November 16, 2018

Morgan Freeman: Good Man, Bad Flirt

I think Morgan is a pervy old man who innocently flirted with women. Based on the news we are hearing, I simply do not think he should be taken down the path of being a man who has sexually assaulted women. By comparison, I think Donald Trump is a sexual predator who has no boundaries. I mean no disrespect to any woman who has been assaulted, belittled, manipulated, intimidated, raped, or had her career damaged by men who abuse power, but we are walking on a tightrope and damage is done with one accusation, so we must be clear on not only what we are saying, but how we say it. These are sensitive times.

There is a difference between being a man who does not know how to flirt, and a man who knows what he is saying and doing is wrong, but does it anyway. In watching interviews with Mr. Freeman where he is accused of harassment, I just don’t see it. I don’t see how anyone would see it as anything other than an old man flirting. I’m not saying he should be excused because he is old, but there is something charming about what he said and the way he said it. At the end of the day he is rich and famous, but he is also just an 80-year-old man and the CNN reporter has made ridiculous accusations.

Sexual harassment is not what Mr. Freeman did, and CNN is trying to spin nothing into something, but the something is nothing. I hope this story goes away and Mr. Freeman is not adversely affected by this desperation. I welcome Mr. Freeman to flirt with me and would happily flirt back. Only difference is that I would be good at it. Bless him. Important to note I am in no way trying to dissuade women from coming forward, or questioning a woman’s truth. I am simply saying that for this particular man, and this particular instance, there is nothing to see here folks. I stand with women and also stand with Morgan Freeman.

We live in a time when people are encouraged to be brave and come forward with their experiences. It has been a long time coming and for someone who dealt with this 30 years ago, I am in awe of these changes. Thirty years ago I was the victim of a violent sexual assault and the experience of going to the police, pressing charges, and going through two trials was ultimately more difficult that the actual assault. I marvel at the strides we have taken, but know we have a long way to go. I am a woman of prayer so I will pray for those who come forward, pray for those falsely accused, and pray we continue to move forward while keeping the faith.


NOW YOU SEE ME 2 *Movie Review*

Sometimes movies just need to give their audiences what they came looking for, and in this case it’s heist scenes and magic.  NOW YOU SEE ME 2 really shines when it draws from the first one’s playbook and showcases those elements.

Jesse Eisenberg, Morgan Freeman, Lizzy Caplan, Woody Harrelson and Daniel Radcliffe comprise this talented cast.

For a full review and analysis of the film’s themes and eagle eye details to watch for, take a look below:

—>Looking for the direct link to the video?  Click here.

On Nat Geo show, Morgan Freeman sits down for Seder

While the prophet Elijah remains conspicuously absent, one Passover Seder in Jerusalem received a more well-known guest.

Morgan Freeman, the well-known actor and voiceover artist, attended a Seder held by Rabbi Maya Leibovitch, the first woman born in Israel to become a rabbi. Footage of the evening aired on May 8 during the sixth episode Freeman’s National Geographic show, “The Story of God.”

The show explores different religious traditions in an effort to uncover the roots and meaning of spiritual practice. Sunday’s episode was titled “The Power of Miracles.”

Nisan, the Jewish calendar month when Passover takes place, “comes from the word nisim, which is miracles,” Leibovich explained to the actor. “It’s the month of miracles.”

The rabbi walked Freeman through the story of the Passover miracles and the various Seder traditions, including the reading of the ten plagues.

“With all due respect Morgan, the children are the center of this night,” she said, referring to the four questions typically read by the youngest person present.

Freeman is famous for his baritone voice and also for playing God in the Jim Carrey film “Bruce Almighty.” A previous documentary television series narrated by the actor, “Through the Wormhole,” was nominated for two primetime Emmy Awards, according to IMDB.

Among other interviewees in Sunday’s episode, Freeman also spoke with a man who fell 46 stories and lived and a pastor who claims prayer saved him from a life-threatening disease.

The full episode can be viewed with a qualifying cable subscription on National Geographic’s website.

Morgan Freeman visits Western Wall

American actor Morgan Freeman visited the Western Wall.

Freeman, who played God in the movie “Bruce Almighty,” is in Israel to film episodes of the new National Geographic series “The Story of God,” which is scheduled to air next year. Freeman is the executive producer.

He visited the Western Wall on Sunday, where he met with Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, the rabbi of the Western Wall. Prior to his arrival in Israel, he filmed scenes at the Giza Pyramids in Cairo, Egypt.

