Movie Review: Taika Waititi’s ‘Next Goal Wins’ Is a Sweet, Frothy Diversion but No Knee Slide

 This image released by Searchlight Pictures shows David Fane, left, and Michael Fassbender in a scene from "Next Goal Wins." (Searchlight Pictures via AP)
This image released by Searchlight Pictures shows David Fane, left, and Michael Fassbender in a scene from "Next Goal Wins." (Searchlight Pictures via AP)
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Movie Review: Taika Waititi’s ‘Next Goal Wins’ Is a Sweet, Frothy Diversion but No Knee Slide

 This image released by Searchlight Pictures shows David Fane, left, and Michael Fassbender in a scene from "Next Goal Wins." (Searchlight Pictures via AP)
This image released by Searchlight Pictures shows David Fane, left, and Michael Fassbender in a scene from "Next Goal Wins." (Searchlight Pictures via AP)

In "Next Goal Wins," a soccer coach comes from far away to lead a hapless group of athletes. He's a fish-out-of-water type, ill-suited for the job, but rises to the occasion and everyone feels good at the end. Wait, you're thinking, that's the plot of "Ted Lasso." Well, only kind of.

Writer-director Taika Waititi — the manic, slightly unhinged mind behind "Thor: Love and Thunder" and "Jojo Rabbit" — offers a sports movie that's not, of course, a sports movie and the opposite of whatever Jason Sudeikis was doing on his TV series.

"Next Goal Wins" — "inspired by true events" — stars Michael Fassbender as a bitter Dutch-American soccer coach assigned to help the struggling American Samoa national team qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The team is an international laughing stock and still stinging from having been on the wrong side of the worst loss in international soccer history — a 31-0 thrashing by Australia in 2001.

Waititi and co-writer Iain Morris based their movie on a 2014 British documentary of the same name and you can instantly tell why Waititi gravitated toward the story. It has a clash of civilizations, explores overcoming loss and it has a beautiful lesson about embracing those who are different.

In Waititi's hands, it becomes a sloppy, quirky, pop culture-studded frothy comedy that gently apes other underdog sports movies but doesn't offer much but a mildly funny respite from reality. It makes "Bend it like Beckham" seem really deep.

Waititi himself — he couldn't resist stepping into his own film — frames the movie in the first minutes by playing a priest on American Samoa who promises this will not be a tale of woe but "a tale of woah!" (Shakespeare isn't laughing).

Fassbender here is the opposite of Lasso — he's broken inside, angry outside, egotistical and unyielding, a coach fired from his last three teams and given a career lifeline no one else wants. He has no home-spun wisdom to offer, just routine high school bullying. "Something’s not right about that guy," says one islander. "Well," comes the response. "He is white."

The coach will eventually be redeemed by American Samoa itself, by the nobility of its people and the goodness of their souls, with the movie getting dangerously close to worn out movie cliche territory.

The script had an opportunity to really examine the demand of winning at all costs versus the rewards of merely having fun and having a passion for sports but abandons any lessons in a flurry of team-building montages.

This being a Waititi movie, there's a scattershot of pop culture references — "Karate Kid," "Taken," "The Matrix," "Any Given Sunday" and even Frank Sinatra ("You’re riding high in April, shot down in May"). At times, these seem more like the director's idiosyncrasies than plot advancers.

The script also takes a weird sort of glee mocking the islanders, who are portrayed sometimes as playing dress-up. One sits at a desk with a keyboard and a monitor but no computer and another makes siren noises with his mouth in a police car because of faulty equipment.

There are really nice turns by Oscar Kightley, Will Arnett and Elisabeth Moss, but it's Fassbender who must do the bulk of the lifting here. His accent is spotty and he may initially not have been on the top of everyone's list for the part but he sticks the landing, to mix sports metaphors. "Next Goal Wins" isn't a tale of "woe" or "woah!" but "meh."



Film Director Shot by Alec Baldwin Says it Felt Like Being Hit by Baseball Bat

A still from a video clip played in court shows actor Alec Baldwin during a trial at the First Judicial District Courthouse in Santa Fe, New Mexico on February, 29, 2024. (Photo by Gabriela CAMPOS / POOL / AFP)
A still from a video clip played in court shows actor Alec Baldwin during a trial at the First Judicial District Courthouse in Santa Fe, New Mexico on February, 29, 2024. (Photo by Gabriela CAMPOS / POOL / AFP)
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Film Director Shot by Alec Baldwin Says it Felt Like Being Hit by Baseball Bat

A still from a video clip played in court shows actor Alec Baldwin during a trial at the First Judicial District Courthouse in Santa Fe, New Mexico on February, 29, 2024. (Photo by Gabriela CAMPOS / POOL / AFP)
A still from a video clip played in court shows actor Alec Baldwin during a trial at the First Judicial District Courthouse in Santa Fe, New Mexico on February, 29, 2024. (Photo by Gabriela CAMPOS / POOL / AFP)

