Keeping The Faith In Hollywood!

Keeping The Faith In Hollywood!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Comic Con and Summer 2013 Movies It's been 5 years since I've been to Comic Con and I can't say that I've had any interest in heading back any time soon. It seems like so much of "the same ole same ole" i.e. superhero movies or sci-fi retreads. Cable TV shows have been garnering more attention in the past 2-3 years though which has been a nice change. Summer Movies: Though Iron Man started off strong, this may end up as a lackluster summer for the movies. The Superman reboot, Man Of Steel seems okay but I have no interest in seeing it 'cause nothing can compare with the original for me. Oblivion - I think I've seen this movie before... sorta Olympus Has Fallen - I might see this After Earth - looks crappy (sorry Will and son). Iron Man 3 - will probably see this just for Ben Kingsley Animation: Monsters Inc and Despicable Me 2 are "must sees" for me and are bound to dominate the box office. Update: The Lone Ranger - the trailers looked terrible and I wanted to like this. The Wolverine - doesn't look like the story is there and it's underperforming. RIRP - Men In Black with dead people instead of aliens Pacific Rim - Transformer meets Godzilla? White House Down - a poor man's Olympus Has Fallen Elysium - looks like District 9 meets Oblivion Two Guns - Love Denzel but I'm "meh" about this one. Reds 2 - "meh" Comedies: This Is The End - No In A World - looks funny so I might see it.
Falling Stars - 2013 Annette Funicello dies at 70 The Disney Mouseketeer turned actor and singer was among the favorites of the child stars to come out of Disney. Jonathan Winters dies at 87 Amazingly zany comedian and egg-born son of Mork from the planet, Ork on TV's Mork and Mindy. Roger Ebert, legendary Chicago-Sun Times movie critic and occassional screenwriter dies at 70 from a recurrence of his cancer. Robert Ebert's passing was not unexpected considering his long battle with cancer but it's still been a big blow. Ebert and fellow critic, Gene Siskel came along with their TV movie review show Sneak Rreviews on PBS and their "two thumbs up" rating system when I was just discovering the Hollywood Summer block-busters as a young pre-teen and I never missed their show since the first viewing. After Siskel died, Ebert transistioned well with Richard Roeper, another Chicago-Sun Times film critic and with his online column. After his illness escalated, he extended his reach into social media where I followed him on twitter. Rest in peace, Mr. Ebert. Actor James Gandolfini from HBO's The Sopranos fame died in Italy at age 51. This guy brought Tony Soprano to life in techni-color and I was a huge fan ever since. I had a chance encounter with Gandolfini in NYC in 2002 for Dream Halloween (see previous post from 2008) and my bother worked as a videographer on the set of the Soprano's once. Gandolfini will be so missed.
Feb 24th, 2013 Oscar Night at Bel-Air Pres 2013: I spent the night at Bel-Air Presbyterian Church's Oscar Night watching the 85th annual Academy Awards with friends where we walked the red carpet then we began the night with a prayer. After the prayer and welcome, we watched the Oscars telecast from two large mounted viewing screens in their large hall as we cheered on our Oscar favs. We discussed many years of films during the commercial breaks and many Christians who've worked in the industry for years gave their personal testimonies and some recounted personal discussions with stars like Denzel Washington and Jennifer Garner. They had various Oscar trivia questions, too with prizes for the winners ranging from free admission to the Christian Women in Media conference in June to discounts on the 168 Film Project and the Act One programs. Even the food was great: buffet style with an amazing dessert selection. The Host: IMHO: Seth Macfarlane was a bit too "too much" at times (like the "I saw your boobs" song) but we pretty much new what we were getting with MacFarlane. Overall, the show seemed funnier than previous years and the choice of MacFarlane from the TV show Family Guy, Ted as host probably got many young viewers to watch who otherwise wouldn't have. I still think it could have been good without some of the many "off color jokes" so I'm on the fence as to whether I'd ask him back to host. As a trekkie, I loved the Shatner bit and I loved MacFarlane's waltz with Charlize Theron which reminded me of old Hollywood glam and style. Oscar Wins and Highlights: The James Bond movies tribute was priceless with theme songs and songstress performances by Adele and Shirley Bassey. For the in memorial tribute to composer, conductor and Oscar, Emmy, Tony and Grammy winner, Marvin Hamlisch, Barbara Streisand sang "The Way We`Were". Daniel Day-Lewis and Anne Hathaway both won - duh. Jennifer Lawrence's trip on her way to the podium to get her Best Actress Oscar and slightly embarrassed acceptance speech was so cute. Tarrentino won for best writer for Jango Unchained. Can't say that I'm a fan of this movie so.... Argo won for best pic - Yay!!! Actor-Director and previous Oscar winner for best writer, Ben Affleck had the best speech especially after not beingnominated in the best director category. Can't quite understand why Michele Obama did the honors for this though. It was so lovely to dress up in sparkly duds and heels and hang out with fellow Christians in the industry here in LA. The night was sponsored by the Beacon Entertainment Industry Ministry at Bel Air Pres., the Hollywood Prayer Network and 4 other associated Christian Hollywood ministries and programs. Read more about the night here

