Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina
by Misty Copeland
Book Review by Kam Williams
286 pages, illustrated
“As the only African-American soloist dancing with the prestigious American Ballet Theatre, Misty Copeland has made history. But when she first placed her hands on the barre at an after-school community center, no one expected the undersized, anxious thirteen year-old to become a groundbreaking ballerina.
When she discovered ballet, Misty was living in a shabby motel room, struggling with her five siblings for a place to sleep on the floor. A true prodigy, she was dancing en pointe within three months of taking her first dance class, and performing professionally in just over a year: a feat unheard of for any classical dancer.
From behind the scenes at her first auditions to her triumphant roles in some of the most iconic ballets… Misty opens a window into the life of a professional ballerina… Life in Motion is a story of passion and grace for anyone who has dared to dream of a different life.
-- Excerpted from the inside book jacket
Who would ever have guessed Misty Copeland would one day become a world-class ballerina with the prestigious American Ballet Theatre? After all, she had a rocky childhood as one of six kids born to a struggling mother and several different fathers.
Plus, Misty and her siblings were raised in a rough L.A. ‘hood ruled by the Crips where you had to be careful to wear the right colors, not the sort of upscale locale one ordinarily associates with ballet. Furthermore, Misty couldn’t afford any lessons, let alone accoutrements such as shoes which alone can cost as much as $80 a pair. Then there was the fact that she was African-American and didn’t start training until the age of 13 when she enrolled in a class being offered by her local Boys and Girls Club.
Nevertheless, Misty miraculously managed to leap over or, should I say pirouette past, all of those hurdles in pursuit of a career in ballet as a featured soloist. And, ala Tiger Woods in golf and the Williams sisters in tennis, she’s blossomed into a black rarity excelling in a field where being white and from a privileged background are ordinarily prerequisites just to have a shot at making it.
Upon arriving in New York City at 16, Misty found herself ostracized by fellow ballerinas in the company on account of her color. Thus, it only makes sense that “This is for the little brown girls” might be an inspirational refrain repeated intermittently throughout her moving memoir.
A poignant primer proving the power of perseverance in the face of adversity.
To order a copy of Life in Motion, visit:
Film Review by Kam Williams
Boy Wonder Befriends Late Bloomer in Odd Couple Comedy
On the drive with his mother (Parker Posey) to his new school, precocious Eli Pettifog (Alex Wolff) is fretting about fitting-in with his classmates. After all, it’s not the 13 year-old’s first day of high school, but rather of college.
The clown-haired boy genius is entering Whittman College, an elite institution catering to students not quite bright enough for the Ivy League. Eli had hoped to attend Harvard, and is still bitter that he had to settle for his safety school.
Upon moving into the dorm, he makes the acquaintance of Leo Searly (Brendan Fraser), a fellow freshman living across the hall. Long in the tooth Leo is 41, and has belatedly matriculated less to crack the books than to recapture his fading youth.
Nevertheless, these two fish out of water forge a fast friendship as they make the awkward adjustment to campus life. Early on, we find the pair partying, with late bloomer Leo generally making a fool of himself while prepubescent Eli’s seduced by an attractive blonde (Elisabeth Hower) after being plied with alcohol.
The plot bifurcates and sobers a bit when Eli takes an interest in an eccentric townie (Julia Garner) his own age and Leo’s long-estranged daughter (Lizzy DeClement) shows up unexpectedly. But HairBrained is at its most inspired from the point Eli joins the trivia team representing his alma mater in the Collegiate Mastermind competition against other top schools like Stanford, Michigan and Princeton.
Not surprisingly, all roads lead to a big showdown with Harvard. Thus, the burning question becomes whether the pint-sized brainiac will be able prove the exclusive school made a mistake by sending him a rejection letter.
Far more quirky than it is comical, HairBrained is an uneven, unlikely-buddies flick that’s only funny in fits and starts. Think a poor man’s cross of Napoleon Dynamite (2004) and Old School (2003) where a coming-of-age tale merges with a midlife crisis.
Good (2 stars)
Rated PG-13 for sexuality, profanity, nudity, crude humor, and teen smoking, drug use and alcohol consumption
Running time: 97 minutes
Distributor: Vertical Entertainment
To see a trailer for Hair Brained, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YJicQHKB4p0
Film Review by Kam Williams
Psychological Thriller Traces Grief-Stricken Man’s Slow Descent into Insanity
Therapist Thomas Carter (Anthony Mackie) has just published a popular self-help book about the near death experience which helped him turn his life around. He is proud of the fact that after almost perishing in a horrific, alcohol-related car crash in his teens, he eventually not only earned graduate degrees in World Religion and Clinical Psychology but went on to wed his soul mate, Maggie (Sanaa Lathan).