A movie director who was shot by Alec Baldwin during a movie rehearsal — and survived — testified Friday at trial that he was approaching the cinematographer when he heard a loud bang and felt the bullet's impact.
“It felt like someone had taken a baseball bat to my shoulder,” said Joel Souza, who was wounded by the same bullet that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the New Mexico set for the upcoming Western movie “Rust” on Oct. 21, 2021.
Souza never filed a complaint but was called to testify as prosecutors pursue charges of involuntary manslaughter and tampering with evidence against movie weapons supervisor Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, who maintains her innocence. Baldwin, the lead actor and co-producer on “Rust,” was separately indicted by a grand jury last month. He has pleaded not guilty, and a trial is scheduled for July.
Prosecutors are reconstructing a complex chain of events that culminated in gunfire on a film set where live ammunition is expressly prohibited.
According to The Associated Press, Souza said his workday began before dawn with the realization that six camera-crew members had walked off set. Hutchins put out urgent calls for replacements, and filming was back underway by late-morning in an outdoor scene involving horses and wagons.
Work after lunch started with positioning a camera in preparation for an extreme close-up take of Baldwin drawing a gun from a holster inside a makeshift church. Souza said he moved in behind Hutchins for a closer look at the camera angle but never saw the gun that shot him.
“I got up behind her just to try to see on the monitor, and there was an incredibly loud bang,” Souza said. “This was deafening.”
Baldwin and his handling of firearms on set are coming under special scrutiny in questioning by prosecutor and defense attorneys.
On Thursday, prosecutors played video footage of Baldwin pressuring the movie armorer to hurry up as she reloads guns between scenes.
“One more, let's reload right away,” Baldwin says at the close of a scene. “Here we go, come on. We should have had two guns and both were reloading.”
Gutierrez-Reed can be seen quickly loading a revolver.
Expert witness Bryan Carpenter, a Mississippi-based specialist in firearms safety on film sets, said Baldwin's commands infringed on basic industry safety protocols and responsibilities of the armorer.
“He's basically instructing the armorer on how to do their job ... ‘Hurry up, give it to me fast,’" Carpenter said. “Rushing with firearms and telling someone to rush with firearms is not — not normal or accepted.”
On Friday, defense attorney Jason Bowles pressed Souza to remember whether the script explicitly called for Baldwin to point the gun toward the camera, where he and Hutchins were standing.
“And do you know whether, from the script, whether that firearm was supposed to be pointed towards the camera?” Bowles inquired.
“It’s not a matter of the script, really. For that specific shot, it was literally supposed to be the gun being pulled out sideways,” Souza said.
Prosecutors say Gutierrez-Reed is to blame for unwittingly bringing live ammunition on set and that she flouted basic safety protocols for weapons — partly by leaving the church rehearsal while a gun still was in use. Defense attorneys say it wasn't Gutierrez-Reed's decision to leave.
Souza said he only recalled seeing Gutierrez-Reed inside the church after he was shot.


Rihanna, Zuckerberg in India for Party Thrown by Asia's Richest Man

Meta chief Mark Zuckerberg with his wife Priscilla Chan upon arrival at Jamnagar Airport. Reliance/AFP
Meta chief Mark Zuckerberg with his wife Priscilla Chan upon arrival at Jamnagar Airport. Reliance/AFP
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Rihanna, Zuckerberg in India for Party Thrown by Asia's Richest Man

Meta chief Mark Zuckerberg with his wife Priscilla Chan upon arrival at Jamnagar Airport. Reliance/AFP
Meta chief Mark Zuckerberg with his wife Priscilla Chan upon arrival at Jamnagar Airport. Reliance/AFP

Pop star Rihanna and Meta chief Mark Zuckerberg were in India Friday for an extravagant party hosted by Asia's richest man, with celebrations expected to include other globally influential figures.
Global tech bosses, industry titans, Bollywood stars, pop icons and politicians are also due for the three-day gala celebrations hosted by billionaire tycoon Mukesh Ambani.
This weekend's party is an elaborate pre-wedding ceremony for younger son Anant and fiancee Radhika Merchant, the daughter of wealthy pharmaceutical moguls.
Photos published by Indian media confirmed the arrival of Rihanna, Zuckerberg and the Facebook founder's wife Priscilla Chan in Ambani's hometown of Jamnagar.
"Umbrella" singer Rihanna, who gave birth to her second child in August, is slated to lead Friday's entertainment in her first public performance since last year's Superbowl, local media reported.
Broadcaster India Today reported that the Barbadian-born musician and women's beauty entrepreneur had been offered up to $9 million to appear at the event.
Ambani, 66, is chairman of oil-to-telecoms giant Reliance Industries and the world's 10th-richest person according to the Forbes billionaires list, worth more than $116 billion.
On Wednesday the family launched a three-day feast for villagers at the Reliance Township in Jamnagar, in India's western state of Gujarat.
The Ambanis are building a Hindu temple complex in the city, the Reliance Foundation said on social media.
Anant, 28, who also serves as a director on the boards of several Reliance-owned firms, is expected to marry Merchant, 29, later this year.
Ambani held the most expensive wedding to date in India for his daughter in 2018, which reportedly cost $100 million and saw US pop megastar Beyonce perform.
US illusionist David Blaine is also expected to be part of the entertainment for guests, who include Microsoft founder Bill Gates and several current and former political leaders.
Also among the invitees is Disney chief Bob Iger, following a deal agreed Wednesday between Reliance Industries and Walt Disney to merge their Indian media businesses.
The merger will create an $8.5 billion entertainment giant in the world's most populous nation and fifth-largest economy.
Other guests invited include Ivanka Trump, daughter of former US president Donald, as well as Sweden's ex-prime minister Carl Bildt, former Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper and the King of Bhutan.
Bollywood stars Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan, cricket icons Sachin Tendulkar and M.S. Dhoni, and industry titan Gautam Adani are also invited in a who's-who of India's super-rich elite.
The main celebrations, running until Sunday, will have different themes, events and dress codes -- including a "jungle fever" day with a visit to an animal rescue center run by Ambani, the Hindustan Times newspaper reported.


