Category: 'Y' Written by Associated Press
BEST ACTRESS NOMINEE--The film Beasts of the Southern Wild actress Quvenzhané Wallis smiles in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, Feb. 13, attended by middle and high school students from the District of Columbia area and New Orleans taking part in an interactive student workshop with the cast and crew of the movie, hosted by first lady Michelle Obama. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
by Christy Lemire
AP Movie Writer
LOS ANGELES (AP) — "Beasts of the Southern Wild" star Quvenzhane Wallis is an actress of talent, poise and maturity well beyond her years.
She was only 5 years old when she auditioned and 6 when she played the part of Hushpuppy, a little girl of fierce strength and resourcefulness living with her daddy in a squalid slab of Louisiana swampland known as The Bathtub. She was just a regular kid from nearby Houma, La. — she'd never even acted before, and actually pretended to be a year older than she was to be considered.
Now, at only 9, Quvenzhane (Kuh-VAHN-zuh-nay) is the youngest-ever actress nominee at the Academy Awards. Altogether, "Beasts" has four nominations at the Feb. 24 ceremony, including best picture.
While her presence is undeniable, Quvenzhane's nomination raises the question: How young is too young to compete for an Oscar, the film industry's highest honor, which has eluded performers with decades more experience and acclaim? Is a child really capable of acting, with craft, or do these performances reflect uncanny instinct?
Director Benh Zeitlin doesn't think 9 is too young for such an honor. Zeitlin, who is up for a best-director Oscar himself with just his first feature, praised Quvenzhane for the incredible sense of self she displayed from the beginning. But he also recalled one day when she seemed to be struggling on set, and he took her aside to ask what was wrong.
"'I know. I can't snap it today. Normally I can snap it,'" he remembered her saying. "The fact that she had an internal sense of when she's in character, when she's getting the emotions right and feeling it, is really special even in experienced actors, but especially someone of her age to have that sort of self-awareness."
Justin Henry, who remains the youngest-ever Oscar nominee in any category for 1979's "Kramer vs. Kramer," said that in some ways it's a purer form of acting at this age.
Henry was just 6 years old and had never acted when a casting director came to his Rye, N.Y., school looking for someone to play Billy, the little boy at the center of Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep's custody battle. He was 7 when he shot the film and 8 when he was nominated for best supporting actor; he lost to 78-year-old Melvyn Douglas for "Being There." (Tatum O'Neal is still the youngest Oscar winner in any category; she was 10 when she earned the supporting-actress Oscar for 1973's "Paper Moon.")
A voting Academy member, Henry said he thought it was "awesome" to see Quvenzhane get nominated for the acclaimed Fox Searchlight indie drama, which he called the best movie of the year. Now 41 with a 7-year-old daughter of his own, he looks back at his own nomination and acknowledges: "I didn't even know what it meant. ... I just remember being nervous as hell about having to give a speech in front of 3,000 people."
"That's the great thing about acting: In some ways, it's a child's game," said Henry, who went on to play Molly Ringwald's wisecracking younger brother in the John Hughes classic "Sixteen Candles" and now specializes in web video distribution. "You're just pretending, so sometimes it's easy when you're a kid. You just kind of follow your instincts."
Tracy Tofte, who was only 11 when she was chosen to play daughter Heather Owens on the 1980s sitcom "Mr. Belvedere," agreed that she didn't understand the enormity of what she was doing. She'd started acting at 9 under the stage name Tracy Wells and booked 17 national commercials in her first year, including a Pepsi ad in which she danced with Michael Jackson.
"From the adults around me, I took off their energy that it was a big deal," Tofte, now a 42-year-old real estate agent in Santa Clarita, Calif., said of being cast in the series. "As an adult, I look back and I totally get it but as a kid, no. You're just, 'Wow, my mom and dad are happy and my agent's happy and this'll be fun.'"
Tofte hasn't seen "Beasts" but said of Quvenzhane: "I'm sure this young girl did a phenomenal job and deserves the nomination, but there are veteran actors and actresses who have never had those accolades and they've been working their craft and dealing with the ups and downs of this industry."
