‘Naughty Boy’: Monty Python Star Terry Jones Dies at 77

Terry Jones, a founding member of the anarchic Monty Python troupe who was hailed by colleagues as “the complete Renaissance comedian” an d “a man of endless enthusiasms,”  has died after a battle with dementia.Jones’ family said the 77-year-old died Tuesday evening at his home in London. In a statement, his family said he died “after a long, extremely brave but always good humored battle with a rare form of dementia, FTD.”
   
Jones’ wife, Anna Soderstrom, and children Bill, Sally and Siri, said “we have all lost a kind, funny, warm, creative and truly loving man whose uncompromising individuality, relentless intellect and extraordinary humor has given pleasure to countless millions across six decades.””His work with Monty Python, his books, films, television programs, poems and other work will live on forever, a fitting legacy to a true polymath,” they said.Born in Wales in 1942, Jones attended Oxford University, where he began writing and performing with fellow student Michael Palin.After leaving university, he wrote for seminal 1960s comedy series, including “The Frost Report” and “Do Not Adjust Your Set.” At the end of the decade he, along with Palin, Eric Idle, John Cleese, Graham Chapman and Terry Gilliam, formed Monty Python’s Flying Circus, whose irreverent humor — a blend of satire, surrealism and silliness — helped revolutionize British comedy.FILE – From left, Eric Idle, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Michael Palin and Terry Jones of the comedy group Monty Python pose for photographers during a photo call in London, June 30, 2014.Jones wrote and performed for the troupe’s early-70s TV series and films including “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” in 1975 and “Monty Python’s Life of Brian” in 1979.Playing the mother of Brian, a hapless young man who is mistaken for Jesus, he delivered one of the Pythons’ most famous lines: “He’s not the Messiah. He’s a very naughty boy!”Jones played many of the Pythons’ female characters, as well as a grinning nude organist, Spanish Inquisitor Cardinal Biggles and the explosively gluttonous restaurant patron Mr. Creosote.Cleese tweeted: “It feels strange that a man of so many talents and such endless enthusiasm, should have faded so gently away.”He added: “Two down, four to go,” a reference to the six members of the troupe. Chapman died of cancer in 1989.As well as performing, Jones co-directed “Holy Grail” with Gilliam, and directed “Life of Brian” and the 1983 Python film “The Meaning of Life.”FILE – From left to right, Graham Chapman, Michael Palin and Terry Jones, three of the six creators of the hit British TV comedy series “Monty Python’s Flying Circus,” are shown in New York, March 12, 1975.During the 1970s, Jones also created the show “Ripping Yarns” with Palin and wrote sketches for comedy duo The Two Ronnies.After the Pythons largely disbanded in the 1980s, Jones wrote books on medieval and ancient history, presented documentaries, wrote poetry and directed films, including “Personal Services,” about a suburban brothel madam, and the comedy adventure “Erik the Viking.” He also scripted the Jim Henson-directed fantasy film “Labyrinth,” which starred David Bowie.In 2014, more than three decades after their last live performance, the five surviving Pythons reunited for a string of stage shows that revived their old skits for adoring audiences.Two years later, Jones was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia, which gradually robbed him of the ability to write and speak.”Terry was one of my closest, most valued friends. He was kind, generous, supportive and passionate about living life to the full,” Palin said in a statement.”He was far more than one of the funniest writer-performers of his generation. He was the complete Renaissance comedian — writer, director, presenter, historian, brilliant children’s author, and the warmest, most wonderful company you could wish to have,” Palin said.Jones is survived by his wife, his ex-wife Alison Telfer, and three children.
 

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A #MeToo Moment: Harvey Weinstein Trial Set to Open