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Falling Stars 2012: Year in Review

We lost many stars of TV and film in 2012. Here's a list of those I ill miss most. Note: The death sof Tony Scott, Don Cornelius, Michael Clark Duncan, Sherman Hemsley, Ernest Borgnine, Andy Williams, Nora Ephron, Etta James and Whitney Houston are chronicled in earlier posts.

Ray Bradbury, 91, author (Fahrenheit 451 , the Martian Chronicles)

Chad Everett, 75 , actor, (doctor on TV's Medical Center )

Phyllis Diller, 95, ground-breaking female comedienne and actress

Neil Armstrong, 82, astronaut, first man to walk on the moon,

Singer, Andy Williams, 84 (songs Moon River)

Football star, actor, Alex Karras, 77 (Blazing Saddles, Webster)

TV host and actor, Gary Collins, 74

Russel Means, 72 - Native Ameican activist, actor, Last of the Mohicans, Pocahontas

Rodney King

Art Ginsburg - TV cook, aka Mr. Food

Larry Hagman, 81 (aka J.R. Ewing on Dallas, I Dream of Jeannie)

Mexican-American singer, Jenni Rivera

Jack Klugman, 90 (The Odd Couple,Quincy) died on Christmas Eve

Charles Durning, 89 (The Sting, Tootsie etc) died on Christmas Eve

Honorable mention:

Patty Page aka Clara Ann Fowler died on New Years Day 1/1/13.
I mention her Ms. Page because I met her in person one day in Sept 2009 while strolling and window shopping through shops after attending Wednesday morning service at my old church in Eagle Rock. We both stopped at a blanket on the floor where a down on his luck guy was selling his 3 beautiful guitars and we struck up a conversation.
We walked along and talked abouth God, faith and music then she told me her life story of coming from a small town to hollywood as a naive teen and her big hits in the '50s. She had long left the biz and was happily married for decades with a nice home and life but she was excited to be back in the studio and she was busy doing radio talk shows and signing '50s memmorobilia for her fans which made more money than her royalties because she didn't own many of the songs she sang. I told her that she should write a book and she said she had written a few things down.
She told me she was 82 and I was floored because she was agile and looked in her mid-late 60s. Her secret? She pointed to her large brimmed sunhat and gloves and said that she loved to walk and garden but she avoided the sun and wore sunscreen and moisturizers. She said her youthfulness was God's blessing and that she'd never had plastic surgery. She gave me her web page info and I went home that day and looked her up and sure 'nuff there she was!
May Ms. Page and all the stars and celebs who passed in 2012 rest in peace with the Lord.

Christmas in L.A.

Hollywood Blvd. had its usual displays up: the trees and lights atop the Pantages Theater, the Capitol Records tower brightly lit roof-top Christmas tree and even a tall crane with lights at a near by construction lights. Thankfully the Scientology "village" and dispays were less this year. I had other plans so I had to leave the blvd. before the Hollywood Christmas Parade started then I even missed it when it was televised on TV-doh!

I missed Christmas-themed events at the Grove and Beverly Center mall in Beverly Hills, too but caught some at the Burbank Mall and in Glendale at the Galleria and especially at the Americana where I saw characters dressed as gingerbread men, toy soldiers etc.

And I saw a very realistic-looking Santa at the monthly meeting of the Alameda Writers Group (AWG) at the Glendale Library on 12/5/12.

The usually Christmas light display at Griffith Park was cancelled due to water main work by the LA DWP. Many families came expecting to see the lights and were very disappointed. Funny, that night CBS showed an episode of the "Big Bang Theory" that mentioned them doing their annual drive to see the ligths at Griffith Park. This probably sent more people out to see the lights but the episode was funny- lol. They also shut down the William Mulhulland Fountain (my fav) for months of repairs (Booo-ooo!) .

