one more time and I'll cut your balls off, Bullock has impeccable comic timing. Then there's the hysterical naked maneuvering with her co-star, Mr. Eye Candy, Ryan Reynolds. I don't want to give too much away here, but yes they are naked, and yes there is some collision choreography goin on, if ya know what I mean.
Betty White is like the icing on the cake spread all throughout the film, offering her brand of feistiness'but somehow as she ages, she gets even funnier! The role in this film was created for her--no other actress could fill her shoes here. I also absolutely love how the film resurrected one of my favorite songs, a karaoke specialty of mine,
'It Takes Two" by Rob Base. If any of you has a tape of me rapping to this song in a Vegas bar,(particularly in the New York Hotel) either send it to me or confiscate it immediately. :) Anyway enough tangents, if you want a good laugh check out this film. The movie will be released nationwide on June 19, 2009. As regular readers of my blog you heard it here first!
My Review of The Soloist, featuring Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey Jr...April 22, 2009
No one changes anything by playing it safe. This quote definitely holds true for journalist Steve Lopez, an insightful columnist at the Los Angeles Times who was captivated by a homeless man, Nathaniel Ayers. Lopez was a disenchanted writer who stumbled upon Ayers as he was pouring his heart into playing a violin with two strings. He was in awe at the passion and talent of this man, and when he probed further, he discovered that Ayers was a gifted cellist who dropped out of Juilliard School due to schizophrenia. Determined to get Ayers off the street and back into the symphony hall, Lopez wrote a regular column about him. His regular columns inspired compassionate readers to donate their instruments to Ayers, to replace his two stringed violin. As much as Lopez tried to get Ayers off the streets, he realized Ayer's schizophrenia would be a significant barrier to his leading a normal life. Actor Robert Downey Jr. plays the part of a scruffy journalist with ease, (except when dealing with different kinds of urine for some reason--too long to explain here lol) capturing the angst of this journalist. If there has ever been any doubt why directors continue to have faith in this actor despite his drug riddled past, this movie provides the answer. Downey Jr. is a remarkable actor who has experienced his own darkness, and seems to have channeled this dark past while playing this empathetic journalist. Ayers gives Lopez many reasons to give up on the friendship, but Lopez sees the gifted and goodhearted man within and prevails. Similarly you can see Downey Jr. persevering as the talented actor he is, and deep inside I was rooting for him as an actor as much as I was supporting Ayers the musician. Foxx is brilliant as Ayers, provoking sympathy even in the throes of violent outbursts. Just by looking at Foxx's eyes you can see passion,instability, vulnerability, and mania all at once. Foxx literally lost his mind on the set to get into his role every day, pushing himself to the limit so much that he needed therapy after the project was over. The Foxx you see in this film is a far cry from his macho alter ego as a comedian and singer. Both of these actors give Oscar worthy performances.
