45 Years After Her Nomination, Cicely Tyson Gets Her Oscar

Cicely Tyson received her first and only Oscar nomination in 1972. It was for best actress for her work in “Sounder,” which she thinks of as her first major role. She wasn’t called to the stage that year — Liza Minnelli was for “Cabaret” —  but now 45 years later, Tyson is finally getting her Oscar.


“It is an emotionally wrenching matter to me,” Tyson said.


Tyson, 93, is no stranger to awards and honors. She’s won three Emmys (two in the same year for “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman,” and one for “The Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All”), a Tony award (for “The Trip to Bountiful”), been a Kennedy Center honoree and, in 2016 was given a Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama. Now she can add one more award to that list as she prepares to accept her honorary Oscar at the 10th annual Governors Awards Sunday in Hollywood.


“I come from lowly status. I grew up in an area that was called the slums at the time,” Tyson said. “I still cannot imagine that I have met with presidents, kings, queens. How did I get here? I marvel at it.”


When film academy President John Bailey called her to inform her that the Board of Governors voted unanimously to give her the award, she “went to water.”


“It is the last thing in the world that I ever expected,” Tyson said, thinking, “I hadn’t done a major movie since ‘The Help.'”


Tyson has worked since the 2011 film, with roles in “Last Flag Flying’ and the television show “How to Get Away With Murder,” but ‘The Help’ was the last film that had anyone mentioning her name alongside Oscar. Oprah even called her and predicted she’d get a nomination, to which she responded: “My role was two seconds!’


“I am extremely grateful to the Board that they even know my name,” Tyson added with a hearty laugh.


She is being honored Sunday along with publicist Marvin Levy and composer Lalo Schifrin.


Born in Harlem, Tyson started out as a model and theater actress, eventually landing a role in the film “The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter” in 1968. Her pursuit of acting caused a rift with her mother, who disapproved, but Tyson said she was her “motivating force.”


“I was determined to prove her wrong,” Tyson said.


Plus, she learned quickly that she had a larger purpose than just acting. On the press tour for “Sounder,” which took her to parts of the United States that she hadn’t yet been to, she remembers a man in a press conference telling her that watching the film made him realize that he was prejudiced.


“He said, ‘You know, I could not accept the fact that your older son was referring to his father as daddy. That’s what my son calls me,'” Tyson said. “And I thought to myself, `My God. My God.’ It was those kinds of experiences as I went across the country promoting ‘Sounder’ that made me realize that I, Cicely Tyson, could not afford the luxury of being an actress. There were some issues that I definitely had to address and I chose my profession as my platform.”


It led to a lifetime of activism and humanitarianism off screen. Tyson even has a performing arts school named after her in New Jersey and frequently goes on tour to speak to children. On screen Tyson has portrayed women like Coretta Scott King and Harriet Ross Tubman. She decided early that she would only take jobs that “speak to something,” which is also why she ends up saying “no” a lot.


“My honorary Oscar proves to me that I was on the right track and I stayed on it,” Tyson said.


And while most of the time “no” works, sometimes it doesn’t. Tyson tried to say no to wearing a terrifically large hat to Aretha Franklin’s funeral only to be overruled by her designer. The hat would become a viral highlight.


“I never thought in my career that I would be upstaged by a hat! And I did not want to wear it,” Tyson said. “I said, ‘I can’t wear that hat, I will be blocking the view of the people behind me, they won’t be able to see and they’ll call me all kinds of names.’ He just looked at me and said, ‘Put the hat on.'”


She came around, eventually, thinking of the hat as homage to Franklin’s appearance at Obama’s inauguration.


As for whether or not she’ll don a similarly spectacular piece of art on her head Sunday night at the Governors Awards? Tyson just laughs.


“Oh no!” she said. “I won’t even mention it to him.”

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Honorary Oscar Recipient Marvin Levy Can’t Believe His Luck

When Marvin Levy says he never expected to get an Oscar, it’s not false modesty. It just wasn’t a possibility.


Levy is one of the most respected publicists in Hollywood, with more than a half century of experience at companies like MGM, Columbia Pictures, DreamWorks and Amblin. His four-decade partnership with Steven Spielberg is the stuff of legend, having worked on campaigns including “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” “Back to the Future,” “Schindler’s List” and “Jurassic Park.”

He’s also been a member of the public relations branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for years and even served on its board of governors, which is why he knows for a fact that no publicist’s name has ever even been put forth for honorary Oscar consideration. Until this year.


He compared it to a sports agent winning an MVP award.


