British rapper Wiley will lead the way at the 2013 Music Of Black Origin (MOBO) Awards after picking up four nominations on Tuesday (03Sep13). The London MC, real name Richard Kylea Cowie, will battle it out for Best U.K. Hip-Hop Act, while his album The Ascent and hit Reloaded are also up for top prizes at the upcoming 18th annual ceremony.
He will also compete with Disclosure, Naughty Boy, Rudimental, and Wretch 32 for the Best Male title, while the Best Female category will be a battle between Jessie J, Jessie Ware, Laura Mvula, Lianne La Havas and Rita Ora.
Meanwhile, Justin Timberlake, Ciara, Iggy Azalea, J.Cole, Jason Derulo, Jay Z, Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar, Miguel and Robin Thicke are all in the running for Best International Act.
The winners of the 2013 MOBO Awards will be unveiled at a ceremony in Glasgow, Scotland, on 19 October (13).
You'd better sit down for this one.
You're speeding along through Netflix's newest original series Orange Is the New Black. You're really investing in the ups and downs of anti-heroine Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling), a white collar criminal adjusting to life in a New York prison. By now, despite all her flaws, you've come to love Piper. You wonder if she'll turn it all around and abandon her proclivity for bad choices. You wonder if she'll earn the trust and friendship of her fellow inmates, many of whom have not taken kindly to her uppity sensibilities. But you also wonder, on the other hand, if the prison will take her down, bury her beneath the dark rubble that exists within her. Well, wonder no further; it doesn't matter. Because she doesn't exist.
If you've made it to the 11th episode of Orange Is the New Black, you might have taken note of a gift bequeathed upon a group of downtrodden inmates by one Poussey Washington (Samira Wiley): a bag of Let's Potato Chips. An innocuous sight to many. But to Community fans, the Let's brand will jog a few memories.
Memories of Leonard "The Human Raisin" Rodriguez (Richard Erdman) proclaiming his delight with the snack food on his YouTube channel. Of Dean Craig Pelton (Jim Rash) paying an unannounced visit to students Troy Barnes (Donald Glover) and Abed Nadir (Danny Pudi), munchies in tow. Of Troy and girlfriend Britta Perry (Gillian Jacobs) squabbling over the quality of the product... although that was a Season 4 episode, so we don't have to talk about it. Yes, while Let's may not be a real potato chip syndicate, it exists with quite a fervor in the Community universe. And, apparently, in the Orange Is the New Black universe. Which means, quite inarguably, that these two shows exist in the same universe.
And, of course, it doesn't stop there. Not even close.
If you're an Orange Is the New Black watcher, then we must assume you are a subscriber to Netflix. And if you are a living human, then we must assume that you're a fan of Arrested Development. In said case, you might have caught a glimpse of GOB munching a few Let's Potato Chips while chumming around with his newly acquired entourage. Does this mean there are three shows that fall into the mix? Hell no. It means there are about a thousand.
Back in the days of Arrested yore, fans were treated to a scrapbooking seminar taught by undercover detective John Munch — Richard Belzer's character in the Law & Order franchise. Belzer, as Munch, had a series of other one-off cameos (The X-Files, The Wire, Sesame Street, 30 Rock) and appeared on Homicide: Life on the Street... a show linked by the Alfre Woodard character Roxanne Turner to none other than St. Elsewhere. St. Elsewhere famously concluded by revealing (spoilers!) that the entire six-season reality existed inside the mind of an autistic child named Tommy Westphall. And with this reveal, it would be only logical to conclude that Homicide (due to the Turner connection) was also concocted by young Tommy. As well as every show linked to that one by John Munch... and every show linked to every one of those shows. It gets pretty extensive.
This is old news, of course. Many have spent years calculating the mass of victims of Tommy Westphall's insatiable imagination. And now, we can welcome Orange Is the New Black into this community. Also Community.
