Pawel Pawlikowski’s “Cold War” has been named the best European film of 2018 at the European Film Awards, which were handed out on Saturday in Seville, Spain.
The decade-spanning drama, which was inspired by the stormy relationship between Pawlikowski’s parents, also won awards for its director, screenplay, lead actress (Joanna Kulig) and editor.
Marcello Fonte won the best-actor award for “Dogman,” which also took awards for its costume design and hair and makeup.
Armando Iannucci’s “The Death of Stalin” was named the best European comedy, while “Bergman – A Year in a Life” won for documentary, and “Another Day of Life” won for animated film.
Four of the Best European Film Award nominees — “Border,” “Cold War,” “Dogman” and “Girl” — are the foreign-language Oscar entries from Sweden, Poland, Italy and Belgium, respectively. The fifth, “Happy as Lazzaro,” played in Cannes but was bypassed as Italy’s Oscar selection in favor of “Dogman.”
No film that has won the European Film Award for best film has ever won the Best Picture Oscar, though three (“The Full Monty,” “Life Is Beautiful” and “Amour”) have been nominated. Six EFA winners — “Life Is Beautiful,” “All About My Mother,” “The Lives of Others,” “Amour,” “The Great Beauty” and “Ida” — have won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
The 2018 European Film Award winners:
Best European Film: “Cold War”
European Screenwriter: Pawel Pawlikowski, “Cold War”
European Cinematographer: Martin Otterbeck “U-July 22”
EFA People’s Choice Award: “Call Me by Your Name”
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www.thewrap.com | 12/15/18
It won’t exactly be on a par with Oscars nominations morning, but Monday will be one of the biggest December days in the history of the Academy Awards.
That’s because for the first time, the Academy isn’t systematically doling out the short lists of films that remain in contention. Instead, they’re dropping all the lists at once in a single press release that will trim the fields in Best Documentary Feature, Best Foreign Language Film, Best Original Song and six other categories.
One drop, nine categories, a total of 101 films that’ll get good news and far more that’ll be disappointed.
The strategy of dumping all the Oscars short lists at once has not been greeted with universal approval. For one thing, contenders in the different categories were used to having their individual moments in the spotlight. Music Branch voters, who are facing a pair of short lists for the first time, now have far less time to listen and decide than they used to. And pundits will need to whip up instant analysis in nine categories simultaneously.
But that’s the new rule, and all the lists will be out on the afternoon of Monday, Dec. 17.
(By the way, we hear that the news will come out in the afternoon because the procrastinators on the Foreign Language Film Award Executive Committee aren’t getting together until Monday morning to decide which three songs they’ll be adding to the six-film short list chosen by Oscars voters.)
Here’s the category-by-category breakdown of what will be coming on Monday.
Best Foreign Language Film
Three films seem guaranteed to land a spot: Mexico’s “Roma,” Poland’s “Cold War” and Lebanon’s “Capernaum.” Belgium’s “Girl” isn’t far behind, and voters reportedly adored Germany’s “Never Look Away.” Denmark’s “The Guilty” is a satisfying film that impressed voters, Sweden’s “Border” a twisted one that did the same.
The executive committee that adds three films to the shortlist may be hard-pressed not to take one or both of the two Asian standouts, South Korea’s “Burning” and Japan’s Palme d’Or winner “Shoplifters.” And watch out for the Paraguayan film, “The Heiresses,” which has strong support in both the general and executive committees.
Other possibilities include Iceland’s “Woman at War,” Norway’s “What Will People Say,” Colombia’s “Birds of Passage,” Hungary’s “Sunset” and Romania’s “I Do Not Care If We Go Down in History as Barbarians.”
Best Documentary Feature
The four box-office hits that made this one of the best years ever for nonfiction filmmaking should all land on the list: “Free Solo,” “RBG,” “Three Identical Strangers” and the de facto frontrunner, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” (On the other hand, it’d be uncharacteristic of the Academy not to leave at least one of them off the final list of five nominees, and not entirely surprising if one of them doesn’t make the short list.)
Ever since the doc-branch rules were changed to do away with special screening committees in this category, voters have gravitated toward the films that have gotten the most buzz and received the most nominations for the IDA Awards, the Cinema Eye Honors and the like. That should mean that critical and awards favorites like “Minding the Gap,” “Hale County This Morning, This Evening,” “Crime + Punishment,” “Bisbee ’17,” “Dark Money,” “Of Fathers and Sons” and “Shirkers” will all be in contention. And watch out for the Spanish film “The Silence of Others,” a potential sleeper.
We also shouldn’t rule out documentary legend Frederick Wiseman for “Monrovia, Indiana,” or other well-received docs like “On Her Shoulders,” “The Bleeding Edge” and “United Skates.” On the showbiz doc front, movies like “Hal,” “Filmworker” and “Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blache” have a shot, as does the released-at-last Aretha Franklin movie “Amazing Grace” and the Quincy Jones doc “Quincy,” whose subject has been highly visible on the campaign circuit lately. And I refuse to abandon hope that voters will recognize Eugene Jarecki’s sharp Elvis-and-America meditation “The King.”
Finally, Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 11/9,” the followup to the top-grossing nonfiction film of all time, has been bypassed by nearly all the precursor awards and may well be left off of this one as well. But Moore could still find a way in — after all, he was the prime mover on the changes that led to the current method of picking the short list, and he’s still a strong voice in the doc world.
Best Original Song
The two music categories are introducing short lists for the first time ever, presumably in order to give all the members of the music branch to hear and consider the 15 semi-finalists before voting for nominations. But that means they have less time to consider all the contenders, which this year number more than 70 in the song category.
Yes, we know that “Shallow,” the one song entered from “A Star Is Born,” will make it. And probably at least one of the two songs entered from “Mary Poppins Returns.” The Music Branch’s taste for hip-hop might be tested by “All the Stars” from “Black Panther,” but why wouldn’t they want Kendrick Lamar at the Oscars?
They also have to consider songs from luminaries like Dolly Parton (“Girl in the Movies” from “Dumplin'”), Annie Lennox (“Requiem for a Private War” from “A Private War”), plus two competitive songs from movies about Ruth Bader Ginsburg: “I’ll Fight” from “RBG” (written by nine-time nominee Diane Warren) and “Here Comes the Change” from “On the Basis of Sex.” “Revelation” from “Boy Erased” has a real shot, as does “Gravity” from “Free Solo.” And if they want to get truly adventurous, how about the Coup’s “OYAHYTT” from “Sorry to Bother You,” or Thom Yorke’s “Suspirium” from “Suspiria”? (Would the Radiohead frontman show up at the Oscars?)
The branch is well known for taking care of its own, which can’t hurt past winner Carole Bayer Sager’s “Living in the Moment” from “Book Club.” They also tend to like songs that are performed onscreen — which, in addition to being one more reason “Shallow” will get in, could help the songs from “Hearts Beat Loud,” the quintessential but twisted Disney-princess anthem from “Ralph Breaks the Internet” or the fatalistic cowboy tune “When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings” from “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.”
And then there are songs from Patti Smith and Robyn Hitchcock and Elton John and Arlissa and Quincy Jones and Post Malone and Kendra Smith and Aoife O’Donovan and Imagine Dragons and Sade and David Crosby … It’s a deep list, not a shallow one. (Sorry.)
Best Original Score
As usual, more than 100 scores are in contention, with early awards singling out a group that includes “Black Panther,” “First Man,” “If Beale Street Could Talk,” “Isle of Dogs,” “Mary Poppins Returns,” “A Quiet Place,” “Mary Queen of Scots” and “Green Book.” Most and perhaps all of those should make the list, with other contenders including “BlacKkKlansman,” “Can You Ever Forgive Me?,” “On the Basis of Sex,” “The Hate U Give,” “Hereditary,” “Bad Times at the El Royale,” “Red Sparrow,” “The Predator” and “Solo: A Star Wars Story.”
Best Makeup and Hairstyling
This is a category that’ll likely have three nominees, and one known for nominating films that won’t show up in any other category. This year, that could mean a “Suspiria” appearance on the short list. “Black Panther” and “The Avengers: Infinity War” will certainly be in play — and since makeup designed to make actors look like other people is usually a mainstay in the category, look for “Vice” and “Stan & Ollie” to show up as well. “Mary Queen of Scots” could make the cut too. And will Rami Malek’s Freddie Mercury teeth from “Bohemian Rhapsody” be enough to land that film a spot?
If a foreign film gets in, as one sometimes does (“A Man Called Ove,” “The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared”), it could be “Border,” which turned a couple of actors into trolls.
Best Visual Effects
A committee from the Visual Effects Branch has already narrowed the field to 20 films, so now it’s just a matter of cutting that number in half. The elaborate visions of “Avengers: Infinity War,” “Black Panther,” “Ready Player One” and perhaps “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindewald” and “Solo: A Star Wars Story” are clearly contenders, with the subtler effects of “First Man” and the more retro charms of “Mary Poppins Returns” definitely in the mix as well.
Dark horses could include “Christopher Robin” and “Paddington 2” for their blend of live action and CG figures, and the stop-motion “Isle of Dogs,” which would be following in the footsteps of recent nominee “Kubo and the Two Strings.” Several late-breaking films have a shot as well, including “Aquaman,” “Bumblebee” and “Welcome to Marwen.”
Best Documentary Short
The shorts categories are hard to predict because most of the films haven’t been widely seen. But Academy volunteers have been watching them to compile the three lists, and it’s possible to pick up some buzz from festival screenings and awards campaigns.
Netflix has been a major player in doc shorts recently (it won its first Oscar for “The White Helmets”), and this year it has “Zion,” “Out of Many, One,” “End Game” and “Lessons From a School Shooting: Notes From Dunblane,” at least two of which should end up on the list. The New York Times Op-Docs series has “Dulce,” “Earthrise,” “We Became Fragments” and the wry and well-liked “My Dead Dad’s Porno Tapes,” the only short nominated by both the IDA Awards and Cinema Eye Honors.
Other IDA and Cinema Eye nominees include “Black Sheep,” “Baby Brother,” “Concussion Protocol,” “Fear Us Women,” “Lifeboat,” “Los Comandos,” “Mosul,” “Sidelined,” “Skip Day,” “The Girl and the Picture,” “Volte” and “We Are Not Done Yet.” The DOC NYC short list also singled out “’63 Boycott,” “The Head & the Hand,” “RX Early Detection” and “Take Back the Harbor,” while “Lotte That Silhouette Girl” tells the story of a woman animation pioneer from the pre-Disney days and could be attractive to the Academy.
Best Animated Short
The Annie Awards, the top prize given to animated films, singled out “Grandpa Walrus,” “Lost & Found,” “Solar Walk,” “Untravel” and “Weekends.” Pixar’s big short this year is “Bao,” and Pixar’s big short usually gets nominated. DreamWorks Animation, which has less consistent success in the category, is represented by “Bilby” and “Bird Karma.”
Other possibilities include “La Noria,” “Animal Behavior,” “Crow: The Legend” and “Age of Sail,” a Google Spotlight VR short made by John Kahrs, who won an Oscar for “Paperman.” “Raccoon and the Light,” “Daisy,” “The Green Bird” and “Re-Gifted” qualified by winning Student Academy Awards, while “The Driver Is Red” won the industry prize at theWrap’s ShortList Film Festival.
Best Live-Action Short
In a category where it’s almost impossible to get an overview of the field unless you’re a festival shorts programmer, standouts include “Fauve,” “Wren Boys,” “Skin” and “Bonbone,” as well as “Souls of Totality,” featuring Tatiana Maslany, and “Dear Chickens,” with Philip Baker Hall.
Timely films about the refugee crisis in Europe include “Bismillah” and “Magic Alps,” and Student Academy Award qualifiers are “Spring Flower,” “Lalo’s House,” “This Is Your Cuba,” “Get Ready With Me,” “Almost Everything” and “A Siege”; if history is any guide, at least one of them will make the list.
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www.thewrap.com | 12/14/18
This story about Paul Greengrass and “22 July” first appeared in the Actors/Directors/Screenwriters issue of TheWrap’s Oscar magazine.
Paul Greengrass remembers the moment when he knew he was going to make “22 July,” his gripping film about the right-wing terrorist attacks carried out on a Norwegian government center and an island summer camp in 2011. It came when he was reading the court testimony of Anders Behring Breivik, the white nationalist whose views led him to kill 77 people, most of them teenagers.
“He was talking about how the elites have betrayed us, democracy is a sham, we’re being forced to accept multiculturalism against our will, nationalism is being eroded, et cetera,” said the British director, whose previous films have included “Captain Phillips,” “United 93” and three Jason Bourne movies.
“When Breivik got up and articulated those views in 2011, they were considered in the far margins of political discourse. Today, no right-wing populist politician would have a problem with those views. Of course, and it’s important to say this, they wouldn’t endorse his methods. But in a sense, that doesn’t matter. The scary thing is that this worldview is at the center of politics in your country, in mine and right across Europe.
“That’s why you have this right-wing, populist typhoon blowing through the West. It’s there because millions of people throughout the West are worried about their jobs, they feel that the system is rigged against them and they fear a loss of identity because of population movements. For sure, Breivik’s views are now in the mainstream — and when I heard them, that was really the moment when I knew I wanted to make this film.”
But “22 July” is a different kind of Greengrass film. Although it is in English, it was made with an all-Norwegian cast and crew — and even before he decided to make it, the director known for his visceral movies had decided that he wanted to make a more restrained film.
“I wanted to push less hard — to be a bit gentler, I suppose,” he said. “And working with a bunch of actors I didn’t know and a crew I didn’t know gave me a sort of creative reset.”