“It was way out of left field for me. I couldn’t have imagined it,” Levy said with a laugh. “It’s not like I could say ‘Gee, I’d love to get that one day.’ It was not on my to-do list.”


Levy will be accepting his golden statuette at the Governors Awards in Hollywood Sunday, along with actress Cicely Tyson and composer Lalo Schifrin. His longtime friends and colleagues Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall will also be receiving the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award.


Born and raised on the east side of Manhattan, Levy never set out to be a publicist specifically, but he always liked writing and had a way with words. One of his first jobs was writing questions for a TV quiz show. He was fired when his “big ticket” question got answered too early in the season.


His first publicity job was at MGM in New York, where he was so far down on the ladder he never even got to travel to Los Angeles. And while he doesn’t remember the first film he worked on, he remembers one of the last, the one that made him think, “I’ve got to get out of here.” It was the 1962 remake of “Mutiny on the Bounty.”


“The lion wasn’t roaring too much at that point,” Levy said, and he found his way to legendary publicists Arthur Canton, Bill Blowitz and then Columbia Pictures which eventually took him to California. It was during that time that he first started working with Spielberg. He was told he was only to concentrate on “Close Encounters” and the hot young filmmaker who was fresh off of “Jaws.”


“That started it, and here we are 41 years later,” Levy said. “He’s been such a tremendous part of my life.”


The partnership was sealed after both he and “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” were pushed aside at Columbia and he continued on with Spielberg and Kennedy.


Levy has stories for days about film sets he’s been on. There was “The Deep” where he invited journalists to observe filming in scuba suits underwater. And then there was Hurricane Iniki that bonded him for life with everyone on the set of “Jurassic Park.” (“I tell you if you ever get stranded or in an emergency, hope that you’re with a film crew because they have everything!”).


He’s had a few run ins with some “not very nice” actors who he’s had to tote around to media appearances, and remembers the ones who were always late. Ever the professional, he won’t dish on names, but he will say that some of his favorite people to work with have been Cyd Charisse and Shirley MacLaine.


And while many films that Levy has worked on have gone on to win Oscars for the filmmakers and actors, he still remembers the heartbreak when “Saving Private Ryan” lost the best picture trophy to “Shakespeare in Love” at the 71st Academy Awards.


“That was the toughest night of my life in terms of the business,” Levy said.


Immediately after the disappointment, he had to put on “as straight a face as I could” and host a table at the Governors Ball. But he takes pride in the fact that the film is still beloved and now considered a classic.


In fact, many of the films Levy has worked on are having second lives with anniversary releases, including “Schindler’s List,” which is coming to theaters starting Dec. 7 for its 25th anniversary. It’s made for some serious deja-vu for Levy who finds himself approving press releases, artwork and publicity for films he worked on decades ago.


“I live my life in rewind,” Levy laughed.


Not everything is in the rear-view mirror, though. Levy is looking forward to watching Spielberg tackle one of the few genres he hasn’t done — the musical, with “West Side Story.”


“How lucky can you be? I mean it,” he said. “We work for the best filmmaker around.”

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Oxford’s Word of the Year: Toxic

It’s official: 2018 is toxic.

Oxford Dictionaries has chosen “toxic” as its international word of the year.

Oxford University Press monitors changes in the English language and each year selects a word that catches the annual mood.

Oxford’s lexicographers said it’s “the sheer scope of its applications that has made it the standout choice.”

Traditionally defined as “poisonous,” Oxford said people are also using the word to describe relationships, workplaces, politics and habits.

“Toxic” beat out “gas-lighting,” defined as ”manipulating someone by psychological means into accepting a false depiction of reality or doubting their own sanity,” and “orbiting,” which means ”the action of abruptly withdrawing from direct communication with someone while still monitoring, and sometimes responding to, their activity on social media.”

Last year’s top choice was “youthquake,” recognizing the power of the millennial generation. In 2016, it was “post-truth,” defined as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotional and personal belief.”

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At CMAs, Chris Stapleton Wins Big, Keith Urban Takes Top Prize

Chris Stapleton won the most awards at the 2018 Country Music Association Awards and had the show’s best performance, almost capping a perfect night.

That was until Keith Urban surprisingly won the top prize — entertainer of the year — moments before the three-hour show wrapped Wednesday night.

Urban’s actress-wife, Nicole Kidman, was in tears as the singer walked onstage to collect the award at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee.

“Baby girl, I love you so much,” he said. “I’m shocked beyond shocked.”

Urban last won entertainer of the year in 2005 and also beat out Luke Bryan, Jason Aldean and Kenny Chesney for the prize.

“I wish my dad was alive to see this,” the Australian performer said.

