NASDAQ Bell Ringing Launches VH1’s The Breaks, Nostalgic 1990s Hip-Hop Follow-Up to Hit Movie

Stuart Winchester by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

VH1 rolled out its new series, The Breaks, recently with an adrenaline shot opening bell at the NASDAQ stock exchange and a ceremonial street renaming in front of Viacom’s Times Square headquarters. The events teed up the premiere of the hip-hop throwback series that followed and directly continued a VH1 movie of the same name that aired early last year, and ended up ranking as the number two cable movie of 2016.

The Breaks movie debuted last year to huge fanfare and really strong ratings, and so it became a no-brainer to take this fabulous movie to series,” said Amy Doyle, general manager of MTV, VH1 and Logo, flanked by the show’s cast and crew at NASDAQ’s opening bell podium. “The buzz on this show is palpable. Essence has deemed it, ‘VH1’s highly anticipated new series,’ and NPR is calling it – my favorite – ‘a hip-hop answer to Mad Men.’”

 

The Breaks NASDAQ - 824

VH1 executives and cast and crew of The Breaks gather at the NASDAQ stock exchange to ring the opening bell on Feb. 17, 2017. Photo by Christopher Galluzzo, Getty Images

Later that morning, this crew gathered again on the corner of Seventh Avenue and 44th Street in Manhattan to temporarily rename the street “The Breaks Way.”

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 17: Atmsphere at the VH1 street renaming "The Breaks Way" for the premiere- Monday, February 20th at 9PM ET/PT. on February 17, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Craig Barritt/Getty Images for VH1)

NEW YORK, NY – FEBRUARY 17: Atmsphere at the VH1 street renaming “The Breaks Way” for the premiere- Monday, February 20th at 9PM ET/PT. on February 17, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Craig Barritt/Getty Images for VH1)

The Breaks rumbles out of the unfiltered New York City of 1990, an ode to hip-hop’s gritty rise that is equal parts historical drama, nostalgia trip, and reminder that there was nothing predestined about the genre’s eventual rise.

A period piece set at a crucial juncture where rap had crept into the zeitgeist but still skirted the mainstream, the series immerses us within a crew of fictional stand-ins who shoulder the mighty task of recreating that frantic era: a wily and determined Nikki Jones (Afton Williamson), her boyfriend and radio station rookie David Aaron (David Call), aspiring producer DeeVee (Tristan “Mack” Wilds), hip-hop manager Barry Fouray (Wood Harris), and drug dealer-cum-rapper Ahm (Antoine Harris).

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Fences, Arrival Deliver Pair of Oscars to Paramount

Stuart Winchester by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Paramount’s Arrival and Fences each won an Oscar last night, capping a torrid award season that firmly established the two films as among the best of 2016.

With a fiery speech that summoned the emotional resonance of the film she appeared in, Viola Davis accepted the prize for best supporting actress for her role in Fences.

“You know, there’s one place where all the people with the greatest potential are gathered,” Davis said in her acceptance speech. “One place. And that’s the graveyard. … So here’s to August Wilson who exhumed and exhalted the ordinary people.”

With the honor, Davis became the first black actor to win an Oscar, Emmy and Tony award.

The accolades have been piling up for Fences in general and Davis in particular since awards season launched. Among Davis’ acknowledgements for best supporting actress have been honors from the African-American Film Critics Association, AARP Annual Movies for Grownups Awards and Critics’ Choice Movie Awards. The film’s director, Denzel Washington, has also earned several best actor awards for his performance in the film.

The haunting Arrival¸ a gorgeous sci-fi tale of aliens landing, earned top honors for Sound Editing. Sylvain Bellemare, a longtime collaborator with director Denis Villeneuve, led the team that created the film’s auditory component, an immense task given a story that spans civilizations, time periods, and settings from the pedestrian to the otherworldly.

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Former Paramount Intern Harnesses Lessons of the Lot on Way to Short Film Oscar Nomination

Stuart Winchester by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Waiting for the Oscars

As a boy, Jean de Meuron would rise in the dead of the European night to cheer the Academy Award recipients ascending gilded stages on the far side of the Atlantic. He relished this annual celebration of a world he deeply admired: he was a student of Hollywood history, a fan of Spielberg’s Indiana Jones, a dreamer gripped by the allure of the American entertainment industry.

