Monday, August 07, 2017

International Online Film Festival Selection

I am happy to announce that Cake: A Love Story has been designated an Official Selection of the 2017 NSAEN International Online Film Festival.

Cake: A Love Story is a short film based on It Had To Be Us, the award-winning romantic memoir my husband and I co-wrote under the pen names of Harry and Elizabeth Lawrence. The book tells about our journey back together after a divorce and estrangement that lasted almost twenty years. Adapted and directed by Misha Zubarev with the assistance of V. Ulea, the movie stars Debra Lord Cooke as Elizabeth and Richard Vernon as Harry. Nancy Lombardo and George Bettinger portray Elizabeth’s friends. Congratulations to the cast and crew for this special recognition of their fine work!

It’s an honor to be part of the first annual film festival sponsored by the No Strings Attached E-News Online Magazine. This special festival was created to bring together filmmakers from around the world to showcase their work in an exclusively online format. Because online is the way many people today view movies, news and TV series, NSAEN folks want to recognize new media professionals who demonstrate craft and creativity and produce fresh entertainment.

A panel of celebrity judges will pick winners in eleven categories, and the results will be announced during December of this year.  

(Thanks to Denise Cassino for the lovely collage.) 

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Tuesday, August 01, 2017

A Night To Remember

Talk about a stroll down memory lane. No, I take that back. Watching Brave New Jersey was more like a time travel trip to a special 1938 October night when my cousins and I were enjoying our weekly ride in the backseat of Uncle Frank’s car. After about fifteen minutes, we got a bit rowdy so Aunt Elizabeth said, “Turn on the radio, Frank. Maybe that will calm these kids down.”

But instead of calming us down, the program we heard just happened to be the infamous Orson Welles’ dramatization of Martian attacks. Unfortunately we got in after the announcement at the beginning of the show. And, of course, like many other listeners who tuned in late  -- we thought this was a news broadcast. Well, you can imagine how frightened we were!

Uncle Frank decided that we would head to the hills and hide from the monsters. By the time we arrived in the small mountain community near our town, we heard the announcer explain about this dramatization – and we couldn’t stop laughing all the way home.     

Brave New Jersey is so much fun.
You’ll chuckle lots before it’s done.
It’s based on facts about a prank
that we have Orson Welles to thank.

His hoax fooled folks in days gone by.
It made them fear and scream and cry.
This comedy shows a small town
in panic searching space men down.

Though not one creature can be found,
these folks still try to hold their ground.
Some lives are changed by this big night.
For the better? Yes, that is right.

The film excels production-wise.
Period look should win a prize.
The actors fit their roles with ease.
Their funny actions aim to please!

Director/writer Jody Lambert uses the impact of the Welles radio broadcast as the backdrop for his amusing movie. He deserves kudos for putting together a wonderful, diverse cast and crew to create a film that looks as real as possible. The sets, costumes, autos, and hair/makeup made me feel like I was back in 1938. (Full disclosure: I’m one of the few folks still living who remember what things were like during that time period.)       

Brave New Jersey proves that nostalgia can be exciting as well as fun.        

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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Ode to Okja

Creativity reigns in Okja, another splendid movie by filmmaker Bong Joon Ho, who also gave us such unusual offerings as The Host and Snowpiercer. This time he focuses on the relationship between a girl and her very strange pet, a monstrous pig-like animal that’s been with her and her grandfather for ten years. Sadly, Mija (played by Seo-Hyun Ahn) had no idea that Okja really belongs to a multi-national corporation with plans to take her back for their nefarious purposes. And that means shipping the animal from South Korea to New York City for a big celebration and then – yikes! – turning Okja into a tasty food product. Naturally, animal lovers get involved with Mija in efforts to save Okja and help the two get back to their Korean home.

It’s greed, gluttony, manipulation and betrayal versus love, courage and concern for animals in this action-packed movie. So, of course, I was motivated to write another film poem.                 

“Okja! Okja!” Young Mija shouts
during one of their playful bouts.
Her creature friend? A super pig.
Okja is really, really big.

Okja it seems was engineered
to help food shortage that was feared.
But to Mija, she’s much, much more --.
a part of her family core.

When time comes for Okja’s demise
will Mija do something that’s wise?
Or will she be too late to save
Okja although she’s very brave?

Okja the film dazzles the eyes.
Scene after scene offers surprise.
But not for youngsters, I must state.
Vegetarians, too, should hesitate,

As a vegetarian myself, I found it hard to watch some of this film. Okja starts out with such beautiful, gentle scenes between Mija and her super pig as they play together in the mountains of South Korea. So when the movie goes to the dark side, it’s quite shocking. Sequences of animal abuse and slaughterhouse procedures almost made me physically ill.
Outrageous as the Okja plot may seem, it deals with important issues and makes us think-- not simply enjoy. It ends up being a movie that matters.   

(Released by Netflix and rated TV-MA.)

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Saturday, July 01, 2017

James Cagney On Demand

Beginning on July 2 and continuing through July 9, film fans have the opportunity to hear a popular Movie Addict Headquarters Tribute to James Cagney, one of Hollywood’s legendary actors. Critics Diana Saenger, James Colt Harrison and A.J. Hakari join this salute to Cagney’s remarkable move career, including his Oscar-winning performance in YANKEE DOODLE DANDY plus many of his other films. What a great way to celebrate the Fourth of July!

Listen to this On Demand episode any time during the week by clicking on the BlogTalkRadio link at the end of this article.   

