Archive for the ‘Cinema’ Category

Book about Alexander Payne getting lots of traffic on Amazon

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My Alexander Payne book is No. 1 on Amazon in the Kindle eBook category Arts & Photography-Performing Arts and No. 2 in the Kindle eBook category Biographies & Memoirs- Arts & Literature.
“Alexander Payne: His Journey in Film” is a must-read for anyone who is a fan of the Oscar-winning filmmaker or who is a serious film buff.  It makes a great gift.  It will also be handy to have around when the Golden Globes and Academy Awards roll around because the writer-director’s new film, “Nebraska,” is sure to be in contention for several awards.
You can order the book from my blog or get it through Amazon or  In Omaha, you can find it at The Bookworm and Our Bookstore.
The book has received strong endorsements from Laura Dern, Leonard Maltin, Kurt Andersen, Joan Micklin Silver, Dick Cavett, and Ron Hull.
Get your copy now.

“Alexander Payne: His Journey in Film” Gets a Thumbs Up from Midwest Book Review

June 17, 2013 1 comment


The first offical review of my book “Alexander Payne: His Journey in Film” is a good one. The review is courtesy of the Midwest Book Review and appears in the June 2013 issue of its online book review magazine “Reviewer’s Bookwatch”:

“Cultural journalist Leo Adam Biga presents Alexander Payne: His Journey in Film – A Reporter’s Perspective 1998-2012, a nonfiction chronicle of the career of world-renowned film writer-director Alexander Payne, from when Biga first noticed his extraordinary talent at an art cinema to the present day. Payne has created a number of critically acclaimed projects including “Citizen Ruth”, “Election”, “About Schmidt”, “Sideways”, and “The Descendants”. Drawn from Biga’s analysis of Payne’s works, to interviews, testimony from Payne’s closest collaborators, the opportunity to visit one of Payne’s film sets for a week, and much more, Alexander Payne: His Journey in Film is a “must-have” for movie aficionados with a keen interest in Payne’s work, as well as a window into the creative process of a twenty-first century cinema artist.”
–Willis M. Buhle, Reviewer

The book may be ordered off my blog,  If you’re on the blog now, just go to the upper right hand corner of the screen to access the order site.  If you’re reading this on Facebook or LinkedIn or Google or some other cyber landing strip, then simply go to
The book continues to gain fans and I’m sure interest in it will only grow as Payne’s “Nebraska” gets more screenings and reviews come late summer through the fall.  “Alexander Payne: His Journey in Film” makes a great gift for any film lover, whether that’s you or a friend or a loved one.  With “Nebraska” Payne is only going to grow in stature as a cinema artist.  It’s fair to expect that the film will earn many Golden Globe and Oscar nominations and will likely win its fair share of these and other awards too.  In anticipation of that and all the buzz suew ro surround the film and Payne, this is a great time to get the book and to steep yourself in the Payne canon.  You will have Payne trivia at the ready to impress your fellow film buffs with and it stands a good chance of being a collector’s item.
The book is also available on Amazon and and for Kindle and other e-reader devices.  You can also purchase it at The Bookworm and at Our Bookstore in Omaha.

Just returned from Hollywood to visit Alexander Payne finish “Nebraska”; Watch for my coming stories about what I observed

May 18, 2013 1 comment


Just returned from three days in Hollywood with Alexander Payne to observe the final mix process on his highly anticipated new film “Nebraska.”  It was quite the experience to see him and his team putting the finishing touches on the film.  Those behind-the-scenes glimpses will inform coming stories I’ll be writing and posting here.

I was privileged to see the film in its entirety at a screening on the Paramount lot.  It’s a superb work of cinema.  With “Nebraska” Payne has gone ever deeper and richer in exploring the humanism that is his specialty.

The entirely digital film is being satellite beamed to Nice, France this weekend where it will be downloaded for its world premiere screening at the Cannes Film Festival.  I fully expect this to be one of the most talked about films of the year and to have all sorts of accolades and nominations and awards come to Payne, screenwriter Bob Nelson, cinematographer Phedon Papamichael, music composer Mark Orton, actors Bruce Dern, Will Forte, Stacy Keach and June Squibb.

