VMA Moments and Memories: It’s Still All About Miley, and Beyonce

There was no “Miley Moment” akin to last year’s foam finger twerking brouhaha, so it turned out to be a tamer night at the 31st annual MTV Video Music Awards, held August 24 at the refurbished Forum in Inglewood as Lorde, Beyonce, Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, Iggy Azalea, Cyrus, Nicki Minaj and Gwen Stefani all performed, presented or took home the coveted Moonmen.

Oh, unless you count the moment where Cyrus sent a homeless man on stage to accept her VMA for “Wrecking Ball,” which won for best video. The idea was for 22-year-old Jesse Helt to call attention to youth homelessness in this generation’s version of Marlon Brando sending a Native American woman to accept his Oscar in 1973.

Clearly nervous, while Cyrus looked on tearfully from the audience, Helt encouraged viewers to go to her Facebook page to learn more about the cause and to donate money to help homeless youth find jobs, housing and education. “I’ve survived in shelters all over,” he said. “I’ve cleaned your hotel rooms. I’ve been an extra in your movies. I’ve been an extra in your life.”

Turns out he’s also wanted on a probation violation in Oregon which stem from a drug-related burglary attempt.

The VMAs always seem to capture memorable pop culture snapshots, although this year the show and its ratings didn’t quite live up to past glories. While still this summer’s most-watched cable telecast, viewing numbers fell to 8.3 million from last year’s 10.1 million for the original airing. Yet factoring in simulcasts on other MTV networks and Logo, plus repeat airings, viewing levels hit 13.7 million.

And the VMAs were a social media hit, generating 12.6 million tweets and 259 trending topics according to Nielsen Social. The VMA All Access Live Stream delivered 6.5 million streams, making it the second-most-watched MTV digital live stream of all time.

The show got started with a medley culminating in a “Bang Bang,” Jessie J’s record featuring Nicki Minaj and Ariana Grande, who had emerged from a spaceship for “Break Free,” before Minaj appeared to prevent a wardrobe malfunction during her twerk-fest for “Anaconda.”

As usual, the awards seemed almost secondary to the performances which included British soul sensation Sam Smith performing a straightforward, riveting “Stay With Me,” Taylor Swift doing her new single, “Shake it Off,” Usher and Minaj pairing for “She Came To Give It To You” and Maroon 5—in their first-ever VMA appearance–on an outdoor stage performing “Maps” as planes came in for landings at nearby LAX.

Otherwise, real life only intruded when Common called for a moment of silence to remember Michael Brown, the teenager shot to death by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo. earlier this month.

No mention was made of the previous night’s shooting of former rap mogul Suge Knight at a Sunset Strip nightclub during a pre-VMA party where Chris Brown was performing. A host like Kevin Hart would have gone to town with that, bad taste or not.

With no one playing host, Jay Pharaoh of “Saturday Night Live” filled the comedy aspect by popping up with impersonations of Jay-Z and Kanye West. West’s real-life wife, Kim Kardashian–who introduced Smith’s performance – appeared to love it, while Beyoncé got 15 minutes in the spotlight during a medley of numbers from her “On the Run” tour, culminating with the real Hova and their daughter, Blue Ivy presenting her with the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award.

–Hillary Atkin

Emmy Governors Ball: An Electrifying Kaleidoscope of Celebratory Color

Imagine putting on a party for 3,000-4,000 people who happen to be television’s most talented and well-recognized in the industry.

Then imagine doing it every year, managing all the moving parts and trying to top yourself.

That’s the challenge that Cheryl Cecchetto and her company, Sequoia Productions takes on every year in producing the Governors Ball for the Emmy Awards. (And being the best in the business with a stellar track record, they also do the Governors Ball for the Academy Awards.)

For the Emmy Awards, there are actually two separate Balls, with the first one following the Creative Arts Emmys which were held on August 16 and the second after the Primetime Emmys on August 25, both held in the West Hall of the Los Angeles Convention Center.

The goal is for all the nominees, presenters, winners and invited guests to toast each other in a memorable – and gorgeous – gala celebration with outstanding entertainment.

This year’s Ball fused modern lighting technologies with creative color concepts and a three-course dinner from acclaimed chef Joachim Splichal’s Patina Group catering, accompanied by wines by Beaulieu Vineyard, cocktails by Grey Goose and chocolates by Cellar Door Chocolates. The “kaleidoscope of color” themed bash featured dazzling displays of color throughout the venue emanating from thousands of LED lights, media-enhanced Versa TUBES and lasers.

Cecchetto had promised that the party would be a sensory delight, offering sights, sounds, cuisine and hospitality that were unique– and guests were thrilled.

“I come to this every year and this is the most beautiful Ball that I’ve seen in the venue,” said one impressed attendee at the Creative Arts Ball.

“This year’s theme and décor are metaphors for the creative excellence, vibrancy and richness of our industry and this television season,” said Governors Ball committee chair Russ Patrick.