Intriguingly, Quvenzhane is up against the oldest-ever best actress nominee, 85-year-old French veteran Emmanuelle Riva of "Amour." Rounding out the field are Jessica Chastain for "Zero Dark Thirty," Jennifer Lawrence for "Silver Linings Playbook" and Naomi Watts for "The Impossible." The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences declined a request to comment on Quvenzhane's youth.
Thelma Adams, contributing editor at Yahoo! Movies and a longtime awards prognosticator, points out that Shirley Temple was already well on her way to a career by the time she was 6, the same year she earned an honorary juvenile Oscar.
"There was a lot of craft to what she was doing," Adams said. "With (Quvenzhane's) performance, it's kind of a life force. They've captured this wonderful little girl ... but it's not an acting performance."
"I've seen her at parties," added Adams, the mother of two teenagers who perform. "I know she can get up in her party dress and charm, but I also saw a little girl who'd rather be riding a pony at a kids' party. ... To have her nominated, it's not good for her, no matter how great she was in the movie — and she was terrific — but this red carpet thing is a grind."
But it's exactly that kind of passion that drives such extraordinary kids, said John West, headmaster at The Mirman School for highly gifted children in Los Angeles, whose alumni include actors Crispin Glover, Masi Oka ("Heroes") and David Dorfman ("The Ring" movies).
"I'm not sure they fathom the importance of the honor. They fathom the importance of the work they do — that's far more important," he said. "Any of our students who have been engaged in the arts don't do it because they're looking for approval or glory. They're doing it because the work itself in some unique way touches them in their own lives."
West has no problem with Quvenzhane's nomination: "People throw around all the time that someone is an old soul packaged in a very young body, and as cliched as that may be, it's true."
But Zeitlin said Quvenzhane was still very much a little kid on the set: "She would say things to me like, 'Benh, I'm only 6 years old, you need to use smaller words,' or 'I'm gonna get cranky sometimes.' She had this awareness almost like an observer of a child."
He also points out that Quvenzhane is nothing like the girl she played.
"Hushpuppy as a character is going through unbelievable circumstances. She's damaged, she's morose, she's contemplative, she's quiet, she has this great burden on her shoulders," Zeitlin said. "Quvenzhane Wallis is the most carefree, fun-loving, goofy, playful person you can imagine, and she had to put herself in that skin on a consistent basis."
Last Updated on Wednesday, 13 February 2013 20:03
Category: 'Y' Written by Genea Webb
YOUNG CARTOONIST—Dante King with some of his comic strip characters. (Photos by Erin Perry)
by Genea L. Webb
While most 14-year-old boys are enamored with video games and girls, Dante King loves drawing comic books and cartoons.
“I’ve been drawing since I could hold a pen or pencil,” said King, an eighth grade Shadyside Academy student, who resides in Plum. “I like creating the story, the characters and the places.”
To date, King has created approximately 80 comic book characters.
One of his comic book characters, Jet, appeared in a “Sonic” comic book last year.
“I reached out to the editor of the ‘Sonic’ comic book and told him about my son and his drawings,” said King’s father, Steven King. “He told me to send him some of Dante’s drawings and I did and one of them was chosen and appeared in the fan section of the comic book. I just wanted people to know that something good was going on here. I’m a proud parent and he’s really a special kid.”
King has created his own comic book series, “Amazing 8’s Amazing Adventures,” tells the tale of super heroes defending the world against evil.
“The characters are super heroes and super villains. I really enjoy drawing and creating the characters and the story,” King said. “I especially like the characters because they’re unique and I can make them who I want. It takes me a little while to think about how I want the good guys and the bad guys to do. Sometimes the bad guys fight among themselves because they are not always on the same team but eventually the good guys will always win.”
King gets inspiration from a lot of different places including his classmates.
“Some of my characters are based on the personalities of my classmates and some are made up out of my head. My classmates know that some of the characters are based on them and they are excited about it. Some of them ask me to do it,” he said.
The talented young artist has no formal art training.
King’s mother, Cheryl King, knew her son had something special when she saw the unique way he held his pens and pencils—his thumb and the top of the writing utensil and the rest of his fingers at the bottom.