AMC Tumbles as Hollywood Strikes, Higher Expenses Hit Results

An AMC theater is pictured in Times Square in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, US, June 2, 2021. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/File Photo
An AMC theater is pictured in Times Square in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, US, June 2, 2021. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/File Photo
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AMC Tumbles as Hollywood Strikes, Higher Expenses Hit Results

An AMC theater is pictured in Times Square in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, US, June 2, 2021. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/File Photo
An AMC theater is pictured in Times Square in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, US, June 2, 2021. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/File Photo

AMC Entertainment slumped nearly 8% on Thursday as the movie industry continued to reel from the impact of twin Hollywood strikes, driving the theater chain to post a larger-than-expected quarterly loss.
The writers and actors' strikes have crippled much of the industry, leading to fewer releases following the blockbuster summer successes of "Barbie" and "Oppenheimer."
The delay in the release of the "Dune" sequel likely contributed to the box-office weakness last year.
AMC reported a loss of 83 cents per share for the fourth quarter, while analysts were expecting a loss of 70 cents, according to LSEG data. The impact of the strikes is expected to linger this year and weigh on earnings in 2024.
Just as adjusted core earnings in the summer of 2023 were returning to more acceptable pre-COVID levels, the movie industry was paralyzed by debilitating strikes, temporarily challenging AMC earnings in 2024, CEO Adam Aron said on a post-earnings call.
The strikes and the resulting lack of new content forced studios to try other means such as concert-based movies to pull in revenue.
"AMC's deals with Beyoncé and Taylor Swift went a long way in staunching the wounds and have opened up a lucrative revenue stream," said Danni Hewson, head of financial analysis at AJ Bell.
However, higher distribution costs for Swift and Beyonce's concert movies were a drag on its earnings, Reuters reported.
Domestic box-office collection was down 35% for the fourth quarter, compared with pre-pandemic levels in 2019, and 45% for the first two months of the year, compared with 2020 levels.
For 2024, "the impact from the 6-month Hollywood work stoppage is likely to cause the overall domestic box office to decrease 7%," Roth MKM analyst Eric Handler said.


Cyndi Lauper Inks Deal with Firm behind ABBA Voyage for New Immersive Performance Project

Singer Cyndi Lauper plays the dulcimer as she perform at the Women Rock! Girls and Guitars concert, late October 12, 2000 in Los Angeles, California. REUTERS/Fred Prouser
Singer Cyndi Lauper plays the dulcimer as she perform at the Women Rock! Girls and Guitars concert, late October 12, 2000 in Los Angeles, California. REUTERS/Fred Prouser
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Cyndi Lauper Inks Deal with Firm behind ABBA Voyage for New Immersive Performance Project

Singer Cyndi Lauper plays the dulcimer as she perform at the Women Rock! Girls and Guitars concert, late October 12, 2000 in Los Angeles, California. REUTERS/Fred Prouser
Singer Cyndi Lauper plays the dulcimer as she perform at the Women Rock! Girls and Guitars concert, late October 12, 2000 in Los Angeles, California. REUTERS/Fred Prouser