Meanwhile, actor Sean Penn announced that he would make his first visit to Israel next month as a guest of the humanitarian organization IsraAid. Penn will arrive in Israel in November to participate in the group’s conference on the reconstruction of Haiti.

VIDEO: Jack Black, Morgan Freeman urge Americans to support Iran deal

Actors Jack Black and Morgan Freeman join other big shots, including Queen Noor of Jordan, in a comedic video released Tuesday that plumps for the Iran deal.

The celebrities urge Americans to contact their representatives in Washington to encourage them to support the agreement between world powers and Iran, which Congress has until September to review. Congressional disapproval of the deal would likely scuttle it.

Morgan Freeman cautions in the video that in that case, the U.S. could be forced into war with Iran — “another dangerous, drawn out and expensive conflict in the Middle East with many lives lost.”

Produced by Global Zero, a group the advocates the elimination of nuclear weapons, the video starts with a star-dusted warning that if Congress “sabotages the nuclear deal with Iran,” Americans could be “totally fried by a major nuclear bomb dead.” Jack Black frets that he won’t be able to play frisbee with his sons, because “the frisbee will be melted.”

Queen Noor interrupts the hand-wringing, saying, “We’re not actually worried about Iran dropping a nuclear weapon on the United States.” But she and retired U.S. Ambassador Thomas Pickering agree that without a deal, there would be nothing stopping Iran from getting the bomb, and a nuclear arms race in the Middle East would be likely.

The celebrities go on to describe the deal as “strong” and the best way to keep Iran from a bomb and to avoid war.

“Do me a favor, OK, don’t let some hot-headed member of Congress screw that up,” says actress Natasha Lyonne, who stars on the hit TV show “Orange is the New Black.”

“Because playing politics with our national security is actually not all that funny,” adds Black.

Freeman brings the message home, intoning: “Call Congress. Tell them: Support diplomacy. It’s the only sane solution.” A phone number is provided.

Iranian American actor Farshad Farahat and former CIA agent Valerie Plame also make appearances in the video.

Opponents of the Iran deal, most notably Israel and Republican members of Congress, want greater restrictions on Iran. They predict the deal reached on July 14 will allow Iran to get a bomb — either by cheating or racing ahead when key provisions expire — and will empower its destabilizing activity in the Middle East.

Among the members of Global Zero are former Israeli officials, including former Mossad chief Ephraim Halevy, former minister Shlomo Ben Ami and former director-general of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission Brig. Gen. (ret.) Uzi Eilam, according to the group’s website.

From ‘Bucket List’ to ‘Beaufort’

Quick Trip From Everest to Lebanon

In less than 48 hours, I visited Mount Everest, on the border between Nepal and Tibet, and Beaufort Castle in southern Lebanon. The unlikely juxtaposition was the result of attending screenings of quite different films: the flashy Hollywood premiere of “The Bucket List,” followed by an understated private screening of indie Israeli film, “Beaufort.”

Indeed, the two films span the full spectrum of cinematic possibility — one being a big-budget, formulaic Hollywood star-vehicle lavished with an opulent premiere party, and the other a provocative meditation on war and Israel Defense Forces soldierhood, which played to a sparse crowd in ICM’s lush screening room at the MGM Tower.

I won’t deny the excitement curling my toes as I walked into the Arclight’s Cinerama Dome on Dec. 16 for the premiere of “The Bucket List,” a film about two aging men, played by Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, who are dying of cancer and decide that in their final year of life, they are going to do everything they never did — i.e., have a few thrills, which for them meant: flying in private jets, visiting the Taj Mahal, scouting Egyptian pyramids and climbing Mount Everest. Thrill for me: unlimited free popcorn.

Whispers, handshakes and hugs trumped using the BlackBerry — because you know, everyone is here and apparently, the important people like to sit in the back. Screenwriter Justin Zackham had manager David Faigenblum to thank for believing in his script, which eventually attracted the likes of Nicholson and Freeman, sitting just a few rows apart for the duration of the dismal comedy.

Director Rob Reiner introduced the film, cracked about the challenge of selling a $45 million movie about “two old guys dying of cancer” and delivered a long list of thanks to the film’s contributors, including producers Craig Zadan, Neil Meron and Alan Greisman.