There were also no Christmas Eve or Christmas Day service as many Ecclesians seem to be heading out of town to be with family. So, I did the same as my Mom and family were in town. We sang Christmas carols as we drove down to spend Christmas in Rialto with my cousin and her triplet girls. They had insisted that their mom bake and icing sugar cookies and ginger bread men so I was set in the sweets department. We also saw lots of Christmas lights on display to and 'fro while on the road so my light appetite was filled, too : )
What was my Christmas gift this year?  The blessings of being together as a family after as much as 30 years.

Then it was off to see more cousins at the Ice Kingdom's Winter Chill Exhibit at the Queen Mary in Long Beach. Long Beach was even colder than L.A. and breezy but we still donned the provided insular parkas and went into the near sub-zero temps of the Chill exhibit. Outside were ice skating rink and Victorian-era dressed professional singers caroling around the mock Christmas city or on various stages. Santa's workshop was closed and his sleigh empty but the places selling hot chocolate, candy and danish were packed.

Inside the exhibit was a large icy slide for sled and inner tube sliding and dolphin ice scluptures along with an ice sculpture miniture of the Queen Mary herself. The other halls were filled with ice sclupture of every variety including, snow princess and fairy tale castle, teddy bears, santa in a wreath, with a candy cane, wrapped gift boxes with bows...

And the piece the resistance, an ice sculpted wall and stained glass window of a church leads you into a life-sized Nativity scene complete with a sculpted crystal-looking donkey, cow, sheep, lamb, shepherd, angels, Joseph, Mary, straw and manger and of course ... Baby Jesus!


Not to be left out, there were ice sculptures of a Star of Davis and the menorrah for Hannukah and a red, black and yellow iced Kwanza scupture too.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Advent at Ecclesia - 2012

Advent candles were lit and we proceeded through 4 weeks of the sermon series called Aniticpation, on how to have Hope, Peace, Love and Joy during a time of waiting or during seeming disappointment....

The huge rugged cross was taken down and chairs of all varieties were strung from the church's rafters in its stead to signify the turmoil that often comes with waiting. Guest speaker, elder Craig Dahlberg started us off with a sermon on "Peace" with Readings from the Book of Zechariah Chap 9:9-10. Craig spoke about not letting the devil steal your peace, how to keep your peace during the storms of life and how to help others find their peace(be peacemakers). He extolled us to remember that Jesus is the Prince of Peace and that we should be honest with God like a child with their parent.

Then Paster Joseph continued on weeks 2-4 with "Hope When It's Hopeless" with Readings from the Book of Micah 7-1-7 then "Joy" with Readings from The Book of Isaiah Chap 12 and amazing blue-grass, stomp and praise sounding guitar(thanks Greg Jong, Aaron Ballard) and violin/fiddle (thanks, Mike Cioni) versions of gospel songs like "I Saw the Light" .

And the following Sunday we had the sermon "Love When I Feel Abandoned" from Lamentations 3:19-24 all of which were very much spot on for me. My mother was in town visiting and she really enjoyed Joseph's take on the feeling of abandonment and industry rejection that being in L.A. sometimes brings to newcomers almost like expressed in Lamentations. He reminded us that Ecclesia was our family while we are away from home which was very conforting to my mom : )

Sun 12/30/12
I saw my Mom and family off on the shuttle to the airport then headed to church later than usual. I arrived as Pastor Scott Nassau was rounding out week 5 of the Advent Anticipation sermon series with "Light When I Fear Darkness" with Readings from Isaiah 8:19- 9:7 which transistions from King Ahaz and the Israelites in darkness and going away from God to the fortelling of Jesus' birth as the Wonderful Counselor, Prince of Peace and light for a dark and lost world.

Then Scott sent us home with a parting prayer and a Jewish Believer's humorous reminder when he wished for us to enjoy New Years' Day, "the day that Jesus would have been circumcised". This reminded me of how the Jewish Believers in choir jokingly teased us that "Hallelujah" should be pronounced with the harking, throaty Chet sound in the same way "Hanakkuh" is pronunced. We all chuckled at Pastor Scott's joking reminder because New Years' was the 8th day after Christmas Day and then we hugged and wished each other a "Happy 2013" as we left.

Advent Season Devotional Podcast:
Along the way there were also encouraging devotional podcasts posted with healing words and scripture readings by Matt Yeoman, Pastor of Spiritual Development with background guitar music by the very gifted musician, Dennis Davidson. The devotionals have a video of a lonely empty chair waiting on the shore as the waves roll in and are available at the church's website. You can check Dennis out HERE

Also, check out the video testimonies of various church members of how they experinced joy, hope and peace during what should've been impossible times.

