Shirley Temple Black, America's Favorite Child Star, Dies at 85

Shirley Temple, Curly Girl

Shirley Temple sang and danced her precocious heart off for America in the 1930s and 40’s and is the single most popular child-star in film history. Shirley made 23 films during the Great Depression and made Americans smile through some very dark times.

She rose to international fame in 1934’s Bright Eyes and charmed the pants off audiences in a series of films where she was often an orphan with a plucky, “can-do” attitude about life. Shirley’s characters were always precocious with more common sense than any of the adults. Her most successful collaboration was with legendary African-American actor Bill “Bojangles” Robinson. They starred in four films together: The Little Colonel, The Littlest Rebel, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm and Just Around the Corner. Their staircase dance number in “The Little Colonel” stands out as a classic musical moment in film history.

Peter Seeger, iconic folksinger and political activist, has died

Pete Seeger, as beloved for his enduring folk songs as for his principled political activism for six decades, has died.

Seeger began his singing career as part of the Weavers in 1948, performing tunes of peace. Just seven years later, McCarthyism caught up with Seeger. The singer refused to testify. After years of legal wrangling, Seeger was convicted of contempt in 1961. A year later that conviction was overturned on a technicality.

For years, Seeger was blacklisted and banned from performing in schools and concert venues. He refused to be silent, writing and demonstrating whenever he could.

He was the inspiration for many folksinging giants, including Joan Baez who said of Seeger: "We all owe our careers to Pete Seeger." and Peter, Paul, and Mary who made famous Seeger's If I Had a Hammer. Other long-enduring Seeger classics are Where Have All the Flowers Gone and Turn! Turn! Turn!.

In 1994, the National Endowment of the Arts bestowed on Seeger the National Medal of Arts. In 1996, he won his first Grammy and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Twelve years later, he won his second Grammy. And just one year later, in a stunning moment of political validation, he performed at a celebratory concert in Washington, D.C. two days before President Barack Obama's first inauguration.

Seeger stayed politically active until the end of his life. In 2011, he marched in New York City with the Occupy Movement. He performed in last year's FarmAid concert and, as a lifelong environmentalist, this past November he asked Russian President Vladimir Putin to release the Arctic 30 who were granted their freedom the following month.

In 2012, Seeger published Pete Seeger: In His Own Words.

Seeger, who was 94, died of natural causes.

Pete Seeger is no stranger to area music lovers. He made several trips to perform here. His benefit concert for the Ark is fondly remembered. Check out these Old News articles on this beloved muscian.

Oscar nods to films based on books


This year's Academy Award nominations include 5 out of 9 best pictures that are based on books, all of them non-fiction.

Have a read while you await the award show on March 2 (and don't miss AADL's Academy Awards Preview on Wednesday, February 26 at 7 pm at the Downtown Library).

12 years a slave based on the book by Solomon Northrup
American Hustle based on the book, the Sting Man: inside Abscam
Captain Phillips based on the book, A Captain's Duty by Richard Phillips
Wolf of Wall Street based on the book of the same name by Jordan Belfort
Philomena based on the book Philomena : a mother, her son, and a fifty-year search by Martin Sixsmith

Other award nominated movies based on books include:
Inside Llewelyn Davis based on the book Mayor of Macdougal Street : a memoir (nominated for cinematography & sound mixing)
Lone Survivor based on the book Lone survivor : the eyewitness account of Operation Redwing and the lost heroes of SEAL Team 10 (nominated for sound mixing)
Dirty Wars based on the book Dirty wars : the world is a battlefield (nominated for best documentary feature)

Lastly one play to film was nominated:
August: Osage County by Tracy Letts (Meryl Streep is nominated for best actress & Julia Roberts for best supporting actress)

20 Feet From Stardom

Last summer I boasted about the wonderful documentary, 20 Feet From Stardom, that my nephew, Jason Zeldes, edited. Today it was nominated for an Oscar. It's simply impossible to sit still when you hear these remarkable women sing!