On the menu: a first course salad of grilled peaches and heirloom tomatoes with figs, almonds and buratta, followed by a main course of filet mignon, golden potato purée and caramelized cippolini. For dessert, a contemporary scrumptious lee delicious take on chocolate s’mores designed by Patina Restaurant Group’s Executive Pastry Chef Carlos Enriquez.

 

At the Creative Arts Ball, Emmy winners in attendance included: Allison Janney (Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series, Masters of Sex), Anthony Bourdain (Outstanding Informational Series, Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown), Bill Simmons (Outstanding Short-Format Nonfiction Program, 30 For 30 Shorts), Don Was (Outstanding Music Direction, The Beatles: The Night That Changed America), Jane Lynch (Outstanding Host for a Reality-Competition Program, Hollywood Game Night), Joe Morton (Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series, Scandal), Tabitha and Napoleon Dumo (Outstanding Choreography, So You Think You Can Dance) and Tate Donovan (Outstanding Short-Format Nonfiction Program, 30 For 30 Shorts).

Other guests partaking in the festivities included Adam Reed (Archer), Amber Nash (Archer), Beau Bridges (Masters of Sex), Bob Newhart (The Big Bang Theory), Carrie Brownstein (Portlandia), Carrie Preston (True Blood), Chris Parnell (Archer), Fred Armisen (Portlandia), Gary Cole (Veep, Bob’s Burgers), James Lipton (Inside The Actors Studio), Jim Rash (Community, The Writers’ Room), Joel McHale (The Soup / Community), Jon Voight (Ray Donovan), Judy Greer (Archer), Kumail Nanjiani (Silicon Valley), Laverne Cox (Orange Is The New Black), Mandy Moore (So You Think You Can Dance), Margo Martindale (The Americans / The MIllers), Matt Weiner (Mad Men), Morgan Freeman (Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman), Natasha Lyonne (Orange Is The New Black), Neil deGrasse Tyson (Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey), Vince Gilligan (Breaking Bad), and Zach Woods (Silicon Valley).

– Hillary Atkin

 

 

 

 

 

Creative Arts Emmy Awards Honor TV’s Best Artisans and Craftspeople

“These are the real Emmys. The ego-free Emmys,” shouted Kristen Schaal, part of the ensemble from “Bob’s Burgers” accepting one of more than 90 trophies handed out at the 2014 Creative Arts Emmy Awards August 16 at the Nokia Theatre L.A. LIVE.

Egos did seem to be left at the door for the 3 ½ hour-long ceremony – the prelude to the 66th Primetime Emmy Awards next Monday– which honors outstanding achievement in categories ranging from casting, picture editing, hairstyling, art direction, costume design, animation, music composition, title design, sound editing and makeup. As well, there are multiple categories for reality programs, variety specials, documentaries, Web shows, interactive content and even one for commercials.

It was a big night for HBO, which took home 15 trophies including a quartet of honors each for “Game of Thrones” and “True Detective” and NBC, awarded 10 Emmys, including five for “Saturday Night Live,” the most honored show of the night. Two other programs, “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey” (Fox/NatGeo) and “Sherlock: His Last Vow,” (PBS/Masterpiece) also topped the charts with four Emmys apiece.

The guest actor categories are always a highlight of the ceremony, and this year’s winners included Allison Janney for Showtime’s “Masters of Sex,” Joe Morton for ABC’s “Scandal” and Jimmy Fallon for “SNL.”

John Voight gave a moving tribute as he presented the prestigious Governors Award posthumously to casting icon Marion Dougherty, whom he credited with giving him his first television role, albeit a small one, on “Naked City” and later casting him in his star- making role as Joe Buck in 1969’s “Midnight Cowboy.”

The CA Emmys, produced for the 20th year running by Spike Jones, Jr., are technically host-less, but feature individuals or pairs of well-known personages who present multiple awards.

This year, the lengthy kudofest got started with two of television’s most brilliant creator/showrunners, Matt Weiner and Vince Gilligan, handing out the casting awards after making some cracks about top talent on “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad.”

“I see Don Draper when I look in the mirror,” Weiner said, to which Gilligan retorted, “I see this guy”– showing a picture on the theater’s monitors of Tortuga’s severed head on a tortoise shell.

Humor, or attempts at it, made the protracted ceremony seem to go a bit faster and just about all of it came from the presenters, with funny bits from the likes of Jane Lynch, Amy Schumer, Joel McHale, Nick Kroll, Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, Paul Scheer and Aisha Tyler.

“All kidding aside – which seems to be the theme of tonight– they thought they were talking to Chelsea Handler when they asked me to come,” said Schumer.

Key and Peele did a little comedy routine juxtaposing admiration for television shows with the fact that they weren’t getting paid to appear. “They picked me up in an Uber,” Peele complained, while Key, ignoring him, intoned about how he admired Eddie Murphy. “My driver was a hipster from Silver Lake. His cologne gave me a nosebleed. He asked for a five-star rating. I’m doing his podcast on Thursday,” said Peele, in an interplay with Key, getting in the last word before they presented awards in the sound mixing categories.

