With production in China suffering a coronavirus-imposed slowdown, “The Italian Recipe” is one co-production between Europe and China that is poised to potentially capitalize on the resulting dearth of Chinese content. It is positioned to advance European cinema’s efforts to make inroads in China. “The Italian Recipe,” in which a famous Chinese pop singer travels […]
variety.com | 2/23/20
“Nine Days,” starring Winston Duke, Zazie Beetz and Bill Skarsgard, has been acquired by Sony Pictures Classics following its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival last month, the distributor announced Friday.
Directed by Edson Oda, “Nine Days” takes place in a house, distant from the reality we know, and centers on a reclusive man named Will (Duke) who interviews prospective candidates Emma (Beetz), Kane (Skarsgård), Kyo (Benedict Wong), and Mike (David Rysdahl), who are each personifications of human souls, for the privilege that he once had: to be born in the real world. The others however, will cease to exist.
Oda also wrote the screenplay. Arianna Ortiz also co-stars.
SPC took North American rights, along with Latin America, Eastern Europe, Middle East, India, Australia, New Zealand, Scandinavia, South Africa, Benelux, and Thailand and on all airlines worldwide.
The film is a co-production between Juniper Productions, Mandalay Pictures, Nowhere, MACRO Media, and The Space Program, in association with Mansa Productions, Oak Street Pictures, 30WEST, Baked Studios and Datari Turner Productions. The film premiered last month at the Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award in the U.S. Dramatic Competition.
The project is produced by Jason Michael Berman of Mandalay Pictures, Mette-Marie Kongsved and Laura Tunstall of Nowhere, Matthew Lindner of Juniper Productions and Datari Turner. Executive producers are Charles D. King, Kim Roth, Gus Deardoff, Kellon Akeem, Yandy Smith, Renée Frigo, Beth Hubbard, Trevor Groth, Winston Duke, Caroline Connor, Will Raynor, Mark C. Stevens, Mark G. Mathis, Kwesi Collisson, Larry Weinberg, George A. Loucas, Michelle Craig, and Piero Frescobaldi.
“Nine Days is one of those rare movies that will have a long life and stand the test of time,” Sony Pictures Classics said in a statement. “It’s about alternate realities–Black Mirror on the big screen, with touches of Wings of Desire and The Matrix. It offers surprises galore and marks the birth of a major filmmaker. We are excited to be introducing ‘Nine Days’ to audiences around the world.”
“I grew up watching and admiring countless Sony Pictures Classics’ movies,” Oda said in a statement. “So many of their films–and the filmmakers they supported–ignited my passion for cinema and also propelled me to become a filmmaker. I’m so happy, humbled and honored to be working with them and can’t wait to share ‘Nine Days’ with the world.”
“It’s a dream come true to have made a film that Tom, Michael and Dylan love and want to give a theatrical release. Their sincere passion for ‘Nine Days’ has been infectious and, in handing over our film, we can think of no better partners than Sony Pictures Classics,” the producers Berman, Kongsved, Lindner, Tunstall, and Turner said in a statement.
The deal was negotiated by Larry Weinberg of Mandalay Pictures, and 30WEST and CAA Media Finance who are co-repping North American rights on behalf of the filmmakers.
Sony Pictures Classics ultimately had a busy Sundance, as the distributor is releasing “Charm City Kings” this spring and also acquired “The Father” starring Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman, the international documentary “The Truffle Hunters” and the drama “I Carry You With Me.”
THR first reported the news.
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www.thewrap.com | 2/21/20
"But is to be killed... an absolute evil?" Shellac has debuted the first official promo trailer for a loquacious historical drama titled Malmkrog, premiering in the "Encounters" section at the Berlin Film Festival this month. Malmkrog, which translates to Manor House, is the latest film from acclaimed Romanian filmmaker Cristi Puiu (The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, Sieranevada) and runs a full 3 hours, 20 minutes (no surprise from an Eastern European filmmaker). The film is made up almost entirely of conversations between guests at a house. A landowner, a politician, a countess, a General and his wife, all gather in a spacious manor and discuss death, war, progress and morality. As the time passes by, the discussion becomes more serious and heated. Starring Frédéric Schulz-Richard, Agathe Bosch, Diana Sakalauskaite?, Marina Palii, Ugo Broussot, and István Téglás. If you're into this kind of intellectual cinema, then you don't want to miss this. But I fully understand if you're not that interested ...
www.firstshowing.net | 2/17/20
The last few weeks have shown that n avigating Latino identity is a minefield that can set off an explosion at any moment in American culture. Such as: Is Antonio Banderas Latino or not?
This and other hot-button debates — including the unalloyed joy at Shakira and JLo performing at the Super Bowl — expose the complexity of what it means to be Latinx. These heated discussions drive home why Hollywood desperately needs gatekeepers who understand what these cultural firestorms are really about.
That’s because the unspoken rules regarding Latino identity shift depending on the context. (We can’t even agree on what to call ourselves, but that’s a topic for another time.)
Let me break down the firestorms of the past month as a way to unpack the lessons embedded within.
1. Antonio Banderas: Colonist or Hollywood trailblazer for Latinos?
Exactly on queue, on the morning Oscar nominations were announced last month, outrage among Latinxers erupted on social media. Aside from widespread frustration with JLo’s nomination snub, despite her head-turning role in “Hustlers,” debate raged over Banderas’ nomination for his leading role in Pedro Almodóvar’s “Pain and Glory.”
The rub? For some, Banderas, who was born in Spain, does not represent diversity in Hollywood. The outrage at the suggestion that his nomination was a small win for all Latinos was so strong, one would think Banderas makes it a habit of waking up in the morning and dressing in Spanish conquistador armor before heading to Hollywood meetings. Others within the Latinx community dismissed the debate as divisive — a win for someone with Spanish-speaking roots should be a win for all.
Perhaps a more constructive conversation would be examining how Hollywood’s executive elite perceives Banderas. Have studio heads historically seen him as one of their own, a slam dunk for quintessential Hollywood roles? Or has Banderas, in his 30+ years in Hollywood, too been perceived as an “other” in those closed-door, career-defining conversations by gatekeepers?
The response to Banderas’ nomination among the Latinx community should have come as no surprise: The entertainment industry would do well in trying to understand the nuances of representation.
Mexican director Alfonso Cuarónlast year captured the ongoing struggle about the lack of representation of U.S. born Latinos in an interview with media company Remezcla.
“There is so much talk about diversity, and I mean some progress has been made, but definitely the Hispanic Americans — and specifically Chicanos — are really, really badly represented still,” Cuarón said after winning an Oscar for the feature film “Roma.” “It’s amazing, you know? It’s a huge percentage of the population.”
Why Hollywood darling “American Dirt” turned to ash
Before copies even hit the bookshelves, the Mexican migrant novel by Jeanine Cummins unleashed the wrath of many Mexican Americans and other Latinos for what has been described as the book’s unsophisticated narrative — a tale laced with stereotypes, clichés and a hollow understanding of the journey to cross the border.
Imperative Entertainment, the production company behind Clint Eastwood’s “The Mule,” acquired the rights to the novel after a publishing bidding war resulted in a seven-figure sum for Cummins. In the author’s note, Cummins now famously says she wished “someone slightly browner than me” had written the novel, before conceding she had the “capacity” to be some sort of a cultural bridge, presumably because her husband was an undocumented immigrant (from Ireland, it was later known) and her grandmother is Puerto Rican.
Barnes & Noble
Did Hollywood jump before doing its due diligence? How we tell the important stories of our time is just as important as deciding what stories to tell.
The “American Dirt” controversy reminds me of a time early in my career when I was tapped by newsroom editors as a lead writer to help chronicle California’s changing demographics. I was being dispatched to the border to tell the story of the explosive population growth among Latinos, which for the first time was more a result of births than of immigration.
Barely out of college from my hometown of Miami — where Latinos dominate every layer of business, politics and culture — I felt the assignment was all wrong. So I mustered up the courage to ask for a meeting with editors to discuss the direction of the story.
Journalists, as with entertainment execs, are fans of storytelling extremes — when, in fact, most of our daily lives are lived within the gritty, ambiguous in-between. My twenty-something self sat in a chair inside a small office, flanked by three veteran journalists, all white men. I proceeded to explain what I saw as flaws of the story idea.
Latinos, it seemed from our conversation, were something to observe through a fishbowl. “Why do Latinos have so many babies? Let’s go see them in the wild,” it felt as though they were asking.
When I pushed back, one of the journalists who was standing inside of the cramped office asked if I felt as though I was “too close to the story” and couldn’t be impartial.
Would it be better, he asked, “if a Bavarian wrote it?” He was the said Bavarian.
I’m not exactly sure how I managed to pick up my metaphorical mouth from the floor and continue my pitch, but it remains a moment of pride that I walked out of that office with a completely different assignment of my own choosing. I would spend several months reporting and writing — alone, without the Bavarian.
It helped that I came to the meeting prepared, having spent hours analyzing census and private polling data. I found that if you look deeper at the trends over time, Latinos across generations very much begin to resemble white America when it comes to birth rates.
So I set out and found the perfect family (who hadn’t settled on the poverty-stricken border) from which to tell a generational story that begins at the Rio Grande, migrates to California’s crop-picking fields and finishes (or begins again) on college campuses.
It’s too late to change the immigrant tale at the center of “American Dirt,” though its publisher, Flatiron Books, backpedaled on its marketing push and book tour after the fervent backlash:
“We should never have claimed that it was a novel that defined the immigrant experience; we should not have said that Jeanine’s husband was an undocumented immigrant while not specifying that he was from Ireland…” the statement read. “We can now see how insensitive those and other decisions were, and we regret them.”
Does it come as a surprise that Latinos made up just 3 percent of the publishing workforce in 2018, according to a 2019 Publisher’s Weekly study?
No, not really.
3. How Shakira and JLo’s performance united Latinos
“I’ve often wondered why Latinos, particularly considering our share of the population, have struggled to make the same headway in Hollywood as African Americans and Asian Americans.
Then I think about some of the complicated conversations with my friends. For context: I’m the daughter of Cuban immigrants; my husband is second-generation California Mexican American; our friends are a mix of children and grandchildren of Mexican, Peruvian, Argentinian and European immigrants; and several also proudly represent Boyle Heights and East L.A.
On a recent night, we went from debating the Banderas nomination to discussing the Latino director of some obscure film. The assumption was that he was of Mexican heritage. Then we Googled his name.
“Oh, he’s Puerto Rican,” my friend, a self-described Chicana, said.
“You sound disappointed,” I responded, as her shoulders slightly slumped.
“I thought he was Mexican.”
In that disappointment lies the crux of why what Shakira and JLo did Sunday night felt so significant. For 12 minutes, these power women brought pan-ethnic Latinos together, forcing us to forget our differences and instead focus on our shared culture, experience and love of Spanglish.
We were one. And when JLo draped herself in a feathered Puerto Rican flag, Latinos collectively cheered, regardless of what country our parents or grandparents immigrated from; whether or not we speak Spanish; and no matter if we identify as Latinx or not.
Because in the context of making entertainment history on the most significant of stages, Latino identity transcended divisions.
So, yes, Latinos can gripe about whether a Banderas Oscar nomination counts toward Latino representation — and still see ourselves in “Pain and Glory.” We can tear apart the immigrant story central to “American Dirt” — and still demand more stories about the struggles south of the border. We can wear our different nationalities as badges of honor — and still come together as one when our culture is center stage.
Rather than see us as too difficult to understand, Hollywood should value us for being complicated and dynamic and flawed — a true American story.
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www.thewrap.com | 2/7/20
‘Mucho Mucho Amor’ Film Review: Rapturous Documentary Pays Tribute to Scintillating Oracle Walter Mercado
A radiant documentary with the power to send Latinos into a frenzy of uplifting nostalgia, Argentine-American filmmaker Cristina Costantini and Kareem Tabsch’s “Mucho Mucho Amor” thoroughly and lovingly eulogizes revered Puerto Rican astrologer Walter Mercado, in a film that mixes celebrity cameos and heart-to-heart chats with the late icon himself.
One of the few true pan-Latino figures, ageless Mercado reached millions of households across the United States, as well as throughout Latin America (including Portuguese-speaking Brazil), and even Europe for decades on TV, radio, and print media.
Entire families hung on his every word and shushed one another to hear what he had to say about their respective futures. For those of us who interacted with his image every day, during his long stint on Univision’s “Primer Impacto” or his solo show, that’s a shared memory that evokes the comfort of familiarity. If Walter Mercado was on, you’d listen. Leaning repeatedly on that resonantly accurate piece of anecdotal information from varied famous sources helps the co-directors further stress how ubiquitous his presence was.
Horoscopes delivered with an authoritative and theatrical flair were just part of his larger-than-life magnetism. Outfits gleaming with flamboyant fabulousness and the unwavering positivity of his message of love and peace, reflected in his signature farewell that gives the film its title, completed a mesmerizing persona in an astral league all of his own.
Delightful animated sequences of tarot cards segment the doc as through it were a reading of Mercado’s own destiny in retrospect, starting with the divine incident that in 1930s Ponce, Puerto Rico, that revealed the young boy’s uniqueness. Interviewed at home, an elderly Mercado, still exuding glamour despite the toll time has taken on his mortal body, enthusiastically reminisces on his past glory and promises there’s more to come. His certainty is convincing.
“To be different is a gift, to be ordinary is common,” Mercado recalled his mother instilling in him. A natural-born performer, he was a dancer, a stage actor, and then a telenovela cast member before his gift as an emissary of the stars sent him on the path to small-screen immortality.
Necessary biographical context aside, Costantini (“Science Fair”) and Tabsch (“The Last Resort”) deftly inquire about less pleasant subjects, such as psychic scams in his name or the legal battle with former associate Guillermo Bakula, who declares himself remorseless, over the fortuneteller’s name and likeness, which he crossed over into the English-speaking market. On brand, Mercado speaks no ill of anyone, though those in his inner circle — like confidant Willy Acosta, his right-hand and “also the left one” as he would say — do verbalize their indignation.
Valiantly, Mercado also spent a lifetime challenging established parameters on gender and sexuality, not outspokenly but via the feminine aura of his polished presentation. “Embraced and othered” by a homophobic and religious culture, he was a queer pioneer, and a referent for non-binary identity; even if he never officially came out, his existence validated that of many others.
