Bono Memoir ‘Surrender’ to Be Released in November

U2 singer Bono speaks to the media after a meeting at the Elysee Palace, in Paris, France on July 24, 2017. (AP)
U2 singer Bono speaks to the media after a meeting at the Elysee Palace, in Paris, France on July 24, 2017. (AP)
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Bono Memoir ‘Surrender’ to Be Released in November

U2 singer Bono speaks to the media after a meeting at the Elysee Palace, in Paris, France on July 24, 2017. (AP)
U2 singer Bono speaks to the media after a meeting at the Elysee Palace, in Paris, France on July 24, 2017. (AP)

The long-rumored memoir by Bono, U2′s frontman, is coming out Nov. 1.

Alfred A. Knopf announced Tuesday that the book, first signed up in 2015 but not officially disclosed at the time, will be called “Surrender.” Reports that he had a deal date back to at least 2019.

“When I started to write this book, I was hoping to draw in detail what I’d previously only sketched in songs,” the 62-year-old Irish singer and activist, born Paul David Hewson, said in a statement. “The people, places, and possibilities in my life. ‘Surrender’ is a word freighted with meaning for me. Growing up in Ireland in the seventies with my fists up (musically speaking), it was not a natural concept. A word I only circled until I gathered my thoughts for the book. I am still grappling with this most humbling of commands.

“In the band, in my marriage, in my faith, in my life as an activist. Surrender is the story of one pilgrim’s lack of progress ... With a fair amount of fun along the way.”

The book’s subtitle is “40 Songs, One Story,” a reference to the structure of “Surrender”: 40 chapters, each named for a U2 song. The band’s many hits include “With Or Without You,” “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and “Where the Streets Have No Name.”



‘Holdovers’ Star Downplays Oscar Hype After Latest Win at Spirit Awards

US actress Da'Vine Joy Randolph arrives for the 30th Annual Screen Actors Guild awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, February 24, 2024. (AFP)
US actress Da'Vine Joy Randolph arrives for the 30th Annual Screen Actors Guild awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, February 24, 2024. (AFP)
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‘Holdovers’ Star Downplays Oscar Hype After Latest Win at Spirit Awards

US actress Da'Vine Joy Randolph arrives for the 30th Annual Screen Actors Guild awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, February 24, 2024. (AFP)
US actress Da'Vine Joy Randolph arrives for the 30th Annual Screen Actors Guild awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, February 24, 2024. (AFP)

Da'Vine Joy Randolph has won every major prize going this film award season for her supporting role in "The Holdovers" -- but she insists she is taking nothing for granted as the Oscars loom.

Randolph, who stars in the 1970s-set indie drama as a cook and grieving mother stranded at a New England boarding school over the winter holidays, claimed her latest accolade Sunday at the Film Independent Spirit Awards.

Having already won a Golden Globe, Critics Choice Award, a BAFTA and much more, she now seems poised to collect the best supporting actress Oscar, which will be handed out in just two weeks.

"This has been a really surreal, powerful time for me to see dreams manifesting into reality one by one," she told AFP backstage at the Santa Monica award show, which honors low- and mid-budget movies.

"I don't expect anything. I'm not betting on anything. I'm just here present, and every single one surprises me.

"I take nothing for granted. In regards to the Oscars I don't, truthfully. I'm just happy to be invited into the building. No more, no less."

Randolph, 37, who grew up in Philadelphia, is a highly trained stage actor who attended Yale drama school after initially pursuing classical and opera singing.

After turns on Broadway and the West End, she has appeared on the big screen opposite stars such as Eddie Murphy in "Dolemite Is My Name" and Robin Williams in "The Angriest Man In Brooklyn."

But Alexander Payne's "The Holdovers" has propelled Randolph into Hollywood's A-list, with few if any pundits betting against her at the Oscars.

The film is in the running for five Academy Awards overall, including best picture, with Randolph's co-star Paul Giamatti also a strong contender for best actor.

"What am I expecting? I don't know!" she joked after her Spirit Award win.

"The process has been a beautiful one. It's been a really great time."


Indigenous Musician Goes -- Reluctantly -- For Oscars Glory 

Songwriter Scott George, member of the Osage Native Americans Tribe, poses for a picture at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles, on February 14, 2024. (AFP)
Songwriter Scott George, member of the Osage Native Americans Tribe, poses for a picture at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles, on February 14, 2024. (AFP)
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Indigenous Musician Goes -- Reluctantly -- For Oscars Glory 

Songwriter Scott George, member of the Osage Native Americans Tribe, poses for a picture at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles, on February 14, 2024. (AFP)
Songwriter Scott George, member of the Osage Native Americans Tribe, poses for a picture at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles, on February 14, 2024. (AFP)

Scott George spends his weekdays providing affordable housing for Native American families in Oklahoma, and his weekends singing at traditional Osage dances.

That schedule will have to be interrupted next month as he travels to Hollywood for the Oscars, where the song he wrote for Martin Scorsese will compete with tracks from Billie Eilish, Mark Ronson and Jon Batiste for an Academy Award.

