Saturday, February 16, 2019

News Briefs

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  • Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019
Swiss actor Bruno Ganz, star of "Downfall," dies at 77
In this Monday, Feb. 13, 2017, file photo, Actor Bruno Ganz attends a press conference for the film 'The Party' at the 2017 Berlinale Film Festival in Berlin, Germany. Monday, Feb. 13, 2017. Bruno Ganz has died at 77. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber, file)
BERLIN (AP) -- 

Swiss actor Bruno Ganz, who played Adolf Hitler cooped up in his Berlin bunker in "Downfall" and an angel in Wim Wenders' "Wings of Desire," has died. He was 77.

German news agency dpa reported that Ganz's management said Saturday he died in Zurich.

Ganz, a prominent figure in the German-language theater world, shifted into movies in the 1970s, appearing in Werner Herzog's "Nosferatu" and Wenders' "The American Friend" among others. In one of his more recent appearances, he starred as Sigmund Freund in "The Tobacconist," released last year.

Berlin Mayor Michael Mueller said Ganz was "one of the greats" of the screen and stage. He said that "the death of Bruno Ganz is a great loss for the German-speaking theater and film world."

  • Friday, Feb. 15, 2019
Avnet, Holland named co-chairs of DGA Negotiations Committee
Jon Avnet (l) and Todd Holland
LOS ANGELES -- 

Directors Jon Avnet and Todd Holland have been appointed co-chairs of the next Directors Guild of America (DGA) Feature Film and Television Negotiations Committee. The DGA National Board approved the appointments at its board meeting on Sunday, February 3.

“As an important part of our preparation for the next round of negotiations, we have asked two of our experienced feature and television standard-bearers to lead our negotiations and serve as co-chairs,” said DGA president Thomas Schlamme. “Jon and Todd have accepted, and are eager to take on the next chapter of their considerable Guild service. We are fortunate to have the benefit of their experience, industry know-how and negotiating acumen.”

Avnet said, “We don’t yet know when we’ll begin our negotiations, but we’re preparing well in advance as we always do--through extensive research and engaging with our members and staff to determine key priorities. We will be ready when the time is right.”

Holland added, “We are focused on our core mission: the protection and advancement of the creative and economic rights of our members. Working alongside our Negotiations Committee members, our Creative Rights Committee, and the Guild’s professional staff--we’ll be ready to ensure the best outcome for our members.”

The DGA’s current three-year contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) expires on June 30, 2020.

Avnet has served on the DGA Negotiating Committee for the past three negotiations cycles. He is a National Board alternate, first elected in 2013, and has also served on the Western Directors Council as a member or alternate member since that time. Avnet is a trustee to the DGA Pension and Health Plans and a member of the Finance Committee. A veteran film and television director, Avnet is a two-time DGA Award nominee in the Movies For Television/Limited Series category.

Holland has served on the DGA Negotiating Committee for the past six negotiations cycles. He was first elected to the National Board as an alternate in 2009, and has served as a member or alternate member on the Western Directors Council for nearly two decades. He is also co-chair of the Diversity Task Force, a trustee to the DGA Pension and Health Plans, and second vice chair of the Directors Guild Foundation. Holland is a prolific television director. He won the DGA Award in the Television Comedy category in 2001, and is a six-time nominee. 

The Guild expects to appoint its full Negotiations Committees, made up of directors, assistant directors, unit production managers, associate directors and stage managers working in all genres, later this year. National executive Russell Hollander will serve as the Guild’s chief professional negotiator.

  • Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019
Zhang Yimou's "One Second" dropped from Berlin film festival
In this Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, file photo, Chinese director Zhang Yimou holds his award for Best Director at the 55th Golden Horse Awards in Taipei, Taiwan. The latest film from Zhang has been dropped from the Berlin International Film Festival for "technical reasons." A notice on the official account of the movie "One Second" on China's Weibo microblogging service apologized, but gave no details other than to say it was not possible to show the film at Berlin. (AP Photo/Billy Dai, File)
BEIJING (AP) -- 

The latest film from famed Chinese director Zhang Yimou has been dropped from the Berlin film festival for what the festival described as technical reasons.

A notice on the official Weibo microblogging service account for the movie "One Second" apologized but gave no details other than to say it was not possible to show the film at Berlin.

The festival said the film was pulled because of "technical difficulties encountered during post-production." It said the movie would be replaced at its scheduled Friday and Saturday showings with Zhang's action epic "Hero," which premiered in 2002 at the Great Hall of the People, the seat of China's legislature in the heart of Beijing.

Possibly China's best-known filmmaker, Zhang has oscillated between big-budget extravaganzas favored by the ruling Communist Party and edgier fare touching on sensitive political and social topics. His well-known releases include "Shadow," ''House of Flying Daggers," and "Raise the Red Lantern."

"One Second" is set amid the chaos and violence unleashed by Mao Zedong during the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution, a period rarely discussed in history books or portrayed on film. It's slated for release in China next year.