When Mercado speaks to the camera, he is fearless, and he is able to sincerely spread goodwill, because he’s loved himself enough to mitigate the hurtful judgments from the outside. He preached his non-denominational beliefs by example.
A lucid editing job, courtesy of Tom Maroney and Carlos David Rivera, seamlessly strings together the large array of topics that comprise the personal history and public legacy of Mercado, including how Latino millennials have reclaimed him as a cultural emblem. They do so both with archival footage and thoughtful and quotidian shots of the aging hero that let the movie breathe and prevent it from ever resembling a checklist.
From Eugenio Derbez, a Virgo, whose impression of Mercado — named Julio Esteban — became one of the Mexican comedian’s most popular characters, to acclaimed journalist Jorge Ramos, a skeptical Pisces, several famed personalities proclaim their appreciation. However, it’s Mercado’s encounter with Lin-Manuel Miranda, a Capricorn, that instantly melts hearts. Its beauty resides in that this wasn’t a meeting between two Boricua titans, but an overwhelmed admirer in the presence of a legend he associates with grandma’s affection more so than with spiritual advice.
Believing in Mercado, as Costantini and Tabsch make clear, had little to do with relying in his practice as a feasible predictor for what’s to come, and more with having a champion that could persuade you to have hope for a new day. Even if the predictions didn’t come true, what wasn’t false was the encouragement that came with it. So to no one’s surprise, when the HistoryMiami Museum arranges an exhibit celebrating 50 years since Mercado’s first broadcast in August 1969, the halls were flooded with well-wishers who came to see him honored. Each bedazzled cape on display was, obviously, adorned not with mere sequins but his rarified magic.
Sure to break the Latino internet the second it starts streaming on Netflix in Summer 2020, as people gather one more time around a screen to get a dose or Walter Mercado’s zingers and eternal mysticism, “Mucho Mucho Amor” is a tribute as inspired and jubilant as its majestic subject, a true original, who “used to be a star and now is a constellation.”
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www.thewrap.com | 1/24/20
A new cinema and a European-style food hall are suggested to reverse the decline of the high street.
www.bbc.co.uk | 1/24/20
Japanese art house Studio Ghibli has found a home on Netflix.
Starting Feb. 1, 21 films from the Academy Award-winning Studio Ghibli will be available on Netflix through distribution partner Wild Bunch International, the streaming platform announced Sunday.
The deal excludes the U.S., Canada and Japan. HBO Max acquired the U.S. rights to the animated library last year, with the films debuting on the platform in the spring of this year.
Studio Ghibli’s catalogue, which will include Academy Award-winner “Spirited Away,” “Princess Mononoke,” “Arrietty,” “My Neighbor Totoro” and “The Tale of Princess Kaguya,” will be subtitled in 28 languages and dubbed in up to 20 languages.
“In this day and age, there are various great ways a film can reach audiences,” producer Toshio Suzuki at Studio Ghibli said in a statement. “We’ve listened to our fans and have made the definitive decision to stream our film catalogue. We hope people around the world will discover the world of Studio Ghibli through this experience.”
Director of Original Animation at Netflix Aram Yacoubian added: “This is a dream come true for Netflix and millions of our members. Studio Ghibli’s animated films are legendary and have enthralled fans around the world for over 35 years. We’re excited to make them available in more languages across Latin America, Europe, Africa and Asia – so that more people can enjoy this whimsical and wonderful world of animation.”
Studio Ghibli is one of the most acclaimed animation studios in the world, having brought content to the forefront for the last 30 years. “Spirited Away” won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature in 2002, while “Howl’s Moving Castle,” “The Wind Rises,” “The Tale of The Princess Kaguya” and “When Marnie Was There” were all nominated for an Oscar. Director and co-founder Hayao Miyazaki was given an Honorary Award at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Governors Awards in 2014, and he will also receive a tribute with a special exhibit of his artwork when the Academy Museum opens in 2020.
See the release schedule for Studio Ghibli films on Netflix below.
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www.thewrap.com | 1/20/20
Don Savant, a former executive at IMAX Corporation, will be named CEO of CJ 4DPlex Americas, the US subsidiary of the Korean conglomerate responsible for the 4DX movie theater technology, the company announced Monday.
Savant will be responsible for growing both the 4DX and ScreenX formats in the Americas while also collaborating with movie studios to adapt films to the premium formats.
In 2019, CJ expanded its two formats to over 1000 locations nationwide. In that time, the 4DX format also saw a 41% increase at the box office compared to 2018. Further, the ScreenX technology, which is a 270-degree viewing experience, nearly tripled its revenue last year.
“I am incredibly excited to join CJ 4DPLEX, and the CJ Group. I had worked with CJ CGV Cinemas for 18 years at IMAX. Their commitment to the development of the overall cinema experience and the film business worldwide created a deep and lasting impression with me and I am thrilled to be part of an organization committed to innovation and excellence,” Savant said in a statement.
“Don has a proven track record of growing premium theater concepts globally and will help continue our record-breaking growth for both 4DX and ScreenX. His has an excellent reputation among exhibitors and the overall entertainment industry, and we are excited to have him oversee our presence in the Americas and take it to the next level,” Jong Ryul Kim, CEO of CJ 4DPlex, said in a statement.
Savant previously spent 19 years at IMAX Corporation and was most recently president of global sales between 2016 and 2018, at which time he helped expand the company’s footprint with the development of 730 new theater locations in North America, Europe, India, China and Asia. He also helped establish China as the company’s largest market, leading to the IPO of IMAX China with a valuation of over $1.45 billion.
Prior to IMAX, Savant was the senior vice president of sales and marketing at Iwerks Entertainment in Burbank, California, where he launched the company’s first 4D theaters.
Savant is a board member APPlife Digital Solutions Inc., a business incubator and portfolio manager that invests in and creates e-commerce and cloud-based solutions. He is also an active member of his community, having set up the Savant Fellowship with his wife Elizabeth at the UCLA Center for Autism Research & Treatment.
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www.thewrap.com | 1/6/20
A region bustling with the winds of change throughout the 2010s — both progressive and retrograde — Latin America enjoyed a banner decade that witnessed the rise of films grappling with economic inequality, indigenous discrimination, and LGBTQ+ issues.
Mexico’s production continued to skyrocket (from Amat Escalante to Eugenio Derbez), Chile emerged as a powerhouse in both the arthouse and mainstream markets (with the Larraín brothers’ Fabula production company and the unofficial movement known as Chilewood), and countries like Panama (“Invasion”), the Dominican Republic (“Woodpeckers”), and Paraguay (“The Heiresses”) made strides towards a more consistent output of noteworthy offers. Although far from a definitive list, these 11 features give the world the opportunity to take a peek at the varied perspectives of Latin American creators, veterans and up-and-comers:
Vigorous and sensual, Sonia Braga commands director Kleber Mendonça Filho’s vital character study in her career-best work playing Doña Clara. The timeless Brazilian star astounds as a woman resolute on safeguarding her apartment from rapacious developers. Brilliantly, Mendonça Filho anchors her story to their country’s greater sociopolitical context, while providing a resounding reminder of Braga’s long underused excellence. At its Cannes premiere, cast and crew denounced Brazil’s political situation, a warning of what was to come in the Bolsonaro era, where the director has become a major target.
“Boy and the World” (2013)
Handcrafted whimsy with social commentary weaved in make Alê Abreu’s debut an animated triumph. Without relying on a single line of intelligible dialogue, the colorful and enchantingly designed film depicts a boy’s dazzling quest to find his father amid a realm under a tyrannical rule. Horrifying deforestation and the loss of dreams to an exploitative economic system are also addressed in this incredibly poignant and musical adventure. It’s also the first and so far the only Latin American animated feature to be nominated for an Oscar.
“Devil’s Freedom” (2017) and “Tempestad” (2016)
Documentarians Everardo González and Tatiana Huezo addressed, respectively, the human cost of the ongoing Mexican Drug War — and such peripheral evils as rampant corruption — with uniquely intimate portraits of a country in turmoil based on first-hand accounts. Searing interviews with victims and perpetrators all wearing identical face-tight masks blur the lines between both sides in González’s “Devil’s Freedom.” Huezo’s “Tempestad,” meanwhile, gives voice to two women whose lives were upended by cartel-related violence. Similarly haunting, these non-fiction gems are essential viewing to understand Mexico today.
“Embrace of the Serpent” (2015)
Wrapped in mysticism, Ciro Guerra’s cinematic knockout on the harrowing legacy of European colonialism earned Colombia its first nomination for the since-renamed Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award. Told in two different time periods from the point of view of Karamakate (Nilbio Torres/Antonio Bolivar), a wise Amazonian indigenous man, this transcendental accomplishment chronicles his fateful encounters with two separate white visitors and the ancestral beliefs that reign over the land. David Gallego’s black-and-white cinematography heightens the film’s dreamlike quality.
“A Fantastic Woman” (2017)
In addition to winning Chile’s first Oscar for what’s known today as the Best International Feature Film category, Sebastián Lelio’s genre-defying success introduced transgender actress Daniela Vega to the world. On screen she soars as Marina, a transgender woman mourning her boyfriend in a society that refuses to acknowledge their love as valid, but it’s the visibility the role brought to gender-identity issues in the South American country that turned the film to a watershed event. Further attesting to its cultural significance, Vega also became the first trans performer to present at the Oscars.
“From Afar” (2015)
Seasoned actor Alfredo Castro and newcomer Luis Silva star in this darkly tantalizing Venezuelan drama from Lorenzo Vigas. Set against the backdrop of chaotic Caracas, the two-hander studies the power dynamic between a middle-aged gay man and a young criminal hired to fulfill his desires and carry out a deadly mission. Audacious writing and starling turns from both actors wowed the jury at the Venice International Film Festival, where it was awarded the Golden Lion, becoming the country’s highest profile production ever.
Guatemalan auteur Jayro Bustamante has single-handedly revitalized his homeland’s national cinema with three features that scrutinize its past and present particularly in relation to the indigenous population and LGBTQ+ people. His visually stunning debut unfolds within the Maya Kaqchikel community and centers on a teenage girl (María Mercede Coroy) and her mother (María Telón) navigating an unplanned pregnancy in a country that has marginalized them both. Testament to the director’s commitment to create an inclusive artistic scene, both Telón and Coroy have appeared in Bustamante’s subsequent works.
Easily the most prolific Latin American director of the decade — with six features under his belt in the 2010s alone — Pablo Larraín’s career reached a new level of international exposure with this Oscar-nominated historical dramedy. Marking his first collaboration with Mexican actor Gael García Bernal, the film revolves around an advertising expert tasked with mounting a campaign that will inspire hope among Chileans to finally vote ruthless dictator Pinochet out of office. Formally inventive and sharply humorous, “No” remains among Larraín’s best in an enviable filmography.
Ten Academy Award nominations (including one for Best Picture) and countless other accolades established Alfonso Cuarón’s memory masterpiece about 1970s Mexico City as the most celebrated Mexican film in history. And yet, beyond all the industry recognition, its most invaluable legacy is having confronted the general public back home with the deep-seated racism that has perpetually plagued the collective consciousness. First-time actress Yalitza Aparicio, playing an indigenous housekeeper, became a beacon of diverse representation, while Netflix’s massive marketing strategy proved to be a near limitless force.
Ending a nine-year hiatus, Argentine master Lucrecia Martel returned with her most ambitious narrative to date, an 18th century epic adapted from Antonio di Benedetto’s novel published in the 1950s. With Mexican actor Daniel Giménez Cacho as its eponymous protagonist, a frustrated Spanish official, Martel’s sardonic take on the greedy stubbornness of colonial powers called to mind why she’s considered a singularly iconoclastic voice in modern cinema. Sultry, sun-drenched frames and a cleverly disorienting soundscape amount to an experience that’s as cerebral as it is sensory.
www.thewrap.com | 12/28/19
Claudine Auger, a French actress best known for her work as the Bond girl Domino in the 1965 James Bond movie “Thunderball” opposite Sean Connery, has died. She was 78.
The official James Bond Twitter account shared the news of her passing Friday.
“It’s with great sadness we have learnt that Claudine Auger, who played Domino Derval in ‘Thunderball” (1965), has passed away at the age of 78,” @007 said in a statement. “Our thoughts are with her family and friends.”
Auger, born Claudine Oger, was a French star who first won the Miss France pageant in 1958 and was the runner up for Miss World that same year. She studied dramatic acting at the Conservatory in Paris and made her uncredited film debut in 1958 in a film called “Christine.” She was then discovered by the French auteur Jean Cocteau and appeared in his film “Testament of Orpheus” in 1960. She would later star in films such as “The Iron Mask” and “In the French Style.”
Though the part of Domino was originally written as an Italian woman, Auger met “Thunderball” producer Kevin McClory while on vacation in Nassau, and McClory rewrote the part to better fit Auger’s strengths.
Since her Bond days, Auger became a bigger star in European cinema, including in films and shows such as “Fantastica” and “The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes.”
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www.thewrap.com | 12/20/19
NBCUniversal will be heading into the streaming era with a different man at the helm. On Thursday, word broke out that NBCU’s longtime CEO Steve Burke would be stepping down next summer, ending a nearly 10-year tenure running the media conglomerate.
And according to experts and analysts who spoke with TheWrap, Burke leaves behind a long shadow, but one that Jeff Shell, who is expected to succeed Burke, seems capable of filling. Tom Nunan, founder and partner of Bull’s Eye Entertainment and a lecturer at UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television, said Burke has been “an iconic figure in broadcasting for his entire career.”
“There are few people with his track record of success,” Nunan said. “He’s definitely in that elite circle that [Disney Chairman Bob] Iger is a part of and a few others.
“Frankly, I would be surprised if this is the end of his media career, because he’s still relatively young,” Nunan said, “and he comes from classic TV stock being the son of Dan Burke.” Nunan touted Burke’s “humility” as “one of his great assets.” He called Burke “a smooth operator” and “a steady hand” who “doesn’t overreact to things.”
“He’s not an attention-grabbing star executive the way that [Les] Moonves insisted on being,” Nunan said.