Harvey Weinstein spawned the (hash)MeToo movement. Now, the former film titan is starring in the biggest trial of its era – a landmark moment in a global reckoning that has empowered women while shining a light on power dynamics in workplaces from Hollywood Boulevard to Main Street.Opening statements and the first witness testimony are expected Wednesday in Weinstein’s New York City rape trial, where the possibility of life in prison looms for the once-celebrated “Pulp Fiction” producer now vilified as a predator by scores of women.Weinstein’s accusers include some well-known actresses who plan to testify or attend the trial and others who are looking to the New York case for a form of justice because their allegations haven’t resulted in criminal charges.”This trial is so important because the enormity of Harvey Weinstein’s international power and fame offers an opportunity to shine a spotlight on the rampant abuse of power that permeates our culture on a global level,” actress Jessica Barth said Tuesday.”Not only the outcome of this trial, but the trial as a whole, is precedent setting,” said Barth, a star of the “Ted” films who says Weinstein once invited her to his hotel suite and demanded a naked massage.Weinstein’s trial could take more than a month, Judge James Burke said. Judging from an arduous two-week  jury selection that netted a panel of seven men and five women, it could be a hotbed of protests and intense media coverage.Extra court officers have been lining the front of the Manhattan courthouse where Weinstein, 67, has been ambling in and out with a walker that his lawyers say was necessitated by a summer car crash and subsequent back surgery.In a failed last-minute push to get the trial moved, Weinstein’s lawyers said a flash mob’s chanting “the rapist is you!” at street level could be heard in the courtroom, 15 floors above.Adding to the drama, actor Cuba Gooding Jr. is due at the same courthouse Wednesday for a hearing in a case in which several women have accused him of groping. He’s denied  all allegations of wrongdoing.Though dozens of women have accused Weinstein of sexually harassing or assaulting them over the years, his New York trial involves just a pair of allegations: that he raped a woman in a Manhattan hotel room in 2013 and sexually assaulted a different woman in 2006.Backed by expected testimony from four other accusers, prosecutors will attempt to portray Weinstein as a monster who used his power to ingratiate himself with women, sometimes promising a film role or other career advancement, before sexually assaulting or raping them.One of them, actress Annabella Sciorra will testify  that Weinstein forced himself inside her Manhattan apartment and raped her in 1993 or 1994 after she starred in a film for his movie studio.While Sciorra’s allegations are outside the statute of limitations for criminal charges, the judge has said her testimony can be used to prove predatory sexual assault charges, which carries a maximum life sentence and requires prosecutors to show a pattern of misconduct.Weinstein’s lawyers say any encounters were consensual. They plan to go on the offensive, pointing to dozens and dozens and dozens of loving emails to Mr. Weinstein'' they say show he and some of his accusers were in consenting relationships. Defense lawyer Damon Cheronis said some of the womenalso bragged about being in a sexual relationship with him.’’Once trailed by whispers in Hollywood circles, Weinstein was met with an explosion of allegations from dozens of women after The New York Times and The New Yorker published separate exposes about his behavior in October 2017.After opening statements, prosecutors are expected to call a former member of the board of directors at Weinstein’s old movie studio to testify about how the company handled allegations against him.One issue that has remained unresolved in the trial is the defense’s objection to a juror who wrote an upcoming novel about young women that includes, according to the book’s publicity materials, descriptions of their relationships with predatory older men. If she is removed and replaced as a juror, that’ll leave just two remaining alternates for the trial.Once the New York trial is over, Weinstein faces additional rape and sexual assault charges in Los Angeles. Those charges were filed this month as jury selection in his New York trial was getting underway.

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Winfrey Chooses the Novel ‘American Dirt’ for Her Book Club