The result is a quietly bold film that focuses not on the terrorist attack, but on its long and painful aftermath; the director known for plunging audiences into the moment of action moves past the attack less than 40 minutes into a two-hour-and-20-minute movie. The bulk of the film follows the way Norway’s government and court system responded, and the way the survivors tried to piece their lives together.
“The story I wanted to tell was about what happened afterwards, how Norway fought for her democracy in the face of the attack,” he said. “Because I think that’s the story of where we are today. How do we fight for our democracy at a time when it’s under profound challenge?”
The key to making the film, he said, was to figure out exactly what its function should be. “The beauty of cinema is that it can be lots of different things,” he said. “There’s the mission to entertain, which is a noble mission, because it goes back to the birth of cinema. People who had hardscrabble lives flocked to the movies because it was the one time in the week where for very little money they could get two or three hours of entertainment and escape their hard lives. So that central mission, to entertain, is a great and noble one.
“But obviously cinema is an art form, too. And individual filmmakers make films that are about their private concerns and private obsessions, their own personal take on the world. Those can be entertaining or austere or obscure or haunting or magical — and you go to those filmmakers because you want to take that journey with them.”
He paused. “And then, I suppose, this is really where this film comes in: From time to time, cinema has to look unflinchingly at the world, hold a mirror up to the world. It’s important, amidst the many missions of cinema, that it does that. Because if it loses that connection with the real world, it’s no longer alive. Across 100 years, films have always dared to look at troubled times and tell the truth about them. And that’s what I’ve tried to do.”
To read more TheWrap’s Actors/Directors/Screenwriters issue, click here.
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www.thewrap.com | 12/14/18
A petition started by employees of the European fashion retailer cites multiple episodes of inappropriate behavior by Mr. Kelvin, as well as a workplace culture that “leaves harassment unchallenged.”
www.nytimes.com | 12/3/18
The southern region of Basilicata, its people poor and its food and history rich, has been named Europe’s Capital of Culture for 2019.
www.nytimes.com | 12/3/18
Indian companies, 1018mb and Vkaao are poised to bring theatrical-on-demand cinema services to Singapore and other Asian territories in the coming months. 1018mb has set up an office in Hong Kong to explore interest in the region. Vkaao is in discussions with similar platforms in Asia-Pacific territories, and in Europe. Both platforms are conceived as […]
variety.com | 11/27/18
The British Parliament has confiscated Facebook confidential documents and emails between senior executives — including correspondence with chief executive Mark Zuckerberg — in an attempt to learn what led to the Cambridge Analytica scandal, The Guardian reported Saturday.
The newspaper said the documents are “alleged to contain significant revelations about Facebook decisions on data and privacy controls” that led to the scandal.
Investigators invoked a rarely used parliamentary power to force the founder of Six4Three, an American software company, to hand over the documents while on a business trip to London, the Guardian said. Parliament also sent a sergeant at arms to the founder’s hotel with a demand to comply within two hours, the newspaper said.
When the founder did not comply, “it’s understood he was escorted to parliament” and told he could be fined and imprisoned if he didn’t provide the documents, the Guardian reported.
Damian Collins, who forced the founder to hand over the documents, is the chair of the parliamentary committee on culture, media and sport, as well as the chair of an inquiry into fake news.
“We are in uncharted territory. This is an unprecedented move but it’s an unprecedented situation,” he said. “We’ve failed to get answers from Facebook and we believe the documents contain information of very high public interest.”
“We have very serious questions for Facebook. It misled us about Russian involvement on the platform. And it has not answered our questions about who knew what, when with regards to the Cambridge Analytica scandal,” he added.
Facebook did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.
The move comes after attempts to force Zuckerberg to testify before Parliament. The Cambridge Analytica data leak left up to 87 million users vulnerable to having their profiles unknowingly accessed.
Most recently, Zuckerberg was called to testify before a first-ever “international grand committee” on Nov. 27 . He rejected that request.
The U.K. also asked Zuckerberg testify on Cambridge Analytica earlier this year, but he said no. He did speak to the U.S. Congress and the European Union Parliament.
In his testimony to Congress in April, Zuckerberg apologized for the company’s slow response to fake news and protecting user data.
The New York Times reported on Nov. 15 that Facebook worked with Definers, a conservative opposition research firm, to orchestrate disparaging coverage of Apple CEO Tim Cook and financier George Soros, among others. Zuckerberg said he “didn’t know” of that business relationship.
In response to the report, Zuckerberg told CNN Business host Laurie Segall that stepping down as chairman is “not the plan.”[tw_gallery gallery_id=1860996
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www.thewrap.com | 11/25/18
Sony Pictures Television has hired Holly Comiskey as its country manager for the U.K. and Ireland. The new SPT recruit will join the studio in January from Sky, where she was the head buyer for the pay-TV operator’s Sky Cinema service. Comiskey will report to Mark Young, SPT’s executive vice president for Western Europe. “Holly […]
variety.com | 11/21/18
The Wizarding World gets a lot bigger in “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald,” a new fantasy adventure that plays like a 1,000-page novel shoved into a 134-minute running time. It’s full of exciting new characters, revelations and storylines, but the only way you could possibly keep them all in the air at the same time would be to use a Wingardium Leviosa spell. And spoiler alert: Those don’t actually exist.
The year is 1927, and Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) has been imprisoned by the American Ministry of Magic (side note: it’s odd that Americans would call it that). He’s getting transported by thestral coach all the way to Europe (those things must have a lot of stamina), but his loyal followers bust him loose in an action set piece that would be totally awesome and thrilling if the editing wasn’t so choppy and the lighting wasn’t so dark that it’s hard to tell what’s going on.
Several months later, Grindelwald is still at large, and Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) still isn’t allowed to leave England to pursue his zoological studies. His brother Theseus (Callum Turner) is engaged to Newt’s high school crush, Leta Lestrange (Zoë Kravitz), and wants Newt to join him as an Auror, a.k.a. the magic police (for all you Muggles out there).
Newt is still a kind, quiet soul, unable to meet most people’s gaze when they talk to him, let alone take sides in a war. So he refuses to join the Aurors, even though it would mean he could finally leave the country, and he even refuses his old professor, Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law), who wants Newt to travel to Paris to track down Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller), who’s been missing since the end of the first “Fantastic Beasts” and still has a sinister, all-powerful magic parasite inside him called an Obscurus.
Okay, try to keep all that in your head, because we haven’t even set up the plot yet. Newt reunites with his old Muggle pal Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), whose memory wasn’t as erased as we were led to believe, and who is now engaged, illegally, to his psychic witch girlfriend Queenie Goldstein (Alison Sudol, “Transparent”), whose sister Tina (Katherine Waterston) is already in Paris, searching for Grindelwald.
It gets more complicated. Much more complicated. J.K. Rowling wrote the screenplays for these “Fantastic Beasts” movies, and one gets the distinct impression that she’s actually writing whole novels first and then never showing them to anybody, shaving off bits and bobs for time, and trusting her loyal audience to ascribe importance to everything, even if it gets short shrift on screen.
This could have been a serious problem, since director David Yates has a tendency to treat his “Wizarding World” movies like illustrations instead of adaptations, giving audiences the gist of what happens but forgetting to toy with our emotions or to reintroduce us to the characters and their wonderful world. But “The Crimes of Grindelwald,” though dense to a fault, always takes time to explore glorious moments of magic, to add levity to the grimmest moments, and to give almost all the characters time to shine. Emphasis on “almost.”
Newt remains one of the most distinctive heroes in blockbuster cinema, a quiet introvert who approaches every character and every beast with love and understanding and no small amount of awkwardness. Redmayne seems to have a firmer grasp on what makes Newt work, and the way he loosens up and gets more comfortable when he’s in his element. He tames giant, terrifying monsters like they were ornery housecats, and extends his hand to even the most malevolent wizards, even though he can barely talk to his friends.
The new characters don’t always fare so well, with seemingly important characters like Leta Lestrange and Nagini (Claudia Kim), who is cursed to gradually transform permanently into a giant snake, given important-sounding backstories but then precious little to actually do. Even Credence Barebone — for whom everyone is searching, and whose story seems to drive the entire “Fantastic Beasts” franchise — disappears for large chunks of screen time, making him seem too much like an afterthought.
Dumbledore, finally making an official appearance in these prequels, is a welcome return to the series. Jude Law captures the quick wit, easy charm and cloying inscrutability of the character, who is already considered one of the greatest wizards in the world but who refuses to face Grindelwald himself. “We were closer than brothers,” Dumbledore says, as he watches memories that evoke, but still refuse to openly admit to, the character’s obvious homosexuality, which is turning into an enormous distraction.
This inability to confront this wide wizarding world’s lack of representation is compounded by the treatment of Nagini, who is introduced as a sideshow attraction at a magical circus, then gets precious little opportunity to reveal who she really is, and why she’s more than just an example of awkward foreshadowing for her appearance in the “Harry Potter” franchise.
It’s hard to keep all these characters and storylines going, and the failings are annoying because the rest of the movie is fascinating and thrilling. After an awkward start with the first “Fantastic Beasts,” these “Crimes of Grindelwald” finally capture the promise of this new series, to view the world of magic and wonder through the eyes of adults instead of children, and to explore shadowy corners without completely losing track of just how delightful it all is. The actual investigation conducted by Newt, Tina, and just about everybody else is an intriguing adventure with exciting revelations. They just probably would have made more of an impact if the movie wasn’t so rushed for time that key elements feel like afterthoughts instead of lodestones.
“The Crimes of Grindelwald” probably had enough plot to drive a four-hour mini-series, but even so, what we get is often absorbing and grand. The sense that this magical world is actually, well, fantastic is finally back in the series. Although the film turns grim, and eventually evokes truly uncomfortable memories of the build-up to World War II — and, frankly, today — the delightful cast, exciting new creatures and dazzling new spells make it an enchanting place to visit; it’s just so scary and confusing that you probably wouldn’t want to live there.
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www.thewrap.com | 11/8/18
A breakaway European Super League would impair the culture of English football, says a senior UK government source.
www.bbc.co.uk | 11/5/18
A breakaway European Super League would impair the culture of English football, says a senior UK government source.
www.bbc.co.uk | 11/5/18
There are film festivals and then there are genre film festivals. They both show great films from all over the world, and they both highlight cinema as one of the finest forms of modern art. What makes the Sitges Film Festival stand out in particular is the audience. Celebrating its 51st year, Sitges has been around for a while. It has a strong reputation and its known around Europe as the top genre festival. Horror fans from Spain and other nearby countries travel in to catch the latest, greatest offerings from talented directors, and catch up over drinks and pintxos (and tapas). This year was my second year back to Sitges, and I decided to stay the entire time to relax and catch a bunch of films over the full 10 days it runs. After my unforgettable experience last year (attending for my first time), I had to return, I couldn't stay away. And as usual, I'm very glad I ...
www.firstshowing.net | 10/19/18
Amy Kuessner is the senior vice president of Content Partnerships for Pluto TV, where she is responsible for acquiring content, curating programming and developing channel strategy for the free streaming television service. During her tenure, she has negotiated more than 75 deals with major Hollywood studios, TV networks, production companies, digital media, news, and publishing outfits. Kuessner has spent more than two decades in entertainment, specializing in creating distinctive content experiences and strategic programs within emerging digital technologies to include SVOD, OTT, MVPDs and digital cinema.
Prior to Pluto TV, Kuessner held marketing and business development roles at reputed companies including NBC, Liberty Media, Sony, TBS and Directv, as well as startups including CineMedia/Fathom Entertainment and By Experience.
This week we caught up with Kuessner to discuss her thought process when searching for content and what Pluto’s recent integration with Facebook’s VR app, Oculus TV, means for the streamer’s future programming decisions.
VideoInk: How important is data when deciding what content will be a good fit for Pluto TV?
Amy Kuessner: Pluto TV has a comprehensive programming/channel strategy that naturally determines what types of premium content we are seeking and from whom. We are unique in that we curate 90 percent of our channels and there is a great deal of time, effort, and strategy that goes into channel conception/creation/programming. Data is critical to guiding us as to what is working on the platform and what is not. Using data to aid in content selection/programming our channels helps us cater to consumer preferences and make more informed choices.
How do you measure the success of programming on your platform and which metric are you most focused on improving?
Pluto TV uses a variety of metrics when measuring success on our platform with the two most critical being session duration (the length of time they are watching – are they enjoying the programming) and frequency (how many times they return – do they want to come back for more).
Pluto TV was recently made available on Facebook’s Oculus VR headset via Oculus TV. Will this new partnership lead to Pluto TV one day offering interactive content geared for a VR experience?
Pluto TV has many factors contributing to our success, content/programming and distribution being two of our key tenets. Being named an official launch partner for Oculus GO was a huge coup for us. We often work in concert, internally, to identify ways that we can marry content and distribution to create truly unique, state-of-the-art, entertainment options for our audiences. We embrace innovation as a whole, rule nothing out and are continually seeking ways to optimize and deliver content designed to deliver the maximum viewing experiences – no matter the medium.
“Starship Troopers,” a cult classic, was recently made available on Pluto TV via a distribution deal with Sony Pictures. What levels of engagement does cult classic content like this experience versus newer films?
With over 100+ channels on Pluto TV, we strive to offer the best of both worlds with a lineup that marries mainstream with niche channels and programming. Cult classic films are one example where we are able to generate crossover appeal by programming across multiple themed and movie channels, throughout our licensing window. Pluto TV’s focus on curation and original channels allows us the opportunity to evaluate titles, library and new, with a different perspective and opportunity by focusing on category, theme and genre vs. production and release dates.