"I guess you could use the word surreal. But I don't really know what that means any more compared to this," George told AFP.

"Music is -- even though it's something I wake up with every day -- it's something we pursue on the weekends," he said.

George is a proud member of the Osage Nation, whose often tragic history forms the subject of Scorsese's "Killers of the Flower Moon."

The movie, which is up for 10 awards on March 10, tells the story of how the Osage struck enormous oil wealth in the early 20th century, only to be exploited and murdered by their duplicitous white neighbors.

The film was made with the deep collaboration of the Osage people, and filmed on location in their heartland.

Its lead actress Lily Gladstone has Blackfeet and Nez Perce heritage, and the movie's musical score was composed by the late Robbie Robertson, who also is of Native American ancestry. Both are also Oscar nominees.

Scorsese also was determined to have an authentic Osage song at the finale of his epic drama.

George recalls one of his fellow musicians spotting the director in the stands at a ceremonial dance, as they took a break between sets.

"It was like, 'Oh wow, so he's watching us,'" said George. "So when he asked us about the song, or about putting a song in there, we knew what he wanted."

Even so, the initial answer was no. Many Osage songs contain the names of old warriors from two or three centuries ago.

"These are ours. This belongs to us," explained George.

"And so we said, 'Well, we can't give him that. We can do something close, but we can't give him that.'

"So that's where that came from. We started composing our own song for him."

'Poems'

The result was "Wahzhazhe (A Song for My People)," a powerful six-and-a-half minute anthem featuring thunderous drums, and lyrics encouraging the Osage people to stand up and be proud after surviving so many ordeals.

The movie and song came at a perfect time for tribal elders, who were embarking on a campaign to educate younger members about their history, and to remind them that "we're still here, we are not relics," said Geoffrey Standing Bear, chief of the Osage nation.

"We're not that trusting of outsiders given our history. But Scorsese and his team showed that trust to us, and us to them," he recalled.

"So when you see our ceremonies, and you see all the different activities, and you hear the music? That's Osage... these songs are poems."

Having made the 15-strong Oscars shortlist, the track was not considered a favorite to earn a best song nomination, meaning the announcement last month was greeted with euphoria by many attached to the film.

"Isn't it great? For me to be nominated for playing an Osage character, it's so important that an Osage person has also been nominated," best actress contender Gladstone told AFP.

But for George, describing his Oscar nomination as an "achievement" does not sit well, because it was "not something I aspired to do."

"I'm comfortable providing music for my people," he said. "Outside of that, it gets a little touchy."

Having now seen his song embraced by Academy voters, George does see it as important that a form of music that had often been "comically depicted in cartoons" is now being recognized.

"I just want the world to see it and understand it, maybe develop an ear for it. Because it's out there. You can go to YouTube and listen to powwows," he said.

"We understand it's got its niche and probably will always just have that niche. But hopefully people will get to hear it, feel the power that's in it.

"Because there's power in it."

Though not yet confirmed this year, it is traditional for all five nominated songs to be performed live during the Oscars ceremony, typically by their original singers.

George has already attended starry events including the Academy's annual nominees luncheon in Los Angeles, where he rubbed shoulders with his "rivals" such as Eilish and Batiste.

"We were on a Zoom call the other day with all of us, and I was a little starstruck. 'Who are these people and what am I doing here?'" he recalled.

"My wife put it best -- 'You've been singing for 45 years, that should put you somewhere.' I guess so."


Hotels, Flights Booked Out as ‘Swift Effect’ Hits Singapore 

US singer-songwriter Taylor Swift performs during the first night of the The Eras Tour in Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in Melbourne, Australia, 16 February 2024. (EPA)
US singer-songwriter Taylor Swift performs during the first night of the The Eras Tour in Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in Melbourne, Australia, 16 February 2024. (EPA)
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Hotels, Flights Booked Out as ‘Swift Effect’ Hits Singapore 

US singer-songwriter Taylor Swift performs during the first night of the The Eras Tour in Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in Melbourne, Australia, 16 February 2024. (EPA)
US singer-songwriter Taylor Swift performs during the first night of the The Eras Tour in Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in Melbourne, Australia, 16 February 2024. (EPA)

The "Swift effect" is about to hit Southeast Asia but Singapore has left some of its neighbors seeing red while it profits from a Taylor-made tourism boom as the star's only stop in the region.

More than 300,000 fans from the city-state and neighboring countries will attend the US superstar's six sold-out Eras Tour shows at the National Stadium from March 2-9.

Ingrid Delgado, a fresh graduate in Manila who is travelling to Singapore for the March 4 show, said she bought a "new shimmering dress" for the occasion but had trouble finding an affordable hotel.

"A lot were booked already, so I had to book a more expensive hotel," she said.

The Fullerton Hotels and Resorts, as well as the Fairmont Hotel, told AFP that demand for rooms during the concert period had risen.

