Paramount’s “Downsizing” Delivers “a Big Movie for Big People” in Miniaturized Future World

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

“You know how Hollywood doesn’t make original movies anymore?” asks Ann Hornaday in The Washington Post. “Well, Downsizing is here to fix that.”

The movie indeed presents as a highly original concept: an everyone-wins-the-lotto fantasia, a hypothetical near-future where every middle-class worker drone with fifty thousand in the bank can shrink themselves and relocate to a miniaturized consumerist paradise where everything is cheap and easy. And the shrunken crowds, with their shrunken environmental footprint, get to save the world in the process.

That’s what gets our attention, but what keeps it is a vividly accurate parable on class struggle and the inherent unfairness of global imbalances in rights and status. This turn happens when hero Paul Safranek (Matt Damon) – left behind by his wife (Kristen Wiig), discontented with his new world’s opulence – stumbles into a miniature tenement outside the walls of diminutive mansion-dotted Leisureland and discovers an underclass of refugees who have been downsized against their will.

Galvanized, Safranek sets off to find the meaning that financially amping up his lifestyle could not deliver. Cue the critics:

Downsizing … is the rarest thing in today’s movie industry: a big movie for big people — adults, you could call them,” writes Jake Coyle in the The Associated Press.

He’s not the only one who was impressed. Here are some highlights:

Director Alexander Payne continues his record of excellence

“It’s hard to say what’s better about the first half of Alexander Payne’s wonderfully weird – or is it weirdly wonderful? – Downsizing: the audacity of its premise, or the delicious skill with which Payne executes that premise, detail by comically ingenious detail,” Jocelyn Noveck writes for The Associated Press.

Payne has directed six previous feature films, including Paramount’s Academy Award-nominated Election and Nebraska, as well as the Academy Award-winning Sideways and The Descendants (both won for Best Adapted Screenplay).

Matt Damon and Director Alexander Payne on the set of Downsizing from Paramount Pictures.

“Alexander Payne is one of those rare filmmakers who’s never made a bad movie, and he’s not about to start now,” writes Micah Mertes in the Omaha World-Herald. “…in its sense of place, in its existential dread, in its deadpan comedy and late-inning optimism, Downsizing is an on-brand continuation of a career still running strong more than two decades in.”

Supporting actress Hong Chau is remarkable

Chau, who plays a Vietnamese refugee shrunken against her will and forced to labor as a Leisureland maid after losing a leg to gangrene, delivers a Golden Globe-nominated performance as a supporting actress.

“Hong Chau, best known from Inherent Vice and HBO’s Treme, achieves nothing less than an acting triumph,” writes Peter Travers in Rolling Stone. “Her Best Supporting Actress nominations from the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild are just the start of the honors coming her way.”

Hong Chau plays Ngoc Lan Tran and Matt Damon plays Paul Safranek in Downsizing from Paramount Pictures.

One thing that drew Chau to the role was a high-concept framework that acted as an approachable vector for important issues.

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Viacom Scores Golden Globe Nominations for “Downsizing,” “13 Reasons Why”

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Video created by Viacom Catalyst

Downsizing doesn’t hit theaters until Dec. 22, but the Alexander Payne-directed fantasy about a resource-starved future, in which citizens shrink themselves to conserve resources, is already creating enough buzz to earn a Golden Globe nomination.

Hong Chau earned a spot on the list of contenders in the Best Supporting Actress category, becoming just the third person of East Asian decent to earn that distinction since 1970, according to EW.com.

“This is the type of character who’s always in the background,” Chau told EW about the significance of her prominent role in the film. “I hope filmmakers will go back and take a look at people whom they thought they couldn’t mine drama or entertainment from. There are a lot of characters that have been underdeveloped because people aren’t interested or are afraid of attempting to tell their stories.”

On the television side, Viacom scored an additional nomination, for the Paramount Television-produced Netflix series 13 Reasons Why. Katherine Langford, who plays the tragic Hannah Baker – a high-schooler driven to suicide by the behavior of her fellow students on the hit series – is a finalist in the Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Drama category.

Paramount Television, which is a division of the Paramount Pictures Hollywood film studio and is behind hits such as USA Networks’ Shooter and Epix’s Berlin Station, is an increasingly important part of Viacom’s business. On the company’s fourth-quarter and full-year earnings call on Nov. 16, Viacom CEO Bob Bakish noted that the studio had tripled revenues in just the last year alone and has an aggressive slate planned for 2018.

Seth Meyers will host the 2018 Golden Globes, which will air live on NBC at 8 p.m. ET on Jan. 7, 2018, broadcast from the International Ballroom of the Beverly Hilton.

Transform into Bumblebee with this Free iOS App from Paramount and Viacom NEXT

Legendary Autobot Bumblebee towers over Times Square through the lens of an augmented reality app created by Viacom NEXT.

Time to take that classic yellow and black Chevy Camaro for the joy ride you always longed for.

