'The Interview' may have been this Holiday season's biggest and most unusual story in film. The on-again, off-again, on-again-again release certainly grabbed a lot of attention. It also provided an unexpected boom for small, independent movie houses like Minneapolis' own St. Anthony Main Theatre, which sold out every screening of the film for days, and it brought together a broad mix of film fans who might not otherwise have come together for a two-hour barrage of fart jokes and stereotypes.
 
But, as St. Anthony Main was enjoying that brief windfall, some other Hollywood offerings with ties to Twin Cities' arts and culture scenes were slipping quietly under the mainstream radar: While almost all eyes were on Rogen and Franco, one local boy made good (and one local economic anchor made bad decisions) and that didn't escape everyone's notice.

New debate over Annie's race follows Target ad campaign
 
Twin Cities retailer Target came under fire for their use of a white-presenting model in advertisements for their Annie-themed clothing line this winter. At issue, a traditionally white character who's been reimagined as a child of color was re-reimagined for the clothing line's ads. A snapshot of one ad appeared at Change.org, where a petition called for Target to issue a public apology to 'Annie' star Quvenzhane Wallis. Perez Hilton blogged about the issue, then CNN's David Goldman boosted the signal further, asking, "Hey, Target: Why is Annie a White Girl?" and more coverage brought heated debate that's been creeping quietly across the internet ever since.

 
 

When reached for comment, Target remained mum on exactly why Annie's clothes were now on a young Anglo model, but Jessica Carlson of Target Public Relations did say, "Girls from a variety of backgrounds were featured within the campaign, reflecting that anyone can embody the spirit and character of Annie."

"As for the involvement of Quvenzhane Wallis," said Carlson, "we had conversations with her team about being in the campaign, but ultimately it did not come to fruition."

So, while models of color were part of the campaign, the titular character of color in the signature red dress found herself represented by a distinctly white stand-in.

There's been no comment on exactly why that happened. No one is saying whether it was an oversight or a conscious branding decision. Not much is certain, except that Target - whose reputation traditionally thrives on an image of progressiveness and modernity - will probably learn a solid lesson about reappropriating role models from children of color, however unintentionally, so don't expect to see anything like a white Nick Fury action figure any time soon.

Mike Rylander makes brief feature film debut

If you watched 'The Gambler' this Holiday season, you may have noticed Twin Cities stage veteran Mike Rylander on the big screen. Then again, you may have blinked. Rylander's first major film appearance was not huge, but for fans back home, size doesn't matter.

Mike Rylander
 
 

After winning over the home base in such roles as the leading man in Sexy Librarian: File Under Rock Musical and Hamluke's mashup of Darth Vader/King Claudius, Rylander set his sights on a tinslier town and packed everything up for a move to Hollywood. There, he first found work as the arena host for the Clippers, and later for the UCLA Bruins, which he supplemented by doing commercials and acting in pilots, playing a guest role on Parks and Recreation, and by working as a bartender until he was able to work full time as an entertainer, hosting and writing WTFark, a satirical news series.

Earlier this year, Rylander talked with Vita.mn about his role in the Gambler, saying, "I'll be playing the main television broadcast announcer for the basketball team at the college where Mark Wahlberg teaches," which is not a big departure from his past work as a sports announcer.

About the casting process, he added that the audition and callbacks were a nerve-wracking process.

"Mainly because the stakes were so high," he said, "but the director was very nice, and apparently whatever I did worked. About two days later, my manager called me to tell me I was being 'pinned' for the role (which is biz talk for 'being put on hold') and a couple days after that, they made my agent a formal offer to book me."

"It was all pretty whirlwind. I'd say from the moment I found out I was auditioning to the moment I found out I was being booked was about one week. It was a pretty stressful week, but also a very exciting week, which I guess makes it all worth it. In this town, and in this business, you can still get that email out of the blue that alters your life."

And, while playing an unnamed game announcer may not turn out to be that proverbial life-altering role, the part did earn Rylander at least one new fan.

 
[Images: Provided]

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