Big spenders have taken up Marina Bay Sands' luxury packages named after Swift's hit songs, such as "Shake it Off" and "Stay Stay Stay".

The hotel's SG$50,000 ($37,230) "Wildest Dreams" package includes VIP tickets, fine dining, a hotel suite, limousine transfers and passes to tourist attractions.

The hotel told AFP all its packages were sold out.

Singapore Airlines and Malaysia Airlines said there had been increased demand for Singapore-bound flights but could not say whether it was solely due to the "Swift Effect".

A large contingent of Malaysian Swifties will be crossing into neighboring Singapore.

"It's a dream come true. I feel excited and nervous," said Harith Arsat, a 20-year-old student who will be making his first overseas trip from Kuala Lumpur.

In the Philippines, budget carrier Cebu Pacific has changed its usual flight number for Singapore-bound planes to "1989" -- the year Swift was born and the title of her fifth album -- for the March 1-9 period.

Red carpet

However, not everyone was happy when Swift's only Southeast Asia stop was announced, including fans and governments in some of Singapore's neighbors.

Travelling to Singapore is expensive for many in the region due to high currency exchanges, to say nothing of ritzy hotel packages.

Some were also unhappy because Singapore provided a grant to help secure Swift's record-breaking tour for the city-state.

Officials from the culture ministry and Singapore Tourism Board, citing business confidentiality, declined to say last week how much was paid, or whether an exclusivity deal had been signed to make Singapore Swift's sole Southeast Asian stop.

That followed reports that Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin had told a business forum in Bangkok that Singapore had indeed made such a deal.

The Singapore officials did not address Srettha's comments directly but said Swift's shows were "likely to generate significant benefits to the Singapore economy".

Singapore has been rolling out the red carpet for many international artists, such as Blackpink, Harry Styles and Ed Sheeran, since ending its Covid-19 pandemic curbs.

Coldplay performed six sold-out shows in January and upcoming acts include Bruno Mars, Sum 41 and Jerry Seinfeld.

"Singapore started to open faster than others after the pandemic and its first-mover advantage and concerted efforts to bring in acts, events and conventions has helped," Song Seng Wun, economic adviser for CGS International, told AFP.

"That momentum has been building up."

'Don't lose money swiftly'

Millions scrambled for tickets when they went on sale last year, which led to a rise in online scams targeting desperate Swifties.

Singapore police even released a social media video with the tagline: "Don't lose money swiftly, buy your tickets safely."

Regardless of the dangers, Ericko Dimas Pamungkas, 25, in Jakarta logged in to three devices to get a ticket queue number.

"I got very lucky. I feel like this concert is one of the most important moments for me," he said.

Swift has evolved from a singer with relatable lyrics into a canny businesswoman and the world's biggest pop star, and fans believe there is plenty to learn from the 34-year-old.

"I appreciate Taylor's candidness and what she stands for such as rights, generosity and compassion," said Spencer Ler, a Singaporean pilot who queued for 22 hours to get tickets for his daughter and her friends.

"It's something the girls can learn from."


‘Oppenheimer’ Keeps Devouring Awards with Top Prize at Producers Guild, with Oscars up Next 

Christopher Nolan, nominated for Best Director for "Oppenheimer" which is also nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture, and his wife Emma Thomas, producer of "Oppenheimer", attend the Nominees Luncheon for the 96th Oscars in Beverly Hills, California, US, February 12, 2024. (Reuters)
Christopher Nolan, nominated for Best Director for "Oppenheimer" which is also nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture, and his wife Emma Thomas, producer of "Oppenheimer", attend the Nominees Luncheon for the 96th Oscars in Beverly Hills, California, US, February 12, 2024. (Reuters)
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‘Oppenheimer’ Keeps Devouring Awards with Top Prize at Producers Guild, with Oscars up Next 

Christopher Nolan, nominated for Best Director for "Oppenheimer" which is also nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture, and his wife Emma Thomas, producer of "Oppenheimer", attend the Nominees Luncheon for the 96th Oscars in Beverly Hills, California, US, February 12, 2024. (Reuters)
Christopher Nolan, nominated for Best Director for "Oppenheimer" which is also nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture, and his wife Emma Thomas, producer of "Oppenheimer", attend the Nominees Luncheon for the 96th Oscars in Beverly Hills, California, US, February 12, 2024. (Reuters)

With two weeks to go before the Oscars, "Oppenheimer" looks unstoppable.

Director and producer Christopher Nolan’s tale of the life of J. Robert Oppenheimer and the birth of the atomic age won the top prize Sunday at the 35th Producers Guild of America Awards — a frequent predictor of Oscar best picture winners — the night after doing the same at the Screen Actors Guild Awards.

"Oppenheimer" won the PGA's Darryl F. Zanuck Award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures over the exact same set of 10 nominees up for best picture at the March 10 Academy Awards, including "Barbie,Poor Things" and "Killers of the Flower Moon," whose director, Martin Scorsese, was honored Sunday for his concurrent career as a producer.

