Billie Eilish, Olivia Rodrigo Could Score Big at Grammys

Billie Eilish appears at the world premiere of "'No Time To Die" in London on Sept. 28, 2021. (AP)
Billie Eilish appears at the world premiere of "'No Time To Die" in London on Sept. 28, 2021. (AP)
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Billie Eilish, Olivia Rodrigo Could Score Big at Grammys

Billie Eilish appears at the world premiere of "'No Time To Die" in London on Sept. 28, 2021. (AP)
Billie Eilish appears at the world premiere of "'No Time To Die" in London on Sept. 28, 2021. (AP)

Several Grammy Awards performers such as Billie Eilish, Olivia Rodrigo and Jon Batiste have a chance to carve their names in the show's history books Sunday.

Through her song “Happier Than Ever,” Eilish could become the first artist ever to win record of the year three times in a row, and the only artist along with Paul Simon to take home the award three times. She’s in position to join Adele as the only artists to ever win three major categories — record, song and album of the year — twice. She previously won for “Bad Guy” and “Everything I Wanted.”

Trevor Noah returns for a second time as Grammys host. The ceremony shifted from Los Angeles to Las Vegas because of rising COVID-19 cases and the omicron variant in January, with organizers citing “too many risks” to hosting the performance-filled show at the time. It airs live beginning at 8 p.m. EDT on CBS and Paramount+, The Associated Press said.

If Eilish wins in all her seven nominated categories, she’ll be the woman with the most Grammys won in a single year (H.E.R., Doja Cat and Rodrigo could do the same).

But that might be a tough feat with Eilish facing some stiff competition for the show’s top prize — album of the year — which was expanded to 10 nominees.

Eilish is up for best music film with her concert documentary “Happier Than Ever: A Love Letter to Los Angeles.” But in that same category includes Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson’s “Summer of Soul,” which recently won an Oscar for best documentary.

Even if Eilish comes away with six wins, she’ll be tied with Beyoncé and Adele — which is not bad company to be in.

Rodrigo has an opportunity to join Eilish and Christopher Cross as the only artists to win all four major categories (best new artist, album, record and song of the year).

The 19-year-old “drivers license” singer could be following Eilish’s remarkable record by becoming the second-youngest album of the year winner with “Sour.”

The only person who could win the most Grammys in one night is Jon Batiste, who enters the awards with a leading 11 nominations. If Batiste wins in eight categories, he will tie Michael Jackson and rock band Santana for the record.

Batiste, a multi-genre performer and Oscar winner, might have a hard time pulling that off with the competition in record and album of the year categories. He could pull away in the jazz, American roots music and classical fields.

H.E.R., who won song of the year last year for “I Can’t Breathe,” could go back-to-back. She’s nominated this year for the soulful “Fight for You,” whose poignant lyrics from the “Judas and the Black Messiah” soundtrack were written by H.E.R., producer D’Mile and singer Tiara Thomas. It won an Academy Award for best original song last year.

The awards will be without several big names: Drake and The Weeknd both decided to not take part in the Grammys, at all. Ye, who changed his name from Kanye West, said he was told that his act was pulled from the show.

It might be a bittersweet moment for the Foo Fighters following the recent death of its drummer Taylor Hawkins. The rock band could extend their record for most best rock album wins with five for “Medicine at Midnight.”

Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion will battle to see who becomes the first woman to win best rap performance as a solo artist. Stallion, who won the award with Beyoncé last year, is nominated for her song “Thot S(asterisk)(asterisk)(asterisk),” while Cardi B is up for her crossover hit “Up.”

Mickey Guyton was the first Black woman to be nominated in best country solo performance last year, and now she’s back in the category again. If she wins, she would be the first Black woman to get that award.

In rap, Jay-Z could extend his record as the most awarded rapper of all time with 23 wins. He’s up for three nomination — two in the best rap song category for his songwriting on DMX’S “Bath Salts” and Kanye West’s “Jail.” He’s also up for album of the year for his guest appearance on West’s “Donda.”

A healthy dose of performers will hit the stage at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, including Silk Sonic, H.E.R., Chris Stapleton, Cynthia Erivo, Jack Harlow, Nas, Leslie Odom Jr. and Brothers Osborne.

Artists competing with Eilish for album of the year include Rodrigo, Jon Batiste, Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, Doja Cat, H.E.R., Taylor Swift, Lil Nas X and Kanye West.

On the production side, Serban Ghenea could tie Al Schmitt as the engineer-mixer with the most Grammys won with 20. He’s won a total 18 trophies in his career and enters the awards with five nominations for his work on Doja Cat’s “Planet Her” and Lil Nas X’s “Montero.” Ghenea also could extend his record as the engineer-mixer with the most album of the year wins at five.

Although 80-plus awards will be handed out — roughly 10 during the live telecast and the rest during the pre-ceremony — viewers are most likely watching for the performances.



