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* Two weeks before the Oscars, the BAFTAs were handed out in London on Sunday night, showing lots of love for Gravity, which scored 6 statues. It also won Best British Film because the special effects team and producers were British, while 12 Years a Slave, with its British director and lead actor, took Best Film (interestingly, it wasn’t entered in the British Film category). Chiwetel Ejiofor took Best Actor, while Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine got Best Actress. Surprisingly, Jennifer Lawrence took Best Supporting Actress over 12 Years‘ Lupita Nyong’o, and first-time actor Barkhad Abdi snagged Best Supporting Actor for Captain Phillips.
* Juno actress Ellen Page made headlines this weekend when she revealed she is gay at a human rights conference in Las Vegas. One day coming out stories won’t need to be news stories, but until then, the young actress has made an important decision that will hopefully help others. Watch her inspiring speech here.
* While House of Cards fans were getting their long-awaited fix of the new season, which kicked off on Valentine’s Friday, junkies of Netflix’ other hit series Orange is the New Black delighted in the news of the show’s season 2 official start date – June 6.
* The Berlin Film Festival wrapped up by handing out its top prize, the Golden Bear, to the Chinese film, Bai Ri Yan Huo (Black Coal, Thin Ice), and its lead took Best Actor. Richard Linklater took the Silver Bear for Best Director for his 3-hour wonder Boyhood, while Wes Anderson’s festival opener The Grand Budapest Hotel won the grand jury prize.
* Beck is about to release his newest album – his first in 5 years - Morning Phase, but you can stream it on NPR a week early. It’s being touted as a follow-up to his career-changing Sea Change record, featuring string orchestrations from his father David Richard Campbell.
[Pic: Barkhad Abdi and Emma Thompson, courtesy BAFTAs]
* U2 will be performing their Oscar-nominated track Ordinary Love, written for Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, at the Oscars ceremony on March 2nd. The band also spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about their new album and working with Madonna’s manager. It’s also just been announced Karen O, from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs will be performing Her‘s Moon Song too.
* Sting‘s musical, The Last Ship, now has a date for Broadway. Previews are set to begin from late September and opening night is October 26th. The musical will feature an original score by the 16-time Grammy winner.
* David Fincher (The Social Network, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) will direct an American version of the British drama, Utopia, for HBO. Gone Girls author Gillian Flynn will write the script.
* Suzanne Vega namechecks Macklemore and samples 50 Cent in her new single, Don’t Uncork What You Can’t Contain. Her track Tom’s Diner has been sampled so many times before, it’s about time she repaid the favour. Listen to it here.
* He’s been credited with being one of TV’s first stars – comedian Sid Caesar died at the age of 91 at his home in Beverly Hills.
* NY Fashion Week is in the home stretch but the sisters of Rodarte made us squeal in delight with these Star Wars themed dresses, playing on their love of sci-fi.
* Sing ahhhhh! Hugh Jackman will be back hosting the Tony Awards this year – his fourth time. Naturally the social-media-loving Oscar-winner used Instagram to make the announcement.
* Shia LaBeouf has taken his performance art, or whatever it is he’s doing right now, to the next stage, holding bag-covered court in an LA gallery, akin to Marina Abramovic’s The Artist is Present. Only his is titled #I’mNotFamousAnymore. Perhaps if he didn’t have the bag on his head, we might believe he means it.
* Martin Scorsese may have garnered much critical acclaim over the years, but now, The Wolf of Wall Street has given him his highest grossing film ever. The film has cracked the $300 million mark – and counting.
* Broadway’s darling Idina Menzel will be performing at the Oscars – the hit song from the hit animated flick Frozen, Let It Go. This should help raise the profile of the woman who brought life to memorable characters from Rent and Wicked.
* Monday afternoon in Los Angeles was one big photo opp, with the annual Oscar nominees luncheon taking place. Pharrell, up for Best Song, wore that hat again, and, on top of a lovely lunch, all the nominees received commemorative sweatshirts marking the occasion.
* Shirley Temple, the former adorable curly-haired child star, and actress-turned-politician, died of natural causes at her home in California on Monday night at the age of 85.
* It’s Day 5 of New York Fashion Week, and on Monday, Donna Karan celebrated 30 years of her sleek, black style in the fashion biz, with lots of red and a dash of chiffon.