When working out the details of a content partnership, which holds more value in your eyes: film or TV series? Why?
Both are equally important and strategic to Pluto TV, enabling us to create the ultimate lean back, entertainment viewing experience. We curate entertainment channels and lineups thematically designed to be diverse and appealing to both broad and niche audiences. We program our channels with genre over format in mind, with both TV and movies being instrumental to our success. Big budget films help to drive instant brand recognition, while TV series allow us to capitalize on habitual viewing patterns. Together, they enable us to deliver the most comprehensive and robust offering that is designed to attract mass appeal and provide entertainment for everyone.
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www.thewrap.com | 10/9/18
Ellen Digital Network has renewed two series and added two new original series to its slate, the company announced at the inaugural Newfronts West on Tuesday.
During its presentation, the network announced renewals for two of its flagship series: “Momsplaining with Kristen Bell,” heading into a third season with over 154 million views to date, and a second season for “tWitch, Please….Help Me Dance!” Ellen Digital Network added three new series to its slate: “Fearless,” with body-image activist “Ashley Graham,” “The Build Up,” with home makeover experts Anthony Carrino and John Colaneri, and “OMKalen,” with internet-famous Kalen Allen.
Ellen Digital Network has also partnered with restauranteur and cookbook author Ayesha Curry, who will give advice to women on all things related to being a working mother and entrepreneur.
The network took the stage to boast its explosive growth over the last two years and to offer buyers new formats.
“Ellen Digital network is a pop culture machine,” said Alana Calderone the company’s SVP, brand content and partnerships. “We aren’t just embedded in what’s happening today, we’re creating it. The speed at which fans consume and share this content is incredible.” Calderone showed examples of brand integrations with Buick and P&G. The company has also worked with Amazon, Johnson&Johnson and Walmart.
The Ellen Digital Network, which launched in 2016, grabs more than 1 billion views every month from 187 million followers globally across social media and its YouTube channel ellentube. It’s an impressive number and a driving factor for the network to continue investing in premium unscripted video programming.
“At our core, we are always focused on telling stories that are funny that are kind that are always authentic,” said Michael Riley GM of Ellen Digital Ventures, a collaboration between Warner Brothers Digital Networks and Ellen Digital Network. “That’s why we’re thrilled to be here today to announce a new slate of amazing content.”
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www.thewrap.com | 10/9/18
Amazon Studios has signed “American Gods” (pictured above) creator Neil Gaiman to an overall television deal, the company announced Tuesday morning at a press event in London. Gaiman and Amazon have previously teamed on “Good Omens.”
Additionally, the Prime Video partner studio has greenlight a “Wheel of Time” series and 10-episode competition show “Eco-Challenge 2019.” That latter one comes from Mark Burnett and Bear Grylls. The “Running Wild With Bear Grylls” host will host this show, too.
“What decided me was how much I enjoyed working with the Amazon team on ‘Good Omens,'” Gaiman said of his deal. “They are smart, gloriously enthusiastic people, who weren’t afraid of Good Omens being different but who were as determined as I was to make something as unique and exciting as it is. I’m thrilled to know that I’ll have a home at Amazon in the future where I can make television that nobody’s seen before, that’s quite unlike ‘Good Omens,’ but just as unusual and just as much fun.”
“Wheel of Time” is an adaptation of Robert Jordan’s best-selling fantasy novels, which have sold more than 90 million copies worldwide. Rafe Judkins is showrunner on the co-production between Amazon Studios and Sony Pictures Television.
“The Wheel of Time” is set in a sprawling, epic world where magic exists, but only women can use it. Meaning that in this series — women hold the keys to power, per Amazon. The story follows Moiraine, a member of the shadowy and influential all-female organization called the “Aes Sedai” as she embarks on a dangerous, world-spanning journey with five young men and women. Moiraine’s interested in these five because she believes one of them might be the reincarnation of an incredibly powerful individual, whom prophecies say will either save humanity or destroy it. The series draws on numerous elements of European and Asian culture and philosophy, most notably the cyclical nature of time found in Buddhism and Hinduism.
In addition to Judkins, Rick Selvage, Larry Mondragon, Ted Field, Mike Weber, Darren Lemke are executive producers. Harriet McDougal is a consulting producer.
“Eco-Challenge 2019” will pit teams of four competitors selected from around the world against each other and nature’s harsh elements in this grueling 24-hours a day, multi-day race. If one teammate quits the entire team is disqualified, which magnifies the pressure. The 2019 location for the international, epic adventure will be unveiled later this year, Amazon said.
In addition to Burnett and Grylls, Lisa Hennessy and Delbert Shoopman are also executive producers.
Here are some more details about this one, straight from Amazon’s media announcement:
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www.thewrap.com | 10/2/18
SAN SEBASTIAN — Spain’s San Sebastian Festival signed a pledge on gender parity Sunday, following in the footsteps of other major festivals in Europe such as Cannes, Locarno, Sarajevo and Venice. San Sebastian Festival director José Luis Rebordinos made the commitment in the presence of Spanish deputy prime minister Carmen Calvo; the minister of culture […]
variety.com | 9/24/18
MADRID — Following on from the festivals of Cannes, Locarno, Sarajevo and Venice, of European events, Spain’s San Sebastian Festival will sign a pledge on gender parity Sunday. Signing the Charter for Parity and Inclusion of Women in Cinema, San Sebastián Festival director José Luis Rebordinos will be accompanied by Spain’s deputy prime minister Carmen […]
variety.com | 9/18/18
Indigenous people are increasingly embracing their language while New Zealanders of European descent are looking to Maori language and culture to help make sense of their own identity.
www.nytimes.com | 9/16/18
This monumental celebration of fine European arts and crafts will be held in the historic 16th century San Giorgio monastery.
www.nytimes.com | 9/3/18
With his Vidal-Buckley documentary “Best of Enemies” and this year’s smash hit about Fred Rogers, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor,” filmmaker Morgan Neville has proven himself a keenly sensitive, artful showman when surveying a career through archival footage and fresh interviews. He knows how to re-light the flame of a life, and that’s quickly apparent in his deeply entertaining and illuminating Orson Welles documentary “They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead.”
With impish respect, it chronicles the tortuous journey of Welles’ most notoriously unfinished-in-his-lifetime last movie, “The Other Side of the Wind.”
For cinephiles, it’s a high-calorie, clip-and-interview-laden feast of biography, insight, and gossip. Add to that the bonus that — unlike the dashed promise felt after absorbing “Jorodorwsky’s Dune” that the cinema gods were robbed — in this case there’s a finally completed “Wind,” assembled in recent years, also going out through Netflix. to go with Neville’s exhaustive behind-the-scenes appreciation. (Having watched “They’ll Love Me” prior to “Wind,” it’s safe to say they can be enjoyed in either order, since repeat viewings are likely for movie lovers, anyway.)
Using an elegantly shot (in black-and-white) Alan Cumming at a reel-stacked edit bay as a Wellesian narrating device, Neville wastes no time setting the scene: how by the late 1960s, strapped for funding, still living in the shadow of “Citizen Kane,” and ready to be embraced by the younger, edgier Hollywood after years in European exile, Welles in 1970 launched headlong into filming an idea that had been percolating for years, even though he had no complete script, no full cast, and no outside funding.
The autobiographical (though Welles rarely admitted it) concept involved a mythic, exiled filmmaker’s 70th birthday, around which the faithful and sycophantic would gather, while the fate of the director’s attempted comeback project lay in the balance. Naturally, this also described the shooting of “The Other Side of the Wind” as it carried on piecemeal for six years with a cast that included John Huston, Peter Bogdanovich, and Welles’s lover-collaborator Oja Kodar.
Using a skeleton crew led by a young new cinematographer named Gary Graver, who cold-called Welles himself and whose own story as a dedicated worker bee shadows the film’s, Welles directed lush, vibrant scenes aping European art movies with Kodar (the film-within-the-film sequences). Alternatively, at a house in Arizona, one address over from the spread Antonioni blew up in “Zabriskie Point,” he shot the party sequences in a jagged documentary style.
Real-life details undergirded Welles’s narrative, in intensely psychological ways, never more so than that the director, through Huston’s character, played out onscreen his power-shifting relationship with acolyte and friend Bogdanovich, who wasn’t spared Welles’ ridicule. (Originally casting impersonator Rich Little in the role — an imitator as an imitator — was one such jab.)
Bogdanovich always helped his pal, though – his remembrances especially are tinged with the melancholy of loving a complex person. But at the point when money woes strained, Welles once more found himself the ever-loved cinema master — perpetual talk show guest, AFI honoree — but never to the tune of cash needed to realize a vision.
As Neville breezily relates an odyssey of chaos, inspiration, and impasses, he also makes expertly amusing, thematically-edited use of all manner of Welles footage (from movies, outtakes, television shows) so that the man himself becomes a chorus in his own story. The interviewee list of witnesses and collaborators is numerous, from the well-known to the unseen, their recollections and analyses sometimes differing, but nearly always intuitive.
The prime takeaway is of an irascibly charming, wounded and forceful genius both having the time of his life and sensing the gathering dusk. As the story eases into Welles’ final year, the most tantalizing question posed is whether he even wanted to finish catch-as-catch-can projects like “Wind”; was directing always about the exploration, the quest for “happy accidents,” and rarely the completion?
Eventually, Neville carries off his own winking director’s trick, with the help of Welles himself. Returning to footage used earlier, filmed by the Maysles brothers in Spain in the ’60s, of an energized Welles regaling a captive audience in a hotel lobby with his vision for what sounds like what eventually became “Wind,” the pitch turns enchantingly meta — that the future movie just might have to include them, in that moment, talking about it.
After the rollercoaster journey “They’ll Love Me” details, it’s enough to make one contemplate: Could Neville’s documentary be, in a sense, what Welles wanted “The Other Side of the Wind” to be all along? Someone else’s movie about Orson Welles’s movie about a fictional director’s movie which is inside another movie that’s ultimately about all movies?
Cheekily, Neville reveals he knows you’re thinking this, and it’s the perfect capper for his engaging hat-tip to a legend for whom the movies were always worth imagining, celebrating, and forever trying to get made.
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www.thewrap.com | 9/1/18
Dozens of powerful men and women have abruptly lost public favor in the past twelve months, from the numerous men toppled by #MeToo movement to comedians who have been shunned for an inappropriate Twitter joke. And that’s only in the last year. Here’s a list of most shocking falls from grace in movie and TV history, from director Roman Polanski to comedian Roseanne Barr to disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.
After becoming one of the most successful stars of the silent film era, Roscoe Conkling “Fatty” Arbuckle abruptly fell from grace when he was put on trial for the rape and murder of actress Virginia Rappe in 1921. Arbuckle was eventually acquitted, but the scandal overshadowed his legacy as a pioneering comedian and actor in Old Hollywood.
The French-Polish director has been a fugitive from the U.S. criminal justice system since 1978, when he fled America for Poland after being charged with drugging and raping a 13-year old girl. He continued making films in Europe, and in 2003, he earned an Academy Award for Best Director for his World War II drama “The Pianist.” In May, Polanski was expelled from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in the wake of the #MeToo movement.
Once the star of the NFL, Simpson fell from grace when he was arrested and charged with the murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman. He was acquitted after one of the most highly publicized trials in American history — 100 million people tuned in to watch the verdict. In 2007, Simpson was arrested and charged with armed robbery and kidnapping, and was sentenced to 33 years in jail. HE was granted parole and released on October 1, 2017.
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www.thewrap.com | 8/8/18
Serena Williams’ is raising her 11-month-old daughter Olympia to be bilingual.
The 36-year-old tennis star shared a video of herself speaking French to her baby girl on Instagram Wednesday.
In the clip, Williams can be heard saying “wash your hands,” to Olympia who hilariously is doing so in the dog’s water bowl.
The tennis ace continues in French, telling the little girl not to use the dog water and jokingly exclaiming, “Oh là là!”
“Now I have to give her a bath,” Williams wrote over the story.
This isn’t the first time little Olympia got a taste of a European culture. Last month, Williams, her husband Alexis Ohanian, 35, and Olympia jetted off to Venezia, Italy all because Williams was hungry.
“She wanted Italian for dinner, so…” Ohanian captioned an Instagram of himself with Williams, whose sipping on a glass of wine.
Ohanian, who in addition to being Williams’ husband and Olympia’s dad is the co-founder of Reddit, also shared a shot from a gondola ride he and Williams took while in Italy and photo of Williams exploring the city at night.
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Their trip to Italy came just a few weeks after Williams’ return to Wimbledon.
Although she lost the ladies’ singles final to Angelique Kerber, Williams’ post-match interview proved she’ll always be a winner.
RELATED ARTICLE: Serena Williams Has Not Spent a Single Day Apart From Daughter Olympia Since Her Birth
“It was such an amazing tournament for me. I was really hoping to get this far,” Williams told reporters. “It’s obviously disappointing, but I can’t be disappointed. I have so much to look forward to. I’m literally just getting started.”
“To all the moms out there, I was playing for you today and I tried,” Williams added.
people.com | 8/2/18
National Geographic Partners will lose three of its top executives in a restructuring, CEO Gary Knell wrote in an internal memo on Tuesday.
Rachel Webber, executive vice president of digital; Rosa Zeegers, executive vice president of consumer products and experiences; and Laura Nichols, senior vice president and chief communications officer, are all set to depart the company by the end of the month.
Webber will transition into an advisory role in which she will “identify growth opportunities,” including exploring VR experiences and developing an OTT strategy.
The reorganization comes under the leadership of Knell — who was appointed CEO of Nat Geo Partners in February — in an attempt to streamline the company’s editorial operations, combining print and digital efforts.
