End of Watch: Tops Boxoffice & Audiences Love it — And so do Chicks

Michael Pena’s Academy Award Performance

The Coolist Chick Flick

By Bel Hernandez
  
End of Watch delivers as an action cop drama to the tune of $13 million dollars and the #1 spot at the box office.  The latest David Ayer (Training Day, Street Kings) film takes you on a rollercoaster ride of killings, drug deals, crack heads, human trafficking, and sadistic criminals. But it is the emotional ride that I enjoyed the most, making it officially my favorite Chick Flick in too many years.
  
Yes, End of Watch is a chick flick in all the sense of the word.  Are you kidding me?  The gorgeous leading men Michael Pena (Officer Mike Zavala) and Jake Gyllenhaal (Officer Brian Taylor) are enough to get the female fans into the theater.  Although you will get all the macho heroics in this film, you will also get a story about friendship.  You get to know these officers personally as they ride around South Central LA talking about everything from dating, marriage, kids, quinceneras, and their personal fears.  It’s “Guy Talk”.  And it makes you care, and root for them, and cry with them.  Chick Flick — right?
 
 
“I wanted to capture the story of guys that go out there, work hard, do their job, and are fundamentally good people,” said director Ayer. “It’s the reality of it. It’s how cops connect to each other. So this is really about being let into a secret world.”  As for the female audience Ayer says, “This film tested very high among women audiences.”
  
Two characters constantly present throughout the film even when they are not on screen are the women in these officer’s lives; Janet (Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air, The Twilight Films) is Officer Taylor’s new girlfriend and Gabby (Natalie Martinez, Death Race, Detroit 1-8-7) Zavala’s wife of three years.
  
In their squad car talks, Zavala, who’s been with the same woman since high school, begins to school Taylor on love in a very brotherly fashion. He wants to see his brother happy and loved as he is with his Gabby.
  

  
“I always saw Gabby as really strong—she clearly has a deep love for him, but wears the pants in the house. I love the idea that here is this tough street cop, and he’s running around shooting bad guys and hopping fences, and he goes home and he’s like, ‘Yes, dear.’  Could Ayer, who is married to a Latina, be writing from experience?
  
But the biggest revelation in End of Watch is Michael Pena’s Oscar worthy performance.  It is the culmination of a career of excellent work in a variety of roles.  He’s played a hero (The Twin Towers); Mexican American icon (Walkout); a locksmith (Crash) and an inmate (Lincoln Lawyer).
  
There is talk in the industry about Pena breaking out of playing supporting roles.  I say he already has with End of Watch.  This is his film.  He is the heart of End of Watch — in the end he is my Chick Flick hero.

Cast: Michael Pena, Jake Gyllenhaal, Anna Kendrick, Natalie Martinez, America Ferrera, Cody Horn, Frank Grillo, David Harbour

Director-screenwriter: David Ayer

Producers: David Ayer, John Lesher, Nigel Sinclair, Matt Jackson

Executive producers: Randall Emmett, Stepan Martirosyan, Remington Chase, Adam Kassan, Chrisann Verges, Guy East, Tobin Armbrust, Jake Gyllenhaal

Director of photography: Roman Vasyanov

Production companies: Exclusive Media, Le Grisbi, Crave Films
Distributor: Open Road Films

AAPI Heritage Month

Posted May 28, 2012 by Stephanie Pollick

We were all glued to our television sets last Wednesday night as the winner of this season’s American Idol was announced. Jessica Sanchez made it to the top two contestants and performed beautifully throughout the season, but alas, she was not crowned America’s Idol. In a recent interview, Jessica said that she will always stay grounded and remember where she comes from. So just where does this 16-year-old come from? Raised in Chula Vista, California by her Mexican-American father and Filipina mother, Jessica has been fully embraced by both communities, receiving warm welcomes to her hometown by both Filipino and Hispanic supporters who flocked to the local football stadium to give her the warm welcome she deserved when she visited home a few weeks ago, as all top three Idol contestants do each year. It’s great to see the two communities come together to embrace a rising star.
  
Jessica captivated the nation with her singing and we hope that her career is only just beginning. But she isn’t the first Hispanic-Filipino artist to get our attention. In honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we would like to give a special shout-out to a couple of our favorite Latino celebrities who also share Asian roots.
  
2011 ALMA nominee Enrique Iglesias and singer Bruno Mars both have music in their blood. Enrique was raised by his Filipina mother and Spanish father who introduced us to the Iglesias name long before Enrique himself graced the stage. Everyone is well aware of his Spanish background, but his Filipino side is often a surprise to those who know him as a Hispanic singer. This could be because he was raised away from his mother for much of his life, but he does recall fond memories of the food that his mother used to make as well as the importance she placed on family—a core value of both Latino and Asian cultures.
  
