Critics Choice Association to Honor Rita Moreno at Inaugural “Celebration of Latino Cinema”

It’s a special celebration for the legendary Rita Moreno

The 89-year-old Puerto Rican actress, dancer and singer will be honored alongside Lin-Manuel Miranda and Demián Bichir at the Critics Choice Association’s inaugural Celebration of Latino Cinema.

Rita MorenoMoreno, Miranda and Bichor will be honored alog with a group of additional honorees, many associated with upcoming 2021 films, still to be announced.

The Celebration of Latino Cinema, to be presented virtually, will take place on Thursday, December 9, 2021 and aims to put a spotlight on the contributions of great Oscar-winning and -nominated artists like Moreno, Miranda and Bichir, but also Latino filmmaking in general, a facet of the motion picture industry that doesn’t always get the recognition it deserves during awards season.

Among other things, the CCA’s Celebration of Latino Cinema aims to change that.

“We are thrilled to be launching the first annual Celebration of Latino Cinema which recognizes the talented performers and skilled professionals who create the acclaimed films we are so proud to honor,” said Claudia Puig, a CCA member and co-programmer of the event.

“Films by our honorees represent the diverse and multi-faceted Latino community, and reflect our increasingly inclusive industry” said CCA board member and event co-programmer Clayton Davis.

The Celebration of Latino Cinema will be produced by Madelyn Hammond and Javier Infante of Madelyn Hammond & Associates. Stagedge will be responsible for transforming the show into an immersive virtual experience.

A portion of the proceeds from the event will be donated to LA Collab, whose mission is to accelerate Latino access, visibility and representation in the entertainment industry.

Moreno has won all four of the most prestigious awards in show business: an Oscar, a Tony, two Emmys, and a Grammy. She recently co-starred in the Latinx reimagining of Norman Lear’s classic sitcom One Day at a Time, and her documentary Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It had its world premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival before being released in theaters; it will be broadcast on PBS’ American Masters in October. Moreno also co-stars in and executive produces Steven Spielberg’s remake of West Side Story.

She is a recipient of the Peabody Career Achievement Award, a Kennedy Center Honor, the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the National Medal of Arts.

Miranda is a Pulitzer-, Grammy-, Emmy– and Tony Award-winning songwriter, actor and director, and creator and original star of Broadway’s Hamilton and In the HeightsA recipient of the MacArthur Foundation Award, a Kennedy Center Honor and the Portrait of a Nation Prize, he received an Emmy with Tom Kitt for their song “Bigger” from the 67th Tony Awards. Upcoming projects include Disney’s Encanto and his directorial film debut, tick, tick… BOOM!

Bichir received a Best Actor Oscar nomination in 2012 for his role in Chris Weitz’s A Better Life, becoming the first Mexican-born actor to be nominated in that category by the Academy since Anthony Quinn in 1957. He more recently received rave reviews for his performance in the film Land, directed by Robin Wright. His film credits include Steven Soderbergh’s Che, Oliver Stone’s Savages, Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight, Robert Rodriguez’s Machete Kills, Paul Feig’s The Heat, Richard Shepard’s Dom Hemingway, Ridley Scott’s Alien, George Clooney’s The Midnight Sky, and Adam Wingard’s Godzilla Vs. Kong.

Rosalynne Montoya Among Transgender Artists to Sign Development Deal with Ozy Studio

Rosalynne Montoya is ready to breakthrough…

The Hispanic bisexual, non-binary transgender woman, who works as a model, actor, makeup artist and content creator, has signed a development deal with Ozy Studios, along with Puerto Rican chef Paxx Caraballo Moll, Alabama-based activist Dan Eggers.

Rosalynne Montoya

Beginning as a digital magazine in 2013, Ozy has moved into podcasts, events and original television series featured on A+E, History, Lifetime, Amazon, Hulu, OWN, PBS and BBC.

Montoya, Chef Pax and Eggers will now be part of those multi-platform storytelling initiatives.

“At Ozy we feel the immense responsibility of pushing culture forward with the content we share and conversations we foster with our audience,” said CEO Carlos Watson. “We feel this is an important moment to highlight the complexity of humanity and the truly diverse life experiences of these incredible talents are one important way in which we can do that.”

“Amplifying voices from within the trans community is not just in-line with Ozy’s philosophy: It’s personal,” said Executive Director of Ozy Studios Chris Rantamaki. “As a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, I know the impact of seeing ourselves reflected in pop culture. I’m excited about showcasing a wide spectrum of trans talent in our content, alongside some of the biggest celebrities in the world.”