The Zanuck Award winner has gone on to take the best picture Oscar for five of the past six years, and 12 of the past 15, including last year with "Everything, Everywhere All At Once."

From the stage at the Ray Dolby Ballroom in Hollywood, in the same complex where the Academy Awards will be held at the Dolby Theatre, Nolan thanked his fellow producer Charles Royen for giving him "American Prometheus," the book that led to "Oppenheimer," and "starting a chain reaction that’s spread all over the world."

Earlier in the show, Robert Downey Jr. called it "the highest-grossing film about theoretical physics yet made."

Downey on Saturday won best supporting actor at the SAG Awards, where "Oppenheimer" also won best ensemble, part of an awards season sweep that also included wins at the Golden Globes and Directors Guild Awards.

"Succession" and "The Bear" took the top television prizes at the PGA Awards after doing the same at the SAG Awards and last month's Emmy Awards.

"Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse," nominated for the animated feature Oscar, won the PGA's animated motion picture award. Its predecessor, "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse," won the PGA award in 2019 before going on to win the Academy Award.

Scorsese joined Tom Cruise, Steven Spielberg and Kevin Feige as winners of the David O. Selznick award for an outstanding body of work as a producer of motion pictures.

Scorsese said the first film he remembers seeing, at age 4, was the Selznick written and produced "Duel in the Sun."

"It was condemned by the Catholic church, and my mother wanted to see it," Scorsese told the audience. "She said, ‘The kid likes westerns, I’m taking him.’"

Scorsese said: "The very first impact of classic Hollywood cinema starts right there for me. Slashes of color, movement, the landscapes, stunning set pieces."

He called them "Proustian sense memories" of early cinema.

"I was frightened by them," he said, "and thrilled."

The 81-year-old said he was grateful for the privilege of getting to spend his life exploring "beauty that’s at the core of what we all strive to do."

Scorsese-produced films include his own "Hugo,The Wolf of Wall Street,Silence" and "Killers of the Flower Moon," along with dozens of films for younger directors including Spike Lee’s "Clockers," the Safdie brothers’ "Uncut Gems" and Joanna Hogg’s "The Souvenir."

Other career achievement awards went to producers Charles D. King and Gail Berman.

King became the first Black winner of the PGA's Milestone Award, whose previous winners include Walt Disney, Clint Eastwood and George Lucas, for historic career contributions to the motion picture industry.

King was lauded for leaving his job as a Hollywood agent in 2015 to found MACRO, a media company dedicated to amplifying the voices of black artists and other people of color.

The company has produced films including 2016's "Fences" starring Denzel Washington and Viola Davis, who won an Oscar for the role, and 2021's "Judas and the Black Messiah," for which King was personally nominated for an Oscar as a producer.

King thanked "our ancestors who kicked down doors, made sacrifices and blazed a trail for me to be able to do what I’m blessed to do."

Berman, the only woman to have held the top job at both a major film company and television network, was given the Norman Lear Achievement Award in Television. Berman was the driving force behind the creation and airing of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," whose star, Sarah Michelle Gellar, presented her with the award.

"Not a single person on this earth was interested in buying that television show," Berman said. "But I just couldn’t ignore my gut telling me there was something unique there."

The PGA announced an initiative during the show that seeks to provide healthcare coverage for its member producers who are not covered other ways. Members of the actors and writers guilds have long used the unions for health insurance.

"Producers deserve to be covered," PGA Co-President Stephanie Allain said.

The effort involves asking production companies, including major studios and streamers, to include contributions to producers’ health coverage on its production budgets.

Film companies Blumhouse, Legendary and King's MACRO already have signed on.


‘Past Lives,’ ‘American Fiction’ and ‘The Holdovers’ Are Big Winners at Independent Spirit Awards 

Celine Song receives the Best Feature award for "Past Lives" during the 39th Film Independent Spirit Awards in Santa Monica, California, US, February 25, 2024. (Reuters)
Celine Song receives the Best Feature award for "Past Lives" during the 39th Film Independent Spirit Awards in Santa Monica, California, US, February 25, 2024. (Reuters)
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‘Past Lives,’ ‘American Fiction’ and ‘The Holdovers’ Are Big Winners at Independent Spirit Awards 

Celine Song receives the Best Feature award for "Past Lives" during the 39th Film Independent Spirit Awards in Santa Monica, California, US, February 25, 2024. (Reuters)
Celine Song receives the Best Feature award for "Past Lives" during the 39th Film Independent Spirit Awards in Santa Monica, California, US, February 25, 2024. (Reuters)

Celine Song’s quiet romance "Past Lives" won two of the biggest awards at the Film Independent Spirit Awards Sunday afternoon, including best feature and best director. Other big winners were Cord Jefferson’s comedic satire "American Fiction," with Jeffrey Wright winning for lead performer; and Alexander Payne’s "The Holdovers," which won prizes for Da'Vine Joy Randolph and Dominic Sessa.

The 39th edition of the show was held Sunday in a beachside tent in Santa Monica, California, and streamed live on IMDb and Film Independent’s YouTube channels and X accounts.