Four awards for Stapleton

Stapleton, however, cleaned house at the CMAs, winning four awards including male vocalist, song and single of the year.

“I want to thank my kids who put up with me being gone quite a bit and not getting to be as a good daddy that I would always like to be,” said the father of four and soon to be five since his wife, singer-songwriter Morgane Stapleton, is pregnant.

Stapleton also won the performance of the night: His supergroup featuring Mavis Staples, Maren Morris, Marty Stuart and his wife gave a soulful and powerful performance of “Friendship,” a song made famous by Pop Staples, the iconic singer’s late father. They then performed “I’ll Take You There,” jamming onstage along with a choir. They earned a standing ovation from the audience.

When Stapleton won single of the year, where he won as both a performer and producer, earlier in the show, he said he was “thinking about the people in California right now” and he wants to “dedicate this award to them.”

He was referring to the 12 people who were killed at a Southern California country music bar last week, who were also honored at the top of the show when Garth Brooks led a moment of silence as the names of the victims were displayed on the screen.

“Tonight let’s celebrate their lives. Let the music unite us with love,” Brooks said.

The CMAs, which aired on ABC, also took time to honor those affected by the deadly wildfires in California.

“We send our love to you,” said Carrie Underwood, also mentioning the “brave firefighters.”

​Underwood wins female vocalist

Underwood worked triple-duty as co-host, performer and nominee at the CMAs. She was teary-eyed when she won female vocalist of the year.

“Thank you God. I have been blessed with so much in my life,” she said. “Thank you family. Thank you country music. Thank you country music family. … It’s all about family around here.”

She kept the positive and uplifting theme of the show going when she gave a rousing performance of her song “Love Wins.” It features the lyrics, “I believe you and me are sisters and brothers/And I believe we’re made to be here for each other.”

​Album of the year goes to Musgraves

Kacey Musgraves, the only woman nominated for album of the year, won the prize for “Golden Hour.”

“This is really, really crazy timing — 10 years ago today I moved to Nashville. That’s so crazy,” she said.

“I’m so proud of it,” she said of the pop-leaning country album, which was inspired by Sade, the Bee Gees and others. “It’s inspired by this beautiful universe, and all of you, and mostly love.”

Light-hearted moments

Dan + Shay lost in all four categories they were nominated in but gave an impressive performance of their hit “Tequila.” When Brothers Osborne won vocal duo of the year, John Osborne said, “I thought this was going to go to Dan + Shay. Make some noise for those boys.”

“I don’t know why we keep winning this,” John Osborne said when he first walked onstage.

“If this was in Florida there definitely would be a recount,” added T.J. Osborne, which earned laughs from the crowd.

Luke Combs, who has the year’s most-streamed country music album, sang onstage with a red cup in his hand and won new artist of the year.

“God, I love country music, man,” Combs said.

Brooks performed a touching new song dedicated to his wife, Trisha Yearwood, who was teary-eyed and was hearing the song for the first time. Recent Country Hall of Famer Ricky Skaggs performed alongside Brad Paisley and Urban.

Underwood and Paisley returned as CMA hosts for the 11th time this year, telling jokes at the top of the show, which ranged from Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s “A Star Is Born” to Underwood’s pregnancy.

Underwood seemingly revealed a secret about the child, saying it will be a “Willie” after Paisley repeatedly asked about the sex of the baby.

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Sigrid Nunez’s Novel ‘The Friend’ Wins US National Book Award

Sigrid Nunez’s “The Friend,” a meditative novel about grief, books and, not least, a Great Dane named Apollo, has won the National Book Award for fiction.

Other winners Wednesday included Jeffrey C. Stewart’s “The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke” for nonfiction and Justin Philip Reed’s “Indecency” for poetry.

On a night when those honored had roots throughout the world, from Peru to Japan, Elizabeth Acevedo’s “The Poet X” won for young people’s literature, and Yoko Tawada’s “The Emissary,” translated by Margaret Mitsutani, won for translation, a category newly revived.

Nunez, author of such previous novels as “Salvation City” and “The Last of Her Kind,” noted in her acceptance speech that she didn’t seek community when she became a writer, but unexpectedly found it.

“I thought it (writing) was something I could do alone and hidden, in the privacy of my own room,” she said. “How lucky to have discovered that writing books made the miraculous possible, to be removed from the world and be part of the world at the same time.

“And tonight how happy I am to feel a part of the world.”

Judges, who include writers, critics and other members of the literary community, chose from more than 1,600 books submitted by publishers when considering the awards. Winners in the competitive categories each receive $10,000. In translation, the prize money is divided between the author and translator.

