While official Hollywood is consumed with the Oscars, the independent film world continues to be consumed with providing alternative routes to notoriety. Take the case of a 30-year-old British-born guerrilla filmmaker named Ash. That's right--he doesn't divulge his full name. Not long ago, Ash and some friends scraped together $20,000 and made a 90-minute feature film called "Bang," which has received strong reviews and is entered in this week's Newport Beach International Film Festival. "Bang" tells the story of a young Asian American woman (Darling Narita) who, after being abused, steals a police uniform and masquerades for a day as an LAPD motorcycle cop. "It's not an anti-LAPD movie," Ash explained. "I try to show that when she puts that uniform on, it's not easy being an LAPD officer." The film was shot over five weeks around Los Angeles without permits. "We knew we were up against it and that if we went to a particular location, we'd have only 20 or 30 minutes before we'd get shut down by the authorities," Ash said. "That is why we had to take a hand-held [camera] approach. I didn't have time to set up a tripod or dolly." At one location near Madonna's house, Ash recalled, the cast and crew hid out in bushes while a park ranger searched for them, then jumped out and resumed filming. The finished movie has not only led to a best debut actress nomination for Narita at this year's Independent Spirit Awards, but also launched Ash's filmmaking career. "Ever since that happened, my small, little world has exploded," Ash said. "I've gotten calls from Christopher Walken to Oliver Stone. Suddenly, they are all aware of my film." After being "head-hunted" by major agencies, Ash chose International Creative Management, which is packaging his next film--with a $5-million budget--called "The BBC." Whereas "Bang" dealt with what a woman will do for power, Ash said "The BBC" will be "a twisted love story about the sacrifices a woman will make for love." The director also envisions a third movie about "what a woman will do for sex," thus completing a trilogy. In the meantime, Ash said, he has been invited to join the Directors Guild of America. "When I can afford it, I'd like to do that."
High Expectations for Ice Cube's Latest
Ice Cube still holds water. In an era when hip-hop stars seem to rise and fall weekly, with a new rapper always seeming to come along to replace the last, Cube endures. That fact is expected to be borne out again Wednesday when first-week sales figures for "The Players Club" soundtrack are reported by SoundScan. More than 750,000 copies of the record have been shipped to stores by Heavyweight/A&M Records, reflecting Cube's continuing appeal. The rapper served as executive producer of the collection and his rapping skills are featured on five of its 16 tracks. Cube, who was one of the founding members of the seminal gangsta rap group N.W.A. before branching out into a solo career and other ancillary projects in the early '90s, also co-wrote, directed and co-stars in the movie, which will be released April 8. And he has hit the promotion trail running. He drew overflow crowds to in-store appearances last week in Oakland, San Bernardino and Torrance, and he has several more scheduled across the country this week. He'll also be popping up on MTV, BET and even ABC's "Politically Incorrect With Bill Maher," where he'll be a guest next Monday night. Meanwhile, he continues work on his solo album, "War & Peace," a two-disc package that is tentatively scheduled to be released June 30. It will be his first release in nearly five years.
CBS Hoping Hoops Score for Selleck
The Olympics didn't do much to keep Tom Selleck's ratings airborne. Now it's time to see if basketball can provide a bigger lift. After watching ratings slide in disappointing fashion since premiering the actor's new series "The Closer" Monday nights after the Winter Games ended, CBS will air an original episode of Selleck's comedy this Saturday following the network's NCAA basketball tournament Final Four coverage. CBS has a lot invested in the onetime "Magnum P.I." standout and fears his show could be the latest vehicle featuring the television comeback of a major star to skid into a ratings ditch--joining Ted Danson's "Ink." Though the program started out reasonably well, with nearly 16 million people viewing its premiere, "The Closer," like many new series, has lost viewers each week, while the audience has gradually increased for a competing program in its time slot, Fox's "Ally McBeal." CBS thinks its show is improving and hopes showcasing Selleck after basketball will attract hard-to-reach men who don't normally watch network television. In light of CBS' tough run since the Olympics, however, there's room to doubt whether high-profile sports can be counted on to dish off an assist to new series.