"Thank you so much for letting me share what it feels like to be human, to love and be loved, and thank you for loving our film," Song said in accepting the directing prize.

Her film was among the top nominated at the show, alongside "May December," which won only one award (for Samy Burch's first screenplay) and "American Fiction," which fared better.

Wright won for playing a frustrated author who becomes wildly successful by writing something he hates in "American Fiction."

"You go to these awards shows, you kind of grow tired of them," Wright said. "And then you get one, and it kind of changes the vibe a little bit."

He noted that it was made independently because "nobody wanted to finance it."

The Spirit Awards sit firmly within the larger Hollywood awards season, which culminates with the Oscars on March 10. But with a budget cap of $20 million for nominees, the show celebrates films that sometimes go unheralded, or at least under-nominated, at the bigger shows.

Host Aidy Bryant called it "the only place in the world where $20 million is like no money."

Randolph continued her sweep of the broader season, winning best supporting performance for playing the grieving cook Mary Lamb in "The Holdovers." Not 24 hours ago, right across town, she also picked up the best supporting actress award at the SAG Awards.

"Independent films are the beating heart of our industry, and they are worth fighting for," Randolph said. She did, however, wish that they might have been able to afford heated seats while filming in Boston in the winter.

Randolph beat out the likes of Anne Hathaway ("Eileen"), Charles Melton ("May December") and Sterling K. Brown ("American Fiction") for the prize.

Her co-star, Sessa, later won the breakthrough prize.

"I promise it’s not all downhill from here," Sessa said, thanking his high school acting teachers.

Last year, "Everything Everywhere All At Once" swept the Spirit Awards before going on to do the same at the Oscars. But this year, many top Oscar contenders — including "Oppenheimer,Barbie" and "Killers of the Flower Moon" — would not have qualified.

Kaouther Ben Hania’s film " Four Daughters," which is nominated for the corresponding Oscar, won best documentary. And Justine Triet’s "Anatomy of a Fall," also nominated for best picture at the Oscars, won best international feature over "The Zone of Interest."

"Los Angeles has a special place in my heart. It’s the city of John Cassavetes and Gena Rowlands," Triet said. "Without discovering them at their films at the age of 20, I wouldn’t have had the desire to make my own films and I wouldn’t be here today."

The Cassavetes ethos actually has its own award, honoring a film made for under $1 million. That prize went this year to "Fremont," about an Afghan translator working for a Chinese fortune cookie factory.

The show had some unexpected background noise, from one man with a loudspeaker conducting a pro-Palestine protest outside the tent that lasted for some time.

"We are at the beach, and people are celebrating their freedom of speech," Bryant said.

The shouting outside disrupted Jim Gaffigan’s tribute to "Jury Duty" and many more winners’ speeches. Comedian Jimmy O. Yang, speaking from the stage to present the best cinematography award, assumed it was a heckler outside.

Later, "Fremont" filmmaker Babak Jalali said he was sure that what was being said outside the tent was much more important than anything he had to say.

The Spirit Awards also honor television. Netflix’s "Beef" won best new scripted series and Ali Wong picked up best lead performance.

Nick Offerman won best supporting performance in a new scripted series for his turn in "The Last of Us." And 11-year-old actor Keivonn Montreal Woodard also won the breakthrough performance award for a new scripted series for "The Last of Us," giving his acceptance speech in American Sign Language.


‘Oppenheimer' Steamrolls Toward Oscars with SAG Award Wins

Cast members of Oppenheimer pose with the award Cast in a Motion Picture at the 30th Screen Actors Guild Awards, in Los Angeles, California, US, February 24, 2024. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Cast members of Oppenheimer pose with the award Cast in a Motion Picture at the 30th Screen Actors Guild Awards, in Los Angeles, California, US, February 24, 2024. REUTERS/Mike Blake
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‘Oppenheimer' Steamrolls Toward Oscars with SAG Award Wins

Cast members of Oppenheimer pose with the award Cast in a Motion Picture at the 30th Screen Actors Guild Awards, in Los Angeles, California, US, February 24, 2024. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Cast members of Oppenheimer pose with the award Cast in a Motion Picture at the 30th Screen Actors Guild Awards, in Los Angeles, California, US, February 24, 2024. REUTERS/Mike Blake

Historical epic "Oppenheimer" picked up more prizes on Saturday at Hollywood's Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards, bolstering the movie's chances to score the best picture trophy at next month's Oscars. The film about the race to build the first atomic bomb took the top honor - best movie cast - handed out by members of the SAG-AFTRA actors union at a red-carpet ceremony in Los Angeles.

Cillian Murphy, who played scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer, won best movie actor, and co-star Robert Downey Jr. best supporting actor.
Irish actor Murphy said he took up the profession after trying to make a career as a musician and often felt like an "interloper."
"This is extremely special to me because it comes from you guys," Murphy told his fellow actors as he accepted his award.
SAG-AFTRA's choices are closely watched because actors form the largest group of voters for the Academy Awards, the film industry's top prizes.
At the moment "Oppenheimer" appears unstoppable. Director Christopher Nolan's drama already has claimed trophies at the Golden Globes, the British Academy Film Awards and other ceremonies. Honors from Producers Guild of America, another key predictor of Oscars success, will be announced on Sunday.