It’s hard to imagine there will be a more compelling looking film than this wide-screen black-and-white elegy.  Much more to come from me about my Hollywood sojourn and the look behind the curtain that Payne afforded me of his creative process.  I will be blogging about it and having stories published about it.  All of my “Nebraska” material will end up in a new edition of my book, “Alexander Payne: His Journey in Film.”  The new edition should be out around the time his film is released, which is late November.  You can order my book on my blog site,

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Payne BTS (indiewire)
(Above) Payne (left) and Dern (right) on the set of Nebraska. (Photo courtesy of indiewire).
Nebraska poster

Come to My Next Alexander Payne Book Signing: Saturday, May 11 at The Bookworm in Omaha

May 9, 2013 53 comments

Come to my 1 pm signing this Saturday, May 11 at The Bookworm in Countryside Village. I’ll be signing my book, “Alexander Payne: His Journey in Film.” I had a great response there the first time and I’m hoping to repeat the magic. This is a great time to get the book because it will be a valuable reference come awards season, when Payne’s new film “Nebraska” is contending for Golden Globes and Academy Awards. The book’s a great source of Payne trivia to impress your fellow film buffs with. It’s sure to be a valuable keepsake as his career continues to flourish and his standing in world cinema grows. The book’s been endorsed by Laura Dern, Leonard Maltin, Kurt Andersen, Dick Cavett, Joan Micklin Silver, and Ron Hull, among others.


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Omaha Film Festival Features Strong Lineup of Offering, including ‘The Sapphires’ and ‘Breaking Night’


Omaha Film Festival Features Strong Lineup of Offering, including ‘The Sapphires’ and ‘Breaking Night’

©by Leo Adam Biga



Caught the Omaha Film Festival’s opening night screening of The Sapphires on Wednesday and was completely taken with it.  It’s a feel-good movie with some real soul and depth and bite to it.  It’s certainly not a great film from an aesthetic point of view, although it has high production values and a very good cast, but it tells a familiar Dreamgirls-like story in an entirely new context.  The movie’s based on the true story of an Aboriginal girl singing group being discovered and groomed in the late ’60s for a wild adventure performing for U.S. troops in Vietnam.  Sure, some predictable stuff happens, but the movie makes it seem fresh and it keeps you captivated throughout.

As good as the actresses are that portray the girl singers, the real star of the show is Shari Sebbens as their manager, Dave,

If this flick comes back for a regular theatrical run then make sure you catch it.

The Sapphires is one of many dozen curated new films, including narrative and documentary features and shorts, playing at the Festival.

I meant to see on the big screen the writing-directing debut work of my friend and fellow Omaha native Yolonda Ross, whose dramatic short Breaking Night was an official selection at the fest.  She also stars in it.  Fortunately I did see it on my computer thanks to a link she shared with me and after several viewings I must say it’s an impressive achievement that shows much promise for her as a feature writer-director, which is her ultimate aim.  In the current issue of The Reader (  I profile Yolonda and her recent work, which in addition to Breaking Night includes parts in new films by David Mamet and John Sayles.  You can find my new Ross piece, along with previous profiles I did about her, on this blog.  If you love film, then take some time out to peruse and read my many other film stories on the blog.

Ross is among several film artists participating in panels and workshops at the Festival, which has a solid history of bringing in top professionals from across the film arts landscape to discuss their work and craft.

The Festival continues through Sunday.  Check out its impressive offerings at

I Will Be Selling and Signing Copies of My Alexander Payne Book at the Feb 16 Author Fair

February 11, 2013 1 comment



Alexander Payne: His Journey in Film


If you still haven’t made it to one of my Alexander Payne book signings, then stop by the Author Fair this Saturday. Feb. 16 at the downtown W. Dale Clark Library.

It’s like a speed-dating event for writers and litniks.

Dozens of writers, including me, will be plying our wares on the 4th floor from 1 to 4 pm.

Stop by our booths and take a chance on falling in love with a new book to curl up with at night.  My book is “Alexander Payne: His Journey in Film – A Reporter’s Perspective 1998-2012.”

Can’t promise curling up with an author.  As for me, I’m spoken for (just in case if you were wondering). LOL.

An Anti-Drug War Manifesto Documentary Frames Discussion: Cost of Criminalizing Nonviolent Drug Offenders Comes Home

February 1, 2013 1 comment

Until the documentary The House I Live In the best film I’d seen about drugs was the Steven Soderbergh drama, Traffic.  The director of the doc, Eugene Jarecki, does something very much akin to what Soderbergh did by taking a multi-perspective look at  the insidious grip the illegal drug culture and the so-called War on Durgs exerts upon every one caught up in this human chain of destruction.   My story below for The Reader is based on a recent screening and panel discussion of the film in Omaha.




