Viola Davis Accepts Harvard’s Artist of the Year in Moving Speech

Harvard really knows how to pick their winners. Fresh off crowning Rihanna as their Humanitarian of the Year, the most prestigious of the Ivys has named Viola Davis as Artist of the Year in honor of her portrayal of Rose Maxson in Fences. In her acceptance speech, Her Majesty Miss Davis spoke on the importance of art and storytelling.

“Art, it’s a very sacred place, the stage and the screen,” she said to the crowd of assembled students. “Because really at the end of the day, even what I do as an artist, when I channel characters, people and their stories, and those moments in their lives that we sometimes hide, that we feel like is just our mess, and our shame. I want people to be seen. I want them to feel less alone.”

In addition to the Harvard Award, Davis has picked up an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, as well as Critics’ Choice, Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild, and British Academy of Film and Television Arts Awards for her role opposite Denzel Washington in Fences.

Check out the speech below:

Cast of Lifetime’s All-Black Remake of ‘Steel Magnolias’ Announced

Back in October we shared the news that Lifetime was planning to remake Steel Magnolias, that classic tear-jerking dramedy about Southern women chattin’ and dyin’ of kidney failure, with an African-American cast. You may remember that I, amateur Hollywood casting director, assembled the perfect cast as a favor to Lifetime and the film’s producers. Clearly they have decided to take a different route, completely disregarding my brilliant choices to play the most important female characters in the history of film. 

According to Deadline, Queen Latifah (from now on referred to as "Queefah") is leading the cast, taking on the role of M’Lynn Eatonton (famously played by Sally Field in the 1989 film). That’s only the tip of the iceberg made up of questionable casting choices!

Produced by Sony Pictures Television, Steel Magnolias chronicles the lives and friendship of six women in Louisiana: ‘M’Lynn’ (Queen Latifah), Ouiser (Alfre Woodard), Clairee (Phylicia Rashad), Truvy (Jill Scott), Annelle (Adepero Oduye) and Shelby (Condola Rashad). Supporting each other through their triumphs and tragedies, they congregate at Truvy’s beauty shop to ponder the mysteries of life and death, husbands and children – and hair and nails – all the important topics that bring women together.

Um, first of all, did you call Viola Davis? I mean, considering she has two Oscar nominations under her belt whereas poor Queefah only has one, it makes sense that Davis would have just played recordings of laughter after listening to the pleading voicemails from the Lifetime reps because she doesn’t have time to LAUGH much less star in a LIFETIME ORIGINAL MOVIE, are you kidding me? So, fine, Viola Davis is out, but Queefah? As M’Lynn? A lady with three children, one of which DIES? No ma’ams, Lifetime. No ma’ams. At the very least, Queefah should be playing Truvy Jones. I mean, she JUST starred in a movie with Dolly Parton, you guys. Think of all the tips La Dolly could pass on to her new protege. 

While they do get a gold star for casting Phylicia Rashad as Clairee per my suggestion, are these people trying to pull a fast one by putting her daughter in the role of Shelby? Granted, my suggestion of double-casting Tia and Tamara Mowry was really just for LOLs, but at least they’d bring in the coveted Sister, Sister audience. I get that Raven-Symone is super busy right now stepping into the starring role of Sister Act: The Musical, thereby coming this much closer to taking over Whoopi Goldberg’s place in this world (speaking of which: You know that Whoopi did not say no to playing Ouiser, and you know that Lifetime forgot to call her), but nepotism? Really? Was Tracie Ellis-Ross too busy?

I supposed I’ll also give a pass on Jill Scott as Truvy, even though I can already imagine the salty tears that Loretta Devine is weeping right now. And I guess Adepero Oduye was supposed to be really great in Pariah, which I forgot to see. Maybe I will "forget" to see Steel Magnolias! (JK, nope, I will probably watch it five times.)

If they pick Terrence Howard to play Drum, I will eat my hat.