The dramatic scenes throughout the film shot in the streets of Los Angeles are so gritty and real they might either compel you to volunteer at your local homeless shelter, or shudder in fear. Director Joe Wright hired hundreds of Ayers' friends and acquaintances from the L.A.M.P. homeless community center in Los Angeles to work on the movie. I love how this film raises as many questions as it answers. Mainly, how involved should a journalist be with the people they interview,and how rewarding is it to cross that line? How healing is music and friendship to a person suffering with mental illness? What can we do to help those suffering in the streets with debilitating illness? If you want to contribute to organizations that help the mentally ill and homeless click here. The Soloist will be released in theaters nationwide this Friday, April 24th
Have you all been watching the train wreck that is the House Wives of NYC?!...April 1, 2009 I admit I have never watched soap operas or even primetime dramas like Desperate Housewives, but there is something so raw, so unnerving, so visceral about HW of NYC that I cannot stop watching. I was born and raised a California girl, but have always found NYC fascinating, so this show allows me to be a fly on the walls of the wealthy, the privileged, the psycho, the phony, and the wannabes of NYC. From what I have seen so far, it's not a pretty sight. Last night was some of the most uncomfortable television I have ever watched. When Kelly Killoren Bensimon, a former model, started arguing with Bethanny Frankel, the feisty chef and business woman, all I could do was cringe. The scene was reminiscent of a self centered and vapid high school cheerleader telling the smart yet lonely classmate why she is better than her. You can witness this fight by clicking on this link. Kelly walks in looking like a tanned stick of watermelon gum, with a green dress and cheesy pink boots that according to her Italian date reminds me to the Pink Panther. She gets flustered, tongue tied, and inarticulate, as Bethanny, looking sophisticated in her black dress, keeps her calm amidst this verbal discombobulated assault. Does Kelly realize that her atrocious behavior is being taped for the world to see as she tried to explain her delusional side of the story to all of her friends? I think there is bad karma when you get on this show pretending to be better than everyone else around you. Case in point, Kelly ends up getting jailed in March for clocking her boyfriend Nicholas Stefanov,10 years her junior, in the face. According to Stevanov she ended up splitting the skin on his cheekbone, causing injuries worse than Rihanna's from Chris Brown's assault. This altercation doesn't surprise me given Kelly's public display of aggression on national television. Another curse of the show flies in the face of the Countess. The Countess LuAnne de Lesseps, whose entire identity is based on her title is angry because the pizza man and cab driver don't address her as the Countess. She expects gifts from her housekeeper, sends her young daughter away to boarding school and loudly scolds the guests at a cancer fundraiser for not shutting up as she was being honored by the MC. Although she was one of my favorites on the first season, her condescending attitude in the second season showed her true colors. As of March 31st, she has been separated from her husband so now what to do since she is countLess? Does that mean she will have to change the title of her book to, Class with the Countless? This news didn't surprise me, since her husband didn't seem to live with her the past two seasons. I always wondered, why do we not see them together? Turns out the count found love abroad with an Ethiopean chick. So sad, as their children are adorable and shouldn't have to deal with this drama. Next comes Alex McCord, one of the stranger characters of the bunch (hello found her husband online with the intent of finding a one night stand.) I wonder how many one night stands it took for her husband and her to find each other....blech! So she relishes being photographed for the society pages, taking her hubby along for girls night out, and spending 8000 bucks on a single shopping spree, big deal. But alas, the party slows down, since she loses her job as visual merchandising for Victoria's Secret. I guess the next designer purchase will have to wait. So that leaves Bethanny, Jill and Ramona. Although Jill is a drama queen, and seems to only work on charities that benefit her own family or wardrobe, her heart seems in the right place. Hey, at least she is involved in charities at all and has a genuine love for her family and friends. Ramona keeps it real,but too real, to the point of being as rude and gritty as sandpaper rubbing on a NYC skyscraper. Girl needs to lay off the botox around her eyes--I am hoping she will get to blink again in her lifetime.I have the utmost respect for Bethanny a witty and intelligent self made woman who maintains her composure in the harshest situations. Yeah she has her crazy moments too, but the key word here is moments--she is not in a permanent state of self delusion like all of the other women on the show. That's it for now, I am contemplating whether I should sew up some team Bethanny t-shirts!