Montoya is well-known on TikTok and Instagram.

“Queer people need accurate representation,” said Montoya. “When I felt like I didn’t have a future or life wasn’t worth living, it was seeing positive representations in the media that proved to me that I have a happy and successful life ahead.”

Chef Pax is a trans man who was named Best New Chef in 2019 by Food and Wine magazine.

“I’m excited to work with Ozy because I felt at home with them immediately,” says Chef Paxx. “I can’t wait to highlight my culinary skills and bring my queer kitchen sensibilities to the entire world.”

The Alabama-born Eggers is the first openly transgender person to enter a top college musical theater program. Of his new deal Eggers said, “I felt that my experience would be properly honored in the Ozy family rather than tokenized…Ozy sincerely brings forward those who have often been left behind. I am ready to help #ResetAmerica!”

Rita Moreno to Star in the Feature Film “The Prank”

Rita Moreno is pranking around…

The 89-year-old Puerto Rican actress, singer and dancer, an EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar & Tony Award winner) has landed a starring role in the feature film The Prank, which will be directed by Maureen Bharoocha.

Rita Moreno

Moreno will star opposite Connor Kalopsis and Ramona Young.

The Prank follows two high school students who play a prank on their physics teacher, Mrs. Wheeler, played by Moreno. When she fails them on a test; they teach the imperious, demanding, insulting instructor a lesson by falsely accusing her of the murder of a missing student.

Other cast in The Prank includes Keith David, Meredith Salenger, Jonathan Kimmel, Nathan Janak and Kate Flannery.

Filming begins this month in and around Los Angeles.

The dark comedy is written by Rebecca Flinn-White & Zak White.

“Rita Moreno is a force of nature and an icon who continues to redefine herself,” said Bharoocha. “Her brilliant comedic mind lends itself to the perfect ‘Mrs. Wheeler’, a character we have never seen her play, and one that will no doubt surprise audiences.”

Moreno has won an Oscar (West Side Story), a Tony (The Ritz), two Emmys (for her turns respectively in 1977 and 1978 on The Muppet Show and Rockford Files), and a Grammy (Best Children’s Album for The Electric Company).

Moreno has starred on Broadway and London’s West End, appeared in more than 40 feature films and has performed in numerous regional theaters, including her one-woman show, Life Without Makeup, at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre. She recently co-starred in the critically acclaimed Latinx reimagining of Norman Lear’s classic sitcom One Day At A Time.

Her documentary, Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It, produced by Lear, Lin Manuel Miranda and Brent Miller had its world debut at the Sundance Film Festival this year. The film, which was met with acclaim from critics and audiences alike, will have its television debut on PBS’ American Masters nationwide on October 5.

Moreno also co-stars and is an executive producer of the Steven Spielberg remake of West Side Story, set to open on December 10.

The recipient of the Peabody Career Achievement Award and the Kennedy Center Honor for her lifetime contributions to American culture, she was also honored by her peers as the 50th recipient of the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award.

Moreno’s all-Spanish-language album, Una Vez Más, was produced by her good friend Emilio Estefan, and she is a New York Times bestselling author with her first book, Rita Moreno: A Memoir. Moreno has received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush and the National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama.

Rita Moreno to Perform in PBS’ “Wicked in Concert” Special

It’s a wicked time for Rita Moreno

The 89-year-old Puerto Rican actress, dancer, and singer, a living Latina legend, will take part in PBSWicked in Concert special.

Rita Moreno

Co-hosted by the Tony Award-winning musical’s original Broadway stars Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel, the musical event will feature performances by Moreno, Mario Cantone, Gavin Creel, Ariana DeBose, Cynthia Erivo, Stephanie Hsu, Jennifer Nettles, Alex Newell, Isaac Powell, Amber Riley, Gabrielle Ruiz and Ali Stroker.

The starry line-up was announced by Nouveau Productions Executive Producer Robert Pullen. The concert special will air on Sunday, August 29 at 9:00 pm ET on PBS, PBS.org and the PBS Video App.

The concert, directed by Baayork Lee, is designed as a celebration of the return of Broadway following the 16-month COVID-19 pandemic shutdown.

This special will feature reimagined, never-before-heard Wicked musical arrangements created by music director and conductor Luke Frazier just for this broadcast, with performances filmed in multiple locations including Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and New York City.