Broadway-Bound ‘Sunset Boulevard’ and Star Nicole Scherzinger Win Big at London’s Olivier Awards 

US singer Nicole Scherzinger poses on the green carpet upon arrival to attend The Olivier Awards at the Royal Albert Hall in central London on April 14, 2024. (AFP)
US singer Nicole Scherzinger poses on the green carpet upon arrival to attend The Olivier Awards at the Royal Albert Hall in central London on April 14, 2024. (AFP)
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Broadway-Bound ‘Sunset Boulevard’ and Star Nicole Scherzinger Win Big at London’s Olivier Awards 

US singer Nicole Scherzinger poses on the green carpet upon arrival to attend The Olivier Awards at the Royal Albert Hall in central London on April 14, 2024. (AFP)
US singer Nicole Scherzinger poses on the green carpet upon arrival to attend The Olivier Awards at the Royal Albert Hall in central London on April 14, 2024. (AFP)

A radical restaging of Hollywood film noir musical “Sunset Boulevard” was the big winner on Sunday at the London stage Olivier Awards, taking seven trophies including best musical revival and best actress for American star Nicole Scherzinger.

Soccer-themed state-of-the-nation drama “Dear England” was named best new play, while Sarah Snook and Mark Gatiss were among the acting winners.

Scherzinger was rewarded for her performance as fading silver screen star Norma Desmond in a flashy revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Sunset Boulevard,” three decades after the musical’s 1990s debut. Her co-star Tom Francis won the corresponding best actor prize as a struggling screenwriter fatefully drawn into Desmond’s orbit.

Jamie Lloyd took the directing trophy for the technically innovative production, which melds live video with the onstage action and also won Oliviers for sound and lighting design. It’s due to open in New York later this year, and Lloyd predicted it would “take Broadway by storm.”

Scherzinger said that when she was growing up in Kentucky, “I always wanted to be a singer and do musicals.”

“I dreamed of so many roles I wanted to do — and honestly this role, Norma Desmond, was not one of those roles,” she said. “But God works in mysterious ways.”

The prize for best new musical went to “Operation Mincemeat,” a word-of-mouth hit based on an audacious real-life espionage operation that deceived the Nazis during World War II. The show began life in a tiny theater in 2019 and has moved to progressively larger venues, gathering accolades along the way.

“Stranger Things: The First Shadow,” a dazzlingly staged prequel to the Netflix supernatural series, was named best new entertainment or comedy.

The Oliviers — the UK equivalent of Broadway’s Tony Awards — are celebrating a bumper year for new shows in the West End, finally bouncing back from the COVID-19 pandemic. Several winners lamented the soaring cost of theater tickets, and cuts to arts education that are squeezing working-class talent out of theatrical careers and theater audiences.

“If you don’t tell a kid to go and see a show ... they’re not going to develop that habit, they’re not going to get that experience,” said “Dear England” playwright James Graham, who grew up in a small mining town. “So I am really worried.”

But the mood was largely celebratory as “Ted Lasso” star Hannah Waddingham presided over an exuberant ceremony at London’s Royal Albert Hall, opening the show by belting out “Anything Goes” alongside the London Community Gospel Choir. The show was peppered with performances from several of the nominated musicals, including “Guys and Dolls,” “Hadestown” and homegrown hit “The Little Big Things.”

The prizes, which recognize achievements in theater, opera and dance, were founded in 1976 and named for the late actor-director Laurence Olivier. Winners are chosen by voting groups of stage professionals and theatergoers.

Snook – the scheming Shiv Roy in “Succession” – beat a talented field including Sarah Jessica Parker and Sophie Okonedo to be named best actress in a play for “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” an adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s cautionary fable in which Snook plays more than two dozen characters.

Backstage, the Emmy Award-winning Australian performer said the solo stage show was “so much harder” than doing TV.

“I’ve never done anything harder than this,” said Snook, who said she’d asked herself “why am I doing a 60,000-word monologue with an 8-month-old baby?”

Gatiss — co-creator of the BBC TV series “Sherlock” — won the best actor trophy for playing theater great John Gielgud in “The Motive and the Cue,” Jack Thorne’s play about the struggle to mount a 1964 production of “Hamlet” with Richard Burton.

Gatiss beat “Dear England” star Joseph Fiennes and Andrew Scott, who had been the favorite to win for the solo show “Vanya.” The Anton Chekhov adaptation by Simon Stephens took the prize for best revival.

Will Close was named best supporting actor in a play for his performance as footballer Harry Kane in “Dear England.”

Haydn Gwynne, who died in October, was posthumously awarded the best supporting actress prize for her final stage role in “When Winston Went to War with the Wireless,” about the early days of radio in Britain.

Awards for supporting performances in musicals were Amy Trigg for “The Little Big Things” and Jak Malone for “Operation Mincemeat.”