My review of Revolutionary Road.. January 7,2008 As winter deepens and wars wage, people are still trying to approach the New Year with optimistim. But one guilty pleasure people still partake in to beat the winter doldrums is going to the movies. And every one in a while Hollywood creates a film that resonates with me and makes me think about it for days---Revolutionary Road is one of those films. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, this period film set in the 1950s attempts to answer a question that arises in relationships over and over again: can two people break away from the ordinary without breaking apart? Or better yet, is the American dream illusive, especially for the more ambitious? Adapted from the landmark novel by Richard Yates, Revolutionary Road is a searing portrait of an American marriage seen through the eyes of Frank (DiCaprio) and April (Winslet) Wheeler. Frank and April have always seen themselves as special April aspiring to be an actress and Frank aiming to live his life with feeling. From the outside they look like they have achieved the American dream, a beautiful couple living in a pretty new house in suburbia with a healthy boy and girl. Yet for all their goals they find themselves stuck in life devoid of passion and fulfillment. Frank toils away in his dismal work cubicle by day and April dons her apron, trading in the theater floor for the kitchen floor. Their house sits on Revolutionary Road in cozy Connecticut, but their lives are far from revolutionary. Until April comes up with a plan to leave everything behind and move to Paris. Frank agrees to go along, and for a while they revel in the idea of declaring their independence from the suburban rut...until an unexpected event changes their plans. Then each spouse is pushed to extremes...April to escape whatever the cost, and Frank to save all that they have, no matter the compromises. Somehow director Sam Mendes keeps us at a distance from these characters, whose ferocious arguments and extra-marital affairs to boot make the audience shudder.
With another decade of age and experience, Winslet and DiCaprio give compelling, heartfelt performances--their actions speak markedly louder than their words. You can see the maturity on their lined faces since they acted in Titanic--and their roles reflect the changes in life one goes through as the years go by--from childlike belief in endless love to a hardened perspective on relationships.You can feel the pain and insecurity of Frank through DiCaprio's furrowed brow and vulnerable eyes. You can see the acute depression and apathy of April through Winslet's rich expressions juxtaposed by hollow stares. This film begs the question, is fulfilling a dream a process rather than a product? To outsiders this couple has all of the tangible necessities of life, yet are utterly unfulfilled. What about the real dream behind all of these domestic trappings of life? This movie made me think of people I have met in my own life. Sometimes I feel the simpler the goal, the happier the person. I have met women who aspired to be homemakers and are absolutely happy and satisfied with their decision. I have also met women who have complex career goals only to realize they must make huge sacrifices along the way to achieve their dream. The fact that this film is set in the 1950s really makes no difference to these universal problems, except women then had fewer alternatives available to them. April was a feminist--avant-garde for her time, and suffered horrendously as a result. Frank suggested she see a shrink for her depression. But is aspiring to unconventional goals categorize someone as crazy? Ironically the voice of reason (and impeccable comic relief ) in this film comes from the neighbor's son, a mental patient played by Michael Shannon. Perhaps there is a fine line between ambition and insanity. There are no real answers in this film, and there is no conventional ending in this film either. However, any film which provokes this much thought through masterful character development is worth watching! This film's major release is on January 15, 2009.
My review of Quantum of Solace--warning this contains spoilers! November 15, 2008 The foundation of every great movie is a well thought out plot and excellent writing. No matter how talented the cast and crew are, if the foundation of the story is weak, the film crumbles. However, the writing of Quantum of Solace was short a brick, leaving a lackluster structure. Now don't get me wrong there are some bright spots in the film, but I feel the Bond series has strayed way too far away from its roots in order to get that PG-13 rating. The film isn't short on violence, but it's short on the other components that make a Bond film magical. In Quantum of Solace Daniel Craig is unquestionably talented, but his character is hardened so much he seems almost bored. According to Craig, because Bond had his heart broken in Casino Royale, "meeting someone else and falling in love didn't make any sense whatsoever." So, there really isn't much romance in this film, or even much chemistry with any of