London’s V&A Museum Seeks Taylor Swift Superfan for Advisory Role 

US singer-songwriter Taylor Swift performs during the first night of the The Eras Tour in Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in Melbourne, Australia, 16 February 2024. (EPA)
US singer-songwriter Taylor Swift performs during the first night of the The Eras Tour in Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in Melbourne, Australia, 16 February 2024. (EPA)
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London’s V&A Museum Seeks Taylor Swift Superfan for Advisory Role 

US singer-songwriter Taylor Swift performs during the first night of the The Eras Tour in Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in Melbourne, Australia, 16 February 2024. (EPA)
US singer-songwriter Taylor Swift performs during the first night of the The Eras Tour in Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in Melbourne, Australia, 16 February 2024. (EPA)

Calling all Taylor Swift superfans: your dream job has just been posted.

Britain's V&A museum is looking for a Taylor Swift superfan adviser, one of several advisory roles it is creating to help its curating teams learn more about niche subjects and cultural trends.

The London museum said on Friday it wanted to speak with UK-based "Swifties" ahead of the US music star's upcoming European tour as it seeks "insights into the culture and artisanry around handmade signs, friendship bracelets and Taylor Swift memorabilia".

Swift's fans are known for swapping friendship bracelets while attending her concerts.

Other superfan adviser roles the museum is advertising include positions for lovers of emojis and items, such as Crocs shoes, and they are listed as part time, zero hour contract jobs on its website. It has already appointed fans of LEGO, Pokemon and Toby Jugs in similar roles.

As part of the job, successful candidates will meet with the museum's curatorial team to share their knowledge.

The museum said the roles were "part of a drive to complement further the vast curatorial knowledge within the museum's walls and bring in grassroots expertise in highly specific cultural niches".


10 Years on, the Legend of Flamenco Icon Paco de Lucia Lives On

Spanish guitar legend Paco de Lucia, whose talent revolutionised flamenco and brought it to the world stage, died on February 25, 2014. RAFA RIVAS / AFP/File
Spanish guitar legend Paco de Lucia, whose talent revolutionised flamenco and brought it to the world stage, died on February 25, 2014. RAFA RIVAS / AFP/File
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10 Years on, the Legend of Flamenco Icon Paco de Lucia Lives On

Spanish guitar legend Paco de Lucia, whose talent revolutionised flamenco and brought it to the world stage, died on February 25, 2014. RAFA RIVAS / AFP/File
Spanish guitar legend Paco de Lucia, whose talent revolutionised flamenco and brought it to the world stage, died on February 25, 2014. RAFA RIVAS / AFP/File

Spanish guitar legend Paco de Lucia, who died 10 years ago on Sunday, couldn't read music but his talent revolutionized flamenco, causing its popularity to spread around the world.
Wherever he played, he filled theaters and concert halls around the world, from London to New York, Paris and Moscow, San Francisco and Tokyo, shattering the image of flamenco as something complex and only of interest to a fringe audience.
"Flamenco was always marginalized in Spain because it was the music of gypsies, of Andalusians, of poor and working-class people," he once said, referring to the southern Andalusia region where was born and raised.
But his virtuosity brought the dramatic rhythms and passion of flamenco to the most prestigious music halls and this week, the main tribute event was held in New York's Carnegie Hall, bringing together the world's best flamenco artists with others like Panamanian salsa legend Ruben Blades.
The secret of de Lucia's success was his capacity "to make beautiful melodies and then dress these up with the best harmonies," guitarist Jose Carlos Gomez told AFP in the southern port town of Algeciras.
"That's why Paco is so popular both with music connoisseurs and ordinary people."
He died of a heart attack on February 25, 2014 at the age of 66 while he was "playing with his children on the beach" at Playa del Carmen in the Mexican Caribbean where he had a house, reflecting his love of the sea, swimming and fishing.
Such were the passions he had growing up in Algeciras where he was born in 1947, spending his childhood in places like El Rinconcillo beach where AFP met Gomez, a close friend of the family, whose own latest album "Las Huellas de Dios" ("God's Fingerprints") is a tribute to his idol.
It was here that de Lucia used to frequent a beachfront bar called Casa Bernardo where he would drink beer and eat fried fish, which inspired him to write a rumba by the same name.
' Born to play guitar'
Born Francisco Sanchez Gomez to a Portuguese mother and a Spanish father, he was known as Paco -- the short form of Francisco -- "de Lucia" meaning "of Lucia", his mother.
Growing up in a gypsy neighborhood, it was his father, also a guitarist, who introduced him to music and encouraged him to practice for hours.
When he was eight, his father put a guitar in his hands and told him: "I can't send you to school, I can't teach you a career, the only thing I can give you is this guitar," he once said in an interview. The same thing happened to his brothers, Ramon and Pepe, who also went on to have careers in flamenco.
De Lucia took to it so well that it was as if he had "been born to play the guitar," says Gomez, saying he was such a natural that he could concentrate on experimenting and composing more than others.
By the time he was 12, he was earning at flamenco "tablaos" -- the intimate bars that are home to the authentic form of the tragic gypsy lament and dancing. Despite having no formal training, he moved to Madrid at 15 and by 18 had released his first album.
He was the first flamenco artist to obtain a chart topper with his instrumental rumba "Entre dos aguas" which was released in 1973 and saw him bringing flamenco closer to jazz with a sextet including wind instruments and an electric bass, in a major break with tradition.
Also revolutionary was his introduction of a cajon, a Peruvian box drum instead of two or three palmeros (rhythmic clappers) which made flamenco "more acoustic" and "more intimate in terms of staging", explains top percussionist Paquito Gonzalez who recorded an album with him.
'Orphaned by his death'
When de Lucia played in Madrid's Teatro Real in 1975, it stoked controversy for being the first flamenco performance in the Spanish capital's prestigious opera house, but also because he played with crossed legs rather than the traditional posture with the guitar resting on one leg, steeply angled upwards.
He was like "one of those explorers with a machete in hand who went into the Amazon and began cutting down branches and making a path," guitarist Jose Quevedo 'Bolita' told AFP at Pena La Buena Gente, a club in Jerez de la Frontera that draws flamenco fans, of which there are many across Andalusia.
And it was after one drunken night in Jerez that de Lucia and the singer Camaron de la Isla decided to work together, going on to produce several legendary albums.
When Paco de Lucía "became a global star, almost without realizing it, he created what is now the flamenco industry", says Quevedo.
"It was a total turning point which brought about the 'professionalization' of flamenco, creating a more rewarding life for many artists", he said.
And when he died, "the flamenco world felt very orphaned", says dancer Monika Bellido who runs a flamenco academy in Algeciras.
"The whole world loved Paco."


