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Miss Ntertainment

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With the online critics having given their honours out already (Boyhood is on a roll), and the Gotham Awards having taken place last week, awards season is a-go. Today we found out the Screen Actors Guild award nominations, and it’s interesting to see where the collective head-space is at. That’s not to say this is how the rest of the noms are going to go, as we know these ones are voted for by fellow actors, but in a year where many of the performances seem to have been better than the actual films, the SAGs have now had their say in who should be recognized. Some are pleasant surprises – Jake Gyllenhaal is creepy as hell in Nightcrawler, so it’s a thrill to see him make the list, and Meryl Streep is impeccable as the Witch in Into the Woods. But there’s no love for the Martin Luther King Jr drama Selma, and while I am only seeing the film on Friday, I have read enough about it to wonder why it hasn’t made the list in some way.

On the film side:

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role

STEVE CARELL / John du Pont – Foxcatcher (Sony Pictures Classics)

BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH / Alan Turing – The Imitation Game (The Weinstein Company)

JAKE GYLLENHAAL / Louis Bloom – Nightcrawler (Open Road Films)

MICHAEL KEATON / Riggan – Birdman (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

EDDIE REDMAYNE / Stephen Hawking – The Theory of Everything (Focus Features)

 

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role

JENNIFER ANISTON / Claire Bennett – Cake (Cinelou Films)

FELICITY JONES / Jane Hawking – The Theory of Everything (Focus Features)

JULIANNE MOORE / Alice Howland-Jones – Still Alice (Sony Pictures Classics)

ROSAMUND PIKE / Amy Dunne – Gone Girl (20th Century Fox)

REESE WITHERSPOON / Cheryl Strayed – Wild (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

 

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role

ROBERT DUVALL / Joseph Palmer – The Judge (Warner Bros. Pictures)

ETHAN HAWKE / Mason, Sr. – Boyhood (IFC Films)

EDWARD NORTON / Mike – Birdman (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

MARK RUFFALO / Dave Schultz – Foxcatcher (Sony Pictures Classics)

J.K. SIMMONS / Fletcher – Whiplash  (Sony Pictures Classics)

 

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role

PATRICIA ARQUETTE / Olivia – Boyhood (IFC Films)

KEIRA KNIGHTLEY / Joan Clarke – The Imitation Game  (The Weinstein Company)

EMMA STONE / Sam – Birdman (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

MERYL STREEP / The Witch – Into The Woods (Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

NAOMI WATTS / Daka – St Vincent (The Weinstein Company)

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture

Birdman (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Boyhood (IFC Films)

The Grand Budapest Hotel (FOX SEARCHLIGHT PICTURES)

The Imitation Game (The Weinstein Company)

The Theory of Everything (Focus Features)

 

 

On the TV side…

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries

ADRIEN BRODY / Harry Houdini  – Houdini (History)

BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH / Sherlock Holmes – Sherlock: His Last Vow (PBS)

RICHARD JENKINS / Henry Kitteridge – Olive Ketteridge (HBO)

MARK RUFFALO / Ned Weeks – The Normal Heart (HBO)

BILLY BOB THORNTON / Lorne Malvo – Fargo (FX)

 

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries

ELLEN BURSTYN / Olivia Foxworth – Flowers in the Attic (Lifetime)

MAGGIE GYLLENHAAL / Nessa Stein – The Honorable Woman (Sundance TV)

FRANCES McDORMAND / Olive Kitteridge – Olive Ketteridge (HBO)

JULIA ROBERTS / Dr. Emma Brookner – The Normal Heart (HBO)

CICELY TYSON / Carrie Watts – The Trip to the Bountiful (Lifetime)

 

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series

STEVE BUSCEMI / Enoch “Nucky” Thompson – Boardwalk Empire (HBO)

PETER DINKLAGE / Tyrion Lannister – Game of Thrones (HBO)

WOODY HARRELSON / Martin Hart – True Detective (HBO)

