Oscar Snubs, Surprises: No Female Directors, ‘Babylon’ Bust

This image released Mubi by shows Park Hae-il, left, and Tang Wei in a scene from "Decision to Leave." (Mubi via AP)
This image released Mubi by shows Park Hae-il, left, and Tang Wei in a scene from "Decision to Leave." (Mubi via AP)
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Oscar Snubs, Surprises: No Female Directors, ‘Babylon’ Bust

This image released Mubi by shows Park Hae-il, left, and Tang Wei in a scene from "Decision to Leave." (Mubi via AP)
This image released Mubi by shows Park Hae-il, left, and Tang Wei in a scene from "Decision to Leave." (Mubi via AP)

There are always a few big surprises and heartbreaks come the morning of Oscar nominations, as much as awards strategists try to mitigate those. But the batch of nominees for the 95th Academy Awards seemed to have more than its fair share of shockers, good and bad.

Here are some of the major snubs and surprises that have Hollywood talking.

Angela Bassett gives Marvel a boost

There are 30 films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and no actor has ever been nominated for their performance in one until today, when Angela Bassett broke the mold by getting a supporting actress nod for playing a grieving queen in “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.” Bassett has been nominated before — in 1994, for playing Tina Turner in “What’s Love Got to Do With It” — and has now joined a small group of Black women to have multiple acting nominations: Whoopi Goldberg, Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis.

‘The Woman King’ dethroned

Gina Prince-Bythewood’s “The Woman King” was entirely shut out from the Oscar nominations, a shocking turn for a well-reviewed blockbuster that at one time had many predicting a best actress nod for Viola Davis as the fierce Agojie leader, a best picture nod and one for best director. No Black woman has ever been nominated for best director, a deplorable statistic that was unfortunately not changed this year.

Women shut out of directing

We should have seen this coming after the directors and producers guilds selected movies that were only directed by men, but the Academy has a different makeup. There was hope that members might acknowledge some of the extraordinary films this year that happened to have a woman behind the camera, especially after two consecutive years of women winning the prize (Jane Campion and Chloé Zhao). The would-be nominees included Prince-Bythewood, Sarah Polley for “Women Talking,” and Charlotte Wells for “Aftersun.” I’m not sure anyone was expecting Ruben Östlund (“Triangle of Sadness”) to get one of the five directing spots over James Cameron (“Avatar: The Way of Water”), Baz Luhrmann (“Elvis”) or Joseph Kosinski (“Top Gun: Maverick”) either.

The Andrea Riseborough campaign worked

This year was a good reminder that actors often appreciate performance outside of or even in spite of the film around it. Awards campaigners and strategists work all year to narrow the playing field of nominees, but this year there was a last-minute twist: A grassroots, celebrity-fueled social media campaign seemed to spring up for Andrea Riseborough for her performance in the little-seen indie “To Leslie.” She landed the nomination after Charlize Theron, Jennifer Aniston, Edward Norton, Gwyneth Paltrow and many, many others sang her praises for her performance as a single mother in West Texas looking for redemption.

Best actress shockers

Riseborough wasn’t the only surprise in the mix — Ana de Armas also scored a coveted nomination for the generally poorly received “Blonde.” This was perhaps more expected after she broke through with a Screen Actors Guild nod, but the biggest shock was the wholesale exclusion of Black women from the category, including Davis for “The Woman King” and Danielle Deadwyler for her universally praised performance as Mamie Till-Bradley in “Till.” At least one of those spots was taken up by Michelle Williams for “The Fabelmans,” which was not a guarantee given her SAG snub.

Some international surprises

The international feature category always has its share of oversights. Why are there only five nominees to represent the entire world, after all? But this year one of the bigger surprises was the exclusion of Park Chan-wook’s acclaimed romantic noir “Decision to Leave,” from South Korea. Four-time Oscar winner Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s personal epic “Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths” was shut out from the category as well. All the nominated films were also directed by men, which is disappointing in a year that had films like “Saint Omer” and “Corsage.”

A ‘Babylon’ bust

The dream of “Babylon” ended today as Damien Chazelle’s ode to the wild days of silent film got only three below-the-line nominations for costume, music and production design. The $80 million film has made less than $30 million at the box office so far and divided critics. But this could also be its own origin story for reappraisal years from now. Even “Ishtar” is now a cult classic.