“[Burke] is kind of a classic, old-school executive in that regard,” Nunan said. “When I say old-school executive, I mean more from the corporate mold as opposed to the entertainment mold, which is more the impresario.”
Bob Thompson, Trustee Professor of Television and Popular Culture at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, sees Burke’s legacy in the Comcast/NBCUniversal merger and the much more recent Sky deal. Thompson actually believes Burke’s greatest contribution may be an unsung one: jacking up the price of Disney’s 21st Century Fox takeover.
Thompson also offered another, less-flattering way Burke may be remembered by the general public.
“If anybody knows Steve Burke as a household name, it’s got nothing to do with all of that stuff he did to usher NBCUniversal into the Comcast era, which was a significant job, which I think he did pretty adeptly,” Thompson said. “What most lay people would remember would be his name associated with the likes of… Matt Lauer and reports by Ronan Farrow.”
Perhaps the stress of such an association and the calls for heads to roll at the top made this tough decision a little easier for Burke, Thompson wondered.
Burke’s upcoming departure is timed for next August, which would put it right after the 2020 Summer Olympics from Tokyo, which will air in the U.S. across NBCUniversal. It will also come just a few months after the launch of Peacock, NBCU’s streaming play. For one, Nunan is “surprised” by the Burke news — especially considering how close it would happen after Peacock’s debut.
“Peacock is going to become their most important venture in the next two to three years,” Nunan said. “It seems strange to me that [Burke] would walk away from building that at this time, but maybe his interests lie elsewhere.”
Whether or not Burke is still around to see Peacock take flight, Thompson’s not sure what took them so long.
“If I’m looking in the grand scheme in the history of the media, they strike me as coming kind of late to that fair,” he said. “It seems like an awful lot of people have crossed the finish line, and everybody’s off watching that stuff and nobody’s even watching the race anymore as Peacock comes waddling through.”
Thompson does not share Nunan’s surprise on Burke’s pending departure.
“It seems to be that things have been put in place, ducks have been placed in a row,” Thompson said of NBCU’s recent restructuring moves. “I don’t think it’s sending any industry people in the know into some kind or surprise tailspin or anything.”
Burke has been the only CEO NBCUniversal has known in its decade-long tenure under Comcast, which acquired NBCU from GE at the end of the last decade (though that deal did not close until 2011). While Burke has overseen NBCU during a time period of massive change for the entertainment industry — one that threatens the traditional cable model that has been the lifeblood of Comcast — he has been more than a net positive for Comcast.
NBCU revenue has grown from just above $21 billion in 2011, when he was installed as CEO, to nearly $36 billion in 2018; Comcast will report full-year earnings for 2019 next month. Under Burke, NBCUniversal bought DreamWorks Animation in 2016 for $3.8 billion. Last year, Comcast bought European pay-TV company Sky in a bidding war with 21st Century Fox.
So no pressure, Jeff. But both men believe NBCUniversal will be in fine hands with Shell. Thompson simply pointed to Shell’s successes running his current entertainment assignments.
Shell has served as chairman of the Universal film group since 2013. During his tenure leading the studio, Universal experienced four years of record profit, as well as two of the most profitable years in the studio’s 107-year history thanks, in part, to highly profitable franchises such as “Fast & Furious,” “Jurassic World” and Illumination’s “Despicable Me.” Earlier this year, Shell was was tapped to be chairman of NBCUniversal film and entertainment group, expanding his role beyond the film business to include oversight of NBC Entertainment, Telemundo and NBCU’s international operations.
That new appointment alone appeared to groom Shell for Burke’s job.
Shell is “a lot like Steve,” Nunan said. “He has a low-key style, he’s willing to stay behind the scenes, he likes to push the creative people out in front and give them credit where it’s due and give them support when they need it. That’s the hallmark that’s been handed down from Brian [Roberts, Comcast chairman and CEO] and Steve to the rest of the staff is, ‘You’re allowed to fail. You’re allowed to take big swings and if it doesn’t work, it won’t be off with your head.'”
“I suspect Jeff is just going to try to walk in Steve’s footsteps as successfully as he can,” Nunan said.
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www.thewrap.com | 12/14/19
Eleven months after receiving 10 Academy Award nominations, Yorgos Lanthimos’ black comedy “The Favourite” dominated the European Film Awards on Saturday night in Berlin, winning four awards including the top honor, European Film.
Although the film was released in the U.S. in 2018, it was eligible for the EFA because it was released in January 2019 in the U.K.
Lanthimos also won the best director award, and his film about intrigue in the court of Queen Anne was named the year’s best European comedy. Olivia Colman was named best actress for the role that won her an Oscar in February.
Best-actor honors went to Antonio Banderas for Pedro Almodovar’s “Pain and Glory.”
Ladj Ly’s “Les Miserables” won the European Discovery award, “For Sama” was named the best European documentary and “Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles,” an animated Spanish film about director Luis Buñuel shooting his 1933 film “Land Without Bread,” won the award for animated feature.
Celine Sciamma won the screenwriting award for “Portrait of a Lady on Fire.”
Honorary awards went to actress Juliette Binoche and director Werner Herzog.
Going into the ceremony, Roman Polanski’s “An Officer and a Spy” was tied for the lead in nominations, four, with “Pain and Glory,” “The Favourite” and Marco Bellocchio’s “The Traitor.” The Polanski film did not win in any category.
Also at the ceremony, which was filled with playfully surreal skits, the European Film Academy announced that it was joining with the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam and the International Film Festival Rotterdam to create the International Coalition for Filmmakers at Risk, an organization “aimed at supporting filmmakers facing political persecution for their work.”
Over the last 10 years, seven European Film Award winners have gone on to receive Oscar nominations for Best Foreign Language Film, and three of those – “Amour” in 2012, “The Great Beauty” in 2013 and “Ida” in 2014 – have won the Oscar. “Amour” is one of three EFA winners to be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars, along with “The Full Monty” in 1997 and “Life Is Beautiful” in 1998, but none have won in that category.
European Film: “The Favourite”
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www.thewrap.com | 12/7/19
French premium format movie company ICE Theaters is expanding into the U.S. with its first location at Regal/AEG’s L.A. Live cinema, which will open December 12 with the release of Sony’s “Jumanji: The Next Level.”
Launching in Europe in 2016, the ICE format — short for Immersive Cinema Experience — boasts non-reflective LED panels that match the color palette of the feature film and fill the audience’s peripheral vision. Luxury recliners surround sound technology and RGB laser projection are also included in the format.
CGR Cinemas, the French exhibitor that first introduced the ICE format, said that the 35 locations in France that have an ICE theater, box office revenue for films supported by the format doubled those of standard screens. The L.A. Live location is the first ICE theater opened outside of France, with locations planned for theaters in Saudi Arabia and Northern Africa through a deal with VOX Cinemas.
ICE Theaters is entering the American premium format market at a time when more audiences are giving premium large formats (PLF) like 4DX and ScreenX a try when going to see major blockbusters. The top PLF company, IMAX, reports that it is on pace for its highest global annual grosses ever in 2019 thanks to blockbusters like “Avengers: Endgame” and the release of “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” later this month.
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www.thewrap.com | 12/5/19
Issa Rae to Write, Star and Produce Feature Comedy ‘Perfect Strangers’ for Spyglass and Eagle Pictures
Spyglass Media and Eagle Pictures have teamed up to produce an English-language adaptation of Paolo Genovese’s Italian film “Perfetti Sconosciuti,” with “Insecure” star and co-creator Issa Rae attached to write, produce and star in the comedy.
The film, “Perfect Strangers,” centers around a dinner party in which a group of friends decide to play a risky game where they place their phones face-up on the table and agree to make all texts and phone calls public in an attempt to prove they have nothing to hide. The film takes a comedic approach to dealing with the friendship, love and betrayal that forces the friends to confront the fact that they may actually be “perfect strangers.”
“I’m really looking forward to bringing this funny and compelling story to a new demographic and could not be happier about partnering with the Spyglass team to make it happen,” Rae said in a statement. “I loved the original film and think the story will resonate with audiences here as well.”
The original Italian version, “Perfetti Sconosciuti,” was released in 2016. A number of local-language remakes followed the film’s initial release, including in China, Spain, Russia, France, and Korea. The Italian film won two David di Donatello Awards for best film and best screenplay as well as the best screenplay for an International Narrative Feature at the Tribeca Film Festival.
Spyglass is banking that Rae, who has become one of Hollywood’s premiere creators, will bring her signature style to the adaptation. Rae has received critical praise, including Emmy and Golden Globe nominations for her HBO series, “Insecure,” which is set to return in 2020.
“Issa is the perfect choice to adapt Paolo Genovese’s brilliant film given her bold and comedic authenticity,” Spyglass’s vice president of development and production Chris Stone said in a statement. “As one of the most sought-after creative talents, we are excited to see Issa’s vision come to life.”
Rae will next star in Universal’s romantic drama, “The Photograph,” which is set to hit theaters in February 2020. She’ll also star in the 2020 romantic comedy “Lovebirds” with Kumail Nanjiani.
Principal photography on “Perfect Strangers” is expected to start in the early part of next year. The film is being produced by Spyglass and Eagle Pictures, as well as 3 Marys Entertainment, alongside Rae.
Issa Rae Productions’ Montrel McKay will executive produce. Chris Stone will oversee production on behalf of Spyglass and Tarak Ben Ammar, chairman and owner of Eagle Pictures, will oversee the film on behalf of Eagle.
“I am proud to be working alongside our partners at Spyglass and the immensely talented Issa Rae on this socially resonant and provocative comedy that not only became a success in Europe, but went on to capture the attention of audiences around the globe,” Ben Ammar said in a statement.
Spyglass was launched earlier this year by former MGM CEO Gary Barber, in partnership with Lantern Entertainment co-presidents Andy Mitchell and Milos Brajovic. Lantern recently bought the assets of The Weinstein Co. out of bankruptcy, making Spyglass now the home to more than 250 film library titles, scripted and unscripted TV series, such as “Project Runway,” as well as Academy Award winners “The King’s Speech” and “The Artist,” and box office hits “Inglourious Basterds,” “Silver Linings Playbook,” “The Hateful Eight” and “Django Unchained.”
Spyglass has strategic investment backing from Warner Bros, Eagle Pictures; the largest independent distributor in Italy, and Cineworld Group.
Rae is represented by UTA, 3 Arts Entertainment and attorney John Meigs.
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www.thewrap.com | 12/4/19
The 2019 UN IGF is right now being held in Berlin and entering the last day. There has been a wide range of exciting discussions. It is a huge step forward that this year's IGF has been able to bring a plethora of topics together under a framework of thinking after the efforts done by the UN Secretary-General António Guterres' High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation (The Age of Digital Interdependence) and by German scholars' engagement with all the stakeholders (Towards a Global Framework for Cyber Peace and Digital Cooperation: An Agenda for the 2020s).
A central underlying topic of this year's IGF is about the conceptions about digital sovereignty. It is totally predictable that Chancellor Merkel would use Berlin Wall metaphor to enshrine the value of free speech. It is rare, however, to hear that she emphasizes digital sovereignty, which is said to be neither censorship nor protectionism, but a way through which individuals are capable of determining their own digital development.
Sovereignty in cyberspace has long been labeled by Western mainstream literature as a "monopoly" by China. But this is no longer the case, perhaps has never been. This column piece wants to share a different narrative: Washington DC is, in reality, the strongest supporter of the notion of cyber sovereignty in the military domain; China pays more attention to the content category; EU is more concerned about big tech giants.
Or, an easier way to put it might be this. All nations and every individual like nice words and they all support freedom and free flow. The important thing is how they make exceptions. China has social stability exceptions. U.S. has national security exceptions. Germany has privacy exceptions. All the three nations, however, attach great importance to political stability, who is the core for a society to function.
I shared my ideas in the IGF 2019 Digital Sovereignty & Internet Fragmentation session. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p55_LZmJ-2o&t=3795s). Below is a rewriting of what I said about how national sovereignty has made its extensions into cyberspace — with different degrees, in different categories, by different stakeholders — which shapes the complexities and contradictions in the articulation of digital sovereignty by different nations and stakeholders. There are five contexts.
Category No. 1 Military or legitimacy of cyberspace as military domain and the rules for it if it is legitimate. We see in this category the most hardcore extension of traditional national sovereignty into cyberspace by some nation-states. You will be given a Nobel Peace prize if you can find a multi-stakeholder solution to this unilateral or multilateral issue. If we can reduce the tensions in this category, all the rest of the challenges will become irrelevant and evaporate. China remains reluctant to admit that cyberspace has become a military zone but still eagerly promotes national sovereignty for defensive purpose against the possibility that the same two words — national sovereignty — might be used for offensive purposes by some other countries. That is a rather paradoxical situation.
Category No. 2 Crime or cybercrime governance. This is also a sovereignty story, but there are some transnational initiatives and mechanisms installed. EU has the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime. Russia has submitted a UN Convention on the Fight against Information Crimes. U.S. and UK have signed the first bilateral data-sharing agreement under CLOUD. China follows a practical approach and is busy taking back suspects committing telecommunication fraud from abroad. Cybercrime is now No.1 type of crime in China, which is also good news because the crimes in the streets have significantly reduced.
Category No. 3 Trade or digital economy and digital trade rules. The most recent update is Osaka Track. It is another challenging field that brings together a lot of elements that call for multi-ministry and multi-stakeholder coordination. This is where free flow is upheld and may lead to the removal of many practices of data localization. The word trust in the principle of "data free flow with trust" is problematic and subjective. A plain use of free flow is much clearer.
Category No. 4 Code or technical communities and management of core Internet resources. This is where institutional innovation really happens and should be more widely exported to inform other categories. China is happy about the current situation. Multi-stakeholder is firmly supported. The words have been spread and repeated by Chinese President for quite some years at the World Internet Conference WuZhen Summit. All the WuZhen gatherings have carried a theme of "Digital Commons." The values nurtured by the technical communities are highly appreciated and resonate with some universal values deeply rooted in Chinese culture. The Chinese philosopher Zhao Ting-yang captures this Chinese worldview in his books about global governance. He concluded his dialogue with his French counterpart Régis Debray that the Internet changed the world more than revolutionaries like Marx, Lenin, and Mao Zedong.