Jeanine Cummins’ “American Dirt,” one of the year’s most anticipated and debated novels, is Oprah Winfrey’s new pick for her book club.“American Dirt,” published Tuesday, tells of a bookstore owner in Acapulco, Mexico, who loses much of her family to a murderous drug cartel and flees north on a terrifying journey with her 8-year-old son. The novel was acquired by Flatiron Books in 2018 in a reported seven-figure deal and has been talked about in the publishing world ever since. It has appeared on numerous lists of books to look for in 2020, has reached the top 20 on Amazon.com  ahead of its release,  and has been praised by everyone from John Grisham and Stephen King to Erika Sanchez and Sandra Cisneros.Winfrey, interviewed Friday by telephone, told The Associated Press that one blurb that stood out was novelist Don Winslow’s comparing “American Dirt” to John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath.”“And I remember thinking, Yeah right, you better know what you're talking about because I have a first edition ofGrapes of Wrath,’ and it sits on a pedestal in my living room,’“ Winfrey said. “Now I wouldn’t say this is Grapes of Wrath,' but I would say that ... I have been a news reporter, watched the news, seen the stories every day, seen the children at the border and my heart is wrenched by that. And nothing has done more (thanAmerican Dirt’) to make me feel the pain and desperation of what it means to be on the run. It’s changed the way I see the whole issue and I was already empathetic.”Cummins, who also spoke recently to the AP, says she first thought of the book in 2013 and was inspired for various reasons. Her husband emigrated from Ireland and she remembered the many years it took for him to get his green card, and the anxiety, before they married, that he might be deported. She also was moved by what she considered the media’s sensationalized coverage of immigration, and, more indirectly, by her lasting grief over a 1991 tragedy when two of her cousins were raped and forced off a bridge, falling to their deaths.“So many of the stories center on violent men and macho violent stories about people who commit atrocities,” she said. “My hope was to reframe the narrative and show it from the point of view of the people on the flip side of violence.”Cummins, who has ancestors from Ireland and Puerto Rico, said she spent extensive time in Mexico and met with many people on both sides of the border. Her novel has raised questions, however, over whether she, a non-Mexican and non-migrant, was suited for the narrative. Cummins herself has expressed doubts, writing in the book’s afterword: “I wished someone slightly browner than me would write it.” She then added that perhaps she could serve as a bridge. “I thought, `If you’re the person who has the capacity to be a bridge, why not be a bridge?”’ Cummins wrote.Cisneros has called “American Dirt” the “international story of our times,” but some other writers of Mexican heritage have criticized it. Myriam Gurba, whose work has been praised in O: The Oprah Magazine among other publications, has written online that Cummins reinforces “overly-ripe Mexican stereotypes, among them the Latin lover, the suffering mother, and the stoic man child.” David Bowles, a writer and translator, called the book “smug saviorism.”Over the past few days, The New York Times published contrasting reviews. Times critic Parul Sehgal labeled the novel’s characters “thin creations,” criticized the language as strained and even nonsensical, and concluded that the “book feels conspicuously like the work of an outsider.” Author Lauren Groff, reviewing the book for The New York Times Book Review, found herself completely immersed but wondering whether she should have accepted the assignment.“I could never speak to the accuracy of the book’s representation of Mexican culture or the plights of migrants; I have never been Mexican or a migrant,” wrote Groff, who nonetheless “kept turning the pages.”“’American Dirt’ is written for people like me,” Groff wrote, “those native to the United States who are worried about what is happening at our southern border but who have never felt the migrants’ fear and desperation in their own bodies. This novel is aimed at people who have loved a child and who would fight with everything they have to see that child be allowed a good future.”After her review ran, Groff tweeted: “I wrestled like a beast with this review, the morals of my taking it on, my complicity in the white gaze.” She called Sehgal’s  take “better and smarter.”As a turning point in deciding to write the book, Cummins, 45, cited a conversation with Norma Iglesias-Prieto, a professor of Chicano and Chicana studies at San Diego State University. According to Cummins, Iglesias-Prieto told her, “We need as many voices as we can get.” (Iglesias-Preto recently told The Los Angeles Times that “everyone has the right to write about a particular topic even if you are not part of this community.”)Winfrey chose “American Dirt” last fall and, when asked (before the Times reviews ran) about the controversy, said she wasn’t aware of it. But she cited her own visceral response as a sign that Cummins had fulfilled a vital role for fiction.“She humanized this issue,” said Winfrey, who hopes to interview Cummins somewhere along the U.S-Mexico border. The interview will air March 6 on Apple TV Plus.Winfrey has been boosting sales for books, sometimes by hundreds of thousands of copies or more, since 1996. She has championed first-time authors such as Ayana Mathis, and has looked back to such classics as “Anna Karenina” and “A Tale of Two Cities.” Cummins’ novel, Winfrey’s third pick for the partnership with Apple she began last year, continues her recent pattern of choosing high-profile new releases, including Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “The Water Dancer” and Elizabeth Strout’s “Olive, Again.” Winfrey said she follows no pattern except that the books compel her to tell others about them.“There is no strategy. There is no plan,” she says. “I am open to all books.”Cummins is the author of three previous works: the novels “The Crooked Branch” and “The Outside Boy,” and the memoir “A Rip In Heaven,” about the assaults and deaths of her cousins.  She is hoping to start soon on a new novel. Cummins says she hasn’t decided on a plot, but expects the setting will be tied to her background — Puerto Rico. 

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Protests or Not, Politics and Olympics Are Intertwined