Bruno was born in Hawaii to a Puerto Rican musician father and Filipina hula dancing mother. He grew up surrounded by music and has been performing since he was a toddler. Latino and Filipino fans embrace Bruno as one of their own and he is highlighted in both Latino and Filipino publications. At a concert in Manila on his first visit to the Philippines, Bruno announced to the crowd of 10,000, “I am Filipino!” and promised to go back.
  
By embracing the different sides of their ancestry, these stars are bringing communities together. It is important to embrace diversity not only within the general United States population, but within each community as well. Diversity strengthens our communities and helps us gain broader perspectives. Who is your favorite bicultural Latino star?

Common Census

Posted May 23, 2012 by Janet Murguía, NCLR President and CEO

Last week, the Census Bureau released updated population numbers affirming once again that Latinos are America’s largest and fastest-growing minority.  There are now 52 million of us residing in the U.S.—nearly one in five Americans.  Perhaps the most striking statistic is that more than half of babies born in the U.S. are “minorities,” and minority children make up half of all children under the age of five—the American future in a nutshell.
 
If these figures surprise you, you probably watch a lot of prime-time network television.  The shows that most Americans watch at night are a serious contrast to our schools, our neighborhoods, and our communities—devoid of a significant minority presence, especially when it comes to Latinos.  And the fall TV schedule unveiled this week in New York by the four major networks does little to change that monochromatic landscape, and perhaps will make it even worse.
 
Gone are programs like CSI: Miami, Desperate Housewives, and Rob, all of which had lead Latino characters.  In fact, not one of the new shows picked up by the networks features a lead or strong secondary Hispanic character.
 
How bad is it?  When NCLR put out its landmark series of reports on Latinos on television two decades ago, we quoted writer-director Jesus Treviño’s quip that you were more likely to find someone from outer space than a Latino on television.  Well, 20 years later, there will be no Latino family starring on a prime-time network television this September, but there will be a family of space aliens.
 
We know of at least three programs starring Hispanics that were developed by the networks, meaning the scripts were shot and considered for the schedule.  Unfortunately, not one of these shows, even with high-profile producers and actors attached, were placed on the network prime-time schedule.
 
There’s a lot of talk by the networks about reaching out to the Latino audience, but little action.   Networks need to be brave enough to pick up shows with Latinos in starring roles.  Learn from what works and what doesn’t work, then try again until you succeed.  Isn’t that how all successful ventures work?  With the majority of American Latinos watching most of their television on English-language outlets, this is not only the brave but also the smart thing to do.
 
To those who say it doesn’t matter that Latinos aren’t on sitcoms or soapy dramas, we say it does matter.  It matters a lot.  Just last week, Vice President Joe Biden cited the effect of Will and Grace on people’s view of the LGBT community.  Studies have shown that the single most important factor for someone supporting same sex marriage is knowing someone who is gay, including a character on a television show like Modern Family.  In other words, when a gay person stops being the “other,” the misconceptions and the barriers fall.
 
There is perhaps no group seen or treated more as the “other” in today’s America than the Hispanic community.  Yet in today’s society, Latinos are everywhere—your librarian, server, investment banker, bus driver, university president, art school teacher, theater manager, doctor, state senator, interior designer, U.S. Secretary of Labor, neighbor, and more.
 
Yes, we need a change in political rhetoric:  a restoration of light vs. heat in news coverage, and more courageous elected officials denouncing scapegoating and demonizing.  But Latinos also need to see their reality, America’s reality, reflected on a medium that unites us all—television entertainment.
 
When Latinos are more than just a blip on the screen, our fellow Americans will learn that we want and value the same things—our family, our faith, our work, and our country.  And maybe we will at long last stop being America’s “other.”

Bigger. Better. More ALMA than ever before.

Posted March 12, 2012 by Jessica Mayorga

Last Tuesday night, a clock started ticking on the ALMA Awards website counting down the days, hours, and minutes leading up to the 2012 NCLR ALMA Awards on NBC.  The show is back, and on Friday, September 21, it will deliver another star-studded lineup of your favorite Latino entertainers.  It’s never too early to start planning for the event of the year.  There’s no better way to kick off Hispanic Heritage Month than through this exciting celebration of Latino contributions to American media arts.  It’s the only time on English-language, prime time, network television when we can all tune in to celebrate our Latino film, TV, and music trailblazers.
 