So next time you're watching Litchfield's psychotic world unravel around the hapless (or nefarious?) Piper Chapman, fearing you might no longer be able to bear the treacherous events crafted by Weeds creator Jenji Kohan, take relief in the simple fact that it's all just the daydreams of some kid staring into space in 1988.
But take heed: the Tommy Westphall universe is forever growing, striking down the veritability of people and places everywhere. You might be next.
Follow Michael Arbeiter on Twitter @MichaelArbeiter | Follow hollywood.com on Twitter @hollywood_com
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Veteran journalist and novelist Jess Walter is no stranger to accolades — his 2005 novel Citizen Vince received the Edgar Allen Poe Award and his 2006 book The Zero was a finalist for the National Book Award and winner of the PEN Center Literary Award and L.A. Times Book Prize, to name just a few. But none of his books quite captivated America like his 2012 novel, Beautiful Ruins, which became a bestseller and was named one of the New York Times' 100 notable books of the year. Now, just when it seemed like all America wanted was BDSM erotica and a television lineup full of Drunk Midget House (a fictional Walter creation), Walter's sweeping tale of love lost and found appeared on bookshelves to remind us of literature's capacity to touch as well as to entertain.
After naming Walter one of our 20 Breakout Talents of 2012, Hollywood.com spoke with him about the decades (yes, multiple) he spent writing Beautiful Ruins, the power of language, his fascination with the Richard Burton/Elizabeth Taylor romance, and if he really thinks our country is doomed to create a show like Hunger (which, in Beautiful Ruins, puts eating disorder victims in a house together).
Hollywood.com: Did you know that this book would be received differently when you were writing it?
Jess Walter: Every book is so different almost in every way. It's kind of a cliché among authors that you're reinventing [your process] every time you're doing it. The process of writing this one was so different, in part because I was working on it for 15 years. So off and on I would come in and out of it.
It's funny, I never have any preconceived notion of what a book's going to be or how it's going to land or anything like that. You're almost a slave to the idea. And so the whole time I was working on this, I was probably sort of stunned that it's done as well as it has. Because I would explain it to people and how it's about Hollywood and 1960s Italy and the Donner Party and Edinburgh, Scotland, and they would look at me like I was kind of insane. So I think I worried that it was probably too diffuse and elaborate, so I've been really pleasantly surprised. But I've also learned to not really have too many expectations about these kinds of things. You just write and hope for the best.
You mentioned you spent 15 years writing Beautiful Ruins. Why do you think it was so tricky to piece this book together?
Well, you know, it's kind of funny, but I think what the book ended up being about — which is the span of someone's life and heartbreak and regret and how we are, I think, made better by our failures — I needed 15 years of all that hell. I started the book when my mom was still alive, and she passed away. And I had two kids and watched them grow up, and watched my older daughter become an adult, and I had all sorts of failures and successes. I think the scope of the book almost required a little more living on my part. But I never thought that while I was working on it. Every time I quit working on it I assumed it was because the novel was just bad. I just thought it had failed somehow. I think one of the pleasant surprises of the book was, every time I came back to it, I could reanimate it, which isn't always the case. A lot of times I walk away from something, I abandon it and the paint's dry. I can't manipulate it anymore, I can't get it to do anything else. But it seemed like every time I went back to this book, Pasquale and Dee inspired me. They had more to say. When I started it I thought they would spend 40 years apart, 35 years apart, and by the time I finished it… If it had taken much longer, they would've died before I could've gotten them back together.
You've lived with these characters for so long, was it hard to let them go?
It's always hard to let a novel go, but the characters from all my novels — that old saying that they become real, in a way they really don't. More than anyone, I think the author is aware that they are a collection of your own kinks and narrative impulses. The hard thing to let go of with a book is being afraid that it's not done, "It's not ready! I haven't finished it!" You know, maybe the Donner pitch needs to be a page shorter and maybe Claire's boyfriend needs to get a better job. It's more that you feel you haven't done it justice. It isn't as if the people have an impact on your life other than that you're hauling them around trying to figure out what a satisfying narrative conclusion would be.