The show ended with a tribute to the National Theatre, which turned 60 in 2023 — culminating in a star-studded cast singing the anthem “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”


Divisive? Not for Moviegoers. ‘Civil War’ Declares Victory at Box Office 

US actress Kirsten Dunst arrives for "Civil War" special screening at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles, April 2, 2024. (AFP)
US actress Kirsten Dunst arrives for "Civil War" special screening at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles, April 2, 2024. (AFP)
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Divisive? Not for Moviegoers. ‘Civil War’ Declares Victory at Box Office 

US actress Kirsten Dunst arrives for "Civil War" special screening at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles, April 2, 2024. (AFP)
US actress Kirsten Dunst arrives for "Civil War" special screening at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles, April 2, 2024. (AFP)

Alex Garland’s provocative “Civil War ” didn’t only ignite the discourse. The film also inspired audiences to go to the cinemas this weekend where it surpassed expectations and earned $25.7 million in ticket sales in North America, according to studio estimates Sunday.

It’s the biggest R-rated opening of the year to date and a record for A24, the studio behind films like “Everything Everywhere All At Once” and “The Iron Claw.” “Civil War” also unseated “Godzilla x Kong” from its perch atop the box office. The titan movie from Warner Bros. had held the No. 1 spot for the past two weekends.

“Civil War,” starring Kirsten Dunst, Wagner Moura and Cailee Spaeny as front-line journalists in the near future covering a devastating conflict in the US and trying to make their way to Washington, DC. The story, written by Garland, who is also the mind behind “Ex Machina” and “Annihilation,” imagines a US in which California and Texas have united against a president who has disbanded the FBI and given himself a third term.

Though entirely fictional, “Civil War” has been inspiring debates since the first trailer that have extended beyond the musings of film critics and traditional reviews. This weekend, The New York Times ran two opinion pieces related to the movie, one by Stephen Marche and another by Michelle Goldberg. There were also pieces on CNN and Politico.

Going into the weekend, projections pegged the film to debut in the $15 to $24 million range. The studio said “Civil War” overperformed in markets “from LA to El Paso.” The data analytics company EntTelligence reported that the film has attracted over 1.7 million patrons this weekend and that the top three markets were Los Angeles, New York and Dallas.

“The title alone is enough to spark a conversation in a year where the political discourse is top of mind,” said Paul Dergarabedian, the senior media analyst for Comscore. “And they couldn’t have picked a better date. This movie is perfectly timed in a month that is very quiet.”

The film opened on 3,838 screens in the US and Canada, including IMAX. It’s the most expensive movie that the studio has ever made, with a production budget of $50 million, which does not account for millions spent on marketing and promotion.

IMAX showings of “Civil War,” which was playing on 400 of the large format screens, accounted for $4.2 million, or 16.5% of the domestic total.

Reviews have been largely positive. It’s currently at 83% on Rotten Tomatoes, with a 77% audience score. Its CinemaScore was a B-, which has sometimes indicated that word of mouth might not be strong going forward. But that might not be the case with “Civil War,” which doesn’t have a tremendous amount of competition over the next few weeks until “The Fall Guy” opens on May 3.

“You have to take all the metrics together, including the competitive landscape,” Dergarabedian said.

But it is a notable win for the studio, which doesn’t always open films nationwide out of the gates. Before “Civil War,” A24’s biggest debut was the Ari Aster horror “Hereditary,” which opened to $13.6 million in 2018.

“This isn’t destined to be a $200 million global blockbuster. But it’s a very high-profile win for A24,” Dergarabedian said. “They’re a studio that pushes the envelope. They’re a brand associated with a certain level of quality and filmmaking expertise, pushing boundaries and taking risks. It’s well-earned over the years.”

Second place went to “Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire,” which earned $15.5 million in its third weekend to bring its running domestic total to nearly $158 million. Another “Empire” movie, Sony’s “Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire,” took third place in its fourth weekend with $5.8 million. It’s now at $160 million worldwide.

Rounding out the top five was Universal and DreamWorks’ “Kung Fu Panda 4,” in fourth with $5.5 million in weekend six, and “Dune: Part Two” with $4.3 million in its seventh weekend. “Dune 2” has now earned $272 million domestically.

This weekend also saw the box office year-to-date comparisons take a big hit. Last year, “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” brought in over $92 million in its second weekend in theaters. On the same weekend in 2023, the top 10 accounted for over $142 million, compared to this year’s $68.4 million. The year to date is back down to 16% after seeing some recovery with the success of “Dune: Part Two.”

“The box office has been a seesaw,” Dergarabedian said. “But we all knew this was going to be a rough month for comps because of ‘Mario.’”


