Category Archives: Men in the Arts

Barack Obama’s Official Portrait Artist

Kehinde Wiley, based in New York City, is a portrait painter known for his highly naturalistic large-scale paintings of African-Americans. He was personally chosen by Barack Obama to paint his official presidential portrait which, along with one painted of Michelle Obama by a different artist, was unveiled on Monday, February 12, 2018, in a ceremony held at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.

The portraits were well received as were the remarks given by the Obamas and the artists, especially when Barack thanked his wife’s artist for capturing the grace, beauty, intelligence, charm, and hotness of the woman he loves.

There are many subtle touches in the painting of Barack, with one of the interesting ones being the scattered flowers in the background of a beautiful lush green leaf wall that mirror his ancestral and personal past as well as a nod to nature and the Hawaiian spiritual connection with all living things. Those include jasmine representing his Hawaiian roots, blue lilies for the homeland of his father in Kenya, and chrysanthemums as the official Chicago flower representing his political career there and where he also met Michelle.

Born in 1977 and growing up in South Central Los Angeles before his move to Harlem, Kehinde’s later education included the San Francisco Art Institute and the Yale School of Art. He has a number of renowned paintings including “Napoleon Leading the Army Over the Alps” and his newest 72-by-60-inch “Portrait of Simon George II”. The latter was purchased by the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento for its exhibit to honor Black History Month, “Hopes Springing High: Gifts of Art by African American Artists,” set to open on Sunday, February 18. The Crocker, as the gallery is nicknamed, is a California Historical Landmark and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Dr. Octagon is Back After 14 Years

After 14 years, Dr. Octagon is back. Dr. Octagon, the alter ego/persona of rapper Kool Keith has released the first track from his new album. The entire album, titled ‘Moosebumps: An Exploration into Modern Day Horripilation’, will be released on April 6th.

The released track, ‘Octagon Octagon’ fittingly opens with a series of headlines trumpeting Dr. Octagon’s return, after which Kool Keith details a list of Dr. Octagon’s various surreal branding concepts, spanning from cosmetic surgery to draperies to household pets. It’s a return to the familiar absurdist style the Dr. Octagon character was known for when Kool Keith introduced him more than two decades previous.

The new album features a collaboration between Kool Keith and his former partners DJ Qbert and Dan the Automator, the team responsible for his 1996 album ‘Dr. Octagonecologyst’. The 1996 album was mostly recorded over a 24 hour period, though this new one likely took a little longer to create.

Kool Keith put out another Dr. Octagon album in 2002, though its released ended up being delayed for a couple of years by legal issues, finally coming out in 2004. That was the last album created by the Dr. Octagon persona, though not the last Kool Keith created between then and now.

This new album follows a period of increased prominence for the Dr. Octagon character over the past year. First, Kool Keith reissued the original ‘Dr. Octagonecologyst’ album on vinyl, featuring a handful of previously unreleased tracks. Additionally, Kool Keith, DJ Qbert and Dan the Automator joined up to perform the first live shows Dr. Octagon had ever performed.

In the 21 years since the release of his first Dr. Octagon album and the resurgence of the character, Kool Keith has released 14 albums not counting this newest one, many under a variety of other personas and characters. The veteran Bronx-based rapper is known for a complex internal rhyme scheme and surreal and bizarre lyrics.

Dwayne Johnson Goes on a ‘Rampage’, Preps for BIG 2018.

We are at the point in our lives where Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson is the most bankable action star in the world. Johnson has worked his way up the Hollywood ladder through physical prowess, hard work, and endless charisma to become one of the biggest acting stars on the planet. Only, calling Johnson an acting star seems like an insult to Johnson and to the craft. He’s an entertainer at heart and fans flock to everything that he is doing, including the newly released ‘Rampage’ trailer. While fans prep for the release of the monster-action flick, Johnson has kept busy behind the scenes by getting yet another one of his projects sold — this time to Universal.

