Posted by Joy Bennett
Exhibits at the Annenberg Space for Photography
Last Wednesday afternoon we attended the Media Preview of the spectacular new exhibit at the Annenberg Space for Photography. ‘The Power of Photography’ exhibit celebrates the remarkable photography from National Geographic’s 125 years of existence. This exhibit, which is free to the public, is stunning. Beautiful and moving photos line the walls, and there are two short films shown about the making of the exhibit and the photographs and photographers involved, with many large screens throughout. Huge, well-displayed photos that are breathtaking in their composition and subjects are everywhere in the museum.
This is one of my favorite places to see, and I highly recommend a visit to the Photography Space soon. The exhibit just opened on October 26th and runs through April 27 of next year.
The Annenberg Space for Photography is dedicated to presenting photography in its best light, using state of the art technology, world-class photographers, and inspiring subjects. It is generously funded by the Annenberg Foundation, which “exists to advance public well-being through improved communication” (from the exhibit brochure). If you are photographer at any level as I am, just visiting and studying the photos in this museum will greatly improve your eye and your own photography.
One highlight of the afternoon for me was meeting David Guttenfelder, an award-winning Associated Press photographer. He is a remarkable photographer and a very nice fellow. Mr. Guttenfelder was at the Media Preview along with many of the other gifted photographers whose work is in the exhibit. He is one of the few news photographers ever to visit North Korea, and has visited that country 25 times. His work and dedication give us a rare look into this mysterious and fascinating country.
For more information, visit their website annenbergspaceforphotography.org, and even better, visit the exhibit itself soon. It is remarkable, not to be missed.
Note: For more photos, visit my writer's website joybennett.com. I have also just added more coverage and photos from the Hollywood Black Film Festival on my website, check it out.
11.28.13 at 5:18 am | Have a wonderful Hanukkah!
11.15.13 at 7:09 pm | The lovely and talented Annette Bening discusses. . .
11.4.13 at 1:30 pm | Horseracing at its Finest
11.2.13 at 7:11 am | Author Erica Jong visits Los Angeles
10.27.13 at 1:28 pm | A beautiful new exhibit at the Annenberg Space. . .
10.23.13 at 5:24 pm | A new book and a new publishing house!
October 23, 2013 | 5:24 pm
Posted by Joy Bennett
Author Charles Dennis (left) and cast of the reading of The Magiker,
October 22, 2013, Sportsmen's Lodge, Studio City, CA, photo by Joy Bennett
Yesterday I attended a wonderful book reading of The Magiker, a new novel by Charles Dennis. This is the latest novel from this prolific and successful author. But this was not just another book reading. The author and publishers arranged to have a top-notch crew of well-known actors stop in and lend their talents to make the book really come alive.
Bryan Cranston, of Breaking Bad fame, did a wonderful job reading the main character. Fred Melamed was in a supporting role, as was Richard Benjamin of Goodbye, Columbus fame. Other actors were all right on the mark, and it was a lovely and most enjoyable way to discover this book.
The reading was held at the Sportsmen’s Lodge in Studio City, and they also offered lovely food and beverages. Overall, a special treat in the middle of the workweek!
The Magiker is an intriguing novel about a socialite whose body seems to be inhabited by the soul of a young Jewish girl who died 100 years earlier. In looking it over and hearing it read, it sounds first rate. It is an engaging tale and the writing is clear and crisp, reminiscent of the great Jewish writers such as Saul Bellow and Philip Roth.
The author, Charles Dennis, also wrote Given the Crime, Given the Evidence, Shar-Li, The Dealmakers, This War is Closed Until Spring, and Bonfire, and he also played Sunad on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Mr. Dennis also wrote and directed the film, Hard Four, which starred Bryan Cranston, Ed Asner, Dabney Coleman, Ed Begley Jr. and others.
The Magiker was just recently published by Asahina & Wallace, a brand new publishing house run by Robert Wallace and Robert Asahina. Their purpose is to serve West Coast writers, an “underserved” area for publishing firms. They will consider writers from everywhere, however. I met them at the reading and they were kind, knowledgeable and clearly devoted to furthering the written word in our community and beyond.
For more information on the book or the publishers, visit the publisher’s website at asahinaandwallace.com, where you can also link to the book’s information at Amazon, etc. Note: There are more photos on the writer's website joybennett.com.