Now, thanks to the studio that brought you the explosive Transformers film series and the tech magic-makers at virtual reality (VR) group Viacom NEXT, fans of the heroic Autobot can play as Bumblebee in Transformers: Cade’s Junkyard, a free experience launched today to coincide with the 4K Ultra HD release of the five-movie collection on iTunes.

Cade’s Junkyard, created in augmented reality (AR) using cutting-edge VR technology from Apple, incorporates content from Transformers: The Last Knight – the latest installment of the blockbuster franchise – to transport users to the virtual junkyard of protagonist Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg).

“We’re excited to give fans the opportunity to get in the driver’s seat and take Bumblebee for a ride,” said Howard Hsieh, vice president of Paramount Home Media Distribution.

The experience overlays eye-popping 3D graphics onto your surrounding physical space, allowing you to maneuver around (or into) barrels, wooden crates, rusted-up jalopies, gas tanks and all sorts of other obstacles at breakneck speeds in the iconic automobile. Careful you don’t drive off your desk, though. The action really heats up when you transform into Bumblebee and show those pesky barrels who’s boss. Blowing stuff up with your phone has rarely been this fun. And in case you’re more of a builder than a demolisher, the app allows you to choose and place objects to expand the virtual world wherever you wish.

Smashing up Viacom’s New York City offices with an augmented reality app created by Viacom NEXT.

The sharp gameplay is the product of putting Apple’s new ARKit platform in the hands of the expert engineers and developers at Viacom NEXT. This is the group’s second time building an AR experience with ARKit – in September, Viacom NEXT released ARQUA!, an artistic building game in which users transform their physical environments into rainbow-colored aquariums.

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If They Can’t Hear You, They Can’t Hunt You – Paramount’s Terrifying “A Quiet Place”

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

They survive by speaking in signs, by padding their footsteps with painted and powdered trails, by rolling dice on folded blankets. They survive by never making a sound.

In the floodlit dystopia of A Quiet Place, John Krasinski and Emily Blunt cautiously guide their family through a terrifying landscape where something vicious stalks them. And everything will be OK – if they can just keep quiet.

Directed by Krasinski, the film also stars Noah Jupe and Millicent Simmonds. A Quiet Place will be in theaters April 6, 2018.

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A Titanic Return to The Big Screen in Dolby AMC Theaters

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Even in the storied history of Paramount Pictures, Titanic stands out.

It is the second-highest grossing film of all time. It won 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture. That its heart-rending coda is predestined from the film’s outset has not dampened the appeal of the Leonardo Di Caprio and Kate Winslet tale over time.

Now, 20 years after its original theatrical release (and 105 years after the vessel sank into the North Atlantic), Paramount is teaming up with AMC Theaters to re-release the film at 87 Dolby Cinemas locations. The weeklong run will begin Dec. 1, and will include screenings in 20 3D theaters.

The Dolby experience should prove novel even for hardcore Titanic fans. Count Director James Cameron among them. “When we mastered Titanic in Dolby Vision, I was stunned,” said the legendary director. “It was like seeing it for the first time.”

Paramount regularly mines their deep library of iconic films to bring them to fans in new ways. Earlier this year, the studio released an Omertà edition of its Godfather trilogy, 45 years after the first film debuted in theaters.

Paramount Releases First Trailer for Animated “Sherlock Gnomes”

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Gnomes, those kitschy ceramic ornaments dotted about the suburban lawnscape, are seldom associated with anything more exciting than neighborhood battles over lowered property values. “…the humble garden gnome can … deter many buyers,” warns The Telegraph.

And then along comes Paramount Pictures’ Sherlock Gnomes, a rollicking animated mystery threading through the parks, sewers, waterways and rowhouses of sprawling London. When a backyard’s worth of spunky gnomes vanishes, Gnomeo and Juliet – returning from their eponymous 2011 film – enlist the services of Sherlock Gnomes (Johnny Depp) to track them down.

Directed by John Stevenson, the film stars James McAvoy, Emily Blunt, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Maggie Smith, Michael Caine, Ashley Jensen, Matt Lucas, Stephen Merchant and Mary J. Blige. Sherlock Gnomes will hit theaters on March 23, 2018.

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Viacom, Home to MTV, BET, and MBAs

An NYU graduate student gazed at the dazzling digital wallpaper in The White Box event space at Viacom’s Times Square Headquarters, sipping a mimosa and munching a croissant. Other students milled about, intrigued by animation-splashed LED panels splashed with famous Viacom characters, such as Broad City’s Abbi and Ilana.

Networking before the panel discussion. Photo by Essence Dashtaray.

Viacom’s MBA Media Trek invited 150 grad students from some of the most prestigious business schools in the U.S. – such as Columbia, NYU and Harvard – to sit in on a panel featuring company executives and mingle with them afterward.