Honorary medals were presented to novelist Isabel Allende and to Doron Weber of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. “Parks and Recreation” actor Nick Offerman hosted the ceremony and benefit dinner in Manhattan, presented by the National Book Foundation.

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Idris Elba’s Daughter Named Golden Globe Ambassador

Idris Elba’s daughter has been chosen as the Golden Globe Ambassador to assist with the glitzy awards ceremony.


The Hollywood Foreign Press Association announced Wednesday that 16-year-old Isan Elba will assume the ambassador title for the 76th annual Golden Globes Awards in January. Her 46-year-old father was named Sexiest Man Alive by People magazine last week.


An ambassador is traditionally the child of a celebrity and assists with award presentations, handing out trophies to winners and escorting them off stage.


Elba is the second ambassador chosen after last year’s selection of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s daughter, Simone Garcia.


The HFPA rechristened the role, formerly known as Miss Golden Globe, in 2017. The association wanted to expand the role to help recognize the HFPA’s philanthropic efforts throughout the year.

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Publisher: NYT Reporters Work on Book About Brett Kavanaugh

Two journalists who helped cover the confirmation process of Brett Kavanaugh are working on a book about the newest Supreme Court justice.


Portfolio says Wednesday that it has a deal with New York Times reporters Kate Kelly and Robin Pogrebin for “The Education of Brett Kavanaugh.”


The publisher says the book will focus on the “many unanswered questions” about Kavanaugh, who faced allegations of sexual harassment and assault stemming from his years in high school and college. Kavanaugh was narrowly confirmed in October after he and Christine Blasey Ford, who said that he had attempted to rape her during a party when they were in high school, both spoke before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Kavanaugh denied any wrongdoing.


Pogrebin said in a statement that a “fuller picture” of Kavanaugh was needed.

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Aretha Franklin’s ‘Amazing Grace’ Concert Film Finally Debuts

Three months after her death and 46 years after she first recorded it, Aretha Franklin’s live gospel concert is coming to the big screen.

“Amazing Grace,” filmed in January 1972 when the Queen of Soul was just 29 years old, follows Franklin over two nights giving a concert at the New Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles.

Belting out gospel songs like “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” “Climbing Higher Mountains” and an 11-minute version of “Amazing Grace,” Franklin brought churchgoers and guests (including Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger) to their feet.

But Franklin herself stands still, saying little in the 90-minute film.

“It’s a church service. It’s basically just our aunt standing there singing,” Sabrina Owens, Franklin’s niece and executor of her estate, told Reuters Television.

“She doesn’t have much conversation with anybody beyond some of the technical crews that’s around her. At some point she asked about a key and other point she asked about water, but she’s just basically standing there singing, giving her all, doing what she does best,” said Owens, who is also a producer on the film.

The service was released as an album in 1972, becoming a best-seller for Franklin. But the film languished for years over problems with synchronizing the visuals and the audio. Advances in technology made it possible to fix that issue and producer Alan Elliott, who took over the project some 10 years ago, got agreement from Franklin’s estate following the singer’s death in August to finally release the film.

Owens said Elliott told her about the film some three years ago. “I had never even heard about it and he sent me the link, and I was like, ‘Oh wow! This is really good.'”

“Amazing Grace” got its world premiere in New York on Monday, winning warm reviews, and will get a limited release in the city and in Los Angeles in late November and early December, making it eligible for Hollywood’s awards season.

Britain’s Guardian newspaper said the film is “a spine-tingling sensation” while the Hollywood Reporter called it “somewhat shapeless as a movie… But it does contain moments of bliss.”

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At $50M, ‘Pink Legacy’ Diamond Shines Brightest in Christie’s Sale

The ‘Pink Legacy’, a diamond weighing just under 19 carats, fetched a record 50.375 million Swiss francs ($50 million) as it outshone all other auction lots at Christie’s in Geneva on Tuesday.

Graded “vivid”, the highest rating for a pink diamond’s color, the gem is internally pure with a rectangular cut, and mounted on a platinum ring.

Once owned by the Oppenheimer Family, who built De Beers into the world’s biggest diamond trader, the diamond had a pre-sale estimate of $30 to $50 million. The identity of the seller was not disclosed.

Vivid colored diamonds are the most strongly saturated gems, displaying the optimum hue of the stone. Most pink diamonds of this color weigh less than one carat, the auction house – which was holding its semi-annual jewellery sale – said.

Christie’s said the ‘Pink Legacy’ achieved a new per-carat record for a pink diamond, and was the second most expensive one ever sold at auction.

($1 = 1.0073 Swiss francs)

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