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Some of Our Favorite Variety Stories From 2016

Variety logo Variety 12/31/2016 Variety Staff

This year, entertainment gifted unforgettable performances often from unexpected places, changed the way we thought about politics, and gave us a chance to revel in the enduring relevance of pop culture standbys. With that, we close the year with a look back at some of our favorite stories from 2016.

The Devil Wears Prada’ Turns 10: Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway and Emily Blunt Tell All

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“‘The Devil Wears Prada’ wasn’t an easy strut down the catwalk for Hollywood, as Variety learned in an oral history with the film’s stars and executives. It took Fox several years to bring the project to the big screen. Even after earning a greenlight, director David Frankel was a ball of nerves during the first half of the 55-day-shoot in New York.”

Michelle Obama Interview: How FLOTUS Used Pop Culture Stardom to Make an Impact

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“Michelle Obama, 52, calls herself ‘a product of pop culture.’ She is convinced of its influence on the public consciousness — in her case to build awareness of her signature policy initiatives, specifically ones tied to healthy eating and exercise, girls’ education, support for military families, and college advancement.”

How Shia LaBeouf Stopped Drinking and Found the Career He Wanted

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“In an interview with Variety in Prague, Shia LaBeouf speaks candidly about his ups and downs, and how he has been working hard to put his life in order. He says he hasn’t had a drink in almost a year, and he’s been to AA meetings (though he doesn’t call himself an addict). ‘You don’t touch it,’ he says. ‘Alcohol or any of that sh-t will send you haywire. I can’t f–- with none of it. I’ve got to keep my head low.'”

‘Ali’ Director Michael Mann on the Greatest, the Man Behind the Movie (Guest Column)

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“Ali knew he bore the burden of symbolic representation to Black America. He embraced it. He would build a motivational figure made out of life, itself. His life. And, it cost him. Denouncing the war and refusing the draft cost Ali — in addition to ‘millions and millionses of dollars’ — the revocation of his boxing licenses and a fighter’s prime years. In a way we may never have seen the very best of Ali. It would have occurred between ages 25 to 29. In 1974 both of his struggles reached their zenith in Kinshasa.”

Diversity in Hollywood: Failure of Inclusion Plagues the Entire Industry

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“The 89-year-old motion picture academy is absorbing the brunt of the public disdain. But the fault lies not just in the star-making Oscars, many agreed, but in ourselves. The Hollywood studio hierarchy remains an exclusive club chaired by white men and one white woman. The big talent agencies have almost no minority partners. And the media that cover it all — Variety included — employ only a few people of color.”

Presidential Race Takes Over Pop Culture as Hopefuls Embrace Celebrity Status

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“Never has politics been so blended with entertainment. Contentious presidential debates help drive larger audiences than most new fall series; candidates are eager to take part in sketches on late-night TV and strive to be hip to pop-culture references, to sprinkle catch-phrases into their tweets and to reveal their music playlists; and celebrity surrogates are as polarizing as the candidates themselves.”

Bob Iger on Shanghai Disney, Parting With His Chosen Successor, and His Pursuit of Perfection

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“A series of audacious, big-ticket purchases that have come to define Disney in the Iger era. By buying Marvel Studios in 2009, and Lucasfilm — owner of the ‘Star Wars’ franchise — in 2012, Iger has guaranteed his media company the breadth of name-brand characters and stories that competitors can’t match.”

Snap Judgment

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“Snapchat may be attempting to engage young people in new ways regarding subjects vital to our democracy, like the presidential election. But at a certain point, we have to consider whether what we’re doing to sugar-coat the pill is so dumbed down that there’s no point to engaging them at all.”

Stars’ Soaring Salaries Rattle TV Business

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“What used to be a fringe occurrence is now a commonplace event on TV, but not everyone knows how to deploy such a shock. For one thing, acting as if a show has never pulled off this unprecedented event is a bit rich, considering soaps and a whole host of solidly crafted supernatural-flavored programs do this kind of thing on the regular.”

Kristen Stewart Lets Down Her Guard: Inside Her Reinvention

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“At only 26, Stewart is in the middle of reinventing her career. After catapulting to fame at 17 in the young-adult vampire franchise ‘Twilight,’ she couldn’t leave her house without flashbulbs trailing her every step. The public became obsessed with her relationship with her then-boyfriend (and co-star) Robert Pattinson, and she topped every studio’s wish list for it-girl parts. But since putting Bella Swan to rest in 2012, she’s turned her back on tentpoles.”