Viacom was one of several stops for these students on their tour of media hubs. Our talent acquisition department organized the event, curating an accomplished panel of speakers that included MTV President Chris McCarthy, Viacom Vantage Senior Vice President Gabe Bevilacqua, Paramount Digital Content Senior Vice President Anu Bhatia, and Viacom International COO Jose Tolosa.

The goal: to define Viacom’s eclectic, innovative culture, so the students could understand the workings of a fast-paced modern media company and determine whether it was a potential match for their ambitions.

What is Viacom?

Daisy Auger-Dominguez welcomed MBA grads to Viacom Headquarters. Photo by Photo by Essence Dashtaray.

Daisy Auger-Dominguez, our senior vice president of talent acquisition, welcomed students by sharing what makes her most proud to work at this company: “Viacom creates entertainment that drives culture and conversation.” She emphasized the massive breadth of this entertainment, with 4 billion subscribers in more than 180 countries.

“We are truly a global company,” said Auger-Dominguez. “This work extends to all areas of our business – from content production to advertising, distribution to data strategy and beyond.”

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Nickelodeon’s Hey Arnold!: The Jungle Movie Is No Ordinary Field Trip

This Thanksgiving, Nickelodeon is serving up a feast of nostalgia with a feature-length TV movie revival of its iconic 90s cartoon, Hey Arnold! 

Hey Arnold!: The Jungle Movie will finally answer some unresolved questions about our football-headed hero and his missing parents. If you need a brief refresher, the show left off with a cliffhanger. Arnold discovered a clue regarding the whereabouts of his long-lost parents, leading the 9-year-old to believe they had disappeared into the Central American jungle.

And that’s where the two-hour TV movie special will take us.

Any 90s kid who grew up watching Nick’s idiosyncratic animated series will recall Arnold’s unconventional upbringing. He was raised in a fictional metropolis, evoking gnarly vibes of midtown Manhattan circa 1970.

Arnold lived with his eccentric grandparents in a dilapidated boarding house. But he slept on a retro Queen Murphy bed and gazed at the sky through his bedroom’s glass roof. Growing up in the suburbs, I always thought this looked like the ultimate crib. It seems other young fans felt the same way:

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A First Glimpse at the Savage, Psychedelic World of Paramount’s Annihilation

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

A shellshocked Natalie Portman sits in a glass-walled room, draped in a hospital gown. Surrounding her is a retinue of observers and interrogators tucked into hazmat suits.

“Can you describe its form?” one asks her.

“No,” she answers, as the scene cuts away to savage nightmare jungle world where plants and flesh have intertwined.

“Was it carbon based?”

“I don’t know.”

“Did it communicate with you?”

“It reacted to me.”

“You really have no idea what it was?”

She doesn’t. This is our first look at Paramount Pictures Annihilation, the Alex Garland-directed sci-fi nailbiter based upon author Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy. It will transport us into a gripping, incomprehensible and frightening realm when it hits theaters on Feb. 23.

Annihilation also stars Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, Tuva Novotny and Oscar Isaac.

Critics React to Paramount’s mother!: “A Beautiful Thing to Behold”

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

It starts as an idyll, a doting Jennifer Lawrence and her poet husband Javier Bardem wiling time away in their grand and isolated country mansion. The nightmare comes soon enough, when a pair of mysterious guests (Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer), arrive unannounced and in quick succession to brutally disrupt this tranquility.

What follows in the Darren Aronofsky-directed mother! is by turns and at once Biblical, horrifying, confounding and captivating; a tale of creation and destruction; a film as unforgettable as it is unique.

Here’s what critics are saying about Paramount latest film, which opens wide in theaters today:

“…it’s easily the most experimental feature released by a major studio in ages, a gleefully deranged companion piece to Aronofsky’s Old Testament epic Noah and an evil twin of sorts to The Fountain, with its grandiose meditations on love, death and eternal recurrence.” – Justin Chang, L.A. Times

“Shot with a surrealist’s eye for madness and destruction by the great cinematographer Matthew Libatique, Mother! always seems on the verge of exploding. Your head will feel the same way. And I mean that as a compliment. … In a world of Hollywood sellouts, Mother! emerges as the work of a visionary doing things his way. You won’t know what hit you.” Peter Travers, Rolling Stone  

“Even by the manic standards of Darren Aronofsky—director of such exercises in escalating insanity as Pi, Requiem for a Dream and Black Swan—the emphatically titled mother! constitutes one hell of a freakout.” – Mike D’Angelo, Las Vegas Weekly

“[mother!] is an audacious, bold and fascinating fever dream of a film. It’s allegory for, well, everything (the environment, marriage, art, spirituality, you name it!), that will challenge, distress and edify anyone who chooses to submit themselves to this creation for two hours.” – Lindsey Bahr, Associated Press

“Now that studios tease out details from tentpole projects well before they open in theaters, the cryptic nature of mother! has been refreshing. It’s an art-house firestorm that will shock, and perhaps infuriate, audiences when it opens Friday in wide release. What a beautiful thing to behold.” – Matthew Jacobs, Huffington Post

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