This year’s award winners had it a little bit easier than last year, when they were given just 45 seconds to get out of their seats, make it up to the stage and give an acceptance speech– a situation that resulted in those seated in the far reaches of the auditorium running down the aisle and arriving onstage short of breath with just a few seconds left to shout out their gratitude.

A 30-second clock started ticking this time when Emmy recipients hit the stage, and it was a hard 30. Those who weren’t short, sweet and to the point received a loud dose of playoff music, in one case, the theme to “The Twilight Zone,” before their mics were abruptly and unceremoniously cut.

But when it came time for Morgan Freeman to present the last award of the evening, outstanding guest actress in a comedy series, there was no clock running for winner Uzo Aduba of “Orange is the New Black,” the last of three Emmys the Netflix program took home.

With tears literally streaming down her cheeks, the actress thanked her mother– who was in the audience– for coming to America from Nigeria to make a better life for her family and producers for a show “that lets everyone be represented in such a beautiful way.”
(FXM will broadcast an edited version of the Creative Arts Emmy Awards on Sunday, August 24 at 5 PM PT/8 PM ET, repeating at 7 PM PT/10 PM ET and they will be streamed in their entirety on www.Emmys.com at 12 PM. PT/3 PM ET on Monday, August 25.)

–Hillary Atkin

Top Ten Reasons Why the MTV Movie Awards Will Be a Gas

What the Oscars are to seriousness and gravitas in the world of film, the MTV Movie Awards are to fun and frivolity–particularly when it comes to the ceremony itself. The 2014 edition will be held at LA’s Nokia Theater April 13, (6pm PT/9pm ET) more than a month after Oscars’ lustrous gleam illuminated all in its path.

Many of those who took home or were in the running to win the golden statue will be back competing for MTV’s version, the Golden Popcorn. Here are the top 10 reasons we are looking forward:

10. Conan O’Brien is hosting, and that guy’s always good for a few laughs

9. Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence could re-enact their girl on girl kiss from “American Hustle”

8. Jennifer Lawrence will either fall down or say something gross and TMI about her digestive process

7. Jonah Hill will be back in his natural element, with Seth Rogen and James Franco—and in more rarified air with Leo, with maybe another Titanic moment?

6. “WTF Moment” is the name of a category and we’ll get to re-live the Quaalude scene in “The Wolf of Wall Street”

5. Somali vs. Slavemaster: Barkhad Abdi and Michael Fassbender slug it out for Best Villain

4. John Travolta won’t be there to butcher any names

3. Shirtless and Scared as Shit are hotly competitive categories

2. We get to see Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto together again, hopefully in matching color jackets

1. Leonardo diCaprio stands a strong chance to take the Best Actor trophy for “WoWs”

The nominations came out today and there’s no surprise that Oscar favorites like  ”American Hustle” and “The Wolf of Wall Street” lead with eight nominations each but that big franchise flicks like “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” and “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” are also well recognized.

Here’s the complete list of nominees:

MOVIE OF THE YEAR
“12 Years a Slave”
“American Hustle”
“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”
“The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”
“The Wolf of Wall Street”

BEST FEMALE PERFORMANCE
Amy Adams — “American Hustle”
Jennifer Aniston — “We’re the Millers”
Sandra Bullock — “Gravity”
Jennifer Lawrence — “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”
Lupita Nyong’o — “12 Years a Slave”

BEST MALE PERFORMANCE
Bradley Cooper — “American Hustle”
Leonardo DiCaprio — “The Wolf of Wall Street”
Chiwetel Ejiofor — “12 Years a Slave”
Josh Hutcherson — “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”
Matthew McConaughey — “Dallas Buyers Club”

BREAKTHROUGH PERFORMANCE
Liam James — “The Way Way Back”
Michael B. Jordan — “Fruitvale Station”
Will Poulter— “We’re the Millers”
Margot Robbie — “The Wolf of Wall Street”
Miles Teller — “The Spectacular Now”

BEST KISS
Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams — “American Hustle”
Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Scarlett Johansson — “Don Jon”
James Franco, Ashley Benson and Vanessa Hudgens — “Spring Breakers”
Shailene Woodley and Miles Teller — “The Spectacular Now”
Emma Roberts, Jennifer Aniston and Will Poulter — “We’re the Millers”

BEST FIGHT
“Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” — Will Ferrell, Paul Rudd, David Koechner and Steve Carell vs. James Marsden vs. Sacha Baron Cohen vs. Kanye West vs. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler vs. Jim Carrey and Marion Cotillard vs. Will Smith vs. Liam Neeson and John C. Reilly vs. Greg Kinnear
“Identity Thief” — Jason Bateman vs. Melissa McCarthy
“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” — Orlando Bloom and Evangeline Lilly vs. Orcs
“The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” — Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Sam Claflin vs. Mutant Monkeys
“This is the End” — Jonah Hill vs. James Franco and Seth Rogen