An Anti-Drug War Manifesto Documentary Frames Discussion: Cost of Criminalizing Nonviolent Drug Offenders Comes Home

©by Leo Adam Biga

Now appearing in The Reader (


The much-feted 2012 documentary The House I Live In provokes dialogue wherever it plays for its critique of America‘s domestic War on Drugs. Following a January 22 Film Streams screening before a full house a local panel discussed the film’s potent themes.

Director Eugene Jarecki’s (Why We Fight?) film indicts the war as failed public policy that’s wasteful, unjust and morally bankrupt for targeting nonviolent minority offenders. He suggests its true cost lies not only in the vast expenditures for arrest, prosecution and incarceration but in the disruption caused to families and communities. Every drug case has a spiral of consequences that can span generations.

The consensus of the experts and persons directly engaged in the war whom Jarecki enlists to comment on camera is that blacks are disproportionally targeted and punished. He explains he came to tackle the issue upon inquiring why a black family he knew from childhood struggled with poverty and crime. Its matriarch, Nannie Jeter, blames drugs for taking her late son James and leading other members down destructive paths.The film tells story after story of families impacted by addiction and imprisonment.




Eugene Jarecki



One observer notes, “We are engaged in a great experiment. What happens when you take large numbers of people, remove them from their neighborhoods, their families. What does this do to the broader community?”

Everyone from author Michelle Alexander (The New Jim Crow) to a prison chief of security agree the prison industrial complex has superseded prevention-intervention by incentivizing arrest, conviction and confinement and thus making it a big business prone to corruption that puts profit before humanity.

David Simon, creator of The Wire and a former journalist who covered the drug war, says, “Think about all the money spent on drug enforcement, on prisons and probation officers, on judges, on narcotics agents, on interdiction and everything else. But to what end? We’re the jailingest nation on Earth, yet drugs are purer than ever before, they’re more available.”

America’s draconian approach, he said. doesn’t work.

During the panel Impact One Community Connection founder Jannette Taylor reiterated a theme in the film that the war is actually a campaign to “marginalize people” that leaves  havoc in its wake. “We need to look at the broader picture of the collateral damage from this fake war on drugs,” she said. “We need to be more realistic about what this fake war on drugs really is and how it affects poor communities and the people in it.”

She knows first-hand the personal fallout. The father of her daughter has served 17 1/2 years on drug charges. “My daughter has never had her father in her life. He was out only a short period of time before he resorted back to selling drugs and got caught up again and it’s basically because you become so marginalized. You can’t get a job, you can’t find a place to live, so you resort back to what you know – you resort to the economy that pays you.”




Jannette Taylor, ©Omaha World-Herald



Jarecki introduces us to individuals for whom using and dealing were all they saw growing up. Naturally, they followed suit. Picking up a point Simon makes in the film, Taylor said the drug trade may be “the only flourishing economy” in some inner city neighborhoods and “given the limited opportunities poor inner city residents have it’s a rational decision to deal drugs.” Similarly, she said drugs become a way to medicate “if you’re living in a constant state of poverty, in depressed living conditions.”

Taylor said despite never using, dealing or serving time “I’m dealing with the same things, just from a different perspective. My daughter is caught up in this drug war because she doesn’t have a dad, so she’s being raised by a single mom. It was very hard. Once somebody gets sentenced into the system because of drugs their family’s affected. It’s like a crazy avalanche. The kids no longer have both parents, the other parent is pressured into making more money and that takes them away…It’s a domino effect. It’s a cycle and it never ends.”

Scholar Richard Lawrence Miller draws comparisons in the film between the war and “the chain of destruction” he says the ruling class historically applies to minorities in order to target, control, demonize and isolate them. He and others point to profiling, mass incarceration and mandatory minimum sentences as its manifestations.

Simon terms the drug war “a Holocaust in slow motion.”

“This is basically slavery in a new form,” said Taylor, who with others cautions, “If someone else’s rights can be compromised and violated then yours can too.”

Panelist Rodney Prince, who served a federal drug sentence, said, “I believe this war on drugs is a means, a guise to deal with a segment of the population no longer needed in this transforming economy. The intention for me doesn’t really matter, this thing is happening to people.”

Taylor and others advocate America recast the war as a public health issue that gives nonviolent addict offenders treatment rather than jail time.

Prince said, “This is an economic issue. If we know our economy can’t absorb everyone now then we have to push our elected officials and business leaders to act responsibly and to make more room for people in the economy.”

Douglas County District Court Judge Marlon Polk said education is the best deterrent to being caught up in the drug culture. Nebraska Corrections Youth Facility director Marilyn Asher and other panelists suggest we all have a stake in giving people the support and skills they need to prosper.


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