Today, Tommy has a happy marriage and a flourishing practice founded on a spiritual philosophy combining faith and positive thinking. But sadly, his enviable fortunes have proven to be the polar opposite of his wayward brother Ben’s (Mike Epps) lot.
The recently-paroled ex-con was barely back on the streets before word of a $12,000 bounty being placed on his head spread around their native New Orleans. So, when Ben approaches his successful sibling for enough cash to keep his bloodthirsty adversaries at bay, empathetic Thomas opts to raise the ransom by extending the best-selling tome’s publicity tour.
At a local book signing, he is approached for an autograph by a fan also urgently in need of 1-on-1 counseling. Against his better judgment, the literary rock star agrees to see Angel Sanchez (Forest Whitaker) as a patient, since the $300/session fee definitely will put a dent in brother Ben’s debt.
Even worse is Dr. Carter’s fateful decision to make house calls to the home of this loner left devastated by the death of his mother (Adella Gautier). For, although it might be easy to diagnose the source of the deeply-disturbed man’s anguish, the only hint that he’s at the end of his emotional rope is his estrangement from his wife (Nicole Ari Parker) and young daughter (Ariana Neal).
The plot thickens when Angel takes his new shrink hostage, tying him up in his basement-turned-makeshift torture chamber. The psycho proceeds to behave sadistically while conveniently managing to keep up appearances for the sake of any visitors and passersby.
Directed by Philippe Caland (Ripple Effect), Repentance is a momentarily-intriguing psychological thriller that establishes a compelling premise only to morph into an otherworldly horror flick. Over the course of this rudderless adventure, Forest Whitaker ultimately finds himself abandoned by an implausible script.
The Silence of the Butler!
Fair (1.5 stars)
Rated R for profanity, violence and torture
Running time: 90 minutes
Studio: Code Black Films
Distributor: Lionsgate Films
To see a trailer for Repentance, visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iwBgGZIzliw
Rebecca Da Costa
“The Bag Man” Interview
with Kam Williams
From the Runway to the Red Carpet!
Born in Recife, Brazil, supermodel-turned-actress Rebecca Da Costa studied at the Rui Barbosa School where she pursued her love of theater by writing, directing and starring in a number of plays. At the age of 14, Rebecca was discovered during a model search, and she debuted at Milan Fashion Week a couple of years later en route to gracing runways all over the world for Giorgio Armani, Yves Saint Laurent, Escada and Hugo Boss, to name a few.
The statuesque beauty also became the face of campaigns for Chopard, Swarovski, Nokia and L'Oreal. However, a visit to Los Angeles prompted a permanent move to the States, where Rebecca decided to focus on her true passion, acting.
Her first lead role was in an indie film titled L.A. I Hate You, and her credits came to include a stint on HBO's "Entourage" as well as starring roles in Free Runner, Mine Games and 7 Below alongside Val Kilmer and Ving Rhames. More recently, she wrapped shooting the horror flick Breaking at the Edge with Milo Ventimiglia and Andie MacDowell in which she stars as a bi-polar, pregnant woman in fear for her unborn child's life.
Rebecca currently resides in Los Angeles where, in addition to her modeling and acting career, she devotes her time to such philanthropic efforts as Kids with Autism and Common Ground HIV. To relax, she enjoys dancing, cooking healthy, Brazilian dishes and regularly practicing Transcendental Meditation in order to maintain a healthy mind and body.
As a planetary citizen who has lived on several different continents, Rebecca is fluent in many languages, with Portuguese, Spanish, Italian and English among them. Here, the versatile thespian talks about staring as the femme fatale in the neo-noir thriller The Bag Man opposite Robert De Niro and John Cusack.
Kam Williams: Hi Rebecca, thanks for the interview.
Rebecca Da Costa: No problem, Kam.
KW: What interested you in The Bag Man?
RDC: When I went to audition for the film, they didn’t give me the whole script, but I liked my character Rivka’s dry sense of humor. She seemed so witty in the scenes I read. It seemed like a big challenge, and that was one of the first things that caught my attention.
KW: Were all the big names already attached to the picture at that point?
RDC: When I first got the phone call that I’d booked the job, I didn’t know that John [Cusack] and [Robert] De Niro were attached. But when they gave me the news, I was like “Oh my God!” It was too much for me. And Sticky Fingers, Crispin Glover and Dominic Purcell later joined the cast.