* It’s also Day 5 of the Berlin Film Festival, and A Long Way Down, based on Nick Hornby’s novel with Pierce Brosnan, Toni Collette, Imogen Poots and Aaron Paul, was among the films that premiered on Monday.
* And finally, never, ever get on Samuel L Jackson‘s wrong side. Actually, just don’t be a nitwit…
[Pic: Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences]
* Sunday night February 9th, 1964 belonged to the Beatles, as it did Sunday 9th, 2014. CBS ran a special, recorded the day after the Grammys, saluting the lads from Liverpool, and the enduring impact their performance on The Ed Sullivan Show has had on America in the 50 years since.
* Shia LaBeouf is giving attendees of this year’s Berlin Film Festival something other than movies to talk about. The actor, who recently said he was stepping back from the limelight a bit following a spot of plagiarism, wore a paper bag over his head and walked out of the press conference for Nymphomaniac 1.
* NY Fashion Week continued into the weekend, as it does into the week. South African designer David Tlale presented his solo show, as did the likes of Alexander Wang, Diane von Furstenberg and Prabal Gurung.
* The Lego Movie, which seems to have earned rave reviews from all corners, beat out The Monuments Men at the box office this past weekend.
* The Walking Dead returned, after a mid-season break, bringing with it these spoilers.
South African designer David Tlale brought his signature dramatic designs to New York three times before landing a solo runway show at the coveted Lincoln Centre where Mercedes Benz New York Fashion Week takes place. Along the way, the designer has picked up some hard-learned lessons about what it takes to make a ripple in the waters here – and truly begin to create a market in the US of A.
On Sunday, in amidst the simple wooden seating of the Pavillion, he presented his Autumn / Winter 2014 collection. “I feel like we have only just begun,” Tlale told me, shortly after Sunday’s show. “People say, ‘oh, you’re showcasing, that’s so great. You’ve done everything.’ No, now the real work starts.”
Tlale made his name back home based on his dramatic style – his love of leather, lace, striking prints, gorgeous fabrics. It’s what has helped him become one of South Africa’s most recognisable fashion names. Over the past couple of seasons in New York, he has given the US a taste of this. But this time around, with the theme, Elementary Metropolis, Tlale tailored his looks for an urban playground where women like to stand out, but not too much. “We’ve done the thrills, the feathers, the drama, can we now focus on the business of fashion?” he said. Clean silhouettes and muted colours dominated his range, but he hasn’t given up his flair entirely – as evident in the gold collars and caped sleeves. “In the American market, you have to play along, but without conforming. Coming from South Africa, it gives us pure joy to say, we are now starting to understand what makes the fashion world work.”
After last year’s mishap, where Tlale fell out with his publicist Kelly Cutrone, who boycotted his show at the last minute over payment issues, the designer says he’s not put off. “As South Africans, we are resilient, persistent and we can actually do it ourselves.”
Tlale is now channelling that persistence into getting his clothing onto racks of American stores.
* Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel, with Ralph Fiennes, Jude Law and Adrien Brody, made its debut at the Berlin Film Festival, and to good reviews too. Cannot wait for it come to State-side. Meanwhile, in other news coming from the fest, Pamela Anderson and Mike Tyson are set to join Werner Herzog’s new film.
* Jay Leno said goodbye to The Tonight Show – Oprah, Bill Crystal and Jack Black joined in the farewell, which became tearful at the end. Jimmy Fallon, you’re up!
* Six members of Pussy Riot have signed a letter saying the two women who appeared on stage at Wednesday’s Amnesty International concert are no longer members of the group.
* The Beatles arrived in the US on this day, as we’re told 50 years ago. This Sunday will mark the 50th anniversary of their performing at the Ed Sullivan show, and effectively running away with America’s hearts.
* Mercedes Benz New York Fashion Week is a-go. Among the designers forgoing the Lincoln Centre for another venue this year is Alexander Wang, who is providing a ferry service to his showing in Brooklyn on Saturday. South Africa’s own David Tlale shows on Sunday. We await the trend-spotting that will come on Monday.
* Madonna introduced two members of the Pussy Riot punk collective on stage at Amnesty International’s Bringing Human Rights Home concert in Brooklyn on Wednesday night, which featured Imagine Dragons, Lauryn Hill and Blondie. The women rallied for the ousting of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Madonna spoke about how she was targeted for ‘promoting homosexuality, which I have been known to do.’
