In a League of Her Own: Geena Davis Honored With Lifetime Achievement Award

Geena Davis at BU (Photo: Alistair Birrell)
By Alistair Birrell
BU News Service


BOSTON – Geena Davis, the actress and activist, was awarded the Bette Davis Lifetime Achievement Award in a ceremony at Boston University on Friday afternoon.

Davis, an Academy Award winner and Boston University Alumna, was given the honor to celebrate both her acting career, and her activism work. Davis founded the Institute on Gender in Media in 2007 to address the lack of female characters and stereotyping of women in the entertainment industry.

“To be given a lifetime achievement award at this point,” Davis said during a press conference before the Ceremony, “It feels like, is this a little early?”

“I always wanted to play characters who were in charge of their own fate,” she said. “Not necessarily role models, especially if you look at Thelma and Louise, but definitely self-determining characters.”

“My daughter, she is about to turn 12,” Davis said while explaining her interest in the gender imbalance. “When I started watching videos with her, I noticed that there seemed to be far less female characters then male characters. I think it is incredibly important for kids to have the right image of women, so not stereotyped and not sexualized.”

Davis is known for starring in movies such as A League of Their Own, Commander in Chief, Thelma and Louise, and Stuart Little. She also competed in the US Olympic Archery team trials in 2000, and has worked with the Women’s Sports Foundation for over a decade.

The Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center and the Bette Davis Foundation jointly hosted the event. The Bette Davis Foundation awards scholarships to aspiring actresses, actors and artists, as well as the lifetime achievement award. Previous recipients of the award include Meryl Streep, Susan Sarandon, Lauren Bacall and Prince Edward.

The Ceremony coincides with the opening of an exhibition of artifacts and memorabilia entitled, Geena Davis: Actor & Advocate. The exhibition features items form Davis’ career from the Howard Gotlieb Archives, such as personal correspondence, awards and movie props.




Deadline For Beacon Hill Bills

BU News Service Editor Alistair Birrell talks with Statehouse Reporter Lauren Dezenski. Photo Via:…Statehouse.jpg

Russia Annexes Crimea, G7 Leaders React

By Alistair Birrell
(Produced By Brooke Jackson-Glidden)

Host Alistair Birrell describes the international effects of Russia’s annexation of Crimea Tuesday.

OPINION: And the Best Award Show Goes To…. Well, Not The Oscars

Photo Credit:

By Alistair Birrell

BU News Service


Photo Credit:
Academy Awards


“Anything can happen tonight,” said Ellen DeGeneres, “so many possibilities.” I suppose anything could have happened and there were so many possibilities, but they just… didn’t. For being the biggest award show of the year, the 86th Academy Awards were slightly tame, too long, and quite frankly a bit boring.

Host Ellen DeGeneres guided the show predictably and without subtlety. The opening monologue meandered through non-offensive jokes including an overlong bit about Jennifer Lawrence falling up the stairs last year, and a joke about Liza Manelli looking like a drag impersonator of herself. High-brow stuff.  Choosing DeGeneres as host was an obvious move on the part of the Academy after the controversy of last year’s awards hosted by Seth MacFarlane and his scandalous jokes about boobs, Jews, and Hollywood.

One of the most, or only, talked about moments from the whole event was the celebrity packed ‘selfie’ that DeGeneres took with Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt, Bradley Cooper, and a few others. It seemed rather forced and once again highlighted the fact that DeGeneres and the whole ceremony was relying more on creating ‘magical moments’ then on the jokes and presenters. The production seemed to be focussed on bringing the audience watching at home closer to the celebrities in the room, and DeGeneres was the middle-woman in that task.

Another one of the big moments was when DeGeneres returned after a commercial break with a bemused pizza deliveryman to hand out slices to the hungry guests. “Who’s hungry,” she said about fifty times in a dreadfully misguided skit. Once again it just seemed stilted and like something the producers thought of at the last minute when they realised the ceremony really wasn’t funny. If possible the joke was even less funny an hour later when DeGeneres tried to collect money for the pizza.

The musical performances seemed like a strange throwback to ten years ago, the last time that Pink or U2 were at all relevant. Man-of-the–hour Pharrell Williams fared slightly better, but his performance was just a shadow of the one at the Grammy’s, an award show that completely outshone the Oscars. And even though Idina Menzel’s (pronounced Adele Dazim according to Travolta) rendition of Let It Go from Frozen was good, none of the performances were anything to remember.