When Character Deaths (and Revivals) Work — and When They Don’t

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“What used to be a fringe occurrence is now a commonplace event on TV, but not everyone knows how to deploy such a shock. For one thing, acting as if a show has never pulled off this unprecedented event is a bit rich, considering soaps and a whole host of solidly crafted supernatural-flavored programs do this kind of thing on the regular.”

‘Stand by Me’ Oral History: Rob Reiner and Cast on River Phoenix and How Coming-of-Age Classic Almost Didn’t Happen

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“The story of four friends from small town in Oregon, hiking into the countryside in search of the body of a boy who has been hit and killed by a train, is an unlikely coming-of-age tale. Yet in Rob Reiner’s sensitive hands, it becomes a meditation on mortality — one that transcends its 1950s setting to have a universal appeal.”

The Morning Show Wars, Kelly Ripa and TV’s Disposable Spring

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“The Kelly Ripa situation is part of a spring trend in which all kinds of women on all kinds of shows — and now, including morning TV — have been shown what they’re really worth. They’ve been killed off, written out and otherwise disposed of. Or blindsided.”

Has Entertainment Lost Its Power to Unite in Wake of Donald Trump’s Victory?

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“The election results are a stunning reminder of the limitations of comedy and the circumscribed role of entertainment in people’s lives. And a call, perhaps, to find a better and more lasting way to speak to audiences. Perhaps it is time to leave aside ‘eviscerations’ as our primary tool for expanding consciousness. They have their role, but in the end, empathy may well be the greatest tool in a storyteller’s repertoire.”

Rio 2016: NBC Slowly Realizes Women Are the Olympic Stars

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“As these Olympics close, the careful treatment of Ryan Lochte suggests that maybe NBC is finally understanding where the future of these games are. Not with the cavalier, empty-headed jocks, blond or otherwise, but with these heartfelt and disciplined women, who seem to inherently understand the context and importance of the Olympic Games. At the very least, based on the expressions on Matt Lauer and Bob Costas’ faces, we have a very clear idea of which Olympians can be taken seriously, and which ones are destined to be forgotten.”

Is ‘President Trump’ Funny? Late-Night Reconsiders What’s Good for a Laugh

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“The nation’s late-night hosts have for months let loose with a steady barrage of one-liners, sketches and bits, all poking fun at Donald Trump. As it turns out, a good portion of the audience wasn’t in on the jokes. Now that Trump has won the race for the White House, there’s a growing sense that many of the comedians who won notice for tackling his foibles as a candidate need to consider the fact that a significant percentage of the populace supports his campaign initiatives.”

It May Be an Accident, But ‘Rogue One’ is the Most Politically Relevant Movie of the Year

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“It’s galvanizing to see a message this politically primal embedded in a ‘Star Wars’ movie, since there’s always been something passive about ‘Star Wars’ culture. It’s the quintessence of sit-back, drop-your-jaw, munch-your-popcorn, let-special-effects-do-the-work-for-you fantasy. In fact, you could make a case that the political environment in which we now find ourselves, where fake news is as influential as real news, and where you’d be hard-pressed to pinpoint where Donald Trump’s fantasies leave off and his policies begin, was brought to you, in part, by the paradigm shift in pop culture ignited 40 years ago by ‘Star Wars.'”

‘Charlie’s Angels AGAIN? How Reboots of Reboots Became the New Normal

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“In truth, the relentless recycling of pop culture has gone on for a very long time. It seemed like it reached peak fever any number of years ago, with the vogue for turning old sitcoms into new movies (‘Bewitched,’ ‘Sgt. Bilko,’ ‘The Beverly Hillbillies’). Hollywood, of course, has been remaking movies ever since there were movies.”

‘Showgirls’ With Subtitles? The Demented Caveman Feminism of Paul Verhoeven’s ‘Elle’

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“My puzzlement over the rapture it has inspired begins with a question that’s been percolating around in my brain ever since ‘Elle’ was released on Nov. 11: Where’s the outrage? Where’s the fury, the passion, the wild range of reaction, the debate, the dissension, the contention, the fulminating counterattack? These days, it takes a lot to make a movie controversial; controversy now tends to swirl around behavior that’s happening off-camera.”

What ‘American Honey’ Catches (Beautifully) About the Kids: They’re Not All Right

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What’s wrong with the kids today? That’s a question that adults have been asking ever since the teenager was invented as a stand-alone demographic entity, sometime in the early ’40s. The question tends to make the person posing it sound like a crank. For decades, teen rebellion has been the cutting edge of sexual revolution (how to dress, dance, hook up), and who wants to take a stand against that? A long time ago, teenagers were seen as delinquent destroyers of the status quo, but we now tend to assume that they’re simply leading the way.”

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