As we pray for those affected by the Sandy Hook shooting of preschoolers and their brave teachers we surely know that these are indeed impossible times so it was especially touching to hear the stunning details of journalist, photographer and musician, Dave Torstenson's testimony about how he experienced joy amongst the death of a colleague and death threats to him and fellow teachers while he was teaching at a Christian school in Iraq. But God!

The Alternative Christmas Market was a hit!

Despite a locale change to the rear parking lot along Cahuenga, the turn out was good. I missed it because of my choir commitments but my friends are already making plans for next year. I'm still praying and laying claim on the garden as next year's site as it is on Hollywood Blvd so the tourist traffic is higher thus the oppurtunity to share the gospel is greater and the oppurtunity to aid the various missions and causes paticipating is greater, too. I'm believing God for the same and we have the gardening interests and know-how at church to see the garden space transformation done.

Christmas Choir:
Our last two practices were very technical and long but we made it through. Dion Ramos , our choir director this year, had selected some very challenging songs for us so I admit I was getting performance anxiety. One of the songs selected is the proverbial Christmas choir standard, "Handel's Messiah", with every vocal acrobatic leap and crescendo possible and I had heard it sang by choir greats so I had reason to be afraid. The other is latin called, "Ave Corpus Verum" or "Hail, The True Body of Christ" which at first seemed more about Christ's mournful crucifixion than His joyous birth then I realized that that's exactly what Christmas is about! There is no joy or salvation in celebrating Jesus' birth without his death/sacrifice on the cross for us! Amen and Hallelujah!

I don't read or play music so I'm challenged in that reguard but I learned how to read the sheet music instructions for volume of singing and intensity from our acompanying choir pianist and organist, Jeff, Dion and Greg Jong, our Praise and Worship leader and all-around singer and musician.

Many of us battled colds and bronchitis like last year due to this unseasonably cold L.A. winter and from the coldness of the rear stage so we prayed a lot for each other to stay well. All the cold of the rear stage was worth it when we did our first performances the morning of Sunday Dec 16 th. Now all I can say is, Wow! A trio of talented production folks (Mike and 2 others) filmed us digitally on the rear stage then projected us to the front stage on the large screen there for the seated church to see.
Dion Ramos, choir director

Ecclesia's Christmas Choir with our director, Milan Cronovich in 2011

We did both the 9:30 and the 11:15 morning services then did a repeat rear stage performance for Ecclesia's Christmas on the Blvd. event, where we also sang more traditional carols like "O Come All Ye Faithful, "Silent Night, Joy to the World" , on the front stage with Greg Jong and the Praise band and then in the lobby with Jeff on keyboards. Everyone said we sounded angelic and they couldn't believe it was just 23 of us because it sounde like a full choir backstage! See for yourself!

Ave Verum Corpus 


Mid-way through the night was the Children's Christmas program where they read and re-enacted Bible scripture of the manger story from the shepherd, the wise-men and the angel's persepective. Most of the kids were aged 7-11 and did a wonderful and heartfelt job with their lines. After 2 and a half years of attending Ecclesia, I recognize most of the kids by name or parentage and it has been fun seeing them grow as beloved and churched children of God.

At one point there was even a note submitted to Pastor Joseph's eldest while she was speaking onstage. She pulled out dark rimmed speckles with mimed maturity, cleared her throat and read the note which was an alert of budget cuts to the production and that there was no funding for the extras for the angelic hosts spoken of in the Gospels account of Jesus' birth. So we, the audience, were instructed to look under our chairs to find decorated cardboard angels on a stick which we waved around happily when we read the angels' lines posted on screen.

Then a video of the church's pre-schoolers played showing the Christian instruction the kids get weekly. I smiled when the kids talked about how God loves them and talks to them about doing the right things. Then I nearly cried it when a few kids pointed at the camera and asked us, "What is Jesus asking you to do?

We ended the the program with the choir on stage singing with the church singing and standing with lighted candles in hand. We closed out the evening with a dessert buffet of all things chocolate and every baked sweet imaginable and we hugged and laughed with fellow Ecclesians as the kids ran about afoot. Then we went back into church and watched, "A Charlie Brown Christmas" and listened to the children as they giggle with delight at Snoopy's antics and sang along with the Peanuts gang to the Christmas carols. Us adults mouthed all the words and had our distinctive dance to the funky jazz dance music (I do the Franklin dance myself). Then we sobered to Linus' Bible soliloquys... such fun! God bless Charles Schulz!

