‘Star Trek’, Swear Words and TV Characters’ Changing Mores

This image released by Paramount+ shows Patrick Stewart as Picard, left, and Ed Speleers as Jack Crusher in the "No Win Scenario" episode of "Star Trek: Picard." (Trae Patton/Paramount+ via AP)
This image released by Paramount+ shows Patrick Stewart as Picard, left, and Ed Speleers as Jack Crusher in the "No Win Scenario" episode of "Star Trek: Picard." (Trae Patton/Paramount+ via AP)
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‘Star Trek’, Swear Words and TV Characters’ Changing Mores

This image released by Paramount+ shows Patrick Stewart as Picard, left, and Ed Speleers as Jack Crusher in the "No Win Scenario" episode of "Star Trek: Picard." (Trae Patton/Paramount+ via AP)
This image released by Paramount+ shows Patrick Stewart as Picard, left, and Ed Speleers as Jack Crusher in the "No Win Scenario" episode of "Star Trek: Picard." (Trae Patton/Paramount+ via AP)

For nearly four decades, Jean-Luc Picard of “Star Trek” has largely been presented as genteel, erudite and — at times — quite buttoned up. Yes, he loses his temper. Yes, he was reckless as a callow cadet many years ago. Yes, he occasionally gets his hands dirty or falls apart.

But the Enterprise captain-turned-admiral stepped into a different place in last week’s episode of the streaming drama “Star Trek: Picard.” Now, he’s someone who — to the shock of some and the delight of others — has uttered a profanity that never would have come from his mouth in the 1990s: “Ten f—-ing grueling hours,” Patrick Stewart's character says at one point during an intense conversation in which he expects everyone will die shortly.

The whole thing was in keeping with the more complex, nuanced aesthetic of this decade’s “Star Trek” installments. And the online conversation that ensued illustrates the journey undertaken when a fictional character voyages from the strictures of network and syndicated television to high-end streaming TV, The Associated Press said.

“'Star Trek’ was G-rated when it first came out. 'The Next Generation’ was clean-cut and optimistic. What we’re seeing now with ‘Picard’ is a little bit more of the grit,” says Shilpa Davé, a media studies scholar at the University of Virginia and a longtime “Trek” fan.

Over the weekend, “Star Trek” Twitter reflected that tension.

“Totally out of character,” said one post, reflecting many others. Some complained that it cheapened the utopia that Gene Roddenberry envisioned, that humans wouldn’t be swearing like that four centuries from now, that someone as polished as Picard wouldn’t need such language.

“Part of Star Trek’s appeal is the articulate way characters speak. Resorting to gutter language feels like a step backward since Star Trek’s characters are meant to be better than this,” John Orquiola wrote for the website Screen Rant on Sunday.

The backlash to the backlash followed. Christopher Monfette, the Paramount+ show’s co-executive producer, wrote an extensive and persuasive thread about the moment and why he believed it worked.

“It’s easy to hear that elevated British tone escaping the mouth of a gentlemanly Shakespearean actor and assume some elevated intellectualism,” he said, while acknowledging: “Criticism of its use is fair even if it just strikes a personal nerve — or if you’ve equated 'Trek' with more broader, family-friendly storytelling. But regardless, cursing in the show is carefully debated & discussed in the room or on set. We don’t take it lightly.”

The showrunner for “ Star Trek: Picard ” this season, Terry Matalas, said the F-word from Picard wasn’t scripted but was a choice by Stewart in the moment. The result, Matalas said, was “so real.”

“Everything you do as artists, as writers and actors, even as editors, is authenticity. That’s the thing you want to feel,” he told Collider. “I was really torn because hearing that word come from your childhood hero, Captain Picard, it throws you. But wow, is it powerful.”

“Star Trek” has a long history of pushing boundaries, linguistic and otherwise.

“Let’s get the hell out of here,” Capt. James T. Kirk said on network TV in 1967, when that word was edgy. He’d just lost someone dear to him in the most trying of circumstances. Dr. McCoy, the ship’s irascible physician, would often say, “Dammit, Jim.” And in the larger realm, the original series delicately danced with NBC censors over everything from women’s costumes to racial, sexual and war references.

But the crossing of last week's linguistic frontier is an interesting case. It highlights the turbulence generated when a beloved character born during the “family-friendly” TV era evolves against the streaming landscape, where constraints are fewer and opportunities for unflinching authenticity greater.

"This isn't just a rethinking of a fictional world. This is the same actor and the same character in the same setting that we had before. And all these years, he has been speaking and behaving in a certain way," says Robert Thompson, director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University.

Sometimes this transition unfolds erratically. Velma, a member of the Gen-X-era Saturday morning cartoon “Scooby Doo,” recently appeared in a more multicultural cartoon reboot on HBO Max that featured a high-school shower scene and overt sexual references. It has been roundly panned. Several years ago, when “Riverdale” premiered, the attempts to push Archie, Jughead, Betty and Veronica from the sunny world of comics into the darker realm of teen drama produced uneven, sometimes jarring results.