BEST COMEDIC PERFORMANCE
Kevin Hart — “Ride Along”
Jonah Hill — “The Wolf of Wall Street”
Johnny Knoxville — “Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa”
Melissa McCarthy — “The Heat”
Jason Sudeikis — “We’re the Millers”

BEST SCARED-AS-S**T PERFORMANCE
Rose Byrne — “Insidious: Chapter 2″
Jessica Chastain — “Mama”
Vera Farmiga — “The Conjuring”
Ethan Hawke — “The Purge”
Brad Pitt — “World War Z”

BEST ON-SCREEN DUO
Amy Adams and Christian Bale — “American Hustle”
Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto — “Dallas Buyers Club”
Vin Diesel and Paul Walker — “Fast & Furious 6″
Ice Cube and Kevin Hart — “Ride Along”
Jonah Hill and Leonardo DiCaprio — “The Wolf of Wall Street”

BEST SHIRTLESS PERFORMANCE
Jennifer Aniston — “We’re the Millers”
Sam Claflin — “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”
Leonardo DiCaprio — “The Wolf of Wall Street”
Zac Efron — “That Awkward Moment”
Chris Hemsworth — “Thor: The Dark World”

#WTF MOMENT
The RV Crash — “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues”
The Beauty Pageant — “Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa”
Car Sex — “The Counselor”
The Lude Scene — “The Wolf of Wall Street”
Danny’s New Pet — “This is the End”

BEST VILLAIN
Barkhad Abdi — “Captain Phillips”
Benedict Cumberbatch — “Star Trek into Darkness”
Michael Fassbender — “12 Years a Slave”
Mila Kunis — “Oz The Great and Powerful”
Donald Sutherland — “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”

BEST ON-SCREEN TRANSFORMATION
Christian Bale — “American Hustle”
Elizabeth Banks — “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”
Orlando Bloom — “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”
Jared Leto — “Dallas Buyers Club”
Matthew McConaughey — “Dallas Buyers Club”

BEST MUSICAL MOMENT
Backstreet Boys, Jay Baruchel, Seth Rogen and Craig Robinson Peform in Heaven — “This is the End”
Jennifer Lawrence Sings “Live & Let Die’ — “American Hustle”
Leonardo DiCaprio Pops and Locks — “The Wolf of Wall Street”
Melissa McCarthy Sings “Barracuda” — “Identity Thief”
Will Poulter Sing “Waterfalls” — “We’re the Millers”

BEST CAMEO PERFORMANCE
Robert De Niro — “American Hustle”
Amy Poehler and Tina Fey — “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues”
Kanye West — “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues”
Joan Rivers — “Iron Man 3″
Rihanna — “This is the End”

BEST HERO
Henry Cavill as Clark Kent — “Man of Steel”
Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man — “Iron Man 3″
Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins — “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”
Chris Hemsworth as Thor — “Thor: The Dark World”
Channing Tatum as John Cale — “White House Down”

It’s All Over But The Hangovers–A Look at Oscar’s Hits and Misses

All pizza party stunts and star-studded selfies aside, the 86th Annual Academy Awards will go down in the record books as the first time that a black director helmed the winner of the year’s best picture. And literally jumped for joy.

“12 Years a Slave” was certainly not a lock to win, as host Ellen DeGeneres noted succinctly at the very top of the telecast, but vaulted over the popular blockbuster “Gravity” with a savvy last-minute campaign with the admonition “it’s time.” (Post-Oscars, for the full-page ads, it’s now become “…for all time.”)

That could be interpreted several ways – that it was time to actually watch the film, which many Academy members had put off doing for fear that it would be too upsetting, or that it was time to recognize a film that brought to life the darkest chapter in American history.

Although there have been many other acclaimed films about slavery, the last being Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained,” “12 Years” was unique in that it was based upon a book written by a free Northerner who was kidnapped and enslaved in the South. Solomon Northup’s book had long since fallen into obscurity before it was apparently rediscovered by British director Steve McQueen’s wife. Now, the book is guaranteed bestseller status.

But back to the show, which featured a number of uplifting moments that almost erased the rancid memories of last year’s Seth McFarlane-sanctioned “We Saw Your Boobs.”

Here are some of our favorites:

  • Lupita Nyong’o, crowned, as expected, with the best supporting actress award, gave a moving speech in which she acknowledged that portraying another person’s deep pain became the source of great joy for her. “No matter where you’re from,” the Kenyan-born Nyong’o said, “your dreams are valid.”
  • Jared Leto, as well the anticipated winner of best supporting actor, also continued on the high road he’s taken during the entire season with a heartfelt and dignified acknowledgment of his mother, coupled with a shout-out to the people of Venezuela and Ukraine and also recognizing millions of those who have suffered and died from HIV/AIDS.
  • U2’s toned-down, acoustic performance of “Ordinary Love,’ which was our favorite to win over the original song from “Frozen.” But poor Idina Menzel, with her name butchered by John Travolta. It isn’t that hard.
  • A resplendent Cate Blanchett, who achieved the perfect note in thanking the controversy-plagued Woody Allen for casting her in “Blue Jasmine” while making the point that films about women are not niche, but mainstream – and most importantly to Hollywood, make money.
  • Outside of the original song categories, the performances by Bette Midler and Pink– although we do wish it would have been Liza Minnelli performing “Over the Rainbow,’ she must’ve turned down the opportunity that was part of the “Wizard of Oz” tribute.
  • Alfonso Cuarón, charming with both of his acceptance speeches for best editing of “Gravity” and best director, becoming the first Latino to achieve that honor. Because he himself makes fun of how he speaks English. we can say that we kept hearing his version of “wise guys,” referencing the people he worked with at Warner Bros. as “white guys.” Then we heard him change it to, um, “white people.” Even more endearingly, we heard secondhand that he left his Oscars in the car for one of the after parties and was asked to pose with someone else’s– and hesitated because he thought it was unethical because it didn’t belong to him. Team Alfonso!
  • “20 Feet From Stardom’s” win as best documentary–and not only because we personally know some of the key players. Darlene Love, one of the back-up singers chronicled in the film whose career has re-surged because if it,  firmly took center stage when she began to sing “His Eye On The Sparrow” mid-speech.

Not so favorite moments:

  • The aforementioned Travolta botching of the not-that-hard name to pronounce, Idina Menzel.
  • The “In Memoriam” section for which we thought Midler should have sang over, instead of after, but more importantly for the omission of names including Jonathan Winters, Dennis Farina and Ed Lauter, to name a few. We had a feeling that the list would culminate with Philip Seymour Hoffman. It was almost a cliché and for those especially affected by the way that he died, left a bittersweet taste.
  • Matthew McConaughey’s acceptance speech, true to his past form in accepting a slew of awards, was rambling – and repetitive. We didn’t quite get the concept of continually being your own hero, but as yourself 10 years into the future. Perhaps for him, that’s aspirational, or inspirational. But compared to the other truly inspirational speeches given by fellow actors it fell short – unless you count the all right, all right, all right part.

–Hillary Atkin

 

 

 

Like a Candle in the Wind: Sir Elton’s Fabulous Oscar Party

The Elton John AIDS Foundation Oscar party is always a fabulous affair but this year’s edition, the 22nd annual, was truly spectacular. It raised more than $5 million for AIDS research.

One particularly magic moment came about an hour after the viewing party ended, when Sir Elton took the stage with the night’s special performer, Ed Shearan, for a duet of Elton’s classic song, “Candle in the Wind.”

“Ed did a wonderful version of this song so we’re going to duet for the first time since the Grammys,” Elton said, referring to the 2013 Grammys, before they launched into the performance, which awed the capacity crowd. After an ovation, Sheeran continued a lengthy set that kept the audience on its feet for the duration.

The gala, which for the second year was set up in a tent at West Hollywood Park across from the Pacific Design Center was cosponsored by Chopard, Neuro Drinks and Wells Fargo.

One skilled Oscar prognosticator who got the most answers right on the Oscar ballot handed out to all the banquet guests was awarded a $30,000 Chopard watch– and given a big hug and a kiss by Elton himself.

It was an affair filled with stars from the worlds of music, screen and stage. Spotted on the white carpet and in the crowd were Alex Pettyfer, Ann & Nancy Wilson, Anna Paquin & Stephen Moyer, Bernie Taupin, Britney Spears, Carmen Electra, Chace Crawford, Cheryl Burke, Cheyenne Jackson, Chris Colfer, Christina Hendricks, David Burtka & Neil Patrick Harris, Donatella Versace, Dwight Yoakam, Ellen Pompeo, Eric McCormack, Gordon Ramsay, Heidi Klum, Jane Fonda, Jane Seymour, Joe Jonas, John Waters, Johnny Weir, Jonathan Groff, Josh Groban, Karina Smirnoff, Karolina Kurkova, Kellan Lutz, Kelly Osbourne, Kelly Rowland, Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds, Khloé Kardashian, Kim Kardashian, Kourtney Kardashian, Kris Jenner, Kristin Cavallari, Lady Gaga, Lance Bass,  Mel B, Nikki Reed, Ozzy & Sharon Osbourne, Paz Vega, Paulina Rubio, Petra Nemcova, Quincy Jones, Robert De Niro & Grace Hightower, Sam Trammell, Sheryl Crow, Steven Tyler, Tara Lipinski, Taylor Swift, Tim & Jane Allen, Tommy & Dee Hilfiger, Tony Goldwyn, Vanessa Hudgens and Whoopi Goldberg,

Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay prepared the exquisite five course meal that was served while chef Wayne Elias created the passed hors d’oeuvres and late-night comfort food served at the afterparty, which raged– as usual – late into the night. The bar was drank dry of Veuve Clicquot, but there was more than enough Patron to go around, and the coffee flavored version of the premier tequila was a major hit.