Jon Stewart's movie based on this book


If you are a fan of the Daily Show, you probably know that host, Jon Stewart, has been in post-production on his movie directorial debut, Rosewater. But did you know that it is based on the book, Then they came for me : a family's story of love, captivity, and survival by Canadian-Iranian journalist Maziar Bahari ? It is a harrowing story of imprisonment for over 100 days in Iran's notorious Evin Prison and the brutal interrogation he endured. One of the most bizarre reasons he was imprisoned was for an 'interview' he had with Daily Show correspondent Jason Jones who was pretending to be a spy (Jones plays himself in the movie). The segment called Behind the Veil: Minarets of Menace can be found on the Daily Show's website here. According to Bahari's interrogators, this was proof he was making plans to overthrow their government. Bahari later stated that the captors knew it was satire but were looking for anything to keep him locked up. An excellent interview between Jones and Bahari after his release can be found here. Award winning Mexican actor, Gael Garcia Bernal will be portraying Bahari in the movie.

The Story Prize finalists have been announced

The Story Prize, now in its 10th year, announced their three finalists competing for the top prize which recognizes an "...author of an outstanding collection of short fiction..." published in the previous year.

This year's finalists are:

Andrea Barrett, for Archangel -- Ms. Barrett is no stranger to literary awards. She won the 1996 National Book Award for Ship Fever and Other Stories. The four stories in Archangel span two centuries and use science as a backdrop for the protagonists' efforts to make sense of a dangerous world.

Novelist Rebecca Lee (The City Is a Rising Tide (2006) got the nod for her first short story collection, Bobcat: & Other Stories, seven tales that examine the messy interiors of human relationships in all their chaotic permutations.

It is hard to find a critic who did not rave about George Saunders' Tenth of December. This, his his seventh collection of short stories, already has won the Pem/Malamud Award for Excellence. In these ten short pieces, Saunders writes beautifully about heroism, PTSD, and hope in the face of a devastating medical crisis.

There is already a Story Prize winner. For the second time in its history it has award The Story Prize Spotlight Award. This year's recipient is Ben Stroud, for his ten-entry collection of historical fiction short stories, Byzantium, for which he received $1000.

The winner, who will receive a $20,000 purse and an engraved bowl, will be announced Wedneday, March 5th at the New School's Auditorium in New York City.

Golden Globes 2014

Last night, amidst the glitz and glamour that is Hollywood at its most celebratory, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association hosted the 71st Golden Globe Awards which recognize the best that movies and television have to offer.

Hosted again by the popular duo Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, more than two dozen prizes were received with the usual mix of speeches that ran the gamut from eloquent to a stunned scrambling for coherence, from blink-and-you'll-miss-it brevity to gassiness that shouted over the 'stop, you're done' musical cues from the orchestra.

Among the winners were:

12 Years a Slave for Best Motion Picture, Drama -- based on the 1853 memoir of Solomon Northup who was born a freeman in New York and then captured and enslaved in New Orleans.

Best Actress in a Motion Picture, Drama went to Cate Blanchett for her mesmerizing portrayal of a New York socialite who has lost it all and is forced to move in with her working-poor sister in San Francisco in Blue Jasmine, directed by Woody Allen, who took heat last night from his family and foes via Twitter, when he accepted a Lifetime Achievement award later in the evening.

Amy Poehler got to switch roles when she captured the category of Best Actress in a TV Series, Musical or Comedy for her portrayal of Leslie Knope in the NBC hit series, Parks and Recreation.

Check out the complete list of winners here.

Best New Music At AADL

AADL is constantly adding to its diverse selection of new CDs. If you're seeking some great new tunes, consider the following must-hear material.

"The Electric Lady," Janelle Monae: The easiest way to categorize Janelle Monae's music would be "R&B," but the young singer-songwriter is far more versatile than that. As on her previous masterpiece, The Archandroid, she plays fast and loose with genres from funk to soul to rock to jazz...even a bit of baroque folk. Creating an android alter-ego for herself, she weaves bits of tongue-in-cheek sci-fi dialogue into the album, which plays like an hour of the funnest, funkiest radio you've ever heard. Featuring excellent guest artists from Prince to Erykah Badu. (Fun fact: if you haven't heard of Monae before, you've almost certainly heard her voice. She's featured on Fun's smash hit "We Are Young".)