Taylor and Travis Spotted Dancing at Coachella

US singer-songwriter Taylor Swift arrives for the 66th Annual Grammy Awards at the Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles on February 4, 2024. (AFP)
US singer-songwriter Taylor Swift arrives for the 66th Annual Grammy Awards at the Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles on February 4, 2024. (AFP)
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Taylor and Travis Spotted Dancing at Coachella

US singer-songwriter Taylor Swift arrives for the 66th Annual Grammy Awards at the Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles on February 4, 2024. (AFP)
US singer-songwriter Taylor Swift arrives for the 66th Annual Grammy Awards at the Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles on February 4, 2024. (AFP)

Taylor Swift made a much-speculated appearance at Saturday's Coachella festival... as a fan, canoodling and dancing with beau Travis Kelce as Bleachers performed a rollicking set.
Bleachers is fronted by Jack Antonoff, Swift's friend and longtime producer, said AFP.
Kelce's blocking skills came in handy as the 6'5" (1.96 meters) NFL tight end did well to obscure his wildly famous girlfriend from view, as the couple enjoyed the show from stage right.
Still, an AFP journalist saw the much-discussed lovebirds twirling and singing along during the performance of Antonoff, who's co-written and produced a number of Swift's albums.
Fan videos quickly started circulating online. Swift's appearance comes less than a week before her forthcoming album, "The Tortured Poets Department," drops April 19.
The 34-year-old billionaire is currently on break from her blockbuster Eras tour, and was spotted on a date night in Los Angeles Friday.
Antonoff founded and has fronted Bleachers since 2014, meanwhile becoming one of the most sought-after producers in pop who has worked with superstars including Swift, Lana Del Rey and Lorde.


Show Goes on for Paramount with ‘Gladiator II,’ New Damien Chazelle Movie and More

 Chris Aronson, right, president of domestic theatrical distribution for Paramount Pictures, arrives via chariot to the Paramount Pictures presentation at CinemaCon 2024, Thursday, April 11, 2024, at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. (AP)
Chris Aronson, right, president of domestic theatrical distribution for Paramount Pictures, arrives via chariot to the Paramount Pictures presentation at CinemaCon 2024, Thursday, April 11, 2024, at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. (AP)
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Show Goes on for Paramount with ‘Gladiator II,’ New Damien Chazelle Movie and More

 Chris Aronson, right, president of domestic theatrical distribution for Paramount Pictures, arrives via chariot to the Paramount Pictures presentation at CinemaCon 2024, Thursday, April 11, 2024, at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. (AP)
Chris Aronson, right, president of domestic theatrical distribution for Paramount Pictures, arrives via chariot to the Paramount Pictures presentation at CinemaCon 2024, Thursday, April 11, 2024, at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. (AP)

With reports and rumors swirling about possible mergers and bids to acquire Paramount, the film studio put its best foot forward for theater owners at CinemaCon on Thursday.

The historic studio announced a new film with Oscar-winning “La La Land” director Damien Chazelle, a “G.I. Joe/Transformers” crossover and that Glen Powell will star in Edgar Wight’s “Running Man” reboot.

Paramount CEO and President Brian Robbins also teased some more that are in development, including a Bee Gees film from Ridley Scott, a new comedy from Trey Parker and Matt Stone, a “Star Trek” origin story, a new “Scary Movie” and an R-rated live action “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin” as well as an animated “Mutant Mayhem” sequel.

They also brought out stars like Chris Hemsworth and Lupita Nyong’o to talk about their upcoming films, with video messages from Scott, Denzel Washington and Paul Mescal, who helped introduce new footage from “Gladiator II.”

Washington promised, “Emotion, action and spectacle unlike anything else you’re going to see in theaters this year.”

Paramount had a positive start to 2024 with successful releases like “Mean Girls” and “Bob Marley: One Love,” and some major films to come this year including “A Quiet Place: Day One” (June 28), the animated “Transformers One” (Sept. 13), a “Smile” sequel (Oct. 18) and the “Gladiator” sequel (Nov. 22). They will also re-release Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar” in September for its 10th anniversary, and, in 2025, “Mission: Impossible 8.” But hovering over it all are the reports of the company’s sale.

The private-equity firm Apollo Global reportedly offered $11 billion to acquire the studio, which has filmed entertainment, television and streaming components like Paramount+. There have also been reports of a possible merger with Skydance, David Ellison’s media company that has helped produce such Paramount releases as “Top Gun: Maverick” and “Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning.”

Without directly addressing them, Paramount leaned into the chatter with Robbins joking that the studio’s distribution head Chris Aronson has started a Kickstarter to throw his hat into the ring.

While the tone at CinemaCon, a weeklong gathering of theater owners, exhibitors and all the various companies involved in movie theater operations and experiences, is usually overwhelmingly positive, Aronson took a more sober approach.

After entering the presentation in a Roman chariot holding a shield emblazoned with the Paramount logo, he noted that the industry has lost a fair amount of frequent moviegoers and must work to get them back with capital improvements to theaters and other innovations.

The domestic box office has improved year after year since the pandemic, but is still about $2 billion shy of where the business was pre-pandemic.

“Our industry is at a turning point,” Aronson said. “It’s quite clear that moviegoers still love going to the movies, but we as an industry must do better.”