More than a half-century later, Tommie Smith and John Carlos are cemented into Olympic lore — their names enshrined in the Olympic Hall of Fame in the United States, their portrait an indelible fixture on the universal sports landscape.As for that raised-fist salute that transformed them into Olympic icons, while also symbolizing the power athletes possess for the short time they’re on their biggest stage — it’s still forbidden.Such was the warning this month in the announcement  by the IOC, whose athletes’ commission banned kneeling and hand gestures during medals ceremonies and competiton. It’s all part of an attempt to tamp down political demonstrations at this summer’s Tokyo Games.”The eyes of the world will be on the athletes and the Olympic Games,” IOC President Thomas Bach said, in delivering an impassioned defense of the rules.FILE – U.S. athletes Tommie Smith, center, and John Carlos stare downward and extend gloved hands skyward in a Black power salute after winning medals in the 200-meter run at the Summer Olympic Games in Mexico City, Oct. 16, 1968.IOC athlete’s rep Kirsty Coventry portrayed the guidance as a way to provide some clarity on an issue that has confounded both athletes and authorities for decades.The issue, always bubbling, surfaced last year when two U.S. athletes — Gwen Berry and Race Imboden — used medal ceremonies to make political statements at the Pan American Games. Those gestures brought a strong rebuke from the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic committees, but the groups still appear  confused and conflicted  about the entire matter. (The  USOPC didn’t welcome Smith and Carlos to an officially sanctioned event until 2016. )The IOC got its athletes’ commission, which has often contradicted key athlete movements in other Olympic areas, to get out front on the issue and offer its advice. It was essentially no different from what the IOC itself has been touting for years. Not surprisingly, some view it as an out-of-touch, retrograde attempt to stifle an increasingly outspoken generation of athletes.The mushrooming of live TV, to say nothing of the outlets now available on social media, has empowered athletes — the best examples from recent years would be Colin Kaepernick and Megan Rapinoe, but there are dozens more — to use sports to send a message.Rapinoe’s reaction to the IOC announcement: “We will not be silenced.” As much as her play, Rapinoe’s outspoken fight for equal pay for the U.S. women’s soccer team underscored the American victory in the World Cup last year and made her, in the minds of many, the most influential athlete of 2019.”So much for being done about the protests,” Rapinoe wrote on Instagram last weekend. “So little being done about what we are protesting about.”Disciplinary actionThe athletes’ commission said disciplinary action would be taken “on a case-by-case basis as necessary” and listed the IOC, the sports federations and the athletes’ national governing bodies as those who will have authority to make the call. It made no mention of what the sanctions could be. In that respect, it added confusion, and might have served to emphasize the power disparity between the athletes, who are the show, and the agencies who run this multibillion-dollar enterprise and, for all intents and purposes, control the invitation list.Among the other questions not answered in the guidance document:* Who, exactly, will adjudicate the individual cases and how will cases be adjudicated?* Who, exactly, will have ultimate responsibility for implementing sanctions?While those questions went unanswered, the document did include the reminder that “it is a fundamental principle that sport is neutral and must be separate from political, religious or any other type of interference.”Political historyThat concept, however, runs counter to long thread of Olympics-as-politics storylines that have dominated the movement since it was founded in 1896.A truncated list includes:* Hitler’s hosting of the 1936 Games (winter and summer) in Nazi Germany.* IOC President Avery Brundage’s ham-handed handling of South Africa’s status in the Olympics during apartheid.* The 1972 massacre of Israeli athletes during the Munich Games.* The U.S. boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics, followed by the Soviet Union’s boycott of the 1984 Los Angeles Games.* The IOC’s awarding of the 2008 Olympics to Beijing, in part compelled by promises to shine a light on the country’s attempt to improve human rights.More recently, Bach has found the committee a permanent place at the United Nations, used the Pyeongchang Games in South Korea to strive for better relations between the Koreas, and spent ample time negotiating deals with leaders who have been kind enough to spend billions to stage the Olympics.FILE – International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach delivers a speech during the closing ceremony of the 2014 Nanjing Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, August 2014.Though the IOC would argue that there are still places to make political statements in the Olympic space — news conferences and social media among them —it does not condone them on the field of play or the medals stand. It made all the more striking the picture the IOC tweeted out last Monday: Bach posing on a mountain with athletes in uniform from the United States and Iran at the Youth Olympic Games — a political statement during a time of strife that is designed to forward the long-held IOC-driven credo that the Olympics promote peace.IOC membersPeace itself is dependent on politics, and the people who run the Olympics are well connected to that world.No fewer than nine members of IOC itself are princes, princesses, dukes or sheiks — and that list doesn’t include the multitude of government officials involved in organizations that branch out of the IOC. For instance, half the World Anti-Doping Agency’s board comes from governments across the globe.Bach has singled out political concerns as a major divider in the Russian doping scandal that has embroiled the Olympics the past five years — implying it’s as much an East vs. West issue as one based on decisions that stem from painstakingly accumulated evidence.The latest move comes in the run-up to what figures to be a divisive election year in the United States, the country that sends the largest contingent to the Olympics, wins the most medals and often lands some of the most outspoken athletes on the podium.Smith and Carlos were booted from Mexico City after their protest. If history — to say nothing of Rapinoe’s reaction — is any guide, the IOC could be placed in the position to decide whether to make that same sort of statement again.
 

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Robert De Niro Gets Political as he Accepts SAG Awards Honor

Robert De Niro received the Screen Actors Guild lifetime achievement award Sunday to praise for his illustrious career and thunderous applause from his fellow performers, but spent much of his acceptance speech on politics.
“There’s right and there’s wrong, and there’s common sense and there’s abuse of power,” said De Niro, who received a standing ovation that lasted nearly a minute after Leonardo DiCaprio presented him with the award. About half of the room stood and applauded when De Niro said it was his responsibility to speak about politics and seemingly took aim at President Donald Trump, whose name he didn’t mention.
“As a citizen, I have as much right as anybody — an actor, an athlete, anybody else — to voice my opinion,” De Niro said. “And if I have a bigger voice because of my situation, I’m going to use it whenever I see a blatant abuse of power.”
De Niro became the 56th recipient of the guild’s highest honor during the ceremony held at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles.
The actor has been a frequent, and occasionally profane, critic of Trump, but kept his criticism Sunday G-rated. He ended the politics portion of his speech by saying, “That’s all I’m going to say.”
DiCaprio praised the actor for his authenticity during his introduction, saying he’s been watching De Niro since the age of 13. DiCaprio recounted how his his father at the time suggested he pattern his early acting skills after the “Raging Bull” star.
 