Legendary pop icon Cyndi Lauper, who rose to fame in the 1980s with hits such as “Time After Time” and “Girls Just Want To Have Fun,” has entered a partnership with the Swedish masterminds behind the immersive virtual concert ABBA Voyage.
The partnership announced Thursday by the Pophouse Entertainment Group co-founded by ABBA singer Björn Ulvaeus, involves the acquisition of a majority share of the award-winning singer-songwriter’s music. The aim is to develop new ways to bring Lauper’s music to fans and younger audiences through new performances and live experiences, The Associated Press said.
Lauper said she agreed to the sale, for an undisclosed amount, when it became apparent the Swedish company wasn’t just in it for the money. “Most suits, when you tell them an idea, their eyes glaze over, they just want your greatest hits,” Lauper told The Associated Press at the Pophouse headquarters in Stockholm earlier this month. “But these guys are a multimedia company, they’re not looking to just buy my catalog, they want to make something new.”
Four decades after her breakthrough solo album, the 70-year-old Queens native is still brimming with ideas and the energy to bring them to stage.
Lauper said she’s not aiming to replicate the glittery supernova brought to stage in ABBA Voyage where stupefying technology offers digital avatars of the ABBA band members as they looked in their 1970s heyday, but rather an “immersive theater piece” that transports audiences to the New York she grew up in.
“It’s about where I came from and the three women that were very influential in my life, my mom, my grandmother and my aunt,” she said.
Lauper has long advocated for women’s rights and gender equality, and her 1983 hit “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” reinvented by other female artists through the years, has become a feminist anthem. Lauper seems humbled by this responsibility.
It was during the large Women’s March in 2017 following the inauguration of Donald Trump where she saw protesters with signs reading “Girls just want to have fun" that gave her the impetus to raise money for women’s health. So far, she has raised more than $150,000 to help small organizations that provide safe and legal abortions.
“I grew up with three women. I saw the disenfranchisement very clearly. And I saw the struggles, I saw the joy, I saw the love,” she said. “And it made me come out with boxing gloves on.”
Lauper hopes the new show can bring the memories of those women back to life a little, along with “the reasons I sang certain songs, and the things that I wrote about.”


Kate Winslet’s ‘Regime’ Is Not a Dictatorship — Behind the Scenes, at Least

 This image released by HBO shows Kate Winslet in a scene from "The Regime." (HBO via AP)
This image released by HBO shows Kate Winslet in a scene from "The Regime." (HBO via AP)
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Kate Winslet’s ‘Regime’ Is Not a Dictatorship — Behind the Scenes, at Least

 This image released by HBO shows Kate Winslet in a scene from "The Regime." (HBO via AP)
This image released by HBO shows Kate Winslet in a scene from "The Regime." (HBO via AP)

Kate Winslet is running things — on and off the set of her new TV show, "The Regime."

In the HBO show premiering Sunday, she plays Elena Vernham — also known as The Chancellor, the ruler of a fictional country in Europe, possibly near Poland. Winslet, who is also an executive producer on the show, says she's never been offered a character like this "in her life."

"I’ve never read a script like this before. I’ve never laughed so much at the material that was in front of me, as we did every single day, and I really just felt this was an exciting, challenging, terrifying opportunity for me to step totally out of my comfort zone," she says.

As the show’s worshipped leader, she came face to face with many huge artworks of herself.

"Initially I thought to myself, oh God, that’s so brilliant. I’ve got to have one. And then I got so sick of looking at them that towards the end I just wanted to burn them all," Winslet laughs.

Sometimes, the production team would neglect to warn her of a large, sequined image of her face on set.

"Funnily enough I don’t like looking at me. It’s not a comfortable place to be. So yes, there was a, there was a lot of being confronted with that, this heightened version of myself," she says. "I just had to kind of roll with it."

That’s one of the many major differences between the star and the dictator — who loves to be loved by her people, addressing them regularly and also, occasionally, serenading them with a song ("Santa Baby").

Among her loyal subjects: Guillaume Gallienne, as her husband Nicholas; Andrea Riseborough, who runs the palace, and Danny Webb as one of her many ministers, subservient to her bizarre pronouncements. Martha Plimpton plays a US senator and Hugh Grant is Elena's political rival.

Things in the country are running smoothly — well, as smoothly as they can while Elena deals with her latest hypochondria, paranoia and abandonment issues. Then she hires a soldier, played by Matthias Schoenaerts, in her fight against tiny deadly spores — and begins a relationship with repercussions that shake the regime, and the country, to its core, moving her battles to a much larger scale.

The dark comedy, from "Succession" writer Will Tracy, is billed as a twisted love story about two people who should never have fallen in love, which is "exactly why everybody should watch it," says Schoenaerts.

"The world is full of people that should have never met," he says.

Luckily, off screen, the results were less damaging with lots of laughter on set, Schoenaerts recalls: "It gives us some relief because, obviously, sometimes we really have to go (to dark) places."

And it was much less of a dictatorship than on screen.

"She leads by example," Schoenaerts says of Winslet. "She’s always on time, always prepared, always kind, generous, open and extremely sharp. And she’s a lot of fun to work with."

"The Regime" directors Stephen Frears and Jessica Hobbs both agree that a Winslet set is more like a welcoming theater company.

"It did feel like that," says Winslet, who has appeared in amateur theatrical productions.

Gallienne remembers that Winslet would take time out to talk to any new cast members so that they felt comfortable and part of the team.

"She’s very direct, very honest, but very simple and very kind," he says. "As she says, you know, learn your lines, focus and deliver."

Winslet says that she takes being number one on the call sheet very seriously and tries to lead by example, to "lift the energy every day and just deliver it and show up and, and really be there for everybody."

"As I’m getting older I feel responsibility and gratitude, you know, both simultaneously," Winslet explains. "It’s a really privileged position to be in. And I really respect it."

The self-centered chancellor is a far cry from any real-life figure, if you were wondering, with Winslet describing her character's theatrics as "so enormous and delicious."