Paul Mescal gets into actor race

Charlotte Wells’ “Aftersun” may have topped many critics’ best of lists but it didn’t get much love from the Academy. The happy exception is that Paul Mescal broke into the best actor race for his heartbreaking performance as a single dad on vacation with his 11-year-old daughter.

‘RRR’ gets only one nomination

S.S. Rajamouli’s three-hour maximalist action epic “RRR” looked like it might be able to break through with a best picture nomination, but the beloved Telegu film got just one nomination, for best song for M.M. Keeravaani’s “Naatu Naatu.” It wasn’t eligible for the international film category, as India submitted another film.

Diane Warren in, Taylor Swift out

Speaking of best song, the Switfies — still mad her short film didn’t make the shortlist — got another blow Tuesday when Taylor Swift’s “Carolina” from “Where the Crawdads Sing” was shut out of the original song race. Diane Warren got in, though, for her 14th nomination for another song from a movie few have heard of (in this case it’s “Applause” from the film “Tell It Like a Woman”).

Judd Hirsch in over Paul Dano

The supporting actor race may not be much of a race at all after Ke Huy Quan was officially nominated for “Everything Everywhere All At Once.” But the category still had some wild cards, including nods for Brian Tyree Henry for Apple’s “Causeway” and Judd Hirsch getting in for basically one standout scene in Steven Spielberg’s “The Fabelmans” over Paul Dano’s moving turn as a semi-fictionalized version of Spielberg’s father.

Nothing for ‘Nope’

Jordan Peele’s “Nope” was, admittedly, a long shot for a best picture or director nomination. But Tuesday morning, many were surprised that it got nothing at all.



Red Sea Global, Warner Bros. Discovery Collaborate on Red Sea Coral Reefs Documentary

The film follows the journey of Saudi Arabian free diver Salma Shaker as she explores the coral research conducted by scientists at Red Sea Global and King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). (Discovery)
The film follows the journey of Saudi Arabian free diver Salma Shaker as she explores the coral research conducted by scientists at Red Sea Global and King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). (Discovery)
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Red Sea Global, Warner Bros. Discovery Collaborate on Red Sea Coral Reefs Documentary

The film follows the journey of Saudi Arabian free diver Salma Shaker as she explores the coral research conducted by scientists at Red Sea Global and King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). (Discovery)
The film follows the journey of Saudi Arabian free diver Salma Shaker as she explores the coral research conducted by scientists at Red Sea Global and King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). (Discovery)

Red Sea Global (RSG) and global media and entertainment company Warner Bros. Discovery will collaborate to produce a documentary on the impact of climate change on coral reefs, said RSC in a statement on Tuesday.

The documentary, "Beneath the Surface: The Fight for Corals", set to air on Discovery channel on Earth Day on April 22 will show RSG's efforts to protect the environment.

“In ‘Beneath the Surface: The Fight for Corals’, we aim to spotlight the beauty and vulnerability of these underwater wonders and emphasize the importance of global collaboration in preserving our oceans," said John Pagano, Group CEO at Red Sea Global.

The film follows the journey of Saudi Arabian free diver Salma Shaker as she explores the coral research conducted by scientists at Red Sea Global and King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST).

The film transcends geographical borders, taking viewers as far as to the reefs in Mexico, offering a compelling narrative on the challenges facing coral reefs worldwide.

The film explores undiscovered reefs along Saudi Arabia's Red Sea coastline.

Red Sea Global aims to unravel the mysteries of this unexplored territory, displaying its unique biodiversity and crucial role in supporting the global ecosystem. The documentary also delves into the potential benefits of coral research in the Red Sea for ecosystems globally.

Kerrie McEvoy, head of Factual Channels in Discovery Networks EMEA at Warner Bros Discovery, said: "Warner Bros. Discovery is proud to partner with Red Sea Global on 'Beneath the Surface: The Fight for Corals'. As a company, we believe in the power of storytelling to entertain and inspire change, and this film exemplifies that commitment."

The film features insights from a diverse group of experts to provide a comprehensive view of the current state of reefs globally, their significance in the marine ecosystem, and the ongoing efforts to protect them.

A first exclusive look at the film was shown during a side event at COP28 in Dubai, hosted by Red Sea Global, where a trailer was played for the guests.

The documentary will air on Discovery Channel across the US, Europe, Türkiye, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia.


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.