“His specificity in detail and his fearless pursuit of authenticity in his work have influenced not only myself, but entire generations,” said DiCaprio, who co-starred with De Niro in “This Boy’s Life” in 1993. The two will co-star in Martin Scorsese’s upcoming “Killers of the Flower Moon.”
 
“He has given us career-long explorations of the human conditions,” DiCaprio said.
After accepting the honor, De Niro thanked DiCaprio for his words then said he was ready to get back to work. DiCaprio carried De Niro’s award for him while the pair walked off stage, handing it back to his idol once in the wings.
“As actors, we don’t take victory laps,” De Niro said. “We’re too worried about what our next job will be. It makes me very happy to know that my next job will be working with you and Marty. At least I know that I have another year of health insurance.”
De Niro is a two-time Oscar winner for his supporting role in “The Godfather: Part II” and best actor in “Raging Bull.”  In 2011, he was also honored with the Golden Globes’ Cecil B. DeMille Award for his impact on the world of entertainment and awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom five years later.
Through his career, De Niro has worked with some of Hollywood’s top directors, but he’s best known for his collaborations with Scorsese. The veteran actor had his breakthrough performance in Scorsese’s 1973 film “Mean Streets” before their partnership flourished in other standout projects including “Taxi Driver,” “Goodfellas,” “Casino” and “The Irishman.” Those films helped De Niro become known for tough-minded and dark characters who sometimes displayed a violent nature.
DiCaprio called De Niro and Scorsese the “greatest partnership in cinema history.”
Later in his career, De Niro had some light-hearted roles, exploring his comedic persona in films such as in the “Meet the Fockers” and “Analyze That” franchises along with “Joker.”
“Robert De Niro is elemental,” DiCaprio said Sunday. “It feels as if he’s always been here, and will always be here.”

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‘Parasite’ Wins at SAG Awards, So Do Pitt and Aniston

“Parasite” has officially infected Hollywood’s award season. Bong Joon Ho’s Korean class satire became the first foreign language film to take top honors from the Screen Actors Guild on Sunday, setting itself up as a legitimate best picture contender to the front-runner “1917” at next month’s Academy Awards.   The best ensemble win for “Parasite” came over the starry epics “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood” and “The Irishman.” It was a surprise but only to a degree. “Parasite,” up for six Oscars including best picture, has emerged as perhaps the stiffest competition for Sam Mendes’ “1917,” which won at the highly predictive Producers Guild Awards on Saturday.  But “Parasite” was the clear crowd favorite Sunday at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, where even the cast’s appearance introducing the film drew a standing ovation. Yet until the SAG Awards, the many honors for “Parasite” have seldom included awards for its actors, none of whom were nominated for an Oscar.   “Although the title is ‘Parasite,’ I think the story is about coexistence and how we can all live together,” said Song Kang Ho, one of the film’s stars, through a translator.   Because actors make up the largest percentage of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, their picks are closely watched as an Academy Awards harbinger.Jennifer Aniston accepts the award for outstanding performance by a female actor in a drama series for “The Morning Show” at the 26th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium & Expo Hall, Jan. 19, 2020, in Los Angeles.But the last two years, the SAG ensemble winner has not gone on to win best picture: “Black Panther” last year and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” in 2018. And this year’s front-runner, “1917,” more acclaimed for its technical acumen, wasn’t nominated by the screen actors.   If “Parasite” can pull off the upset at the Feb. 9 Oscars, it would be the first foreign language film to do so.Before the win for “Parasite,” the SAG Awards were most notable as a reunion for Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston. They each took home awards and celebrated the other’s win.   Pitt is headed toward his first acting Academy Award for his supporting performance in “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood,” and he added to his front-runner status with a win from the actors’ guild. Along the way, his speeches have been  full of one-liners and he didn’t disappoint Sunday. Pitt, who said he was nursing a flu, looked down at his award and said, “I’ve got to add this to my Tinder profile.”He added: “Let’s be honest, it was a difficult part. A guy who gets high, takes his shirt off and doesn’t get on with his wife. It was a big stretch.” The audience laughed and clapped, including — as the cameras captured — Aniston, his ex-wife.Aniston later won an award of her own for best female actor in a drama series for the Apple TV Plus show “The Morning Show.” “What!” she said upon reaching the stage. Aniston finished her speech with a shout-out to her “Murder Mystery:” co-star Adam Sandler, whose performance in “Uncut Gems” has gone mostly unrewarded this season despite considerable acclaim. “Your performance is extraordinary and your magic is real. I love you, buddy,” said Aniston.  Backstage, Pitt watched Aniston’s acceptance speech. After she got off stage, they warmly congratulated each other on their first individual SAG Awards. Along with Pitt, all the Oscar favorites kept their momentum, including wins for Renee Zellweger (“Judy”), Joaquin Phoenix (“Joker”) and Laura Dern (“Marriage Story”).  Joaquin Phoenix reacts as he accepts the award for outstanding performance by a male actor in a leading role for “Joker” at the 26th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards.As expected, Phoenix took best performance by a leading male actor. After individually praising each fellow nominee, Phoenix concluded with a nod to his Joker predecessor. “I’m standing here on the shoulders of my favorite actor, Heath Ledger,” said Phoenix.  Dern also further established herself as the best supporting actress favorite with a win from the actors guild. On her way to the stage, she hugged her father, Bruce Dern, part of the “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood” ensemble.   Phoebe Waller-Bridge continued her awards sweep for “Fleabag,” a winner at the Emmys and the Golden Globes. Waller-Bridge added a SAG win for best female actor in a comedy series and took a moment to reflect on the show’s parade of accolades.  “This whole thing really has been a dream, and if I wake up tomorrow and discover it was just that, then thank you,” said Waller-Bridge. “It’s been the most beautiful dream.”   “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” also continued its streak, winning best comedy series ensemble for the second straight year, along with a win for Tony Shalhoub. But accepting the ensemble award, the show’s shocked Alex Borstein said she had voted for “Fleabag.”   “Honestly this makes no sense,’ said Borstein. “‘Fleabag’ is brilliant.'”  Robert De Niro was given the guild’s lifetime achievement award, an honor presented by Leonardo DiCaprio who, like De Niro, is a frequent leading man for Martin Scorsese. (The two co-star in Scorsese’s upcoming “Killers of the Flower Moon.”) A raucous standing ovation greeted the 76-year-old actor. De Niro, a fiery critic of Donald Trump, referenced the president in his remarks. “There’s right and there’s wrong. And there’s common sense and there’s abuse of power. As a citizen, I have as much right as anybody — an actor, an athlete, anybody else — to voice my opinion,” said De Niro. “And if I have a bigger voice because of my situation, I’m going to use it whenever I see a blatant abuse of power.”   “Game of Thrones” closed out its eight-season run with wins for Peter Dinklage for best male actor in a drama series and for best stunt ensemble work. “The Crown” took best ensemble in a drama series. And both “Fosse/Verdon” stars — Michelle Williams and Sam Rockwell — won for their performances in the miniseries.

