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In the week following A$AP Rocky’s arrest and pending assault case in Sweden, celebrities have brought their activism to the forefront of their social media accounts or to television to plead for the release of Rocky and three other A$AP Mob members who also remain in jail. A$AP Ferg, another member of the group, visited […]
variety.com | 7/13/19

Two hundred and forty-three years ago tomorrow, America seceded from Great Britain. Last night, the U.S. succeeded over England in the Women’s World Cup. (Yes, we’re pretty proud of ourselves for that one.)

Unfortunately for the Brits, a ton of them had to watch this latest loss on television. A 2019 record 11.7 million U.K. viewers tuned in to the match, which was on BBC One, according to the BBC Press Office. It just didn’t work out in their favor.

Team USA beat Team England 2-1 on Tuesday to advance to the 2019 Women’s World Cup Final on Sunday, when it will face the winner of tonight’s Netherlands vs. Sweden game.

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Christen Press and Alex Morgan scored the goals last night for the United States, while Ellen White put in the lone goal for England. Team USA goalie Alyssa Naeher came up huge with a save on a penalty kick tried by England captain Steph Houghton.

If it’s any consolation, Team England will have its third-place consolation game on Saturday.

11.7m people tuned in to watch #ENGUSA last night in the #FIFAWWC – the largest live TV audience of 2019! Watch #NEDSWE tonight at 8pm, the Lionesses third place game at 4pm Saturday and the final at 4pm on Sunday – all on @BBCOne pic.twitter.com/nuU9MnYikm

— BBC Press Office (@bbcpress) July 3, 2019

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www.thewrap.com | 7/3/19

This weekend, a European phenomenon is back — though Americans may have to hunt for clips on YouTube or seek out a VPN and watch via another country’s home broadcaster.

The Eurovision Song Contest, a cross between “The X Factor” and the Miss Universe pageant that offers Yanks a glimpse of what it’s like to be in a culture that doesn’t have jazz and blues as the foundation of its pop music.

For those who’ve never seen — or even heard of Eurovision — before, here’s a quick primer to get you caught up.

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What exactly is this contest?
Eurovision began as an idea back in the mid-1950s as a way for Europe to come together after World War II had ripped it apart. It was a pretty revolutionary effort for its time. Television was still the Wild West of communications and the Olympics hadn’t yet become an international broadcasting event. Eurovision was one of the first major attempts to hold an event that people from a wide range of countries could watch. With that in mind, the organizers wanted each country to showcase a song that was indicative of their culture.

That sounds like a pretty noble goal.
Yes … but it was also very out of touch with what was happening with music at the time. Rock ‘n’ roll was beginning to take root and The Beatles would take the world by storm just a few years after Eurovision’s inception. This meant that Eurovision’s lineup of ballads and cultural pieces quickly felt antiquated compared to the rock revolution that was going on in the charts. And that was six decades ago … the entries would only get weirder from there.

How weird?
For starters, there was once a rule implemented on and off over the years stating that participants could only enter songs that were in their country’s main language. When that rule was in effect, some countries found a loophole: give the song a hook that involves complete gibberish. Songs with titles like “Boom Boom” and “Diggi-loo Diggi-ley” poured out while the home-language rule was in effect.

Then there are the artists themselves. As Eurovision has evolved, more and more ridiculous acts have come out of the woodwork. Finnish monster-rock bands, Russian grandmas and Latvian pirates are among the acts that have performed for a TV audience of hundreds of millions in recent Eurovisions. And that Finnish monster rock band actually won.

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Jeez! So is this just some musical freak show?
Well … let’s be fair. While there’s always been some silly novelty acts, there’s also some solid bits of Europop on hand every year from genuinely talented folks. Sweden won in 2012 with “Euphoria,” a soaring dance track by “Idol” contestant Loreen that went multi-platinum in her country after her victory.

There’s also a small handful of top stars on the winners’ list you might recognize. ABBA used Eurovision as a launch pad to stardom in 1974 with their song “Waterloo,” and French-Canadian Celine Dion’s win in 1988 was her biggest claim to fame before “Titanic” came out. Quality — or at least creativity — does tend to win out at Eurovision.