the female leads. As a matter of fact it is one of the only times in the Bond franchise that Bond does not sleep with the leading lady, played by exotic Ukranian actress Olga Kurylenko (Camille). Olga has her own set of problems--particularly avenging the death of her family, who were killed in front of her when she was a child. So, considering Camille and Bond's broken pasts, the quirky sexual innuendo is gone too (say buh bye to Pussy Galore similar characters.) And Bond himself is so pissed he doesn't even have time to be the debonair gentleman, as he focuses on killing to the point of jeopardizing his job. French actor, Mathieu Amalric does a decent job playing Dominic Greene, the smarmy Bond villain. What this villain lacks in physical prowess he makes up with his aggressive and manipulative mind. He is joined by his freakish sidekick Elvis, played by Anatole Taubman who needs a new hairstylist ASAP 'cause those freakish bangs gotta go! Greene conspires to take total control of one of the world's most important natural resources. He plans to do this by overthrowing the existing regime in Bolivia, giving a corrupt General control of the country in exchange for a seemingly barren piece of land. While this story has a modern slant--as natural resources are a hot topic, the story falls flat--feeling more like a thread holding together violent scenes more than anything else. Soooooo...what are the bright spots of the film? This story was filmed in more overseas locations than any other movie in the 46 year running James Bond franchise. From Panama to Chile to Italy to Mexico, the scenes had lush and exciting backdrops that make the Bond series shine. As far as stunts, the most compelling one was when Bond and Camille freefall out of a plane. This effect was created using Bodyflight, the UK's first and world's largest skydiving wind tunnel. The tunnel is 16.47 feet in diameter (4.95m) and 26 feet tall and simulates the experience you get freefalling at 170 mph without ever having to jump out of a plane. Wardrobe was another highlight--as Tom Ford was called upon to create custom suits for Craig that resembled Sean Connery's look--creating a sleek but retro feel. The actresses throughout the film also wore divine frocks created by Prada. But other than that, I hope that Bond snaps out of his funk for the next film. A lot of the Quantum of Solace was shot in the desert because it represents solitude and loneliness--or Bond's state of mind. But Bond needs to break free from this boring solace and get his groove back! The abrupt ending leaves just as many questions as answers--
Celebrities without makeup..November 3, 2008
This is a time when women are under extraordinary pressure to live up to a beauty standard set by Hollywood. The proliferation of plastic surgery and beauty make-over shows prove this point over and over again as often attractive women go through surgical lengths look like popular starlets. So, it was to my surprise to find this website that shows before and after pictures of women considered the most beautiful by Hollywood and the fashion industry. Some of the women look fine or even better without makeup, like Jessica Alba, Roselyn Sanchez, Eva Mendez, and Dayannara Torres. (Interesting I just realized that I listed mostly Latina women,maybe it's the olive toned skin.) In any case, I am bringing this whole subject up for this reason: if even the most famous women in the world need this much help to look good, then the average woman should stop beating herself up if she falls short of this ideal. To see for yourself the transformation check out this link. Think about it, these women make use of the best and most expensive plastic surgery, botox treatments and fillers, facials, and creams, and even they fall short of this commercialized facade without some serious make-up! I welcome your comments on this subject.
My video interview with David Schwimmer September 7, 2008, 2008 Well peeps it's been one helluva hot summer here in Northern California. With temps of 97 degrees on a daily basis it's nice to hang out in the air-conditioned production studio and get to work. I know it's been a long time since my review of Run Fat Boy Run and my description of my interview with David Schwimmer (see below). So I felt it was high time that I started converting these videos to quicktime for the viewing pleasure of those that live outside norcal and can't see my show! So, check out this youtube clip below. David is really such a sweet guy, it's amazing that his fame and fortune hasn't gone to his head. He is still so eager to learn about directing, but won't give up acting anytime soon. We chatted about what it was like for him to direct a feature length film for the first time, what his major pet peeves are on the film set, and last, is he ready to settle down in his personal life? I asked this question because a lot of my single girlfriends wanted to know. I had no idea that so many women considered him a hot pocket. More videos to come--I hope you are all enjoying your summer, and thanks so much for watching the show, and for the sweet e-mails!!!
