National Hispanic Media Coalition 16th Impact Awards dispatch –

NHMCLast Friday night I showed up at the infamous Reg Bev Wilsh (if you don’t get the abbreviation the moniker has been embedded in my head by Laura San Giacomo in Pretty Woman) to cover the National HIspanic Media Coalition’s 16th Annual Impact Awards – a celebration of the positive portrayals of Latinos in media.

I meet Jose, the press liaison who shows me to a tiny spot on the step and repeat row with a piece of paper that says Chicana from Chicago on it.  I notice I’m right next to US Weekly – which I quickly decide is a strategic spot to seize all the juicy interview leftovers. I realize how little television I see as I don’t recognize any of the TV stars, Aimee Garcia, Morena Baccarin (Homeland), Gina Torres (Suits) and Lana Parilla (Once Upon a Time) so I don’t bother trying to talk to them. I did however got a chance to talk to loud, brown and proud multi-hyphenate John Leguizamo and writer/producer/playwright Josefina Lopez. I failed at grabbing the hottie Mario Lopez who showed up late but there’s an excerpt of his remarks below (the video I took is crap), and Michael Pena was a no show for the press line.

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Patricia Rae – Colombian New Yorker whose next acting role is in The Big Wedding coming out in April

After the arrivals I naturally assumed all press was invited to enter the actual Awards ceremony but lo and behold I found out that no, press were not invited to stay.  Looking around at the staff I recognized a lot of familiar faces from the usual Latino events and decided to ask politely and point blank if I could please go.  After speaking to three press staff, I was told they had no authority and that further there was no room. I always find these type of situations uncomfortable – mostly because I have been on the ‘bouncer list’ side for so long and I know that being on the list means nothing; it is recognizing who needs to be there and how you need to fill the place which means everything.  Taking the hint that press had to leave, the media room began to disassemble.  Observing that staffers were too distracted drinking the Moet sponsored Champ and taking pics in front of the step and repeat, I took a chance and literally snuck in behind the scenes like I owned it.  Once in the ballroom I found that there was plenty of room, and see acouple familiar faces like Bel Hernandez, publisher of Latin Heat, and actress Patricia Rae and writer/director Matteo Ribaudo.  Patty, Matteo and I took in the complimentary champagne and talked about our related experiences and upbringing growing up as a first generation from immigrants. Patty is Colombian by way of New York and like me learned Spanish first and had parents who talked about our related experiences and upbringing growing up as a first generation from immigrants. Patty is Colombian by way of New York and like me learned Spanish first and had parents who felt pressured to assimilate. During our exchange I realized that this can be turned into a positive impact on our lives; the fact that our parents witheld such an obvious part of our culture only fueled our desire to commune with it.  It is more special when you seek your origins from our own accord and desire.  Patty mentioned how she had to ask her abuela for the traditional Colombian dish, Sancocho recipe.   Patty is a very talented actress by the way. She blows away her counterparts in the indie movies I have seen her.  I’m glad someone is taking notice as she is the only Latina in the ensemble cast of Big Wedding coming out April.  The cast includes Robert DeNiro, Robin Williams, Diane Keaton, Susan Sarandon.  I have no doubt she carries her own with these big shots.    Her husband Matteo is currently writing a script with her as the Scarface/Godfather lead.  What I found interesting on his take on the classic gangster genre  was how he is deliberately approaching and utilizing the female psyche to explore power and how different violence perpetuated by women looks like.

mariolopezI stuck around for a couple Awards speeches.  I had no idea how much Mario Lopez identifies with his Mexican roots.  He thanked and appreciated La Raza for the award and told us about his childhood growing up in Chula Vista.  He is undoubtedly a super charming mama- done-raised-him-right man. I didn’t know whether Pena was going to show up or not so I left Beverly Hills and headed to the East side to catch my good friends’ joint birthday parties at Malo which kind of doubled as a Spirit Awards party.  Dana Harris and Eric Kohn from Indiewire were there, Sean Baker, writer/director of Starlet, winner of the Robert Altman ensemble cast award and nominated film for John Cassavetes Award, David Nordstrom, lead actor in Pincus which is nominated for Someone to Watch Award for its writer/director David Fenster, filmmaker and doc junkie AJ Schnack whose Branson doc, We Always Lie to Strangers is premiering at SXSW in a couple weeks, and my favorite artiste couple, filmmaker Azazel Jacobs and fashion designer, Diaz.   I boogied on the dance floor to the tunes of my favorite KCRW DJ Dan Wilcox, then had to make a french exit given my early flight the next morning.

Check out the interview clips I did with Josefina Lopez who talks about her new film, Detained in the Desert, and John Leguizamo who talks about turning down negative roles and his new movie Fugly!