Did you know that groups throughout the country gather for creative and fun-filled ALMA watch parties?  Keep an eye on the ALMA website this summer when the official watch party kit becomes available.  This free and thorough kit contains everything from invitations you can print out to recipes for ALMAritas and ALMAtinis, not to mention great show-inspired food courtesy of our friends at PepsiCo.
 
While watch parties are legendary, we are proud of the great discussions that spring from the ALMA Awards broadcast.  On college campuses throughout the country, students gather to watch the broadcast and use the free conversation guide on the ALMA website.  While ALMA is a blast to watch, it also promotes a message that we need to share with others—whether they are Latino or not.  The discussions we hope to spark serve to educate our peers about what our gente contribute in every aspect of entertainment.
 
How will you celebrate the 2012 NCLR ALMA Awards?  Let us know here.  If you’re one of the first to share your plans with us, there’s a prize in it for you! Tune in on September 21 and every day on the ALMA website, Facebook, and Twitter pages.  And start thinking about your ALMA gathering.  We look forward to hearing from you soon!
 

ALMA: Beyond the Big Screen

Posted March 1, 2012 by Samantha Ferm
 
The spirit of ALMA, while originating in the entertainment world, goes beyond the big screen and the Top 40 countdown on the radio.  While we honor, respect, and admire the hard work of the individuals who have carved a path in television, film, and music, we also love seeing the ALMA mission manifested in other arenas, like food.
 
For example, check out the strong ALMA spirit of these Latina chefs who are making major inroads on television, bringing the flavor and variety of Latin cooking to the world while at the same time making it more accessible and familiar.  Ingrid Hoffman of the Cooking Channel’s “Simply Delicioso” and “Delicioso” on Univision, Evette Rios from “The Chew” on ABC, and Marcela Valladolid on the Food Network have all brought the ALMA of Latino culture and heritage to a much wider audience—and that audience is responding as Latin flavors grow in popularity, not only on TV but in cooking schools throughout the nation.  We love seeing these talented Latinas on TV increase cultural awareness in their own “foodie” industry!
 
So now we ask you: are you an ALMA star in your own kitchen?  Who do you think of as an ALMA star, whatever the industry?  We’d love to know!
 
And don’t forget, follow the new @ALMAawards Twitter handle for up-to-the-minute news and updates.
 

ALMA and the Oscars

Posted February 28, 2012 by Samantha Ferm

Thanks to everyone who has followed our brand-new ALMA Awards Twitter handle, @ALMAawards, and who joined our Sunday chat with the hashtag #ALMAandOscar.  Now that we’re finally coming back down to earth after that Oscars adrenaline rush, let’s review the highlights, starting with Nina Garcia who held down red carpet coverage with her partner in crime from Project Runway, Tim Gunn.  The Colombian queen of fashion didn’t miss a single sartorial detail in the parade of tuxedos and gowns that came her way!
 
Several of our favorite Latinas rocked the red carpet as well as the stage, including Penelope Cruz, Berenice Bejo, Jennifer Lopez, and Cameron Diaz.  Lopez and Diaz hammed it up on stage as they struck a sassy pose while announcing winners—a refreshing break from the show’s usual formality—while Sheila E. played drums as part of the house band.  We love Latinas who rock like these ladies do, on or off the stage!
 
Another highlight was the montage of celebrity mothers which played at the top of the show.  It demonstrated the importance of family and was a touching glimpse of the journeys of well-known film stars as they strove to succeed in the entertainment industry.  ALMA Awards nominee and Oscar nominee for best lead actor Demián Bichir brought his mother to the show and walked her through the red carpet ceremony, a sweet reminder of the importance of his familia in his own personal success (though we’re still drying our tears at Bichir’s loss of the Oscar to French star Jean Dujardin, who won for his role in the lovely film, The Artist).
 
One of the most genuine moments of the program came from Esperanza Spalding as she sang a glorious rendition of “What a Wonderful World” for the “In Memoriam” tribute.  The touching program honored individuals, including Whitney Houston, throughout the entertainment industry for their lifelong contributions.
 
All in all, the 2012 Academy Awards® were compelling, memorable, and at times extremely witty with thoughtful tributes to family, history, and a lighthearted appreciation of the talent in the theater.  What did you think of the show?  Let us know on our Facebook or Tweet to us with the hashtag #ALMAandOscar!
 