Anthony Bourdain's No reservations...July 3, 2008 I have been wanting to update my blog forever, but summer is just flying by and I don’t want to miss one second of it! As someone who works in television, it takes a lot to get me to sit down and watch more television, (especially in the summer.) However, I want to dedicate this blog today to an outstanding program that keeps me riveted from beginning to end.The show I am talking about is Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations. This show is so daring in a creative rather than crass way. From the locations, to the masterful editing, to Bourdain himself; this show is television at its finest. Bourdain has a mastery of the English language, his sarcastic yet soothing voice speaks in poetry. He is not a conventional TV host in any sense, he kind of looks like a retired rock star, a tall and sinewy man in his 50s that still wears earrings and suede boots. He has a culinary, rather than media background, so he is not bound by the standard styles of other robotic TV hosts. His dry sense of humor and occasional swear words would be looked down upon in the more conservative networks. I am not the cheerleader type, and favor being authentic, whether that's goofy or serious, depending on the situation. That's why I identify with Bourdain, and I love that he is given the freedom to be as snarky as he wants. He is often dark, and speaks not from the heart, but from deep down in his gut. I don't think perky is even a part of his vocabulary. Kudos to the Travel Channel for being one of the only channels (other than PBS in general) to give a host such creative freedom!
Let me set up a scenario to give you an example. Bourdain goes to Namibia, where he hangs out with the Bushman tribe. The tribe's cooking skills are rudimentary at best. They gather ostrich eggs, and literally cook them on dirt. They put more dirt on top to make a sort of mud patty. Then they offer some to Bourdain, and the good sport he is, he takes off the dirt and eats some of the egg. "Mmmm crunchy!" he says. But it gets much worse. Later in the program they spear a wild warthog. They tear the animal apart, and roast all of the shredded bits. From the head covered in fur, to the innards, each unwashed part is roasted in more dirt. They save the prized piece for Bourdain, and, that piece happens to be the.... warthog anus! They squeeze out the feces, and, unwashed, roast the anus in dirt and give some to Bourdain. I admit it, I would have run for the hills if I were the host. But Bourdain explains that this is not an option. According to him, you have to accept the hospitality of the people, no matter how much it makes your cringe. So, he courageously starts chewing on the gamey, grassy, stinky fecal mess. His narration is hysterical--he talks about blasting his body with antibiotics to kill the parasites of this "food," then says, "I was hoping they would cook it longer, but nooooo, this Hershey highway was served al dente!" This for me was a spew-my-beverage-all-over-the-table-moment. From that one insane soundbite, you can feel how he tries to make light of this nightmarish situation in order to survive. In an another episode where he travels around New York, he agonizes about the lack of sleaze and decadence, which has been replaced by the kitchy and the corporate. "Where is tha sleaze!" he shouts, "No dive bars, only Bubba Gumps Shrimp Company. The poor souls that work at that place must want to go home and kill themselves over and over again every night." Obviously he is not afraid of deterring corporate sponsors, he is all about keeping it real. This is not your average travel guide. From hanging out with royalty in India, to checking out eccentric art in Berlin Germany, to learning how to kickbox in Korea, Bourdain doesn’t seek the usual tour bus itinerary. Anthony, thanks for keeping it real, and if you ever need a tour guide for San Francisco, just holllaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!
My interview with David Schwimmer and review of "Run Fat Boy Run!" ...March 22, 2008 Dennis (played by Simon Pegg) is your average British dude. He’s got a little belly, smokes, and works as a security guard for a lingerie shop (and gets busy with the mannequins occasionally). But he’s funny, has a good heart, and is a great father. Only problem is, he did the unthinkable—he finds the girl of his dreams, Libby, (Thandie Newton) gets her pregnant, proposes, then runs away from her at the wedding altar. WTF you ask? Well, five years later, he realizes he made a huge mistake and tries to win Libby back, all the while fitting in some quality daddy time with their cute son Jake. At this point, Libby meets a new American guy, Whit, a fit and tan businessman who runs marathons for charity. To prove his love for Libby, Dennis decides to run the marathon as well, to the shock and amazement of all of his friends, including Whit, who calls him a fat boy.