You mentioned the Donner pitch, which I thought was such a fun section. Did all these different structural and formatting devices evolve naturally? How did you decide to structure the book the way you did?
When I started working on the book, I had just started doing a little bit of work in Hollywood; I worked on a couple of scripts and I worked on an adaptation of my books and I was just so taken by, first of all, the whole pitching structure, which was so alienating to me as a novelist. It almost seemed like you would choose a writer not based on how they write, but by how they talk about writing. It'd be like choosing a doctor not based on him having experience but him being able to talk about being a doctor. So it always struck me as so interesting, and I would come away from pitches with this feeling of really — and in all of Hollywood — of feeling really disoriented. So I sort of wanted to capture that. And I was thinking about the least likely movie ever and I've always been fascinated by the Donner Party.
When I wrote that chapter, it was originally much much longer, and then I abandoned it for a while. But then I thought, "No, I always wanted a pitch in there." I wanted to treat a movie pitch as if it was a form almost like a poem or a play or a short story or a novel. I've never seen a pitch written as a literary form before, and so, for a while, I toyed with having the pitch be for one of my books. And so, one of the worst chapters I wrote and abandoned was a really postmodern chapter in which I went in my own book and I pitched my novel The Zero to some producers who thought it was a bad idea. Thankfully, I abandoned that. But [the pitch chapter] had been around for a while, and it was really just trying to make it fit and not be indulgent, not take you too far away. The happy ending to it was that I had always envisioned it as a literary form, and then a literary magazine took that excerpt and published it as a standalone piece. And I actually read it, they had a big reading, and people just looked horrified — it's such a grim story.
I read an interview where you said that, for you, starting this book was like Alvis rewriting his one chapter again and again. Was Alvis especially close to your heart as a character?
Probably not as close as Dee and Pasquale, honestly. Just because they've been with me so long. I was thinking about it, I was 31 when I met them, in a way, and 47 when I finished writing about them. But Alvis was — there are all sorts of surrogates you end up having in a novel and, you know, how he was stuck in a chapter, lounging around the Cinque Terre in his American writer decadence, that very much felt like who I got to be.
Alvis' chapter and the sections where he pops up were some of my favorite parts of the novel.
Oh were they? Oh great, thanks. I liked it, too. It was hard having all those fragments and bits, because in each one I started out thinking, "Oh, maybe he's not a good novelist." And then I would find myself taken by the story or the play that Pat's in at the end — at first, I thought it would just be this sort of self-indulgent personal piece, and then by the end I'm like, "I kind of want to see that play!" And Alvis was one of the things that, for me, it was so fulfilling to go back and finish out all those stories. Because I feel like I got to sort of finish Alvis' story for him.
Do you ever think you'll revisit any of these smaller characters or these smaller pieces?
I don't know. I haven't given it much thought. Usually when I finish a book, I kind of feel like the world closes to me. But there are a lot of recurring characters in my first four novels. For instance, Vince from Citizen Vince, which was my third novel, makes an appearance in my fifth novel. Just sort of a walk-on, almost. And I love authors who do that — Larry McMurtry is one — I love the way a minor character in another book will warrant his or her own book later. So I could see that happening. It isn't anything that's burning away at the keyboard right now.
The cynicism of Hollywood and this critique of the taste level of the American public comes up again and again in the book. I loved all the ideas for the terrible reality shows, like Hookbook, and Shane's anorexia house show. How does that compare to your general feeling about the state of the general population's taste these days?
It's funny that it does seem cynical, I guess, and yet I think there's a hopefulness in the book. The thing that sort of amused me when I was finished was realizing that Claire, for all of her good intentions, is really the cynic, and Michael Deane is really the hopeful one — he's endlessly hopeful. And in some ways I feel like he's almost he hero of the entire novel, because he doesn't question the industry, he doesn't turn up his nose at it. A lot of people blame Hollywood as if it's a vacuum, and my point of the novel was always that it reflects ourselves back to us. It can't be any more vacuous and empty than we are because we are feeding it. We're the ones choosing by what we watch which of those TV shows and which movies [are made] — we choose the culture we get. It doesn't come at us arbitrarily. So in some ways, I loved Michael's acceptance of his own terms. And every novelist has to find a way somehow to realize that the thing that we do is not what most people want. What most people want is Drunk Midget House. But it was also just great fun writing that stuff.