October 22, 2013 | 6:36 am
Posted by Joy Bennett
Author Michael Cunningham (center left) at Beverly Hills Literary Escape, Beverly Hils, CA, October 19, 2013, photo by Joy Bennett
Last weekend I had one of the most pleasurable literary experiences ever. I was invited to cover the Beverly Hills Literary Escape, put on by founder Julie Robinson and her associates of the Beverly Hills Literary Affairs group. This excellent organization strives to “promote great literature and foster a community of book lovers in Southern California … offering a full range of services tailored to the literary lifestyle, including book clubs, conversations with acclaimed authors in intimate locales, literary travel adventures, and an annual fall book festival. ... Reading books enriches our lives, makes us more human and helps us better understand and have compassion for the world we live in.” From the Literary Affairs website.
The event was held at the luxurious Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, a lovely and most comfortable setting.
Highlights from the weekend include: Tobias Wolff talking to us about his early writing influences, John Burnham Schwartz telling us how a novelist finds his or her writing project, (seemingly more of intuitive process than anything else); many of the authors noting how much work they throw out (surprisingly, a great deal of work often gets discarded!); Lauren Groff accepting the $5,000 Medici Book Club Prize for her outstanding novel, Arcadia; having a delicious lunch while chatting directly with the authors, and being able to talk one on one with the authors at the frequent book signings.
Despite the caliber of the authors in attendance, the atmosphere was not pretentious or stuffy. Indeed, everyone there was friendly and approachable, sharing their common interest in literature and how it impacts and uplifts our lives.
Several of the authors present have had their novels or memoirs turned into noteworthy feature films, including Tobias Wolff (This Boy’s Life), John Burnham Schwartz (Reservation Road), and Michael Cunningham (The Hours).
The food and desserts were most delicious, set in one of the most beautiful hotels in Southern California, the Beverly Wilshire.
Julie Robinson, the congenial and well-spoken founder and leader of Literary Affairs, has put on book events for 15 years, and has hosted these Literary Escape events she started since 2010. The group is supported by patrons and ticket sales, and is open to all.
The many wonderful events hosted by the organization are ongoing throughout the year. For more information about the group and tickets to their events, visit the website www.literaryaffairs.net.
Thank you all, especially to Julie Robinson and all the hardworking authors present, for a most enjoyable and educational weekend! I personally look forward to attending many more of this group’s outstanding literary events. For more photos visit the writer's website at joybennett.com.
October 16, 2013 | 11:37 am
Posted by Joy Bennett
Governor Jerry Brown Photo by Joy Bennett
Monday night I went to one of the most exciting events this writer has ever covered. It was the PEN Center USA’s Literary Awards Festival held at the Beverly Hills Hotel in Beverly Hills, CA on October 14, 2013. PEN Center USA’S mission is “to stimulate and maintain interest in the written word, to foster a vital literary culture, and to defend freedom of expression domestically and internationally.” (From the PEN Center Awards Festival booklet.)
This year the distinguished award-winners included: Joan Didion (Lifetime Achievement Award); Chris Hedges (the First Amendment Award); Sonia Nassery Cole (the Freedom to Write Award), Mark Boal, the screenwriter for Zero Dark Thirty, and several others. For a complete list and more information about PEN, visit penusa.org.
Unfortunately Ms. Didion was not able to appear, but in her place was none other than California State Governor Jerry Brown. He made a short, amusing and self-deprecating speech. He is quite charming, slender and bookishly handsome in person, and it was delightful to have him attend the dinner. Oliver Stone, the iconic movie director, was also in attendance, along with his son, and presented the award to Mr. Hedges. Mr. Stone made some pointed remarks during his speeches criticizing the government throttling the free press, and remarked, we have to fight “America’s War upon itself” and noted that “there is no free press, it’s worse than in the Bush Administration.”
The noted actors Angelica Houston, Harrison Ford, and Laura Dern were also in attendance to present awards, and all spoke eloquently about their shared cause for freedom of expression and to honor the award winners.
Another noteworthy speaker was the award for Freedom to Write winner Sonia Nassery Cole. She is an Afghanistan writer and filmmaker (indeed, there were protesters outside the hotel picketing her for non-payment of union labor costs from her recent film, The Black Tulip). This co
urageous woman recounted how she had been held at gunpoint “too many times to count,” yet she goes on fighting for freedom and liberty for her country. She said “she is proud to be an Afghanistan-American” and spoke eloquently and movingly about her cause.