"And her hysteria at times, and how volatile she is, how vulnerable she is. I mean, I just couldn’t compare her to anyone," she says.

"I couldn’t say there were things that I actually liked about her," adds Winslet, "but there were things that really just made me laugh."


For Each Best Picture Oscar Hopeful, Film Editors Are Key 

(From L) Mark Orton, Alexander Payne, and Kevin Tent arrive for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' 14th Annual Governors Awards at the Ray Dolby Ballroom in Los Angeles on January 9, 2024. (AFP)
(From L) Mark Orton, Alexander Payne, and Kevin Tent arrive for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' 14th Annual Governors Awards at the Ray Dolby Ballroom in Los Angeles on January 9, 2024. (AFP)
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For Each Best Picture Oscar Hopeful, Film Editors Are Key 

(From L) Mark Orton, Alexander Payne, and Kevin Tent arrive for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' 14th Annual Governors Awards at the Ray Dolby Ballroom in Los Angeles on January 9, 2024. (AFP)
(From L) Mark Orton, Alexander Payne, and Kevin Tent arrive for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' 14th Annual Governors Awards at the Ray Dolby Ballroom in Los Angeles on January 9, 2024. (AFP)

Whether they are snipping an actor's lengthy stare, obliging the viewer to process rapid-fire images or creating tension with a pause, film editors who work in sync with directors play a vital role in giving life to a movie -- and its Oscar chances.

"You can't have a good movie with bad editing," Kevin Tent, who is nominated for an Academy Award for his work with director Alexander Payne on best picture contender "The Holdovers," told AFP.

Tent -- who has been part of Payne's filmmaking inner circle for nearly 30 years, including on Oscar contenders "The Descendants" (2011) and "Sideways" (2004) -- compares his work as an editor to that of a chef making a special dish.

After initial filming, "you're getting all these different elements, and you're chopping things and mixing them" to find the perfect recipe to tell the story, Tent explained.

"If you put too much salt in something, it's no good, or if you put too much sugar, it ruins everything," he quips.

For "The Holdovers," which received a total of five Oscar nominations ahead of the March 10 ceremony, Tent certainly found a winning formula.

Payne's film is a touching holiday tale of three lonely souls who end up spending Christmas together at a 1970s-era boarding school -- a crotchety teacher, a cafeteria manager in mourning and a fragile teenage boy.

Tent is vying for the best film editing Oscar with his peers who worked on "Anatomy of a Fall,Killers of the Flower Moon,Poor Things" and "Oppenheimer," the overall favorite for Oscars glory.

Best picture and best editing awards often go hand-in-hand.

For nearly a century, only 11 movies won the Academy award for best picture without also being nominated for best editing. And 40 percent of all best pictures winners also won the statuette for editing prowess.

Director-editor bond

Those statistics show the extent to which editing is indeed the essence of film, even more so than the screenplay or the cinematography.

Legendary directors like Stanley Kubrick and Orson Welles said editing was the key to making a good movie.

"'Movies are made in the cutting room' -- many people say that, because it's there where you really have the time to be creative and think about what the movie is, and what it's going to become," explains Tent.

He worked with Payne on "The Holdovers" for nearly a year.

That gave the duo time to cut more than 30 minutes from the film's run time, as compared to their early cut, and find just the right bittersweet, funny-serious tone thanks to test audiences.

The film has been praised for its use of "dissolves" -- overlapping images that allows a new shot to surface while the previous one disappears -- which help to develop the emotional evolution of the characters or the melancholic beauty of winter.

Such precise work requires a director and editor to be exactly on the same page, which is why many directors have editors they bring from film to film.

Thelma Schoonmaker, the queen of editing with three Oscars to her name, has worked with Martin Scorsese since the start of his career more than 50 years ago.

Schoonmaker is one of Tent's rivals for her work on "Killers of the Flower Moon," which is also in the running for best picture. She has regularly mentioned in interviews how closely she and Scorsese collaborate.

"He taught me everything I know about editing. Our sensibilities are the same," she told the CineMontage website in February.

'Midwives' of cinema

Editors are usually hailed for their deep technical knowledge and for their ability not to leave their own stamp on the material, as the director's vision remains paramount.

"The editing cannot be noticeable, or branded -- it's really the craft of adapting someone's work," Laurent Senechal, a nominee for his work on Justine Triet's "Anatomy of a Fall," told AFP.

"We are like the midwives -- we accompany them," said Senechal, who worked on Triet's last three films.

Editing "Anatomy" -- a courtroom thriller about a writer accused of murdering her husband, which earned five nominations including best picture, director and editing -- took 38 weeks, Senechal said, calling the time a "luxury" in French cinema.

That pace allowed the pair to carefully master the desynchronization of sound and image, which helps to propel the ambiguity of the film, which depicts the couple's collapse and the unclear circumstances of the husband's death.

When the couple's son, who is blind, testifies in court, the audience sees images of the husband, who is speaking with the child's voice -- did these images occur in the past, or are they false memories?

"Justine is totally obsessive," Senechal said. "Editing is one of the most essential things for directing."