Well, building off of that, you used language and your characters talked about language with such care in this book. The way you as an author presented your craft is like the opposite of Drunk Midget House. I loved the idea of the "Hotel Adequate View" and how Alvis teaches Pasquale's father that you need to careful with your words. Is that something you think about as a writer? How conscious are your word choices, or does it just kind of flow from you?
For a writer, those are the musical notes. Most of those 15 years I spent on the novel were not spent sitting around imagining what the characters do, they were spent trying to hone the sentences and make them sound right to my ear — and they may not sound right to someone else's. And especially, I think a book like this where you want to try to embrue meaning into everything the characters do and say, so you work hard on the dialogue. Really the joy of the whole process is working on all those lines. And I finish most days of writing by reading aloud what I've done just to hear the sound of it, to hear how it feels coming out of my mouth.
The other piece of this story we haven't talked about yet is the Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton section. How did they find their way into your novel?
Really accidentally! It's kind of crazy that this is sort of the winter of Burton, you know, with his diaries out and all this interest in him. Because when I first found myself venturing back to that story it seemed like almost a forgotten bit of Hollywood. But it came about basically because I knew that I wanted to write about the Cinque Terre during a time before it had become polluted with tourists like me. And then the other impulse I had originally was that the woman, Dee, would be a character about my mom's age. So that put me sort of in the early '60s. And I had watched a bunch of Fellini films and that just seemed like the most romantic period of any place, anywhere. I was just so taken by the Felliniesque aspect of Italy during that time.
But when I was doing research, trying to figure out what was going on there, I came across Cleopatra. And it was such a train wreck! I loved every detail: an agent getting shot in the groin by a producer, and Elizabeth Taylor nearly dying, and the affair, and the birth of the paparazzi, and all of it! And as I sort of incorporated it I had the epiphany that sort of shows up in the book, that this was a moment where we created modern celebrity. Fame and infamy cross, and it didn't matter why you were famous. You were just famous. And it seemed like every sex tape in the world owed its origin to what had happened on the set of that film. So it felt like a thematic discovery before I ever was interested in the characters. And then the more I read about Burton the more I just became entranced by him. And never as much Elizabeth Taylor for some reason. I felt like we knew her, but Burton was someone that I just became more and more fascinated by. And he just sort of hovered over the novel like its ghost.
And people are still obsessed with the story! It was funny, I was going back through the book while everyone on my Twitter feed was talking about the Liz & Dick Lifetime movie.
I think there were more Twitter feeds about that than the election; it was crazy! It was the same thing, I don't spend much time on Twitter, but when I hopped on, Patton Oswalt — who's so entertaining — was going on and on about that movie. I didn't watch a second of it. I did race to Richard Burton's diaries, and was so pleased to see that there's a gap during which my novel takes place which makes me think, "Oh, it's still plausible." There's about a four-year gap, and it's 1960-'64, so it fits perfectly in with the imagined Richard Burton that I've created.
I'm curious what you've read that you've loved this year.
Oh man, there's so many good books this year! Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk was remarkable. I so love it. And I like Lauren Groff's Arcadia very much. Oh, I liked Dave Egger's Hologram for the King. Boy there were so many! Richard Russo's Elsewhere was a great memoir, Wiley Cash's A Land More Kind Than Home was great. There were so many things that I read! It was kind of a crazy year. I just kept thinking, "That's the best book I've read in a while!" Oh, Martin Amis' new novel Lionel Asbo I thought was really hilarious. I don't think I read a bad book this year.
What draws you to a book when you're deciding what you're going to read next?