Category No. 5 Content or social media governance. China so far prefers a sovereignty approach in this category. But domestically, It is important to pay attention to the diversity of media ownerships in China. There are state media like People's Daily. There are commercial media such as Tick-Tok. There are grassroots media like half a billion users' Microblog or WeChat accounts. The rise of private media ownership is quite reassuring.
Therefore, there are different extensions and projections of national sovereignty in different cyber contexts. A U.S. military version of hardcore cyber sovereignty assumes certain enemies, bases itself basically purely on imaginations, and makes China and perhaps many other developing parts of the world feel extremely uneasy. However, the Chinese way of protecting cyber sovereignty in the content domain makes the U.S. cry foul over human rights principles.
German Chancellor Merkel and her more outspoken French counterpart President Macron share the same U.S. worries about Chinese domestic practices in the content domain, but are more urgently concerned about the big U.S. Internet platforms, and this is perhaps the direction of a European version of digital sovereignty is pointing to. All of these are further enhanced by the uncertainties and competition for huge opportunities brought by emerging technologies.
Solution: return to the insights and values of the Founding Fathers of the Internet and flexibly combine multistakeholderism and multilateralism in global digital policy-making.
Written by Peixi (Patrick) Xu, Professor, Communication University of China
www.circleid.com | 12/1/19
Legendary bands and Nuclear Blast label mates, Belphegor and Suffocation, are teaming up once again for the second edition of Europe Under Black Death Metal Fire, brought by The Flaming Arts Agency. This time the package is strengthened by the well-known Polish blasphemers Hate. Extremely wide European geography, from the very south to the very nor... Read More/Discuss on Metal Underground.com
www.metalunderground.com | 11/21/19
Gaming is on the verge of becoming the biggest entertainment sector in the world.
That was one of the key takeaways from IDG Consulting CEO Yoshio Osaki’s opening presentation on Tuesday at TheWrap’s GamingGrill at Herringbone in Santa Monica. Gaming, according to IDG’s research, already brings in more revenue globally than the music business, movie ticket sales and home entertainment combined. Overall, the gaming industry is on pace to bring in nearly $180 billion in revenue this year — marking a 24% jump in revenue from only two years ago.
By the end of 2020, IDG projects gaming to surpass television as the most lucrative form of entertainment, with annual revenue rising to $195 billion.
(Courtesy of IDG Consulting)
It’s probably best to think of major video game releases in the same way we think of blockbuster movies, Osaki said. And in many cases, the biggest video games trump the latest comic book epic coming out of Hollywood.
For example, “Avengers: Infinity War” brought in $640 million globally during its opening weekend last year — or about $85 million less than “Red Dead Redemption 2,” from Rockstar Games, made during its opening weekend in October 2018.
What’s behind gaming’s continued rise? There are a few dynamics at play. First off, as illustrated by “Red Dead Redemption 2,” gaming is truly international. Major releases in the U.S. drive huge sales in Europe and Asia. It applies in the opposite direction as well, as the FIFA soccer franchise from EA Sports indicates; the FIFA game sold nearly 14 million copies last year, according to IDG’s research, with 29% of those players coming from North America. Europe, where the game is especially popular, accounts for 69% of the game’s sales.
New industry entrants and new ways for gamers to play are also spurring the industry’s growth. Osaki pointed to companies like Nike, Facebook and Amazon that are traditionally not gaming-oriented but are now venturing into the industry. Amazon’s involvement in gaming has grown exponentially since buying Twitch in 2014. Twitch is now the go-to streaming service for gamers around the world, and the company recently enjoyed its peak concurrent viewership for a single event, with 1.7 million people streaming a Fortnite event.
Snapchat also launched its own in-app gaming arcade earlier this year — around the same time Apple revealed it would also be getting into gaming, too. The smartphone, just as it’s making it easier for users to watch TV shows and movies on the go, is now becoming an integral part of the gaming industry.
Another gaming trend to watch: esports. More people than ever before are watching people, well, play video games. This may seem like a niche development to those outside gaming, but the numbers are staggering. The Super Bowl pulls in about 100 million viewers at its peak, and it’s still dwarfed by major esports events like the 2019 League of Legends World Championship, which drew 200 million viewers at its peak, according to IDG.
It’s no wonder Twitch, Mixer and YouTube are duking it out — and often poaching popular streamers from their rivals — for gaming viewers.
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www.thewrap.com | 11/20/19
The second week of public hearings in the Donald Trump impeachment inquiry begins Tuesday morning at 6:00 a.m. PT/9:00 a.m. ET with testimony from two people who listened in on the July 25 call between Trump and Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky: Jennifer Williams, a State Department aide to Vice President Mike Pence, and Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman.
After a short break, the proceedings will resume at 11:30 a.m. PT/2:30 p.m. ET with testimony from former U.S. Ambassador to NATO Kurt Volker, and former White House Russia adviser Tim Morrison, both of whom are on the list of witnesses requested to appear by Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee.
In addition to broadcasts from the major television networks, C-SPAN will once again air the full uninterrupted hearings. Watch the testimony from Williams and Vindman at the top of this page starting at 6:00 a.m. PT/9:00 a.m. ET; watch Volker and Morrison’s testimony in the video below, beginning at 11:30 a.m. PT/2:30 p.m. ET:
Then on Wednesday at 6 a.m. PT/9 a.m. PT, all eyes will be on Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union who said he personally told Zelensky’s top aide that U.S. aid to Ukraine was linked to the Biden investigations. The afternoon session will include testimony from Laura Cooper and David Hale.
Fiona Hill, a top Russian specialist on the National Security Council, and David Holmes, the aide who heard the conversation between Sondland and Trump, will testify on Thursday.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced in September that the House of Representatives would begin a formal impeachment inquiry into Trump.
The decision came in light of a whistleblower complaint that the president sought to use foreign power from Ukraine for his own political gain. During a phone call with Ukraine’s president, Trump reportedly pressured Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate the son of former vice president and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden; earlier that week, Trump admitted that he had brought up Biden’s family during the call but told reporters that he did so because “we don’t want our people like Vice President Biden and his son creating to the corruption already in the Ukraine.” The president also confirmed that his administration withheld nearly $400 million in aid to Ukraine but denied that it was done for leverage.
Week one of the impeachment saw testimony three career public servants: William Taylor, the acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine; George Kent, the deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs; and Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.
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www.thewrap.com | 11/19/19
On Monday’s “The Late Show,” Stephen Colbert took a moment in his opening monologue to talk about this week’s new round of public hearings in the ongoing Donald Trump impeachment inquiry — and to dunk a little on U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland.
Sondland is set to testify before the House intelligence committee on Wednesday, and Colbert ran down what Sondland might talk about. For instance, a report by The Daily Beast said that Sondland at one point stormed into a White House room and “demanded ferociously that Ukrainians open the Biden investigation,” and that he “got very emotional” and yelled about it.
A temper tantrum in the White House? Do you expect me to believe that a man who looks like this is a giant baby,” Colbert joked while a photo of Sondland, which you can see at the top of the page.
Colbert also noted the report that according to a State Department witness, Sondland once called Trump on a personal cell phone from a restaurant in the Ukraine, and during the call, Sondland told the president that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky “loves your ass.”
“Oh, who doesn’t,” Colbert said while visibly cringing. Colbert then asked for a “taste” of that, at which point a very unflattering photo of Trump playing tennis in tight white shorts was displayed onscreen. If you can handle that accursed image, watch the full clip below:
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www.thewrap.com | 11/19/19
Last May, SpaceX founder Elon Musk tweeted "6 more launches of 60 sats needed for minor coverage, 12 for moderate" and SpaceX President and CEO Gwynne Shotwell recently said they planned to be offering service in parts of the US in mid-2020, which would require six to eight 60-satellite launches. The first of those launches will be in the middle of this month on a thrice-flown Falcon 9 booster. (They will also need customer terminals and Elon Musk has used a prototype to post a tweet from his home).
Six to eight launches would bring them up to Musk's "minor" coverage by mid-2020 and, if they maintain the same launch rate, they will achieve "moderate" coverage around the end of the year. But, what is meant by "minor" and "moderate" coverage? A simulation by Mark Handley, a professor at University College London, provides an approximation of the answer.
The first Starlink "shell" will have 24 orbital planes. Each orbital plane will have 66 satellites at an inclination of 53 degrees and an altitude of 550 km. Handley ran simulations of the first six and first twelve orbital planes — corresponding roughly to the SpaceX plan for 2020. Snapshots of the coverage area "footprints" from the two simulations are shown below:
The blue areas — around 50 degrees north and south latitude — are regions with continuous 24-hour coverage by at least one satellite. With six orbital planes, there will be continuous connectivity in the northern US and Canada and much of western Europe and Russia, but only southern Patagonia and the South Island of New Zealand in the sparsely populated south. Note that the financial centers of London and (just barely) New York will have continuous coverage, but, since these early satellites will not have inter-satellite laser links (ISLLs), SpaceX would have to route traffic between them through an undersea cable.
(At this point, you should stop reading and watch the video (6m 36s) of the simulation which shows the footprints moving across the surface of the planet as it rotates).
With 12 orbital planes, all of the continental US and most of Europe, the Middle East, China, Japan, and Korea will be covered. Shotwell says that once they have 1,200 satellites in orbit, they will have global coverage (with the exception of the polar regions) and capacity will be added as they complete the 550 km shell with 1,584 satellites. That should occur well before the end of 2021 since she expects to achieve a launch cadence of 60 satellites every other week.
Shotwell also said they planned to include ISLLs by late 2020, implying that around half of the satellites in this first shell will have them. Those ISSLs will give SpaceX an advantage over terrestrial carriers for low-latency long-distance links, a market Musk hopes to dominate. ISLLs will also reduce the need for ground stations. (Maybe they can lease ground-station service from SpaceX competitor Amazon in the interim)
All of this is cool, but what will it cost the user?
It sounds like SpaceX is serious about pursuing the consumer market from the start. When asked about price recently, Shotwell said millions of people in the U. S. pay $80 per month to get "crappy service." She did not commit to a price, but homes, schools, community centers, etc. with crappy service would pay that for good service, not to mention those with no service. Some customers may pay around $80 per month, but the price at a given location will be a function of SpaceX capacity, the price/demand curve for Intenet service, and competition from terrestrial and other satellite service providers — so prices will vary within the U. S. and globally. In nations where Starlink service is sold by partner Internet service providers, they will share in pricing decisions.
Since the marginal cost of serving a customer is near zero as long as there is sufficient capacity, we can expect lower prices in a poor, sparsely-populated region than in an affluent, densely-populated region. Dynamic pricing is also a possibility since SpaceX will have real-time demand data for every location. "Dynamic pricing of a zero marginal cost, variable-demand service" sounds like a good thesis topic. It will be interesting to see their pricing policy.
National governments will also have a say on pricing and service. While the U. S. will allow SpaceX to serve customers directly, other nations may require that they sell through Internet service providers and some — maybe Russia — may ban Starlink service altogether.
The price and quality of service also impact long-run usage patterns and applications. Today, the majority of users in developing nations access the Internet using mobile phones, which limits the power and range of applications they can use. Affordable satellite broadband would lead to more computers in homes, schools, and businesses and reduce the cost of offering new Internet services, impacting the economy and culture and leading to more content and application creation, as opposed to content consumption.
Looking further into the future, SpaceX has FCC approval for around 12,000 satellites and they recently requested spectrum for an additional 30,000 from the International Telecommunication Union. Their next-generation reusable Starship will be capable of launching 400 satellites at a time, and they will have to run a regular shuttle service to launch 42,000 satellites as well as replacements since the satellites are only expected to have a five-year lifespan. (One can imagine Starships dropping off new satellites then picking up obsolete satellites and returning them to Earth).
This sounds rosy. As we said in the NSFNet days, what could possibly go wrong? SpaceX seems to have a commanding lead over its would-be competitors. Might they one day become a dominant Internet service provider in a nation or region and abuse that position? Also, before they launch 42,000 satellites — or even 12,000 — SpaceX better come up with a foolproof plan for debris avoidance and mitigation. I hope they have a vice-president in charge of unanticipated side-effects.
Update Nov 5, 2019
Speaking at an investment conference, Shotwell said that a single Starship-Super Heavy launch should be able to place at least 400 Starlink satellites in orbit. Doing so would reduce the per-satellite cost to 20% of today's 60-satellite launches.
Written by Larry Press, Professor of Information Systems at California State University
www.circleid.com | 11/6/19
Stoner death metal icons, Cannabis Corpse, will be starting the new year with a headlining European tour in which they will be supported by label mates, Withered. The rampage will kick off at the Cinema in Aalst, Belgium on January 3, and continues to wreck havoc through 13 more countries until a final curtain at the Temple of Boom in Leeds, UK.... Read More/Discuss on Metal Underground.com
www.metalunderground.com | 11/5/19
Magnolia Pictures has acquired the U.S. rights to “About Endlessness,” a Swedish drama from director Roy Andersson, the distributor announced Monday. Magnolia plans to release the film theatrically in 2020.
Andersson, the director of “You, The Living” and “A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence,” won Best Director at the Venice International Film Festival where the film made its premiere. It made its North American premiere at TIFF.
His latest film, “About Endlessness,” is a reflection on human life in all its beauty and cruelty, its splendor and banality. We wander, dreamlike, gently guided by our Scheherazade-esque narrator. Inconsequential moments take on the same significance as historical events: a couple floats over a war-torn Cologne; on the way to a birthday party, a father stops to tie his daughter’s shoelaces in the pouring rain; teenage girls dance outside a cafe; a defeated army marches to a prisoner-of-war camp. Simultaneously an ode and a lament, “About Endlessness” presents a kaleidoscope of all that is eternally human, an infinite story of the vulnerability of existence.
Magnolia released Andersson’s previous film, “A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence,” in 2015 which emulated the deadpan vignettes of his latest film but was geared more as a comedy.
“Roy Andersson is a cinematic master and he’s crafted another extraordinary film in ‘About Endlessness,'” Magnolia president Eamonn Bowles said in a statement. “We’re honored to be bringing this film to American audiences.”