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Washington’s Growing Soul Food Scene

What we now call soul food originally came out of black culture in the southern United States. At its core, soul food is a hearty, spicy food rich with the calories and protein African Americans needed to make it through long days of hard work, first as slaves on plantations and then after Emancipation working as sharecroppers on farms in the rural south.  But over time soul food has become high cuisine and it’s at the heart of some great Washington, DC, restaurants. VOA’s Unshin Lee reports.

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Winfrey Details Her Decision to Withdraw from Simmons Film

Oprah Winfrey said Friday that Russell Simmons attempted to pressure her about her involvement with a documentary in which several women detail sexual abuse allegations against the rap mogul, but his efforts were not what prompted her to leave the project.
“He did reach out multiple times and attempted to pressure me,” Winfrey told The Associated Press through a spokesperson on Friday. It was not anything Simmons said that prompted Winfrey to withdraw from the “On the Record” film, according to Winfrey, but rather inconsistencies in the story of one of Simmons’ accusers, Drew Dixon, that she felt needed to be addressed.
Winfrey said Friday that she still believes Dixon and other women in the film, but that more reporting was needed. “On the Record” directors Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering have said they have ample evidence against Simmons, a co-founder of Def Jam Recordings.
Winfrey has said she wanted to delay the release of the film, scheduled to premiere Jan. 25 at the Sundance Film Festival, but that that view was not shared by the film’s directors. “On the Record” had been part of her partnership with Apple, which no longer will distribute the documentary.
Winfrey, who herself has spoken openly of been sexually abused, announced she was leaving as executive producer on Jan. 10, saying that more work was needed and that and the filmmakers were “not aligned” in their “creative vision.”  The film’s producers, Impact Partners, said in a statement earlier this week that the movie was ready for Sundance.
“We have always championed the voices of those who have been wrongly silenced. The women in this film have made a great sacrifice by coming forward to tell their stories in their own words. We are honored to support them,” the Impact statement reads. “We stand firmly behind the work of the intrepid filmmakers who continue to break new ground by advancing important stories in the public interest.”
The AP does not typically name alleged victims of sexual abuse, but Dixon has told her story publicly, including on CBS This Morning earlier this week.
The communications between Winfrey and Simmons and her concerns about Dixon’s story were first reported by The New York Times.
Simmons has denied any wrongdoing. On Friday, a Simmons representative issued a statement, saying “If defending himself against terrible accusations is considered intimidation then there would be no justice.”
Speaking to The Associated Press on Friday, Winfrey disputed allegations by the makers of “On the Record” that she gave them little warning before her Jan. 10 announcement. In a story which ran early Friday, Dick and Ziering told The Hollywood Reporter  that they received just 20 minutes notice before Winfrey issued her statement.
“It was very disappointing and upsetting,” Ziering told The Hollywood Reporter. We were concerned about the survivors and what the hell this is going to do to them. That was our first thought. 'Oh my God. Let's tell everybody and figure this out.' "
Winfrey told the AP that Dick and Ziering knew well of her intentions. She said she had raised concerns last month about the film needing more work. According to Winfrey, she told Dick and Ziering that "new information'' had made her see gaps she "thought needed to be filled" and that it was better to "take a rest.''
"They said they would go on with or without me,'' Winfrey told the AP. She said the bottom line for her was that
The film isn’t ready.” 