Cannes Sets Lineup with Lanthimos, Coppola and Trump Film ‘The Apprentice’

The logo of Cannes film festival before the press conference to present the 77th Cannes Film Festival Official Selection at the UGC Normandie hall in Paris, France, 11 April 2024.  (EPA)
The logo of Cannes film festival before the press conference to present the 77th Cannes Film Festival Official Selection at the UGC Normandie hall in Paris, France, 11 April 2024. (EPA)
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Cannes Sets Lineup with Lanthimos, Coppola and Trump Film ‘The Apprentice’

The logo of Cannes film festival before the press conference to present the 77th Cannes Film Festival Official Selection at the UGC Normandie hall in Paris, France, 11 April 2024.  (EPA)
The logo of Cannes film festival before the press conference to present the 77th Cannes Film Festival Official Selection at the UGC Normandie hall in Paris, France, 11 April 2024. (EPA)

New films from Yorgos Lanthimos, Andrea Arnold and Francis Ford Coppola, as well as a portrait of 1980s Donald Trump, will compete for the Palme d’Or at the 77th Cannes Film Festival next month, organizers announced Thursday.

Thierry Frémaux, Cannes’s artistic director who announced the selections in a news conference in Paris with festival president Iris Knobloch, said this year’s lineup was plucked from 2,000 submissions. Though Frémaux noted he went into the process concerned about the effect of last year’s strikes on American films, the lineup is typically full of top international filmmakers as well as a few hotly anticipated blockbusters.

Among the 19 films selected for competition is Lanthimos’ “Kinds of Kindness,” the Greek director’s follow-up to the Oscar-winning “Poor Things.” Its cast includes two stars of “Poor Things”: Emma Stone and Willem Dafoe.

Paolo Sorrentino, the Italian filmmaker of “The Great Beauty,” returns to Cannes with “Parthenhope,” a Naples-set drama co-starring Gary Oldman. Arnold, the British director of “American Honey” and “Fish Tank,” also returns to Cannes with “Bird,” starring Barry Keoghan and Franz Rogowski.

Sure to draw attention will be Ali Abbasi’s “The Apprentice,” a film about the former president’s early business career. In it, Sebastian Stan stars as Trump, Jeremy Strong plays Roy Cohn and Maria Bakalova co-stars as Ivana Trump. The Iranian director Abbasi was previously in competition at Cannes with 2022’s “Holy Spider.”

Numerous other big-name filmmakers are also returning to Cannes, which runs May 14-25. Among them: David Cronenberg (“The Shrouds,” with Vincent Cassel and Diane Kruger); Paul Schrader (“Oh, Canada,” with Richard Gere and Uma Thurman) and the lauded Chinese director Jia Zhang-Ke (“Caught By the Tides”). Also in competition are Sean Baker (“Anora”), whose “Red Rocket” and “The Florida Project” also premiered at Cannes; and the French filmmaker Jacques Audiard (“Emilia Perez”), who won the Palme in 2015 for “Dheepan.”

As previously reported, Francis Ford Coppola’s “Megalopolis” will premiere in competition in Cannes. The 85-year-old director’s self-financed, long-gestating epic will debut 50 years after his “The Conversation” won the Palme d’Or.

This year’s Cannes follows a banner 2023 edition that featured the premieres of three films that went on to win best-picture nominations at the Academy Awards: Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon”; Jonathan Glazer’s “The Zone of Interest”; and Justine Triet’s Palme d’Or winner “Anatomy of a Fall.”

“Anatomy of a Fall” was only the third film directed by a woman to win the Palme. This year, there are four female filmmakers in competition. Frémaux said he may add further selections in the coming weeks.

Cannes had already lined up a few notable world premieres playing out of competition including George Miller’s “Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga” and Kevin Costner’s “Horizon, An American Saga.” George Lucas is set to receive an honorary Palme d’Or at the closing ceremony. The festival will kick off May 14 with the French comedy “The Second Act,” starring Léa Seydoux and Vincent Lindon.

Greta Gerwig, coming off the success of “Barbie,” is heading the jury that will decide the Palme d’Or.

One new addition this year: The festival is launching a competitive immersive section featuring works of virtual and augmented reality.


New Amy Winehouse Movie Set to Open in UK

Even before its release director Sam Taylor-Johnson's movie has attracted backlash. BENJAMIN CREMEL / AFP
Even before its release director Sam Taylor-Johnson's movie has attracted backlash. BENJAMIN CREMEL / AFP
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New Amy Winehouse Movie Set to Open in UK

Even before its release director Sam Taylor-Johnson's movie has attracted backlash. BENJAMIN CREMEL / AFP
Even before its release director Sam Taylor-Johnson's movie has attracted backlash. BENJAMIN CREMEL / AFP