Johnson’s most recent film to be picked up is called ‘Red Notice’. The film is described as an action-comedy with a heist twist and it is written by a long-time collaborator, Rawson Marshall Thurber (Skyscraper, Central Intelligence). What makes this project particularly interesting is that it will be the first time that Johnson will get at least $20 million upfront to perform in the project. ‘Red Notice’ had to go through a bidding war which saw Warner Bros, Paramount and Sony Pictures all fall short to Universal. After the success that Johnson had with ‘Jumanji’, we can bet that Universal was happy to win that bidding war.

The slugline that was released to the press just mentions Interpol seeking a person ‘wanted for extradition’. We don’t know much about the film at this point, outside of the information mentioned above, but we do know that it will probably be yet another feather in DJ’s already filled-to-the-brim cap. We also can probably count on the film being relatively straight forward and bereft of any kind of big controversy. Johnson has established himself as a relatively family-friendly superstar who aims to make films with a broad appeal not just here at home, but abroad.

Is Ben Affleck’s Batman on the Way Out of the DCEU?

The superhero movie rumor mill swirls. Things don’t seem all that positive for those who enjoy seeing Ben Affleck in the role of the Caped Crusader. Reportedly, Affleck may not be playing Batman in future DC Extended Universe films. Nothing is confirmed right now. So, Affleck is still officially Batman. Based on rumors, Affleck isn’t being fired from the role. Instead, he’s pondering leaving due to creative differences and unhappiness.

Two major issues that bother Affleck involve the problems surrounding The Batman solo film and the reception for Justice League. Affleck has departed The Batman after unhappiness over Warner Bros. attempting to rush the film into production. The box office failure of Justice League combined with the film’s critical drubbing further disillusioned Affleck. Likely, the overall uneven nature of the DCEU doesn’t give the actor much to be enthusiastic about.

Of course, all these rumors could turn out to be overstated. Affleck may eventually agree to appear as Batman in a number of future films. No one really knows what the whole story is right now. Granted, few would be shocked to discover the rumors turn out to be true and Afflect departs the role. His tenure as Batman hasn’t exactly been all that positive. Every film in which he appeared as Batman received horrible critical reviews. The problems cannot be dropped totally on the shoulders of Affleck, though.

Affleck’s departure could prove either helpful or disastrous to Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment. If Affleck were to leave, the production companies gain the potential to revamp and revitalize the classic superhero. Reversing the downward momentum the character currently experiences wouldn’t be a bad thing. The public’s perceptions of Affleck’s departure, however, could be very bad. Impressions of the DCEU may worsen from the negative publicity deriving from admitting Affleck’s tenure was a failure.

George R. R. Martin Is In No Hurry, Because Of Course He Isn’t

George R. R. Martin has become as famous for keeping his fans in unbearable suspense as for creating the universe of Game of Thrones. As fans wail that the popular GoT series won’t return to HBO until 2019 (NOT fair), the pitchforks and torches turn to Martin himself, demanding the next book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series.

Despite hints that the new volume would be available in 2018, the release of The Winds of Winter has been delayed yet again, as Martin informed fans on his blog. The good news is that there is an acceptable reason for the delay: Martin revealed that he is working on a history of the Targaryen family entitled Fire And Blood.

Fire And Blood will be released in two volumes. As of now, Martin plans to release Winds of Winter between the two Fire and Blood books. This news is of particular interest to those who are caught up enough to know of the peculiar romance between Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen, which culminated at the end of Season 8 of GoT. Perhaps Fire And Blood will give us more exploration of that relationship, and put to rest any stray theories about Jon’s heritage.

The series has overtaken the books by two seasons, with the two-year-old Season 6 being loosely based on Winds. The common question now is, is the television series based on the books, or vice versa?

Fan theories about the impending doom of the Seven Kingdoms are cropping up all over the Internet, but only one man has the answers we seek.

Dear George, please give us Winds of Winter and put us out of our misery!