“Star Trek” is in a whole different universe, so to speak.

Roddenberry famously framed it as a utopian future where the main characters generally avoided conflict with each other, their society wasn't motivated by greed and humanity was seen as inexorably moving forward. Purists have criticized the recent years of what they call “new Trek” as a darker, more fragmented universe.

Nonsense, say many others: Both allegory and word usage evolve with the times. After all, it was only seven decades ago that Lucille Ball (and her character) was expecting a baby on “I Love Lucy” and the word “pregnant” couldn't be uttered on national television — except, oddly, in French.

And for years before and after that, Hollywood's production code prescribed the ways morality and amorality could be depicted in film, with strict regulation of everything from sexual innuendo to whether criminals were portrayed sympathetically to whether the good guys won. Hence the term “Hollywood ending," which remains with us today in many parts of life.

All of which raises the question: Could it also be the boundaries themselves that help create memorable film and television, rather than merely the breaking of them?

“Star Trek had a certain kind of sincerity — almost like 'the 23rd century will be a family-friendly kind of thing,'” Thompson says. “The question is, what happens when your characters outlive the media industry standards? How do you accommodate the fact that you’re no longer limited without completely betraying the world that you’ve created?”

In this case, Stewart has said he returned to the character because he was persuaded there were new stories to tell. Just as he had aged two decades since his last "Star Trek” appearance, so, too, had Picard — with all the evolution that went along with it.

The kind of evolution, perhaps, that might make a man facing his own end choose a word that still carries a lot of power — even in today's swearing, streaming world. When Jean-Luc Picard says that word, you can be absolutely sure he means it.



Singapore Says Taylor Swift Gig Grant Not as High as Speculated 

Filipino fan of US singer Taylor Swift, Aliza Ponciano, wears friendship bracelets as she queues to enter the National Stadium on the first day of her concert in Singapore, 02 March 2024. (EPA)
Filipino fan of US singer Taylor Swift, Aliza Ponciano, wears friendship bracelets as she queues to enter the National Stadium on the first day of her concert in Singapore, 02 March 2024. (EPA)
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Singapore Says Taylor Swift Gig Grant Not as High as Speculated 

Filipino fan of US singer Taylor Swift, Aliza Ponciano, wears friendship bracelets as she queues to enter the National Stadium on the first day of her concert in Singapore, 02 March 2024. (EPA)
Filipino fan of US singer Taylor Swift, Aliza Ponciano, wears friendship bracelets as she queues to enter the National Stadium on the first day of her concert in Singapore, 02 March 2024. (EPA)

Singapore said Monday its grant to Taylor Swift for her concerts in the city was nowhere near as high as speculated, following media reports that the superstar was offered millions of dollars per gig.

Around 300,000 people from Singapore and around the region are expected to attend the six sold-out shows that began March 2 -- but some neighbors were not happy about being left off The Eras Tour.

Some, including reportedly the Thai prime minister, have said that Swift was paid millions to keep her from performing anywhere else in the region.

"There has been some online speculation as to the size of the grant. I can say that it is not accurate and not anywhere as high as speculated," Singapore's culture minister Edwin Tong told parliament.

"Due to business confidentiality reasons, we cannot reveal the specific size of the grant or the conditions of the grant."

Tong added that the "economic benefits to Singapore are assessed to be significant and outweigh the size of the grant".

Thailand's Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin had reportedly said, citing a concert promoter, that Singapore offered Swift up to US$3 million per concert if she did not play anywhere else in Southeast Asia.

A lawmaker in the Philippines also criticized Singapore, reportedly saying this was not "what good neighbors do".

Tong played down the role the grant may have played in convincing Swift to perform only in Singapore.

"Promoters of top artists will do their own calculation and assess where they want to perform and for how long," he said, citing Singapore's location and infrastructure as key factors.

Since the end of pandemic curbs, a number of top artists have performed in Singapore, including Ed Sheeran, Coldplay, Blackpink and Harry Styles.


‘Dune: Part Two’ Brings Spice Power to the Box Office with $81.5 Million Debut

 This image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Timothee Chalamet in a scene from "Dune: Part Two." (Warner Bros. Pictures via AP)
This image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Timothee Chalamet in a scene from "Dune: Part Two." (Warner Bros. Pictures via AP)
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‘Dune: Part Two’ Brings Spice Power to the Box Office with $81.5 Million Debut

 This image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Timothee Chalamet in a scene from "Dune: Part Two." (Warner Bros. Pictures via AP)
This image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Timothee Chalamet in a scene from "Dune: Part Two." (Warner Bros. Pictures via AP)

Movie theaters were looking for a savoir and “Dune: Part Two” is delivering on the promise. Armed with sandworms, big screen spectacle and the star power of Timothée Chalamet, Denis Villeneuve ’s science fiction epic stormed the North American box office this weekend earning $81.5 million in ticket sales, according to studio estimates Sunday.

