Can critically acclaimed '12 Years a Slave' win Oscar?

By Duane L. Richards II

Sunday marks the 86th year of the annual Academy Awards ceremony. The list of past winners includes a diverse group of artistic styles (singer Cher has won for Best Actress, rap group Three 6 Mafia for Best Original Song).

However, racial diversity has been scarce. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has only awarded one black actress, Halle Berry, with the Academy Award for Best Actress, a figure that will not change this year, as there are no black actresses nominated in that category.

This fact became less startling when in 2012 the Los Angeles Times reported that the Academy was 94 percent white, suggesting the award recipients represent its members. Enter Steve McQueen's historical epic "12 Years a Slave." From the beginning of the year, Oscar prognosticators were predicting its critical success. When the film was released to near universal acclaim, these predictions only intensified. The film, which is based on the 1853 autobiography of the same name, follows Solomon Northup, a free man who in 1841 was kidnapped into slavery for 12 years and challenged physically, mentally, and spiritually.

Many critics hailed "12 Years a Slave" as one of the best films of the year, some hailed it as one of the best films ever made, and almost all praised it as being the most realistic account of the American slavery period in film history.

"12 Years a Slave" marks the first time that a black-produced, black-directed, and black-written film is the frontrunner for Best Picture, the night's highest honor. In October, when the film was screened at Hampton University, students and faculty witnessed the film before it opened in theaters.

Some students who saw it then aren't surprised about the film's current success. "Not at all!" exclaimed sophomore theater major Gavin Harden when he was asked about the Oscar buzz. "'12 Years a Slave' was a phenomenal movie. It shows the serious struggle that our ancestors went through in depth."

Junior technical theater major Olivia Whitehead was enthusiastic too: "In my opinion, I don't think the film is getting enough buzz. I think there should be more movies that shed light on past events such as that one."

The film's few detractors use comment such as Whitehead's as a negative point. Some black critics, such as Armond White, said that the film should not be heavily celebrated due to it being another entry in the historical genre that black artists are often limited to (for example, recent successes like "The Help" and "Lee Daniels' The Butler").

In addition, there are black moviegoers who declined to see the film because of its anticipated rawness, feeling that it would be too painful to watch. It is this rawness, however, that seems to be the source of its critical success.

This Sunday, the film is up for various awards including Best Adapted Screenplay for its writer John Ridley, Best Supporting Actress for newcomer Lupita Nyong'o, Best Supporting Actor for the film's main antagonist Michael Fassbender, and Best Actor for the film's star Chiwetel Ejiofor. Hampton student and Oscar enthusiast David Patton said, "Three of the actors are being nominated for an Oscar which shows you how great the cast was. The film's success does not surprise me at all."

The writer is a student at the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications.

Did the Super Bowl halftime show meet expectations?

By Aleeah Sutton

Bruno Mars hit the stage with '90s band the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Mars had a tough act to follow after Beyonce shut down the stadium, literally, with her half-time performance last winter. The superdome in Louisiana went dark for 35 minutes after her performance, leaving viewers to express themselves on Twitter.

As one of the greatest performers in the world, Beyonce helped bring in a record 111.3 million viewers to the annual football competition, according to

During a radio interview last September with, Mars revealed how he planned to prepare for his performance. Every year, an iconic entertainer is given the opportunity to top the performance of the previous year. Once Mars got the call to do the halftime show, he immediately thought he had to share this moment with the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Mars said, "They're just a soulful band, and not just musically, but as people. I sat down with Flea and he's so passionate with music. Even till this day, after doing it for so long he's still passionate about creating music and performing. I want to surround myself with guys like that forever. It's an honor to be sharing the stage with them. They're one of my personal favorite bands of all time. I'm excited for that."

He did tell listeners he was nervous about the weather and low temperatures. Weather channels did call for snow, but Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers managed to give an amazing performance. Some of them were even topless in the 35-degree weather.

Viewers were glued to the TV at Wing Bistro, a chicken and waffles restaurant in Hampton, Va. One spectator yelled, "This is great, but not better than Beyonce."

It's safe to say Bruno Mars did a great job yet we fans will never forget the woman who smashes competition both male and female all hail King Bey, a name a number of fans gave her.

The writer is a student at the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications.