John Oliver Ready to Get Back to Work on Last Week Tonight

On HBO’s Last Week Tonight, the flexibility when it comes to addressing content on the show is something that the show’s host, comedian John Oliver, is cognizant of as he gets ready to begin the program’s fifth season. He’s aware that the business model of the network, which is reliant on its subscribers and not sponsors, is one that trips up many other shows that attempt to tackle tough topics.

The British-born Oliver was hired to host the show in the wake of rave reviews as Jon Stewart’s temporary substitute on The Daily Show back in 2014. Last Week Tonight is similar in that actual news is dissected through a humorous prism. The difference is that Oliver’s current show takes up much of its weekly program with a single topic, as opposed to the three different segments of The Daily Show.

The 13 months that President Donald Trump has been in office might have conceivably offered weekly content to mine, yet Oliver and his staff only periodically delve into administration-based stories. Instead, a deeper look at unheralded stories that get very little attention from either over-the-air news staffs or the three cable news outlets is provided. Many of these might ordinarily be seen as dry stories without the humor component.

One of the key reasons that this approach is taken is that attempting to cover stories once a week when talk show hosts and other comedy programs do it on a night basis runs the risk of offering stale content.

Given the fact that the show is on HBO also allows Oliver to be unburdened when it comes to language, since the network isn’t under the same restrictions as most other competitors. What ends up being delivered by Oliver is often biting in nature and occasionally causes the intended target to angrily dispute the claims made. However, being a comedian means that a show that lacks humor will return John Oliver to the standup circuit.

Andreas Gursky Photography Show at Hayward Requires a Crane

Many artists create pictures that deserve sufficient space on gallery walls, but photographer Andreas Gursky takes space to a new extreme. The German photographer, born in 1955 and working in the arts since his college years, captures life on a large scale. His current show at the Hayward Gallery in London required a construction crane and the removal of ceiling tiles just to fit some of his photos.

Although some of his photos were moved by hand, the largest required a crane and careful handling. The most cumbersome photo measured approximately five meters long by two meters tall. The show coincides with the reopening of the Hayward Gallery at Southbank Centre. The gallery’s director Ralph Rugoff said Gursky was chosen for the innovation and new dialogue he brings to the artistic expression shared by photographers.

Gursky’s scope is grand, his subject matter frequently architectural, and his focus on elevated perspectives of sweeping landscapes of modern life. Some of the famous photos include Sixty Minute Spectrum, a unique view of the Hayward Gallery itself, 99 Cents, showing the interior stocked shelves of a huge Los Angeles dollar store, and Les Mées, a seemingly idyllic view of a French solar farm laid across rolling hills. Other subject matter includes an Amazon warehouse interior, a race car track in Bahrain, and world stock markets.

Also included is Rhine II, an image of grassy banks beside the rushing river. It holds the world record as the highest price photo ever sold at a price of $4.3 million. Part of the exhibit features art that strays from the only-photos work of earlier years. Andreas Gursky has adopted more high-tech methods of creation. Pictures like Review, which shows four decades of German Chancellors in a row, consist of digitally altered images instead of personally taken photos.

Tom Hanks Will Play Mister Rogers in Upcoming Biopic

TriStar Pictures has announced that it will be making a biopic, “You Are My Friend,” about Mister Rogers, the beloved host of the children’s show “Mister Roger’s Neighborhood,” which ran from 1968 to 2001. Tom Hanks will be playing Mister Rogers, and many people have already commented that they find the casting very appropriate.

Marielle Heller, who had directed 2015’s “Diary of a Teenage Girl,” will be helming the project. She will be using a script penned by Noah Harpster and Micah Fitzerman-Blue. The film will be inspired by the friendship between Rogers and Tom Junod, an award-winning journalist. In it, the Junod character is portrayed as a cynic who is initially reluctant to write an article profiling Rogers.