MATTHEW McCONAUGHEY / Rust Cohle – True Detective (HBO)

KEVIN SPACEY / Francis Underwood – House of Cards (Netflix)

 

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series (6 nominees)

CLAIRE DANES / Carrie Mathison – Homeland (Showtime)

VIOLA DAVIS / Annalise Keating – How to Get Away with Murder (ABC)

JULIANNA MARGULIES / Alicia Florrick – The Good Wife (CBS)

TATIANA MASLANY / Sarah/Coxima/Alison/Rachel/ – Orphan Black (BBC America)

Helena/Tony/Jennifer and Various Others

MAGGIE SMITH / Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham –Downton Abbey (PBS)

ROBIN WRIGHT / Claire Underwood – House of Cards (Netflix)

 

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series

TY BURRELL / Phil Dunphy – Modern Family  (ABC)

LOUIS C.K. / Louie – Louie (FX)

WILLIAM H. MACY / Frank Gallagher – Shameless (Showtime)

JIM PARSONS / Sheldon Cooper –The Big Bang Theory (CBS)

ERIC STONESTREET / Cameron Tucker –Modern Family (ABC)

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series

UZO ADUBA / Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren – Orange is the New Black (Netflix)

JULIE BOWEN / Claire Dunphy –Modern Family (ABC)

EDIE FALCO / Jackie Peyton – Nurse Jackie (Showtime)

JULIA LOUIS-DREYFUS / Vice President Selina Meyer – Veep (HBO)

AMY POEHLER / Leslie Knope – Parks and Recreation (NBC)

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series

Boardwalk Empire (HBO)

Downton Abbey (PBS)

Game of Thrones (HBO)

Homeland (Showtime)

House of Cards (Netflix)

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series

The Big Bang Theory (CBS)

Brooklyn Nine-Nine (FOX)

Modern Family (ABC)

Orange is the New Black (NETFLIX)

Veep (HBO)

For a full list, click here. The awards take place in LA on the 25th of January. 

I was a little late to the Unbroken party. The book became a best-seller in 2010, carefully and meticulously written by Laura Hillenbrand (who also wrote Seabiscuit), but I only recently finished it in time to see the movie version, directed by Angelina Jolie. To say the story is remarkable is an understatement – it’s truly incredible what one person can endure – and the comments from friends who’d read it before me, praise it as one of the best ever read. After finishing it, I would have to agree.

The story of Louis Zamperini, the Olympic runner who endured 47 days lost at sea, only to be picked up by a Japanese warship and held for more than two years as a POW during World War II, is one helluva testament to the human spirit to survive and overcome.

Jolie chose the story of Louis Zamperini to be her second directorial feature, following 2011’s In the Land of Blood and Honey, set in the Bosnian war. With its scenes of torture and rape, that was a brutal film to watch but it felt like bearing witness out of necessity and compassion. Unbroken, too, as a film is relentless and harrowing to watch, as it is to read.

The film is good – I wouldn’t say you could make it any more or less harsh than the story itself. His agony was indeed epic. But I did wonder if my imagination was at times a little stronger; I found myself crying all throughout the book (sometimes in public places, which is always awkward). In print, Hillenbrand succeeds in re-creating for us what Zamperini had been thinking and feeling going through all the events he did. It’s hard to show that onscreen and you don’t really get that sense of despair and violation – the sheer agony of being in captivity where mind torture can be even more brutal than physical punishments.

To be sure, British actor Jack O’Connell is very good in the role. You are with him all the way, from the moment he and his crew-mates are on board the B-24 bombing raid of a Japanese-held island in the Pacific. Just as you are there when he delights in his running ability, which took him to the 1936 Olympics. But I found the music and score to be a little cheesy and intrusive at times. The woman next to me, gobbling her popcorn during one of the film’s torture scenes, took me out of the moment too. Perhaps I’m a tad sensitive, but I guess that’s how it goes with blockbusters, even if they are based on true-life events.

