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‘The voice of the voiceless’: how Viola Davis and Julius Tennon are changing the face of Hollywood



The wife-and-husband team set up their own production company to tackle Hollywoods persistent diversity problem

The actor Julius Tennon is thrilled to be appearing alongside his Oscar-winning wife, Viola Davis, in the new season of her hit show, How to Get Away with Murder, later this month. It is rare they work together onscreen.

Offscreen, however, the power couple spend much of their time working together for they have a joint mission: to change the face of Hollywood by increasing diversity across the industry.

A recent study showed that despite the huge success of recent films such as Fences, starring Davis and Denzel Washington; Moonlight; and Hidden Figures, Hollywood remained as white and male dominated as ever. Representation of race, gender, LGBT people and disability had barely changed in the past 10 years, according to the research by academics at the University of Southern California (USC).

Tennon said: That study was important because its highlighting what the state of Hollywood really is.

He added: Obviously there are pipeline issues at the top with people of color. Some networks were doing a good job, he said, but slow she goes. Its a brick by brick situation.

When I go to meetings, its generally not African Americans that Im talking to about getting something greenlit. Folks at the top are going to have to make decisions about trying to make systemic change. Thats the only way its going to happen by creating a pipeline of opportunities for folk to get in there, go through it and get out and start being a part of it at the top.

He and Davis, who married 14 years ago and have a seven-year-old daughter, Genesis, set up their multimedia company, JuVee Productions, in 2011 to tackle the problem from the grassroots. They wanted to create more suitable roles for Daviss talent.

Tennon, 63, said: We started it out of a need for her career, for Viola to be more than this woman who turns a piece of baloney into a filet mignon. She was getting one or two scenes in a movie and some guest star TV work, but after Antwone Fisher [a 2002 film starring and directed by Denzel Washington], there were a lot of eyes on her.

They quickly decided to expand their goal and try to create opportunities for a diverse range of people on and off the screen.

While we had this elevation in the industry, we felt it was a chance to give opportunities to others, whether that be actors or below-the-line people, Tennon said. We consider ourselves the voice of the voiceless.

The USC study looked at the 100 top grossing films at the US box office in 2016. It found that 5.8% of directors were black and 3.3% Asian. Just 4.2% of directors, 20.7% of producers, 13.2% of writers and 1.7% of composers were female; while only 31% of the speaking roles went to women. LGBT characters filled 1.1% of all speaking parts and people with disabilities 2.7%.

No black women appeared in 47 of the films and there were no black female directors.

Viola Davis said via email: The reason diversity is still an issue is that everyone is not put to task.

She said it was a much bigger issue than casting and stories, agreeing with Tennon that it was a pipeline problem. If a writer, director, cinematographer, actor of color is out there, they have the talent but havent had the opportunities. So, when the studios start putting together their movies, they go for who they know, who theyve worked with the hottest, buzziest, the one with the rsum and most of them are white.

She added: No one says anything, because why would you? To change is to risk losing money, changing your vision, being exposed. Its a problem that needs to be tackled from the studio heads who give the green light vote to film-makers who simply can envision a role differently, to producers who can give a budding gifted cinematographer, grip, writer of color a chance, and finally to audiences to plop down money to see a film character differently. It requires being awoke.

These days, Tennon, who has appeared in more than 50 films and TV series, concentrates mostly on running JuVee and producing. The company takes on everything from virtual reality and digital content to television and film.

Their first film, Lila & Eve, with Davis and Jennifer Lopez, was released in 2015. Custody, featuring Davis, followed in 2016. Next spring, they start shooting the Personal History of Rachel Dupree, the story of an African American woman struggling to farm the Badlands in South Dakota in 1917. A biopic of Barbara Jordan, the first southern black woman to be elected to the House of Representatives, is in the development stage. Both will star 52-year-old Davis.

They are also working on the movie adaptation of Rachel Lloyds critically acclaimed book Girls Like Us, a true story about sex trafficking.

Tennon said Davis, who won an Oscar for Fences this year and was nominated for Oscars in 2012 for The Help and 2009 for Doubt, touches people across the globe. He added: Were using the platform to push things forward.

The first three seasons of How to Get Away with Murder are on Netflix. Its exploded her star. Shes sitting in all these different living rooms where a black woman wasnt sitting, and its powerful. As a company, we feel like we have to make sure that the content going out is above and beyond. When we create narratives, we want them to be whole and full and rich, and non-stereotypical.

He continued: Were in a market now thats accelerated by technology. Diversity is what were bringing to the digital space. We want content for everyone and content that people of color will consume.

Mentioning the global success of Moonlight, Hidden Figures and Fences, he said: Were in a space now where diversity is good business and people should see it like that.