Director: Oscar-nominated 'Past Lives' Was Inspired by Immigrant Experience

Cast members Greta Lee, John Magaro and Teo Yoo attend a photo call to promote the movie 'Past Lives' at the 73rd Berlinale International Film Festival in Berlin, Germany, February 19, 2023. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch/File Photo
Cast members Greta Lee, John Magaro and Teo Yoo attend a photo call to promote the movie 'Past Lives' at the 73rd Berlinale International Film Festival in Berlin, Germany, February 19, 2023. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch/File Photo
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Director: Oscar-nominated 'Past Lives' Was Inspired by Immigrant Experience

Cast members Greta Lee, John Magaro and Teo Yoo attend a photo call to promote the movie 'Past Lives' at the 73rd Berlinale International Film Festival in Berlin, Germany, February 19, 2023. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch/File Photo
Cast members Greta Lee, John Magaro and Teo Yoo attend a photo call to promote the movie 'Past Lives' at the 73rd Berlinale International Film Festival in Berlin, Germany, February 19, 2023. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch/File Photo

Korean-Canadian director Celine Song said her life as an immigrant inspired the Oscar-nominated film "Past Lives", speaking ahead of its release in South Korean cinemas on Wednesday.
Specifically, she drew on a conversation between her friend vising from South Korea and her husband at a bar in New York, Song told a press conference in the capital, Seoul.
"As a bilingual, I was translating between the two who couldn't communicate and it made me realize I was translating some parts of my identity and history," she added.
"That made me want to make this film."
The film, which centers on two old friends, Nora and Hae Sung, who reunite in New York decades after having parted ways as children in South Korea, has drawn critical acclaim since its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival last year.
It won a Best Picture nomination for this year's Academy Awards, competing against the likes of "Oppenheimer" and "Anatomy Of A Fall" as well as for Best Original Screenplay.
The film also won the award for best feature at the 2024 Film Independent Spirit Awards.
Song was born and brought up in South Korea before moving to Canada at the age of 12, similar to the main character Nora.
It was a personal choice to make her first feature film autobiographical, she added.
"As one human being, I think it should be something that you deeply believe only you can do or you must do in order to make or write something worthwhile to watch," Song said.


Thousands of Artists Ask Venice Biennale to Exclude Israel

A general view shows gondolas as revellers take part in the Venice carnival, in Venice, Italy, February 4, 2023. (Reuters)
A general view shows gondolas as revellers take part in the Venice carnival, in Venice, Italy, February 4, 2023. (Reuters)
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Thousands of Artists Ask Venice Biennale to Exclude Israel

A general view shows gondolas as revellers take part in the Venice carnival, in Venice, Italy, February 4, 2023. (Reuters)
A general view shows gondolas as revellers take part in the Venice carnival, in Venice, Italy, February 4, 2023. (Reuters)

Almost 9,000 people, including artists, curators and museum directors, have signed an online appeal calling for Israel to be excluded from this year's Venice Biennale art fair and accusing the country of "genocide" in Gaza.

Israel has been facing mounting international criticism, including in the arts world, over its military offensive in the Palestinian enclave, which was triggered by an Oct. 7 attack by Hamas militants in southern Israel.

Hamas gunmen killed 1,200 people and took 253 hostage in the raids, according to Israeli tallies. Nearly 30,000 people have been killed and most of Gaza's 2.3 million residents have been displaced during Israel's offensive, Gaza health officials say.

Israel rejects any accusation that its actions amount to genocide.

"Any official representation of Israel on the international cultural stage is an endorsement of its policies and of the genocide in Gaza," said the online statement by the Art Not Genocide Alliance (ANGA) collective.

ANGA said the Venice Biennale had previously banned South Africa over its apartheid policy of white minority rule and excluded Russia after its 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

Italian Culture Minister Gennaro Sangiuliano said the appeal was an "unacceptable, as well as shameful ... diktat of those who believe they are the custodians of truth, and with arrogance and hatred, think they can threaten freedom of thought and creative expression."

He said in a statement that Israel "not only has the right to express its art, but also the duty to bear witness to its people" after being attacked by "merciless terrorists".

The Venice Biennale press office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Signatories of the appeal include Palestine Museum US director Faisal Saleh, activist US photographer Nan Goldin and British visual artist Jesse Darling, who won last year's Turner Prize.

Dubbed the "Olympics of the art world", the Biennale is one of the main events in the international arts calendar. This year's edition, "Foreigners Everywhere", is due to host pavilions from 90 countries between April 20 and Nov. 24.


Al Pacino and Michelle Pfeiffer Will Present at the Oscars (Plus Everything Else You Need to Know) 

Oscar statuettes appear backstage at the Oscars at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles on Feb. 28, 2016. (AP)
Oscar statuettes appear backstage at the Oscars at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles on Feb. 28, 2016. (AP)
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Al Pacino and Michelle Pfeiffer Will Present at the Oscars (Plus Everything Else You Need to Know) 

Oscar statuettes appear backstage at the Oscars at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles on Feb. 28, 2016. (AP)
Oscar statuettes appear backstage at the Oscars at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles on Feb. 28, 2016. (AP)

After a winter barrage of award shows — the Emmys, the Golden Globes, the Grammys — the grandaddy of them all, the Academy Awards, are around the corner. The 96th Oscars may be a coronation for “Oppenheimer,” which comes in with a leading 13 nominations, though other films, including “Barbie,” “Killers of the Flower Moon” and “Poor Things” are in the mix.