For whatever its shortcomings may be, the film is still a valuable one, and it has much to say on the issue of forgiveness, which is ever-relevant with all that has been happening in the US at the moment. I spoke to Jolie about the idea of forgiveness and whether it’s only within the realm of a select few. Her answer is one that speaks to our times now, just as it did for Zamperini’s.

With it being a year on Friday since Nelson Mandela died, I can’t help but think of the anniversary as a good time to be thinking about the idea of forgiveness, and justice, and giving a damn about what goes on around us.

If you haven’t read Unbroken yet, please do yourself the favour.

Unbroken releases in the US on Christmas Day and in South Africa on January 16.

On Wednesday, I spent the day in back to back interviews with movie stars who have movies coming out soon. And more than once, when I mentioned where I was from, I got asked about Oscar Pistorius and the judgement that left not just South Africans with their hands up in the air and mouths agape.

In the past four years that I’ve been based in the US, I’ve noticed how my country, South Africa, has been represented, almost entirely, by a single thing each year.

When I first got here, it was Die Antwoord. Ninja and Yo-landi, who now hang out with Marilyn Manson and Johnny Depp, made their US breakthrough via Enter the Ninja on the website BoingBoing, and will soon be seen in the movie Chappie. I would be asked by practically everyone I met about the duo (having to correct the pronouncement of their name and explain some of the make-your-mother-blush lyrics). From Danny DeVito to Jake Gyllenhaal – Hollywood’s finest would tell me how much they liked the duo. During an interview for the movie, The Lorax, DeVito made me late to speak to Zac Efron because he wanted to know more details about their David Letterman appearance.

Yet, I can’t speak about Die Antwoord with the same kind of pride I would about, say, Foreign Language Oscar-winner Tsotsi. I would, and still do, answer questions with a sense of ambivalence – yes, I admire their daring-do, but I can’t seem to get behind their too-nasty words and cultural appropriation.

The following year it was Searching for Sugar Man. The story about two South Africans on a quest to find down-and-out Detroit musician Rodriguez, who unknowingly had become a folk hero in far-off South Africa during Apartheid won over hearts all over the US. Everywhere I would go, people would ask me about Rodriguez. Did he really have such an impact? How was it possible Americans didn’t know about him until now? From director Judd Apatow, who wanted to talk more about the documentary than his movie during an interview for This is 40, to Martin Gore from Depeche Mode at that year’s SXSW.

Although it wasn’t a South African who told the story, there were two at the heart of it, and I felt an immense pride when I watched the film make its US debut at the Sundance Film Festival and then go on to win the Best Documentary Oscar. The suicide of director Malik Bendjeloull this year has been a heartbreaking end to the story.

As the Sugar Man film was on its way to Oscar glory in February last year, another Oscar story had dropped, which soon changed the focus on South Africa. News of Oscar Pistorius dominated TV headlines and magazine tabloids here. Months before, at the Django Unchained junket, Samuel L Jackson had talked to me about his admiration for the athlete at being able to compete with able-bodied athletes during the London games. His image made the front of the New York Times, and he became a true international symbol of hope and heroism in South Africa.

With the sentencing Pistorius received in October this year for shooting dead his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, we all know how far that fall from grace has been. Since the news broke on Valentine’s Day last year, and all the way through now, I get asked about the case, which put Pistorius back on the front of the New York Times. This week, at interviews for the movies Unbroken and Annie, Jack O’Connell and Jamie Foxx respectively, asked me how he could get off for killing his girlfriend. And I was left, like in so many conversations with friends, unsure how to even begin to answer.

I’m hoping as we go into the new year that a new South African story takes centre focus. Of course a country is never just one thing, but when it’s only major stories – or remarkable ones – that stand out, some things tend to stick.