“We just let him draw but after a while we’d have to stop him because he just kept on drawing,” explained Cheryl King, a stay-at-home mom. “I tried to get him to hold his pencil the right way but when I saw what he was doing I let it go.”
The peculiar way King holds his pencil has become his signature and is called “the grip.”
“Ever since I’ve been writing or drawing, I've held it that way,” he said. “This feels comfortable to me. Teachers have tried to change it, but I had good penmanship so they left me alone.”
King has created baseballs, T-shirts, mugs and notebooks with “the grip” logo on them. The notebook is for sale on King’s website.
In addition, he enjoys reading, playing video games, the high honor roll student is currently practicing for the school’s version of “The King and I.” He will play the lead role in the musical. He has had parts in other school musicals including “Fiddler on the Roof” and “Annie.”
Ultimately King would like to get his comic book published and into stores.
“We’re looking for some help to get an agent and get his comic book published because he wants to share his book with other kids,” Steven King said.
(For more information on Dante King's comic book or characters, visit www.dantethecartoonist.com.)
Last Updated on Thursday, 31 January 2013 10:02
Category: 'Y' Written by Associated Press
FIRST DAUGHTERS--Sasha and Malia Obama arrive at the ceremonial swearing-in of their father President Barack Obama at the U.S. Capitol during the 57th Presidential Inauguration in Washington, Jan. 21, 2013. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
by Connie Cass
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) — That's how it goes with kids. You hardly notice how fast they're growing up, then suddenly big sis is nearly as tall as Mom and the little one is a tween, gently sassing Dad.
On the inaugural platform again four years later, a more mature Malia Obama, 14, and Sasha, 11, smiled, sometimes giggled, and chatted with their cousin Avery Robinson as they awaited their father's arrival. Sasha bounced on her feet a bit as if chilly in temperatures hovering around 40 degrees, and later huddled in her seat. Malia, looking poised in calf-high black boots, rivaled her mother's 5 feet 11 inches. Like any girls their age, they whipped out their smartphones in the parade reviewing stand to take photos.
Both daughters appeared relaxed and oblivious to their global TV audience, unaffected by their rare status, unfazed by the fuss over their father.
Meanwhile, fashion-watchers were tweeting about the girls' coats in vibrant shades of purple. For the record: Malia wore a J. Crew ensemble, Sasha's was Kate Spade, and first lady Michelle Obama was in a Thom Browne coat with a navy print like a man's silk tie.
Such attention to the Obamas' clothes, their Hawaiian vacations, their hair — Michelle lit up Twitter last week by adding bangs — will continue as they charge into a time of turbulence for so many American families: the teen years.
In the second term Sasha, who arrived in the White House as a second-grader, moves on to high school. She expressed her pre-teen spirit Sunday, when Barack Obama took his official, nonpublic oath of office. After giving Dad a "Good job!" she added a reminder of his flubbed words four years ago. "You didn't mess up," Sasha teased the commander in chief.
For Malia, the milestones to come are many — she'll be hitting the age when typical teens start driving, dating and applying to colleges. How normally can any of this go at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.?
Life in the White House is bound to feel different to a teen than it does to a second-grader.
Seven-year-old Emanuel Coleman's grandmother positioned him on the steps of the National Gallery of Art to watch the swearing-in on a giant outdoor screen Monday. The Durham, N.C., boy thought life for a White House kid must be cool, because the president has "his own private limo, helicopter and lives in a really big house."
"It would be fun to fly in the presidential helicopter," Emanuel enthused.
Sixteen-year-old Colleen Casey isn't so sure.
"They have to live their life in their dad's shadow," said Casey, part of a group of Girl Scout volunteers who came to the inaugural from nearby Woodbridge, Va. "You can't be your own person."
That's the struggle for White House youngsters, said author Doug Wead, who has interviewed 19 sons and daughters of former presidents and wrote about them in "All the Presidents' Children."
"When your mom's the first lady, and all your classmates are oohing and ahhing over her, it's hard to compete with that," Wead said. "At any given time, half the country hates your father and half the country loves him. It's hard to establish a separate identity."
