Beverly Hills, Oct 12 (AP/UNB) — Jennifer Aniston, Ellen DeGeneres, Awkwafina and more stars overcame a dysfunctional teleprompter to toast one another and their charities at a women's luncheon Friday in Beverly Hills.
"I'm fine but Jen (Aniston) is freaking it back there," DeGeneres said as harried staff struggled to fix the broken screens that just a few minutes earlier had Awkwafina nervously winging it ("I can do a little tech support," she offered) before calling someone to just bring up her phone so she could read her speech manually.
But there's nothing like a few comedians to handle technological issues with grace and humor. Both had the crowd in stiches despite the minor chaos happening around them.
The 11th annual Variety Power of Women luncheon honoring Aniston, Awkwafina, Chaka Khan, Mariah Carey, Brie Larson and Disney Television Studios chairman Dana Walden boasted a roster of A-list guests and presenters from DeGeneres, to Natalie Portman and Ryan Murphy who charmed and inspired the well-heeled crowd of entertainers and industry insiders with speeches about their charitable causes and their commitment to empowering women in the industry.
Aniston was introduced by DeGeneres, who kept things light and didn't mention the recent social media uproar around her friendship with George W. Bush.
"What an honor it is for Jen Aniston to receive this from me," DeGeneres said. "In a world where people are angry and mean she is one of the nicest people I've ever met."
Aniston wiped tears away as she recalled meeting a young girl fighting cancer at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
"Every child deserves to know that they are seen and heard," she said, remembering a time when an adult told her, at 11, that she didn't have anything interesting to say. She said she carried that sentence with her into adulthood and often finds herself feeling like that 11-year-old at dinners.
"The Morning Show" star said her "Friends" mom Marlo Thomas introduced her to the hospital, which she has been working with for 25 years. And she said the last two years in the industry, following the rise of #MeToo, has made her think a lot about the messages "we send" young kids and girls.
"The things we say and do can either build them up or tear them down and make them feel like maybe their voices don't matter," Aniston said.
She admitted that she never, "Actually thought about myself as powerful. Strong, yes, but not powerful...It's a distinction I've actually been thinking about a lot lately because that word 'power' and its counterpart, 'abuse of power,' keeps coming up in light of what is happening in our country and in our industry — a rebalancing of the scales."
Aniston's speech wasn't the only to touch on cancer. Ryan Murphy, who credited Walden with giving him a chance in television when no one else would, also thanked the Disney executive for being there when he found out his 18-month-old son had a tumor a few years ago. Walden has worked with the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center since her own mother was diagnosed a decade ago.
Justice and empowerment were also on the minds of Carey, who spoke about how her own experiences at a performing arts camp helped inspire her to begin Camp Mariah 25 years ago, and Larson, who ceded part of her speech to Equal Justice Initiative operations director Eva Ansley, the woman she plays in the upcoming movie "Just Mercy," about the advocacy organization's founding.
The event, which was put on with the help of presenters like Lifetime and sponsors like Audi, was tamer than in years past when celebrities used their platforms to talk about everything from politics and the patriarchy to Harvey Weinstein.
But Carey managed to thrown in a little spice of her own in remembering how she had to learn how to gain control over her career over the men who wanted to dictate what she wore and who she worked with when she was just starting out.
"I want to thank each woman in this room and all the women who have come forward with their truths, their harrowing experiences, and above all their triumphs over the misogynistic society of corporate (expletives) that we deal with every day," she said.
Multan, Oct 11 (AP/UNB) — Pakistan's foreign minister says Britain's Prince William and his wife Kate will arrive in the capital, Islamabad, on a four-day visit next week.
Shah Mahmood Qureshi said Friday the royal couple, known as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, will arrive in Pakistan on Oct. 14.
He said the visit will further improve ties between Pakistan and Britain.
Qureshi said Prince William's mother Princess Diana visited Pakistan in the 1990s to participate in a fund-raising event for a cancer hospital built by Imran Khan, now Pakistan's prime minister.
Qureshi said Pakistanis still fondly remember Diana, who died in a car accident in 1997.
Beijing, Oct. 11 (Xinhua/UNB) -- "Summer Detective," an award-winning Chinese rural comedy film that infuses dark humor with suspense and adventure, is set for theatrical release on the Chinese mainland on Nov. 29, according to the movie's official Weibo account.
Set on the North China Plain, it tells the story of two men on the hunt for a runaway driver responsible for a traffic accident.
Directed and written by Xu Lei, "Summer Detective" won the FIRST 2019 Best Cinematic Script award.
Held annually in Xining, northwest China, FIRST is an international film festival committed to the discovery and promotion of emerging filmmakers and their early works.