The auction is always a big part of the event and this year the sought-after items included tickets to the Broadway performance of “Hedwig and the Angry Itch,” with a backstage tour and drinks with the show’s star Neil Patrick Harris, a 1974 print of Elton John and John Lennon and signed by the photographer Bob Gruen, a portrait sitting with renowned photographer Catherine Opie, five days at Steven Tyler’s Hawaiian retreat and tickets to the 2014 Vanity Fair Oscar Party. The piece de resistance: a piano signed by Elton John and Bernie Taupin.

New this year was an audience participation feature that enabled guests to make donations to the Foundation through their cell phones. Throughout the evening ,video messages from long-time EJAF supporters Ellen DeGeneres and Anderson Cooper, as well as live messages from EJAF friends Heidi Klum and Eric McCormack encouraged people to text in pledges in support of the Foundation’s urgent mission.

Even though it’s considered one of the year’s most fun and exclusive parties, the serious message of fundraising was underscored by Sir Elton.

“This is the kind of generosity that will help us change the course of this epidemic,” he said. “We begin to end AIDS when we get homeless teens off the streets and into shelters and job training and healthcare.  We begin to end AIDS when we offer addicts a clean needle and a helping hand into drug rehabilitation.  We begin to end AIDS when we help HIV-positive ex-prisoners find housing and jobs and a way to stay on their medications.  We begin to end AIDS when we make sure EVERY person living with HIV has a ride to the doctor and access to healthcare and treatment.”

–Hillary Atkin

 

 

 

Oscar Countdown: Best Actor, McCon vs. Conman

Could this year have been any better for Matthew McConaughey? His on screen transformation from stoner dude and rom-com hottie dude to serious actor became a fait accompli with his role in “Dallas Buyers Club.”

Just yesterday, McConaughey racked up yet another trophy for his gritty portrayal of Ron Woodruff at the Independent Spirit awards – adding to his treasure chest from the Golden Globes, the Screen Actors Guild, the Critics Choice Awards and other honors that add up to a long list that is almost unprecedented in its unanimity of honoring a singular performance.

So if McConaughey does not win the Oscar– and by the way, it is his first nomination – it will be huge upset.

In the unlikely event of that scenario, who would be next in line for the 8 1/2 pound gold man but Leonardo DiCaprio, who had two showy roles this past year but was lauded much more for his vivid portrayal of Jordan Belfort in Martin Scorsese’s “The Wolf of Wall Street” than for his role in “The Great Gatsby.”

Oscar historians and fans alike still find it hard to believe that it was only with 2006’s “The Departed,” in which DiCaprio also starred, that Scorsese won his first Academy Award as a director, although he had numerous nominations. It’s the same story with Leo – many nominations, but not a win.

No matter what happens, it all kind of comes together filmically in the scene that DiCaprio shares with McConaughey in “Wolf,” at an alcohol and cocaine fueled lunch with a lot of chest thumping.

TAR’s Take: It’ll be alright, alright, alright for McConaughey tonight.

–Hillary Atkin

 

 

Oscar Countdown: Best Actress is Cate’s to Lose (Not Gonna Happen)

It’s hard to remember a year when the winner of the best actress category felt so pre-ordained. But then Woody Allen’s stepdaughter stepped up with renewed allegations of child molestation against the noted director. Whether this influenced Oscar voters one way or another regarding Cate Blanchett’s riveting turn in “Blue Jasmine, we will find out Sunday night.

The actress herself made one brief comment about the controversy, in Woody’s support naturally, and then went on record saying she wouldn’t discuss it further. Nor should she – it has nothing to do with her performance, which is widely guarded as one of the best of her stellar career.

The rest of the field is a who’s who of Hollywood leading ladies and amongst them is Oscar record-holder Meryl Streep, up for “August: Osage County,” which is not considered one of her finer roles. Streep’s Oscar history goes back to 1979 for “The Deer Hunter.” The following year, Streep took home the first of her three Academy Awards, for “Kramer vs. Kramer.” Her other statuettes are for “Sophie’s Choice” and “The Iron Lady.”

Judi Dench is another powerful force with a resonant depiction of the real-life Philomena Lee, who was forced by the Catholic Church to give up her out of wedlock toddler. Her search for the boy decades later – with the journalist fascinated by her story – is the staff of heartbreak, inspiration artbreak and internal fortitude. It hasn’t hurt that the real Philomena has been out on the campaign trail bestowing her blessings upon the film and the woman who plays her.

And then there is the beautiful and talented Sandra Bullock, whose career path reached the stratosphere when she won the Oscar for “The Blind Side.” Think back, and you’ll remember she publicly thanked the husband who later dumped her for another woman. Bullock had always been considered America’s sweetheart but the public humiliation and later adoption of a little boy made her even more relatable as an Everywoman. As an astronaut fighting for survival, “Gravity” underscores her resilience.