KW: How was it working opposite Cusack and a legend like De Niro?
RDC: It was a mind-blowing experience because I grew up watching those guys. To act opposite them was surreal. But at the same time, you naturally forget who they are after a few days since you’re so focused on getting each scene right. You couldn’t concentrate if you let yourself think, “That’s Robert De Niro.” Still, he was amazing to watch. It was the best acting class I ever had.
KW: I know you like writing and directing. What sort of project might interest you in that regard?
RDC: I’d like to direct children’s movies in ten years or so, because I love everything connected to their universe. But that’s a long-range plan because, right now, I’m just focusing on my acting career.
KW: The Harriet Pakula-Teweles question: With so many classic films being redone, is there a remake you'd like to star in?
RDC: I’d love to do a musical, because I love singing and dancing.
KW: You’ve taken a very circuitous route from Brazil to Hollywood. You were discovered in you mid-teens, and moved to Milan as a model, right?
RDC: Yes, I lived in Europe for seven years, in Italy… France… Germany… Austria… Everywhere! Then I moved to New York to work as a model, but I also started taking acting classes. Right after that I moved to L.A. and my career really started to take off.
KW: Are you tempted to move back to Brazil? It’s hot right now, between the World Cup and the next Summer Olympics.
RDC: I love my country, and I go back to visit my family four or five times a year, even though it’s a very long trip. I’ll definitely be going back for the World Cup, because I’m a very big soccer fan. And I hope to attend the Olympics, too. In my dream world, I’d like to live in both New York and Brazil.
KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
RDC: That’s such a good question. Let me think… I can’t think of one right now.
KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?
RDC: I do this fish dish in the oven with vegetables and brown rice that’s very easy and very healthy and very nice. It only takes about a half-hour to make. I also like to cook and to eat black beans, rice and meat, a traditional Brazilian dish. It’s very similar to a Cuban and Mexican food. That’s what Brazilians have for lunch every single day. It may sound boring, but it’s really, really delicious. [Chuckles]
KW: The Uduak Oduok question: Who is your favorite clothes designer?
RDC: I will go with Dolce & Gabbana because it just dresses my body-type beautifully.
KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?
RDC: That my career was going so well that I could live on a desert island. That way, I could shoot a movie, and then hide on my private island. [Giggles] I love my privacy so much that I closed my Facebook account for years. I just reopened it a few months ago at the suggestion of my publicist. But I prefer to be private and even unavailable at times. I’d rather not even turn on my computer sometimes. The world we live in right now, everybody can know where you are in a second.
KW: Why an island?
RDC: I love the beach and the ocean! I’m very spiritual, and that’s where I feel very connected to a higher power.
KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
RDC: Oh, wow! It depends. Today, when I look in the mirror, I see somebody who’s very tired because, for the past few days I’ve just been so busy. From the minute I wake up until the minute I go to sleep, I have so many things to do. But it varies. Sometimes, I look in the mirror and I feel sad. Other times, I feel proud, because I was a very active child with so many dreams that I’m living now. But when I’m down or having doubts, I look in the mirror and ask myself, “What would 10 year-old Rebecca do, if she were facing this trouble?” That really helps me.
KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?
RDC: Oh God, that’s so deep. I can remember playing with classmates at a school playground at around 4 years of age.
KW: The Mike Pittman question: What was your best career decision?
RDC: My best career decision was to move to L.A. I went there to visit a friend, and decided to move there. I remember praying about it to get some guidance. I’m not religious but, as I mentioned before, I am very spiritual. I like to pray to God for guidance. I think it helps me. I remember very clearly being back in Manhattan three days later when I got the phone call that somebody was interested in renting my apartment. I felt so happy as I strolled through Central Park listening to music because I knew I was now free to move. And, from there, everything started happening in my life.
KW: The Melissa Harris-Perry question:How did your first big heartbreak impact who you are as a person?
RDC: It impacted me very much. I think it might have been what made me turn to acting. My first big heartbreak was with my father. As the oldest daughter, I was very attached to him. Unfortunately, my mother divorced him, and he wasn’t a part of my life anymore, by his choice, of course. That influenced who I am today, including the roles I choose.
KW: What is your guiltiest pleasure?
RDC: I love watching Brazilian soap operas. [LOL]
KW: The Jamie Foxx question: If you only had 24 hours to live, how would you spend the time?
RDC: Funny you should ask, because just the other day I dreamed that the world was collapsing, and the first thing that came to my mind was: Where’s my mother? I would take a plane to be close to my family.