Just last week, the National Rifle Association referred to the Obama daughters in an ad berating their father for opposing a proposal to put armed guards in all schools, while his children get Secret Service protection. And the president's been criticized for sending Sasha and Malia to the private Sidwell Friends School.
Even the great stuff — traveling the globe, meeting rock stars, mingling with world leaders — can go to a girl's head.
Mrs. Obama says she strives to give the girls a normal life — homecoming dances, playing basketball, trick-or-treating, slumber parties — and also to keep them respectful, responsible and down-to-earth.
There's been lots of speculation that Mrs. Obama, who turns 50 next year, may design her own transformation in the second term, when she'll be freed from the pressure of her husband's re-election. Will the first lady who dubbed herself "mom-in-chief" add to her portfolio of family-centered causes? The White House isn't yet saying.
Some feminists want to see the Harvard Law School grad take on a more forceful public role. Not all of her fans are so sure.
"I like the roles she's taken on with troops, with health, with children," said W. Faye Butts, 68, an enthusiastic Obama supporter who traveled from Macon, Ga., for the inaugural. No need to try to do more: "She has a family to raise, that's her first priority."
Associated Press writers Richard Lardner, Matthew Barakat and Darlene Superville contributed to this report.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 22 January 2013 09:35
Category: 'Y' Written by Ashley N. Johnson
STOP THE VIOLENCE—Youth Sports Coach Jeff Marion stands with youth from various sports league to explain the importance of youth sports activities and the impact it has on keeping kids off the streets at the Stop The Violence Benefit Concert at Stage AE on Jan. 17. (Photo by J.L. Martello)
by Ashley Johnson
For New Pittsburgh Courier
Black on Black violence has been an epidemic in the Black community for years, with many feeling like no end is in sight. Many feel fed up and left with no answers to a cure. While some are getting the message out through marches, vigils and town hall meetings, one man is spreading his message through music.
Raising money and bringing awareness to the epidemic was the main theme of the Stop the Violence Concert held by musician Yves Jean, in collaboration with the Ladies Hospital Aid Society and local youth sports leagues, on Jan. 17 at the American Eagle Outfitters Stage AE on the North Shore.
“Young people are dying and we wanted to bring the public service announcement to the stage,” Jean said. “The concert was successful, the audience was diverse and we raised some money, but you cannot put a price tag on awareness.”
“Enough is enough. Every week we are seeing three to four deaths and they’re all young people,” Jeff Marion, a city youth sports coach and planning committee member said. “If we keep playing around there will not be a middle generation.”
Jean, who has been in Pittsburgh for 12 years and considers it his second home, grew up in Harlem, N.Y., where he said with growing up in the inner city, violence became second nature to him. “You become numb to it and we cannot have that. In our society, it’s okay if people are shooting at pee wee league games, its’ okay to slap a girl around or shoot people for looking at you the wrong way. And that’s wrong,” Jean said.
Last year, Allegheny County lost 96 people to homicide, many of them young Black males under the age of 30, that was more than 2011’s total of 73 and less than 2010’s total of 100. Thus far in 2013, there have already been four murders, two of them Black males, the youngest 16.
Along with the deaths, there have been countless shootings, especially at youth football games. In August 2010, there was a shooting at a Homewood football field and in 2012, there were two shootings, one near Stargell Field in Homewood and the other at the Pittsburgh Obama School field, resulting in the death of Charlene Walters, a 64-year-old grandmother.
But Jean and Marion both agree that instilling the anti-violence message early and getting youth involved in activities are both solutions to keeping them off the streets and becoming part of the epidemic. “If a kid is involved in athletics, he or she does not have time to be involved in violence,” said Marion.
“I was one of those kids, I saw my life through people (a coach) like Jeff. I want those kids to succeed,” Jean said.
Although the concert was a success, Marion said he would have liked a larger turnout and more local support, but that he was happy with the individuals who did come out and support the effort.
“People complain all the time (about the violence), but never get involved. I think people are marched and meetinged out. They have their place, but it is like people have become numb to them.” He said they hoped that something fun, like this benefit concert, would be the answer to getting people out and involved.