So Much to Embrace and Celebrate

Posted February 20, 2012 by Jessica Mayorga

As our Dominicanos like Zoë Saldana, Judy Reyes, and Tristan Wilds prepare to celebrate their heritage and their island’s independence day later this month, we thought it a great opportunity to pay tribute to the diversity of our Latino entertainers. The spectrum of Hispanic artists is amazing and reflects the beauty of our diverse roots.
 
Our combination of Native, European, African, and Asian roots (whether you trace your tree back to one or, in my case, all four of these groups), makes it impossible to describe what a Latino or Latina looks like. Just look at our Dominican artists to see the rich variety of influences and heritages that came together on the island of Hispaniola. All throughout the Americas we experience this great potpourri, sancocho or salsa.
 
Our friends at Latina magazine recently identified dozens of artists who most people don’t typically recognize as Latino, but they are! Don’t fall into the trap of letting someone’s surname, hair color, or accent lead you to make assumptions about them. And when you scroll through lists of past ALMA nominees and awardees, there might be a name or two that jumps out at you—people who you didn’t realize were Latino.
 
We’re from all over, we come in every hue, and we bring together a great array of cultures that we should be proud of.
 
So, as we celebrate the achievements of our Dominican American Latinos, we also celebrate what makes us such a dynamic group in this country.
 

The GRAMMYs and Remembering Whitney

Posted February 14, 2012 by Vanessa A. Alvarez and Samantha Ferm

This past week left the music industry reeling from the news of the untimely passing of music legend Whitney Houston as she and the music world prepared for the Recording Academy’s 54th GRAMMY Awards.
 
Houston carved her own path in music and film, and did so with class and flair; the loss of such extraordinary talent will continue to be felt in Hollywood and beyond.  Houston led the way for up-and-coming talent and her legacy will continue to live on in the hearts of so many young stars.  With a touching tribute and rendition of “I Will Always Love You” by Jennifer Hudson, the entire nation gathered to celebrate the life and music of the one and only Whitney Houston.
 
While Adele swept the show with six GRAMMYs, pop singer and ALMA Award nominee Bruno Mars wowed the audience with not only a fantastic performance of “Runaway” but a total of six nominations, followed by ALMA Award winner and The Voice presenter Christina Aguilera, with two nods.
 
Congrats to all nominees and awardees, and our thoughts go out to the family and friends of the one and only Whitney Houston.
 

AWARD SHOW SEASON

Posted January 23, 2012 by Jessica Mayorga

 
The current awards-show season is a great opportunity to follow our ALMA celebs, their wins, their speeches, and their fashion. This month, between the People’s Choice Awards and the Golden Globes, we’ve had a lot to talk about!
 
Past ALMA awardees and nominees made quite a splash at last week’s Golden Globes. From the tongue twister delivered by Antonio Banderas in Spanish as he shared the stage with Salma Hayek to the bilingual acceptance speech led by Sofia Vergara and her Modern Family producer, it was apparent that Latino entertainers owned the spotlight and proudly embraced the cultural diversity that they bring to the table.
 
Beyond gracing the stage, Latino entertainers made their mark on the red carpet in high fashion. Sofia Vergara led the way in midnight blue Vera Wang. Gucci was the couture house of choice for many of our stars, draping Salma, Jessica Alba, and Berenice Bejo in standout originals.
 
The Golden Globes this year, perhaps more than ever before, embraced our Latino talent and demonstrated that they are just as much part of the fabric of American entertainment as their non-Hispanic co-stars. This underscores the spirit of ALMA, showing how diversity strengthens our country and how inclusion strengthens the entertainment industry.
 
Keep your feedback coming! Tell us what you want to read and write about. Stop by our Facebook page or tweet your thoughts…we read everything you send us and we’re eager to hear from you to make ALMA stronger every day.
 

ALMA Goes Academy

posted by: Samantha Ferm – January 23, 2012

 
Last week was a big week in the entertainment world: Academy Awards Nominations Announcement Week!
 
Along with everyone else, we were also eager to see whose acting skills garnered those much-desired nominations and were thrilled to see 2011 ALMA Awards nominee Demián Bichir be recognized for his touching portrayal of an undocumented father raising his son in East LA in the film A Better Life. Big congratulations to Mr. Bichir, and the best of luck at this year’s Academy Awards! If you recall, A Better Life won the “Favorite Movie” category at the 2011 NCLR ALMA Awards, and is truly a poignant story. Make sure to rent it if you haven’t done so yet, and support Mr. Bichir in his outstanding nomination!
 
Puss in Boots, with ALMA Awards winners Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek, is also up for the “Animated Feature Film” Academy Award. Congrats to them and the entire team behind Puss in Boots. We wish them the best of luck.
 
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