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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RuPaul, Daily Show Bring Combined Four Creative Arts Emmys to Viacom

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Behind the dual cultural touchstones of VH1’s RuPaul’s Drag Race and Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, Viacom tallied four wins at the Creative Arts Emmys earlier this week. Here’s a video round-up of the victors:

Viacom 2017 Creative Arts Emmy Wins from Viacom on Vimeo.

This is RuPaul’s second consecutive year taking the Outstanding Host of a Variety, Nonfiction or Reality Program honor – an outcome that was widely predicted after the show’s move from Viacom’s Logo to VH1 earlier this year.

Drag Race was already the best reality show on TV, and you’d have been hard-pressed to tell anyone within its community of loyal fans that its reach was niche, but the show’s move from the Logo network to Viacom neighbor VH1 proved that the ceiling on television’s premiere drag competition was even higher,” wrote Decider’s Joe Reid in July. “The show scored record ratings and was a massive hit on social media.”

Take one look at the host commanding the stage, and it’s clear why RuPaul repeated this top honor:

With the added exposure, the program racked up seven Emmy nominations this season, and one category remains undecided: RuPaul’s Drag Race is also nominated in the Best Reality Competition Series category, the winner of which will be announced at the primetime Emmys ceremony this Sunday, Sept. 17.

The Daily Show’s Emmy, for Outstanding Short Form Variety Series, celebrates Noah’s “Between the Scenes” takes, in which he riffs on prominent news stories. Here, the host breaks down the U.S. government’s bizarre tradition of perpetually threatening shutdowns over its own failure to raise the debt ceiling:

The Emmy win came on the same week that Comedy Central extended Noah’s contract through 2022. The move acknowledged the show’s incredible and consistent ratings and social engagement growth as the host nears his two-year anniversary at the helm. Vitally, The Daily Show is positioned to wrap this quarter as the most-watched daily, late-night show among millennials.

This is not Noah’s first trip to an awards podium – this past spring, he took Best Host at MTV’s reconfigured Movie and TV Awards.

MTV Rides Programming Resurgence to First Summer Ratings Increase in Six Years

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Fueled by a programming renaissance, MTV scored its first summer ratings increase in six years for the three months ending August 31.

That’s cause for celebration:

via GIPHY

The surge follows the steady re-introduction of several legacy MTV programs that have been recalibrated to appeal to the social-, mobile- and digital-oriented youth of today: My Super Sweet 16, Unplugged and, on Snapchat, Cribs and Beach House. And, coming soon: the hugely anticipated returns of early aughts mainstay TRL.

(Take a look at the Shawn Mendes performance that relit Unplugged – you’re not seeing things – there are no cell phones in the audience; the producers prohibited fans from bringing them into the theater, so they could simply enjoy the concert, 1990s style):

The ratings resurgence has not been entirely tethered to nostalgia, however, as a rejiggering of the network’s The Challenge and the launch of unscripted original Siesta Key (below) also fueled large audiences.

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Paramount’s Downsizing Imagines a Future World Where We Shrink Ourselves to Save the Planet

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

The human population keeps growing. The world remains the same size, even while living standards – and the volume of resources needed to support them – continue to increase. What to do?

Shrink everyone. The food that would sustain one person can now feed many times more. These new micro-people can use smaller houses, cars, and clothes, requiring fewer raw materials to make them. With smaller items costing far less, even modest savings will allow them to live like millionaires.

This is the premise of Downsizing, a dazzlingly original movie from Paramount. When scientists in a vaguely near-distant future unveil an astonishing body-shrinking technology, Paul Safranek (Matt Damon) and wife Audrey (Kristen Wiig) decide to join the land of the littles, where they can romp into an early and easy retirement.

Downsizing, directed by Alexander Payne, is slated for a Dec. 22, 2017 release.

 

 

Viacom Summer Intern Avonna Zheng: From Homeless Youth to Nickelodeon Team Player

Nickelodeon intern Avonna Zheng worked hard and played hard at her 2017 summer internship. (Photo collage created by Zheng)

When I was in the eighth grade, I was one of the thousands of homeless children in New York City. I was constantly moving from shelter to shelter.

At that point in my life, attending college and having a successful career did not seem nearly as important as worrying about where I would be sleeping at night.

Luckily, I was raised by a mother who encouraged me to work hard and get an education so I would not have to live through this struggle again. The adversities I faced growing up, along with my mother’s strong, positive influence inspired me to pursue a better future for myself.

During high school, I joined Sponsors for Educational Opportunity, an organization that helps students from underserved communities access opportunities to attend college and start a career. This organization helped me earn a six-week scholarship for Syracuse University’s summer college program, which ultimately let to my enrollment as a full-time student at Syracuse University.

I worked hard in college, and in the summer of 2017, my dedication and determination paid off when I applied for a Viacom summer internship and was selected to work with Nickelodeon’s project management department.

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