New York, Oct 11 (AP/UNB) — At this stage of her life, Natalie Merchant is more proud of getting an honor named for John Lennon because of what it says about her activism than her music.
The singer is the sixth recipient of the John Lennon Real Love Award, and will headline a tribute concert to the former Beatle in New York on December 6.
"It's gratifying," Merchant said in an interview. "To have any connection to John Lennon, especially with activism, is quite prestigious and meaningful to me because he was one of the main artists who inspired me when I was growing up to think about the wider world and my impact on it."
Merchant volunteers three times a week for a Head Start program near where she lives in Hudson Valley, helping disadvantaged children. She often performs free concerts for children and, at the height of her fame three decades ago, volunteered at a homeless program in Harlem, where most of the people thought she was a student from nearby Columbia University.
She got to know Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono, when they worked on the anti-fracking movement in upstate New York.
Merchant, 55, records and performs sporadically now and, aside from guiding her teenage daughter through high school and into college, said her activism takes up most of her time.
"These projects, for a good reason, they suck your life blood," she said. "I began to see these projects as much more important than making another Natalie Merchant record."
Joan Osborne, Rachael Yamagata and Sam Amidon are among the other artists who will perform at the annual Lennon tribute, now in its 39th year. The show will take place at the Peter Jay Sharp Theatre at Symphony Space.
Merchant, who calls "Imagine" one of the most powerful pieces of music ever recorded, is already rehearsing some Lennon songs with her accompanist for the tribute.
"The thing that we want to do is not faithfully perform the songs as John recorded them, to give stylistic alterations," she said. "It will be fun. We don't want to feel like we're a John Lennon karaoke group."
And what are some of her favorite Lennon songs? What might she be performing?
"I think that would spoil the surprise, wouldn't it?" she said.
Los Angeles, Oct 10 (AP/UNB) — Aaron Paul's character in the popular series "Breaking Bad" was supposed to get killed off at the end of the first season. But producers had a change of heart after witnessing the strong chemistry between his Jesse Pinkman character and Bryan Cranston's Walter White in a pilot.
The decision to keep the story revolved around the duo for five seasons panned out for the series, which won several Golden Globe and Emmy awards. Paul won three supporting actor Emmys for his breakout portrayal of the overly emotional, loud-mouth and meth-taking Pinkman.
Now, Paul returns as Pinkman in the Netflix film "El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie," which premieres Friday on the streaming service. The movie has cameos from some of the show's best characters.
"The dynamic between Walter and Jesse changed the whole dynamic of the series and my life," said Paul, who has gone on to star in the TV series "The Path" as well as the films "Need for Speed" and "Central Intelligence."
"This was a role of a lifetime," Paul said. "I thought I said goodbye to this guy years ago. So, it's sort of nice to revisit in this state of mind and continue this journey with him. Then reconnecting with everyone from the show. It was like a family reunion."
"Breaking Bad" concluded its five-year run on AMC in 2013. The show primarily focused on White, a high school chemistry teacher struggling to financially support his family, including a son who has cerebral palsy and has been diagnosed with terminal cancer.
In desperation, White uses an old RV as a place to build a lucrative meth empire with the help of Pinkman, a former student, before their drug operation turns violent. The series ended with White dying from a gunshot wound after using a remote-controlled machine gun to kill an Aryan Brotherhood gang and free Pinkman, who had been held captive for six months.
"El Camino" picks up after a scar-faced, dusty Pinkman flees the bloody scene in a stolen El Camino vehicle. The story focuses on Pinkman as he tries to escape his former drug life to start anew while on the run from the police.
"He's a different person," Paul said of Pinkman. "Jesse has gone through torture and chaos. He's a combination of all those things that happened to him in the past. He's escaping from captivity. He's been there for half a year. He's been tortured and forced to cook a drug that has completely destroyed his life and destroyed the lives around him. He lost the love of his life. ... When we last saw him, he was screaming in sort of a relief and also agony. He's laughing and crying all at once."
Paul said the film answers the question he's heard almost every day since "Breaking Bad" ended: "What happened to Jesse?" The actor said venturing back into Pinkman's story was an "itch that needed to be scratched" by "Breaking Bad" creator Vince Gilligan, who also directed, produced and wrote the film.
"It felt like there was still more story to tell," Paul said. "They left the unknown in the series finale, which was beautiful. When I was asked about coming onto this project, I was onboard instantly. You know, I trust Vince so much. I thought the ending was perfect for this film. But I also know that Vince wouldn't just tell a story to just tell one. There's a reason behind it. I was excited to go on this journey with him."