The party is hyper-sensitive to all direct or implied criticism and its control over the arts includes deciding what films are released based on largely secret criteria. Regulators routinely order what can and can't be shown, with special scrutiny for content pertaining to sex, criminal activity, social dislocation, and perceived questioning of the authority or reputation of the party.

Another Chinese film had also been pulled for Berlin for similar reasons. "Better Days," which portrays alienated youth was "withdrawn for censorship reasons," the trade magazine Variety reported, citing unidentified sources.

  • Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019
Watergate in full: Epic documentary shows at Berlin festival
Director Charles Ferguson poses for a photo prior to an interview with the Associated Press about his movie 'Watergate" at the 2019 Berlinale Film Festival in Berlin, Germany, Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
BERLIN (AP) -- 

Director Charles Ferguson thought Watergate had never "properly been done." The result is a documentary that explores the American presidential scandal in its full epic span and clocks in at more than four hours.

Ferguson, who directed the Oscar-winning financial crisis documentary "Inside Job," is presenting the film this week at the Berlin International Film Festival.

Titled "Watergate — Or: How We Learned to Stop an Out of Control President," it features extensive interviews with surviving players of the 1970s scandal and material from the tapes made by President Richard Nixon.

Ferguson told The Associated Press on Tuesday that while many books have been written and films made about Watergate, "there's never been one place where the entire story was told in a comprehensive way."

  • Monday, Feb. 11, 2019
Film academy reveals which 4 Oscars will be given off air
In this Feb. 4, 2019 file photo, an Oscar statue appears at the 91st Academy Awards Nominees Luncheon in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Danny Moloshok/Invision/AP, File)
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- 

The film academy has finally revealed the Oscar categories that will be presented during the commercial breaks of this year's broadcast.

A spokesperson for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said Monday that the awards for cinematography, film editing, makeup and hairstyling, and live-action short will be presented off-air.

The winning speeches will air later in the broadcast and will also be live-streamed on Oscar.com and the film academy's social accounts.

The plan to hand out certain awards during commercials to achieve a three-hour runtime was announced in August. In future years, four to six rotating categories could be cut from the broadcast.

The 91st Oscars will air on ABC on Feb. 24.

  • Monday, Feb. 11, 2019
Clooney returns to high school read "Catch 22" for Hulu show
George Clooney participates in the "Catch-22" panel during the Hulu presentation at the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour at The Langham Huntington on Monday, Feb. 11, 2019, in Pasadena, Calif. (Photo by Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP)
PASADENA, Calif. (AP) -- 

George Clooney says he never expected his next project to be a miniseries based on a novel he read in high school.

But against his initial inclination, he's directing and starring in Hulu's series "Catch-22," drawn from Joseph Heller's classic work about the insanity of war. The streaming service Hulu will release it this spring.

Clooney said Monday that the longer format allowed them to develop the characters beyond what could be done in Mike Nichols' 1970 classic movie. Adopted at the time by opponents of the Vietnam War, he said the story making fun of the red tape and bureaucracy of war is relevant today and not tied to a particular conflict.

Series makers say the mixture of horror and hilarity becomes more pronounced as the series goes on.

  • Monday, Feb. 11, 2019
Hulu making Howard the Duck and 4 more Marvel animated shows
Craig Erwich, Hulu's SVP of content, speaks at the executive session during the Hulu presentation at the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour at The Langham Huntington on Monday, Feb. 11, 2019, in Pasadena, Calif. (Photo by Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP)
PASADENA, Calif. (AP) -- 

Hulu is teaming with Marvel to make four separate animated series based on comic book characters like Howard the Duck.

Director Kevin Smith and comics Chelsea Handler and Patton Oswalt are among the people who have signed deals with the streaming service to help produce the cartoons. Smith will work on the Howard the Duck series.

Other shows revolve around M.O.D.O.K., a villain with an enormous head; Hit-Monkey, about a Japanese snow monkey turned assassin; and Tigra and Dazzler, two superheroes who work in Los Angeles.

Hulu senior vice president Craig Erwich said Monday that animation is a particular favorite for its users. Since the deal was just signed, there's no estimate on when the series will be ready.

  • Monday, Feb. 11, 2019
Michael Jackson estate: New film violates channel standards
In this Jan. 24, 2019, file photo, Wade Robson, from left, director Dan Reed and James Safechuck pose for a portrait to promote the film "Leaving Neverland" at the Salesforce Music Lodge during the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Taylor Jewell/Invision/AP, File)
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- 

The Michael Jackson estate has sent a letter to the U.K.'s Channel 4 warning that a documentary on two men who accuse the singer of molesting them as boys violates the network's programming guidelines.

The letter written by estate attorney Howard Weitzman and released Monday to The Associated Press states that "Leaving Neverland," set to air in early March, makes no attempt at getting a response to the accusers from Jackson's estate, family, friends or others who have defended his reputation as required by the channel's standards for factual programming and basic journalistic ethics.

The letter cites a section of the publicly available guidelines that state if a show makes "significant allegations" then "those concerned should be given an appropriate and timely opportunity to respond."