Since opening on Broadway in 2003, Wicked, with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and a book by Winnie Holzman based on Gregory Maguire’s novel reimagining some characters from The Wizard of Oz, is the fifth longest-running show in Broadway history.

The musical has been seen by over 60 million people worldwide and has amassed over $5 billion in global sales.

Auli’i Cravalho to Perform at PBS’ Televised Independence Day Celebration “A Capitol Fourth”

Auli’i Cravalho is embracing the independence

The 20-year-old part-Puerto Rican actress/singer will perform at this year’s Independence Day celebration A Capitol Fourth, which will feature a pre-taped concert and live fireworks from Washington, D.C.

Auli’i Cravalho

The city has lifted almost all COVID-19 restrictions, and President Joe Biden is planning an event at the White House that day, his goal for having at least 70% of the country with at least one COVID-19 shot.

But producers have been planning the show for months, with COVID-19 forcing them to set aside the traditional live concert on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol.

In addition to Cravalho, others who will perform at the event are Jimmy Buffett, Cynthia Erivo, Alan Jackson, Pentatonix, Jennifer Nettles, Train, Gladys Knight, Mickey Guyton, Ali Stroker, Jimmie Allen and Laura Osnes.

The National Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Jack Everly, will perform John Williams’ Olympic Fanfare, honoring U.S. participation in the upcoming Summer Olympic Games. The orchestra and the Joint Armed Forces Chorus will accompany the fireworks with Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture.

Vanessa Williams will host the event, with Renee Fleming set to open the show with the National Anthem. The concert will honor men and women of the military, with other participants including the U.S. Army BandPershing’s Own,” the U.S. Army Herald Trumpets, The Joint Armed Forces Chorus and The Armed Forces Color Guard provided by the Military District of Washington, D.C.

The concert, a co-production of Michael Colbert of Capital Concerts and WETA-TV, will air on July 4 from 8:00 pm to 9:30 pm ET on PBS, and it also will be broadcast to the American Forces Network. NPR stations also will air the event, and it will be streamed on Facebook, YouTube and PBS.org through July 18.

Cravalho rose to acclaim as the voice of the title character in Disney’s computer animated musical Moana. Her other credits include NBC’s Rise and Netflix’s drama film All Together Now.

Roadside Attractions Acquires North American Rights to Rita Moreno’s Documentary “Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided To Go For It”

Rita Moreno is ready to bring her life story to America…

Roadside Attractions has acquired North American distribution rights to the 2021 Sundance Film Festival documentary Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided To Go For It, about the 89-year-old Latina living legend.

Rita MorenoA release is planned for June 18.

Roadside’s deal excludes the television license to PBSAmerican Masters, which will present the exclusive U.S. broadcast premiere of the doc after it hits theaters.

In addition to Moreno, others featured in the Mariem Pérez Riera-directed doc include George Chakiris, Héctor Elizondo, Gloria Estefan, Tom Fontana, Morgan Freeman, Mitzi Gaynor, Whoopi Goldberg, Norman Lear, Eva Longoria, Justina Machado, Terrence McNally, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Karen Olivo.

The film covers Moreno’s 70-year-plus career rise and struggles, from her beginnings in poverty on a Puerto Rican farm to becoming a rare EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscars, Tony Awards) winner.

She’s the first Latina actress to win an Oscar (for her role as Anita in 1961’s West Side Story). Despite the win, studios continued to offer Moreno lesser roles as stereotypical ethnic minorities, ignoring her proven talent.

“Roadside Attractions, I’m so pleased for your commitment to my story and especially for making it available to a broader audience. Curtain Up!,” Moreno commented.

“Stars like Rita are few and far between, her showbiz story and personal remembrances resonate for a large, diverse audience, and the heights she continues to achieve are a true crowd pleasing uplift after the year we’ve all had,” said Roadside co-presidents Howard Cohen and Eric d’Arbeloff.

“Rita is an incredible inspiration to so many, hers is a success story for all women who feel alone as they struggle to assert themselves with courage and bravery against heavy odds,” offered director Pérez Riera. “We are so thrilled to bring Rita to theaters for audiences to spend time with a woman who, when speaking about herself, speaks to and for a lot of us.”

“There were only a small group of distributors we hoped would take notice at Sundance. Roadside was at the top of that list,” said film’s producer, ACT III’s Brent Miller and EP Norman Lear. “We think we’re in great hands with Howard and Eric at the helm and couldn’t be more excited for the world to know the Rita we now know and love.”

American Masters Pictures and Act III Productions in association with Artemis Rising and Maramar Films are producers.