Morning Links: Snooki Might Actually Be Pregnant, Ryan Murphy’s Mega-Musical

● Turns out, Snooki might actually be pregnant and just waiting on the right tabloid cover deal to make the announcement. Will Snooks be the first non-teen to be pregnant on MTV? Or the first meatball, certainly! [Page Six]

● Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck have welcomed their third, little boy bundle of joy, into the world. [Us]

● Meryl Street donated a generous $10,000 to a school in Viola Davis hometown in Rhode Island, perhaps as a ‘Thank you’ or even an "I’m sorry" for taking that best actress Oscar. [Reuters]

● Elizabeth Olsen has been offered the female lead in Spike Lee’s Oldjoy remake. [SlashFilm]

● This sounds too good to be true, but: Glee‘s Ryan Murphy is said to be planning a mega-musical comedy called One Hit Wonders that will star Gwyneth Paltrow, Reese Witherspoon, Cameron Diaz, Beyoncé and Andy Samberg. [Deadline]

● Whitney Houston’s death has been ruled an accident, and "not a result of deliberate action taken by Houston—or anyone else." [E!]

● Young Jeezy hung out with Betty White back stage at Conan, and there are pictures to prove it. Oh, the places you’ll go. [Rap-Up]

2011 Oscar Nominations Go More or Less as Expected

With the speed of a lumbering engine powered by critical hubris and self-importance, the 84th Academy Awards nominations dropped into our newsfeeds this morning with predictable result. Did you know that people liked The Descendants this year, The Artist as well? Brad Pitt and George Clooney scored the requisite Hollywood heartthrob acting votes (they will lose to the no-name French guy who doesn’t talk), while Meryl Streep got her due for sticking around. Woody Allen and Martin Scorsese were also nominated, just like they always are. It’s another Oscar ceremony, y’all!

But not to sound cynical or anything. It’s somewhat surprising, though definitely nice, to see Terrence Malick get official recognition for The Tree of Life, even if there’s almost no way the hype-happy Academy will give their highest awards to a movie with more than a handful of inscrutably artsy scenes. Equally surprising on the other end is the inclusion of Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, a movie that no one seemed to like but not for any inscrutably artsy reasons, simply because it’s kind of schmaltzy and not very good. Why not give the spot to something innocuous like Bridesmaids or even the last Harry Potter movie, if they’re trying to go commercial? Madness, it’s all madness. (I won’t even get started on Albert Brooks’ snub for Drive.) You can look at the important nominees below, or go to the Academy’s website for the full list.

Best Picture
The Artist, The Descendants, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, The Help, Hugo, Midnight in Paris, Moneyball, The Tree of Life, War Horse

Actor in a Leading Role
Demian Bichir – A Better Life, George Clooney – The Descendants, Jean Dujardian – The Artist, Gary Oldman – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Brad Pitt – Moneyball

Actress in a Leading Role
Glenn Close – Albert Nobbs, Viola Davis – The Help, Rooney Mara – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Meryl Streep – The Iron Lady, Michelle Williams – My Week with Marilyn

Directing
Michael Hazanavicius – The Artist, Alexander Payne – The Descendants, Martin Scorsese – Hugo, Woody Allen – Midnight in Paris, Terrence Malick – The Tree of Life

Actor in a Supporting Role
Kenneth Branaugh – My Week with Marilyn, Jonah Hill – Moneyball, Nick Nolte – Warrior, Christopher Plummer – Beginners, Max von Sydow – Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Actress in a Supporting Role
Berenice Bejo – The Artist, Jessica Chastain – The Help, Melissa McCarthy – Bridesmaids, Janet McTeer – Albert Nobbs, Octavia Spencer – The Help

Watch the New Trailer for ‘Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close’

Do you remember Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, darling of prospective English majors circa 2005? It’s hard to keep track of Brooklyn writers named Jonathan, so we’ll remind you: it’s not the one about sad Midwestern families or the one about comic books, but the one about a nine-year old’s search through his family history following the death of his father in the 9/11 attacks. Topical, heavy stuff, making it ripe for a film adaptation. 

Six years after the book, the movie is finally coming out, and stars Tom Hanks, Viola Davis, Max von Sydow and Sandra Bullock. The first trailer was released a few months ago, but it wasn’t too hotly received. This new one has a much firmer grasp on the book’s melancholic but ultimately uplifting tone. There’s no twee opening scene, and no U2 scoring the soaring montage. Instead, there’s more Davis and von Sydow, and more of a cohesive arc that sells the book as the rare text-to-film adaptation that might not lose so much in translation (or so we hope).

Close gets a limited release on Christmas day, and expands nationally on January 20. Get out your handkerchiefs!