Susan Goldberg, currently editor-in-chief of the print magazine, will serve as serve as editorial director for the new combined-print-and-digitial division, NG Media. David Miller, currently general manager of digital, will expand his duties to become general manager for NG Media.
“As in any newly constructed enterprise, it takes concerted effort to pull pieces together and create clear goals through which we can identify success,” Knell wrote. “We must decide at times what to ‘double down’ on and what to minimize. These are often hard choices and not crystal clear. But decisions need to be made and history, of course, will judge their success.”
“As in nearly all reorganizations, we face the unhappy reality of parting with outstanding colleagues who have contributed greatly to Nat Geo’s success,” he continued. “Please join me in thanking Rosa Zeegers and Laura Nichols for their work in setting up a new foundation for NGP. We wish them nothing but the best in all future endeavors.”
A joint venture between National Geographic Society and 21st Century Fox, National Geographic Partners combines the brand’s television channels with its media and consumer-oriented assets, including the magazines, National Geographic studios, books and related digital and social media platforms.
Read Knell’s full memo below.
When National Geographic Partners was formed in 2015, the objective was simple: transform one of the world’s most iconic media brands into a streamlined global business, aligned in every way with the Society’s historic excellence in science, adventure and exploration.
As in any newly constructed enterprise, it takes concerted effort to pull pieces together and create clear goals through which we can identify success. We must decide at times what to “double down” on and what to minimize. These are often hard choices and not crystal clear. But decisions need to be made and history, of course, will judge their success.
In order to best realize our potential and at the same time recognize the competitive world in which we operate, we are announcing today some important changes to our structure and operating model.
First, understanding how vital our global television platforms remain, we cannot emphasize enough how critical the Nat Geo Channel 2.0 strategy is to support. It makes Nat Geo relevant by creating outstanding world-class programming, it creates a great buzz with audiences, it pays off with important cable and satellite affiliates, and it brings in vital sponsors to support our work. Over three-fourths of our revenues come from these platforms.
Courteney Monroe will continue her outstanding work as CEO of Nat Geo Global Networks, overseeing a team of producers, schedulers and promoters, and coordinating with our international teams in Europe, Latin America and Asia. We have an incredibly exciting program agenda this next season with such major platforms as “Mars,” “Cosmos,” “Valley of the Boom” and others. These will build off a year in which our ratings are up and we have received a record 18 Emmy nominations. In order to centralize relationships with producers and talent, Courteney will also oversee a reenergized National Geographic Studios, which will combine our video formats – long-form and branded – that will allow us to drive creative excellence across NGP video platforms.
We need to look at our editorial hub as “one newsroom” and work to eliminate artificial divisions between print or digital-only staff. Our editorial staff will thus be aligned across all platforms and in collaboration with Courteney’s team on tentpole series. Susan Goldberg will serve as Editorial Director of the newly founded NG Media unit. There, all short-form content, photography, storytelling across platforms, cartography and graphics will be centrally organized under Susan’s leadership. The content verticals around animals, science, travel, culture and environment will be overseen by editors. And each platform, from the magazine to Facebook to Instagram, will have teams focused on what best performs there. We need to work across all platforms, in keeping with many other major media companies, mirroring the way our audiences access content. Susan will, of course, remain Editor in Chief of National Geographic Magazine.
I’ve asked David Miller, currently General Manager of Digital, to expand his duties to become General Manager of NG Media – co-leading this new unit together with Susan. David will be charged with driving subscriptions and membership for print (magazines and books) and digital platforms, as well as coordinating on sponsorships and ad-driven content. We will work to roll out a more directed agenda around membership focusing on print renewals first. David will also oversee our Photography Business and NG Creative teams, as well as our Maps group in Colorado.
As we continue to face ever-changing consumer behavior, we need to keep thinking ahead and prepare for the next big opportunity. In that context, Rachel Webber will transition into a strategic advisor role and help us identify growth opportunities in areas like AR, VR, live experiences and gaming, as well as an OTT strategy.
Our Strategic Partnerships team, led by Brendan Ripp, will continue to develop innovative sponsorships across television, digital and print platforms, working with our colleagues at 21CF. The Strategic Partnerships team will add product licensing into their portfolio so that brand extensions in non-media iterations, such as kids products, apparel and other consumer goods consistent with Nat Geo’s high standards, will be managed there to better reflect our desire to engage with world-class organizations.
Nancy Schumacher will continue to lead our successful Travel group. It’s impressive what these folks have achieved and how they continue to grow. With the integration of our private jet business, we are well prepared for running this high-profit engine that brings our brand to life in a unique way.
We will create a combined Marketing, Communications, Research, Data and Insights team under Jill Cress. It will be a “one-stop shop” to help drive a consumer-inspired approach to support our growth and revenue priorities. Key areas of focus include creating premium marketing to drive engagement and revenue around our priorities – including the Channel, magazine and membership. In this context, we need to better design performance metrics to measure how our investments are delivering results with our audiences in financial and brand-building terms. We need to simplify the direct-to-consumer marketing of our shows and platforms to better promote our great content and build affection with our audiences.
As part of that effort, the Global Communications team will now move into Jill’s group, with Chris Albert and Courtney Rowe reporting directly to Jill. Chris will continue to lead communications around all Channel priorities as well as continue to strengthen our talent relations efforts and lead the events team. Courtney Rowe will lead our internal and external corporate communications including the work she has been doing with the partnerships team. There will be more clarity on specific roles related to the defined priorities, which Jill, Chris and Courtney will review and share in the near future.
In recognition of her outstanding work before and during the transition, I’ve asked Marcela Martin to add to her important role as CFO by taking on a Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) function to coordinate our operations, facilities, and technology platforms. Marcela will also be chairing our new Operations Council that will coordinate the corporate support functions – Legal, HR and IT. As part of this change, Marcus East will now report to Marcela as Chief Technology Officer. Craig Mutch and Jeff Schneider – who have done outstanding work through this transition – will continue to report into their respective 21CF HR and Legal structures. They will also partner with Marcela on the Operations Council so that we have a more cohesive, responsive and efficient corporate structure to serve the content-driven agenda for NGP.
And as you recently heard, I’m delighted that Timo Gorner has become our Chief of Staff. He will help me push things faster through the enterprise and should be a resource to improve decision making and drive our priorities across the board.
As in nearly all reorganizations, we face the unhappy reality of parting with outstanding colleagues who have contributed greatly to Nat Geo’s success. Please join me in thanking Rosa Zeegers and Laura Nichols for their work in setting up a new foundation for NGP. We wish them nothing but the best in all future endeavors.
Finally, we will ask our newly appointed leadership team to come back with detailed operational plans in the next couple months. There is no shortcut to aligning all the pieces and we will work diligently over the summer to create the best, most common-sense approach to our work.
It is my sincere hope for us to focus on what we do best: create great content which will continue to inspire wonder and inform the world of the many challenges facing our planet. We are all in this together, and recognize our brand’s singular power and role as leaders and keepers of history. We will provide resources through subscriptions and advertising to support that content. That was true 130 years ago….and is still true today. Different skill sets, but the basic business hasn’t changed.
To hear more about these organizational changes, I encourage you to join me for an All-Hands Meeting at 10 a.m. ET in Grosvenor or via livestream (details will be sent shortly).
Thank you for what you do every day and we look forward to engaging with each of you on what you can do to help us all succeed together.
Variety first reported the news.
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www.thewrap.com | 7/31/18
On Thursday, July 26, many Russians could see the phantom of the good old iron curtain falling between Russia and the West. The news came from the press secretary of the Russian Union of Travel Industry, Irina Tyurina. Last week, United Russia MPs proposed amending the federal law about the procedure to leave and enter the territory of the Russian Federation. In accordance with these amendments, the Russian Ministry for Foreign Affairs should hold mandatory accreditation of all companies rendering intermediary visa registration services to Russian citizens. In order to obtain accreditation, a visa issuance company is supposed to have representative offices in at least 20 regions of the Russian Federation, whereas the share of foreign participation in the authorized capital of the company should not exceed 20 percent. In addition, applicants should have certified technical means to process confidential information (including biometric personal data). The amendments also require at least three years of experience in collecting and processing documents for obtaining visas on behalf of diplomatic missions and consular missions.According to the press secretary of the Russian Union of Travel Industry, Irina Tyurina, none of existing operators can meet the criteria proposed in the draft law. For example, it is unclear how they should comply with the requirement of foreign participation. Presently, there are six companies that run visa service centers in Russia: VFS Global, GVCW - Greece, VMS - Italy, BLS - Spain, India, TLS - Great Britain, Switzerland, Belgium and Pony Express. The information on each of these companies is available to the public in the state register of legal entities.It is unlikely that these companies can be replaced with Russian ones: even if they meet all other requirements, Russian companies will not have three years of experience in rendering visa services. Needless to say that the adoption of amendments will trigger a mirror response from other countries. In this case, big plans to attract foreign tourists to Russia, especially after the World Cup, may not materialize.To make matters worse, residents of Russians regions will have to come to Moscow to get a visa to a foreign country. They will also have to spend many hours standing in long lines to visa departments of foreign embassies, as it was practiced during the 2000s. In a nutshell, all this is nothing but bad news that, if it becomes real, will complicate the lives of all Russian travelers. The news triggered countless "iron curtain" discussions in social media in Russia. The "iron curtain" has many holes in it as Russia has visa-free regime with many countries. Yet, the curtain would be very strong when it comes to a trip to Europe or to the States. Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Committee for Physical Culture, Sport, Tourism and Youth Affairs, Sergei Krivonosov, (United Russia) said that the Russian authorities, on the contrary, seek to minimize visa restrictions."At the initiative of the president, we are currently preparing proposals to simplify visa procedures. There are a number of countries that have already simplified the procedure to issue visas for Russian citizens. I haven't heard of the initiative that you're talking about. The State Duma's Subcommittee on Tourism (Sergei Krivonosov heads it - ed.) works to simplify visa procedures," the MP told Pravda.Ru. "We do want to make the procedure simpler, because we've had problems with bankruptcies of tour operators. We believe that an electronic visa can help. I am sure that there is no iron curtain of any type involved," Sergei Krivonosov added. Oleg ArtyukovPravda.Ru Read article on the Russian version of Pravda.Ru
www.pravdareport.com | 7/26/18
It’s been 40 years since the release of “National Lampoon’s Animal House.” That means “Animal House” is older now than the events of “Animal House” were when “Animal House” came out. It’s part of our history now, along with “National Lampoon’s Vacation” and “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.” Each of these films are considered comedy classics, or at least extremely influential, because of their eagerness and skill at capturing an idea of America — both the country and its culture — that we think is real, but never existed, and possibly never should have.
But these are just the best-known “National Lampoon” movies. The brand has been used on many motion picture comedies over the years, including many theatrical releases and more straight-to-video schlock than most people realize. With the 40th anniversary of “Animal House” on the horizon, and the 35th anniversary of “Vacation” the same week, we’re counting down the best of the major “National Lampoon” movies (including a few sequels that didn’t technically wear the “National Lampoon” name tag) from worst to best.
13. “Movie Madness” (1982)
The second National Lampoon movie might not be their most immature, the most offensive or even the most amateurish, but that doesn’t make it funny. “Movie Madness” is a triptych of short films, satirizing baby-boomer dramas, hardboiled cop films and sexy prime-time soap operas (which, yes, invalidates the whole title). The story of a guy who can’t stop having powerful revelations, and a “good” cop who keeps falling on his face, and a world in which everyone you meet is a millionaire rushing into marriage are mildly amusing, but the film never takes them further than the premise, repeating the same obvious jokes over and over again.
12. “Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie’s Island Adventure” (2003)
The straight-to-video “Vacation” spinoff features Randy Quaid as the Griswold’s boorish and oafish Cousin Eddie, who loses his job testing nuclear radiation for side effects, but gets bitten by a monkey, so he’s compensated with a free tropical getaway. Naturally, Eddie and his family get shipwrecked. There may be a laugh in “Christmas Vacation 2,” somewhere, but good luck finding them beneath the cheap production values and tedious, uninspired gags.
11. “Class Reunion” (1982)
The slasher genre was still young when “Class Reunion” tried to lampoon the phenomenon, which is probably why the film has no meaningful observations and instead relies on a bunch of outlandish caricatures to steal whatever laughs it can get. It’s the story of a high school prank gone wrong, and then a class reunion a decade later, where characters — including a slimeball, a snob, a vampire and woman possessed a la “The Exorcist”) — are trapped in their old high school with a murderer. Gross humor abounds, but most of it falls completely flat. At least it’s fast-paced and bizarre.
10. “Senior Trip” (1995)
Jeremy Renner made his feature-film debut in “Senior Trip” as Dags, the cool stoner teen locked in a never-ending war with his principal, played by Matt Frewer. When the class’s letter to the president gets national attention, everyone winds up on a bus (driven by Tommy Chong) to Washington, D.C., where of course they party really hard and stick it to the man. The young cast brings some vibrancy to the otherwise flimsy and familiar tale, and Frewer is eager to humiliate himself as the stuck-up authority figure who suffers indignity after indignity. It’s not “good” per se, but compared to some of the other Lampoon films, it almost looks that way.
9. “European Vacation” (1985)
The worst theatrically-released film in the “Vacation” series is a tedious rehash of the original, in which the Griswolds win a European vacation and wreck the whole continent. Most of the set pieces are uncomfortably unfunny, and unlike the original, which had a perspective on America which was observant and satirical, “European Vacation” does little more than take cheap shots at other cultures, which in turn paints the Griswolds in a very ugly light, and makes us like them less than ever.