KW: The Viola Davis question: What’s the biggest difference between who you are at home as opposed to the person we see on the runway or on the red carpet?
RDC: On the red carpet, you’re pretty much posing playing a role and answering very generic questions. But in real life, I’m very open and anybody who takes the time to get to know me is going to see that I’m very easygoing, and that I’m a homebody who loves cooking, and relaxing with family and friends. Perhaps people might not sense that from seeing me on the red carpet.
KW: The Anthony Anderson question: If you could have a superpower, which one would you choose?
RDC: To be invisible. [Laughs]
KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
RDC: I think you really need to ask yourself if it’s really what you want for your life. And if you decide it’s what you want to do, then focus on it and go for it with 100% of your power. Believe me, I’ve been very lucky, but I still face obstacles every day. I’m acting in English which is not my first language. So, it’s hard. But you have to have that conviction in your heart that this was what you were born to do, and just keep going. Don’t stop!
KW: Attorney Bernadette Beekman asks: What is your favorite charity? I know you’re already doing great work with Kids with Autism and Common Ground HIV.
RDC: The HIV cause is very close to my heart, first of all because I had a cousin with AIDS who passed away a few years ago. Also, I think it’s so unfair that people who are HIV+ are still stigmatized. Come on! We need to support them. And I want to get more involved with children’s charities that touch me.
KW: The Tavis Smiley question: How do you want to be remembered?
RDC: I like that question. More than anything, I want to be remembered as a good person who had a great deal of dignity, and also as an actress who was really hard working and who believed in her dreams.
KW: Thanks again for the time, Rebecca, and best of luck with the film.
RDC: Thanks Kam, this has been an entertaining interview, because it allowed me to show a side of myself that I don’t think people have seen before.
To see a trailer for The Bag Man, visit:
The Envelope Please:
Who Will Win, Who Deserves to Win, Who Was Snubbed
by Kam Williams
12 Years a Slave is benefiting from the most Best Picture buzz as we approach Oscar night, although this is shaping up as one of those rare years when the award for Best Director will probably go to a different film, Gravity. Look for 12 Years to net only a trio of statuettes overall, with Gravity likely landing seven.
12 Years a Slave is the sort of elaborate historical drama the voters just love to recognize, as reflected in such past picks as The King’s Speech, Gladiator, Shakespeare in Love, Titanic, The English Patient, Schindler’s List, Driving Miss Daisy, The Last Emperor, Amadeus and Out of Africa, to name a few. And since the Anglophilic Academy ostensibly is impressed by English accents, it will also help that 12 Years is a British production.
Besides forecasting the winners, I also suggest which nominees in each category is actually the most deserving. Furthermore, because some great performances are invariably overlooked by the Academy entirely, I also point out some who should’ve at least been nominated.
The 86th Academy Awards will air live on ABC this Sunday, March 2nd at 8:30 PM ET/5:30 PM PT, and will be hosted by Ellen DeGeneres.
Will Win: 12 Years a Slave
Deserves to Win: 12 Years a Slave
Overlooked: The Butler
Will Win: Alphonso Cuaron (Gravity)
Deserves to Win: Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave)
Overlooked: Lee Daniels (The Butler)
Will Win: Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)
Deserves to Win: Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave)
Overlooked: Forest Whitaker (The Butler)
Will Win: Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
Deserves to Win: Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
Overlooked: Sharni Vinson (You’re Next)
Best Supporting Actor
Will Win: Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)
Deserves to Win: Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)
Overlooked: Harrison Ford (42)
Best Supporting Actress
Will Win: Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave)
Deserves to Win: Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave)
Overlooked: Maria Bello (Prisoners)
Best Original Screenplay:
Will Win: Spike Jonze (Her)
Deserves to Win: David O. Russell and Eric Warren Singer (American Hustle)
Overlooked: Aaron Guzikowski (Prisoners)
Best Adapted Screenplay:
Will Win: John Ridley (12 Years a Slave)
Deserves to Win: John Ridley (12 Years a Slave)
Overlooked: Danny Strong (The Butler)
Predictions for Secondary Categories
Animated Feature: Frozen
Foreign Language Film: The Great Beauty (Italy)
Documentary Feature: 20 Feet from Stardom
Costume Design: The Great Gatsby
Production Design: The Great Gatsby
Film Editing: Gravity
Makeup and Hairstyling: Dallas Buyers Club
Original Score: Gravity
Best Song: Let It Go (Frozen)
Sound Editing: Gravity
Sound Mixing: Gravity
Visual Effects: Gravity