“I’m so happy that Magnolia will be our U.S. distributor,” Andersson said. “They did a great job releasing my last film, so I’m confident that they will take care of ‘About Endlessness’ in the best possible way. I’m so proud of the new film and very much looking forward to the US release.”
Andersson wrote and directed “About Endlessness.” The movie is a Roy Andersson Filmproduktion AB in co-production with 4 ½ Fiksjon AS, Essential Films, in association with Parisienne de Production, Sveriges Tele-vision AB, Arte France Cinéma, ZDF/Arte, and Film CapitalStockholm Fund.
The film is produced by Pernilla Sandström and Johan Carlsson and co-produced by Philippe Bober and Håkon Øverås. The executive producers are Sarah Nagel and Isabell Wiegand. The film is supported by Swedish Film Institute, Eurimages Council of Europe, Nordisk Film & TV Fund, Norwegian Film Institute, Film-und Medienstiftung NRW, and Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg.
The deal was negotiated by Magnolia EVP Dori Begley and Magnolia SVP of acquisitions John Von Thaden with CAA Media Finance on behalf of the filmmakers. Coproduction Office is overseeing international sales.
Variety first reported the news of the sale.
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www.thewrap.com | 11/4/19
Developments in the telecommunications industry and the broader digital economy have opened up many new markets over the last few decades. Telecoms has changed from a more or less standalone, horizontally-organized industry to one that has become a key facilitator in a range of vertical markets.
The keyword that is used to indicate that change is "smart." We are talking about smart transport, smart energy, smart cities and so on. Essentially what this means is that internet and communication technology (ICT) technologies are increasingly being strategically added on and embedded in these industries.
The technological developments have been mindboggling: broadband, mobile communications, cloud computing, data management, storage, AI and analytics. Combined, these have created the ideal environment for the development of technology platforms on which social and economic transformations can be developed. These platforms are often called "labs" — places where innovation, sharing, collaboration and piloting can take place.
The telecoms industry was right at the forefront of the digital explosion, but for a long time, telcos concentrated on protecting their very lucrative incumbent voice businesses.
And so companies such as Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, and many others in the internet market had free rein to develop over-the-top (OTT) business models, using the existing telecoms infrastructure to build their own platforms from which to distribute their own services to end-users.
Despite what could be called "missed opportunities" for telcos, they were able to maintain a strong market position in the basic telecoms market (connectivity). The massive increase in OTT services also stimulated a far greater use of the telecoms network. In most cases, telcos remain strong and healthy players in the connectivity market. However, it has become a low-margin utility service. Within their current business models, there is little room for them to develop more value-added products with opportunities for premium-based revenue models.
There are various obvious scenarios for the telcos to pursue:
I would like to concentrate on the third option.
The nature of the telecoms business, its culture, and its business models is not very well-suited to a more vertical approach that can be provided through platform-based models.
For example, let's look at the massive transformations that are taking place in transport, cities and energy. What is needed is a holistic approach to these developments. Telcos could take control of such a platform, rather than just being a supplier to some of the underlying elements of new smart models.
Looking around the globe, we see the car industry, cities and energy companies trying to take charge of the platform. As they often lack in-house ICT skills, the success of these platforms is a hit-and-miss situation. In other cases, IT companies are taking charge (such as Cisco, IBM and Huawei) or companies such as PWC and Accenture. The problem with these latter organizations is that their clients have become increasingly wary of proprietary solutions.
So far, very few telcos have taken a leading position in such developments. Key reasons are that their financial, technology and business models are not well-suited to starting a platform and taking risks involved in setting them up. Instead, we see IT companies taking the lead, like Google (Alphabet), for example, in Smart City Toronto.
Their business models are much better suited to such opportunities, and they are prepared to take risks and accept that several investments may fail. However, this allows them to learn on the job. They know that the total value of the platform markets that will be developed over the next 10-20 years will be in the trillions of dollars.
Perhaps Spain's Telefonica has gone the furthest of all the telcos. While still not adopting the full platform approach, they are taking the lead in a range of international smart city projects. KPN in the Netherlands is another example of a leading participant, but again not a full platform operator.
Of course, telcos quickly become partners in such projects, but most of the time, they are relegated to providing basic telecoms services. Often, these services are tendered for by the project leader, and competition makes sure that the margins for the telcos remain rather subdued.
Looking at the very upbeat messages that the telcos are sending out regarding 5G, the situation will become even more complex. In order to deliver the applications that the technology promotes, such as Internet of Things (IoT) and the much-promoted connected car business, platforms will require cooperation between telcos. Such applications can't rely on one supplier alone. You cannot have a driverless solution that only uses the Telstra network or the Optus one.
Telcos are not used to partnering with competitors. Often the message is "let's partner, but you have to do it my way." Car manufacturers in Europe have already indicated that they are not going to build the roadside IoT platforms and are looking at the telcos to collaborate. So who will develop the "build it and they will come" business model?
If the telcos do want to monetize their network better, they will have to move up the value chain, and this will require a totally different business model. Most likely, this will require setting up structurally separated new companies, each individually specialized, based on the markets they are selecting. The platform would largely be built around a virtual "telco" model, mainly operating in the cloud. They should be open to external developers and partners, securing an ongoing development of new and innovative offerings.
In such a model, the telcos' unique skill sets allow them to take a greater controlling role. Rather than being asked to be a partner, they should set up the ecosystem for the platform, select the partners, develop the financial models around the platform, and be in control. Their independent position also allows them to scale this business model and replicate it where opportunities arise.
There is no doubt that such an approach holds significant risks. Some initiatives will fail. Of course, such a model should be thoroughly assessed through scenario design, but that shouldn't lead to procrastination. If done well, the rewards will be substantial.
The telcos arguably have the deepest insight into customers' behavior, but if they are to move up the value chain, they will need to use this insight to move out of partnerships and establish themselves in a controlling position.
Written by Paul Budde, Managing Director of Paul Budde Communication
www.circleid.com | 10/31/19
Bob Berney and Jeanne R. Berney have relaunched their label Picturehouse and have acquired the North American rights to faith-based drama “Fatima,” the couple announced on Sunday along with James T. Volk, chairman and founder of Origin Entertainment.
The film is directed by Marco Pontecorvo and produced by Origin Entertainment along with Elysia Productions and Rose Pictures. Picturehouse has set a release date for the film on April 24, 2020.
Bob Berney was the head of marketing and distribution at Amazon Studios and left the company in June of this year. He headed Picturehouse in 2005 as a joint venture between HBO and New Line Cinema, and he and his wife relaunched the label in January 2013 as an independent distributor before he joined Amazon in 2015.
“Fatima” is a feature film starring Stephanie Gil, Lúcia Moniz, Joaquim de Almeida, Goran Visnjic, Sonia Braga and Harvey Keitel. It’s the story of a 10-year-old shepherd and her two young cousins in Fátima, Portugal, who report seeing visions of the Virgin Mary. Their revelations inspire believers but anger officials of both the Church and the secular government, who try to force them to recant their story. As word of their prophecy spreads, tens of thousands of religious pilgrims flock to the site in hopes of witnessing a miracle. What they experience will change their lives forever.
“Marco Pontecorvo has created a beautiful and inspirational film telling the emotional story of three young children whose visions captured a nation at a time when World War I was ravaging Europe,” Bob Berney and Jeanne R. Berney said in a joint statement. “We are extremely excited to bring this film to North American theatergoers.”
Directed by Marco Pontecorvo and written by Pontecorvo, Valerio D’Annunzio and Barbara Nicolosi, “Fatima” is produced by James T. Volk, Dick Lyles, Stefano Buono, Maribel Lopera Sierra, Rose Ganguzza, Marco Pontecorvo and Natasha Howes. The film features the original song “Gratia Plena” (“Full of Grace”) performed by Andrea Bocelli and composed by Italian composer Paolo Buonvino.
“Fatima” is the second feature by Pontecorvo following the drama “Pa-ra-da.” He’s also credited as a cinematographer on “Game of Thrones” and “Rome.”
“It is amazing to realize that in 1917, before television, the internet or any reliable mass communication, 70,000 people gathered at this remote site to witness an anticipated miracle,” Volk said in a statement. “It’s truly a remarkable story, based on real events, and we are excited to partner with Picturehouse in the release of this film.”
“Fatima is not a film about religion,” Ganguzza said in a statement. “It is a film about the power of faith in times of conflict and turmoil.”
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www.thewrap.com | 10/28/19
As much as we have confronted rape culture and the patriarchal control of female bodies, there is still an area that has too often remained untouchable in the conversation: the specific roles religious and cultural norms have played in the persecution, abuse and suppression of women’s sexuality. That is where director Barbara Miller squares her uncompromising new film, “#Female Pleasure.”
Miller somewhat wobblily opens the documentary with images of objectified women in recognizable male-designer commercials and ads, highlighting how mainstream culture has long normalized the problem. But then, she (with cinematographers Jiro Akiba, Gabriela Betschart, and Anne Misselwitz) takes audiences across the world to illuminate the condemnation of female sexuality as the international pandemic that it is. This is where “#Female Pleasure” soars.
The filmmaker presents the stories of five different but equally courageous women in various countries: Deborah Feldman from Brooklyn, Vitika Yadav in India, Rokudenashiko in Japan, Leyla Hussein in the Somali Muslim diaspora, and Doris Wagner in Europe, all hell-bent on obliterating harmful cultural practices — like genital mutilation and the shaming of the female orgasm — that lie at the root of rape culture and patriarchy. While doing so, the director empathetically yet boldly points to theological text as something that has historically failed to protect women.
From the Bible to the Qur’an, the director flashes across the screen such religious messaging as, “Women are the root of all sinners,” which Wagner utters as she recounts being repeatedly raped by a priest when she was a nun in the Catholic church. It is that juxtaposition of holy text, which suggests that women are inherently sinful because their bodies are men’s weakness and should be covered at all times, that establishes a standard for women of the clergy like Wagner to be demoralized and violated.
Similarly, Hussein recalls undergoing horrific genital mutilation at just seven years old. Considered a cultural rite of passage and emblematic of purity and female beauty, it is so normalized that other young girls her age didn’t even socialize with her until she’d had the procedure. Feldman talks about taking marriage preparation classes as a 16-year-old Jewish girl who was forced to have sex with a man she didn’t know and to have his baby.
Meanwhile, Rokudenashiko is a manga artist who centers her work around vaginas and other female genitalia to expose and confront the taboo of female sexuality in her country. But as groundbreaking as her art is, it’s considered “obscene” in Japan, and she is even arrested due to the mass hysteria it causes in a country where female modesty is all but legally mandated. This is despite, as Rokudenashiko rightly explains, a global culture that has routinely exploited female porn stars and subjected other women to painful dildos and other sex toys for male pleasure.
Likewise, Yadav is also disrupting norms as head of the love and sexuality website Love Matters, where female sexuality and pleasure is prioritized in the face of a culture that birthed the Kama Sutra with only male pleasure in mind.
With “#Female Pleasure,” Miller isn’t only highlighting the issues that have contributed to the sexual marginalization of women. She’s calling these atrocities, embedded within cultural and religious norms, by their actual names: rape, assault, child trafficking, abuse. The director amplifies the platforms of female activists who were taught to be silent and shows them confronting the very entities that have oppressed them.
Feldman reflects on escaping Judaism, subsequently being ostracized by her family and later proudly posing nude and writing a book about her experiences. Wagner interrogates members of the Catholic clergy. And Hussein, Yadav, and Rokudenashiko stand up against cultural practices that have discredited female sexuality and allowed women and children to be molested and brutalized in other ways. Despite them all being defamed and persecuted — some even receiving death threats — they’ve persisted.
“#Female Pleasure,” a title that presumably connects its message to today’s era of social media-based movements, also serves as an urgent call to action for younger audiences to pay attention even to the words they use to describe certain abominations and to help them recognize forms of oppression. For instance, there’s a scene in which Hussein shows a group of school-aged boys what genital mutilation is through a clay-based art exhibit, which she disfigures with a giant pair of scissors similar to the actual tools used in the procedure.
It’s a painful scene to watch, particularly because it forces Hussein to relive her own childhood trauma, but we watch as the teenagers who have been taught to celebrate this practice become increasingly disturbed by the image in front of them. More importantly, they end up wanting to engage with the movement. Hussein also introduces us to a young African rapper who devotes his songs to condemning female oppression.
And back in India with Yadav, Miller highlights a young theatrical group putting on a street show focusing on female pain, trauma, and rage in the midst of this crisis. It’s proof that change is possible, particularly among the younger generation that, with the help of valiant women like Yadav and Hussein, is openly interrogating issues they’ve been indoctrinated to accept. After all, the thrust of today’s global movement is to reject deep-rooted practices and to re-teach ourselves and others how to do better.
“#Female Pleasure” smoothly glides from one country segment to another and engages audiences with the personal stories of the five women, told through voiceover and solo interviews, as well as a broader look at the cultures in which they live. The intimate direction and natural cinematography help to remove the shame and stigma that have long been attached to this subject.
What is left, as the postscript states, is an empowering statement for women, no matter their cultural or religious background, to reclaim their bodies and celebrate their sexuality without shame or suffering.
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www.thewrap.com | 10/16/19
The nominees for this year’s Streamy Awards were announced Wednesday by Dick Clark Productions, Tubefilter and YouTube. David Dobrik leads the way with 11 nominations and murder-mystery reality web series “Escape the Night: Season 4” follows with five nominations.
Lil Nas X and Lizzo are both nominated for the first time.
The awards specifically celebrate the best in online video. This year’s ceremony, the ninth one, will be held Dec. 13 at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, California. It will stream live globally on YouTube.
“Creators are the heart and soul of YouTube, so we’re excited to celebrate and honor their creativity, diversity and hard work,” Jamie Byrne, director of creator partnerships at YouTube, said in a statement. “Together with the Streamys, we’ve expanded our award categories to even more regions around the world to bring fans some of the biggest and most unforgettable moments from the past year, all from the creators they love.”