A biopic of troubled British singer-songwriter Amy Winehouse tracking her meteoric rise and very public downfall opens in UK cinemas on Friday amid a swirl of controversy.
Even before its release, "Back to Black" has attracted backlash with criticism ranging from the casting to concerns it could exploit Winehouse's story.
"Given the vulture-like efficiency with which her life was picked over, it's near-impossible to think of a sincere reason to make a movie about Winehouse -– at least not one that isn't motivated by greed," wrote music editor Roisin O'Connor in The Independent.
Winehouse, who died from alcohol poisoning aged just 27 in 2011, was a distinctive figure with her beehive hairdo, heavy black eye makeup, multiple tattoos and smoky voice, said AFP.
She shot to international fame with her Grammy Award-winning 2006 album "Back to Black" which included the track "Rehab", charting her battle with addiction.
Director Sam Taylor-Johnson's biopic is the second big-screen telling of Winehouse's story, coming nearly a decade after Asif Kapadia's 2015 documentary "Amy".
That film won an Oscar but was publicly condemned by her family, in particular Winehouse's father who claimed it tried to portray him as "money-grabbing" and "attention-seeking".
Quest for 'truth'
After the film became the second-highest grossing documentary at the British box office, Mitch Winehouse said it dwelled too much on the negative and not enough on his daughter's fun-loving side.
He hinted the family could collaborate with another filmmaker in future to correct the record.
Mitch Winehouse and his former wife Janis attended this week's premiere in London but Taylor-Johnson said the family had not contributed to her film.
"It was important to meet with them out of respect," she told Empire.
"But they didn't have any involvement in terms of... like they couldn't change things. They couldn't dictate how I was to shoot," she said.
The filmmaker, whose 2009 feature "Nowhere Boy" dramatised John Lennon's early years, said she had been after "the truth" of Winehouse's life.
"What I wanted as much as possible was the truth of Amy, and Amy's relationship was that she loved her dad, whether we think he did right or wrong," she said.
Eddie Marsan, who plays Mitch Winehouse, said he tried to avoid a "comfortable narrative" that there was "someone to blame" in some way for Winehouse's death, such as her father or her ex-husband Blake Fielder-Civil.
'Burden of guilt'
To research the role, he said, he approached a friend who worked with both Amy and her father in the music industry who told him Mitch had been a "loving father but he was in an impossible situation".
"He had a daughter who was an addict, she was the most famous woman in the world, she was hounded by the paparazzi, she had unlimited resources and money. Every drug dealer in London wanted to give her drugs," the friend told him.
"Back to Black" also depicts Winehouse's turbulent relationship with Fielder-Civil who has been blamed for introducing her to heroin and who inspired the album.
He said in 2018 he would "always carry a burden of guilt" over his role in her decline.
Marisa Abela who portrays the tragic singer said it would have been a mistake to "judge a character and a character's decisions".
"If other people who watch the film decide she shouldn't have loved a certain person, or shouldn't have trusted someone, that's fine.
"The only villains in our story are addiction and the relentless paparazzi. I'm not telling people how to feel about it," she said.
'Wayward genius'
Reviews have been mixed but some have pointed out that it is still likely to be a box office success due to Winehouse's enduring star power.
Describing a recent crop of music biopics as "far worse" than earlier efforts, Zach Schonfeld noted in the Guardian that "these movies remain profitable".
The Times's Ed Potton said the film felt "a bit lightweight".
He praised Abela's willingness to perform her own vocals but said the result was only as good as "you could reasonably hope".
Peter Hoskin in the Daily Mail said the film failed to capture the "wayward genius of the original artist".
"If they try to make you watch this movie, say: no, no, no," he wrote.
"Much better to put on Back to Black, the album, or the song, and remember what really made Amy a star," he added.


Reigning Hollywood Studio Universal Brings 'Wicked' to Movie Summit

Chairman of NBC Universal Studio Group Donna Langley introduced a crop of new titles. VALERIE MACON / AFP
Chairman of NBC Universal Studio Group Donna Langley introduced a crop of new titles. VALERIE MACON / AFP
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Reigning Hollywood Studio Universal Brings 'Wicked' to Movie Summit

Chairman of NBC Universal Studio Group Donna Langley introduced a crop of new titles. VALERIE MACON / AFP
Chairman of NBC Universal Studio Group Donna Langley introduced a crop of new titles. VALERIE MACON / AFP