All in all, a very exciting evening in an elegant setting, for a most worthy cause. For more information, visit PEN Center USA’s website penusa.org. You can also make a donation there to support their cause of literacy and freedom around the world as I just did, or become a member of their organization for a very reasonable fee. Note: More photos from the evening are on my writer's website joybennett.com.
October 12, 2013 | 1:28 am
Posted by Joy Bennett
This weekend, October 12 and 13, there's a terrific event going on in Ojai: the Ojai Studio Artists Tour 2013. They sent me the brochure, the quality of the artwork looks just outstanding, and Ojai is such a beautiful area! If you're free on this weekend, do check it out. This is a "unique opportunity to meet artists, develop relationships and expand collections in the glorious setting of the Ojai Valley," according to their brochure.
Tickets are very reasonable and some of the tours include lunch, depending on the plan you select, they have a few different options. For all the information, visit their website ojaistudioartists.org, and tell them Joy sent you!
A note about the writer: Joy is very pleased to say she now has an affiliation with a well-respected online film publication, IFQ Magazine to write movie reviews; and is now also helping a film distributor find movies to bring to market! All very exciting news, but rest assured, she will still faithfully write here, as well as on her own website joybennett.com. T
To read reviews on the film magazine website, visit ifqmagazine.com. If you want to find my reviews, search for Joy Bennett, but there are lots of great articles and reviews on there. And if you or someone you know happen to have a feature length film that needs distribution in your back pocket, by all means let me know, my email is email@example.com. Enjoy the weekend!
October 6, 2013 | 12:58 pm
Posted by Joy Bennett
Writer/Director Malcolm Lee and Festival Director Tanya Kersey at the Hollywood Black Film Festival,
October 3, 2013, Los Angeles, CA, photo by Joy Bennett
I am currently attending the excellent Hollywood Black Film Festival in Los Angeles, which is outstanding. The festival offers lots of great filmmakers, directors, panels, workshops, parties, and of course plenty of films both shorts and feature length, most of which are top notch. It’s known as the Black Sundance, and attracts the very top of the entertainment field. It is being held at the glamorous and very comfortable W Hotel in Hollywood, with screenings at the Ricardo Montalban Theatre just steps away. For more information on the film festival, visit HBFF.org, it’s still going on as of this writing and tickets are still available.
One outstanding speaker was Writer/Director Malcolm Lee on Thursday, October 3, 2013 at the W Hotel in Hollywood. Malcolm Lee is Spike Lee’s cousin, and is well-known for such films as Scary Movie, The Best Man, and the soon to be released The Best Man Holiday. Festival Director Tanya Kersey deftly moderated the conversation. Here are some of his pertinent and helpful remarks from an industry insider, edited for content.
Mr. Lee’s stated goal has been to make middle class black films, in an attempt to make Black Cinema go mainstream. Despite his track record, it’s still hard to do, he said. He said filmmakers should make a lot of films. Just keep working on projects. Keep refining your filmmaking skills, and find and refine your unique voice.
He encourages filmmakers to use social media such as Facebook, Twitter, etc. to get the word out and market their films, and get plenty of feedback and notes from different audiences. If notes or criticism is consistent, that may indicate you need to make a change, but the filmmaker always has final say of course.
Mr. Lee suggested you have actors do live readings for fundraising with studios and potential investors, etc. He mentioned he attracted heavyweight studio interest for one of his major films only when the cast did a reading for the studio executives. Malcolm works mostly in the studio system, where art and commerce go hand in hand.
Mr. Lee suggested you know exactly who your movie is for. “Know your audience,” he said. Malcolm says he’s a writer/director, and recognized his cousin, Spike Lee who helped him get a break. At one point, Spike basically told the studio executives that here is a good movie from Malcolm, and Malcolm is going to direct it or else there’s no deal.
Malcolm said he likes to have ‘friends and family screenings’ for feedback. He usually screens the movie for several different groups, and gathers notes or feedback from all, and then revises the film as he feels necessary. Mr. Lee said that although it’s a good year for African American movies, with the success of The Butler, etc., it is still very hard to produce and market feature films.
He talked about the studio screening rating system. He said studios have rating sheets for screening feedback. The top two boxes are very important: would you rate the film excellent or very good. One of his films rated 99% in the top two boxes, and 97% in the ‘would you definitely recommend to a friend category.” His films usually score very well in this system.
Lastly, he mentioned the difference between a film’s playability and marketability. These are two very different factors, and it’s important to know the difference, he said. Playability is how the film screens, do audiences enjoy it and can follow/believe the plot and premise. Marketability is how easy it will be to sell. Are there precedents for similar films, and how did they fare in the marketplace?