Besides the sounds of Jean’s music, which he classifies as a worldly sound with a rock, jazz, soul, R&B, and reggae influence, he was presented with a proclamation by Councilman Bill Peduto from the Pittsburgh City Council, declaring Jan. 17, 2013, Yves Jean Day.
“It was a great feeling to have the city recognize my work. It makes me feel as if my efforts are not lost and are not in vain,” Jean said.
Proceeds from the event will go to the LHAS, which is an organization that meets the needs of the community through a teen dating violence awareness and prevention program, and youth sports leagues in the area.
Jean plans to use this concert as a stepping-stone to getting the message of stop the violence out. He plans to expand the concert, not only nationally, but also globally.
“It takes each on to teach one. I’m just a vehicle trying to get the message out and I do it through music.”
(For more information on Yves Jean, visit www.yvesjeanmusic.com.)
Last Updated on Wednesday, 23 January 2013 09:32
Category: 'Y' Written by Courier Newsroom
Harambee first-grade programmer Zora Ball
(Philadelphia Tribune Photo/Harambee Institute)
by Damon C. Williams
Philadelphia Tribune Staff Writer
(PhillyTrib.com)--Soon, officials from digital game creators EA Sports, Activision and many others may beat a path to the doors of the Harambee Institute of Science and Technology Charter School, especially if the school continues to turn our prodigies like first-grader Zora Ball.
Ball has become the youngest individual to create a full version of a mobile application video game, which she unveiled last month in the University of Pennsylvania’s Bodek Lounge during the university’s “Bootstrap Expo.”
Seven-year-old Ball has also become a master of the Bootstrap programming language, and when asked, Ball was able to reconfigure her application on the fly using Bootstrap.
“We expect great things from Zora, as her older brother, Trace Ball, is a past STEM Scholar of the Year,” said Harambee Science Teacher Tariq Al-Nasir, who is also the founder of Harambee’s successful STEMnasium Learning Academy. “I am proud of all my students. Their dedication to this program is phenomenal, and they come to class every Saturday, including holiday breaks.”
Bootstrapping has many definitions. According to several technology resources, in computers, pressing a bootstrap button causes a hardwired program to read a bootstrap program from an input unit. The computer would then execute the bootstrap program, which caused it to read more program instructions. It became a self-sustaining process that proceeded without external help from manually entered instructions. In complex applications – such as the game Ball created – Bootstrapping allows for the input and implementation of a string of several complex commands. The exact incarnation of Bootstrap that Ball used was a standards-based curriculum and programming environment supported by the Foundation for the Advancement of Technology in Education. This specific program teaches students to program their own videogames and applications using purely algebraic and geometric concepts.
Harambee was one of Philadelphia's first charter schools, and has become an important and widely recognized part of the city's system of education. Since its founding nearly two decades ago by late educator Baba Skief, Harambee has been a frontrunner in community service and development. The charter school has served as a local source for visual and performing arts and has been identified as a leader in education and training programs. Harambee has earned the support of the West Philadelphia community and the recognition of state and local officials for outstanding service.
Harambee has a strong STEM-related coursework and afterschool programming. The STEMnasium Learning Academy is but one of those resources, and that program, which runs on Saturdays, is in the midst of teaching its students Mandarin Chinese, with the idea that the students will complete several business transactions in Chinatown by speaking in the native language of many of the shopkeepers there.
The Saturday classwork is a 48-week program, not including an additional eight weeks in the summer. The collaboration between Harambee and the STEMNASIUM allows any student enrolled in a Philadelphia public school to partake in the class; the program is built for 60-plus students, and the roughly 50 that are enrolled in the program are dedicated, Al-Nassir said.
“The kids love it. As an example, over the Thanksgiving holiday break, with Black Friday and all, the kids were off from school and could do whatever it is that kids do when they are home, but we had students who showed up,” Al-Nassir said. “They dedicated themselves to showing up on that Saturday. What we accomplished on that Saturday was different than what we accomplished on other Saturdays, but I was very impressed that the parents bought into the fact that we can’t take a vacation, not when we’re trying to reach people on a global level.”
Last Updated on Friday, 18 January 2013 09:37
Digital Daily Signup
Sign up now for the New Pittsburgh Courier Digital Daily newsletter!