Funny thing is, Dennis is far from fat, so not sure where the title for this film really comes from. David Schwimmer does not act in this film at all, and instead makes his feature film directorial debut. The film moves quickly, there isn’t a dull moment, and Schwimmer makes excellent use of London city scenes to add cultural depth to the film. The film was shot in 52 locations around London in 37 days, making glorious use of the Capital's eye candy, from the Waterloo bridge to St. Paul's Cathedral. You may ask, why is Schwimmer directing a mainly British Comedy set in London? Well, I met up with him when he stopped over in San Francisco, and he said the script was originally set in New York City. However, London-based Material Entertainment took over the rights to the film, and this company's goal was to create more films in London. Hence the location switch. You may know British actor Simon Pegg from his brilliant performance in Hot Fuzz. Pegg lent his writing skills to the film to "Anglicize it" or make it more British friendly. The main part of the film takes place in the Columbia/Shoreditch area, where there is a large East Indian population. So to make the film even more authentic, Schwimmer cast talented veteran actor Harish Patel as the neighbor, and the gorgeous newcomer India De Beaufort as his daughter. Complimenting the cast was the hilarious comedian Dylan Moran, who plays Gordon, Dennis’s best friend. Moran brought a naturalness to his performance, even though his character has a propensity to hang out bottomless in several scenes of the film (don't ask me why, but if you like bare ass shots this film delivers!) Now, onto Schwimmer. Out of all of the celebrities I have interviewed, he really is one of the sweetest. He has a boyish charm, dressed casually in navy blue, hair slightly disheveled, with puppy dog eyes.
I love his mantra on the set—he said he has a no yelling policy, because too many times he has seen mean spirited directors yell at the very actors they were trying to inspire. How is an actor supposed to be funny when he has just been demoralized? I could tell Schwimmer has been bit by the directing bug, and determined to work through the challenges of filmmaking. He is still single and available ladies, and his mom wants him to find someone soon, so I’m just passing along the information! I think "Run Fat Boy Run" is an excellent date movie to break the ice with that special someone. The comedy is light, not belly rolling laughter, but pleasant nonetheless. All I have to say is if this boy is considered fat in the U.K, then Americans have a lot of running to do! This film has already been released in the U.K. and will be released in the U.S. on March 28, 2008. I will have streaming clips of the interviews up here soon so check back often peeps!
What a busy week it was... March 8, 2008 with Charlize Theron and David Schwimmer coming to San Francisco to promote their independent films. Both actors this time though had intense roles behind the screen, with Charlize acting as producer of her latest film called Sleepwalking, and Schwimmer directing a British comedy called "Run Fat Boy Run!" In this blog though, I will focus on Charlize and her film, which was very, very grim. The setting of the film was dreary, dark and depressing, the characters experiencing intense angst because of their miserable lot in life.
The film is a drama about a deep bond that develops between a 30 year old man James (played by Nick Stahl) and his young niece Tara (played by AnaSophia Robb) when her mother Joleen (Charlize Theron) suddenly leaves town. Forced out of her home after her latest boyfriend du jour is arrested, Joleen needs a place to stay with her daughter. She turns to help to her brother James, a simple and overly trusting man who doesn't hesitate to help them, and strive to become the father Tara never had. Charlize only makes about three powerful appearances in the film, as the film centers more on the relationship between uncle and niece. However, this is not a bad thing, as Stahl brings such a raw sensitivity to his role that you can't help put want to jump though the screen and help his character get a better life. AnaSophia is an incredibly mature and talented actress given her young age;she knows how to deliver the delicate balance of a vulnerability and sassiness, due to the fact that her character had to grow up too fast from her mother's neglect. Screenwriter Zac Stanford had written this movie with this premise in mind: Why don't we take care of our kids? In this film, James is the least person able to take care of a child, and the least person able to be responsible, and yet he does it. Stanford never thought his film would see the light of day until the screenplay ended up on Theron’s lap. She said, "I was moved to tears when I read it, the idea that we can own our own lives, that we don't have to be haunted by the legacy of our family. Just because we have the same blood flowing in our veins, we don't have to make the same mistakes. As soon Theron was on board, the filmmakers had a much easier time getting the film made. Theron personally made phone calls to the actors, from Stahl, to Rob, to Dennis Hopper and Woody Harrelson (who gave some comedic relief to the film) and got them on board. When I went to interview Theron and Stahl, I noticed a huge difference between the two actors. Charlize walked in, tall, willowy, with her smooth blond hair cut in a chin length bob. Designer clothes in soft rose and beige draped her statuesque frame, and she carried herself with grace as she sat in her chair. In contrast, Stahl was dressed more casually in jeans, slunk in his chair in a more relaxed fashion.