OK, so how does this contest work?
First, all the countries have a national contest where they vote on which song will represent at Eurovision. The participants are divided up into two semifinals, with the exception of the host nation and the “Big Five” countries — France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the U.K. — who automatically qualify for the final.  They are joined by the 10 countries that get the most votes in each semifinal. In the final, all 26 countries get three minutes to make a good impression, and then the whole continent votes “Idol”-style (not for their home country, of course), as do professional juries for each country.

Then the show transitions to a long procession of national “ambassadors” reading out who each country gave their votes to. The top 10 performers in each country’s vote get points, with 12 points going to the top vote-getter, followed by 10 and then eight down to one for the rest of the order. The same goes with the juries, but with 10 points going to the performer in first place.

And what does the performer with the most points win?
This trophy. Oh, and their country gets to host the competition next year.

What? No prize money? No contract? No vague promises of superstardom?
Nope. The winners do get their 15 minutes of fame and some success on the charts, but beyond ABBA and Celine, Eurovision winners almost never have long-term success. Again, Eurovision long ago moved away from the sort of music that leaves a lasting cultural impact.

Even now, a good chunk of the acts are homogenous power ballads that can blur together when performed in succession. Still, Eurovision is worth watching just for the spectacle of it all. The Disneyland-esque sweetness of the proceedings is charming, and the lack of stakes for the performers keeps it feeling light and fun rather than a battle for wealth, glory, and continental supremacy.

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It has also made headlines in recent years that have allowed it to take steps beyond the realm of annual oddities like the Running of the Bulls. The winner in 2014 was gay Austrian singer Thomas Neuwirth, who performed as drag queen superstar Conchita Wurst. The victory transformed Conchita into an LGBT icon in Europe, even as Russian conservatives raged in fury and used the singer as an example of why Russia shouldn’t be a part of the EU. For all of Eurovision’s platitudes about tolerance and peace, this was a moment where those ideals were actually acted upon, even if it meant breaking the general tone of inoffensiveness.

If it’s supposed to be European, why is Australia a competitor?
It turns out that Eurovision has a major cult following in Australia, and they were invited to compete several years ago as a thanks for all the support down under. The expansion of the European Union means countries like Azerbaijan and Israel get to compete too.

So…if all these countries that aren’t strictly European are competing, does this mean we may be seeing the USA compete in Eurovision soon?
Eh…don’t count on it.

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www.thewrap.com | 5/18/19

Swedish actress Bibi Andersson, known for her roles in “The Seventh Seal” and “Persona,” died on Sunday, according to Stockholm newspaper Aftonbladet. She was 83.

“She has been sick for many years, but it is sad. I found out that Bibi passed away lunchtime today,” director and friend Christina Olofsson told Aftonbladet.

According to Aftonbladet, Andersson had a stroke in 2009 while living in France with her husband Gabriel Mora Baeza. She returned to Sweden a few days later for hospital care. Shortly thereafter, she moved to a nursing home in Stockholm.

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Andersson, who starred in several of writer and director Ingmar Bergman’s classic films, became well-known in the 1950’s, appearing in “The Seventh Seal” and “Wild Strawberries,” among countless other films.

She would go on to work constantly throughout the ’60s, ’70s and subsequent decades and as recently as 2007, with roles in more than 50 films such as “Persona,” “The Touch” and “Scenes From a Marriage.”

In 1968 Anderson was nominated for best foreign actress at the BAFTAs for her roles in two films: “Persona” and “Syskonbädd 1782,” or “My Sister My Love.” At the 13th Berlin International Film Festival in 1963, Andersson won the Silver Bear for best actress for her role in Vilgot Sjöman’s film “The Mistress.”

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www.thewrap.com | 4/14/19

Ever wonder where the phrase Stockholm syndrome came from? The answer can more or less be found in Robert Budreau’s bank-heist biopic “Stockholm.” The film announces its intentions from the start, boldly declaring itself “Based on an absurd but true story.” Neither claim — the absurdity, nor the truth — is entirely accurate, leading to a movie that is both intermittently compelling and consistently uneven.