I read sort of the same way I write, which is I want something completely different from the last thing I just finished. The novel I wrote before Beautiful Ruins was very straightforward and first person, none of the elaborate structure. And so usually when I finish a novel, let's say I finished a tight first person novel, the next thing I want I want to be big and elaborate. And I'm drawn by reviews and word of mouth and all that stuff. But I think I read for escape less than most of the people I know. There's always that moment when authors confront their readers and they realize what people often want is a great tale and to escape, and authors often want to drag you back into reality. But that's why I think realistic fiction is where I tend to spend the most time.
Follow Abbey Stone on Twitter @abbeystone
[Photo Credit: Hannah Assouline/Harper Collins]
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A decade-long gap between sequels could leave a franchise stale but in the case of Men in Black 3 it's the launch pad for an unexpectedly great blockbuster. The kooky antics of Agent J (Will Smith) and Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) don't stray far from their 1997 and 2002 adventures but without a bombardment of follow-ups to keep the series in mind the wonderfully weird sensibilities of Men in Black feel fresh Smith's natural charisma once again on full display. Barry Sonnenfeld returns for the threequel another space alien romp with a time travel twist — which turns out to be Pandora's Box for the director's deranged imagination.
As time passed in the real world so did it for the timeline in the world of Men in Black. Picking up ten years after MIB 2 J and K are continuing to protect the Earth from alien threats and enforce the law on those who live incognito. While dealing with their own personal issues — K is at his all-time crabbiest for seemingly no reason — the suited duo encounter an old enemy Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) a prickly assassin seeking revenge on K who blew his arm off back in the '60s. Their street fight is more of a warning; Boris' real plan is to head back in time to save his arm and kill off K. He's successful prompting J to take his own leap through the time-space continuum — and team up with a younger K (Josh Brolin) to put an end to Boris plans for world domination.
Men in Black 3 is the Will Smith show. Splitting his time between the brick personalities of Jones and Brolin's K Smith struts his stuff with all the fast-talking comedic style that made him a star in yesteryears. In present day he's still the laid back normal guy in a world of oddities — J raises an eyebrow as new head honcho O (Emma Thompson) delivers a eulogy in a screeching alien tongue but coming up with real world explanations for flying saucer crashes comes a little easier. But back in 1969 he's an even bigger fish out water. Surprisingly director Barry Sonnenfeld and writer Etan Cohen dabble in the inherent issues that would spring up if a black gentlemen decked out in a slick suit paraded around New York in the late '60s. A star of Smith's caliber may stray away from that type of racy humor but the hook of Men in Black 3 is the actor's readiness for anything. He turns J's jokey anachronisms into genuine laughs and doesn't mind letting the special effect artists stretch him into an unrecognizable Twizzler for the movie's epic time jump sequence.
Unlike other summer blockbusters Men in Black 3 is light on the action Sonnenfeld utilizing his effects budget and dazzling creature work (by the legendary Rick Baker) to push the comedy forward. J's fight with an oversized extraterrestrial fish won't keep you on the edge of your seat but his slapstick escape and the marine animal's eventual demise are genuinely amusing. Sonnenfeld carries over the twisted sensibilities he displayed in small screen work like Pushing Daisies favoring bizarre banter and elaborating on the kookiness of the alien underworld than battle scenes. MIB3's chase scene is passable but the movie in its prime when Smith is sparring with Brolin and newcomer Michael Stuhlbarg who steals the show as a being capable of seeing the future. His twitchy character keeps Smith and the audience on their toes.
Men in Black 3 digs up nostalgia I wasn't aware I had. Smith's the golden boy of summer and even with modern ingenuity keeping it fresh — Sonnenfeld uses the mandatory 3D to full and fun effect — there's an element to the film that feels plucked from another era. The movie is economical and slight with plenty of lapses in logic that will provoke head scratching on the walk out of the theater but it's also perfectly executed. After ten years of cinematic neutralizing the folks behind Men in Black haven't forgotten what made the first movie work so well. After al these years Smith continues to make the goofy plot wild spectacle and crazed alien antics look good.