Tonight Trevor Noah makes his debut as a contributor on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. He’s been steadily making a name for himself with stand-up comedy shows here, his African American special on Netflix, and appearances on Jay Leno and David Letterman. His ability to tell jokes that are rooted in his unique South African upbringing that still appeal to an American audience make him poised to become a well-known name here. And I think it’s about time South Africa becomes known for its comedy. Just last month, Late Nite News with Loyiso Gola was honoured with a second International Emmy for Best Comedy series, and there’s a crop of names I would love to see gain more US exposure. Just please let it not be comedy of the kind that was on display in a recent parliamentary sitting.

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart airs daily on Comedy Central in the US, and in Africa on DSTV Ch 22. 

There have been a number of festivals celebrating South Africa’s 20 year anniversary of democracy here in New York. Just the other day I was raving about the Carnegie Hall extravaganza, and art galleries around the city have been playing on the theme too. This year’s African Diaspora International Film Festival has a bunch of movies from South Africa for its event too.

The schedule is a mix of 14 films, chosen with the help of the National Film and Video Foundation and Kwazulu Natal Film Commission and they range from comedies to classics. Some of the films are making their US debut, like festival-centrepiece Between Friends, while others have had limited runs here before, like Otelo Burning. Between Friends, I’ve read, is a Tyler Perry-type movie about old friends with even older secrets re-uniting at a game lodge with the proverbial mishaps ensuing. There is also the chance to see a few shorts, bundled together as part of the programme. The 1959 Come Back, Africa is a stark reminder of life before democracy, and the documentary Letters to Zohra pays tribute to Nelson Mandela’s closest ally in prison, Ahmed Kathrada.


 

I’m happy, too, to be given the chance to finally see Material, about a stand-up comedian who stands up to his father, which screened to much acclaim in South Africa when it was released 2 years ago, as well as I, Afrikaner, which screened at the BFI London Film Festival earlier this year. Many of the filmmakers have come out to New York for post-screening Q-and-A’s and with the issues re-ignited by events in Ferguson this past week, the conversations around race and society, ones familiar to South Africa, should be welcome here in the US too.

[Pic: I, Afrikaner – courtesy ADIFF]

The African Diaspora International Film runs until Sunday December 14th.

Visiting the Jack Daniel’s distillery is like going to a mini Disneyland for whiskey lovers. The road to the distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee is lined with signs welcoming you to “Jack Country,” and when you pull into the parking lot, you are warned the speed limit is 7, a playful quip on the number that adorns the brand’s label. Spread out across the property are the buildings where No.7 and all the others are made, and, while there are no whoops and screams to be had here (unless you count my little squeal at finally visiting the place), it’s still a fun ride.

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After touring the two George distilleries – Washington in Virginia and Dickel in Tullahoma (where I swooned over the gorgeous foliage up on the hills where the barrels are aged), our group has learned a lot about how whiskey is made. As you would expect on a tour of this kind. What I didn’t expect was how fascinating the whole process is to see, and how familiar the smell of the mash being created at each if the places would become. It makes me wish Instagram pics could be scratch-and-sniff.

It’s also been interesting to see where the water source for the respective whiskeys comes from. Jack is sourced from a cave that Mr Daniel used back in the day to become a master distiller at the very old age of 16. One thing we’ve heard over and over again: the better the water, the better the whiskey!

Of course, there has also been a lot of whiskey tasting. Seeing what has gone into each little sip makes me feel a tad more appreciative, and today it continues as we head to Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark, this time to sample that most American of whiskeys, bourbon.

Number of whiskeys sampled: 11 – 5 at George Dickel, 6 at Jack Daniel’s, including the sweet Tennessee Honey, which, I’m told, goes well with milk.

Number of whiskey cocktails consumed: 1, post-dinner

Number of miles run: 4.1, from Nashville’s Hutton Hotel to Centennial Park, where a makeshift track field and makeshift Parthenon can be found.

Number of states visited in 1 day: 2 – hello, Kentucky!

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