See the full list of nominees below:
Show of the Year
Action or Sci-Fi
First Person presented by GoPro HERO8 Black
International: Asia Pacific
International: Europe, Middle East, and Africa
International: Latin America
Health and Wellness
Kids and Family
Science and Education
Visual and Special Effects
Company or Brand
Nonprofit or NGO
Branded Content: Series
Branded Content: Video
Social Good Campaign
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www.thewrap.com | 10/16/19
After a fallow 2017, European cinema at the Busan International Film Festival and the Asian Film Market enjoyed a renaissance in 2018. Now, this year is proving to be an improvement over 2018. European Film Promotions’ (EFP) Europe! Umbrella scheme, operated in conjunction with Unifrance has drawn 36 European sales companies, more than in recent […]
variety.com | 10/6/19
Feminist mystery “Dilili in Paris,” a new feature-length enterprise from French animation legend Michel Ocelot (“Kirikou and the Sorceress,” “Azur & Asmar”) spotlights the prominence of noxious ideologies, misogyny and racism through an occasionally dazzling, though oddly rendered, adventure set during the Belle Epoque period of the late 1800s and early 1900s in Paris.
Dilili (voiced by Prunelle Charles-Ambron in the English dub), a young biracial and bilingual Kanak immigrant from New Caledonia, a French colony in the South Pacific, snuck into a ship to reach Europe, where she now performs her tribe’s daily tasks as exotic amusement for Parisians. Speaking openly about the racially motivated discrimination she’s endured, Dilili shines as a rare heroine of color in a white world. She feels neither fully French nor Kanak, because she is either two fair or too dark depending on where she finds herself geographically.
Intrigued by her linguistic abilities, Orel (Enzo Ratsito), a local courier, befriends the petite erudite and fills her in on the recent abductions of multiple girls at the hands of a sexist sect known as the Male Masters. Its sleazy members wear nose rings and despise women who’ve attained any sort of power within French society. Naturally, the curious and socially conscious Dilili wishes to investigate in order to unclog the ideological sewer that has enabled these culprits.
Didactic in its tonal approach and narrative construction, Ocelot’s latest gives the impression of being an introductory installment in a property that could yield its own television series aimed at young audiences looking for an entertaining way to learn about France’s historical figures. Elegantly greeting anyone with whom she comes in contact, Dilili becomes acquainted with the likes of Marie Curie, Marcel Proust, Claude Debussy, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and even Gustave Eiffel. While charming and trivia-friendly, the encounters add up as if fulfilling a checklist on a lesson plan more than organically strengthening the tale.
Photorealistic backgrounds consistently stun as they clash with the more low-res CG characters, which emulate designs from early 21st century video games rather than fully accomplished animated characters for a production made this decade. Instead of being translated into more graphic or cartoonish incarnations, landmarks, buildings, and other architectural gems retain their real-life textures and lighting, as do all other elements of the production design. At first sight, their live-action look bewilders the eyes.
Stylistically, the visual divide between the human figures and their environments makes for a striking contrast. However, once movement comes into play, the precarious confection of the characters is unavoidably noticeable. Instances that surpass these ill-conceived characteristics exist, such as a blue-hued segment featuring singer Emma Calvé performing on a swan boat while inside a palatial structure built on water, or when Paris’ most iconic tower takes the foreground for a climactic action sequence.
As Dilili and the supporters she’s accumulated along her Jules Verne-inspired ordeal inch closer to resolving the mystery of the missing girls, darkness creeps into the plot once it’s revealed that the wicked group they are fighting resembles terrorist organizations like ISIS or the Taliban in the dehumanizing tactics they employ to subdue captured adult women and girls. It’s in the implementation of this twist that the French pedigree of the film becomes obvious, since animated projects there (even those considered children-oriented) dare to touch on adult subjects. American viewers may raise their eyebrows to the revelation of what the kidnappers refer to as a “four-leg” creature and to the truly disturbing, although unfortunately realistic, conversations men have about women throughout.
Patriarchal subjugation is also addressed in moments involving artists and scientists vowing never to sign their work in their husbands’ names or to allow them to take credit for their discoveries. Dilili herself isn’t shy about her affinity to write or the multiple interests that could result in a career when she grows older. Ocelot’s attempt to rewrite history as her story in this period fiction, as instructional as it is, demonstrates he has his finger on both the pulse of modern culture and the historically unresolved wrongs perpetrated by the white male establishment.
Overly explanatory dialogue at every step of the way doesn’t help “Dilili in Paris” surpass its information-dispatching structure nor does it complement it with more necessary pathos. Stilted but commendable for its intent, the movie may function as a great conversation-starter if watched with young kids who might be receptive to new material. For fans of international animation, there are sporadic diamonds of craft, but likely not enough to impress viewers accustomed to the quality of the GKIDS catalogue.
Ocelot works independently, and in today’s rapidly changing and saturated animation landscape. that could mean less resources for ventures like this. Still, finding a space within the educational market as an art-house audiovisual tool for elementary history classes could very possibly be “Dilili’s” ultimate destiny, and that’s truly where it’s most needed.
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www.thewrap.com | 10/4/19
Eric Pleskow, a long-time Hollywood executive who served as the head of Orion Pictures and United Artists and oversaw the production of 14 different Oscar winners for Best Pictures, has died. He was 95.
Pleskow’s death was announced Tuesday by the Vienna Film Festival; the Austrian-born executive and film producer had served as the festival’s president since 1998.
“His death is a great loss for all of us. Eric had a fulfilled and long life and we appreciated him as a longtime friend and companion of our festival. As president and patron of the Viennale, he has always carried us with his humor and foresight,” the Viennale said in a statement. He will be missed deeply. We express our sincere condolences and heartfelt sympathy to his family.
Also Read: Jessye Norman, Opera Legend, Dies at 74
As president of United Artists between 1973 to 1978 Pleskow — the first European to lead the company since co-founder Charlie Chaplin — oversaw a three-year span in which the films “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” “Rocky” and “Annie Hall” all won Best Picture at the Oscars.
Pleskow then formed Orion Pictures following the takeover of United Artists by Transamerica, leading the company until 1992 and developing other classics such as “Amadeus,” “Dances With Wolves” and “The Silence of the Lambs.”
Born in Vienna in April 1924, Pleskow’s family emigrated to the United States after the Nazi Germany takeover of Austria. He was drafted by the U.S. army in 1943 and after the war served as a translator for interrogations during the denazification of Germany and Austria. Having received a brief education in film editing, he became a film officer for the U.S. war department and was assigned the task of rebuilding Munich’s Bavaria Film Studios. Shortly thereafter he joined United Artists as a European sales manager and would work his way up to president.
In 2007, he was made an honorary citizen Vienna and had a cinema hall in the Metro Kinokulturhaus named after him.
“Turning 95 doesn’t leave me cold! That sounds really old. In any case much older than I feel,” Pleskow said earlier this year at a ceremony commemorating his birthday.
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www.thewrap.com | 10/1/19
Opera legend Jessye Norman died Monday at age 74.
The soprano died from septic shock and multi-organ failure secondary to complications of a spinal cord injury she had sustained in 2015, according to family statement issued to the Associated Press.
“We are so proud of Jessye’s musical achievements and the inspiration that she provided to audiences around the world that will continue to be a source of joy. We are equally proud of her humanitarian endeavors addressing matters such as hunger, homelessness, youth development, and arts and culture education,” the family statement read.
Norman was born in Georgia to a musical family. As a child, she sang in the church gospel choir and listened to the Metropolitan Opera via radio. At 16, she entered a singing competition named after her idol — Marian Anderson. Norman did not win, but was offered a full scholarship to Howard University.
After graduating with a Masters from the University of Michigan in 1968, Norman spent a decade in Europe building up her operatic repertoire, performing with German and Italian companies. It wouldn’t be until 1982 when she made her U.S. debut performing with the Opera Company of Philadelphia. She would debut at the Metropolitan Opera — the company she listened to as a child on the radio — the following year. By the mid-’80s, she was one of the most in-demand sopranos in the world.
Norman sang at the second inaugurations of presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. In 1996, she sang at the Opening Ceremony of the 1996 Summer Olympics, which were held in her home state of Georgia. She also famously sang at the 9/11 memorial in March 2002.
Norman won four Grammy Awards over her long career and won the Life Achievement Award in 2006. She was also bestowed many honors, including the Légion d’honneur, the Kennedy Center Honors, and National Media of the Arts. She received the 12th Glenn Gould Prize for her contribution to opera and the arts in 2018.
She was also a philanthropist, contributing to many causes dear to heart, including music and homeless programs, and AIDS research.
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www.thewrap.com | 9/30/19
Large "megastructures" built by the Stone-Age Tripolye culture in Europe were used for storage, food prep, eating and everyday activities.
www.livescience.com | 9/25/19
European Film Promotion, an agency that acts as a champion for European cinema around the world, has joined with Gallic film promotion agency UniFrance and the Miami Film Festival to launch a sales market for European films targeting Latin American buyers, to be called the Miami Film Market — Mercado Del Cine Frances y Europeo. […]
variety.com | 9/9/19
An epic pastoral horror pitting human savagery against the impossible calm of nature, Czech filmmaker Václav Marhoul’s adaptation of Polish author Jerzy Kosi?ski’s rattling World War II novel “The Painted Bird” is as bold a play for visceral cinema mastery as we’ve seen of late.
Premiering at the Venice Film Festival to the kind of emotional reactions (walkouts, raves) that can cement a troubling work’s need-to-see reputation, this black-and-white, nearly three-hour saga of a boy (nonprofessional Petr Kotlár, in a stunning turn) navigating the cruelties and caprices of ravaged rural Eastern Europe is not the wallowing miserablist parade you might fear, yet not quite the Holocaust-themed masterpiece it wishes to be. But it’s always starkly compelling as a reminder of why war survival stories are essential to our understanding of innocence and beastliness.
Kosi?ski’s 1965 book was a litmus test of sorts, first for the unvarnished brutality within its pages (killings, rape, torture, bestiality). Later it was discovered to be an ambiguously sourced work that fused the autobiographical and imagined. But what has remained across the fraught history of its approach and authorship is its narrative power as a wartime story, told as a fractured fable in which peril reigns and morals are absent.
Marhoul’s film isn’t shy about the steady stream of ugliness, and that’s likely to turn away the terror-sensitive, and yet its immersive aesthetic also allows for the visually poetic and compassionate, even if those moments are few and far between.
Our unnamed protagonist, played by Kotlár with uncanny watchfulness, is not explicitly identified as Jewish or Roma. But because he’s been sent by his parents to live in the remotest part of his country — also never directly named (and Marhoul chose a Slavic mix for the dialogue to avoid specificity) — we sense ever-present danger. In the opening scene, he’s chased through the woods by anti-Semitic boys who beat him, then set his pet ferret on fire. When he later discovers his stooped guardian Marta (Nina Sunevic) dead in her chair, he accidentally sets her entire farmhouse ablaze, forcing him to wander an alternatively harsh and bucolic land seemingly untouched by civilized progress.
Captured by wretched, superstitious villagers, he’s purchased by an elderly witch doctor (Ala Sakalova) as a slave/apprentice, after which he finds shelter with a crusty miller (an especially terrifying Udo Kier) whose raging jealousy leads to a shocking act of violence toward the man he suspects is sleeping with his wife. This sequence is the closest to something out of a midnight movie, but there’s also metaphoric heft to the image of eyeballs gouged, someone’s sight removed.
A brief stay with a lonely old birdkeeper (Lech Dyblik) who regularly meets a wild-eyed forest woman (Jitka ?van?arová) for sex ends savagely and tragically at the hands of furious townswomen, but not before the man shows the boy a telling amusement of his: daubing paint on a bird, sending it to meet its flock, only to watch the group viciously attack it as an unrecognizable alien.
After that, the treacherous terrain continues, including a nightmarish sequence in which Jews leaping off a moving train are mowed down by Nazis. Other scenes are marked by charity turned the pitiless, as when a friendly priest (Harvey Keitel, dubbed but physically effective) saves the boy from Germans only to entrust him with an abusive congregant (Julian Sands), and when the attentions of a lustful farmwoman (Julia Valentova) queasily mix predation and tenderness, then morph into emotional cruelty that further hardens the boy’s relentlessly beset soul.
It’s a curious shading that Kosi?ski’s story paints villagers and peasantry as the most breathlessly awful tormentors, as though war’s hellishness were a license to let long-festering ignorance and fear wreak havoc, while the mini-portraits of two soldiers (Stellan Skarsgård’s stoic German and Barry Pepper’s protective Red Army sniper) provide some of the film’s scarce episodes of kindness, albeit the kind born of atrocity-laden weariness, as the actors’ finely etched, compact performances reveal.
As the boy’s journey defines his worldview, the human vs inhuman throughline lies in whether his connection to a stranger emphasizes his otherness, usefulness, or need. And Marhoul is smart enough to invest a cautious, dense air to much of regular collaborator Vladimír Smutny’s painterly, Tarkovsky-esque cinematography — breathtakingly reminding one of 35mm film’s textured richness — as if in awe that the land still holds occasional beauty while remaining nervous about the inhabitants. The unsentimental approach is matched by Jan Vlasák’s hard, grimy production design and vividly lived-in costume work from Helena Rovná.
And yet, for all its burly artistry, “The Painted Bird” is a sputtering behemoth, perhaps too loosely assembled in its vignettes (named after each figure the boy meets) to make for a unifying statement about the collective impact of enduring so much barbarism at so impressionable an age. That said, its ending — of all things, flecked with hope — is powerful for how anti-climactic it is, as if the boy’s journey, and ours, wasn’t so much about escaping a gauntlet of hell as about living to bear witness to what continues to confound us all: the inhumanity forever gurgling, looking for release.
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www.thewrap.com | 9/7/19
As the daughter of refugees who fled Afghanistan for a new life in Iran, Sahraa Karimi never lost touch with her parents’ homeland, whose culture and traditions were kept alive in her Tehran household. But as the years passed, and her pursuit of a career in filmmaking took her to Europe, the distance between Karimi […]
variety.com | 8/30/19
12 Documentaries to Check Out This Fall, Including Films by Bruce Springsteen and Agnès Varda (Photos)
The summer of 2018 produced three documentaries that earned over $10 million at the domestic box office. While this summer didn’t get quite as close, this fall has documentary releases about rock stars, athletes and even one posthumous release from an auteur. New films by Bruce Springsteen, Agnès Varda and Asif Kapadia could help make for a busy season for non-fiction cinema, with many more potentially on the way from the fall festival circuit. Here are 10 with impending releases you need to check out.