Amy Adams– and her 70s cleavage– have been everywhere promoting “American Hustle,” another David O. Russell film in which heretofore unrevealed elements of her character and talent take center stage. The first time with him was her memorable role

Oscar Countdown: The Trophy for Best Director Goes To…

If you could cast the nominees for best director as character types, Alfonso Cuarón could be the charming foreigner who laughs at his less-than-perfect command of the English language, Steve McQueen would be the erudite Brit who revels in tough subject matter, Alexander Payne would be the indie type whose films have achieved mainstream success, David O. Russell would be the charismatic auteur who is on a huge roll and Martin Scorsese would be, well, the legendary director Martin Scorsese.

The question is whether Oscar voters will follow the lead of the Directors Guild of America– and the Critics’ Choice and Golden Globes– and anoint Cuarón for his “Gravity,” which would certainly be a popular choice. In addition to directing the Sandra Bullock-starrer, Cuarón was the producer, editor and co-writer of the space saga, with his son—and has two other Oscar nods for best picture and editing of the film, making up three of his total six Oscar nominations since 2003.

In three of the past four years, Russell has been Oscar-nominated as best director, for 2011’s “The Fighter” and last year’s “Silver Linings Playbook.” The best tribute to his directing style this year for “American Hustle” may be that all four of his leading and supporting actors are nominated for Oscars—an accomplishment that is now two years running–with Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence repeating that feat from last year’s playbook.

Steve McQueen didn’t hit the campaign trail as hard as Russell, but his work is much admired going back to “Shame” (2011) and “Hunger” (2008). Much like Cooper, Lawrence and Christian Bale are to Russell, Michael Fassbender is McQueen’s muse—and Lupita Nyong’o may be his new one after all the acclaim she’s receiving for “12 Years a Slave.” McQueen reportedly auditioned 1,000 actresses for the role of Patsey before giving the career making gig to her. McQueen would be the first black director ever to win the Academy Award.

Payne is also a critics’ darling, but somehow has never been an Oscar favorite in the directing category, although he has two statuettes, both for writing or cowriting the adapted screenplays for “The Descendants” and “Sideways.” His first Oscar nomination came in 2000, also for writing the indie hit “Election.” Interesting that he did not write “Nebraska,” but that its scribe, Bob Nelson, is up for an Oscar.

Scorsese, hard as though it is to believe, has only won one Oscar, for directing 2006’s “The Departed.” His first directing nod came in 1981 for “Raging Bull.” Yet since “Gangs of New York,” four of his last five films have received Best Picture nominations, including this year’s “The Wolf of Wall Street.” Scorsese doesn’t “need” an Oscar to boost his already legendary status as one of the world’s most respected directors, it’s just hard to fathom why he doesn’t have more on his mantel.

TAR’s Take: If Cuarón doesn’t take the trophy, it will be a huge upset. We are actually rooting for Scorsese, because we got on board the “Wolf” train very early and enjoyed the wild ride with him at the helm.

–Hillary Atkin

 

 

The Suite Part of Oscar Week in LA

Part of the annual rite of awards season is the suites that set up shop at hotels and venues around town before the Academy Awards. For invited guests, they are places to get beauty services like manicures, spray tans and hairstyling. But the biggest attraction is the variety of vendors– from jewelry to clothing, handbags, shoes and cosmetics, artisanal chocolates and fine liquors that take part and gift their products.

The rain may have put a damper on some of the events that set up both outdoors and indoors, but there was still a well-dressed parade of participants that took part.

At the Taglyan Center in Hollywood, Kathy Duliakas hosted her 6th Annual Celebrity Oscar Suite and Party in honor of the Oscars. In addition to nominees, former Oscar winners, presenters, stylists and industry VIPs were invited to the day-long event, held in a beautiful ballroom and co-hosted by Maleku Jewelry and presented by Zensation.

Before entering the ballroom, guests were treated to a catered lunch with a Mediterranean-inspired menu  including avocado salad, classic Greek salad, quinoa salad, chicken breast stuffed with wild rice and feta cheese, grilled prime beef carpaccio, grilled chicken breast with apricot ginger glaze, tuna tartar topped with Brazilian mango and crab cakes drizzled with wasabi cilantro aioli.

The real treats were yet to come: a diverse array of stunning jewelry, fashion, handbags, rejuvenation technology, the finest in skin, body and hair care, LED-lit eyewear, delectable sweets and exotic cocktails.

Among those making the rounds were Oscar nominees Kelsey Scott (12 Years a Slave), Ashley Dyke (12 Years a Slave), Emily Bergl (Blue Jasmine), Dustin Kerns (The Wolf of Wall Street), Craig Borten (Dallas Buyers Club), Crispin Struthers (American Hustle) and Helen Hong (Inside Llewyn Davis).

Getting rave reviews were Single dresses by Galina Sobelev– we found a gorgeous black satin number with lime green accents that was quite the cocktail party hit –BAM Bags, with trendy zipped bags, Herban bath and body products scented with natural ingredients like lemongrass and lavender, colorful patterned flat irons from ISO Beauty– perfect for smoothing out tresses from the humid weather, deliciously scented oils and lotions from Kama Sutra, silk clothing from New Orleans-based Prêt à Porter Designs, haircare from Yuki Sharoni Beauty, tops from Wear Luck, fashion-forward jewelry from Twisted Silver and beautiful designs from Maleku Jewelry.