Demián Bichir Among AARP The Magazine’s ‘Movies for Grownups Awards’ Winners

Demián Bichir has landed another acting honor…

AARP The Magazine has announced the winners of its annual Movies for Grownups Awards, with the 57-year-old Mexican Oscar-nominated actor taking home a prize.

Demian Bichir, Land

Bichir was named Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Land opposite Robin Wright.

Bichir portrays soft-spoken local Miguel, who meets Edee (Wright) just in time to save Edee (Wright), not only physically but spiritually. Over the next few seasons, he teaches her how to live with the land rather than fight against it.

AARP, which advocates for the 50-plus audience and with its awards highlights films that resonate with older viewers, also featured television categories for the first time.

The Movies for Grownups Awards will air its ceremony on March 28 on PBSGreat Performances with Today’s Hoda Kotb as host.

Here’s the full list of winners:

MOVIES

Best Picture/Best Movie for Grownups
The United States vs. Billie Holiday

Best Actress
Sophia Loren (The Life Ahead)

Best Actor
Anthony Hopkins (The Father)

Best Supporting Actress
Jodie Foster (The Mauritanian)

Best Supporting Actor
Demián Bichir (Land)

Best Director
Aaron Sorkin (The Trial of the Chicago 7)

Best Screenwriter
Aaron Sorkin (The Trial of the Chicago 7)

Best Ensemble
One Night in Miami

Best Intergenerational
Minari

Best Buddy Picture
Da 5 Bloods

Best Time Capsule
Mank

Best Grownup Love Story
Supernova

Best Documentary
A Secret Love

Best Foreign Film/Best International Film
Collective (Romania)

TELEVISION

Best Actress
Catherine O’Hara (Schitt’s Creek)

Best Actor
Mark Ruffalo (I Know This Much Is True)

Best Series
This Is Us (NBC)

Best TV Movie/Limited Series
The Queen’s Gambit (Netflix)

Career Achievement
George Clooney

Juanes to Perform on PBS’ New Year’s Eve special “United in Song: Celebrating the Resilience of America”

Juanes will be helping celebrate the United States’ resilience in a special way…

The 48-year-old Colombian singer/songwriter and musician will take part in PBS’ New Year’s Eve broadcast event United in Song: Celebrating the Resilience of America.

Juanes

Juanes, who has won a combines 26 Grammys and Latin Grammys during his career, will take part in several performance and interview segments filmed at George Washington’s Mount Vernon, including a special Spanish-language rendition of Bruce Springsteen’s Dancing In The Dark.

Other artists participating in the special include Josh Groban, Patti LaBelle, Yo-Yo Ma and Audra McDonald.

United in Song: Celebrating the Resilience of America will premiere on Thursday, December 31, 2020 from 8:00-9:30 pm ET and again from 9:30-11:00 pm ET (check local listings) on PBSPBS.org and the PBS Video App. 

The star-studded performance—filmed at George Washington’s Mount Vernon and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts—encourages the nation to come together and celebrate its irrepressible strength as the world welcomes the New Year. Despite the enormity of COVID-19 and the significant presence of social injustice, this special evening of wide-ranging music is part of the ever-present pursuit of uniting America as one.”

Selena to Receive the Recording Academy’s Lifetime Achievement Award

There’s no denying Selena’s life, cut too short, has left a lasting impression on the world. And, now the music industry’s learned academy is celebrating her impact.

The late Mexican-American singer, known as la Reina de la Musica Tejana, is among the six artists selected by the Recording Academy to receive 2021 Lifetime Achievement Awards.

Selena Quintanilla

Selena, who was shot and killed on March 31, 1995, 16 days before her 24th birthday, by her friend and the former manager of her Selena Etc. boutiques, received two Grammy nominations in 1993-94. She won the 1993 award for best Mexican American album for Live, marking the first time a female Tejano artist had won in the category.

Selena ranks among the most influential Latin artists of all time and is credited for catapulting a music genre into the mainstream market. She has sold around 30 million records worldwide, making her one of the best-selling female artists in Latin music.

This year’s other lifetime achievement award recipients include Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five, Salt-N-Pepa, Talking Heads, Marilyn Horne and Lionel Hampton.

The honorees will be recognized on the 63rd annual Grammy Awards on January 31, and at greater length subsequently. For the last five years, the Special Merit Awards honorees were saluted on a PBS special, Grammy Salute to Music Legends.