Backstage shuffle before Hampton U. homecoming concert

By Jennifer Hunt and Evan Winston

Hampton University's homecoming celebration hit a speed bump after the headliner for Thursday's homecoming concert, "The Royal Show Out," canceled at the last minute, according to school officials.

This year, students voted for Memphis-based rapper Yo Gotti to entertain at homecoming festivities. However, he backed out.

"That was on his end, and it had nothing to do with the university," said Anzell Harrell, assistant director of student activities. "The common courtesy would have been to drop out long before the week of our homecoming concert. We had to pick up, move on, and try to rectify the situation. I think we have some artists that the students will like."

In Yo Gotti's place, Atlanta hip-hop artists Rich Homie Quan and Migos were slated to perform.

Rich Homie Quan and Migos are known for their summer hits, "Some Type of Way," and "Versace."

"We're just looking forward to a great rest of the week," said Harrell. "I'd like to see a good student turnout and have them enjoy the concert."

Some students who were interviewed preferred the new lineup over Yo Gotti. Other students alleged that Hampton University does not invite well-known artists for homecoming.

"I don't care about our lineup; I wish we had put our money into one good artist rather than two no names," said Darius Johnson, a senior biology major from Atlanta.

"I feel like I'm going to a concert that I can listen to on my iPod," said senior Jarrod Neal, a biology major from Newport News, Va.

Brandon Theo Dorsey, a junior broadcast journalism major from Houston, said he looked forward to at least one of the acts: "I'm not too high on Rich Homie Quan, but Migos is one of the hypest artists out there. He has the best bangers, and is the epitome of turning up, which is what homecoming is all about."

While the concert turnout is expected to rise, the hype and interest remains at a low with some of the student body, especially Onyx 9 member who have seen the lineup go from artists such as Rick Ross and Wale in 2010, and Kendrick Lamar, Meek Mill and Miguel in 2011, to artists who some students label as one-hit wonders.

The concert venue is the Hampton University Convocation Center. The performance begins at 7 p.m. and tickets are $12 for students and $22 for the general public.

The writers are students at the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications.

9-year-old is Oscar’s Best Actress nominee

By Niccolas Gadsden

Sunday's Academy Awards show will be historic. All eyes are on Best Actress nominee, Quvenzhané Wallis. This 9-year old is the youngest actress in history to be nominated in this category.

Wallis, nominated for her starring role as Hushpuppy in "Beasts of the Southern Wild," will be making her first appearance ever on the show's red carpet after the making of her film debut.

The plot of "Beasts of the Southern Wild" revolves around the relationship of Hushpuppy and her father, Wink, who is ill. The two live in a small Louisiana bayou town, which is cut from rest of the state by a levee. A storm is approaching the town, and the residents prepare for its approach. Wink prepares Hushpuppy for both the storm and his death by teaching her how to be a survivalist.

"It was very unique, said Professor Eleanor Earl of the cinema studies curriculum in the Hampton University English department. "I think it was an excellent exercise in visual storytelling, which is what filmmaking is all about."

In an interview with CBS News, Wallis said she was one of 4,000 girls to audition for the role. She auditioned in her hometown of Houma, La., at age 5, and was the youngest to audition. Acting as a crew member's mother, she showed great personality, winning over director Benh Zeitlin. Wallis said that at that time she was only able to read at a certain level, but Zeitlin was able to re-write the script to make it fit around Wallis' personality.

Professor Jamantha Watson of the Fine and Performing Arts department said, "She is delightful to look at. Her energy is where it's supposed to be, and I really look forward to seeing what happens on Sunday."

If Wallis wins the award not only will this make her the youngest ever to win for Best Actress, but also the youngest to win an Academy Award, beating out actress Tatum O'Neal, who won for Best Supporting Actress for her role in the 1973 film "Paper Moon" at age 10.

Also it will make her the second African-American to win for Best Actress behind Halle Berry, who won in 2001.

Wallis was not the only one to make an acting debut in this film. Dwight Henry, who plays Wink, did not have any acting experience prior to this film, still the L.A. Film Critics Association named him Best Supporting Actor.

Henry owns a bakery in New Orleans, and had no plans of acting until some of the film's crew members convinced him to audition for the film. After convincing the director and producers that this role was right for him he had to convince Wallis, whom he bribed with sweets from his bakery, Henry told interviewer Oprah Winfrey.

Wallis plans to continue acting. She has an upcoming role in the film "12 Years a Slave," where she will be working alongside actor Brad Pitt.