One of the touching moments of the ceremony came as Bill Murray presented the award for Best Cinematography. “Oh we forgot one. Harold Ramis for Caddyshack, Ghost Buster, and Groundhog Day,” Murray said after the nominees had been announced. It was a sentimental moment, but it only reminded me of the fact that if Murray had not spoken, the show would have gone by without a single verbal mention of Ramis or Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

For the most part favorites mostly won the awards, and a lot of people will have done well in office awards pools over the weekend. 12 Years a Slave won Best Picture, a well-deserved win. Alfonso Cuarón won Best Director for Gravity, a well-deserved win. And Matthew Mconaughey and Cate Blanchett won Best Actor and Actress, respectively, both well-deserved wins. All very middle of the road.

It can be hard to decide where to point the Good Ship Oscars tone-wise. Too offensive and it can cause too much… well offense, like Jon Stewart in 2008 or Chris Rock in 2005. Too much of an inoffensive daytime host like DeGeneres and the show, like this one, becomes boring and the three plus hours drags on and becomes unbearably noticeable. The 86th Academy Awards just seemed to slightly miss the mark, by being just plain. And much like the celebrity ‘selfie’ that DeGeneres took, the Oscars presented an idea that should have been filled with celebrities and exciting moments, but in the end was just an empty gesture.

Cape Lawmakers Receptive to Gun Violence Report Recommendations

By Lauren Dezenski
BU News Service

A Cape Cod task force published modest recommendations on gun control Monday, many of which focus on tweaking  existing regulations rather than laying down strict laws against gun use.

“The things that it does not do is probably the best news for me,” said Rep. Randy Hunt, R-Sandwich, a former police officer and gun owner who was pleased the report did not mention restrictions on the number of guns a qualified person can buy at one time.

The Committee to Reduce Firearm Violence released its report a full year after it was appointed by House Speaker Robert DeLeo. The panel issued 44 recommendations aimed at reducing and preventing gun accidents, homicides, suicides and assaults in the Commonwealth.

Panel Chairman Jack McDevitt, Director of Northeastern University’s Institute on Race and Justice and Center for Criminal Justice Policy Research, said the task force’s aim was to find simple steps to improve safety in the Commonwealth.

“One of the things we did was we said ‘Are there ways to make it better? What can we tweak, make little changes to make the situation better?’” McDevitt said at an afternoon news conference.

Rep. Brian Mannal, D-Barnstable, a member of the Joint Committee on Public Safety, said many of the task force recommendations made sense, including the suggestion to eliminate Class B licenses that allows someone to carry an unconcealed weapon.

“In this day and age, I think you’d be shocked to see someone walking around with an unconcealed weapon,” Mannal said in an interview. “The intention for the initial provision was meant for hunters coming back from hunting, but that’s not necessarily the case now. I think that getting rid of this class will improve public safety and put people at ease.”

Mannal said he also supported the recommendations to require firearm safety and training for licensed gun owners, including firing a weapon at a licensed range.

“That makes sense,” Mannal said. “You shouldn’t get a permit without having fired a live gun.”

Mannal, a gun owner himself, said he is looking forward to his committee ironing out details with restricting licenses to those with mental health issues.

Hunt said he was pleased that the committee did not recommend restrictions such as stricter limits on magazine capacity, and limiting purchases to one gun per month.

Gov. Deval Patrick introduced one-gun-a-month legislation in 2010, but the measure did not pass.

Among other issues addressed by the task force were the discrepancies between municipal, state and federal laws.

Currently, local law enforcement officials decide whether or not to issue a gun license to an individual, which gives the holder the lawful ability to carry a concealed weapon. The committee recommended creating a statewide set of guidelines so an individual’s eligibility to own a gun would not differ between municipalities, as it does now.

The committee also recommended that Massachusetts align with the National Instant Background Check System, a national database with mental health and substance abuse records that would disqualify a person on the list from owning a gun.

The report also called for schools to develop more comprehensive safety plans in the event of school shootings as well as expanding mental health services in schools.

Mannal said it would likely take his committee until the end of February to go through the recommendations. He expects it will be months until a bill reaches the House floor.

“This is not the final word,” Mannal said. “There are probably 15 different laws that need to be changed. It’s a complex issue and will require further work by the Legislature.”

Péter Zilahy Presents Newest Book to Boston University Students

By Olivia Lord
BU News Service

Péter Zilahy, the Hungarian novelist and poet, presented his new book The Last Window – Giraffe to a small group of Boston University students this Monday on campus.

About 20 students and 4 professors crammed into the chandelier lit room of the International Relations building on Bay State road. After every chair was filled and more were brought in, Péter Zilahy emerged with a messy stack of papers and palpable sense of humor.