“As we welcome the new class of Special Merit Award honorees, it gives us a chance to reward and recognize the influence they’ve had in the music community regardless of genre,” Harvey Mason Jr., chair and interim president/CEO of the Recording Academy, said in a statement.

Here’s a detailed look at this year’s honorees:

Lifetime Achievement Awards:

Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five: The group was formed in the South Bronx in 1978. The group, which was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007, consisted of Grandmaster Flash, Melle Mel, The Kidd Creole, Keef Cowboy, Mr. Ness/Scorpio and Rahiem. The group was praised for its use of turntablism, break-beat deejaying, choreographed stage routines, and lyricism. The group’s 1982 classic “The Message” was voted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2012.

Lionel Hampton: The jazz musician started his career as a drummer in Chicago in the 1920s before he played the vibraphone with Louis Armstrong. In the 1930s, he broke barriers with the Benny Goodman Quartet, one of America’s first integrated jazz bands. In the 1940s, he formed his own Lionel Hampton Orchestra, which became one of the longest running orchestras in jazz history. Hampton received five Grammy nominations between 1984 and 1991, but he never won. He received a Kennedy Center Honor in 1992. Hampton and his Orchestra’s 1942 classic “Flying Home” was voted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1996.  Hampton died in 2002 at age 94.

Marilyn Horne: The opera star, 86, received four Grammys, including the 1964 award for most promising new classical recording artist. (She has now officially fulfilled that promise!) Horne received 15 Grammy nominations between 1964 and 1993. She received a Kennedy Center Honor in 1995.

Salt-N-Pepa: The trio, consisting of Salt (Cheryl James), Pepa (Sandra Denton) and DJ Spinderella (Deidra Roper), was one of the first all-female rap ensembles. Formed in Queens, New York, in 1985, the group crafted hits such as “Push It,” “Shoop” and “Whatta Man.” The group received five Grammy nominations between 1988 and 1996. It won the 1994 award for best rap performance by a duo or group for “None Of Your Business.”

Selena: The Tejano queen received two Grammy nominations in 1993-94. She won the 1993 award for best Mexican American album for Live, marking the first time a female Tejano artist had won in the category. Selena was just 23 when she was shot to death in 1995.

Talking Heads: The group, formed in 1975 in New York City, helped to pioneer new wave by blending elements of punk, rock, art pop, funk, and world music with an avant-garde aesthetic. The group received two Grammy nominations (in 1983 and 88), but never won. Group member David Byrne went on to win a Grammy and an Oscar on his own for co-scoring The Last Emperor. Byrne also made the cover of TIME in October 1986 in a story titled “Rock’s Renaissance Man.” The other group members were Tina Weymouth, Chris Frantz and Jerry Harrison. In 2002, 11 years after the group disbanded, they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

PBS to Launch New Animated Series “Alma’s Way,” Based on Sonia Manzano’s Childhood

Sonia Manzano has found her alma

PBS Kids’ has announced plans to launch Alma’s Way, a new animated series from the 70-year-old Puerto Rican actress, screenwriter, author, speaker, singer-songwriter and former Sesame Street star, and Fred Rogers Productions that hits close to home for Manzano.

Sonia Manzano

Set to debut on PBS and PBS Kids next fall, Alma’s Way follows a 6-year-old Puerto Rican girl in the Bronx as she offers young viewers glimpses into her diverse and close-knit community. While she takes her audience for a trip around the neighborhood, Alma will encourage kids demonstrate their thinking decision making and social awareness skills.

“I am thrilled to return to public television and to work with PBS Kids and Fred Rogers Productions on this project inspired by my own childhood,” Manzano, who created the series. “Alma’s way is to think things through, and I hope by animating the thought process, kids will be inspired and excited about what goes on in their own minds. I want them to know we all have the power to think regardless of who we are.”

Alma's Way

Currently in-production, Alma’s Way will feature 40 half-hour episodes of adventures with Alma, her friends and family. The series will also highlight different aspects of Latino culture – from music, food, language and more.

“We can’t wait for kids to meet Alma. She’s an optimistic and confident Puerto Rican girl who models for viewers how to think their way through any dilemma,” said Ellen Doherty, Chief Creative Officer, Fred Rogers Productions. “The show is funny, warm, and relatable. We love how it showcases the diversity of New York City, too, and authentically reflects the cultures of all the characters.”

Alma’s Way is produced by Fred Rogers Productions with Manzano and Doherty serving as executive producers. Jorge Aguirre is the series head writer. Pipeline Studios animates the series.