So here he came, from Switzerland, in 2008, embedding himself in studies at the New York Film Academy, USC, UCLA and the New School; bunking down in internships at the Weinstein Company, MTV, Viacom International Media Networks and Paramount. He would go anywhere – New York City, Los Angeles, Mexico, Buenos Aires – as he produced student films and peppered executives with questions at every stop. He learned about marketing campaigns, about the importance of everything from color schemes to timing to creating effective trailers.

It was an immersive course in filmmaking and marketing, fueled by an unwavering vision of what his life ought to be. It was this resolute focus that led him to the 2012 Basel Gässli Film Festival in his native Switzerland, where he met a young director named Timo von Gunten, a preternatural talent whose work – the editing, framing, storytelling – echoed legendary Amelie director Jean-Pierre Jeunet. And it was his partnership with von Gunten, as executive producer (along with Bela Böke) on the short film La Femme et le TGV, that last month opened up the Oscars in a way de Meuron’s boyhood self would not have believed: live, at the event, as a nominee.

Jean de Meuron (right) with La Femme et le TGV producer Giacun Caduff and director Timo von Gunten at a luncheon for Oscar nominees. Photo courtesy of Jean de Meuron.

Jean de Meuron (right) with La Femme et le TGV producer Giacun Caduff and director Timo von Gunten at a luncheon for Oscar nominees. Photo courtesy of Jean de Meuron.

It would be the culmination of a lifelong ambition, the highest professional acknowledgement in one of the most prominent creative industries in the world. But like an artisan crafting a beautiful piece of furniture, a filmmaker does not spring wholly into the existence with the knowledge of his art, but learns it through a long apprenticeship. For de Meuron, his time at Paramount would prove crucial to plan, produce, edit and promote La Femme et le TGV.

A rich, nostalgic world

It helps to understand, first, what they have made, for an Oscar nomination is reserved for those things that are exceptional.

La Femme et le TGV is set in an idyllic mountain landscape pancaked with cliff bands in the green and field-dotted wilderness outside the impossibly quaint town of Monbijou, Switzerland. At the center of this world is Elise Lafontaine (Jane Birkin), and hammering through it in a shimmering streak of steel and noise is the twice-daily TGV high-speed train. Every day for 32 years, at 6:18 a.m. and again at 7:13 p.m. Lafontaine has leaned, Swiss flag waving, from the window for these joyous passings.

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BET Celebrates Black History Month With a Brilliant Nelson Mandela Biopic

It’s never felt more relevant to watch a film that brings truth to one of the world’s most stirring leaders.

On April 26, 1964, Nelson Mandela addressed the court in Rivona, South Africa.

“I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination,” said Nelson Mandela. “I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

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Fences Adds to Trophy Case as Washington, Davis Take Top Honors at SAG Awards

Stuart Winchester by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

The awards keep piling up for Paramount’s Fences, which scooped up four nominations for next month’s Oscars. After Denzel Washington and Viola Davis took Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress honors, respectively, in the Golden Globe Awards, they repeated the feat at last night’s Screen Actors Guild awards.

Denzel Washington earned Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role. He cited a thundering canon of playwrights in his acceptance speech, including Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, Eugene O’Neill, Edward Albee and Fences creator August Wilson. He is contending for best Actor in a Leading Role at the Oscars.

In accepting her award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role, Viola Davis contemplated the significance of Wilson’s achievement. “What August did so beautifully, is he honored the average man, who happened to be a man of color,” she said. “And sometimes we don’t have to shape the world and move the world and create anything that’s going to be in the history book. The fact that we breathe and live a life and was a god to our children – just that means that we have a story and it deserves to be told.”

Watch her full remarks below:

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Paramount’s Promotion for Rings has Over 200 Million Views in Just 24 Hours: Here’s Why

Paramount took integrated marketing to a new level with an elaborate, terrifying promotional stunt for Rings on Monday, Jan. 23.