Universal Pictures was crowned Hollywood's top studio last year, dethroning Disney at the box office for the first time in nearly a decade with a string of mega-hits like "The Super Mario Bros. Movie" and the Oscar-winning "Oppenheimer."
So as movie executives gathered at this week's CinemaCon summit in the face of gloomy industry forecasts and a shortage of upcoming major releases, at least one company had plenty to celebrate in Las Vegas, AFP said.
"There's not much more you could ask for than being number one at the box office, and winning the Academy Award for best picture," said chairman Donna Langley during Universal's presentation on Wednesday.
"It would have been easy enough to just sort of drop the mic after that one, right? But it's not enough for us," she said, before introducing a crop of new titles, including "Wicked."
Ariana Grande, Cynthia Erivo and Jeff Goldblum were brought on stage to promote the starry movie adaptation of the hit Broadway musical. The first of two films hits theaters in November.
For many big-screen owners, Universal -- thanks to a diverse mix of original movies that does not rely on the struggling superhero genre, and some smart viral marketing campaigns -- offers a potential roadmap to recovery.
They are pinning hopes on "Wicked," and animated films like "Despicable Me 4" and "The Wild Robot," to bring much-needed customers back at a tough moment for the industry.
Overall box office receipts had been slowly recovering each year since the pandemic, but are expected to shrink in 2024.
That is largely due to Hollywood strikes that shuttered film productions for months last year, leaving major gaps in release calendars.
'Fresh'
But while rivals like Disney, Warner and Paramount have struggled for various reasons, these are heady times for Universal.
Just 12 months ago, Langley brought director Christopher Nolan onto the same Las Vegas stage, to introduce for the first time his movie "Oppenheimer."
In an expensive gamble, Universal had lured Nolan from his traditional home at Warner, promising to give his movie about the atomic bomb lavish backing.
"Oppenheimer" grossed nearly $1 billion. Nolan appeared via video on Wednesday to thank theater owners for their role.
Speaking with AFP, Universal's international distribution president Veronika Kwan Vandenberg said it has become clear the industry "can't rely on the films that have traditionally been exceptionally strong in the last 20 years."
Unlike competitors, Universal does not have any of the major superhero franchises that until recently dominated multiplexes.
That had been a stick to beat Universal with in years past. But as rivals' movies like "Madame Web" and "The Marvels" have flopped, a sense that audiences are tired of near-identical superhero fare has grown.
"All these sequels and franchises coming into the marketplace have done very well for a very long time. But we're in a place today where... the audience really wants to know, 'what's different about this?'" said Kwan Vandenberg.
'Barbenheimer'
Social media has become an increasingly key tool for movie studios.
Universal -- along with Warner -- benefited from capturing last summer's viral "Barbenheimer" phenomenon.
Because these trends are typically organic in origin, it is "an incredibly hard thing to do," said Kwan Vandenberg.
But Universal has been more successful than most, with recent examples including a TikTok dance craze for horror film "M3GAN."
A year earlier, the "Gentleminions" trend involved teenagers dressing in suits for trips to watch the new "Minions" film.
In October, a viral trend of stealing posters and promotional cut-outs from theaters for "Five Nights At Freddy's" broke out.
While the trend was extremely frustrating for theater owners, it generated priceless publicity for the Universal movie.
"When we launched the first trailer of 'M3GAN' and we saw how viral the TikTok dance became, we started to lean into events all over the world featuring that," said Kwan Vandenberg.
"It's not something we're necessarily creating. But we are helping to support the awareness and the excitement around it."


Protesters in Eurovision Host City Call for Boycott of Israel

People hold banners at a demonstration in connection with the municipal board's consideration of a citizens' proposal by the initiative 'No Eurovision in Malmo with Israel's participation' to stop Israel's participation in Eurovision, outside the City Hall in Malmo, Sweden, April 10, 2024. (Johan NilssonTT News Agency/via Reuters)
People hold banners at a demonstration in connection with the municipal board's consideration of a citizens' proposal by the initiative 'No Eurovision in Malmo with Israel's participation' to stop Israel's participation in Eurovision, outside the City Hall in Malmo, Sweden, April 10, 2024. (Johan NilssonTT News Agency/via Reuters)
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Protesters in Eurovision Host City Call for Boycott of Israel

People hold banners at a demonstration in connection with the municipal board's consideration of a citizens' proposal by the initiative 'No Eurovision in Malmo with Israel's participation' to stop Israel's participation in Eurovision, outside the City Hall in Malmo, Sweden, April 10, 2024. (Johan NilssonTT News Agency/via Reuters)
People hold banners at a demonstration in connection with the municipal board's consideration of a citizens' proposal by the initiative 'No Eurovision in Malmo with Israel's participation' to stop Israel's participation in Eurovision, outside the City Hall in Malmo, Sweden, April 10, 2024. (Johan NilssonTT News Agency/via Reuters)

Protesters waving Palestinian flags and banners on Wednesday called for a boycott of Israel at the upcoming Eurovision Song Contest in the Swedish city of Malmo that will host the event next month.

The European Broadcasting Union (EBU), which organizes Eurovision, bills the song contest as a non-political event.

But the global political backdrop often weighs on the contest, which this year takes place amid protests and boycotts over the devastating Israeli military campaign in Gaza, triggered by Hamas' Oct. 7 attack on Israel, affecting cultural events across Europe.

"I think there is no way that Israel should be able to participate in Eurovision and it's complete double standards that they let them participate when they kicked Russia out," said Malmo resident Mats Rehle, 43, who works in a bookshop.

Protesters outside Malmo city held a banner calling for the boycott of Israel above the Eurovision logo, while another banner featured red stains to look like blood and a pair of scissors cutting the chord to a microphone displaying an Israeli flag.

The EBU in 2022 banned Russia from Eurovision after several European public broadcasters called for the country to be expelled following its invasion of Ukraine.

The union has said it suspended the Russian broadcasters over "persistent breaches of membership obligations and the violation of public service values."

The organizers' decision to include Israeli broadcaster KAN has sparked protests from artists and ministers, but the EBU said in January that Eurovision was not a contest between governments and that KAN met all competition rules.

The union has so far resisted calls for Israel to be excluded from Eurovision, and on Wednesday urged people to refrain from online abuse directed at some participating artists.