Budreau certainly has enough to work with, having adapted a lengthy 1974 New Yorker story about a still-infamous robbery in Sweden. Though the names and, as it turns out, some crucial details have been changed, the script hews fairly close to the basic event. An impish Hawke blasts things off as Lars Nystrom, the Swedish-born, American-raised troublemaker who announces his arrival at Stockholm’s biggest bank by blaring Bob Dylan on the radio while simultaneously brandishing a machine gun.

The first person to notice his softer side is bank clerk Bianca (Rapace), who joins colleagues Klara (Bea Santos, “True Detective”) and Elov (Mark Rendall, “Versailles”) as Lars’s hostages. Lars and his eventual accomplice, Gunnar (Mark Strong), do their best to keep the cops off-balance by threatening and even committing violence. But behind the scenes, they don’t act like we think criminals should, and as a result, their hostages don’t respond the way we’d expect.

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Budreau also seems to have some difficulty reconciling his feelings. In actuality, there was nothing “absurd” about the original story: it was a traumatic experience that occurred under intense psychological and physical threat. But that’s a heavy subject, and Budreau seems to want to make a popcorn lark. So Lars becomes an eccentric, somewhat dim-witted sweetheart who serves as a fine contrast to Bianca’s dully literal husband Christopher (Thorbjørn Harr, “22 July”).

As both writer and director, Budreau follows this path to its natural Hollywood conclusion: a romantic connection between lonely souls Lars and Bianca. Unfortunately, he’s ostentatiously staked his claim on the movie’s basis in truth. And in reality, the only sexual experience between captor and hostage was the result of one victim’s fear of assault. Which exposes the biggest problem of all: Budreau sees Stockholm syndrome less as a serious reaction to extraordinarily extreme circumstances and more as a potential kickoff for a catchy elevator pitch. His hostages don’t connect with their captors as a survival mechanism, but because Lars is a total charmer and the authorities (Christopher Heyerdahl, Shanti Roney) are uptight jerks.

The entire production suffers, too, from the ghost of a similar, and iconically more successful, venture hanging over its head. That “Stockholm” is no “Dog Day Afternoon” should go without saying. But if you’re willing to take the movie for what it really is — a fairly generic caper inspired by, rather than based on, actual events — you’ll find just enough to appreciate.

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Foremost is Hawke’s spirited turn as the luckless Lars, a guy who usually wants to do the right thing but always goes about it in the wrong way. Hawke, so excellent in Budreau’s 2016 Chet Baker biopic “Born to Be Blue,” doesn’t merely rise to a challenge, but also compulsively expands and explores it. Rapace proves a perfect foil, bringing crucial gravitas to a movie that can’t settle on its own tone. Both actors ride the wave from comic misunderstandings to tear-jerking drama to unlikely romance without ever losing their footing.

The same can’t be said for a muted Strong, who has the thankless task of playing straight man to Hawke. The effort of keeping his dignity in the face of a preposterous ’70s wig and unfortunate denim-on-denim combo ultimately seems to overwhelm him.

But Budreau and editor Richard Comeau (“War Witch”) keep the pace moving swiftly, and cinematographer Brendan Steacy (“Titans”) deftly evokes each shifting mood. It’s awfully easy to relate to the hapless Lars as he struggles to adapt, whether in the dim and suffocating bank vault or an increasingly chaotic, blindingly-bright outside world.

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www.thewrap.com | 4/10/19

The NHL Network is allowing fans to get up close and personal with players in a way they never have before with a new four-part, all-access series “Behind the Glass: New Jersey Devils Training Camp.”

Following the franchise through the tribulations of training camp leading up to the 2018 season opener against the Edmonton Oilers on Oct. 6, the reality TV-style docuseries has been compared to the HBO’s hit “Hard Knocks” for its drama and authenticity as players struggle to make the final team roster.