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Jury of 7 Men, 5 Women Selected for Weinstein’s Rape Trial

A jury of seven men and five women was selected Friday for Harvey Weinstein’s rape trial after an arduous, two-week process in which scores of people were dismissed because they had already made up their minds about the disgraced Hollywood mogul. Opening statements are expected Wednesday in the case against the 67-year-old executive who has come to be seen as the arch villain of the #MeToo era. The once powerful and feared studio boss behind such Oscar winners as Pulp Fiction and Shakespeare in Love is charged with raping a woman in a New York City hotel room in 2013 and forcibly performing a sex act on another at his apartment in 2006. He has said any sexual activity was consensual. If convicted, he could get life in prison. During jury selection, prosecutors accused Weinstein’s lawyers of systematically trying to keep young women off the panel, though the final gender makeup of the jury turned out to be more closely balanced. Mistrial soughtFor its part, the defense raised an outcry and demanded a mistrial because one of the jurors is the author of an upcoming novel involving young women dealing with predatory older men. The request was denied, but Weinstein’s lawyers continued to claim outside court that the juror had withheld the information on her questionnaire. We got the best jury we could get under the circumstances, defense attorney Donna Rotunno told reporters. I'm obviously not happy with what happened in the end there. I think that was an absolutely ridiculous decision. The defense said it wasn’t specifically trying to exclude young women but didn’t want jurors too young to understand the way men and women interacted in the early 1990s. That was a different time in New York and on planet Earth,'' said another Weinstein attorney, Arthur Aidala, A stooped Weinstein, shuffling out of the courthouse with the use of a walker because of recent back surgery, had no comment when asked for his thoughts on jury selection.Ask Donna!” he said, referring to Rotunno. Donna Rotunno walks ahead of her client Harvey Weinstein, left, as they arrive at a Manhattan courthouse to attend jury selection for his trial on rape and sexual assault charges in New York, Jan. 17, 2020.Three alternates — one man and two women — were also seated and will sit through the trial and take the place of any jurors who can’t make it through to deliberations. On the first day of jury selection last week, one-third of the first 120 prospective jurors were promptly sent home after Judge James Burke asked if there was anyone who could not be impartial and about 40 hands went up. Each day for nearly a week afterward, dozens of people raised their hands when the question was asked of a new batch of potential jurors. Of the more than 600 people summoned for the case, some marked themselves for disqualification by admitting they knew one of Weinstein’s many accusers, had personal experience with sexual abuse or had read Catch and Kill, a book by Ronan Farrow, one of the first reporters to expose the allegations against Weinstein. Weinstein’s lawyers have tried, so far unsuccessfully, to move the trial out New York City, arguing that heavy publicity has turned the case into a carnival'' and that the media hub where celebrities and ordinary people often intersect can't possibly give their client a fair trial. The request is now before a state appeals court. Not a 'referendum'Cognizant of the media attention and the weight some people are attaching to the case, the judge cautioned potential jurors:This trial is not a referendum on the #MeToo movement.” Supermodel Gigi Hadid was summoned for jury duty and briefly remained in the running even though she said she had met the defendant. A man whose wife starred on a show that Weinstein’s studio produced said he couldn’t be impartial. A woman said she couldn’t be impartial because she has a close friend who had an encounter with the defendant in his hotel room.'' Another man was scratched for saying he couldn't be fair-minded because he had often spotted Weinstein in Manhattan's Tribeca neighborhood.On several occasions I’ve seen him on the phone screaming at someone,” he said. There was at least one instance of what jury consultants call stealth jurors'' — people eager to serve, especially on a high-profile case, because they hope to make a point or a profit. On Thursday, the judge threatened to hold a potential juror in contempt of court for asking his followers on Twitterhow a person might hypothetically leverage serving on the jury of a high-profile case to promote their new novel.” 

