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Nelson Mandela: A life in pictures
Nelson Mandela and his wife Winnie in this undated file picture.
We are living in a cinematic golden age. Exhibit A: that new Megan Fox movie.
The history of film is strewn with enterprising multi-hyphenates who knew how to rock a repertory. Orson Welles had pulled together a formidable troupe of regulars by the time he’d barely cut his wisdom teeth. Fellini and Hitchcock were known for their stock companies of familiar faces. But in recent years, strengthened by the talent pools of ensembles like the Groundlings and Upright Citizens Brigade, the power posse has become the norm — and it’s changing movies and television for the better.
Ten years ago, Jennifer Westfeldt co-wrote and played the title character in the entertaining little bi-curious romance “Kissing Jessica Stein.” Now she’s the writer, director and producer of one of the better anticipated movies of the spring – the reproductive comedy “Friends with Kids” — with a cast that includes the ubiquitous Adam Scott, Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph and Chris O’Dowd, as well as the aforementioned chick from those “Transformers” movies. It certainly sweetens Westfeldt’s marquee appeal that her partner – and a co-star of the film — is none other than Don Draper himself, Jon Hamm. But what will likely draw butts into theaters for “Friends with Kids” isn’t one star in particular, but the sum of its comic pieces. We’ve already seen Wiig, Rudolph, and Hamm score with “Bridesmaids.” Scott’s a reliably funny presence on the often pitch-perfect “Parks and Recreation,” and has shown his ensemble chops in “Our Idiot Brother” (with fellow workhorses Elizabeth Banks and Paul Rudd) and in memorable bits for the biggest, loosest comedy troupe in the world right now – Funny or Die.
For over a decade now, the likes of Judd Apatow and Will Ferrell have been paving a new kind of path – and along the way have changed the way both veterans like Ben Stiller and younger guys like Seth Rogen and it girl Kristen Wiig have shaped their careers. Think of it as the visionary-as-clown – the person who can whip up a diarrhea joke and direct and produce and do a guest stint on “Saturday Night Live” — and maybe wind up with a few Oscar nominations along the way.
What they – and now Westfeldt — have in common is the apparent great talent for playing well with others. She’s not Angelina Jolie, carrying blockbusters on her shoulders. She’s not Robert Downey Jr., cranking out “Iron Man” and “Sherlock Holmes” sequels. She’s more Robert Downey Jr. cutting loose in “Tropic Thunder.” But what a movie like “Friends with Kids” represents isn’t just an entrepreneurial spirit that’s becoming more and more the norm, but a truly formidable contemporary pool of talent. Anybody can get together a bunch of buddies to make a movie. But to watch actors like Scott or Rudolph or Wiig within the same frame is to see performers who at this point now have a lengthy history in and out of each other’s careers. Jon Hamm and Ellie Kemper didn’t just make “Bridesmaids” together – Hamm was one of Kemper’s high school drama teachers.
No wonder these actors know how to play off each other in a way that just seems to get funnier and more natural all the time. No wonder they move gracefully between acting and directing and writing for each other. And no wonder audiences are responding – comedy may rely heavily on self-deprecation, but there’s an extra refreshing lack of ego in the generous way these stars continue to grace each other’s work. Not everything they touch is brilliant, of course. (“Notes from the Underbelly”? Meh.) But the way they drop in on each other’s television shows, pop up suddenly together in a Funny or Die clip, represents the best of the “Let’s put on a show” spirit. It’s a star system where the star is eclipsed by the constellation. And one in which the words “Friends” in a movies title seems, happily, like truth in advertising.
Nelson Mandela and his wife Winnie in this undated file picture.
Mandela is accompanied by his former wife Winnie, moments after his release from prison February 11, 1990 after serving 27 years in jail. (Reuters)
In this February, 1990 photo, shortly after his release from 27 years in prison, Nelson Mandela, gives the black power salute to the 120,000 supporters packing Soccer City stadium in Soweto, near Johannesburg. (AP Photo)
Nelson Mandela showed his passport in February 19, 1990, shortly after his release from prison. The South African government authorized an application for himself and his wife Winnie - (Juda Ngwenya / Reuters)
In this July 27, 1991 photo, Cuban President Fidel Castro, and Nelson Mandela gesture during the celebration of the "Day of the Revolution" in Matanzas, Cuba. (AP Photo)
In this July 4, 1993 photo, President Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela listen during Fourth of July ceremonies in Philadelphia during which Clinton presented the Philadelphia Liberty Medal to the African National Congress president and South African President F.W. de Klerk. (AP Photo/Greg Gibson)
President of the African National Congress Nelson Mandela acknowledges cheers from the crowd as he prepares to unveil the ANC's official election platform in 1994. (AP Photo/David Brauchli)
African National Congress (ANC) leader Nelson Mandela greeted residents of Mmabatho in March 1994, during a visit after the nominal homeland came under South African control following the ousting of the former President Lucas Mangope. (Reuters/Howard Burditt)
South African President Nelson Mandela smiles with actor Sidney Poitier at a press conference in Cape Town in 1996. Poitier played Mandela in the film "One Man, One Vote" (AP Photo / Sasa Kralj)
South African President Nelson Mandela waves to crowds as he sits next to Queen Elizabeth II in a an open carriage on the way to Buckingham Palace.(AP/Louisa Buller)
Chairman of the Constitutional Assembly Cyril Ramaphosa, left, holds up a copy of the country's constitution which was signed by President Nelson Mandela, in December 1996. (AP Photo / Adil Bradlow / POOL)
Nelson Mandela at a news conference in Johannesburg in February 2000. (AP Photo / Denis Farrell)
South African rugby captain Francois Pienaar, right, received the Rugby World Cup trophy from President Nelson Mandela also wearing a South African rugby shirt, after South Africa defeated New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup , in 1995. (AP Photo / Ross Setford)