Theron is one of the more distant and even formal celebrities I have interviewed, I felt like I had to work hard to draw the answers out of her. I will give her some slack though because I know she work up early and did a lot of interviews earlier that morning and the night before. Towards the end she warmed up and even confessed that she had to make calls begging for the film to get made!! Can you imagine Charlize having to beg for anything? She talked about working in front of versus behind the camera, what attracted her to the role, and why she thought it was important to get the film made. The video is in the process of being edited, and once I can get it streaming I will post it here for your viewing enjoyment! The film made its premiere at Sundance and is set for release March 14, 2008 You can check out more movie info and the trailer here. I'll be back with info on my interview with David Schwimmer, and his British (yes British) comedy, "Run Fat Boy Run!"
I just interviewed Chris Tucker and Brett Ratner for Rush Hour 3...August 9, 2007 and let me tell you they are a fun and flirtatious couple of guys. The interviews were set up at the pent house floor of the St. Regis Hotel, with a beautiful view of sunny San Francisco. As I walked into the interview room, poor Ratner (the director) was sitting at the table, his head slumped over asleep. Upon waking up though, he was in a cheerful mood, as was Chris Tucker, who told me I looked like Queen Rania of Jordan(I wish!). We talked about how the pair met (during a Heavy D video waaaaaay back) and how much fun they had during the movie (too much for sure). You can tell these guys are great friends and work well together. Tucker is sharp as a tack—it was hard for me to keep a straight face during the interview because he made me laugh so much before the camera lights went on. You can check out the interview here.
Ratner let me know he is creating a documentary focusing on Helmut Newton to be released on HBO, and Tucker hopes to act in more indie films in the future. Towards the end of the interview, Ratner let me know he was single and available—as I am taken, this is a shout out to the ladies out there, if you’re interested in this mega director, give him a buzz—hehe. Here he is on the red carpet with Jackie Chan.
Now let me tell you about the movie. Let me just say Rush Hour 3 represents Chris Tucker at his absolute finest—from his one liner deliveries, to his goofy faces, to his insane energy, the man had me in stitches for almost the entire movie. Tucker’s talents open the film, as he croons Prince’s “Do Me Baby” while directing traffic. This scene caused the audience, including me, to burst into uproarious laughter. It’s the kind of scene that I would want to play over and over if it was on DVD. I got Tucker to do an impromptu riff of that song during the interview and he happily obliged—loved it! Even when my interivew time was over Tucker said,"Oh come on, give the girl at least two more questions!" Tucker’s comedic prowess surfaces again and again throughout the film--the next time even funnier than the last. My favorite scene is when he takes on the ginormous Chinese mutant ninja Yao Ming. Now I know why he raked in a 20 million dollar paycheck this time around. And he not only has strong comedic chops, he is a formidable action hero as well, holding his own with the legendary Jackie Chan.
Basically LAPD Detective Carter and Chinese Inspector Lee are back to stop the most powerful and notorious crime syndicate in the world, the Triads, which are based in Paris. As a professed Francofile, I was salivating at the Parisian streets and architecture, as most of the film takes place on Parisian city streets. During their journey, they meet up with various transients, from a French cabbie (one of my favorite characters in the whole film) to French model Noemie Lenoir, arguably one of the most beautiful women on the planet.
