January 19, 2014

101 Moments in the Presence of God and 10 Prayers You Can’t Live Without by Rick Hamlin

101 Moments in the Presence of God
A devotion starts with a Bible verse and ends with a prayer, but what makes it compelling is how it shows God at work in the every day. It's a beaded bracelet that leads to an answered prayer, a child's remark at bedtime, a carpet sample in the back of a car. Almost two thousand years ago, two of Jesus' followers were walking to the village of Emmaus when they were joined by a stranger. They couldn't believe he didn't know what had happened, how the man they thought was the Messiah was crucified and then appeared to some of the women in their group. The stranger spoke wisely and passionately to them, but not until they sat with him and broke bread did they recognize that it was their risen Lord. That's what a devotion feels like. That moment when I get a glimpse of God's presence.

10 Prayers You Can't Live Without
Essential wisdom on the ways to trust in God through prayer. In 10 Prayers You Can't Live Without, Guideposts executive editor Rick Hamlin shares ten real-life ways of praying to our loving God. It includes the practical insight Hamlin has gained about prayer from the everyday men and women in the pages of Guideposts magazine and from his own lifelong journey in prayer. Readers will be encouraged that prayer is an ongoing conversation, that God wants them to talk about anything. They'll read about the power of prayers around the dinner table, how to give themselves a time and place for prayer every day, praying in a crisis; asking for forgiveness, praying the Psalms, and how to listen to the spiritual nudges God gives us.

Both books are must-reads. Guideposts has never steered me wrong.

Review of 101 Must-See Movie Moments by Nell Minow

101 Must-See Movie Moments features 101 essays on great moments in neglected films and neglected moments in great films from Nell Minow, who reviews each week's releases for Beliefnet and radio stations across the country as "The Movie Mom." From the lobster scene in Annie Hall to the final moments of Godfather 2, to a sandwich in the otherwise forgettable Wives and Lovers and the "Coward's Corner" scene in Homicidal and the garbage can lid dance in It's Always Fair Weather, and the "Dead by Third Act" character in Top Gun, each illuminates an element of cinematic storytelling that will make you understand and appreciate all movies better.

Nell Minow clearly writes as a true fan of film. It's as if she's sitting with you at the table just hanging out and discussing flicks, and for a book like this, this style works wonderfully. A truly fun read for the movie fan.

January 18, 2014

Review of Flames of Cold Fire by Ivoril Snow

Flames of Cold Fire could have been a fabulous book if it had been told by a more talented writer. It tells the story of a spiritually strong young woman who has to endure extremely difficult challenges in her life. She puts her trust in the Heavenly Father when life gets hard and is strengthened in life's tests by her unwavering faith. It's an unflinching snapshot of the realities of life for a light-skinned black girl in the Deep South in the 1950s.

It's self-published. Perhaps that is the reason the book suffers from awkward writing and poor editing. If you can put up with that, Liza's story is an inspirational one.

If you'd like to give Flames of Cold Fire a try, click here.

January 07, 2014

Actress Carmen Zapata Dies at 86

Emmy-nominated actress Carmen Zapata, who started a foundation to promote Hispanic writers because jobs were so scarce, has died of heart problems, colleagues say. She was 86.

Zapata died Sunday at her Van Nuys-area home, said Luis Vela, marketing manager for the Bilingual Foundation of the Arts in Los Angeles.

Zapata started her career in 1945 in the Broadway musical "Oklahoma" and went on to perform in "Bells Are Ringing," ''Guys and Dolls" and many plays.

"She was an inspiration for me," Vela said. "She taught me that art is the key to resolving differences in the community."

He said Zapata was once asked how she wanted to be remembered — as an artist, producer or founder. "'I prefer people remember us as educators,'" Vela recalled her saying.

Her movie credits included "Sister Act," ''Gang Boys" and "Carola." She also appeared in dozens of television series, including nine seasons on the PBS bilingual children's show, "Villa Alegre."

Zapata had continuing TV roles in "The Man and the City" and "The New Dick Van Dyke Show." She sang in several other musicals, including "Bloomer Girl." ''No Strings," ''Show Boat," ''Stop the World, I Want to Get Off" and "Funny Girl."

Born in New York City of Mexican-Argentinian descent, Zapata joined forces with Cuban-born actress, playwright and director Margarita Galban to found the Bilingual Foundation of the Arts in 1973.

The organization produces four plays a year that are presented at its 99-seat theater. Productions alternate in English and Spanish, with some shows taken on the road by production companies.

Zapata collected Emmy nominations for best supporting actress in a segment of "Medical Center" and for "Carola" on "Hollywood TV Theatre."

Vela said he last saw Zapata on Christmas Eve. "Everyone who worked with her felt she had created something really important and was making our community a better place." he said. "She was emphatic that what we were doing at the foundation was more important than personal recognition."

She was not working on any one project when she died, Vela said, but was supervising and approving projects being presented to her.

Funeral and service arrangements were being finalized.

January 04, 2014

Gone with the Wind Actress Alicia Rhett Dies at 98

Actress Alicia Rhett, who was the oldest surviving cast member of the classic 1939 film Gone with the Wind, died in South Carolina on Friday, officials at her retirement community said. She was 98.

Savannah, Georgia-born Rhett portrayed India Wilkes, sister of Ashley Wilkes in the award-winning film based on Margaret Mitchell's Pulitzer Prize-winning historical novel of the same name.