The writer is a student in the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications.

Hampton U. fans anticipate getting thrills they want at gala

By Brian Sprowl

The Hampton University Proton Therapy Institute hosted its first annual Gala of Hope on Friday, Oct. 5. The event took place at the Hampton Roads Convention Center from 6:30 to 11 p.m.

This year, the gala had Philadelphia International Records artist Eddie LeVert of the O'Jays. LeVert is known for '70s hits such as "Darlin' Darlin' Baby," "Family Reunion" and "Give the People What They Want."

LeVert is not unfamiliar to the Hampton crowd. He was a performer at President William R. Harvey's 25th anniversary gala in 2003.

"He is an awesome entertainer," said Joy Jefferson, HU vice president of external relations. "He caters to the age of the crowd, and meets their needs." People were still buzzing over that performance, said Jefferson, and looked forward to his return to Hampton.

Individual tickets for the event were $250, while tickets for couples are $450. Proceeds earned at the event are to go directly to the treatment of cancer patients and to further cancer research.

The writer is a student in the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications.

Real-life 'Scandal' figure was special guest at Hampton U.

By Nakiya Morgan

Shonda Rhimes, creator and executive producer for hit shows "Grey's Anatomy" and "Private Practice" is bringing a new drama to ABC-TV Thursday evening.

"Scandal" is based on a public relations professional named Judy Smith, and her team.

As a pioneer in crisis management for over 25 years, Smith has made her mark as a woman who is about her business. The show will highlight her communication skills as well as her legal input on various challenges that she has faced.

Smith represented Michael Vick, Monica Lewinsky and most recently the BP case and the handling of its cleanup of a Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Smith is no stranger to Hampton University. On Oct. 19, Smith visited the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications as part of a lecture series.

In hopes to inspire students, Smith discussed her experience in the world of public relations, crisis management and law. She stressed the value and importance of perfecting the craft and how important it is to mange crisis situations.

Paige Delaney, a sophomore, public relations major from Chicago, believed that "'Scandal' is a "must see for anyone trying to pursue a career in the public relations field.

"I am definitely going to watch the show. I believe that I can adopt a lot of skills that Judy Smith has just by tuning in every Thursday. The show can teach you a lot about her life, but most importantly how to react under certain crisis situations."

Kerry Washington will play the invisible power force Judy Smith 10 p.m. EST, Thursday, April 5 on ABC-TV.

The writer is a student at the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications.

Fickle finger of fate had Hampton U. community buzzing

Viewers anticipated a lively, possibly provocative Super Bowl XLVI halftime show starring Madonna with Nicki Minaj.

However, during the high-energy performance, a third singer-dancer, M.I.A., made an obscene gesture with her finger. That hip-hop performer's act ignited buzz among viewers and the media. Nicky Minaj and M.I.A. with Madonna at Superbowl XLVI

How serious was M.I.A.'s gesture, bad taste, or much ado about nothing?

Student reporters Erin Phillips and Ashley Johnson of the Hampton University Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications gathered campus reaction:

"Yeah, she's wrong. You don't go around on national TV flipping the bird. M.I.A is a well-known artist. As an artist you have responsibilities to account for. She shouldn't be doing things like that." – Brandon Wilson, computer science, junior, Rockville, Md.

"I did not see it and I had no idea about M.I.A. putting up her middle finger. But I really enjoyed Madonna's performance. It was very youthful." – James Hobbs, marketing, Philadelphia.

"She is a rebellious artist and she was just trying to make a statement. I don't think that she was trying to offend viewers in any way." – Lyncia Smith, journalism and communications, Nashville, Tenn.

"I do not think this should be accepted. The network has to do something about this. The whole performance was a little too much. The performance should be geared toward a much broader audience. I think a better performer would have been Justin Bieber." – Cameron Hawkins, business management, Pittsburgh.

" I barely noticed that she did it. I don't think it was a big deal. They're just trying to make a big deal out of nothing. There's worse things on TV for people to see. – Lindsey Brown, marketing, senior, Vacaville, Calif.

" I never noticed it. It's inappropriate, but if they didn't tell her that she couldn't flip the finger she isn't at fault." – Melissa English, MBA, Durham, N.C.

"Why did the network let her pick the song if they knew what the content of the lyrics were? – Zach Hines, theater performance/math, senior, Newport News, Va.

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