“Untouchable” – Sept. 2 (Hulu)
Too soon? The Hulu documentary “Untouchable” opens some still fresh wounds about the Harvey Weinstein scandal and the #MeToo movement. Ursula Macfarlane’s documentary first made its premiere at Sundance, and it features some harrowing interviews with accusers such as Rosanna Arquette, Hope D’Amore, Paz de la Huerta, Erika Rosenbaum and others.
“Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice” – Sept. 6 (Greenwich Entertainment)
Oscar winners Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman direct this documentary about the career of Linda Ronstadt, gathering together archival footage that spans 50 years. It charts the early days of her career in the 1960s through becoming the highest paid female rock and roll performer in the ’70s, all culminating in her retirement in 2011 due to her battle with Parkinson’s disease. Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton, Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Brown and JD Souther are just some of the friends and collaborators interviewed for the film.
“Blink of an Eye” – Sept. 6 (1091)
History isn’t often focused on the losers, but “Blink of an Eye” looks at the career of Michael Waltrip, a NASCAR racecar driver who held a record losing streak across 462 races. Despite his struggles, he was invited to be a part of Dale Earnhardt’s Sr.’s racing team and soon earned his first checkered flag. The only problem was that race was the 2001 Daytona 500, the race in which Earnhardt Sr. was killed in a tragic crash on the race’s final lap. “Blink of an Eye” examines Waltrip’s relationship with the Earnhardt family, and the documentary from director Paul Taublieb will also be adapted into a narrative feature film.
“Liam: As It Was” – Sept. 13 (Screen Media)
With Oasis, Liam Gallagher was the frontman of one of the biggest rock bands in the world. But the film “Liam: As It Was” looks at how Gallagher had to reset his career and find his voice after splitting from the band as part of his fractured relationship with his brother Noel. In fact, Noel specifically refused to allow Liam to use any Oasis songs as part of the documentary. The film coincides with the release of Gallagher’s second solo album, “Why Me? Why Not.,” and directors Gavin Fitzgerald and Charlie Lightening even capture the frank and frequently foul-mouthed Gallagher behind the scenes and at home with his mother grousing about Noel.
“Diego Maradona” – Sept. 20 (HBO)
Asif Kapadia’s gift as a filmmaker is weaving a narrative entirely through archival footage. Just as with “Senna” and “Amy,” Kapadia combs through over 500 hours of the legendary Argentinian soccer star’s personal archive. The film starts with his arrival in Europe in July 1984 and how in the subsequent years he was treated as though he were a God, both on and off the field. But it also examines how that extreme level of fame led to darker days and strained relationships.
“Where’s My Roy Cohn?” – Sept. 20 (Sony Classics)
Filmmaker Matt Tyrnauer told TheWrap at Sundance that he chose to make his film about the political maneuver Roy Cohn the day Donald Trump was elected. His ruthless influence was felt far and wide, not just on politics but on the culture at large, serving as a mentor for Roger Stone, Ronald Reagan and Trump alike. The film takes a blunt approach in describing just how deeply this one man has shaped American democracy and society.
“Midnight Traveler” – Sept. 18 (Oscilloscope)
Afghan filmmaker Hassan Fazili got intimate access to the story of a family fleeing their home after being targeted by the Taliban. That’s because it was his own family who was on the run. Fazili shot his film “Midnight Traveler” across several years on three separate iPhones, capturing the daring moments as they crossed borders and the more intimate home movie moments of his family as refugees. The doc won the World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for No Borders at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.
“Western Stars” – October (Warner Bros.)
Bruce Springsteen knew he wasn’t going to tour on behalf of his latest album “Western Stars,” so he and collaborator Thom Zimny co-directed a documentary by the same name that features live performances of all 13 of the album’s tracks. Springsteen parked under a 100-year-old barn to perform the more acoustic, melancholy sounds of “Western Stars,” and the film is laced with The Boss’s narration and archival footage as he reflects on his past.
“The Cave” – Mid-Oct. (Nat Geo)
Not to be confused with the narrative feature about the Thai soccer team rescue mission, “The Cave” is the latest film from “Last Man in Aleppo” director Feras Fayyad as he gets inside a secret, hidden, underground hospital in Syria. The hospital is led by a team of female medical professionals and civilians and provides under the radar care for the besieged refugees and locals in the region. Fayyad specifically profiles the work of Dr. Amani, a 30-year-old pediatrician who works tirelessly to restore health and hope to Syrian youth.
“The Kingmaker” – Late Oct. (Greenwich Entertainment/Showtime)
Lauren Greenfield has made a name for herself directing documentary profiles on those who live opulently and lavishly, specifically with her films “The Queen of Versailles” and “Generation Wealth.” But her latest combines that lavish lifestyle with politics, obtaining unprecedented access to the former first lady of the Philippines, Imelda Marcos. “The Kingmaker” explores the disturbing legacy of the Marcos regime and chronicles Imelda’s present-day push to help her son, Bongbong, win the vice-presidency. Greenfield’s film takes on the form of a “dark fairy tale” as Marcos tries to rewrite her family’s corrupt history and prove she’s a matriarch who deeply loves her country.
“Scandalous” – Nov. 15 (Magnolia/CNN Films)
Mark Landsman’s “Scandalous” looks at the life of Generoso Pope Jr., the media magnate who turned the National Enquirer from a simple racing and sporting magazine to a household name for gossip and one that frequently finds itself at the center of political scandal. The film’s history dates back to the 1950s but includes interviews with former staffers and other media experts who examine how the paper has thrived on its diet of scandal, gossip, medical oddities, conspiracy theories, and paparazzi photos.
“Varda by Agnes” – Nov. 22 (Janus Films)
In what is the final film of the late, French auteur Agnès Varda, “Varda by Agnès” is a playful and profound retrospective on Varda’s career as examined by Varda herself. She reflects in a autobiography of sorts on filmmaking, feminism, aging and even the smaller things like cats, colors, beaches and heart-shaped potatoes. The film premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival in February, shortly before her death in March.
www.thewrap.com | 8/28/19
The newly-formed World Surf League (WSL) Studios unveiled its debut slate of programming on Monday, which includes a documentary film about 11-time World Surf Champion Kelly Slater and the series “Transformed,” highlighting how surfing has impacted cultures around the world.
Designed to appeal to surf fans and new audiences ahead of the sport’s Olympic debut in the 2020 Tokyo Summer Games, the slate of documentaries, docuseries and daily short-form content will be distributed across multiple platforms.
“Kelly is the greatest surfer of all time and has not only every major record in our sport by a wide margin but also so more world titles than any other athlete with 11,” WSL president of Content, Media and WSL Studios, Erik Logan, told TheWrap of the “The Kelly Slater Documentary,” which follows the surf legend’s 2019 competitive campaign, personal life, and Olympics quest.
“Pair that with this pivotal year in his career, we all felt that allowing the viewers see the level of storytelling we are embarking on was the perfect place to start. Never before will you see Kelly open up as much as he does while embracing this project … and he has more World Titles than Tom Brady, by the way!” Logan added.
“WSL Studios will be the main engine for the creation of content, with outputs not only on our O&O Platforms but the many other distribution platforms as well. From a timing point of view, the scale and size of the other platforms provide the opportunity for the studio to engage the global audience further,” he explained.
For the first time, the end of the 2019 WSL Championship Tour season in December will determine the first qualifiers for the 2020 Olympic Games. The WSL will qualify 18 of the 40 Olympians, two men and two women for each country.
“Having multiple points of content before and after the Olympics with WSL Studios and our core business will provide entry points for new fans to see the passion and power of this sport, with the goal of engaging new fans to witness the world’s best surfing year-in and year-out on the WSL Championship Tour,” Logan said.
“The possibility of story through the aperture of surfing is so big that we have had to really focus on some key areas with our first slate. Anchoring to Kelly and then expanding through to Big Wave and non-competition series we feel we have put some markers out as to what is possible,” he continued.
The WSL Podcast Network (in partnership with Himalaya Studios) will focus heavily with news, interviews and information, along with sharing important community initiatives such as Ocean Health and Equality.
See the full WSL Studios slate, per the studio’s show descriptions, below:
“The Kelly Slater Documentary”
Box to Box Films Co-development Partnership
“Deep Blue: The Mark Visser Project”
“Surf Ranch Sessions”
“All In” Season 2
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www.thewrap.com | 8/19/19
Some of the more obscure guilty-pleasure subgenres familiar to fans of international psychotronic cinema get thrown in a blender to create Miguel Llanso’s second feature. The resulting concoction is a witch’s brew of cheap 1960s European 007 knockoffs, ’70s Filipino exploitation cinema, vintage kung fu pics, retro TV sci-fi cheese and lucha libre-type masked machismo, […]
variety.com | 8/2/19
By Michael Pravica As we continue to watch the unbelievable bizarre, immature, and wholly irrational saga over whether or not we (the US) will be fortifying our borders with Mexico and constructing a more continuous and less permeable wall there, we might want to consider the disastrous consequences of open borders as they essentially existed between Yugoslavia and Albania when Josip Broz Tito ruled Yugoslavia from 1945-1981. For months, I have waited some discussion in the West relating NATO's theft of Kosovo from Serbia in 2008 with and the recent US border destabilization/problems to no avail. The corporate-controlled mainstream media so thoroughly censored/controlled discussion (and continues to do so this day) of anything related to Yugoslavia with so much fake news that few in the West see the writing on the wall and thus I write in the desperate hope of warning my fellow Americans to learn the lessons of Yugoslavia. Josip Broz Tito, the half Croat/half Slovenian communist dictator of Yugoslavia, mistrusted and feared the Serbs having fought them in WWI as an Austro-Hungarian army soldier. He sought to reduce/dilute Serbian influence and power in Yugoslavia as the nation's largest ethnic group. He reduced Serbia's territory by creating two "autonomous" provinces: Vojvodina in Serbia's North and Kosovo in Serbia's South with the eventual goal of allowing these two integral pieces of Serbia to be ultimately taken away from Serbia ["National Minorities under Communism," P. Shoup, Slavic Review, Vol. 22, No. 1 (Mar., 1963), pp. 64-81]. As Tito viewed himself as the Stalin of the Balkans, he made an arrangement with Enver Hoxha, the even more brutal communist dictator of Albania to surreptitiously allow Kosovo to become "Albanian" by encouraging illegal immigration of hundreds of thousands of Albanians into Kosovo, the spiritual Jerusalem of Serbs's Orthodox Christian faith for over 1300 years. Tito also forbade the return over 100,000 Serbian civilians who had been ethnically-cleansed by Albanian pro-Nazi fascists during WWII to their ancestral homes after the war. The goal was to encourage Albanian "friendship" with Yugoslavia by giving away to the Albanians Serbian-dominated Kosovo in the hopes that Albania would join Yugoslavia. In the ensuing decades, hundreds of thousands of Albanians illegally migrated into Kosovo. Once there, many of them persecuted local Serbs and drove them away, poisoned their water wells, and desecrated their millennial-old Churches, Monasteries, and other cultural monuments just as they did during WWII but with Tito's silent blessing with the aim of eradicating any trace of their culture from the region. Kosovo also became a critical transit point for heroin coming from Asia into Europe (giving Albanian drug lords significant illicit income) similar to cocaine coming from Columbia and other South American nations into Mexico and then into the US. Tito was so eager to tilt the population of Kosovo in favor of the Albanians (who had a higher birthrate than Serbs in Kosovo as one of Europe's most impoverished ethnic groups) that he would be the godfather to the ninth child born to any family there.
www.pravdareport.com | 7/22/19
Sally Field, Linda Ronstadt, veteran R&B group Earth, Wind & Fire, “Sesame Street” and conductor Michael Tilson Thomas, will be recognized at the 2019 Kennedy Center Honors, the organization announced on Thursday.
The 42nd annual awards will take place on Dec. 8 and will be broadcast Sunday, Dec. 15 on CBS.
This year’s awards will be the first time an individual TV show has been recognized, and “Sesame Street” co-founders Joan Ganz Cooney and Dr. Lloyd Morrisett will accept the Kennedy Center Honors on behalf of themselves, Muppets creator Jim Henson (who died in 1990), Muppets artists Caroll Spinney and Frank Oz, and the thousands of creatives who have built the program’s 50-year legacy.
Earth, Wind & Fire, which has featured at least over a dozen members in its time as a band, are being honored collectively as a musical group. Members Philip Bailey, Verdine White and Ralph Johnson will be present to accept the Kennedy Center Honors on the band’s behalf.
“The Kennedy Center Honors celebrates icons who, through their artistry, have left an indelible stamp on our collective cultural consciousness,” Kennedy Center chairman David M. Rubenstein said in a statement. “Earth, Wind & Fire’s hooks and grooves are the foundation of a seminal style that continues to shape our musical landscape; Sally Field has brought us unforgettable characters, both joyous and poignant, for more than five decades; Linda Ronstadt is the defining voice of a generation, spanning genres, languages and continents; ‘Sesame Street’ continues to revolutionize how children and adults learn about our world; and Michael Tilson Thomas goes far beyond keeping score – he has shaped American music and musical institutions for the 21st century.”
“In this class of Honorees, we are witnessing a uniquely American story: one that is representative of so many cultural touchstones and musical moments that make our nation great,” Kennedy Center president Deborah F. Rutter said in a statement. “When I look at this distinctive group, I see the hopes, aspirations and achievements not just of these artists, but of the many generations they have influenced and continue to influence. We’re not just looking back – these Honorees are urging us to look forward as well.”
The Honors recipients are recognized for their lifetime contributions to American culture through the performing arts – whether in dance, music, theater, opera, motion pictures or television – and are confirmed by the executive committee of the Center’s board of trustees. The primary criterion in the selection process is excellence. The Honors are not designated by art form or category of artistic achievement. Over the years, the selection process has produced a balance among the various arts and artistic disciplines.
Ricky Kirshner and Glenn Weiss of White Cherry Entertainment will executive produce the special for the fifth consecutive year. Weiss returns as director.