“It’s incredible going to gifting suites like this because I get turned on to different products that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise,” says actress Tia Carrere. “Prêt à Porter has beautiful stuff, I had never heard of them before. I didn’t know that Skinnygirl made non-alcoholic beverages. I tasted amazing Zing red velvet vodka. This is a great way for celebrities to interface with brands but also for people to discover new brands that they then going forward will purchase, like me.”

A new element was the Live Social Media Lounge which enabled the entire event to be Tweeted, InstaGrammed and Facebooked live with the hashtags #KathySuite and #1MGoodNights, the call to action for event beneficiary Pajama Program (www.pajamaprogram.org) an organization which provides needy children with sleepwear in an ongoing campaign.

At the penthouse of the Luxe Hotel on Rodeo Drive, Roger Neal held a three-day extravaganza, the 18th Annual Style Hollywood Beauty and Couture Academy Award Suite.

The exclusive event benefited the late Paul Walker’s charity, ROWW, which helps provide relief efforts in disaster stricken areas worldwide. Roger Neal Style Hollywood made a donation to the charity every time a male Oscar nominee wore a specially designed Gris Gris Factory bracelet on the Oscar red carpet. Other charity beneficiaries were Beyond Christmas, the Andy Transplant Foundation and Heifer International.

And have you ever seen Sandra Bullock made of chocolate? A replica of the “Gravity” actress made by chocolatier Niagra’s Honeymoon Sweets was on display.

Among the guests were Oscar nominees June Squibb, Bob Nelson, Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee, Robert and Kristen Lopez– who won for their original song from the animated film “Frozen,” Alexandre Desplat, Thomas Newman, Melisa Wallack, Craig Borten, Helen Hong and John Ridley, who won the Academy Award for his adapted screenplay of “12 Years a Slave.”

Guests were treated to libations from the Medea Vodka Oscar Bar and Lorimar Vineyard and Winery as they hobnobbed in the penthouse and checked out vendors including G.M. Collin skincare, Persole umbrellas, Timmy Woods Beverly Hills handbags, Barbara Lazaroff Fire of Life dinnerware and couture gowns by Addy Van Den Krommenacker, Marshmallow Couture Gowns and SISA Designs.

The event also featured spray tanning by Tan This LA, manicures by Shelly Hill and eyelash applications by Daniel Dinh of Long Mi Lashes.

The rainy weather forced a venue change for Debbie Durkin’s Eco Oscars event scheduled poolside at the Beverly Hilton’s Circa 55. The festivities had to move elsewhere on the property, to Bar 210, where all the festivities took place with nary a care about the downpours.

Durkin is LA’s leading sustainable product placement producer. For her 7th annual Oscar event, she partnered with ENCORE I Leslie Kaplan Event Design and eco-conscious lighting designer David Trubridge for this year’s edition.

The two-day event featured an array of brands, from one-of-a-kind jewelry and leather goods to designer gowns and luxury vacations. Guests also enjoyed light fare and signature cocktails, to the beat of DJ Marshall Raymond, the mood also enhanced by beautiful florals from our favorite florist, the Empty Vase.

The guest list included 28 Oscar nominees–12 of whom ended up winning the golden guy, perhaps most notably Robert Lopez, co-writer with his wife Karen of the best original song “Frozen,” and now one of the world’s few EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) winners, a feat achieved in just ten years.

 

Lopez was joined by fellow nominees Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, David Shirk and Neil Corbould (Best Visual Effects-Gravity);  Niv Adiri, Christopher Benstead and Chris Munro (Sound Mixing-Gravity);  Robin Matthews (Makeup & Hairstyling-Dallas Buyers Club); Steven Price (Original Score-Gravity); Mark Sanger (Film Editing-Gravity) and Kim Magnusson (Short Film Live Action-Helium).

Also spotted: Penny Marshall, celebrity fitness trainer Grace Lazenby and reality stars Tom Schwartz and Katie Maloney.

 

Vendors taking part included Marisa Kenson Collections with gowns and jewelry for the red carpet, MK Collaborative toxic-free makeup and jewelry, Caribbean Living Magazine, The Hard Rock Hotel, Bula Life, Herbalosophy, Glacier Under Canvas, Canine Caviar, L’Arganium 100% Organic Argan Oil, LA + Jo Parisian Designer Joseph Agi, Will Leather Goods, Ofrenda Maya Tequila, and 7Eye High Performance Sunglasses, (www.panoptx.com) which feature a unique wrap-around design perfect for extreme sports, or just keeping the wind out of delicate peepers.  Some of the glasses include the Airshield foam series, which literally seal the eyes from the elements, the next generation of ski/motorcycle goggles.

 

And who would want tears in their eyes when there’s so much to enjoy during Oscar week, thanks in part to these great hospitality and gifting suites.