Esteemed actor Morgan Freeman will receive the Cecil B. DeMille Award for his “outstanding contribution to the entertainment field” when the 69th Golden Globe Awards air at 8 p.m., Sunday, January 15 on NBC.
Edgy and outrageous host Ricky Gervais will return for his third stint as host of the annual awards show honoring achievement in film and television, which will broadcast live from the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills. Gervais ruffled a few feathers at last year’s presentation, and it was rumored that he would be banned from hosting future shows. However, the bawdy Brit promised that his return would be accompanied by his trademark candor.
“They’ve got to know I’m going to do the same thing again,” Gervais told the BBC. “It’s a huge world audience and an amazing opportunity to end your career in one fell swoop. That’s all I do this year — things that could possibly end my career.”
The controversial feature film, “The Help,” leads the field of nominations, including Best Motion Picture – Drama and Viola Davis for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama, as well as Octavia Spencer and Jessica Chastain for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture. The song “Living Proof” from “The Help,” earned a nomination for Mary J. Blige, Thomas Newman, Harvey Mason Jr. and Damon Thomas in the category of Best Original Song – Motion Picture. In addition, Idris Elba (“Luther”) received a nomination for Best Performance by an Actor in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television.
Tony Award winner Viola Davis, and Octavia Spencer, recipient of the 2012 Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress, will be in the spotlight once again when the 84th Academy Awards are televised live from the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles at 7 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 26 on ABC.
The popular and entertaining Billy Crystal returns for his ninth stint as host, replacing Eddie Murphy, who withdrew when his creative partner, Brett Ratner, resigned as a producer of the show after coming under fire for making a gay slur and other unsavory comments.
“Some of the best moments of my career have happened on the Oscar stage,” said Crystal. “I am thrilled to be back there. Actually, I am doing this so that the young woman in my pharmacy will stop asking me my name when I pick up my prescriptions.”
Viola Davis, who won a Tony for her role in “Fences,” starring opposite Denzel Washington, is a strong contender for the Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal of Aibileen Clark in “The Help,” while cast mate Octavia Spencer is vying for the title of Best Supporting Actress for her role as Minnie Jackson. Overall, “The Help,” a superb ensemble piece based on the novel by Kathryn Stockett, received four nominations, including a Best Supporting Actress nom for Jessica Chastain, as well as the coveted Best Picture nomination.
“It’s an honor to be nominated a second time,” said Davis. “It’s a personal accomplishment and triumph for women and women of color. I’m so glad the film has been recognized, it was a labor of love from the moment it was conceived and it is rewarding to see the impact it is having.”
Spencer, who was chosen over Oscar nominee Queen Latifah and Academy Award winners Jennifer Hudson and Mo’Nique to play the role of Minnie, recently won the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal.
“I am so honored that not only was my work recognized by the Academy, but that the tireless efforts of our amazing cast and crew culminated in nominations for Viola Davis, Jessica Chastain and the film itself. It is a testament to our true ensemble of talent, both in front of and behind the scenes,” Spencer said.
Thus far, the dazzling list of presenters includes Halle Berry, Rose Byrne, Bradley Cooper, Tom Cruise, Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Michael Douglas, Tina Fey, Tom Hanks, Angelina Jolie, Milla Jovovich, Ellie Kemper, Jennifer Lopez, Melissa McCarthy, Wendy McLendon-Covey, Chris Rock, Maya Rudolph, Ben Stiller, Emma Stone and Kristen Wiig.
In addition, Cirque du Soleil will present a “wholly unique and exclusive performance,” which will feature the largest Cirque cast ever assembled for a single act. The appearance marks the second time “Cirque du Soleil has performed on the Academy Awards telecast.
Three-time Grammy Award winner Pharrell Williams, a prolific producer-singer-songwriter who wrote the original song score for “Despicable Me,” and whose songs have appeared on the soundtracks of such films as “Any Given Sunday,” “Rush Hour 2” and “Zoolander,” is a music consultant for the 84th Academy Awards, along with Oscar-winning composer Hans Zimmer.