The evening also doubled as a benefit for the Cedars-Sinai Board of Governors Center for Cancer Research, and guests moved on to Boulevard 3 on the Sunset Strip, which was framed by stretch limos with black-suited men guarding the gate. Trim trees sparkling with pink lights lined the entryway to the chichi soiree, where ladies greeted guests at the door, wine trays in hand (in Hollywood no one has to move more than a few inches before pressing a glass between their fingers).

Inside a concrete warehouse, multiple buffet stations encircled an open atrium, where industry people crushed together. John Mayer huddled in a booth with the ever-bespectacled Jack, and that moment was the first and last glimpse most of us got of the stars at the party.

By contrast, a slim crowd of invitation-only guests slumped into couch-like leather seats for a screening of “Beaufort,” the Israeli film contentiously vying with “The Band’s Visit” for a foreign-language film Oscar nomination. (See Tom Tugend’s story at L.A. Times film critic Kenneth Turan sat in for the lengthy but loaded film, whose ominous sonic score foisted a foreboding mood upon the crowd.

Fraught with tension, violence and fear, the film challenges the bureaucracy of Israel’s politicians and its army. Director Joseph Cedar’s penetrating portrayal of Israeli soldiers camped at an outpost in Lebanon was poignant but painful — not the kind of material that makes you itch for an afterparty, but certainly the kind that leaves you with an afterthought.

Chanukah Bash Heats Up Winter

Chanukah lights seemed to dispel the sudden chill of winter for The Federation’s Young Leadership Division (YLD) holiday party at X Bar Dec. 1, where 430 people milled about the swank Hyatt Regency Century Plaza’s venue, tucked into booths, lined up at the bar or crushed together on the dance floor, swinging to the hip-hop music of the DJ. Outside, a fire pit and tall heaters warmed the air, as the party got more and more crowded.

“With the attendees leaving the event not just thrilled about attending a very cool event, but proud to be a part of the young Jewish community … the event facilitated bringing the young professional, young Jewish community together,” YLD incoming chair Eric Erenstoft said.

The party collected 100 new unwrapped toys to be donated to children at Aviva Family & Children’s Services and for Jewish Family Service’s Adopt-a-Family Program and Chai Lifeline.

— Amy Klein, Religion Editor

‘Evan Almighty’ production designer Linda DeScenna: I built the ark


“Evan Almighty,” a sequel of sorts to the 2003 hit film, “Bruce Almighty,” is a comic updating of the biblical story. In it, God (Morgan Freeman, reprising his role) orders newly elected U.S. Rep. Evan Baxter (Steve Carell) to build an ark and fill it with animals.”

Director Tom Shadyac wanted the ark to be as biblically authentic as possible, within the strictures of the film’s budget and shooting schedule. The Book of Genesis describes the ark as 300 cubits long (approximately 450 feet), 50 cubits wide (about 75 feet) and 30 cubits high (45 feet). It consisted of three decks, with a large door/ramp on one side of the hull, through which people and animals boarded the boat.

“We actually only built half an ark,” said Linda DeScenna, the film’s production designer. “While the second and third levels of the ark were added digitally … we built [a good part] of the bottom portion, from the ground up to the first deck. We built a 220-foot section of the hull to the right of the ramp [i.e., toward the ship’s bow]. The bow itself was constructed of Styrofoam.”

“The bow was not a computer-generated image,” she said. “It took four days to move all the foam sections into place. To the left of the ramp we built out only 15 feet. They added the rest of the hull — all the way to the stern — in the computer.”

The ark was erected — using cedar instead of the “gopher wood” mentioned in the Bible — on a parcel of land that borders Virginia’s magnificent Shenandoah National Park. Its final dimensions were 260 feet long, 80 feet wide and 59 feet high, although it looks almost twice that size on screen, thanks to the magic of digital technology.

Interiors of the ark, as well as scenes that took place on its deck, were filmed on three soundstages at Universal Pictures. But the exterior construction was all done in Virginia. Obviously, it had to mirror the story line on a quotidian basis. The camera would roll as the film’s characters “built” the ark using hollow, lightweight pieces of wood. After filming wrapped each day, the construction crew would replace the hollow boards with steel-reinforced pieces of wood.

DeScenna praises the production’s “amazing” construction, art and visual effects departments. They didn’t get the go-ahead to start building the sets until mid-February, yet everything was ready by the film’s April start date. And that’s nothing short of miraculous.

Jean Oppenheimer writes for American Cinematographer magazine, The New York Times Syndicate and the New Times Corp., as well as serving as a film critic on “Film Week” on KPCC-FM. 89.3.