Here’s everything you need to know about this year’s show:

WHEN ARE THE OSCARS?

The Oscars will be held Sunday, March 10, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. The ceremony is set to begin at 7 p.m. EDT — one hour earlier than usual — and be broadcast live on ABC. A preshow will begin at 6:30 p.m. EDT. This is your early reminder to set your clocks accordingly — it’s the first day of daylight saving time in the US.

WHO’S PRESENTING AT THE OSCARS?

Last year’s big acting winners are all coming back to present at the show (a tradition), including Brendan Fraser, Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan and Jamie Lee Curtis. The academy also announced that “Scarface” co-stars Michelle Pfeiffer and Al Pacino are set to hand out awards as well (no word on whether it’s together or not). Other celebrities set to grace the Dolby stage include Zendaya, Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Lange, Nicolas Cage, Mahershala Ali, Sam Rockwell and Luptia Nyong’o. More names will be revealed as show day gets closer.

ARE THE OSCARS STREAMING?

The show will be available to stream via ABC.com and the ABC app with a cable subscription. You can also watch through services including Hulu Live TV, YouTubeTV, AT&T TV and FuboTV.

WHO’S HOSTING THE OSCARS?

Jimmy Kimmel, who hosted last year’s ceremony, will emcee for the fourth time. That ties him with fellow four-timers Whoopi Goldberg and Jack Lemmon, and leaves Kimmel trailing only Johnny Carson (five), Billy Crystal (nine) and Bob Hope (11) among repeat Oscar hosts. “I always dreamed of hosting the Oscars exactly four times,” said Kimmel.

WHAT’S NOMINATED FOR BEST PICTURE AT THE 2024 OSCARS?

The ten nominees for best picture are: “American Fiction”; “Anatomy of a Fall”; “Barbie”; “The Holdovers”; “Killers of the Flower Moon”; “Maestro”; “Oppenheimer”; “Past Lives”; “Poor Things”; and “The Zone of Interest.”

WHO ARE THE FAVORITES?

Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer” is the frontrunner. Nolan, the best director favorite, is also poised to win his first Oscar. The best actress category could be a nail-biter between Lily Gladstone (“Killers of the Flower Moon”) and Emma Stone (“Poor Things”). If Gladstone were to win, she would be the first Native American to win an Oscar.

Best actor, too, could be a close contest between Cillian Murphy (“Oppenheimer”) and Paul Giamatti (“The Holdovers”). Both would be first-time winners. Giamatti’s co-star Da’Vine Joy Randolph is favored to win best-supporting actress, while Robert Downey Jr. (“Oppenheimer”) is expected to win best-supporting actor. His closest competition is considered Ryan Gosling for “Barbie.”

WHAT’S UP WITH THE ‘BARBIE’ SNUBS?

While “Barbie,” 2023’s biggest box-office hit, comes in with eight nominations, much discussion has revolved around the nominations the film didn’t receive. Greta Gerwig was left out of the directing category and Margot Robbie missed on best actress. In those omissions, some have seen reflections of the misogyny parodied in “Barbie,” while others have noted the tough reception comedies have historically had at the Oscars. The nominations for “Barbie” include best-adapted screenplay (by Gerwig and Noah Baumbach), best supporting actress for America Ferrera and two best song nominees in Billie Eilish’s “What Was I Made For” and the Mark Ronson and Andrew Wyatt composition “I’m Just Ken.”

ARE THERE ANY CHANGES TO THE OSCARS THIS YEAR?

Though recent Oscars have been marked by everything from slaps, envelope snafus and controversies over which awards are presented live during the telecast, this year’s show comes in with no big changes (besides starting an hour earlier). All of the awards are to be broadcast live (though honorary prizes remain separated in the earlier, untelevised Governors Awards). The academy is adding a new award for best casting, but that trophy won’t be presented until the 2026 Oscars.

WHAT ELSE IS THERE TO LOOK FOR?

Composer John Williams is nominated for his record 49th best-score Oscar, for “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny,” and 54th overall. Godzilla is going to the Oscars for the first time, with “Godzilla Minus One” notching a nomination for best visual effects. And for the first time, two non-English language films are up for best picture: the German language Auschwitz drama “The Zone of Interest” and the French courtroom drama “Anatomy of a Fall.”


