2015 was the year of many a pop cultural meme, from The Super Bowl’s Left Shark to Drake’s dance moves, but for Miss Ntertainment it was also a year that held a number of highlights in the world of entertainment news worth knowing. So, here, in Top 10 format, are the moments that made it a cracking year.
10. Visiting the Empire set.
Early on in the year, while training for the Paris Marathon, I developed a Wednesday night ritual of running 5 miles on the outskirts of Central Park, then coming home to flop down in front of the TV and watch my guilty pleasure of Empire. Only soon it wasn’t such a guilty pleasure as runners from my crew and I started exchanging messages about the show and our favourite Cookie lines. Ahead of the second season, I got the chance to visit the set in Chicago. As luck would have it, the night before, I fell on a street in Soho (not running, but walking, mind you), giving more truth to the Cookie-ism about the streets not being for everyone that I would’ve liked. I spoke to Taraji P Henson, who was every bit as delightful as I’d hoped, and the rest of the cast – except for Terrence Howard, who was laying low because of a personal court case he was involved in, about the success of the show. The second season hasn’t been as thrilling as the first, but Empire certainly left its mark, and TV is all the better for it.
9. The Seinfeld apartment.
To celebrate the release of all Seinfeld episodes being made available to watch online, and not just as random repeats on late-night TV, Hulu recreated the interior of the apartment where Jerry and co would hang out each episode. It wasn’t on the Upper West Side, as had been in the series, but in the Meatpacking District, and it was a surreal experience to be able to walk through the door and sit on the couch of the make-believe apartment. It ranked up there with visiting Central Perk, re-created in a Soho building last year to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Friends. Now, if we can just get a look inside Carrie Bradshaw’s apartment in the Village…
8. Getting swept up in the Adele, Hotline Bling and Star Wars hype.
There’s so much fragmenting us in this age of viral videos, short attention spans and political disparities that coming together in the name of one thing is becoming a rarity.Uniting over the mutual love of something – even if it is a played-too-often love song or nostalgic space opera – is something to be cherished. The Adele impersonators that the BBC found, together with Drake’s Hotline Bling (a gift that keeps on giving) are but two cases in point. I will always remember the joy Bryan Cranston speaking Drake’s lyrics brought. Priceless. So too is having a heroine like Rey, played by Daisy Ridley, for us ladies to look up to.
7. Trevor Noah taking over The Daily Show.
It still takes my breath away a little every time a bus passes by me with Trevor Noah’s face on it, or when I walk past a subway poster with his face smiling out at me. Being a foreigner in the US, it’s become a sign of familiarity, a little piece of home here in the big city, like whenever I spot a South African flag somewhere or see the SA Tourism bus with pictures of a safari plastered all over it. But more than that, it’s a sign that anything can happen. Work hard, ply your craft, (keep your tweets semi-sane) and you could go anywhere. If this comedian from Soweto can take over the reigns of one of America’s most popular late night TV shows, then anything can happen. And yet, there’s even more to it. In hiring a foreigner, Comedy Central also signalled a step in a new direction, a move towards being more inclusive and open to a broader world view. Who knows what’s next? And how exciting that is!
6. Witnessing Mad Max at the Cannes Film Festival.
This year, Cannes decided to do something different. They opened the prestigious film festival with a blockbuster – only this was the best kind of blockbuster they could have chosen for the occasion. After oversleeping and thinking I had missed my interview with Charlize Theron, I went to the Hotel du Cap to speak to the film’s cast and director about making the film deemed by many as the highlight of the fest. It was called Mad Max: Fury Road, but Charlize’s Furiosa was undoubtedly its star – a tough, strong, but vulnerable woman who pushed through George Miller’s dystopian desert, complete with menacing flying guitarists and dangerous truckers. It was thrilling and never sacrificed the story or characters for the action. I also got to see Inside Out and Amy at Cannes too – again, two memorable experiences of two of my best films of the year.
5. When Rebel Wilson sang to me in Zulu (okay so it was Sotho, but hey!)
Press junket interviews can be hit or miss. You get 4 or 5 minutes to make magic happen. Sometimes you stump Oprah, or make Meryl Streep smile, but mostly, you’re just trying to keep Mark Wahlberg from falling asleep or get Anna Kendrick to like you. Rebel Wilson was by far, not just one of my favourite interviews from this year, she has become one of my favourite interviews ever. Having recently returned from filming a movie in South Africa, and having visited the country before, she told me she could speak Afrikaans as soon as I sat down. Of course I had to ask her about it, and the rest is viral video history!
4. Seeing Bjork in concert for the first time.
Living in the US means I’ve finally got to tick off bucket list concerts like Sade and Pearl Jam, and earlier this year, I got to see Bjork, at the magnificently-restored Kings Theatre in Brooklyn. It coincided with the release of her retrospective at MoMA which was disappointing in its size and scope, but her album, Vulnicura, was not. She’s still an artist that puts out deeply emotional material, and yet is still comfortable enough to push the digital envelope, as I experienced sitting inside a small room inside Brooklyn’s Rough Trade, watching the 360 degree virtual reality music video for Stonemilker.
3. JR’s artwork all over New York City.
French artist JR has taken on the issue of immigration in a big way this year – from his work on Ellis Island to his Walking New York project, where there are images of people, printed and blown up into huge pieces that he pastes on walls across this city. He continues to work with the NY Ballet Company too, and it’s been an incredible delight to turn a corner, look up and gasp at his latest piece. Merci, monsieur.
2. Kendrick Lamar’s urgent, important, historic album, To Pimp a Butterfly.
There’s no denying Kendrick’s talent. That he’s finally been acknowledged for that with 11 Grammy nods means all is well in the world. Except it isn’t really, and this is why we need him. There are many reasons to like Kendrick – his ability to reflect the times within his verbal skills first and foremost. But for me, they become a little more personal, having grown up in a country where racial issues have been at the forefront of life. The way that I used to learn about artists struggling on the Cape Flats in Cape Town, is how I learn about ones from Compton and other less affluent areas in the US – through the rhymes spoken by Kendrick and his musical forefathers. A highlight this past year was seeing him interview NWA on the eve of the release of Straight Outta Compton, and hearing the kinds of questions he had for his idols. I still maintain Alright, with its striking black and white imagery and car being carried by cops is the best of the year. And as many critics have noted, we’ll be talking about TPAB for years to come. May he reign come Grammy time.
1. Hamilton, the worth-selling-a-kidney-for, ground-breaking musical.
You knew this was coming! Anyone who’s had the fortune of speaking to me since August the 12th this year would’ve guessed this musical would top the cultural experiences I had this year. Seeing this show had a profound effect on me. I like it for all the reasons so many people do – from Obama to every single big name you can think of. It’s clever, imaginative, tells the story of a lesser-known founding father in a way that’s unique and fun, and re-casts a bunch of dead old white men with hip cool cats from different races. But I love Hamilton for what it did for me personally. It tapped into so many of the things I have been feeling living in NYC – not entirely unlike Mr Hamilton, the desire to take up every opportunity that comes my way, to write, write, write and work, work, work, to be “in the room where it happens” and make a mark. When the cast released the soundtrack, with its killer hip hop tracks about guns and ships and the battle of Kips Bay, I knew it would be my album of the year. For me, finding solace and inspiration in lyrics created from scenarios that took place in the 18th century is part of the genius of creator Lin-Manuel Miranda. And there’s so much more – the agency we have in our lives, the ability to control none but ourselves, and the power of a strong woman. So many reasons to love Hamilton. I would wish to see it again, but I want everyone else to get the chance to see it at least once before I get to go again. That way, we can all go A.HAM!