While it is purely coincidental, “Fruitvale Station,” an award-winning film with similar subject matter and a similar outcome, comes in the aftermath of the acquittal of George Zimmerman, who was on trial for the shooting of 17- year-old Trayvon Martin.
Written and directed by Ryan Coogler, from the East Bay Area of California, and produced by Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker, “Fruitvale Station,” winner of both the Grand Jury Prize for dramatic feature and the Audience Award for U.S. dramatic film at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, is the true story of Oscar Grant (Michael B. Jordan), a 22-year-old Bay Area resident who was shot and killed in cold blood at the Fruitvale subway stop on New Year’s Day 2009 by BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) officers.
The day begins normally, with Oscar dropping his little girl, Tatiana (Ariana Neal) — whom he spoils shamelessly — off at daycare, and taking his loving but frustrated girlfriend, Sophina (Melonie Diaz), to work. The rest of the day is free because Oscar has been fired from his job, but he is too ashamed to tell anyone, particularly since it is his mother’s (Octavia Spencer) birthday.
As the day progresses, it becomes evident that while Oscar can be a bit of a hothead, he is basically a good guy — a doting father and a loving son. One moment he’s calling his grandmother and asking her to share a recipe with a frazzled young lady that he meets in the store, and the next, he’s lashing out at his former boss, who refuses to give him his job back.
Through flashback, we discover that Oscar has been to prison, where another inmate accused him of being a snitch, and he has an ugly disagreement with his mother, Wanda, who vows not to visit him there again.
Now back on the street, Oscar is trying desperately to start over — to have decent job, marry Sophina and take care of his family, but the cards just seem to be stacked against him. Even so, he enjoys his mother’s birthday celebration with his supportive family, and plans to bring in the New Year with Sophina and their friends.
When Wanda hears this, she fears that a carload of young folks driving around on New Year’s Eve might mean trouble, so she convinces her son to take BART instead. He agrees, which proves to be a fateful decision.
While “Fruitvale Station” is extremely well-executed, it is difficult to watch because we know what the tragic outcome will be. However, Cooglar, as the screenwriter, does a superb job of humanizing Oscar without depicting him as a saint.
While he wants to do the right thing, he can’t seem to leave his old life behind. Michael B. Jordan completely embodies the sincere, but embattled young man, and shares several heartfelt scenes with Neal and Diaz. For her part, Diaz gives an emotional portrayal of Sophina, who clearly loves Oscar unconditionally, but wonders if their circumstances will ever change.
As Oscar’s mother, Academy Award winner Octavia Spencer, is a rock for her family, until she is ultimately overwhelmed by the untimely demise of her innocent son, who was brutally murdered as the event was captured on countless camera phones.
While strong reactions to this film are inevitable, particularly with emotions running high — as they are at the moment — it is a commentary on a phenomenon that appears to happen far too often in America. “Fruitvale Station” is now showing at the Ritz Five (214 Walnut Street) and AMC Cherry Hill.
LOS ANGELES — The Deep South drama "The Help" cleaned up with four nominations Wednesday for the Screen Actors Guild Awards, among them honors for Viola Davis, Jessica Chastain and Octavia Spencer.
The adaptation of the best-selling novel also was nominated for best ensemble cast, along with the silent film "The Artist," the wedding comedy "Bridesmaids," the family drama "The Descendants" and the romantic fantasy "Midnight in Paris."
The nominations are among the first major honors on the long road to the Feb. 26 Academy Awards. The SAG list of contenders and Golden Globe nominees that will be announced Thursday help sort out favorites from also-rans for Oscar voters, whose nominations come out Jan. 24.
Davis is up for best actress and Spencer for supporting actress as black maids who agree to share stories of their tough lives with an aspiring white writer at the start of the civil-rights movement in 1960s Mississippi. Chastain also was nominated for supporting actress as Spencer's lonely, needy new boss.
"The Artist" ran second with three nominations, including a best-actor honor for Jean Dujardin as a silent star falling from grace amid the advent of talking pictures and supporting actress for Berenice Bejo, who plays a rising sound-era movie star.