"The Speed of Things," Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.: If you're seeking some locally-grown jams, look no further than the new record from Detroit indie-pop duo Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.. These guys seemed on the verge of major celebrity status with their previous record It's A Corporate World. While their latest isn't quite the big, radio-friendly push they need, it's still full of cheery, hooky, danceable tunes. (Just listen to "If You Didn't See Me (Then You Weren't On the Dancefloor)" and try NOT to spend the next hour humming that riff.)

"Dream River," Bill Callahan: Some may recognize Bill Callahan from his work under the name Smog, but he takes a more personal approach on this record, his fourth to be released under his own name. There's something fascinating, beautiful and a little spooky about Callahan's sparse, autumnal arrangements. You could describe the record's genre as "folk," but Callahan's whispery, often spoken lyrics are too unique to pin down to an established genre. Lie back and let Callahan's pensive lyrics and atmospheric arrangements wash over you.

Find more great new CDs here.

Amiri Baraka, playright, poet, and founder of the Black Arts Movement, has died

Amiri Baraka, controversial writer and founder of the Black Arts Movement in the 1960s and 70s, died yesterday in Newark, New Jersey.

Born Leroy Jones (he later changed the spelling to LeRoi Jones to honor the memory of Roi Ottley, an African American journalist), Baraka was a brilliant student who could not tolerate mainstream academia, becoming ever more political, especially after his brief stint in the Air Force.

His first play, Dutchman (and incendiary indictment on race relations at the time). was performed Off Off Broadway and won the 1964 Obie for Best American Play.

The assassination of Malcolm X further radicalized Baraka. He changed his name two more times, first to Imamu Ameer Bakarat and then to Amiri Baraka. He abandoned his white wife and children, founded the now-defunct Black Arts Repertory Theater, and was credited with starting the Black Arts Movement which jump-started the careers of such noteworthy authors as Nikki Giovanni, Eldridge Cleaver, and Gil-Scott Heron.

His volatile personality got him in trouble in 1979 when he assaulted his second wife, poet Amina Baraka. He was sentenced to 48 weekends in a halfway house and used that time to pen his autobiography, The Autobiography of LeRoi Jones (1984).

In 2002, he was named New Jersey Poet Laureate, a title that he held incident-free for just one month. When Baraka published Somebody Blew Up America, a furious poem about the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, with some strong anti-Semitic accusations, the governor of New Jersey demanded he resign his poet laureate post. Baraka refused so a year later the New Jersey legislature passed a law dissolving the position altogether.

Among the authors who recognized Mr. Baraka's influential, brilliant, provocative writings were Maya Angelou, Norman Mailer, and Allen Ginsberg who became a lifelong friend when they exchanged a brief correspondence written on toilet paper. He was the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. In 1989, he won the Langston Hughes Award.

Mr. Baraka, who suffered from diabetes, was 79.

Janet Dailey, romance novelist, has died

Janet Dailey, credited with revolutionizing formulaic romance novels in the late 1970s, died December 15th.

While traveling around the country with her husband in the 1970s, Ms. Dailey entertained herself reading the typical romance novel of the time -- European settings, submissive women, tame physicality. Determined to meet a challenge from her husband to do something about it, she published her first romance in 1974 that had caught the attention of Harlequin. In Ms. Dailey's world of love, the protagonists were American working women with a healthy libido. While many of her more than 100 novels were set out West, she did pen a 50-book series that covered each of the 50 states, a feat that earned her a nomination in the Guinness Book of World Records. Enemy in Camp, 1988, was her Michigan entry. It is now out of print.

Her career soared. Dailey love stories sold in the 100s of millions of copies; more than 20 of them made the New York Times Bestseller list.

Then in 1997, her reputation took a beating when Nora Roberts, another mega-successful romance writer, sued Ms. Dailey for plagiarism. Undeniable evidence was found in Dailey's novel, Notorious. among other titles. Citing family tragedies (two of her brothers died and her husband was diagnosed with cancer) and an undisclosed ailment, Dailey took a break to repair the damage after the case was settled out of court. Her publisher Harper Collins dropped Ms. Dailey. Once the dust settled, publishing house Kensington Publishing Corp. picked her up and she resumed writing once again.

Her last book, Merry Christmas, Cowboy (on order), came out in October and was #13 on the Publishers Weekly mass market bestseller list.

Ms. Dailey, who was 69, died of complications following heart surgery.

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