It’s the first major hit of 2024, and one that was sorely needed by exhibitors. Although there have been holdovers from December that have continued to earn, like Warner Bros.' “Wonka” (also starring Chalamet) and Sony's romantic comedy “Anyone But You,” the box office is in a bit of a drought. In the first two months of 2024, no films have crossed $100 million domestically. The highest earning movies have been “The Beekeeper,” “Bob Marley: One Love” and “Mean Girls."

“Dune 2" rode a wave of great reviews (94% on Rotten Tomatoes) into a marketplace that was essentially free of competition. Warner Bros. released it in 4,071 locations in the US and Canada, where audiences across the board gave it the highest PostTrak marks and an A CinemaScore. According to exit data, men accounted for 59% of opening weekend ticket buyers and 64% were over the age of 25. The sequel was primarily financed by Legendary.

Premium large format screens like IMAX and 70mm accounted for 48% of the opening weekend business. It marked a March record for IMAX, which made up $18.5 million of the overall take. The $81.5 million debut is a record for Villeneuve, Chalamet, Austin Butler and Rebecca Ferguson.

Originally planned for an October 2023 release, Warner Bros. bumped the movie to March amid the Hollywood strikes that would have prevented its starry cast from doing the promotional circuit.

The global promo tour has been on hyperdrive for about a month, driving conversations with buzzy interviews, the viral sandworm-inspired popcorn bucket and eye-popping fashion moments from the stylish young cast – peaking with Zendaya’s silver cyborg showstopper (vintage Mugler) in London. They've made stops in Mexico City, South Korea, Abu Dhabi and New York City.

The first “Dune” opened under complicated conditions in October 2021. It was one of the last films of Warner Bros.’ divisive plan to simultaneously debut its major movies in theaters and on its streaming platform. And yet it still earned over $40 million in its first weekend and went on to gross over $400 million worldwide.


UK Singer-songwriter Raye Sweeps Brit Awards

Raye had been nominated in a record seven categories. HENRY NICHOLLS / AFP
Raye had been nominated in a record seven categories. HENRY NICHOLLS / AFP
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UK Singer-songwriter Raye Sweeps Brit Awards

Raye had been nominated in a record seven categories. HENRY NICHOLLS / AFP
Raye had been nominated in a record seven categories. HENRY NICHOLLS / AFP

Rising star Raye on Saturday swept the UK's top music awards, setting a record for winning the most prizes in a single year.
The 26-year-old singer-songwriter scooped six awards including best artist, R&B act, new artist, song of the year for "Escapism" and album for "My 21st Century Blues", AFP said.
Her award for best songwriter was pre-announced.
Accepting the best new artist award she called the win "overwhelming", adding "this is wild".
"What is actually happening right now?" a delighted Raye told the audience at London's O2 arena.
"The artist I was three years ago would not believe the sight she is seeing today. I'm in control, I'm my own boss now," she declared.
She had made history even before the ceremony started by being nominated for a record seven prizes in one year.
The Londoner, whose real name is Rachel Keen, had been up against six other female artists out of the 10 shortlisted in the gender neutral best artist category following a controversy last year.
Not a single female artist ended up being shortlisted in the category in 2023 after the merging of the best female and male artist categories for the first time a year earlier.
That led Brit Awards chairman Damian Christian to complain about a "disappointing lack of female representation", blaming a dearth of eligible 2022 releases by big female stars.
This year the shortlist was extended from five to 10 and included Dua Lipa and Jessie Ware, newcomer Olivia Dean, and Mercury Prize winners Little Simz and Arlo Parks, as well as Raye.
- Rocky road -
This year's awards also saw prizes go to Dua Lipa for best pop act, US singer-songwriter SZA for international artist and US indie supergroup Boygenius for international group.
Kylie Minogue was honored with the Brit Awards global icon prize.
Minogue also took to the stage, with other artists performing including DJ Calvin Harris, Ellie Goulding, Dua Lipa, Nigerian Afrobeats star Rema and Raye.
Her Brits triumph follows a sometimes difficult path to the top.
Before making it as a solo artist she wrote songs for big names such as Beyonce, Jennifer Lopez and Little Mix.
She had also had success as a guest artist on dance tracks.
But after being signed by record company Polydor, creative disagreements led to a tearful online post in which she accused the label of refusing to release her debut album.
Polydor subsequently released her from her contract and she went on to critical and commercial success as an independent artist.
Her track "Escapism" featuring American rapper 070 Shake took off on TikTok and scored a UK number one hit just over a year ago.
The single, the third from her debut album, also topped singles charts in Denmark and Ireland and entered the top 10 in 20 countries.
The Brit Awards were first held in 1977. The event is run by British Phonographic Industry, a trade association that represents the UK music industry.


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


AMC Tumbles as Hollywood Strikes, Higher Expenses Hit Results

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


For Each Best Picture Oscar Hopeful, Film Editors Are Key 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Director-editor bond

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'Midwives' of cinema

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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