* It’s a big weekend for big events – the Berlin Film Festival kicks off with the premiere of Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel. The late Philip Seymour Hoffman will be honoured at the fest, while at the same time more tests are being done to find out the exact cause of his death.
* Mercedes Benz New York Fashion Week also kicks off today. Established names and new names will show their Fall/Winter 2014 collections. Over 300 presentations will take place, but there’s a more international flavour to this year’s event, with emerging talents this season from Europe, Africa, and, for the first time, Australia.
* After it was given an unprecedented guaranteed 22 episodes, The Michael J Fox Show has been cancelled.
* 22 years later, Jay Leno will say goodbye to The Tonight Show tonight, ahead of Jimmy Fallon’s takeover on February 17th.
[Pic: Amnesty International]
“It’s absolutely impossible to take this out of us, and I understand this every time I hear good music – for example The Clash.” With a little chuckle, Maria “Masha” Alyokhina explained why she and Nadezhda “Nadya” Tolokonnikova are not deterred by their stint in a Russian prison for staging a performance protest inside Moscow’s biggest church in 2012.
The two members of the Pussy Riot collective are in the US for the first time, after being released a little earlier than their 2-year sentence decreed, by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s pre-Olympics pardon. Madonna will introduce them on stage at Amnesty International’s Bringing Home Human Rights concert on Wednesday night, but they won’t be performing. The Pussy Riot collective – made up of about 11 people – is more about protest art than punk songs, but as Masha relayed, they still have the urge to perform and will continue to do so.
The women say what happened to them – being political prisoners jailed alongside ordinary criminals for protesting – is not unique. So they’re forming their own human rights organization in Russia to push for government transparency. That’s partly why they’re here in New York: to drum up global support and witness best practice.
“What makes you keep on wanting to live is that feeling of solidarity and compassion that goes through even thick prison walls” said Nadya, speaking through her husband as interpreter.
Despite the language barrier, you can still hear how passionate both Nadya and Masha are about the issues facing Russia at the moment – issues they have forced into the international spotlight after their Punk Prayer went viral. They’re also urging people to keep these issues in mind when watching the upcoming Olympic Games in Sochi. “It’s not the Olympic Village you see on TV,” Masha said. “Look beyond those buildings.”
Backed by the power of music, these messages and more will come to the fore at the Amnesty International concert where the Flaming Lips, the Fray, Lauryn Hill, Imagine Dragons and more will take to the stage, 25 years after the organization first began using music as a powerful tool.
“Amnesty International was the first organization to make human rights a household discussion,” says Ann Burroughs, chair of the USA board. Herself a political prisoner during Apartheid, Ann, like Nadya and Masha, believes the power of music to spread a message has never been more important. With the Sochi Olympics about to begin, the hope is the music carries the message of equality and the right to protest where it most needs to go.
More details on the concert are here.
* Two members of Russia’s punk performance art group Pussy Riot are in the US for the first time, ahead of Amnesty International’s Bringing Human Rights Home concert in Brooklyn tonight. At a press conference held at the Amnesty offices in New York on Tuesday, the women said they’re starting their own human rights organization in Russia, and that activism from around the world helped get them through prison.
* Broadway will dim the lights in tribute to 3-time Tony-award-nominee Philip Seymour Hoffman, and the theatre company he helped build, Labyrinth Theatre Company, will hold a vigil on Wednesday night too. Meanwhile, 4 people involved in heroin dealing have been arrested – police haven’t confirmed in they are connected to the actor’s death or not.
* Bruno Mars is smiling – well, he’s probably doing a lot more than that, following the news that this past weekend’s Super Bowl, including his half-time performance was the most watched event in US TV history. Over 115 million. And that’s even though the Red Hot Chili Peppers didn’t plug in.
* There’s a new Divergent trailer out and to promote it, Shailene Woodley and Theo James zip-lined onto the Jimmy Kimmel show. With all the wacky weather out there at the moment, how else is one expected to travel?
* Netflix has renewed its first original series, House of Cards for a third season, ahead of the Season 2 premiere in a few days’ time.
Oh, and for our enjoyment, Benedict Cumberbatch stopped by Sesame Street.
* The Cure have promised they will be releasing a new album this year – one said to have actually been recorded in 2008 when they released 4:13 Dream. This one is tentatively titled 4:14 Scream, and it will be accompanied by a bunch of live tour DVDs, a world tour and another “Trilogy” show where they play 3 albums in full.