8. “Vacation” (2015)
The Griswolds’ oldest son Rusty, now played by Ed Helms, decides to take his own family on a cross-country vacation, and naturally it all goes horribly wrong in one outlandish comic set piece after another. The original “Vacation” was founded on false memories of idyllic American life, and telling the story from Rusty’s perspective, now warped by nostalgia, is clever, but the cleverness ends there. Instead of whimsical subversions of our expectations we get thudding sewage jokes aplenty. Still, the remake/reboot of “Vacation” has a few comic highlights, including the jurisdictional crisis at the Four Corners Monument, the ill-fated rafting expedition, and the wacky cameo by Chris Hemsworth.
7. “Van Wilder” (2002)
Ryan Reynolds stars in a cross between “PCU” and “Ferris Bueller,” as a college senior who’s been at the university for nearly a decade and now practically runs the place. Kal Penn plays his horny personal assistant and Tara Reid is the school reporter trying to get the inside scoop on a campus legend, and naturally she falls in love with him. The likable cast manages to overcome (most of) the film’s laziest jokes, but even so it’s a juvenile flick with a flimsy narrative throughline that barely drives the story forward, and it doesn’t earn any of its big emotional climaxes.
6. “Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj” (2006)
The sequel to “Van Wilder” brings back Kal Penn and Van Wilder’s dog, but trades everything else in for a mostly enjoyable but very familiar “Animal House” riff, set in a fictional university in England. Taj becomes the advisor to a fraternity full of outsiders, and together they combat a snobbish culture in a series of competitions. Taj also woos future “Walking Dead” star Lauren Cohan, whose obvious charisma shines through her underwritten character. It’s amazing what a difference even a simple storytelling structure makes, so even though “The Rise of Taj” isn’t as expensive or as star-studded as the original “Van Wilder,” it plays slightly better just by staying focused.
5. “Animal House” (1978)
“Animal House” is a frustrating paradox. On one hand it’s an incredibly influential comedy which spawned a whole genre of “Snobs vs. Slobs” movies and rocketed many great actors to stardom. On the other hand, it’s almost impossible to root for the so-called “heroes” of this movie. Not that the snobs are good people, by any stretch, but the allegedly heroic slobs are cruel, judgmental, sexist a-holes who commit crimes which would be unforgivable by modern standards (and don’t seem any better in historical context). It’s hard to deny the pioneering style or “Animal House,” or its talented cast and historical impact, but it’s not actually very funny anymore.
4. “Vegas Vacation” (1997)
Mostly overlooked but surprisingly amusing, “Vegas Vacation,” finds the Griswolds taking a trip to Las Vegas and getting snookered into a world of decadence, gambling, addiction, and celebrity. The in-jokes about Las Vegas are generally spot-on, and keeping the family in one place gives them an opportunity to interact with each other and to grow as characters, instead of just getting carted off to one funny locale after another. It may not be a comedy masterpiece, but there are a lot of laughs, and the story works.
3. “Loaded Weapon 1” (1993)
National Lampoon returned to the spoof genre with this consistently hilarious parody of macho action films, starring Emilio Estevez as the renegade cop and Samuel L. Jackson as the by-the-books officer, as well as a cavalcade of unexpected cameos in nearly every other role. The non-stop sight gags and puns are unusually clever and usually laugh-out-loud ridiculous. Of the many films to try to emulate the hyperactive laughs-per-minute ratio of “Airplane!,” this is one of the best.
2. “Christmas Vacation” (1989)
All Clark Griswold wants is to have the perfect family Christmas. That’s what makes “Christmas Vacation” so effective. Like the original “Vacation,” the third film in the series is about modest cultural expectations getting stymied at every turn by harsh realities and dumb, stupid luck. It’s hard not to sympathize with Clark’s plight, but he’s so danged unflappable that you can’t help but laugh every time something does go horribly wrong. And you’ll almost certainly howl when he finally loses it completely, in a yuletide outburst for the ages.
1. “Vacation” (1983)
The original “Vacation” is the best National Lampoon movie. It’s also one of the best comedies of the 1980s, featuring a cast at the top of their game, an insightful (albeit sporadically problematic) script by John Hughes, and spot-on, razor sharp direction by Harold Ramis. Clark Griswold just wants to take his family on a cross-country road trip to Wally World. America has other plans. The universally familiar frustrations of being stuck with people who love, but don’t always like, each other makes “Vacation” connect on a personal level. The cruel reversals of fortune they face at every turn, and Clark’s stalwart dedication to staying positive, are wickedly mischievous. And the subversive attitude towards nostalgia is just as insightful as ever. Chevy Chase has never been better, and Beverly D’Angelo matches him at every turn. It’s the perfect vacation movie, and an expertly crafted lampoon of the nation.
www.thewrap.com | 7/23/18
For someone so smart, how can Mark Zuckerberg be so very, very dumb?
Maybe it’s a lack of what we used to call a “liberal arts” education — a foundation in basic philosophy, history, ethics — although they used to teach that stuff at Harvard. Maybe it’s the moral confusion we sometimes see in very leftie liberals who are afraid to offend anyone at any time.
Zuckerberg clearly does not understand that free speech is the bedrock of a democratic society, but that it has its limits. This confusion is very concerning in someone who controls as large a platform as Facebook.
For example: Holocaust denial, which is banned in both Germany and France because of the evident danger to free society posed by spreading poisonous lies. Denying the Holocaust is not an academic point of view or the result of random confusion — it is a deliberate tactic used to sustain and justify anti-Semitism. Those kinds of lies once led to the near-extinction of Zuckerberg’s own ancestral group, European Jews.
But bizarrely, Zuckerberg this week used Holocaust denial as the example of free speech that he would not want to suppress on Facebook.
In an interview with Recode’s Kara Swisher (one of the only journalists whom he seems to grant interviews), Zuckerberg said when asked about regulating speech on Facebook:
Here Swisher correctly interjects that this is probably not the case.
Zuckerberg plows on:
That was a lot of words, and none of them very eloquent. Did Zuckerberg just compare Holocaust deniers to himself when he misspeaks in public?
For the record, Holocaust denial is usually the textbook example of why you sometimes need to regulate speech. (Yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater is another one.) Instead, Zuckerberg is using it as an example of why Facebook prefers to let everyone hash it out in public.
After thoughtful people criticized him on Wednesday, Zuckerberg followed up with a note to Swisher saying he was misunderstood — “I personally find Holocaust denial deeply offensive, and I absolutely didn’t intend to defend the intent of people who deny that.” But that explanation still did not reflect an understanding that this is not a subject of debate among people of good will or that Facebook should have a position on this.
Yesterday, Simon Wiesenthal Center Associate Dean Abraham Cooper said that Facebook officials told the Simon Wiesenthal Center in 2009 that Holocaust denial content would be removed from the platform.
“Holocaust denial is the quintessential ‘fake news,'” Cooper said in a statement. “The Nazi Holocaust is the most documented atrocity in history, allowing the canard of Holocaust denial to be posted on Facebook, or any other social media platform cannot be justified in the name of ‘free exchange of ideas’ when the idea itself is based on a falsehood.”
Get it, Mark? People who control mass communication platforms have a responsibility to think about the intent of the people using the platform. Uncomfortable as it may be, Facebook morally and ethically must make judgement calls about the content being posted. Those of us in news organizations do it every day.
The same goes for denying that the Sandy Hook massacre ever happened. It is immoral for Facebook to exercise no judgement around this content, aimed at spreading misinformation.
And yes, it’s complicated and sticky and a lot harder than coding Xs and Os.
The reality is that Zuckerbeg is winging it when it comes to making value judgements about the vast array of content on his platform. He doesn’t want to have to make decisions, dammit, that’s not why he started the thing.
Zuckerberg has demonstrated before his extreme discomfort with monitoring content, and his unwillingness to step in and make judgement calls. This moral abdication — this doing nothing — dovetails with Facebook’s profitable but questionable practice of mining the data of his users and then selling it to third parties even when he said he wasn’t doing so.
So now we can add Holocaust Denial to the list of things that the man who controls a communications platform with 2 billion-plus users does not understand.
Related stories from TheWrap:
www.thewrap.com | 7/19/18
Harvey Weinstein’s lawyer Ben Brafman was in full damage-control mode on Friday, disputing a report by columnist Taki Theodoracopulos in the British magazine Spectator that the disgraced mogul said he had offered women acting jobs in exchange for sex.
Brafman, who was present for the conversation, which he described as “not an interview, but a social meeting between old friends,” disputed Taki’s published account. “Mr. Weinstein never said anything about trading movie roles for sexual favors,” Brafman said. “Harvey and Taki did not discuss the case, nor would I allow him to. They talked about old Hollywood and the contrast to European culture, and I think Taki sees Harvey in that older light.”
In a statement from Brafman’s office attributed to Taki Theodoracopulos, the veteran columnist said, “After 41 years as a Spectator columnist without a single retraction, I believe that I may have misrepresented Harvey Weinstein’s conversation with me in New York last month. It was my mistake.”
Theodoracopulos and reps for the Spectator did not respond to direct requests for comment; at press time, the original story, titled “Harvey Weinstein: ‘I offered acting jobs in exchange for sex, but so does everyone – they still do,‘” was still on the Spectator website.
Weinstein, who has been accused of sexual misconduct by more than 80 women, faces possible life in prison for multiple felony charges in New York City, including rape and predatory sexual assault. He has pleaded not guilty.
He is also under criminal investigation in Los Angeles and London for additional accusations of misconduct. In addition, he faces several lawsuits, including a class-action RICO suit filed by several of his accusers, and a separate one filed by actress Ashley Judd, who accused him of sabotaging her career.
In the now-disputed Spectator interview, which took place at Weinstein’s small rented office near Grand Central Station in New York City, Weinstein is also quoted as saying, “I never, ever forced myself on a single woman.”
In the Spectator interview, Taki said Weinstein made unsubstantiated claims about two actresses who have accused him of sexual assault — Rose McGowan and Asia Argento — and shared what Taki called a “twisted story” about Argento’s relationship with late chef Anthony Bourdain, who died by suicide in June.
Even Taki, a writer long sympathetic to Weinstein, wasn’t buying the Hollywood producer’s claims: “He was, to use a terrible cliché, clutching for straws.”
Argento, one of the first women to speak out against Weinstein, has been a frequent target of criticism both before and after Bourdain’s death.
McGowan dismissed Weinstein’s latest interview in the Spectator, saying on Twitter, “rapist are liars.”
In addition to McGowan, dozens of people who spoke out during the #MeToo movement have come to Argento’s defense, signing a statement of solidarity in support of the actress, calling out “internet trolls” who have targeted her since the suicide of Bourdain.
“Asia has now found herself on the receiving end of vicious cyberbullying and repulsive slander at the hands of internet trolls who hold her responsible for Anthony’s death,” the statement reads. “She has been accused of everything from causing her boyfriend’s suicide to trying to use her “survivor status” and the #MeToo movement to advance her career.”
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www.thewrap.com | 7/13/18
Unless you’re Jerry Seinfeld, the number of stand-up comedians today who thrive and achieve stardom solely fro their on-stage comedy is dwindling. There’s a long history of people who got their start in stand-up comedy only to find another gear and level of artistry once they turned to filmmaking, including Mike Nichols, Woody Allen, Albert Brooks, Elaine May and more. But today, in the post “Louie” era of TV, many comics have tried to brand themselves as more, developing highly personal TV shows, films and pet projects that they often write, direct, produce and star in themselves. The latest such is example is Bo Burnham, whose debut film “Eighth Grade” opens this weekend after winning acclaim at Sundance. Here are some other comedians who have followed his same path.
Aziz Ansari’s “Master of None” isn’t entirely autobiographical, but it’s wholly an expression of his love of food, culture, European cinema and the finer things in life. His real-life parents even star on the show.
He’s most well known for his “WTF” podcast, but Marc Maron also had a show called “Maron” that ran for four seasons on IFC that hemmed closely to his experience as a stand-up comedian and explored his neuroses in ways he’s come to be known for on-stage and in his monologues opening “WTF.”
Still just 27 but a comedian for over a decade, Burnham directed and wrote the pre-teen coming-of-age story “Eighth Grade.” But he has a knack for doing it all, as he’s also a songwriter, an actor most notably in “The Big Sick” and a poet.
After first having Louis C.K.’s name all over the first season of “Better Things,” Pamela Adlon has made the excellent “Better Things” entirely her own, going to surprising places in her stories about being a working, single parent of three girls.
Woody Allen has been a prolific filmmaker for so long that it’s almost easy to forget that he gained fame as a stand-up as far back as the mid 1960s.
It’s possible Donald Glover would’ve never been able to make the video for “This is America” as Childish Gambino if it weren’t for exploring his style, his roots, and the stranger side of his personality as the creator of his groundbreaking series “Atlanta.”
Jordan Peele’s today one of the hottest directors in Hollywood after his debut feature “Get Out.” He’s currently working on his follow-up “Us” starring Elisabeth Moss and Lupita Nyong’o.
www.thewrap.com | 7/13/18
President Donald Trump pressed ahead Friday with his complaints that European immigration policies are changing the "fabric of Europe" and destroying European culture.
www.foxnews.com | 7/13/18
Comcast has increased its offer for British pay-TV company Sky PLC to $34 billion (£25.9 billion), roughly $2 billion higher than Fox’s most recent offer.
Earlier on Wednesday, Fox raised its own offer for the media giant to $32.5 billion (£24.5 billion). Comcast said that its increased offer has been recommended by the Sky Independent Committee of Directors.