While “Behind the Glass” is not the NHL’s first venture into all-access TV — they capture teams during the season on “Road to the Winter Classic” and “All Access: Quest for the Stanley Cup” — it is the first time they’ve drawn back the curtain to reveal the inner workings of training camp and preseason.

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“When we look at evolutions and the next steps, we always end up coming back to training camp when the foundation for the entire year starts to be discussed,” Steve Mayer EVP, Chief Content Officer at the NHL told TheWrap.

As to why the spotlight was aimed on the Devils out of the 31 teams in the league for Season 1, “New Jersey has always been a team that wanted to do more all-access programming, they like their players to get more exposure and had always been asking us as a league to do more,” Mayer said.

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“This team has really opened up their doors, and there are a lot of compelling personalities to uncover,” he explained. “They have got the reigning Hart Memorial Trophy for most valuable player in Taylor Hall (pictured above), they have the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy recipient Brian Boyle coming back from battling leukemia. Then they’ve got a lot of young dynamic players who are passionate in the program.”

Just as the head coach is a driving force once the players hit the ice, he also has to be the star of the show in any behind-the-scenes series — and, fortunately, John Hynes is up for the role. “He is one of those characters you want the guy at the helm to be — big, boisterous and have a huge personality,” Mayer said. “You could see from day one that it was all about him establishing and showing the Devils culture to the world. Not all coaches and not all teams are as open to doing these types of shows as he is.

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A television veteran who was an executive producer at IMG for 23 years before joining the NHL, Mayer is no stranger to reality TV and what it takes for a series to work.

“There is an art to these shows … it has got to be real and feel real,” he explained. “I don’t care if you’re doing a reality show on Bravo like ‘Real Housewives’ or you’re doing an all-access program like ours on NHL Network. Your camera crew and producers have to build a rapport with the cast so much that they don’t even notice the cameras are around so that people can be themselves and they aren’t conscious of being filmed.

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“That is what New Jersey has done really early in the process, and that makes for a better television show for sure,” he added.

“We are flies on the wall, there to capture the reality of what goes on every day and be in places where our audiences can’t normally go — whether it’s the coaches’ room for meetings or walking the streets of Hoboken with Taylor Hall to get a feel for who he is.”

Like with “Hard Knocks,” which followed NFL underdogs the Cleveland Browns this summer, the climax of “Behind the Glass” is who makes the final roster for when the season begins.

“We will have roster spots that are decided on the very last episode and it is unbelievably compelling for the audience to be dragged into that decision,” Mayer said. “You learn and start to appreciate these personalities as they are all vying for the same thing. It is a great way to raise the awareness and brand of one of our teams. People are really going to like the Devils by the time this series is over,” he predicted.

The show will end with their trip to Switzerland for a preseason game and then to Sweden for the opening game vs. the Oilers as part of the NHL Global Series. “That was another really big part of why the Devils made sense this year,” Mayer said. “Nico Hischier — one of their best players and the future of their franchise — is from Switzerland so we get to go home with him and travel around his country, and to have their first game oversees in a very unique setting is a pretty cool way to end the show.”

Produced by NHL Network in association with NHL Original Productions, “Behind the Glass” airs Mondays at 7:30 p.m. ET on NHL Network.

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www.thewrap.com | 10/1/18

Swedish media has a long tradition going back to the 1776 law enacting freedom of the press. The press is subsidized by the government and is owned by many actors, the dominant owner being Bonnier AB. Swedish TV and Radio was until the mid 1980s a government monopoly, which slowly has been eroded despite resistance, e.g. a call for prohibition of private ownership of satellite dish receivers. Public service media is financed by a special fee (tax) levied on all who own a TV or Radio receiver. Reporting ownership is voluntary, but TV sellers are obliged to report purchase to the government, and the government also has a special service of agents, with equipment capable of detecting tell-tale emissions from TV-receivers, who patrols residential areas in order to catch those who have not reported ownership of a receiver. Swedish media has mechanisms for self regulation, such as the Swedish Press Council.


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