Earth, Wind & Fire (EWF) over their five-decade history have scored eight #1 hits, nine Grammys and sold over 100 million albums worldwide, In 2000, Earth, Wind & Fire was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and the band has also received lifetime achievement honors from ASCAP, NAACP and BET, and have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Field is a two-time Oscar winner for “Norma Rae” and “Places in the Heart” and is also the star of “Forrest Gump,” “Lincoln,” “Steel Magnolias,” “Absence of Malice,” “Mrs. Doubtfire” and many more. She’s also a three-time Emmy winner and began her career with the 1964 show “Gidget” before starring in “The Flying Nun” and on the miniseries “Sybil,” among many other roles in TV, film and on Broadway. In 2015, she was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Obama. Her memoir, “In Pieces,” was published last September.
Ronstadt has sold 50 million albums worldwide and has won 10 Grammys as a versatile singer across pop, country, rock, big band, jazz and opera. She performed her last concert in 2009 and announced her retirement from singing shortly thereafter. She was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2012 and received the National Medal of Arts in 2014. In early 2019, Rhino Entertainment released “Linda Ronstadt – Live in Hollywood,” her first and only live concert album, originally recorded on April 24, 1980.
“Sesame Street” debuted in 1969 on PBS and continues to this day, now on HBO. Ganz Cooney and Dr. Morrisett co-founded the Children’s Television Workshop (renamed Sesame Workshop in June 2000) in 1968, and “Sesame Street” launched the following year. Cooney, a producer and media executive, served as Sesame Workshop’s president and chief executive officer until 1990, and currently serves as chairman of the executive committee of Sesame Workshop’s board. In November 2007, she introduced the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop, dedicated to advancing children’s learning in a digital age. Dr. Morrisett is an experimental psychologist by training. After 30 years as chairman of the Workshop’s board of trustees, he is now a trustee and chairman emeritus.
Tilson Thomas is music director of the San Francisco Symphony, co-founder and artistic director of the New World Symphony, and conductor laureate of the London Symphony Orchestra. He’s an 11-time Grammy winner and has conducted major orchestras across the US and Europe.The Los Angeles-born musician performed with such artists as Igor Stravinsky and Aaron Copland. He became music director of the San Francisco Symphony in 1995.
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www.thewrap.com | 7/18/19
There aren’t a lot of sports stars who could claim to be as interesting as Moe Berg, a Major League baseball player who spoke nearly a dozen languages, blew audiences away on quiz shows, and worked as a spy for the United States government during World War II. Berg nearly assassinated German theoretical physicist Werner Heisenberg. Take that, Dwayne Johnson.
Berg, who got his own biopic last year (“The Catcher Was a Spy,” starring Paul Rudd) is now the subject of a major documentary. “The Spy Behind Home Plate.” Written and directed by Aviva Kempner (“The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg”), the film assembles pundits, contemporaries and family members, combining new and archived interview footage to reveal the many incredible facets of Berg’s life.
Nimble and efficient, “The Spy Behind Home Plate” races through that life at a steady clip, unloading one fascinating biographical tidbit after another. The action may be staid — it’s a talking-heads documentary, with vintage footage sprinkled in for flavor — but the information is rigorous. By the time the audience has absorbed one neat fact about Berg’s story, the documentary has moved on to yet another, and then another. When it’s finally over, you’ll probably feel like you could write a semi-respectable biography of Berg yourself.
Kempner’s film opens with Berg’s father emigrating to the United States, then moving to the U.K. because America wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, and then having to move back to the U.S. after all. He married and raised three children and expected them all to be well-educated sophisticates, and it apparently ticked him off to no end that Berg became a baseball player. Berg’s father never attended his games and, according to at least one interview subject, would spit whenever the topic arose.
Despite being an athlete, Berg was nevertheless educated, mastering many languages and eventually going to law school, even while he still played professional baseball. He’d call his games in Latin and, when asked what he would do if the other team knew Latin, reportedly joked that he’d “switch to Sanskrit.” He’d appear on radio game shows and travel abroad for publicity purposes, and he went so far out of his way to film Tokyo in 1934 — from such a height that it would eventually be useful to the Allies in World War II — that some speculated he may already have been working as an espionage agent.
But Berg’s career as a professional spy began in earnest with World War II, where he (along with other pop-culture notables like Marlene Dietrich and Julia Child) was enlisted by the Office of Strategic Services. His celebrity, his intelligence, and his skill with languages made him a valuable agent who had several notable European assignments, including the aforementioned, potential assassination of Heisenberg.
That’s the gist of it, but the appeal of “The Spy Behind Home Plate” isn’t the broad swath of his story. That got told in the film “The Catcher Was a Spy,” and it wasn’t quite cinematic enough to make an impression, even with Ant-Man in the lead. The superlative quality of Kempner’s documentary is the sense of familiarity it fosters as we come to understand Berg. We hear precious little from the player himself, with Kempner instead relying on first-and-secondhand accounts, but the sense of respect and camaraderie from the interview subjects is palpable.
To hear the talking heads of “The Spy Behind Home Plate” share anecdotes about Berg — like his odd predilections towards newspapers (which were “alive” if he hasn’t read them, and “dead” if he had or, worse, if anybody else had touched them), or his failed attempt to woo Babe Ruth’s daughter — is to stand in a room full of experts sharing their collected, dense base of knowledge. It’s infectious information, and whether or not you like baseball or World War II or whether or not you’ve ever heard of Berg before, you’ll probably find yourself a little rapt to hear the next revelation.
There are blind spots, unfortunately. Berg’s marriage gets a cursory mention early on and then his wife, Estella, never seems to come up in conversation again. And filmgoers who saw “The Catcher Was a Spy” may be surprised to discover that, no matter how confidently Ben Lewin’s film asserted that Berg was a closeted gay or bisexual man, the topic is never once broached in Kempner’s documentary, not even to dispute it.
“The Spy Behind Home Plate” instead stays focused on Berg’s many provable novelties, as an athlete, as an intellectual, and as an espionage agent. That’s quite enough to make Kempner’s film interesting, and the collegial atmosphere is inviting and warm. The film doesn’t take an extra step towards cinematic showiness, nor does it glamorize or sensationalize Berg’s life. It’s just a nice time talking about World War II and baseball, sharing stories and retelling old jokes. It’s a respectable ode to Berg’s unusual, remarkable life.
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www.thewrap.com | 6/15/19
Some of the biggest topics in tech — including whether Facebook and Google should be broken up and how Netflix makes its content decisions — were front and center this week at Code Conference 2019 in Scottsdale, Arizona.
But if you couldn’t make it out to the desert, don’t worry about it.
Here were the seven lessons that were learned this week at #CodeCon:
1. Everyone Cares About Content Moderation — But the Rules Are as Unclear as Ever
The main takeaway from Code Conference 2019 is that Silicon Valley is fixated on content moderation. Several reps from some of the world’s biggest tech companies took the stage and explained how seriously they take moderation and clamping down on “hate speech” — a term that varies from company to company. How they’re fighting it, though, continues to remain cloaked behind arcane rules that often times appear to be arbitrarily enforced.
Twitter policy head Vijaya Gadde, echoing CEO Jack Dorsey’s key talking point from the last year that the company is focused on improving the “health” of conversation on its platform, said Twitter has had to crack down on undesirable speech to meet this goal.
“We’ve had to move very much from what we were, which was a platform that very much enabled as much free speech as possible, to one that is cognizant of the impact it’s having on the world and our responsibility and our role in shaping that,” Gadde said on Tuesday.
Former Twitter CEO Ev Williams, who now runs Medium, went even further on Wednesday, outlining the company’s “aggressive” moderation policy that includes reviewing what users are doing and saying on other platforms.
But it’s also clear that moderation policies can change on a whim. YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, speaking for the first time since last week’s demonetization of right-wing comedian Steven Crowder after he used slights like “lispy queer” against Vox’s Carlos Maza, said she was “very sorry” to members of the LGBTQ community offended by the company’s initial response to the issue — that Crowder hadn’t violated its policies. The Google-owned video giant ultimately demonetized Crowder after its first response was bashed by Maza and other critics.
Wojcicki said the company’s newly updated policies on hate speech, which rolled out right after the Maza-Crowder saga, had been in the works for months. YouTube had even started briefing European reporters on the guidelines before American reporters because “they’re ahead” on the clock, she said. That explanation didn’t make much sense to many people at the conference, however, who felt the new rules were obviously tied to the Crowder incident. You came away from the conference with the impression the rules are a merely a work-in-progress for many of the companies, policies that can and will be tweaked to appease advertisers and critics whenever a fire needs to be put out.
2. Breakup Big Tech? It’s Debatable
Another talking point of the conference was whether mega-tech companies like Facebook, Amazon, Google and Apple need to be broken up. The idea, which has gained traction in the last year and has been touted by Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, was hotly debated.
Those in favor of an antitrust crackdown believe competition has been stifled by the tech giants. The companies have become too big and immobile, they argue, making it difficult to address issues like meddling in national elections.
Predictably, this belief wasn’t shared by the two Facebook execs at the conference, Instagram chief Adam Mosseri and Facebook VR head Andrew Bosworth.
“Personally, if we split it off, it might make a lot of my life easier, and it would probably be beneficial for me as an individual. But I just think it’s a terrible idea,” Mosseri said. “If you’re trying to solve election integrity, if you’re trying to approach content issues like hate speech, and you split us off, it would just make it exponentially more difficult — particularly for us at Instagram — to keep us safe.”
Bosworth echoed Mosseri, saying Facebook’s control of WhatsApp and Instagram allows the company to better “share and combine data” to tackle its issues.
Former Facebook product manager and current Wired author Antonio Garcia Martinez said he was in favor of breaking up the Big 4 tech companies, though. He argued the case has more to do with a “lack of consumer benefit,” rather than consumer harm, where users aren’t getting the best product because they face little competition.
“In the case of Facebook, it’s pretty clear the acquisition of WhatsApp and Instagram were obviously anti-competitive blocking moves,” Martinez said. “There’s been polls out that a lot of WhatsApp and Instagram users don’t even realize they’re owned by Facebook.”
The majority of the crowd seemed to agree it was time to take action against the Big 4. New York University business professor Scott Galloway drew the biggest laughs and cheers of the conference when making the case for breaking up Silicon Valley’s biggest companies. “Without antitrust (laws), we don’t have competition,” Galloway said. “If we didn’t have the (Department of Justice) move in on Microsoft, we wouldn’t have the object of every innovator’s affection, Google. We’d also be saying ‘I don’t know, Bing it.'”
3. How Netflix Makes Its Calls
It’s not just about streaming data for Netflix. Cindy Holland, Netflix’s VP of original content, offered some rare insight into how the notoriously cryptic streaming service makes its content decisions. When Recode’s Kara Swisher asked why the company canceled its “One Day at a Time” reboot earlier this year, Holland’s response was telling — but typically vague in terms of actual data.
“The basic calculation is how much viewing are we getting for how much it costs,” Holland said. “But we also look at is it reaching different audiences, is it gaining critical acclaim, is it doing something for us as a business that we like. And ‘One Day at a Time,’ frankly, if you looked at it just from a season one standpoint, we wouldn’t have renewed that show on a viewing-to-cost basis.”
Holland, who announced the return of “Russian Doll” while at the conference, said that while much of the entertainment industry “operates in a culture of fear,” Netflix isn’t worried about taking risks.
“We’re not afraid to try a bunch of different things, some of which may work, some of which may not. It’s part of our culture to embrace mistakes and failure and learn something from it.”
4. Ryan Murphy: Bad WaPo Intern
Ryan Murphy may be a TV powerhouse, but according to Recode’s Kara Swisher he wasn’t much of an intern when he worked at the Washington Post decades ago as an aspiring journalist before he moved into writing for TV and film on shows like “Popular,” “Nip/Tuck” and the Fox hit “Glee.”
“He was the worst intern ever. But as it turned out, it didn’t matter,” Swisher, a former Post reporter, said while moderating a Netflix panel.
“Great showrunner,” Holland, Netflix’s VP of original content, chimed in.
“He was great,” Swisher added. “He was just mean to everybody at The Post — it was terrific to see.”
5. Real Life Iron Man Is a Dud
Easily the biggest letdown of Code Conference 2019 involved Gravity, a self-described “British aeronautical innovation company” that created a buzz on Tuesday morning with a promised demo of a jet-pack that essentially turned its user into Tony Stark. Between sessions, a horde of conference attendees flocked outside in anticipation.
Sadly, it wasn’t worth standing in the dry desert heat. Rather than having the pilot flying around in the sky, the jet-pack merely had him hovering at about the exact height necessary to kick someone in the head. So much for Iron Man. “That was a real downer,” one rep for a New York-based startup mumbled after the demo ended abruptly. You can catch a glimpse of it yourself below — and if the “whooshing” sound is too loud, it was 10 times worse in person.
6. Digital Media Is Only Getting More Popular
One thing that stood out from venture capitalist Mary Meeker’s annual Internet Trends Report: Americans are spending a record 6.3 hours each day interacting with digital media. Most of this time is spent on their phones — and that makes sense when you look at some of her other findings. Podcasts, for one thing, have exponentially grown in the last five years, with 700 million people worldwide listening to shows on a monthly basis.
7. Can’t Escape Trump
Even at a tech and media conference, you couldn’t escape President Trump.
Gadde drew laughs when discussing a recent meeting with the president, where he talked to Dorsey about “improving civility” on Twitter, among other objectives.
On Wednesday, the conversation turned more serious. A.G. Sulzberger, the publisher of The New York Times, said he believes the president’s routine attacks on the media — and in particular, his use of the what he described as the “Stalinist” phrase “enemy of the people” — has put journalists abroad in danger.
Marking a detour from 2018, Code Conference was especially focused on politics this year.
Stacey Abrams, a Democrat who lost a close race for governor last year in Georgia, opened the conference on Tuesday, urging the tech industry to fight misinformation campaigns and help “level the playing field” when it comes to what she described as active attempts at voter suppression. And on Wednesday morning, the focus shifted to the U.S. border, with RAICES spokeswoman Erika Andiola comparing the detainment camps housing immigrants seeking refugee status to concentration camps. At Code Conference, politics and tech appeared to be increasingly intertwined.
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www.thewrap.com | 6/12/19
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 .