Comcast’s new all-cash offer translates to £14.75 a share, which is roughly five percent higher than Fox’s £14 a share bid.
“Comcast has long admired Sky and believes it is an outstanding company and a great fit with Comcast,” the company said in its release about the new offer. “Today’s announcement further underscores Comcast’s belief and its commitment to owning Sky.”
The move by Comcast is the latest volley between CEO Brian Roberts and Fox chairman Rupert Murdoch over who gets the keys to Sky, which counts nearly 23 million customers in key parts of Europe, including Germany, Italy and Austria, along with the U.K. and Ireland.
In the U.S., Comcast is still battling with Disney to buy the film and TV assets from Fox. Fox’s stake in Sky is part of its proposed merger with Disney, though the deal was not contingent on that. Fox has set a July 27 shareholder meeting to formally vote on the Disney sale, which has already received approval from the Department of Justice.
Sky’s businesses would grow Comcast’s international revenue from 9 percent of its overall revenue to 25 percent. For Fox, Sky is a bit of a passion project for Rupert Murdoch, who founded the satellite broadcaster in 1990, and already owns 39 percent of the company and has had his eye on gaining full control for years.
The UK government had already approved Comcast earlier offer in June, with Matt Hancock, then-secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, who said at the time that “the proposed merger does not raise public interest concerns.”
However, Fox was given the go-ahead to continue efforts to purchase Sky as well, on the condition that Fox sells off Sky’s 24-hour news channel to Disney in the planned sale of certain Fox film and television assets to the Mouse House. Disney has pledged a 15-year, $2 billion commitment to fund Sky News if it acquires the channel in the Fox deal.
Hancock, meanwhile, resigned amid a British cabinet shakeup this week and has been replaced in his role by Jeremy Wright.
According to Bloomberg, the British government has already signaled willingness to approve Fox’s offer, with its final decision due Thursday.
Related stories from TheWrap:
www.thewrap.com | 7/11/18
By Mahboob A Khawaja, PhD.Global politics is fraught with man-made catastrophic tragedies. The human beings are supposed to be the most intelligent social animal on the planet. Yet, our proactive plans and actions continue to dehumanize the fellow human beings and engineer conflicts and wars that destroy the existence of mankind. The driving impulse is war economies, individualistic interest and militarization. We come to realize that politics is a game of pretension and always remains problematic. Politicians need problems to get public attention and to argue being the deliverers. Often, they are not except being treacherous, cynical and deceitful to their ideas and ideals and to the public interests they claim to serve.Amongst all the creations on Planet Earth, humans are the only one to claim morality as an attribute of life and value. This reality emphasizes and differentiates us from the other creations of God. If we propel uncertainty in our thoughts and behavior, nothing can stop us from surpassing the limit of immorality and insanity. With knowledge-based 21st century human communications improving global collaboration, we are not moving in the right direction that human logic and truth spell out for our conduct in peaceful relationships. The impulse and actions for cruelty and sadistic behavior are increasingly sending alarming trends for the present and future generations to be informed of our implicit wickedness and resulting failure in global affairs. As humans, we are not thinking or moving for the unity of mankind to be at peace and harmony being the chief creation of God. Unless, we are overwhelmed philosophically to imagine that we are something else than humans populating the Earth by chance. Global Institutions are a Menace to Human Change and Progress The global warlords are waging wars in the name of peace and harmony. Humanity is being crushed and its compound interest undermined by the few for economic greed and militarization. The UNO originated from the belief and commitment to avert futuristic wars by men of new ideas pursuing peaceful means, diplomacy and accountability to the global mankind. How sad and cynical it looks to view the succeeding generations entrapped again into the same mindset of warmongering and power politics as were the sadistic leaders before the Two WW. Like the past, once again few egoistic nations and leaders have manipulated the time and opportunities to dictate and undermine the interests of the mankind. The global humanity is the net object of their planned cruelty but without any meaningful role to challenge the few global warlords. America, Russia and few Europeans find freehand to go anywhere and bomb the humanity at will. This is what exactly happening in the broader Arab Middle East war theatre managed by global warlords. The UNO and its Secretary General need to free themselves from captivity and enlarge their role and initiatives for conflict management and peace-making outside the New York established box. Words and Charter's core thoughts are repeated but actions are missing. The UN Security Council could finally visit the Rohinga refugee camps but failed to demand equal treatment from the Myanmar Government. Strange, why the same UN Security Council cannot travel to defuse tensions and bring much needed humanitarian peace between Palestine and Israel. Could it shrink its inherent responsibility for the mismanagement of the Middle East conflict? Humanity in Search of Proactive Leaders The 21st century global politics have not produced any new leaders of vision and moral integrity to imagine the universal phenomenon of peaceful change and futuristic developments. There are no global organizations managed by people of moral and intellectual vision and courage to serve the interests of the global community. Man is a moral and intellectual being articulating happiness and progress horizontally in peace-time, but when fear of the unknown, hatred and animosity attempt to govern the human consciousness, degeneration replaces human progress. America and some Europeans used to be the leaders of change and new strategies to envisage global friendship, co-existence and harmony of the mankind. If political greed and egoistic interest are the supreme force, how could they serve the interest and priorities of the global mankind for peace and harmony? At best, many world leaders could best be defined as "hangmen" of the 21st century. It is a frightening trend for the present and future generations to imagine our time and role in human history. The Middle East - the Ancient Hub of Humanity - the Land of Abrahim, Moses, Jesus and Mohammad is being ScorchedThe continuing wars in the Middle East are fabricated and gone out of proportion challenging the human conscience and civilized values that once highlighted the human behavior in conflicts. Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Palestine and Libya are destroyed by political design. Do you remember the paradoxes of history? Do you recall what Sultan Salahudeen Ayoubi did to free Jerusalem and drive out the Crusaders from the ancient lands? Do you remember how Sultan Salahudeen treated his enemies - King Richard and others even in the battlefield? Do you know that for ages the European feared Salahudeen - the Conqueror of Jerusalem? The contemporary Arab world is devoid of moral and intellectual leadership of any kind. They operate on a dead-ended scale without any role in global affairs. Jerusalem was not US property to be transferred top Israel; it belongs equally to Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Under the UNO Plan, Jerusalem is an international city to be shared by all the believers. Yet, the puppet Arab leaders showed no moral courage to question President Trump for moving the Embassy to Jerusalem. One wonders why the Saudi King signed 250 billion worth of military contracts and gave 100 million to Ivanka Kushner when Trump visited the region last August. It could well be witnessed by the raging sectarian wars in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and elsewhere. There is no coming of Salahudeen to rescue the entrenched Palestinians. After 70 years of Nakba, they still have No thinking plan, no leadership, no movement for change and freedom except reactionary emotional outbursts. When Jews lived with the Arabs in Spain (Al-Andulsia) for centuries, they were part of the Arab culture and advancements for the best of humanity. European mistreated Jews but Muslims gave them the best for their protection and participation in Islamic civilization. Look, what is happening now between Palestine and Israel. Gideon Levy ("60 Killed In Gaza And The End Of Israeli Conscience", Haaretz and Information Clearing house: 5/21/2018), spells out the present reality for Israelis to think critically:On the night of the Palestinians' slaughter, Zion exulted an embassy and a Eurovision. It's difficult to think of a more atrocious moral eclipse....The truth is that Israel is well prepared to massacre hundreds and thousands, and to expel tens of thousands. Nothing will stop it. This is the end of conscience, the show of morality is over. The last few days' events have proved it decisively. The tracks have been laid, the infrastructure for the horror has been cast. Dozens of years of brainwashing, demonization and dehumanization have borne fruit. The alliance between the politicians and the media to suppress reality and deny it has succeeded. Israel is set to commit horrors. Nobody will stand in its way any longer. Not from within or from without....If 60 stray dogs were shot to death in one day by IDF soldiers, the whole country would raise an outcry. The dog slaughterers would be put on trial, the nation of Israel would have devoted prayers to the victims, a Yizkor service would be said for the dogs slaughtered by Israel....The Israeli brain has been washed irrevocably, the heart sealed for good. The life of a Palestinian is no longer deemed to be worth anything.Towards Thinking of Future-MakingWe live in one Planet Earth. What happens across the globe or in the remote jungles of Botswana and or in the rugged mountains of Afghanistan or the bloody streets of Kabul, Damascus and Baghdad, it is vital to global interests and cannot be ignored because European or American television networks do not portray it. According to the Divine revelations, the Earth keeps record of all the human activities. The Earth is a living entity, not dead. There were many powerful and unchallenging empires and nations in history. What happened to their self-perpetuated glory and triumphs except being part of the archeological record? To all concerned, their artifacts and deadly remains do tell the real story. Most were destroyed by natural causes but the Earth remains in-tact, not by the legislative power of any States of the UN membership but certainly by the Will of God. It operates and maintains balanced life for all regardless of ethnicity, color, creed, religions and nationalism. Should we not care how we live, utilize and draw lifelong gains from the Earth? We the humans urgently need rethinking to reflect on our plans and behaviors how do we relate to Earth? It is an indivisible comprehensive relationship. The answer should help us to balance our life. When could this historic change come into being? If we realize to be One Humanity living on One Planet Earth, its imagination could affect and balance our thoughts and behavior. We must respect equal human rights and dignity of all on Earth. Do the Super Powers (powerful nations) have a sense of indifference and biased toward the colored and economically less advanced nations? In its 2014 Global Thinkers statistics, Foreign Policy ("A World Disrupted: The global Thinkers of 2014") pinpoints that "something big requires a team rather than an individual...." To enhance global peace and to undo the continuing bogus war on terrorism, there is an urgent need for teamwork by all concerned across the globe. The teamwork if undertaken with unbiased mind and without pre-conceived notions could usher sustainable change and a new beginning between those who claim to be at peace and somewhat superior than the ordinary folks and those who are fighting reactionary wars of freedom against insanity and catastrophic devastation of the human habitats. Under 'Advocates', the Foreign Policy notes:"The global thinkers herald causes often wrongly considered inconsequential or verboten. They support forgotten victims of sexual violence, protect civilian targeted in internecine violence, count casualties in the fog of war, and demand legal protection for world's most vulnerable migrants. Often these men and women, scholars, activists and religious leader among them- do this work on their own peril and pay the price landing in court or in prison in some of the world's most repressive countries. For all of them, however, the risk is worth the possible rewards."
www.pravdareport.com | 7/10/18
As classical Hollywood cinema scholars David Bordwell and Kristen Johnson pointed out, the traditional American film plot is driven by a “goal-oriented protagonist.” That’s not necessarily the case with European art cinema, which may explain why U.S. audiences have such a hard time connecting to movies where it’s not clear what the hero wants. They […]
variety.com | 7/9/18
At Karlovy Vary Intl. Film Festival this week a new initiative was launched in collaboration with Midpoint titled Works in Development – Feature Launch, where nine in-development projects were pitched at the Central European event. Midpoint is a Czech training and networking platform under the auspices of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague aimed […]
variety.com | 7/7/18
The existence of the 2001 Cybercrime Convention is generally well known. The treaty has now been ratified/acceded to by 60 countries worldwide, including the United States. Less well known is the existence of the Additional Protocol to the Convention ”concerning the criminalization of acts of a racist and xenophobic nature committed through computer systems." The Additional Protocol has 30 ratifications/accessions — although not including the United States — which asserts that the First Amendment to its Constitution would preclude adherence to the provisions.
Next week, Cybercrime signatories and legal experts will gather for an annual ensemble of meetings and workshop in Strasbourg to review the state of the instrument and its implementation. One significant contemporary development that deserves substantive treatment at the meeting is the failure to apply the Additional Protocol to the incessant, pervasive racist and xenophobic Trump tweets and the significant resulting global harm occurring. Trump is the ultimate virtual elephant trampling in the meeting room.
The Additional Protocol
Although the national and international law needed to provide adequate legal responses to propaganda of a racist and xenophobic nature had its origins following World War II, the concern over use of computer systems did not occur until the 1990s. The emergence of heavily promoted, globally interconnected and unregulated DARPA internets in the mid-90s coupled with the marketplace demise of more regulated and secure OSI internets, resulted in a rapidly scaling array of cybersecurity challenges. One of those challenges was the ability for highly motivated groups promoting racism and xenophobia to organize and propagate their material via DARPA internets.
Developments began unfolding in 1997. In June of that year, the EU Council of Ministers established the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia. In October 1997, the Heads of State and Government of the Council of Europe on the occasion of their Second Summit met to seek common responses to the developments of "new information technologies."
A few weeks later in November 1997, the UNHCR held a seminal workshop in Geneva on the "Seminar on the role of Internet with regard to the provisions of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination." Especially chilling was an NGO presentation by the Paris-based Centre Simon Wiesenthal of statistics on the exponentially increasing hate sites and groups organizing via DARPA internet technology.
By 2001, the problems were significantly worse, and those meeting to produce the Cybercrime Convention found that "the emergence of international communication networks like the Internet provide certain persons with modern and powerful means to support racism and xenophobia and enables them to disseminate easily and widely expressions containing such ideas." This concern resulted in an explicit Additional Protocol to the Cybercrime Convention that defined racist and xenophobic material, the dissemination proscribed, measures to be taken at the national level, and apply a number of the Cybercrime Convention provisions.
The associated Explanatory Report provides further history and amplification on the provisions.
Rather little, however, was done for more than a decade. A cursory informal survey of the Council of Europe site finds a significantly rising concern over the manifestation of racism and xenophobia beginning around 2016 and becoming exponentially worse over the past two years. Plainly, the chief executive of one of the Convention's more prominent signatories who began leading a rather expansive resurgence of racism and xenophobia globally presented a challenge that was unanticipated and included an unprecedented affront to legal systems and norms of behavior. Now, the ultimate question for those assembling in Strasbourg in 2018 is whether they can simply ignore what has been occurring over the past eighteen months.