"We have all been affected by the images, stories, and the unquestionable pain suffered by those in Israel and in Gaza," the EBU said in a statement.

"However... we wish to address the concerns and discussions surrounding this situation, especially the targeted social media campaigns against some of our participating artists," it added.


George Lucas to Receive Honorary Palme d’Or at Cannes Film Festival

George Lucas arrives at the premiere of "Solo: A Star Wars Story" at El Capitan Theatre on Thursday, May 10, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP)
George Lucas arrives at the premiere of "Solo: A Star Wars Story" at El Capitan Theatre on Thursday, May 10, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP)
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George Lucas to Receive Honorary Palme d’Or at Cannes Film Festival

George Lucas arrives at the premiere of "Solo: A Star Wars Story" at El Capitan Theatre on Thursday, May 10, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP)
George Lucas arrives at the premiere of "Solo: A Star Wars Story" at El Capitan Theatre on Thursday, May 10, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP)

George Lucas will receive an honorary Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival next month, festival organizers announced Tuesday.

Lucas will be honored at the closing ceremony to the 77th French film festival on May 25. He joins a short list of those to receive honorary Palmes. Last year, Harrison Ford, a regular leading man for Lucas in “Star Wars” and “Indiana Jones,” was awarded one. Other recent recipients include Michael Douglas, Tom Cruise, Forest Whitaker and Jodie Foster.

“The Festival de Cannes has always held a special place in my heart,” Lucas said in a statement. “I was surprised and elated when my first film, ‘THX-1138,’ was selected to be shown in a new program for first time directors called the Directors’ Fortnight. Since then, I have returned to the festival on many occasions in a variety of capacities as a writer, director and producer. I am truly honored by this special recognition which means a great deal to me.”

The Cannes Film Festival runs May 14-25. The closing ceremony, during which the festival’s top prize, the Palme d’Or, will be awarded to one of the films in competition, will be broadcast in France on France Télévisions and streamed on Brut.


Cirque du Soleil’s Beatles-Themed Las Vegas Show Will End after 18-Year Run

A file photo of Beatles member John Lennon is projected on the screen during the preview of "Love", a new Beatles-themed Cirque du Soleil show in Las Vegas, Jun 27, 2006. (AP)
A file photo of Beatles member John Lennon is projected on the screen during the preview of "Love", a new Beatles-themed Cirque du Soleil show in Las Vegas, Jun 27, 2006. (AP)
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Cirque du Soleil’s Beatles-Themed Las Vegas Show Will End after 18-Year Run

A file photo of Beatles member John Lennon is projected on the screen during the preview of "Love", a new Beatles-themed Cirque du Soleil show in Las Vegas, Jun 27, 2006. (AP)
A file photo of Beatles member John Lennon is projected on the screen during the preview of "Love", a new Beatles-themed Cirque du Soleil show in Las Vegas, Jun 27, 2006. (AP)

The final curtain will come down this summer on Cirque du Soleil's long-running show "The Beatles Love," a cultural icon on the Las Vegas Strip that brought band members Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr back together for public appearances throughout its 18-year run.

Cirque announced on Tuesday that the show housed at the Mirage will end on July 7, part of the iconic hotel-casino's major renovation plan to rebrand itself into the Hard Rock Las Vegas.

Stéphane Lefebvre, CEO of the Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group, said in a statement that more than 11.5 million people have seen the show — an energetic portrayal of the Fab Four's history and music with aerial stunts and whimsical dance numbers on a colorful, 360-degree stage.

"We are grateful to the creators, cast, crew and all involved in bringing this show to life," Lefebvre said, "and we know The Beatles LOVE will live on long after the final bow."

In a separate statement, Joe Lupo, president of the Mirage, thanked the Cirque performers and crew members working behind the scenes "who played a part in entertaining guests and bridged generations" for nearly two decades.

The production premiered in the summer of 2006, with red carpet appearances by both McCartney and Starr, as well as Yoko Ono and Olivia Harrison, wife of the late Beatle George Harrison. They reunited a year later to celebrate the show's first anniversary.

According to Cirque, the show was born out of the friendship between its founder Guy Laliberté and Harrison, the Beatles' lead guitarist who died in 2001. John Lennon was killed in 1980.

The show is set to a specialized soundtrack that earned Cirque two Grammy Awards in 2008, a first for the entertainment company. Cirque said the Beatles’ original producer, George Martin, and his son produced and mixed the 26-song soundscape, pulling from 130 songs from the Beatles’ powerhouse music catalog and archives.

The current cast includes 11 original members from the show's inception, according to Cirque. More than 11,000 costume pieces are worn on show night, including 250 pairs of shoes and 225 wigs. Audiences throughout the show’s run, Cirque said, have been showered with 13.5 tons of confetti during the final act, which closes with the Beatles' 1967 hit "All You Need is Love."

"Beatles Love" is one of six Cirque productions on the Las Vegas Strip. Tickets for the final shows in July will go on sale in the coming weeks.