The world first met Samara, the eerie young girl with matted hair and a penchant for crawling out of television screens, in 2002 when the first Ring movie premiered. The sequel followed in 2005, freaking out audiences around the world with the potent combination of prophetic phone calls, fuzzy TV screens, and burning trees.

But it’s been over a decade since we last saw Samara, and Paramount wants to make sure we haven’t forgotten her.

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Paramount Locks Down 18 Oscar Nominations Behind Strength of Arrival, Fences

Stuart Winchester by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

There’s a movie about an alien invasion and one about race relations in 1950s Pittsburgh and one about a Manhattan socialite who has everything except for self-awareness. There’s the latest entry into the Star Trek canon and a spy-thriller of a jaunt back to World War II and another journey even further back with religious missionaries in feudal Japan. And there’s a biopic on one of the most persistent stories of our time, the attack on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi.

These are the seven Paramount movies that secured a total of 18 nominations for the 89th Oscars when the academy released its annual list of nominees on Tuesday morning.

Critical favorites Arrival and Fences led with eight and four nominations, respectively, with each earning a shot at Best Picture. Florence Foster Jenkins follows with a pair of nominations, including Actress in a Leading Role for star Meryl Streep. Silence, Allied, Star Trek Beyond and 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi each locked down nominations in one category.

An extended member of the Paramount family also racked up his first Oscar nomination – former international marketing division intern Jean de Meuron’s La Femme et la TGV is up in the short film category.

All of nominations are listed below, along with a preview of each film. The show will air on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017 on ABC. See the full list of movies in each category here.

Arrival – eight nominations

  • Best Picture
  • Directing – Denis Villeneuve
  • Adapted Screenplay – by Eric Heisserer
  • Cinematography
  • Sound Editing
  • Sound Mixing
  • Film Editing
  • Production Design (Patrice Vermette, Paul Hotte)

Fences – four nominations

  • Best Picture
  • Actor in a Leading Role – Denzel Washington
  • Actress in a Supporting Role – Viola Davis
  • Adapted Screenplay – by August Wilson

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Denzel Washington and Viola Davis Stun Critics and Viewers Alike in Paramount’s Fences

It’s officially awards show season. 2017 kicked off with the 47th annual Golden Globe Awards earlier this month, where Paramount’s Fences kept up its momentum as one of the most critically acclaimed films of the year.

Washington’s character, Troy Maxson, is an embittered former baseball player and sanitation worker. Viola Davis plays his wife Rose, who ferociously protects her children, ideals, and convictions—which are challenged by her husband’s ego.

These performances garnered Washington and Davis Golden Globe nominations for Best Actor in a film and Best Supporting Actress, respectively.

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Al Gore’s Inconvenient Sequel Follows Oscar-Winning Doc at Critical Moment for Combating Climate Change

Stuart Winchester by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

An Inconvenient Truth came spinning out of Al Gore’s Powerpoint deck 11 years ago this spring, resuscitating a national conversation on global warming on its way to winning a pair of Oscars and Best Documentary honors from more than a dozen film critics associations.

Directed by Davis Guggenheim and distributed by Paramount, the film brought in $50 million and became a vital part of the worldwide climate change dialogue. In a powerful statement of Gore’s total commitment to a cause he has been devoted to since initiating the first congressional hearing on global warming in the early 1980s, he and his wife donated all profits to initiatives that would help educate more people about the dangers and realities of climate change.

A decade later, the issues Gore articulated in the film are as urgent as ever, as newly inaugurated President Donald Trump has suggested he may “cancel” the extraordinary Paris Agreement between 195 countries that is intended to slow and ultimately halt global warming. The timing, then, is optimal for An Inconvenient Sequel, Gore’s follow-up that debuted to a standing ovation last week at the Sundance Film Festival.

The film, which Paramount will release in theaters on July 28, is a wide-ranging examination of the global climate turmoil that threatens to massively disrupt life on Earth. In one compelling scene, Gore outlines how one of his most controversial 2006 predictions – that floodwaters could inundate the September 11 Memorial in lower Manhattan – has already happened:

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