Elton John Items Fetch $8 Million at New York Auction

Elton John performs "(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again" from Rocketman during the Oscars show at the 92nd Academy Awards in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, US, February 9, 2020. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni
Elton John performs "(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again" from Rocketman during the Oscars show at the 92nd Academy Awards in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, US, February 9, 2020. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni
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Elton John Items Fetch $8 Million at New York Auction

Elton John performs "(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again" from Rocketman during the Oscars show at the 92nd Academy Awards in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, US, February 9, 2020. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni
Elton John performs "(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again" from Rocketman during the Oscars show at the 92nd Academy Awards in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, US, February 9, 2020. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

Nearly $100,000 for Elton John's monogrammed silver boots and around $2 million for a triptych by street artist Banksy from his collection: the music icon's personal items brought in almost $8 million at auction Wednesday in New York.

Christie's auction house is running a series of eight sales, both in person and online, through February 28 for the collection of the 76-year-old's belongings, including an ivory and gold glam rock jumpsuit from the early 1970s designed by Annie Reavey, which sold for $12,600.

As enthusiastic collectors made bids, John's grand piano fetched over $200,000, while a pair of sunglasses, a key element of the singer's signature look, found a buyer for $22,680, ten times more than the initial estimate.

Most of the items come from the artist's luxury home in Atlanta, Georgia, which had served as a base for his American tours, and which he recently sold.

The legendary musician, known for hits like "Your Song,Rocket Man," and "Sacrifice," for flamboyant costumes and a commitment to the fight against HIV/AIDS, wrapped up his farewell tour last year.

John bought the Atlanta home shortly after getting sober in 1990, Christie's said, as the singer found "solace and support in the warm community and recovery facilities" there.

With works by artists Keith Haring, Andy Warhol, Robert Mapplethorpe and Richard Avedon, the collection, which he built together with his husband David Furnish, shows the couple's taste in contemporary art.

The personal collections of pop culture icons have become a regular feature at the world's top auction houses.

Last September, thousands of items that belonged to late Queen frontman Freddie Mercury sold for 40 million pounds ($50.4 million), Sotheby's said.


A Beloved Fantasy Franchise Is Revived with Netflix’s Live-Action ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’

(L-R) Actors Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, Daniel Dae Kim, Ken Leung, Kiawentiio Tarbell, Gordon Cormier, Ian Ousley, Dallas Liu and Elizabeth Yu attends Netflix' "Avatar: The Last Airbender" premiere at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood, California, February 15, 2024. (AFP)
(L-R) Actors Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, Daniel Dae Kim, Ken Leung, Kiawentiio Tarbell, Gordon Cormier, Ian Ousley, Dallas Liu and Elizabeth Yu attends Netflix' "Avatar: The Last Airbender" premiere at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood, California, February 15, 2024. (AFP)
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A Beloved Fantasy Franchise Is Revived with Netflix’s Live-Action ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’

(L-R) Actors Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, Daniel Dae Kim, Ken Leung, Kiawentiio Tarbell, Gordon Cormier, Ian Ousley, Dallas Liu and Elizabeth Yu attends Netflix' "Avatar: The Last Airbender" premiere at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood, California, February 15, 2024. (AFP)
(L-R) Actors Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, Daniel Dae Kim, Ken Leung, Kiawentiio Tarbell, Gordon Cormier, Ian Ousley, Dallas Liu and Elizabeth Yu attends Netflix' "Avatar: The Last Airbender" premiere at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood, California, February 15, 2024. (AFP)

A new entry in the "Avatar" franchise is about to soar and James Cameron has no part in it.