Trump's Promotion of Racism and Xenophobia
It is relatively well-established that Donald Trump on a massive scale has been manifesting actions contravened by Art. 3 of the Additional Protocol that are aided and abetted through social media. There are hundreds of articles on his actions that unfold every day in highly respected publications.
Some investigators have even compiled extensive lists of evidence. See, e.g., New York Times, "Donald Trump's Racism: The Definitive List."
It is not apparent, however, that any responsive actions have actually been taken by the Additional Protocol signatories pursuant to Arts. 4 and 7, notwithstanding the ease with which the Trump's offensive traffic can be blocked. Although the European Commission has sought to apply its own recommendations to control proscribed online content, it has not apparent it has ever addressed Trump's racist and xenophobic tweets, much less sought to proscribe them.
Perhaps more concerning is that the social media service most extensively employed by Trump asserts an affirmative defense that "world leaders" are allegedly exempt from the Convention's Additional Protocol provisions. See Twitter, Inc, "World Leaders on Twitter."
The matter has, however, risen to such prominence that it was addressed in a Washington Post editorial several months ago with respect to domestic law. See The Washington Post, "The 3 loopholes that keep Trump's tweets on Twitter."
Resulting Harm by Inaction
Trump's flouting of the Cybercrime Convention's Additional Protocol provisions on racism and xenophobia is plainly reprehensible. The damage of the global rule of law and sense of acceptable conduct by a national leader is profound and long-lasting. The harm to society globally is equally grave — giving rise to destabilizing hate groups and terrorism in countries throughout the world. See "Palgrave Hate Studies Cyber Racism and Community Resilience." See also Simon Wiesenthal Center's "2017 Digital Terrorism & Hate Report Card: Social Media Giants Fail to Curb Online Extremism."
The inaction has even spurred the emergence of an entirely new market for racist and xenophobic products.
One of the additional disconcerting developments and serious consequences, however, is the Cybercrime Convention signatories and Octopus community largely ignoring a profound problem posed when one of their own signatories goes rogue with a chief executive who is the de facto leader of a global racist and xenophobic movement through Twitter. When even the most prominent public figures in the United States are profoundly embarrassed by Trump's racist and xenophobic behaviour — which is presently uncontrollable domestically — there is a continuing hope that international forums might step up, speak out in defence of their own treaty provisions, and call for responsive action by signatories. Will they?
Written by Anthony Rutkowski, Principal, Netmagic Associates LLC
www.circleid.com | 7/3/18
Personal and national identity reverberate through “Crystal Swan,” a tough but irresistible debut from Belarusian director Darya Zhuk.
Set in the director’s native Eastern European nation in the mid-1990s, Zhuk co-wrote the story of an aspiring DJ hustling big time to flee her country for a life spinning house music in Chicago. Co-produced by Vice Films, “Swan” premiered at the Czech Republic’s Karlovy Vary International Film Festival on Saturday.
Featuring a breakout performance from star Alina Nasibullina and boasting a rare female cinematographer in Carolina Costa, the drama marks a progressive re-entry into the awards race for Belarus, as the country will submit “Swan” for the Best Foreign Language Oscar after a 22-year dry spell.
Nasibullina plays Velya, a club kid and serious DJ desperate to escape the squalor of her “liberated” homeland — which won its independence from the Soviet Union in 1994 only to elect an autocratic president who still rules to this day — for the promise of America.
Donning a blue wig and stomping around in Doc Martens, Velya flies in the face of a country mid-identity crisis. She has a law degree, but spends her days asleep and her nights raging in dank nightclubs. Her Walkman (shout out to cassette tapes) is the only company she cares to keep, as she manipulates her loved ones in the singular pursuit of her dream.
Velya steals from her mom, sells her clothes and hits up her tweaker boyfriend (a brief, amazing turn from Russian actor Yuriy Borisov) to scrape together the cash for a tourist visa and her ticket out. She forges employment by falsifying a letter from a crystal factory outside her capital city of Minsk, but it blows up in her face when the American embassy says they’ll call the phone number she gave to verify her gig.
She then travels to the remote crystal factory town in attempts to sway the owner of the phone number on the forged letter to lie for her and seal the deal on her visa. What she finds on arrival is a gruff and tight-knit family preparing for the wedding of their son, horrified by her request to sit beside their phone for a call that will implicate them in a lie.
But they don’t resist. Velya is swept into the bustle of wedding day prep, while the eldest son of the house (also the groom) teases her for her American ambitions and bristles at her criticism of their antiquated, controlled culture.
It’s here that Zhuk’s film takes a hard left, as Veyla is raped by the groom the night before his wedding. It’s a crushing and vile defeat that comes as a direct response to her laser focus on getting what she wants, a cruel reminder that women are rarely supported or rewarded when a man feels threatened by their power.
It’s a very serious incident that the film moves on from quickly (and Nasibullina shines in her character’s one vulnerable moment, warning her rapist’s younger brother that when he has sex in the future it must be consensual). Some may see it as a brash hit-and-run narrative device, but it’s supported by the context of a character who won’t be deterred no matter the circumstances.
Zhuk and Nasibullina create a character that harkens back to the enterprising, unapologetic heroines of ’80s films like “Desperately Seeking Susan,” “Working Girl” and Madonna’s underrated “Who’s That Girl?”
But Nasibullina’s Veyla is something new. You can dance to her beat or get the f— out of the way.
“Crystal Swan” was co-written with noted Russian poet and filmmaker Helga Landauer. It was supported by grants from the New York State Council, Hessen Film Fund and the Tribeca Film Institutive. Loco Films is handling domestic sales.
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www.thewrap.com | 7/1/18
Tim Robbins used an American movie classic to criticize President Trump as a “child abuser” and a petulant bully in a blazing acceptance speech on Friday.
Accepting a top prize from Central and Eastern Europe’s Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, Robbins said a failed audition earlier in is career for “Back to the Future” helped him frame the current state of discourse in his native country.
“This guy named Robert Zemeckis was directing a movie called ‘Back to the Future’ and I auditioned for the role of Biff. The arrogant, childish bully. The petulant, overgrown child monster. I got close, but I didn’t get the part. I could have been Biff. So why was I thinking about this movie?” Robbins said, accepting the festival’s Crystal Globe award for impact on world cinema.
“It occurred to me the other day that we are living through a Marty McFly moment. [The film] was set in the 1980s and, thanks to advances in technology, a DeLorean car could travel through time and brought our lead character Marty McFly back to the 1950s. What he found … wasn’t a romantic, nostalgic time but an Oedipal nightmare. A time of bullying, a time of intolerance and ignorance,” he continued.
The comments come on the heels of a few chaotic weeks in Trump’s White House where uproar over family separation at America’s borders, the midterm elections, the shocking resignation of a Supreme Court justice and on-going corruption and election tampering investigations are not in short supply.
“Despite our freedom and liberation from intolerance we somehow, through the cynical use and manipulation of advancement in technology and not a DeLorean car but a device we can hold in our hand, have traveled back in time. We have not gone back to the future, we have gone back to the 1950s,” Robbins said.
“Are we puppets of propaganda that appeals to our spiritual weakness and our jealousy of others? Bullies have no power without fear, so at this Marty McFly moment, we artists … have to figure out how to get back to the future. Fix this broken DeLorean car and get back to the world of progress,” the Oscar winner said.
Robbins concluded that significant change won’t happen “on your TV or cell phones … those that have taken us back the the ’50s have already controlled the programming and algorithm that delivered us to the child abuser in the White House and [to] gigantic tax breaks for the wealthy. This new revolution has to come from our hearts.”
While Robbins never got to play Biff, the festival did celebrate some his notable roles like “Bull Durham,” “The Shawshank Redemption” and his Best Support Actor Oscar turn in “Mystic River,” in addition to his directorial efforts like “Dead Man Walking” and “Bob Roberts.”
Robbins will be the festival’s guest all week, and even jam with his band in the spa town outside of Prague on July 4.
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www.thewrap.com | 6/30/18
‘The Looming Tower’ Star Tahar Rahim on Playing a Muslim FBI Agent Instead of a Terrorist (as Usual)
A version of this story about Tahar Rahim first appeared in the Miniseries/Movies issue of TheWrap’s Emmy magazine.
When Tahar Rahim first met Ali Soufan, the real-life former FBI agent he plays in Hulu’s gripping limited series “The Looming Tower,” Soufan hit him with a pointed parting shot.
“He said, ‘And if you don’t accept this role, you will never again have the right to complain that you only get offers to play terrorists,'” Rahim said, laughing.
In fact, Rahim had complained about exactly that in the past. Although the French actor with Algerian ancestry had made a name for himself in such notable European films as Jacques Audiard’s “A Prophet” and Asghar Farhadi’s “The Past,” he had spent fruitless years trying to land acceptable English-language projects.
“I always like to work with foreign directors, and I don’t want to be an actor of just one country,” he said. “My vision of cinema is that we can do this all over the world. And as long as you can speak another language, you should try.
“So I came to America and spent two years trying to get work. Maybe 50 percent of the parts I was offered were terrorists, and the others were stereotypical people. So I said to myself, ‘I’m done with this — maybe I’ll go to Asia and see if I can make movies there.'”
But then he landed the part of Judas Iscariot in Garth Davis’ “Mary Magdalene,” followed by the role in “The Looming Tower” as one of the few FBI agents who spoke Arabic in the years leading up to the 9/11 attack.
The limited series, executive produced by Dan Futterman and Alex Gibney, is full of powerhouse acting performances — Jeff Daniels, Bill Camp, Peter Sarsgaard and Michael Stuhlbarg are among the stars — but Rahim is in many ways its heart as a Muslim agent who is sick at the way his religion has been perverted.
He’s one of the few men who might have been able to prevent 9/11 if the government around him hadn’t been so inept.
With only a third of the miniseries’ scripts finished when he was offered the part, Rahim wouldn’t accept the role until he’d had a chance to speak to Soufan and hear what happened from the man who lived it. “After he told me the rest of his story, I was like, ‘OK, I’ve got to do this,'” he said.
His preparation, he added, was simple. “When I met Ali, I was full of questions, like a good student who did his homework,” he said. “But when I started to talk to him, I felt stupid asking questions. I understood that the right thing to do was to just talk to the guy, to try to know him. What is his spirit, his soul? That’s more important than what he has for breakfast or what kind of soda he drinks. I wanted to spend my energy in knowing him rather than imitating him.”
In the aftermath of “The Looming Tower,” Rahim said he feels a change in his opportunities in the U.S. film industry. “”I started acting in 2008 and didn’t work in America until 2017, but I think it’s changing,” he said. “I played Judas, and then Ali Soufan, and I just finished a movie with Lone Scherfig where I play someone named Mark who runs a restaurant.
“I don’t want to stop working in France or Europe, but you have more cinema history in America. You’ve got types of movies and characters that we don’t have. I want to play a cowboy one day, I want to be in a Western. And if I want to be in a Western, I have to be in America.”
Read more of TheWrap’s Miniseries/Movies Emmy issue here.
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www.thewrap.com | 6/19/18
The Karlovy Vary Film Festival, the leading movie event in Central and Eastern Europe, will honor Tim Robbins with its award for outstanding contribution to world cinema, the fest announced Tuesday, and the actor will screen two pics he directed and wrote, the acerbic polemic “Bob Roberts” and the tribute to pre-WWII music and politics […]
variety.com | 6/19/18
A tour of European civilization from Greek antiquity to the end of the Renaissance, though not quite in the manner of Kenneth Clark. James Romm reviews “Know Thyself” by Ingrid Rossellini.
www.wsj.com | 6/10/18
The computer industry is full of noble failures. Big ones. Little ones. Ideas that were 10 years too early. Ideas that were 15 years too early. Ideas that were 30 years too early. And concepts that, while fundamental to the way that our computing culture works today, hadn't yet reached their full potential. Though certainly successful in its early years, the ARM processor very much fits in the latter category. Today, variants of these processors are in just about everything, from tiny computers, to smartphones, to video game consoles, to television sets, and even some servers. But the company that initially forged the processor is almost forgotten at this point, seemingly lost to history (especially outside of Europe) despite being an early icon of British computing. Tonight's Tedium ponders the story of Acorn Computers, the long-departed company whose best idea is probably in the device you're using to read this.
This introduction is basically clickbait specifically designed for OSNews readers. Well done.
osnews.com | 6/8/18
[New Era] Windhoek -Namibian rappers KP Illest and Lioness were chosen to perform at the first ever European Union National Institutes for Culture (EUNIC) Cluster, in Namibia Music Festival to be hosted at the Warehouse Theatre on Saturday.
allafrica.com | 5/21/18
Terry Gilliam has tried to make his film “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote” for two decades, and it finally screened on the closing night of this year’s Cannes Film Festival.
It’s the quintessential production from hell, complete with on-set injuries, lost funding, natural disasters and outsize ambitions worthy of the hero of Cervantes’ classic novel. Even after it wrapped, a lawsuit threatened to derail the film from screening at Cannes, and Amazon Studios pulled out of a deal to distribute the film in the U.S.
So the irony isn’t lost on anyone that Gilliam’s quest to make a movie about Don Quixote has been nothing if not quixotic. Here’s a not-so-brief timeline of every step on the road to Gilliam getting his film made.
Gilliam started thinking about an adaptation of Cervantes’ 1615 novel “Don Quixote” in the early ’90s, and in a 1997 interview with Neon Magazine, he revealed “Don Quixote” as one of the “10 movies they wouldn’t let me make.”