Although known primarily for his many “tough-guy” roles, Cagney started out in show biz as a dancer. For his first stage performance, he danced dressed as a woman in the chorus line of Every Sailor, a 1919 revue. In later years, he even opened a dance studio for professionals and served as a choreographer. But he only danced in a small number of movies, including Footlight Parade, Taxi, The Seven Little Foys and Yankee Doodle Dandy.

Cagney earned numerous honors for his on-screen work. In addition to his Best Actor Academy Award, he garnered two other Oscar nominations. One for Angels with Dirty Faces, the other for Love Me or Leave Me. He also received the AFI Life Achievement Award, a Kennedy Center Honor and the Screen Actors Guild Lifetime Achievement Award.

It’s interesting to note that after Cagney’s breakthrough gangster part in The Public Enemy back in the 1930s, many moviegoers had a hard time accepting him in “good-guy” roles, but it’s still not surprising that in 1999 the AFI ranked him EIGHTH among the 50 Greatest American Screen Legends.  

The list of other films that prove Cagney’s versatility as an actor includes: White Heat, Mr. Roberts, Ragtime, One Two Three, Strawberry Blonde, The Roaring Twenties, Tribute to a Bad Man, Man of a Thousand Faces, The Oklahoma Kid, and A Lion Is in the Street.

HOST: Betty Jo Tucker
PRODUCER: Nikki Starr

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Sunday, June 04, 2017

Film Review by Pamela Jaye Smith

Thanks to Pamela Jaye Smith, author of ROMANTIC COMEDIES: These Films Can Save Your Love Life, for the following review of the short film Cake: A Love Story.   

Want to watch a dramatic yet heart-warming romance? In Cake: A Love Story, Harry and Elizabeth are tentatively reuniting twenty years after their divorce after a twenty year marriage. The passing of years has brought their young idealism back to the fore -- and those early fires of attraction? They’re still there! It’s advance, retreat… advance, retreat… until both dare to cross the chasm of years on the bridge of forgiveness. Elizabeth and Harry renew their promises with new-found wisdom and the joyful realization that romantic miracles can happen at any age.

Ah…the one that got away. Most of us have regrets about the romantic past and desires for a do-over in love. When Elizabeth and Harry meet up again, we watch them go through those awkward first moments when dancing around the old feelings, testing the waters to see if they’re still even warm, and the glorious discovery that the fires – no matter how many years have gone by – are still hot. Given the past heartache, will both of them dare to try again? Cake: A Love Story is an encouraging film and an inspiration to those who still yearn after many years for that special Love that got away.

This short romantic film embodies the criteria for classic love stories in its Idealism -- former spouses still holding the youthful images of each other from the Summer of Love; Joy -- realizing that even a simple touch re-opens the gates of fond memories; Integrity -- treating each other with respect regardless of the differences behind their divorce twenty years ago; and Passion -- without that, it’s just friendship. With Passion, it is the cosmos in a kiss. So should you get together with your Ex? Cake: A Love Story shows how well that can work.

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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

From Page to Screen

It Had To Be Us, a romantic memoir by Harry and Elizabeth Lawrence, has been adapted for the screen in a short film titled CAKE: A Love Story. A private screening for cast and crew was held on May 21 at the Metropolitan Room in New York City. Filmmaker Misha Zubarev hosted the event. Zubarev wrote, produced and directed the film with V. Ulea as co-writer and co-director, and Vad Chariton composed the musical score based on Zubarev’s original song “Remember the Day.” This Ariella Media production is currently being submitted to national and international film festivals. 
Although the film deviates from the book, it pays tribute to the spirit of the original source. Richard Vernon and Debra Lord Cooke portray Harry and Elizabeth, who were married for twenty-four years before their divorce. Nancy Lombardo and George Bettinger play Elizabeth’s friends. 

In his review of this movie, film critic Richard Jack Smith writes, “As a hopeless romantic, I instantly warmed to the connection made by Harry and Elizabeth Lawrence. Their stunning memoir It Had To Be Us took chances that traditional love stories don’t. For one, the characters come across as idiosyncratic and well developed. Also, there’s Misha Zubarev’s filmmaking sensibility in translating this narrative to the big screen.  A collaboration with V. Ulea on script and direction, Cake: A Love Story reveals hope at the end of a long breakup.”

According to film critic Nell Minow, the Movie Mom®, “This endearing love story proves that love is lovelier the second time around, especially if it is with the same person you loved the first time.”
Priscilla Leona, radio host of Question Reality, calls Cake: A Love Story “a charming, light-hearted, easy-going romantic comedy that delivers lots of smiles, a few good chuckles and ton of tears, for me, at the end.

 It Had To Be Us won First Place in the E-book category at the Hollywood Book Festival, where awards were given to books with the most potential to be transferred to other media such as film and television. The memoir also received a Five-Star rating from Romantic Times Magazine. The Lawrences donate their authors’ royalties to THE IMAGINATION LIBRARY, a children’s literacy project sponsored by the Dollywood Foundation.  


(Originally published by SANDS Publishing)
Extended Kindle E-Book published by Long Story Short Publishing Company, Inc.

Available at Amazon’s Kindle Store for $5.99

Press Contacts: 
Denise Cassino (

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Sunday, May 21, 2017

Dare-Devil Artist

Burden shows an artist so rare.
His art at first caused quite a scare.
Dangerous things just spurred him on.
Like being shot. That’s not a con.

“Art Evil Knievel,” it’s said.
Was that thought really in his head?
But performance art called to him.
It truly was not just a whim.

Later, beauty his work enhanced.
Installations by him entranced.
Provoking some, his work will last
despite his quite jaw-dropping past.

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