After opening up the discussion with a few jokes, the room was set with smiling faces and open notebooks. He passed around his new book, The Last Window – Giraffe, while explaining the inspiration behind what he calls his ‘picture dictionary’.

Growing up in a dictatorship, Zilahy explains the lack of literature and open discourse available. He referred to it as “a total fake reality” and almost “an imposed euphoria”. His explained how the book uses a child-like perspective since everyone is treated like children in a dictatorship.

The book is organized in alphabetical order, split into sections and separated by pictures and anecdotes. When explaining curiosity and questions, he writes, “Who is going to clean up all this s***?” and describes it as a means to answer something you know nothing about.

“I tried to make this character like me, completely ridiculous.” Although he writes regularly for the New York Times, has had a sold out show on Broadway, and his book has been translated to 22 different languages, Péter Zilahy refuses to take himself too seriously.

“In this case life was imitating art,” Zilahy told the group. He was proud learn that his during the current revolution in Ukraine, citizens are using his book as a handbook for peace and it had won book of the year in their country. “Historical moments like this can bring people together in extraordinary ways.”

“People thought I was crazy,” Zilahy admitted. As a child, Hungary limited the opportunities for him. He wanted to study revolutions or protests and traveled to Berlin telling people his ideas. “I wasn’t crazy, I was actually very curious. This curiosity is what made me a writer.”

Many students had questions about life under a dictatorship. Zilahy explained how safe and orderly Hungary was. The streets were clean, there was no graffiti on the walls, and no petty crimes occurred. “For some people it is very comfortable to live in a dictatorship,” he elaborated.

The education Zilahy received was not only free but also extremely beneficial. In high school, he won many awards, was captain of the soccer team and valedictorian of his class. Not long after becoming interested in girls and politics, he was kicked out.

Nevertheless, his university allowed him to major in 5 subjects rather than the usual 2. He studied film making, history, philosophy but “never literature or the arts.”

“Because you couldn’t talk about certain things, humor was very important. If you wanted to say something serious, you said it in a joke,” Zilahy told the group. “This is why I never trust anyone who is completely serious!”

Zilahy can currently be found splitting his time between Berlin and Lago di Garda, where he is working on a new novel. His book The Last Window – Giraffe is on sale now.

MFA Marks MLK Holiday with Open House

Mayor Walsh Speaks at Museum of Fine Arts' MLK Open House (BU News Service/Alistair Birrell)
Mayor Walsh Speaks at Museum of Fine Arts’ MLK Open House (BU News Service/Alistair Birrell)

By Alistair Birrell
BU News Service

Several thousand people braved near freezing temperatures to line up for the Museums of Fine Arts’ Martin Luther King, Jr. Day open house on Monday.

The event, which allowed free access to the museum, featured a number of events and performances, as well as speakers including Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, former United States Ambassador to Nigeria Walter Carrington, and comedian Jimmy Tingle.

“Today is a day of service and a lot of people do service today. Tomorrow is Tuesday. Tomorrow is a day where somebody needs service. It doesn’t have to be on Martin Luther King Day. So I ask all of you to just try and help somebody or help some organization a little bit, a little bit can make a huge difference,” Walsh said during his short speech from the podium.

After signing the museum’s guest book, Walsh joked with the crowd that his prepared Martin Luther King quote had been said at every event he had been to so far before he had a chance to say it.

Throughout the morning several of the other speakers read historic speeches from a lectern outside the main entrance to the museum as part of an interactive piece of performance art by Argentinian artist Amelia Pica.

Members of the MFA’s Teen Arts Council read speeches by Robert Kennedy, Hillary Clinton, Harvey Milk and Sayeeda Warsi. “It is nerve-wracking because we are expecting so many people, but it is exciting and an exciting day,” said Elizabeth George, a Boston Latin School student and member of the Teen Arts Council, who read Harvey Milk’s 1978 speech, The Hope Speech.

Cambridge born comedian and political satirist Jimmy Tingle read two of King’s shorter speeches. “I am honoured to be invited to participate in this event on this holiday,” Tingle said. “I chose those particular speeches because they were from early on in Martin Luther King’s life, but they are right at the core of his beliefs in social and political change.”

The final speech made before the lectern was opened to the public was an impassioned reading of President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address by the former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, Walter Carrington.

Liz Munsell, Assistant Curator of Contemporary Arts and MFA Programs, was enthusiastic about being able to have both the open house event and the opening of the lectern artwork on Martin Luther King Day. “It is very exciting. It is a great platform for voices and we should be able to express ourselves,” she said. “And just look at the lines of people.”

The Now, Speak! Lectern will be outside the MFA through summer 2014.