Singing legend Liza Minnelli was presented with the International Hero Award Thursday for her outstanding work for those living with HIV and AIDS. Minnelli arrived at the event with her husband David Gest, and accepted the honor in front of stars including the Osbournes, Brian May and Roger Taylor of Queen, Charlotte Church, actor John Mills and Garbage singer Shirley Manson. The presentation took place at London's Dorchester Hotel, at the 2nd annual UKC Hero Awards charity gala dinner. Minnelli was one of the first major celebrities to speak out publicly about the disease, and campaign for a cure. The star says she wanted to get involved with the cause as five of her friends died from the disease before it was even given a name. Minnelli accepted her award with a speech and an impromptu performance of "My Funny Valentine."
Urging blacks to step into "gatekeeper" roles, Spike Lee criticized Black Entertainment Television, saying it lacks serious entertainment and that rap music promotes ignorance. The director and producer of such films as "Do the Right Thing," "Malcolm X" and "25th Hour" spoke Thursday to a crowd of about 500 people, including students and Bermuda Premier Jennifer Smith. The lecture was sponsored by Bermuda College. "I was told BET was big here and I shook my head," Lee said, referring to the cable channel that billionaire Robert Johnson founded in 1980. "If you get everything from BET you are getting the wrong thing." Spokespeople for the channel were not immediately available for comment Friday. Lee, 45, said black films were often dumbed down or pigeonholed into comedies or gangster movies. Striving for decision-making positions in the media would give blacks more control, Lee told the mostly black audience.
It was a case of "now you see him, now you don't" Thursday evening when Carson Daly took in a performance of Baz Luhrmann's smash Broadway staging of "La Boheme." On his way out to stretch his legs at intermission, Daly's highly recognizable face caused a bit of a stir in the audience as he made his way up the aisle. But, later, on his way back in, he retreated like a turtle under the hood of his jacket until he was safely back in the first few rows of the orchestra section.
Some people celebrate their birthday with a cake. Alicia Keys celebrated with a plaque recognizing 10 million in sales of her debut disc, "Songs in A Minor." The five-time Grammy winner marked both milestones with a party hosted by her mentor, J Records founder Clive Davis. Though she turned 22 on Saturday, the crowd of well-wishers sang "Happy Birthday" to her Wednesday night as she received the plaque from Davis. With her long hair flowing from beneath a brown fedora, it appeared that Keys had taken out her signature braids. But when she removed the hat, the singer revealed the top of her hair still in cornrows. "They're always in there," she laughed. Keys is busy in the studio working on her sophomore album. "Everything is going to be from my heart, which is how it always is going to be," she told The Associated Press. "The basis of it is definitely going to be the same, but me as an evolving person, it's always going to be new and different because I'm new and different."
Prominent critics like Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times and Stephen Holden of The New York Times are quoted in ads for the movie "Antwone Fisher." But some recent ads show that political and social leaders also give it a "thumbs-up." NAACP President Kweisi Mfume calls the movie, based on the true story of a sailor who overcame a difficult childhood in foster care, "gripping, riveting and forceful." And Martin Luther King III says: "'Antwone Fisher' has the potential to be one of the greatest films of this era." Fox Searchlight marketing head Nancy Utley acknowledges the ads are an attempt at catching the attention of Academy Award voters; they're scheduled to stop running as of Friday now that the Wednesday deadline for Oscar ballots has passed. Utley said the company hopes for nominations for best picture, best actor (Derek Luke) and best director (Denzel Washington). Utley said the campaign was modeled after an approach Miramax has taken during awards season with ads for such movies as 2000's "Chocolat," which highlighted its theme of tolerance.
Those little Hot Wheels cars are cruising to a theater near you. Sony's Columbia Pictures has optioned the rights to make a movie based on Hot Wheels, Mattel's line of sleek toy cars, the studio and toy maker said Thursday. McG, the filmmaker behind "Charlie's Angels" and its sequel that is due in theaters in June, will direct "Hot Wheels." The studio has not yet selected a screenwriter for "Hot Wheels," and no shooting date has been set. The miniature Hot Wheels cars and track sets were introduced in 1968, and Mattel estimates that 41 million adults grew up playing with the toys. McG said he plans a film with "all the warmth and humanity of your favorite James Dean movie with the state-of-the-art visual effects and the hottest collection of automobiles ever brought to the screen." Speedy cars have been hot on screen lately with the street-racing hit "The Fast and the Furious" and its upcoming sequel.
Court officials granted a request by prosecutors to subpoena Aretha Franklin to get information about her home that was destroyed by arson. The Oakland County prosecutor's office wants the singer and three other people to testify, prosecutor David Gorcyca said Thursday. Prosecutors declined to reveal the exact contents of the petition for the subpoenas, saying it was confidential under law. Since the Oct. 25 fire, investigators say they've tried five times to interview Franklin. "Offers by Ms. Franklin's lawyer to answer questions on her behalf are unacceptable," Gorcyca said. "As we have repeatedly stated in the past, we need to definitively establish what facts Ms. Franklin possesses about this case, and not what her lawyer wishes us to know." Franklin's attorney, Elbert Hatchett, said his client wants to clear up the matter and has only declined to talk to authorities because he has advised her to. He said he advised her to not talk to officials because they could try to implicate her in the crime. The prosecutor's office has repeatedly said Franklin is not a suspect in the crime. Franklin, 60, was on tour in Houston when fire swept through the 10,000-square-foot home in Bloomfield Township. An investigation determined that an accelerant was used to start the fire in three spots on the first floor of the $1.6 million home.
An MTV show is causing people to go hungry in India. About 150 lawmakers and political activists are fasting in protest of "Clone High, USA." They say the show mocks Mohandas Gandhi. The show has never aired in India, but a newspaper report about it has upset people who revere the late independence leader. The show has a character -- G-Man -- who is a fictional Gandhi clone. But this Gandhi wears dangly earrings, eats junk food and is a party animal. MTV India says it doesn't plan to air the show. The Indian Express quotes a supporter of Gandhi saying, "such pygmies who try to ridicule him will only fail."
Laurence Fishburne ("The Matrix") and Derek Luke ("Antwone Fisher") get to grips with oil, revs and races in the new drama "Biker Boyz." They share the screen with an impressive cast including Lisa Bonet ("High Fidelity") Orlando Jones ("Evolution") and Pamela Anderson's rap-rocker boyfriend Kid Rock. The film is described as a contemporary Western on wheels, and follows tensions between members of a variety of underground motorcycle clubs in southern California. The actors are quick to point out they are not portraying biker gangs - but instead clubs largely made up of lawyers and city workers, who take to the streets in their leathers to race by night. The cast was split into those who could already ride a bike - including experienced bikers Kid Rock, Orlando Jones and Laurence Fishburne; those who could not - like Lisa Bonet; and those who had limited experience - like Derek Luke. Those who needed extra tuition were sent on a biker "boot camp" for a crash course in how to look convincing. And anyone who still needed tips on how to act like a real motorcycle club member had plenty of help on set, from the crowds of real riders being filmed as extras.