Fred Rogers (1928 – 2003) was a native of Latrobe, Pennsylvania. Early on, he believed television could be used to educate children. At first, he worked on musical programs for NBC until he concluded that commercial television’s dependence on advertising reduced its ability to truly educate children. He thus went to work for public television as a puppeteer on a children’s show called “The Children’s Corner.” Some of his characters, like King Friday XIII, debuted on this program. Rogers also began wearing his famous tennis shoes simply because they made less noise on the set.

Rogers spent a few years living and working in Toronto during the mid-60s, but he soon returned to Pennsylvania. He began working for the Eastern Educational Television Network, which eventually became American Public Television. In 1968, “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” premiered. It incorporated characters and sets from some of his earlier works, and it became known for its gentle and slow pace. Rogers disliked the fast pace and animation of other children’s programs and called them “bombardment. He also refused to adopt a persona radically different from his true personality, saying that children could easily spot a phony. “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” won four Emmys, and Rogers himself received a Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997.

Rogers died from cancer in 2003, and he was survived by his wife and two children.

Production on the movie will start this fall.

Bruno Mars Wins Big at Grammys

Bruno Mars continued his dominance in the music industry by wining seven Grammy awards. His song, “That’s What I Like, won both Best R&B Song and Song Of The Year. His record, 24K Magic, won Album Of The Year, Record Of The Year, and Best R&B Album. He won an award for the Best R&B Performance for his rendition of the hit during the Premiere Ceremony, and he also won the Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical.

For the Album Of The Year, he beat out Lay-Z, Lorde, Kendrick Lamar, and Childish Gambino. This was his first win in the this category as a solo artist.

By winning the all three of the big categories – the Record, Album, and Song Of The Year – he entered a very exclusive club. No other male artist has won all three in the same year for the last 25 years. Eric Clapton was the last male performer to have swept those big awards.

During the 60th Grammy Awards, which was held in New York City on Sunday, Mars took the stage with Cardi B. The duo performed his song “Finesse,” wowing the crowd with not only their vocal power but their dance moves.

The singer-songwriter has had great success throughout his career. Born and raised in Honolulu, he’s been performing for practically his entire life. He has been part of several groups, including The Smeezingtons and The Hooligans, and he’s worked with numerous artists like Brody Brown, Mark Ronson, and Andrew Wyatt. He first Grammy was given to him for the Best Male Pop Vocal Performance for “Just the Way You Are” in 2011, and he now has a total of 11 Grammys under his belt.

Stephen Lang Muses About a Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos Film

Stephen Lang recently confirmed he will be returning to the screen in the upcoming sequel to the horror hit “Don’t Breathe.” Lang seems to also be angling to be cast in a Marvel Cinematic Universe motion picture. Lang has let it publicly be known he wants to play the original Nick Fury in a movie version of “Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos.”

No, Lang wouldn’t be replacing Samuel L. Jackson. Jackson plays the modern day S.H.I.E.L.D. version of Nick Fury. The Howling Commandos version of Nick Fury deals with adventures during World War II. In the comic books, the background of Nick Fury is a bit convoluted thanks to the existence of different Nick Fury characters existing in different universes. Universes meld together at times to address time and continuity issues. In the movies, however, none of this matters. They could simply explain both men have the same code name. Casting Lang as the Nick Fury of 1943 doesn’t require some lengthy or convoluted explanation.

Why is Lang pushing for a Sgt. Nick Fury WWII movie? “Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos” was one of Lang’s favorite books when he was a youngster. His personal affinity for the old comic acts as the root of his wish to play the character on screen.

Lang’s public commentary makes for interesting reading, but the odds of a WWII Nick Fury movie ever being produced seems a little slim. Marvel Studios does not have any plans for such a film even though the Howling Commandos do exist in the current MCU.

Keep in mind, the original Nick Fury comic was certainly not a superhero title. It was a “war comic.” DC, EC, Marvel and other publishers put out war titles during the 1940’s through the 1960’s. War book ceased to be popular in the 1970’s although a few titles were published from the 1970’s to the present. Marvel Studios probably prefers to stick with hero movies and books and leave combat tales to others.