- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 25, 2012

“Beasts of the Southern Wild” director Benh Zeitlin is working on his next film — a Louisiana-made fable about a hidden ecosystem where the aging process is “out of whack” and people can age quickly or very slowly.

Mr. Zeitlin’s first film, “Beasts,” took awards at the Cannes and Sundance film festivals this year. Mr. Zeitlin said he would like to use the same production team and cast in the new, yet-to-be-titled project.

The news comes as Mr. Zeitlin prepares to receive the New Orleans Film Society’s Celluloid Hero award, an honor bestowed to industry standouts who have made significant contributions to the art of making films.

Mr. Zeitlin will be recognized Thursday at the society’s patron party and gala, the main fundraiser for the New Orleans Film Festival, which is Oct. 11-18.

Two plead no contest in Stevie Wonder extortion

Two people charged with trying to extort millions of dollars from Stevie Wonder pleaded no contest on Monday and were released after being sentenced to time-served in jail.

Alpha Lorenzo Walker and Tamara Diaz were sentenced to serve 292 days in jail and three years of probation for attempting to sell a video that purportedly portrayed Mr. Wonder in a negative light. Jail credits made the pair eligible for release Monday.

The pair was arrested in May after the Grammy-winner’s attorney arranged a sting and claimed Mr. Walker had sought up to $5 million for the video.

Mr. Walker’s attorney, Ian Wallach, said the deal was reached after prosecutors encountered trouble proving the extortion case and that the charges could be reduced to misdemeanors and expunged if the pair comply with the terms of their release.

A judge ordered the pair to stand trial in July after a preliminary hearing in which a police detective described the video as an 80-minute rant against Mr. Wonder. Portions of it were filmed in the former home of the singer’s late mother, which is now dilapidated, and it also shows Mr. Wonder’s son, whom the musician is protective of.

Mr. Wallach had maintained his client was innocent and that he had a constitutional right to make and market the video. Ms. Diaz is Mr. Walker’s girlfriend and was present during a police sting that involved Mr. Wonder’s attorney and led to the pair’s arrest.

The Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office said both were ordered to stay away from Mr. Wonder and his associates while on probation.

Willie Nelson autobiography due out in November

Willie Nelson has proven to be one of America’s most prolific songwriters. Turns out he’s no slouch when it comes to memoirs, either: He has a new one due in November.

Mr. Nelson will release “Roll Me Up And Smoke Me When I Die” on Nov. 13. Publisher William Morrow said the American music icon will tell never-before-heard stories about his life, family, music, politics, Texas, religion and favorite recreational activity.

A news release said the book will include contributions from family and friends, artwork by his son Micah and a foreword by author, musician and friend Kinky Friedman.

Mr. Nelson has published a number of books on several topics since his first autobiography in 1988.

Judge orders review of Brown’s community service

A judge has ordered a further review of Chris Brown’s community service and travel to determine whether the R&B singer has violated the terms of his probation for the 2009 beating of then-girlfriend Rihanna.

Mr. Brown appeared in court in Los Angeles Monday for the first time in more than a year, and Superior Court Judge Patricia Schnegg tried to sort through his probation record and the impact of a positive marijuana result during a random drug screening. Judge Schnegg said community service logs from Mr. Brown’s home state of Virginia were “somewhat cryptic” and additional review was needed to determine whether he had complied with his probation.

A spreadsheet sent by the Richmond police chief indicated Mr. Brown had completed 1,402 hours of community service, ranging from trash pickup, to washing cars, painting and tending to stables.

Mr. Brown spoke briefly during the hearing, telling Judge Schnegg that he wasn’t required to sign in when performing his service. His lawyer, Mark Geragos, welcomed the inquiry and said he expected to show that Mr. Brown had complied with all his probation terms.

The judge said Mr. Brown produced a medicinal marijuana prescription from California and that she had never ordered him not to use drugs, so the positive drug test may not have a major impact on his probation.

She warned Mr. Brown that while his marijuana use may have been legal, he needed to be mindful of his public image and his sway with young fans.

“You are not an average person who can sit in their living room and do what you want to do,” Judge Schnegg said. “You are not only in the public eye, but you are on probation.”

Mr. Brown has had several high-profile incidents that have drawn negative attention, including a bottle-throwing New York City nightclub brawl involving his entourage and a group accompanying Drake.

Judge Schnegg urged him to be careful going forward.

“You should be mindful of obeying all rules of the courts,” she said. “A lot of people look up to you — a lot of kids. What you do and what you say impacts other people.”

Mr. Brown was sentenced to five years of supervised probation after pleading guilty to felony assault for his February 2009 attack on Rihanna. Before Monday, he had received positive reports from probation officials and praise from Judge Schnegg. The judge ordered Mr. Brown to return to court Nov. 1 for another update.

Compiled from Web and wire reports

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