THE Wrap Up:
I am in constant thought of and prayer for those lost or suffering from the tradgedy at Sandy Hook and I can't imagine how or when they'll start healing. But in the face of that sadness, Ecclesia's church services, the Children's program and the entire night of the Hollywood Blvd. event gave me great hope and joy that they will be on that journey soon. And I vow to keep believing Father, Son and Holy Spirit for the best for children and Believers everywhere.

Thanksgiving 2012 at Ecclesia Hollywood

Ecclesia did its yearly pre-Thanksgivings participation in the CCCO's Shoes That Fit Day which provides shoes to children who live along Skid Row. Ecclesians donated supplies and "must haves" food (fruits, veggies, chips, cookies and juice boxes) for the one meal that's served to each needy family and they volunteered their time for the event. I had just had my second nerve block so I couldn't be there physically but I donated money/food and prayed for all involved especially Dion Ramos, who coordinates both our participation in CCCO and PATH.

The Keeping Church Weird sermon series wrapped up the Sunday after Thanksgiving after 8 weeks. Pastor Joseph included scriptual basis for the "weird" things we do like (1) why Christians Baptize (2) why we preach (3) why we take Communion (4) why we do charitable givings, tithes and offerings (5) why we sing praises to God and (6) why we pray, which involved a church-wide hand holding prayer session along with prayer from the prayer team along the sides of the church.  They also showed several personal video testimonies from Ecclesians about the power of prayer in our lives and the availability of the church's prayer team.

Also, Ecclesia's amazing and very Brittish Praise and Worship leader, Greg Jong and his band, Grand Vanity (including wife, Danielle) made a tremendous milestone! Pastor Joseph was very proud to announce that Grand Vanity's Praise album has finally became available for download under Enter Praise Band at I'd been praying for this album to be released as the songs are so impactful and a "must listen" for Christians everywhere but especially us in Hollywood. There have been many days that these praise songs were what got me out of bed on a real bad day so I'm very thankful that they're available.

My favs are "Christ Victorious" (joyous, triumphant!) and there's "Abide" (like an old English church hymn with a rock guitar edge) and "Faithfulness in Defeat" (sad yet hopeful song based on Psalms 88 & 89) and "Holy Spirit In Me" ( country gospel/stomp and praise style y'all) and "Make My Soul Aware"(my morning wake up praise song)and "Confession Song" (touchingly honest) and --- well the entire album really is a fav! Find it here

Greg gave his personal testimony during the "Why We Sing" sermon and then we viewed the music video of two songs .

Faithfulness in Defeat  

Make My Soul Aware  

These videos are extremely well done, too and made me think that the amazing, Mike Cioni, was somewhere in the mix of the making of them. Mike also plays violin with Ecclesia's Praise and Worship team and he's an all around prodfessional and nice guy. Speaking of Mike, check out some of his post-production work in the movie, Hitchcock, starring Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren.

Also, check out Mike doing his CEO duties as he hosts HPA/Light Iron's Q&A and screening of Side By Side (my favorite doc of 2012) on 11/19 at the Arclight on Sunset.

Here's a pic of Mike with SBS's own Chris Kenneally, Keanu Reeves.

Update: The live performance video of Grand Vanity's "Faithfulness in Defeat" was actually filmed and edited by the equally amazing, musician and photographer, Daley Hake.

I see Hake at church every Sunday doing the sound checks for the Praise band and production work etc. and he seems to be a pretty "down to earth" guy. See more of Hake's work at .
Art Exhibit:
Ecclesia started another art exhibit this Advent season with the same theme of the Anticipation sermon series and it's called Still We Wait. I submitted a a dark yet colorful piece of of art in a technique I learned in high school called scratch art. I did it by covering the entire paper in random oil pastels and crayola wax crayons colors then covering that work over with black pastel/crayon and then by scraping off or etching out the design resulting in a picture of a woman with a wistful, hopeful look on her face and a head of very unruly curly hair. As if from her hopeful thoughts, I depicted a cross and rays coming from her head like the sun breaking through the clouds of fear and doubt for the dawn of a beautiful new day. 

I called it "Hope on a Bad Hair Day" and I'm very pleased with it.  "Bad Hair Day" was not selected but it is my first foray into doing colorful, whimsical pieces so I'm stoked. I scanned and modified it with the computer to enhance different colors and hues then I played each new image as a slide show movie with Matt Yoeman and Dennis Davidson's  devotional piece playing/spoken in the background. I plan to video it all and use it as an interactive art submission in the future so look for a post of it soon.

The Wrap Up:
What am I thankful for this Thanksgiving?
I'm very thankful for Ecclesia church and the wonderful and creative people who attend!