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‘Mr. Jones’ Explores Ukrainian Famine

Set in the 1933 Soviet Union, the historical movie drama “Mr. Jones,” director by Agnieszka Holland and first-time screenwriter Andrea Chalupa,  packs a powerful message. The movie tells a story of a young Welsh reporter searching for truth in the 1933 Soviet Union. Tatiana Vorozhko has the story, narrated by Joy Wagner.

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2020s Could Be Decade Millennials Finally Get Ahead

The 2020s might be the decade faltering millennials finally roar to financial health after a tough start brought on by the Great Recession, which lasted from 2007 until 2009. Coming of age during the worst economic downturn in the United States since the 1930s meant that many of these young people, who are now in their mid-20s to late-30s, experienced a delayed entrance into the job market or accepted lower-paying jobs for which they were overqualified.       Many millennials were hard hit due to a variety of factors, including high unemployment, student loan debt, and an increased cost of living, particularly if they graduated from high school or college during the downturn. 
“Since then, we’ve really had a lot of wage stagnation, particularly given that so many millennials started behind where they thought they would be,” says Jason Dorsey, president and lead millennial researcher at the Center for Generational Kinetics. “And it’s taken them longer to recover — if they have recovered.”  In this April 27, 2019, photo, millennials Andy and Stacie Proctor in the kitchen of their new home in Vineyard, Utah.Experts also say U.S. millennials are the first generation to feel the full impact of decades of Juan Hernandez of Hartford, Conn., was among millennials nationwide with student debt who worried about being able to qualify for a home loan, March 7, 2016.Millennials are at the age when Americans traditionally buy homes, start saving for the future, and invest for their retirement. It also will help that many have paid down their student debt now that they’ve been out of college for a number of years.“And at the same time, many of them will become potentially two-income households and that’s also really helpful for many of them,” Dorsey says. “It’s sort of a perfect storm. It just happens to align with the 2020s. It’s not that the 2020s are this famous decade, but more so that millennials are hitting the times when they should start really saving and investing, and earning higher incomes relative to their spending.”And if millennials blame previous generations for their current financial straits, it might cheer them up to know this is also the time many of them can expect to start inheriting wealth from their more well-off baby boomer parents or other relatives.   

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Thousands of Saudis Take Part in Unprecedented Show at Riyadh Stadium

An unprecedented show for the people of Saudi Arabia, with a young girl taking center stage and representing the kingdom’s younger generation, was held at Riyadh’s King Fahd stadium on Jan. 16, 2020.The event, attended by thousands of enthusiastic Saudis, was the grand finale of the Riyadh Season, a huge entertainment festival attended by millions over the past three months. The show, titled “Leila, the Land of Imagination” and incorporating dancing, music and fireworks, was about a 10-year-old girl who explores the history of Saudi Arabia and dreams of a future without prejudice. The event was the brainchild of Italy’s Marco Balich, responsible for more than 30 ceremonies for the Olympic Games. His all-female creative team worked inside and outside the kingdom for over a year and a half to create an unforgettable experience for the audience.  “Leila, the Land of Imagination,” the grand finale of the Riyadh Season, told the story of a young girl who represented Saudi’s new generation looking toward the future, in Saudi Arabia, Jan. 16, 2020. (Sabina Castelfranco/VOA)For Saudi entertainment authorities, it was a musical and fireworks extravaganza — the culmination of a festival with more than 200 artistic and sporting events in 12 areas of the capital. Many foreign visitors also participated. Balich, the executive producer, called it a “moment where energy is blossoming in Saudi Arabia. Women are now driving and taking positions and this new energy is transforming Saudi Arabia into a land of opportunities for the younger generation.”
  
“2020 is an amazing year for Saudi Arabia because things are actually physically changing,” Balich said. “Abaya [is] not compulsory anymore, music is everywhere, concerts, entertainment, 500 movie theaters. And this ceremony, this big show in the stadium summarizes, in a way, this kind of energy.”The grand finale of the Riyadh Season involves more than 400 performers, at the King Fahd Stadium in Saudi Arabia, Jan. 16, 2020. (Sabina Castelfranco/VOA)Creative director Angela Alo led the team that put the show together, involving more than 400 performers. Saudi Arabia is changing, she said, and the show represented that change. The journey of the main character Leila, whose name means “daughter of the night” in Arabic, was the result of wild imagination, she added.Balich also discussed the young Saudi girl.”Leila is a young girl that has a 70-year expectancy in front of her, of a country that is changing rapidly,” he said. “I believe that she can be the symbol of this gracious and gentle revolution that is happening in this country.”Najua, a young female dentist in the audience at the stadium, said it was the first time she had seen such a show, adding it was “really fantastic.”
 

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