"Truly a beautiful woman, her passion for the arts and love of Charleston were unrivaled... Alicia was a kind and gentle lady," said Bill Trawick, CEO of the Bishop Gadsden Episcopal Retirement Community in Charleston, where she had lived since 2002.

Other surviving cast members from Gone with the Wind are 97-year-old Olivia de Havilland who played Melanie Hamilton, Ashley Wilkes' cousin and wife; 93-year-old Mary Anderson, who played Maybelle Merriweather; and 81-year-old Mickey Kuhn, who played Beau Wilkes, Bishop Gadsden said.

Ann Rutherford, who played protagonist Scarlett O'Hara's optimistic younger sister in the film about white southerners in the American Civil War era, died in June 2012 in Los Angeles.

Rhett was born on February 1, 1915 and moved to Charleston with her mother after her father died in World War One, Bishop Gadsden said.

She was seen as "intensely private" and uninterested in the "trappings of celebrity," and preferred a quieter, art-filled life connected to the Deep South, according to a biography on Turner Classic Movies (TCM) website.

Rhett was the great-granddaughter of South Carolina senator Robert Brunwell Rhett, whose "anti-Union rhetoric and pro-slavery stance in the years leading up to the American Civil War earned him the sobriquet the Father of Secession," TCM added.

She was devoted to painting and illustration, producing on-set portraits of fellow actors, including her Gone with the Wind counterparts, and works seen in books, a state library, and a theater in the coastal city, Bishop Gadsden said.

Beside her work depicting high society, Rhett also volunteered to paint public school children, workers, and others at its periphery, TCM said.

She died at Bishop Gadsden at about 5 p.m. EST (2200 GMT), officials there said. The cause of death was not immediately known.

Oscar Nominee Juanita Moore Dies at 99

Juanita Moore, who earned an Academy Award nomination in 1960 for the single major film role she ever landed, then fell through the cracks of a Hollywood system with little to offer a black actress besides small parts as maids and nannies, died on Tuesday in Los Angeles. She was 99.

Her death was confirmed by her grandson, Kirk Kelleykahn, an actor and dancer.

Ms. Moore received a best supporting actress nomination for her role in the 1959 film Imitation of Life, in which she played opposite Lana Turner in a story about two single mothers, one black and one white. It was only the fifth time an African-American performer had been nominated for an Oscar.

The two women begin ostensibly as social equals living under the same roof, but their lives diverge along racial and class lines. Ms. Turner's character becomes a famous actress; Annie Johnson, played by Ms. Moore, becomes her housemaid.

The last film that the filmmaker Douglas Sirk directed in Hollywood, Imitation of Life was widely dismissed as campy melodrama at the time. Its treatment of the intense suffering caused by racial bias, including a subplot in which Annie's light-skinned daughter renounces her to live as a white person, was seen as unbelievable. ("If by accident we should pass in the street," the daughter, played by Susan Kohner, tells her, "please don't recognize me." Ms. Kohner was also nominated for a best supporting actress Oscar.)

But the film has since been re-evaluated and given high marks by many film historians and critics for the subtlety of its social criticism and psychological insight.

Ms. Moore's performance, in particular, has earned her generations of new fans, said Foster Hirsch, a professor of film at Brooklyn College who has organized several academic conferences on Imitation of Life.

"She delivers an astounding performance," Mr. Hirsch said. "She does a death scene that still reduces audiences to tears — I have seen it many times."

But after she was nominated for an Oscar, Ms. Moore told The Los Angeles Times in 1967, the work seemed to dry up. "The Oscar prestige was fine, but I worked more before I was nominated," she said. "Casting directors think an Oscar nominee is suddenly in another category. They couldn't possibly ask you to do one or two days' work."

It would be a decade more before black actresses like Ms. Moore would be considered for major roles, Mr. Hirsch noted.

Ms. Moore was born in Greenwood, Miss., on Oct. 19, 1914, and raised in South Central Los Angeles, the youngest of Harrison and Ella Moore's eight children. After graduating from high school and spending a few months at Los Angeles City College, she decamped for New York in search of a stage career.

She became a dancer. Throughout the 1930s and '40s she performed in the elaborate stage shows of nightclubs in Harlem, including the Cotton Club, and in Paris and London, before returning to Los Angeles. She studied acting at the Actors' Laboratory and began getting small, uncredited parts in films, like that of a maid and an African tribeswoman. She was already in her mid-30s by the times she made her film debut, in Elia Kazan's Pinky (1949), also a film about race. (Throughout her career she hid her true age, saying she had been born in 1922.)

After Imitation of Life, she appeared in television dramas and in films including Walk on the Wild Side and The Singing Nun. She appeared on Broadway in James Baldwin's play The Amen Corner in 1965 and in a London production of A Raisin in the Sun. And she was active on the Los Angeles stage, performing with the Ebony Showcase Theater and the Cambridge Players.

Mr. Kelleykahn, her grandson, is her only immediate survivor. Ms. Moore's first husband, the dancer Nyas Berry, died in 1951. Her second husband, Charles Burris, a Los Angeles bus driver, died in 2001.

Sam Staggs, author of the 2009 book Born to Be Hurt: The Untold Story of Imitation of Life, said in a phone interview on Friday that Ms. Moore's performance was the major reason for the film's box-office success (it was one of the most successful movies made to that point by Universal Studios).

People came in droves to watch in the dark and weep, Mr. Staggs said: "There are many, many people alive today who remember crying at her performance, but who could not tell you her name."