Along with Davis, best-actress contenders are Glenn Close as a woman disguising herself as a male butler in 19th-century Ireland in "Albert Nobbs"; Meryl Streep as British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in "The Iron Lady"; Tilda Swinton as a grief-stricken woman coping with her son's horrible deeds in "We Need to Talk About Kevin"; and Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe in "My Week With Marilyn."
Joining Dujardin in the best-actor category are Demian Bichir as a hard-working illegal immigrant father in "A Better Life"; George Clooney as a neglectful dad tending his two daughters in "The Descendants"; Leonardo DiCaprio as FBI boss J. Edgar Hoover in "J. Edgar"; and Brad Pitt as Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane in "Moneyball."
"Albert Nobbs" star Close was a double nominee, picking up a best-actress honor for a TV drama series for "Damages." Close's co-star Janet McTeer was nominated for supporting actress as a cross-dressing laborer in "Albert Nobbs."
Overlooked for best actor was Gary Oldman, whose performance in the espionage saga "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" has been billed by critics as one of the best in his career.
Also snubbed was Michael Fassbender for his daring role in the sex-addict drama "Shame" and Ryan Gosling for two acclaimed performances in the action tale "Drive" and the political drama "The Ides of March."
Several Oscar best-picture prospects will sit out the SAG ceremony, including Steven Spielberg's "War Horse" and Martin Scorsese's "Hugo," but those are epic tales whose impact comes more from their scope than their performances.
Another Oscar potential that missed out at SAG was David Fincher's "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," which features a blistering break-out performance by Rooney Mara.
"Bridesmaids" was a rare mainstream comedy that has earned critical respect. Along with its ensemble nomination, the film earned a supporting-actress slot for Melissa McCarthy as a crude but caring member of the wedding.
Missing out in the supporting-actress category was Clooney's young "Descendants" co-star Shailene Woodley, who delivers a breakout performance as a troublesome teen.
Up for supporting actor are Kenneth Branagh as Laurence Olivier in "My Week With Marilyn"; Armie Hammer as Hoover's FBI colleague and soul mate in "J. Edgar"; Jonah Hill as an economics whiz kid in "Moneyball"; Nick Nolte as a bad dad trying to make amends in "Warrior"; and Christopher Plummer as an elderly, ailing father who announces he's gay in "Beginners."
Betty White, the guild's lifetime-achievement award winner two years ago, had two TV nominations: comedy-series actress for "Hot in Cleveland" and "Hallmark Hall of Fame: The Lost Valentine."
"Modern Family" led the TV side with five nominations, including best comedy ensemble and individual honors for Julie Bowen, Ty Burrell, Eric Stonestreet and Sofia Vergara.
SAG also honors unsung action players with a stunt ensemble prize. The film stunt contenders are "The Adjustment Bureau," ''Cowboys & Aliens," ''Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1," ''Transformers: Dark of the Moon" and "X-Men: First Class."
TV stunt nominees are "Dexter," ''Game of Thrones," ''Southland," ''Spartacus: Gods of the Arena" and "True Blood."
The 18th annual SAG Awards will be presented Jan. 29. -- (AP)
LOS ANGELES — Octavia Spencer inspired her formidable character in "The Help," but the actress turned into a softy Sunday as she accepted an Oscar for the role.
"Oh, thank you," a tearful Spencer said as many in the audience rose to their feet. She expressed gratitude to her family, her colleagues from "The Help" and her native "state of Alabama" as she received the best supporting actress trophy.
The actress played tart-tongued maid Minny Jackson in the movie, which depicted Southern life as the 1960s civil rights movement unfolded. The film is based on Kathryn Stockett's best-selling novel "The Help," and the author drew on her friendship with Spencer in creating Minny.
The two were introduced by a mutual pal, "The Help" writer-director Tate Taylor.
After the show, Spencer said her plans included "a quarter of a glass of Champagne" and celebrating with her cast mates.
"I'm just going to live in this moment because it's never happened, and Lord knows it may never happen again," she said.
Spencer saluted her co-stars, including fellow nominees Viola Davis and Jessica Chastain, and the working relationship they shared: "We just left our egos at the door and worked together as one beautiful unit. ... It was an award-winning cast," she said.