Thanks to Mr. Lee for sharing his insights into the challenging, and constantly changing film industry. For more information about the Hollywood Black Film Festival, visit hbff.org. It’s the final day today, but tickets are still available. It’s held in the heart of Hollywood, near Hollywood and Vine. One tip, if you do attend and are in the industry, bring your A game. Bring plenty of business cards, film postcards if you are shopping a film or short, and dress to impress. The folks here are playing at the top of their game, and you should too if you are trying to make it in this fascinating business.
October 2, 2013 | 4:05 pm
Posted by Joy Bennett
Placido Domingo and cast of Carmen, Los Angeles Music Center September 29, 2013, photos by Joy Bennett
If you only see one opera in your life, let it be Carmen. I am not personally a huge opera fan, yet I was beguiled by this opera originally from the Otto Preminger 1954 film Carmen Jones, starring Dorothy Dandridge. This was in English and also featured Pearl Bailey, and made this iconic story accessible for me. I was kindly given a press pass to the Carmen opera currently playing at the Music Center in Los Angeles and the opera was spectacular.
I arrived early to hear the excellent pre-performance talk by KUSC’s Alan Chapman, which was most interesting and informative. Prior to that, I enjoyed some lunch out on the plaza of the Music Center, which features a beautiful and moving “Peace” sculpture by Lipschitz.
Then we got settled in our seats. Mine was quite a good one, near the front on the right side. As soon as those thrilling and unforgettable melodies started playing in the beautiful music hall, I was hooked. From the costumes, to the lighting, to the sets and of course the outstanding musicianship of the orchestra and especially the virtuosity of the singers, it was all quite a moving experience. It was all highly enjoyable, despite the 3 l/2 hour length.
They do give you regular intermissions, however, make sure you zip right out and back again, or they can and do lock the door on you! I also found a reasonably priced parking lot across the street, $9 is much better than directly under the Music Center.
What made the day even more special was the conductor. Placido Domingo, of The Three Tenors fame, did a spirited and enthusiastic job leading the outstanding orchestra.
Mr. Chapman in the pre-opera talk said Carmen is one of the ABC Operas: Aida, La Boheme, and Carmen, the three most popular and well-known operas of all. And no wonder. All three deliver musical excitement to anyone who has ears. Carmen literally gave me chills, and I came home and promptly downloaded from iTunes the classic recording of Maria Callas playing the lead in Carmen. This is quite a different take than the arrangement we experienced Sunday, yet also wonderful.
Actress Cybill Shepherd after watching Carmen, Los Angeles Music Center, September 29, 2013
The icing on the cake was when I was walking back to my car, who should come out a side door but none other than the friendly and beautiful Cybill Shepherd! She was there to also enjoy the opera, and we had a lovely brief chat and I snapped her photo. The entire day was magical.
My thanks to the Los Angeles Opera Public Relations office for their hospitality, it was an afternoon I will not soon forget. For more information or tickets to this and the other fine performances at the LA Opera visit laopera.com or call 213 972-8001.
October 2, 2013 | 12:42 am
Posted by Joy Bennett
Handler and parrot at Los Angeles Zoo, September 28, 2013
Last Saturday a neighbor friend and I were happy to attend the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association's (GLAZA's) Sunset Safari event. We were treated to a visit of the zoo and saw lots of animals, had dinner, and there were also several bands with live musicians. We got to explore the zoo after hours and meet some of their staff, and I even met the very genial Zoo Director, John Lewis. This special and most enjoyable evening is a benefit of the zoo's SAFARI CLUB, an upper-level giving society of GLAZA, the zoo's support organization.
GLAZA (the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association) is a private, non-profit organization supporting the Los Angeles Zoo. GLAZA funds plant and animal exhibits, works on species conservation, capital projects, educational outreach, etc., and also has a huge volunteer corp of more than 800 individuals. For more information about the zoo or GLAZA, visit www.lazoo.org/support.
The evening featured delicious food, lots of live music, dancing, and the most wonderful chance to see various animals up close. Above is a picture of a beautiful parrot with his handler, the animals were very fun to photograph up close. If you would like to see more animal photos, visit my main website joybennett.com and look under the entry for October 2, 2013.
Make sure you take a trip out to the Zoo sometime soon, it's great fun and very educational for kids of all ages.