“The years I wasted on this one,” he lamented, hardly realizing how quaint that now sounds. He originally asked for $20 million in funding from Europe and found that still wasn’t enough for his vision.
Gilliam also revealed that the studio wanted Sean Connery for the title role, but the actor left the project to make “The Defective Detective” (another movie that never came to pass). The director was replaced by Fred Schepesi, with John Cleese and Robin Williams in the lead roles, though that version never panned out either. “That really hurts, that I let a project I’m convinced I’m the best director on the planet to do, slip by,” Gilliam said.
After the U.K. premiere of “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” in 1998, Gilliam said that “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote” would be his next film. He had secured a $32 million budget and planned to begin production in Spain in September 2000.
In this version, Quixote would be played by French actor Jean Rochefort, who had learned English for the role, with the director’s “Fear and Loathing” star Johnny Depp as the Sancho Panza figure.
The script he wrote with Tony Grisoni was about a 21st-century ad executive (Depp) who travels back in time to the 17th century and gets mistaken for Sancho Panza. The story also drew inspiration from Mark Twain’s “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court,” another of the 10 movies Gilliam said he hoped to adapt for the screen in that Neon interview.
The production appeared cursed from day one. As documented in the 2002 documentary “Lost in La Mancha,” production began north of Madrid near a Spanish military base and fighter planes flying overhead drowned out the sound recording.
On the second day of shooting, a flood washed through the area, causing the crew to lose equipment and for the landscape to be changed so drastically that it affected continuity. And after feeling pain from riding a horse, Rochefort was then sent to a doctor in Paris and was found to have a back issue.
He would not return, and production was canceled altogether in November. Nicola Pecorini, the film’s director of photography, said in the documentary, “Never in 22 years of being in this business have I seen such a sum of bad luck.”
Gilliam’s interest in “Don Quixote” perked up again in 2005, when “Tideland” producer Jeremy Thomas came on board the project and Gilliam hinted that he wanted Gerard Depardieu to play the lead role.
Johnny Depp breathed new life into the project when he told Ain’t It Cool News that he loved Gilliam and was still on board — though he hedged about whether he would be available given his commitment to the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies.
“I’d hate to put him in a position — or ask to be in a position — where he’d have to wait for me. That would be wrong,” Depp said. “But also… I feel like we went there and tried something, and, whatever it was — the elements and all the things that got up underneath us – -were there and happened and were documented well in that film ‘Lost in La Mancha.’ So I don’t know if it’s right for me to go back there. I don’t know if it’s right for Terry to, but if he wants to…”
Collider reported that Gilliam wanted Robert Duvall for the lead role of Don Quixote, but only “if they get the money,” Duvall said.
With Depp tied up, Gilliam turned to Ewan McGregor to play the Sancho Panza role opposite Duvall. He also said that he slashed the budget to a mere $20 million.
Funding falls apart again for Gilliam’s film, despite having Robert Duvall and Ewan McGregor attached. “I shouldn’t be here. The plan was to be shooting ‘Quixote’ right now,” Gilliam told Variety.
Shortly after releasing his sci-fi “The Zero Theorem,” Gilliam confirmed to ComingSoon.net that he had begun preproduction on a seventh version of on “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote.”
“Lucky seven, maybe,” he said. “We’ll see if it happens. This is kind of my default position, going back to that. I actually just want to make it and get rid of it. Get it out of my life.”
Gilliam told TheWrap that he secured funding for “Don Quixote” and planned to shoot it in early 2015 — with the film now set in the present day and revolving around a movie being made about Quixote. “I keep incorporating my own life into it and shifting it,” Gilliam said. “I’ve done it so many times — or not done it so many times — I’ll believe it when I see it.”
After another casting “hiccup” that Gilliam described to Rolling Stone as a “Sisyphean rock,” John Hurt was confirmed to play the role of Don Quixote, with Jack O’Connell as Sancho Panza. He even sparked a renewed excitement by releasing concept art for the film on his Facebook page.
Another major setback suspended production when star Hurt was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He eventually passed away in 2017, a sad reality Gilliam knew all too well after Heath Ledger passed away during production of “The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus.”
Teaming with Portuguese producer Paulo Branco, Gilliam got “Don Quixote” back on track yet again with a new cast that this time includes Gilliam’s “Monty Python” co-hort Michael Palin, Adam Driver and Olga Kurylenko as the female lead.
Branco failed to get together funds that he promised, stalling its planned production date in October. Branco clashed with Gilliam, demanded creative control over the film, slashed the budget, dramatically reduced the fee for Palin and even threatened legal action over the film.
“I was moving with caution,” Branco said in Le Monde. “In most of Gilliam’s films, budgets had exploded. But I quickly realized that he had a deep hatred towards producers. I started to have doubts even though I had a lot of funding.”
But Gilliam persevered, telling BBC Radio 2, “We are still marching forward. It is not dead. I will be dead before the film is.”
Production finally wrapped on “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote” — this time with Jonathan Pryce as Quixote and Driver as Toby, a modern ad executive mistaken for Sancho Panza. The cast also included Stellan Skarsgard, Kurylenko, Joana Ribeiro, Jordi Molla, Sergi Lopez and Rossy de Palma.
At long last, a trailer is released for “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote.” The film tells the story of a 21st-century marketing executive named Toby (Driver) who time jumps between modern times and 17th-century Spain, where Don Quixote (Pryce) mistakes him for his trusted squire, Sancho Panza.
Then the film landed the closing-night slot at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, with a gala screening on May 19.
Within days, though, former producer Branco filed a lawsuit seeking an injunction to prevent Cannes from screening the film and claiming that Gilliam needs Branco’s permission to screen the film. Cannes organizers stood by Gilliam and defends the right to screen it, even taking a swipe at Branco.
A Paris court dismissed Branco’s lawsuit, allowing the film to screen at Cannes’ closing night as planned.
But the troubles didn’t end. Gilliam suffered a minor stroke just days before the court ruling and Amazon Studios pulled out of its deal to release “Don Quixote” in North America, telling TheWrap they pulled out because producers failed to deliver it.
The film finally did screen and won affectionate reviews from critics, including TheWrap’s Ben Croll, who called it “an awful lot of fun”: “The director hasn’t lost an inch of his Monty Python irreverence, gleefully poking holes in the narrative by breaking the fourth wall and calling attention to all the artifice.”
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www.thewrap.com | 5/20/18
After shocking the crowd in France, Gasper Noe has come away with the top prize at the Directors’ Fortnight in Cannes, as his LSD-fueled odyssey “Climax” was awarded the Art Cinema Award by the International Confederation of Art Cinemas (CICAE).
Sold and co-produced by Wild Bunch, with A24 picking up the North American distribution rights earlier this week, “Climax” follows a dance troupe led by Sofia Boutella as they go through a physically demanding rehearsal, only to suffer the worst trip imaginable after unknowingly drinking sangria laced with LSD. Orgies, self-mutiliation and elaborate choreography to Daft Punk is included.
“The acid hits, the bottom falls out, and we’re off to the races, never looking back,” Ben Croll wrote in his review of the film for TheWrap. “The film’s style matches the various phases of the trip, with director of photography Benoit Debie’s fluid camera moving in lockstep with the legion of feral performers, tracking their bodies in unceasing motion as they dance through paranoia, ecstasy and delirium.”
Directors’ Fortnight is a sidebar run independently of the Cannes Film Festival and is officially a noncompetitive section. But several sponsors of the program hand out their own awards to films in the Fortnight.
Also winning was Gianni Zanasi’s “Lucia’s Grace,” which received the Europa Cinemas Label for the best European film at the Fortnight. Pierre Salvatore’s romantic comedy “The Trouble With You” won the SACD Prize for best French-language film. Ivete Lucas and Patrick Bresnan’s short film “Skip Day” won the Illy Award.
“Lucia’s Grace” stars Alba Rohrwacher as a weary single-mother who is struggling with both personal and professional relationships. But her life is completely changed when she starts getting visions of a surly Virgin Mary who asks her to build a church where they first met.
“The Trouble With You” stars Adele Haenel as a detective on the French Riviera that gets entangled in an investigation as she discovers that her late husband, a supposedly heroic police officer, was actually a crooked cop deep in corruption.
“Skip Day” follows a group of high-school seniors in an industrial section of the Florida Everglades.
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www.thewrap.com | 5/17/18
[Observer] The Head of European Union (EU) Delegation to Liberia, Ambassador Héléne Cavé, has said the organization is initiating another project that will emphasize the significance of cultural heritage.
allafrica.com | 5/16/18
Some of the best creativity in Hollywood is to be found in its animation. The same may be said of Europe. Anja Kofmel, an alum of Lucerne’s School of Design and Art and Paris’ Ecole Nationale Superieure des Arts Decoratifs, adds to the growing cannon of Swiss animation with her feature film debut, “Chris the Swiss.” […]
variety.com | 5/14/18
If you’re looking to sum up the 2018 Cannes Film Festival so far, you might want to turn to an instructive scene near the end of Eva Husson’s competition entry “Girls of the Sun.” In the scene, Mathilde, a war correspondent played by Emmanuelle Bercot, is speaking to Bahar, a female squad leader played by Golshifteh Farahani.
“Be warned,” Mathilde says of the story she’s going home to write about Bahar’s exploits on the battlefield. “You’re going to be a heroine.”
“We’re all heroines,” says Bahar.
Is this the “we’re all heroines” edition of the Cannes Film Festival? Well, consider this:
The lack of women is often news at Cannes, but this year their absence and their presence is the biggest story of the first six days of the festival. The currents that hit Hollywood in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein revelations and led to Frances McDormand’s impassioned Oscar-night speech have definitely washed up onto the Croisette, and this year’s Cannes, the first in memory without Weinstein’s oversized presence, is at least slightly more inclusive than usual.
We won’t know for at least a year how effective this year’s campaign has been; Fremaux has repeatedly said that he’s in favor of affirmative-action-style provisions to increase the number of women behind the scenes at Cannes, but he’s steadfastly insisted that gender should never be a factor in programming decisions.
And we won’t know if this is the year that only the second woman ever takes home the festival’s top prize, the Palme d’Or. On the heels of Saturday’s “Girls of the Sun” screenings, some observers went so far as to brand Husson the odds-on favorite to follow Jane Campion (“The Piano”) as the only women to win — but that’s certainly a premature statement with 12 of the 21 main-competition films yet to screen as of midday Sunday.
Still to come: Two more films from female directors, Alice Rohrwacher’s “Lazzaro Felice” and Nadine Labaki’s “Capharnaum,” plus new work from esteemed auteurs Hizokazu Kore-eda (“Shoplifters”), Lee Chang-dong (“Burning”), Matteo Garrone (“Dogman”) and the only past Palme winner in the group, Nuri Bilge Ceylan (“The Wild Pear Tree”).
Also in the wings are the two American directors in competition: Spike Lee with “BlacKkKlansman” and David Robert Mitchell with “Under the Silver Lake.”
That’s a lot left to see – and in addition, it’s entirely possible that “Girls of the Sun,” for all its effectiveness as a piece of cinema, might be too slick and even manipulative for the Cannes jury, however much they might want to honor a female director.
(I’d say it probably has a better chance of winning the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film than the Palme d’Or.)
So by the end of the festival, Cannes 2018 could belong to a different film – maybe a film from a different woman, more likely one from a male director.
Of the competition films that have screened since the festival opened on Tuesday with Asghar Farhadi’s “Everybody Knows,” the one to receive the most acclaim is probably “Ida” director Pawel Pawlikowski’s austere love story “Cold War,” though Kirill Serebrennikov’s Russian punk(ish) musical “Leto,” Jafar Panahi’s modestly subversive “Three Faces,” Christophe Honore’s AIDS saga “Sorry Angel” and Jean-Luc Godard’s assaultive “The Image Book” all have strong partisans.
So far, though, the biggest discoveries of Cannes ’18 have been in the margins, with films like Lukas Dhont’s affecting transgender teen drama “Girl,” while the biggest buzz has been around transgressive treats like Gaspar Noe’s predictably extreme “Climax” and Ali Abbasi’s troll-sex romp “Borders.”
Still, none of those have had anywhere near enough heat to steal the spotlight from those 82 women standing on the steps of Grand Theatre Lumiere on Saturday. For now, that’s the story of the 71st Cannes Film Festival: All the heroines.
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www.thewrap.com | 5/13/18
The culture of Europe might better be described as a series of overlapping cultures. Whether it is a question of North as opposed to South; West as opposed to East; Christianity as opposed to Protestantism as opposed to Catholicism; many have claimed to identify cultural fault lines across the continent. There are many cultural innovations and movements, often at odds with each other, such as Christian proselytism or Humanism. Thus the question of "common culture" or "common values" is far more complex than it seems to be. The foundation of European culture was laid by the Greeks, strengthened by the Romans, stabilized by Christianity, reformed and modernized by the fifteenth-century Renaissance and Reformation and globalized by successive European empires between the sixteenth and twentieth centuries. Thus the European Culture developed into a very complex phenomenon of wider range of philosophy, Christian and secular humanism, rational way of life and logical thinking developed through a long age of change and formation with the experiments of enlightenment, naturalism, romanticism, science, democracy, and socialism. Because of its global connection, the European culture grew with an all-inclusive urge to adopt, adapt and ultimately influence other trends of culture. As a matter of fact, therefore, from the middle of the nineteenth century with the expansion of European education and the spread of Christianity, European culture and way of life, to a great extent, turned to be "global culture," if anything has to be so named .