Asked about what she would tell girls who might want to follow in her footsteps, Spencer made an indirect reference to what she had earlier called her "zaftig" physique.
"I hope that in some way I can be some sort of beacon of hope, particularly because I'm not the typical Hollywood beauty," she said — then jokingly chastised the media for not contradicting her, saying, "I hear crickets" in the room.
Spencer is one of just a half-dozen black actresses to have won an Oscar in the awards' 84-year history. In the supporting actress category, Hattie McDaniel won for "Gone with the Wind," Whoopi Goldberg for "Ghost," Jennifer Hudson for "Dreamgirls," and Mo'Nique for "Precious," while Halle Berry won best actress for "Monster's Ball."
Spencer's role as a domestic worker in "The Help," which included baking a pie aimed at vengeance, was a career change of pace.
After playing a nurse in the film "A Time to Kill," Spencer was cast as a nurse in several different TV series including "City of Angels" and "Chicago Hope," and played the same medical role in films including "Halloween II" and "Seven Pounds."
Spencer, 39, who was favored to win the Oscar, was composed enough to enjoy the company of Christian Bale, who presented the award to her.
"Thank you, academy, for putting me with the hottest guy in the room," she said.
She also thanked Steven Spielberg for "changing my life." Spielberg's DreamWorks is the studio behind "The Help." -- (AP)
“I’m just going to live in this moment because it’s never happened before, and Lord knows it may never happen again.” Octavia Spencer, 2012 Academy Award — Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Octavia Spencer brought the gilded audience at Hollywood’s Kodak Theater to its feet Sunday night as she tearfully accepted the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting role for her portrayal of Minny Jackson, a proud, outspoken maid in the Oscar-nominated movie, “The Help.” Ms. Spencer, whose break-out role in “The Help,” comes after years of mostly small parts in dozens of films, was overwhelmed with gratitude for the honor and thanked Steven Spielberg, her home state of Alabama and her fellow cast members, including Viola Davis who was nominated for Best Actress.
Spencer becomes only the 13th African American to win an acting Oscar in the 84-year history of the Academy Awards and just the sixth Black woman since Hattie McDaniel took home the Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 1940 for her role in “Gone with the Wind.” We congratulate Octavia Spencer for her achievement. Her performance in “The Help” sheds new light on what life was like for Black women domestics in the South during the dawning days of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. The dignity and strength of the characters she and Viola Davis portray give new perspective to the unique struggles of African-American women, and demonstrate the overwhelming power of faith, community and sisterhood.
We are also encouraged by the Academy Award winning success of previous Black women actors, including Hattie McDaniel, Halle Berry, Mo’Nique, Jennifer Hudson and Whoopi Goldberg, who have broken the Oscar color and gender barriers. But, this small sorority of Black women Oscar winners makes it clear that Hollywood has a long way to go in diversifying the content of its story-lines as well as the color of its characters, especially for African-American women. It might help if the Academy diversified its own ranks. More than 90 percent of its members are white; more than 75 percent are male.
While there have been several movies in recent years like “Red Tails,” “Hotel Rwanda,” “Malcolm X,” “Glory” and “Invictus” (about the life of Nelson Mandela), that cast Black men in heroic roles, there have been few films about Black women heroines.
USA Today film critic, Bill Goodykoontz, pointed out in a recent column that, “People of color too often find only narrow aspects of their lives and history represented in mainstream film, if represented at all.” James Braxton Peterson, director of Africana Studies at Lehigh University added, “While we must applaud the outstanding performances by Ms. Davis and Ms. Spencer, we cannot ignore the fact that once again African Americans are being recognized in Hollywood for playing limited … roles.”
This fact was not lost on Octavia Spencer who remarked after accepting her award, “I hope it’s the hallmark of more for young, aspiring actresses of color, and by color, I don’t mean just African American. I mean Indian, Native American, Latin American, Asian American. I hope that in some way I can be some sort of beacon of hope.…” We applaud Ms. Spencer for her Academy Award, and we echo her desire that Hollywood create more quality roles for deserving Black actors and actresses. — (NNPA)
Marc Morial is the president and CEO of the National Urban League.