* Broadway will dim its lights in honour of Philip Seymour Hoffman on Wednesday. Fans have also been donating to the theatre company he helped to build, Labyrinth Theatre Company – all as the autopsy into his cause of death is being conducted.
* It’s one of the most classic of 80s anthems but it might not be available on iTunes if things turn nasty in a lawsuit involving the founding members of Survivor, who are suing their record company over Eye of the Tiger royalties for digital sales.
* Vanity Fair has released its annual Hollywood edition cover, and it’s attracting a lot of applause for – finally – being a bit more inclusive.
* Blondie will collect NME’s “Godlike Genius” award next month for their contribution to pop culture – in one way or another.
[Pic: The Cure]
There are some actors you will watch in anything. Even if I was not an entertainment journalist, and watching movies was not something required of my job (an enjoyable part of that job, nonetheless), Philip Seymour Hoffman would be one of those actors I would watch in anything.
Last month at the Sundance Film Festival, I watched Anton Corbijn’s slow-burner of a spy film, A Most Wanted Man, just for Philip Seymour Hoffman, or PSH – for every cigarette he smoked, and every word he uttered in his on-point German accent. He also starred in another film called God’s Pocket, which Mad Men actor John Slattery directed. It was a strange kind of film, with an uneven tone, a lot of violence, and a lot of absurd jokes too, but I stuck with it for PSH, who played a man desperate to please his wife after her good-for-nothing son is killed at the construction site where he worked.
PSH’s own construction site was a film set, or oftentimes a stage. He had toiled in front of the camera or in front of an audience, ever since he graduated from studying theatre at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. Although his first breakthrough role was in Boogie Nights in 1997, it was only when Almost Famous came out, and he played one of my favourite rock critics, Lester Bangs, that I took proper notice of him. Boogie Nights hadn’t been on my adolescent radar, but Almost Famous - well, for this at-the-time budding music writer, now, we were talking.
But it was his turn as another kind of writer – the author of one of my favourite stories – that created a PSH devotee out of me. After seeing his stellar performance as Truman Capote (who wrote what became the Breakfast at Tiffany’s movie) in Capote, I found myself going back to re-visit his other films, including Boogie Nights.
Now, as film critics, cinephiles, ordinary fans, neighbours and fellow actors pay tribute to PSH, the Oscar-winning actor and father of 3, who was found dead in his New York City apartment on Sunday morning, authorities are conducting an autopsy to find out exactly what happened. It’s being reported that a source (don’t you just hate that word?) says as many as 70 bags of heroin were found in his apartment. It was public knowledge Hoffman had battled with addiction, and that he relapsed and checked into rehab last year – a tragedy after being clean for 23 years.
As the flowers and pictures being laid outside his West Village apartment stack up, so too do the tributes online. Many have noted that Philip Seymour Hoffman was truly one of the greats – the best of his generation. As a character actor, he didn’t concern himself with being a ‘movie-star’. As Xan Brooks from the Guardian points out, he wasn’t Brad Pitt nor was he George Clooney, but we liked him so much because we related to him. I’ve taken great comfort in Brooks’ video appreciation about why the loss of an actor – someone I’d never had the chance to interview, let alone knew personally – has cut so deep.
Yes, as the New York Times wrote in his obituary, PSH so perfectly embodied ‘burdensome characters,’ and as the site Indiewire noted, every performance he put on was worth of applause. But Brooks put it best, for me at least, when he said that we had become invested in Philip Seymour Hoffman. We came to look forward to what would come next from him, and then after that. Now, there will be no more. “There’s a curious sense that a contract has been broken – or a film has been stopped mid-way, in the second act,” says Brooks.
PSH’s film had not yet finished playing out – untimely interrupted by a glitch in the movie projector in the form of an addiction that, it seems, got the better of him. Although there are those two films to be released from Sundance, and reports have told us he was practically finished with the Hunger Games movies, there will be no more after that. There is no telling what other roles he may have taken on, what other cinematic delights he may have given us, what kind of accolades he was yet to claim.
This is partly a selfish thought, yes, for it doesn’t take into account that a family has lost a loved one, and a community, one of its most engaging members. They are the ones who are hurting the most. But because PSH had been living out his talent for us all to see, I feel somewhat a tiny part of that too.
Like Brooks says, it is indeed curious.
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