FX Reaches Back Over 400 Years for Its Next Ambitious Series, Adapting the Hit Novel ‘Shogun’ 

This image released by FX shows Hiroyuki Sanada as Yoshii Toranaga in a scene from "Shogun." (FX via AP)
This image released by FX shows Hiroyuki Sanada as Yoshii Toranaga in a scene from "Shogun." (FX via AP)
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FX Reaches Back Over 400 Years for Its Next Ambitious Series, Adapting the Hit Novel ‘Shogun’ 

This image released by FX shows Hiroyuki Sanada as Yoshii Toranaga in a scene from "Shogun." (FX via AP)
This image released by FX shows Hiroyuki Sanada as Yoshii Toranaga in a scene from "Shogun." (FX via AP)

When FX sent screenwriter Justin Marks a copy of James Clavell’s hit 1975 novel “Shogun” with the idea of turning it into a series, he initially couldn’t put it down. That’s because he was reluctant to pick it up.

The book about a British navigator shipwrecked in feudal Japan was massive — over 1,000 pages. And old: “It was the book that was on our parents’ nightstand.” Plus it sounded culturally out of step. He assumed it couldn’t be adapted for 2024.

Marks laughs that he “was being a jerk” and judging a book by its cover. With urging from his wife, novelist Rachel Kondo, he eventually picked it up and soon realized why Clavell’s novel was so celebrated.

“When you open it and you go through it, it is a remarkably modern story,” he said. “It really does get to the core of what it is to encounter another culture and to encounter oneself in that culture.”

Marks and his wife plunged into the fish-out-of-water tale and now are ready for the world to see their 10-episode fictional limited series “Shōgun.” Set in Japan in 1600, it’s rooted in the real history of the period, a dangerous time when several warlords jockeyed for ultimate power as European powers warily circled the island nation.

The arrival of a shipwrecked Englishman — John Blackthorne — disrupts the balance in Japan and yet offers intriguing possibilities since he knows important global information. A pawn at first, he rises to become a trusted adviser and ally.

“It really came down to being the story about agency and this story about characters who are trying to exert control over the path of their own destiny in a very chaotic world where you can literally lose your head at any moment,” said Marks.

The series has elements of intrigue and spectacle like “Game of Thrones,” with brutal beheadings, people boiled alive or sliced open with katanas, blood splashing on window screens and fire-tipped arrows.

It also shows the hesitant understanding growing between Blackthorne (Cosmo Jarvis) and Lord Toranaga (Hiroyuki Sanada) and a love story between Blackthorne and translator Lady Mariko (Anna Sawai).

“Maybe fate brought you here for a reason,” Blackthorne is told shortly after shipwrecking in Japan. “Maybe you’ll live long enough to find out what it is.”

Sanada says the cast and creators came at the project hoping to respect the novel but also to ground it in historical reality and make the characters believable. “Our North Star was authenticity from the beginning,” he said.

The series is riding a wave of new TV offerings that embrace Asian culture, including Max’s “Ninja Kamui,” “Warrior” and “Tokyo Vice,” Paramount+'s “The Tiger’s Apprentice,” and “Avatar: The Last Airbender” and “House of Ninjas,” both on Netflix.

The 1975 book “Shogun” sold millions and a 1980 TV miniseries, starring Richard Chamberlain and Toshiro Mifune, was watched by 1 in 3 US households, winning three Emmys and three Golden Globes. Both the series and book triggered a wave of interest in feudal Japan, from kids playing with toy katanas to video games to Tom Cruise starring in “The Last Samurai.”

“It’s almost impossible not to continue to read ‘Shogun’ once having opened it,” The New York Times said in its review. “Yet it’s not only something that you read — you live it. The imagination is possessed.”

The new series — with Clavell’s daughter Michaela as a producer — adjusts the story. Sanada said that if the book was “blue eyes watching Japan,” the FX series puts on “Japanese lenses.” Blackthorne is less the hero here than a catalyst, as co-creators Marks and Kondo explore power dynamics.

Those tuning in may feel a whiff of “The Godfather,” another epic in the 1970s with a strong sense of loyalty, family and honor, while violence lurks nearby. There’s also a note of “Succession,” which Marks doesn’t deny.

“There’s always in a writers’ room a show we’re all watching when we’re doing it and ‘Succession’ was that show,” he says with a laugh. “We really were sort of just loving it. And in some ways it probably bled into the mix.”

Perhaps the most enjoyable parts of the series is the moments when both East and West realize they can learn from the other.

At first, Blackthorne calls the Japanese “barbarians,” and they, in turn, use the same term to describe him. But his bravery and expertise with weapons makes him valuable, and he learns about karma and inner calm.

“Do not be fooled by our politeness, our bows, our maze of rituals,” Lady Mariko tells him. “Beneath it all, we could be a great distance away, safe and alone.”

Sanada said it was appropriate that Western and Japanese crew members worked together to create the show. “The making of ‘Shogun’ itself has great drama and overlaps the story,” he says. “This is another good message for now: If we get together, we can create a better future together.”

Marks, who also served as showrunner and executive producer, says the “Shogun” team tried hard to fix mistakes in the novel, but such errors are always going to happen when bridges are built between cultures.

“We’re never going to get to place where we don’t make mistakes. What we do reach, hopefully, is every 40 years, whatever it may be, we reach a point where we just make better mistakes.”