"Avatar: The Last Airbender" is a completely different fictional world from Cameron's Pandora but the two similarly named dueling sci-fi fantasy properties have kept throwing out new entries over the decades.

On Thursday — two years after the debut of "Avatar: The Way of Water" — Netflix offers "Avatar: The Last Airbender," a multi-part, lush live-action adaptation that mixes adventure and friendship, martial arts and philosophy, all through an Asian lens.

It’s a potentially fraught step because fans of this universe are very protective of the franchise, which began as a beloved cartoon series in the anime style airing on Nickelodeon from 2005 to 2008.

"When you have an opportunity to be part of a world that is beloved by generations of people, it can be daunting sometimes because it’s a big responsibility," says actor Paul Sun-Hyung Lee. "But, at the same time, as performers, you don’t often get chances to sort of dive into worlds like that and to be part of gigantic productions."

"Avatar: The Last Airbender" is centered on a world with four tribes — air, water, earth and fire. Some can manipulate or "bend" their respective elements: hurl giant blobs of water, raise up rocks or zap someone with a wave of flames.

The eight-part saga starts with this world unbalanced — there has been a war for nearly 100 years as the Fire Nation tries to take over the planet, pretty much wiping out the airbenders along the way.

Then a young waterbender named Katara and her older brother, Sokka, discover a 12-year-old airbender named Aang, who has been frozen for a century. They realize that he may be the prophesied Avatar who can control all four elements and unite all four nations.

"I never asked to be special," Aang says early in the first episode. "The world needs you, Aang," he is told by an elder. "I don’t want this power," replies Aang. The elder counters: "Which is why you will make a great Avatar."

"It’s Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey," says Daniel Dae Kim, who plays the leader of the Fire Nation, connecting the series to such franchises as "Star Wars" and "The Matrix". "It makes it relatable to any kid or anyone to say, ‘I don’t have to be born with a sense of destiny.’ Anyone can have that destiny thrust upon them."

Netflix has created a lusciously crafted universe, where our heroes soar over roiling seas aboard bison that fly and armies battle with staffs, mid-air flips and power blasts. Port cities teem with elegant sailing ships, costumes are colorful and pockets of humor and romance leaven the action sequences.

"It’s such a deep show," says Gordon Cormier, born just a year after the original animated show ended its run and who now plays Aang. "Like the cartoon, it has so many character arcs and just amazing stories."

Aang teams up with Katara and Sokka to travel around their world, looking for clues for a way to channel his inner Avatar. There are plenty of slo-mo martial arts face-offs and mind-blowing manipulations of the elements.

Cast members were quick to give credit to showrunner and executive producer Albert Kim for being true to the beloved animated series while developing elements and crafting it for a live-action audience.

"I’m a fan of the original animated series myself and we wanted to do it justice," says Lee. "We wanted to make sure that the OG fans were happy with it, but at the same time, we’re not just giving them beat by beat the exact same thing because it already exists."

Dallas Liu, whose credits include "PEN15" and "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings," plays the Fire Nation's crown prince and says Albert Kim helped them give the Netflix series its own identity.

"I think we found a very nice balance of staying faithful, but also allowing people who have never seen the show to watch a similar journey that still holds the essence of the original series."

The show is riding a wave of new TV series that embrace Asian culture, including Max’s "Warrior," Paramount+’s "The Tiger’s Apprentice," FX's "Shogun" and "House of Ninjas" at Netflix.

The world of "Avatar: The Last Airbender" has had a live-action treatment before — M. Night Shyamalan's film adaptation in 2010 that many fans deride. An animated sequel, "The Legend of Korra," aired from 2005 to 2008.

In addition to the new Netflix series, an animated "Airbender" theatrical film trilogy and an animated TV series are planned, with the first film of the expected trilogy set to hit theaters late next year. (That could be just in time to compete with Cameron's "Avatar 3.")

But first up is the Netflix series, which has some big issues for parents and their kids to chew on: destiny, growing up fast, whether to hide from danger and challenging yourself. And, of course, the notion of hope.

"We have to give people something to live for," Kitara says at one point. "That’s what the Avatar is — hope. And we need that just as much as we need food and shelter."

That's something Daniel Dae Kim thinks is a notion we can all relate to: "In times like we live in today, hope is a pretty good thing to have. And I think that analogy is something that makes it appropriate for right here and right now."