Mario Lopez on receiving Outstanding Media Entrepreneur Award:

“This (award) one is really special because its with my Raza, all talented smart, innovative and ambitious people.  When with my parents came here from Mexico, I grew up in Chula Vista and they were blue collar folks, they just wanted a better life for me , and they did a great job.  Never did I think that I would have my own entertainment shows, hosting shows with Simon Cowell, to work on my own talk show and writing books, I was just thinking right now, ‘Damn, not bad for a Mexican from Chula Vista…  The most important thing to me I realized is that you do have to have an impact on someone . When I started working with the boys and girls clubs I realized that is what its all about, giving back…..as many people as there are in this room, there needs to be 3-5 times more because we are so underrepresented in the entertainment community…. the only way that is going to change is if there are more people like us telling our stories – if theres more writers and more directors and producers.   People tell me, You are like the Latino Ryan Seacrest.  That’s cool but one day to Ryan they are going to tell him, You are like the Caucasian Mario Lopez.”

I’m on the list – the Brown Hollywood and Indie list

My boots are packed and ready to get to San Antonio tomorrow for CineFestival, the longest running independent Latino Film Festival in the US.  I’m looking forward to hanging out with friends, old and new, who represent the rich emerging Latino independent film world, but I’m particularly eager to discover and connect with local filmmakers.  But first, tonight I’m going to put on my heels and get fancy, for I’ll be covering a ‘Hollywood Hispanic” gala.  I’m going to the  National Hispanic Media Coalition Impact Awards.  The NHMC is a non-profit media advocacy organization which seeks to recognize outstanding contributions to the positive portrayal of Latinos in media.   Among this year’s honorees are Michael Pena, Mario Lopez and John Leguizamo. You can expect me to cover both events on the ground.  What I won’t be personally covering is the big glitzy mainstream Indie and Academy Awards.   Let’s take a quick look at WTF is Latino in that land, shall we?

Film Independent’s Spirit Awards

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Adam Leon, winner of Someone to Watch Award for Gimmie the Loot!, flanked by co-chairs, Jeremy Renner and Salma Hayek at the Film Independent Nominee brunch

Mexicana Salma Hayek is an honorary co-chair of this year’s Spirit Awards.  A ceremonial title that pretty much just confirms her presence at the show.

If we were to subscribe to NBC Latino’s overly positive scratching at the barrel of Best ‘Hispanic movies of 2012″,  I would second the highlight John Ortiz, Bradley Cooper’s best friend in the nominated Best Film, Silver Linings Playbook.  Sure he’s a solid supporting character with a sub-storyline and I applaud his acting talent.  In that case, let’s mention Gael Garcia Bernal in Best Director nominated Julia Loktev’s film, Loneliest Planet,or  Aubrey Plaza (yes she’s boricua baby – here is proof watch this clip FF 40 sec in) who is in Safety Not Guaranteed directed and produced by Colin Trevorrow, up for Best First Feature, and there is Wendell Pierce who is nominated for Best Actor in Four written and directed by Joshua Sanchez. But come on, lets be real, and more importantly, relevant to the awards.  I count three:

John Cassavetes Award – Mosquita y Mari, written and directed by Aurora Guerrero

I’ve written a bunch of love letters on my blog about this film which I hold close to my heart.  Check out the interview I did exactly one year ago with my sister, Aurora here.

Best Supporting Actor – Michael Pena – for End of Watch

hot hot hot.

Best Screenplay – Keep the Lights On
Mauricio Zacharias – is the Brazilian born co-writer of Keep the Lights On, an extraordinarily written and acted film about a tumultous relationship between two New York City men.  I always like to strip a gay or latino movie of its gay or latino element and ask myself if the barebones of the story would be as poignant without it and the answer here is definitively yes.  However it’s also a celebration to finally have access to those specific narratives and previously unseen powerful images.  The romantic sex and love scenes between the two men carry such weight and substance.(I think I’m channeling Franco with his Interior Leather Bar ‘thesis’ film)

The 85th Academy Awards

Just down the street from me, Hollywood Boulevard has been blocked off since last week to make way for the monumental Academy Awards.  Huffington Post did a good job at covering the Latino in the nominations.   Check out the full post and related “Latinos Snubbed” slideshows here.  Basically they highlighted:

Cinematography – Claudio Miranda, Life of Pi (Chilean)

Costume Design – Paco Delgado, Les Miserables (Spanish)

Sound Design – Jose Antonio García, Argo  (Mexican)

And I will add Searching for Sugarman by Malik Bendjelloul and Simon Chinn to this list.  I am so grateful to these filmmakers for rescuing this story and incredible folk singer songwriter artist from obscurity.  It might seem hard to believe but back then, unlike now, before Robert Rodriguez made it cool, the last name Rodriguez was discriminated against in the 60s and 70s.  The Detroit native, first generation Mexican American literally had his amazing voice suppressed and blocked by labels who could not imagine that his amazing voice would transcend boundaries.  I mean  – his lyrics were also pretty powerful.   I couldn’t be happier about the success of this film which has given us the chance to not only discover but to celebrate Sixto Rodriguez’s late but true contribution to our lives.  Fingers crossed it wins Best Documentary.

And with that – I’m reposting a video I took of Sixto Rodriguez at last year’s LA Film Festival.