The film is quick paced—with enough action to make you dizzy. Jackie Chan doesn’t disappoint with his physical artistry. Although he still seems uncomfortable in delivering his lines in a meaningful way, that just adds to his charm and you can’t imagine anyone taking his place. The film also plays off the racial differences between the pair. There is never a dull moment in the progression of Chan and Lee’s relationship—as they go from partners in the first movie, to friends in the second movie, to brothers in the third. Whether they’re dangling from the Eiffel Tower, getting a serious whiff of French sewage (giving new meaning to stinky French cheese) or dancing on a Parisian burlesque stage, you can see the respect they slowly gain for one another as characters. If they have a fourth movie I can’t imagine how much closer they can get…hmmm. This film will be in theaters August 10.
Interview with Bruce Willis....June 18, 2007 There are some stars that ooz charisma, and I never thought I'd say this, but Bruce Willis is one of them. I went to interview him at the lavish but subdued Mandarin Oriental Hotel in San Francisco. Let me just say Willis doesn't walk, he saunters. He was wearing a navy blue suit, arriving fashionably late to the press event, looking more youthful and handsome in person than on the screen in my opinion. In preparation for the film, he trained rigorously several months prior to the start of production.
He was in town promoting Live Free or Die Hard the fourth in the series of Die Hard Films. I got to see a special half hour rough cut of the film, and let me say this, I wanted to see more. I have never been a fan of action films, but this film is more cerebral and edgy than your standard action flick. The director and producers (with a lot of input from Willis) get real, visceral, and in your face—creating effects the old school way without so much computer imagery. The stylized set pieces are ginormous, the stunts are all real--and crazy I might add. One scene that comes to mind is when a sedan hurtles though the air towards Willis a.k.a. detective John McClane, seconds before crushing him—before the sedan lands on passing cars and bounces over him and his cohort, a hacker named Matt Farrel.
Basically the plot goes like this: An evil dude named Thomas Gabriel wants to shut down the entire nation through his computer wizadry—by attacking the United States infrastructure. McClane has a lot of street smarts, but he doesn’t know what a PDA is nor does he probably know how to send e-mail. To stay ahead of the game in technology he needs Farrell to help him. Willis does a phenomenal job in playing the tough detective with a lovable vulnerability, especially when his family is in the mix. And that lovable side came across during my interview as well. They gave me only five minutes for the interview, and when the manager was trying to wrap things up I asked, “can I ask just one more question?” Willis told him, “hey, I’m in charge here, she not only gets one more question, but two more questions.” What a sweetie. You can see my interview on View From the Bay, and the film will be released June 27th.
Interview with Harry Connick Jr....(May 24)… Alright folks, I had been trying for weeks to secure an interview with musician Harry Connick Jr. and just when I thought it wasn’t going to happen, I got latenight--“Harry can do interviews tomorrow at 10:00 am.” Needless to say I was thrilled. This guy has it all- a gifted musician and actor, a family man and humanitarian, I was so ready to interview this incredible artist and veritable icon. Not to mention I used to have a huge crush on him...hello people!
I arrived at the venue this morning and waited about 15 minutes…then Connick walked in, tall, about 6'1,radiant skin, wearing jeans, black t-shirt, a casual almost military style jacket, and a New Orleans Saints cap. I only wish he wasn't wearing that darn cap because I love his hair! He was mellow and charming, a southern gentleman. No pretension, no high maintenance behavior, he gave me the time I needed for the interview. And he even hung out for some additional shots we had to get before leaving. Once we finished and packed up up all our gear, we saw him outside in front of about five tour buses and he gave us one last goodbye. So refreshing to see someone like him be so down to earth. Remember to check in for more film releases, celebrity interviews, and other revelations.
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