Organizations should be hiring people of color in executive positions, he believes, and thinking how to include these people to help shape things so they have a complete slate, that has a little bit of everything. Those organizations that are thinking that way, big and expansive, will be the winners, he said.

Tennons first public performance was at 14, when he performed the I Have a Dream speech by Martin Luther King Jr in a school assembly. Encouraged by his English teacher, who thought he had a beautiful voice, he became the first African American in the drama department at the University of Tulsa which he attended on an American football scholarship and went on to pursue his dream of becoming an actor.

Now he, along with the woman he describes as one of a handful of great actresses of our time, hopes to give others the chance to achieve their dreams, too.

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New Movie News

How ‘Captain Marvel’ pays tribute to the late, great Stan Lee



Stan Lee at the premiere of Marvel’s ‘Captain America: Civil War’ in 2016.

Image: Getty Images

“In keeping with Marvel Cinematic Universe, Captain Marvel features a Stan Lee cameo. What is a little different this time, though, is how it plays out in the movie.

Shortly after Vers (a.k.a. Carol Danvers, a.k.a. Captain Marvel) lands on Earth, she finds herself on a train, trying to spot the shapeshifting Skrull among all the ordinary-looking human passengers.

At one point, her eyes fall upon an elderly man conspicuously reading a Mallrats script. It’s Stan Lee, practicing his lines for his cameo in that other movie. “Trust me, true believer,” he mutters to himself. You can watch that entire Mallrats scene below:

The Captain Marvel scene was originally written by directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck as just another fun, funny appearance by the comics legend. But after his passing in November, the filmmakers felt compelled to update the sequence to acknowledge the “gravitas” of the moment.

“Instead of just the pure laugh we had, we had a little bit of a smile from Captain Marvel in response to it, and she kind of breaks character for a moment,” Boden told me during an interview in Los Angeles last month. “I think it reflects a little bit of what the audience is feeling, and we allowed that to happen.”

In the finished cut of Captain Marvel, Vers’ gaze lingers on him for a few moments and she smiles to herself, before moving on with the rest of her quest. At the screening I attended, the audience definitely appreciated the homage – there were sighs, moans, and even a smattering of applause.

That cameo is actually the second of two Lee shout-outs in the film. The first occurs right at the start. The usual Marvel Studios opening fanfare is replaced by a special Lee-centric version, featuring all his many cameos across various Marvel movies……………………………………………….”

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‘A Star Is Born’ takes a theatrical victory lap with bonus footage



Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper in ‘A Star Is Born.’

Image: warner bros.

“After winning an Oscar for best original song, A Star Is Born is returning to theaters for one week with some new bonus footage.

A Star Is Born is taking its Oscar victory lap starting on Friday at more than 1,100 theaters, giving fans and new viewers a chance to see 12 minutes of bonus footage, The Hollywood Reporter reported Wednesday. The new footage includes extended song performances, new song performances, and Lady Gaga’s a cappella rendition of “Shallow.”

“Shallow,” written by Lady Gaga, Mark Daniel Ronson, Anthony Rossomando, and Andrew Wyatt, earned the movie Best Original Song at the Academy Awards on Sunday. A Star Is Born was nominated for a total eight awards, including Best Picture. “Shallow” also earned two Grammys earlier in February………………………………………………………..”

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Here’s a complete list of every winner at the 2019 Oscars



Image: mashable composite

“Welcome to the 2019 Oscars, where it’s Queen vs. Queen Anne, A Star Is Born‘s fourth time up to bat, a victory lap for Wakanda fans, and so much more.

Last year was packed with some incredible films. In a tight race to determine the best of the best (according to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences), it all comes down to one big night at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood.

Below, updating live, are all the winners at the 91st Academy Awards — and the Oscar goes to…

Best Picture
Black Panther
Bohemian Rhapsody
The Favourite
Green Book — WINNER
A Star Is Born

Best Actor
Christian Bale, Vice
Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born
Willem Dafoe, At Eternity’s Gate
Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody — WINNER
Viggo Mortensen, Green Book

Best Actress
Yalitza Aparicio, Roma
Glenn Close, The Wife
Olivia Colman, The Favourite — WINNER
Lady Gaga, A Star Is Born
Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Best Supporting Actor
Mahershala Ali, Green Book — WINNER
Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman
Sam Elliott, A Star Is Born
Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Sam Rockwell, Vice

Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams, Vice
Marina de Tavira, Roma
Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk — WINNER
Emma Stone, The Favourite
Rachel Weisz, The Favourite

Best Director
Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman
Pawel Pawlikowski, Cold War
Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite
Alfonso Cuarón, Roma — WINNER
Adam McKay, Vice………………………………………………………………………………”

See the rest of the list here:

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