"I think we can all agree that the false allegations being made in your 'documentary' are 'significant allegations,'" the letter states, adding "it is hard to imagine more significant accusations that can possibly be made against anyone."

Yet no one was ever asked to respond, the letter states.

"This includes persons mentioned by name in your 'documentary' as having 'replaced' Robson and Safechuck as Jackson's supposed victims of abuse. Those named persons eloquently and publicly deny ever being abused," the letter states.

Channel 4 said in a statement Monday that the allegations against Jackson are rebutted in the documentary by denials that Jackson made during his lifetime. It says the broadcast meets Britain's official broadcasting code by providing these denials.

"On this occasion the person against whom the significant allegations are being made is deceased. It is therefore appropriate that his denials during life are included in the program," the station said.

The film's director Dan Reed has addressed the criticism from the estate previously, saying in a statement that he intentionally focused on just Robson and Safechuck.

"Anyone who sees the film will know it is solely about hearing the stories of two specific individuals and their families in their own words, and that is a focus we are very proud of," Reed said.

The three-page document from the estate echoes a longer letter it sent to HBO on Friday calling the allegations from Wade Robson and James Safechuck "disgraceful" and urging investigation of the men's backgrounds. A copy of the HBO letter was included with the Channel 4 letter, and applies just as much to the U.K. station, the letter states.

The two channels co-produced the documentary account of how the two men's lives intersected with Jackson's when they were kids at the height of his fame, and how the trauma of what they say happened in their youth started to emerge in their adult life.

It premiered last month at the Sundance Film Festival, where Robson and Safechuck got a standing ovation afterward.

Both had previously told authorities Jackson did not molest them, with Robson testifying as much in Jackson's 2005 trial, in which he was acquitted of molesting another boy. Jackson died in 2009.

Both men later filed lawsuits that were dismissed and are currently on appeal.

The AP does not typically name victims of sexual abuse, but attorneys for Robson and Safechuck have said they have agreed to be named publicly.

Associated Press writer Gregory Katz in London contributed.

  • Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019
Streep joins "Big Little Lies" after being fan of show
Nicole Kidman, left, and Meryl Streep participate in the "Big Little Lies" panel during the HBO portion of the TCA Winter Press Tour on Friday, Feb. 8, 2019, in Pasadena, Calif. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)
PASADENA, Calif. (AP) -- 

Meryl Streep's self-professed addiction to "Big Little Lies" had the bonus of turning the Oscar-winning actress into a star of the HBO drama's second season.

"I loved this show. I was addicted to it. I thought it was an amazing exercise in what we know and don't know about people — about family, about friends, about how we flirted with the mystery of things," Streep said Friday. "I wanted to do it to be in that world. The world they created was amazing."

In the seven-episode season beginning in June, Streep plays Mary Louise Wright, mother-in-law to Nicole Kidman's Celeste, whose abusive husband, Perry, died at the end of season one.

David E. Kelley, who wrote both seasons, joked that the much-acclaimed Streep had to pass muster to get the role.

"We looked at Meryl's demo reel," Kelley told a TV critics meeting. He noted that the character of Mary Louise was created by Liane Moriarty, whose novel "Big Little Lies" was adapted for the original season.

Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon return as executive producers and stars of the drama set in Monterey, California. Returning co-stars Laura Dern, Zoe Kravitz and Shailene Woodley comprise the so-called "Monterey Five" circle, joined together by dark secrets.

"We had such a good time doing it, and the desire to spend more time together had a lot to do with it," said Kidman, explaining the drama's return. "Also, there was an enormous demand from the audience ... It was generated by the audience, and the desire to see these people still in existence."

She noted the rarity of a series with so many female leads — let alone produced by and, this season, directed by a woman, Andrea Arnold — and the cast said the camaraderie they enjoyed last season was repeated.

Asked who proved the best storyteller in their off-camera moments, Streep's co-stars chorused, "Meryl!"

Streep modestly waved off the compliment, then added: "What happens in Monterey, stays in Monterey."

  • Friday, Feb. 8, 2019
"Wicked" movie musical to fly into theaters Christmas 2021
In this March 8, 2015, file photo, director Stephen Daldry attends the Broadway opening night of "The Audience" at The Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre in New York. Universal Pictures said Friday, Feb. 8, 2019, that the long-awaited movie version of the hit musical “Wicked" will land in theaters on Dec. 22, 2021. It had originally been on the schedule for this December.(Photo by Greg Allen/Invision/AP, File)
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- 

The winds have changed again for the long-awaited movie version of the hit musical "Wicked."

Universal Pictures says Friday that the film will land in theaters on Dec. 22, 2021. It had originally been on the schedule for this December.

Stephen Daldry is still set to direct the film, with Marc Platt producing.

Based on a 1995 book by Gregory Maguire, "Wicked" is a reimagining of "The Wizard of Oz" told from the perspective of the witches.

Winnie Holzman and Oscar-winning composer and lyricist Stephen Schwartz are reteaming for the screenplay adaption. Platt, Holzman and Schwartz all worked on the Broadway show which debuted in 2003. The original Broadway production went on to win three Tony Awards.

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