Monday, March 18, 2019

News Briefs

Displaying 41 - 50 of 3475
  • Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019
Lawsuit takes aim at HBO's Michael Jackson documentary
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 estate of Michael Jackson on Thursday sued HBO over a documentary about two men who accuse the late pop superstar of molesting them when they were boys, saying the film violates a 1992 contract to air a Jackson concert.

The lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court alleges that by co-producing and airing "Leaving Neverland," as HBO intends to do next month, the cable channel is breaching a deal to not disparage the singer. The decades-old contract allowed the cable network to air "Michael Jackson in Concert in Bucharest: The Dangerous Tour" and included language that HBO would not disparage Jackson at any future point.

According to the suit, the film implies Jackson molested children on the very tour that the concert footage came from.

"It is hard to imagine a more direct violation of the non-disparagement clause," says the suit, which asks the court to order arbitration and says damages could exceed $100 million.

The film premiered in January at the Sundance Film Festival, where its subjects Wade Robson and James Safechuck received a standing ovation and took questions afterward along with director Dan Reed. The first installment of the four-hour documentary will first air on HBO on March 3, with the second half airing the following night. Britain's Channel 4 will air it around the same time.

HBO did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit, but the channel has consistently defended the documentary in the face of complaints from the estate.

The lawsuit states in its opening sentence that "Michael Jackson is innocent. Period," and goes on to recount the criminal investigation and 2005 trial in which Jackson was acquitted, highlighting the conflicting statements through the years of Robson and Safechuck, who are described as "admitted perjurers" in the suit. Both men told authorities that Jackson did not molest them, later claiming they were abused in lawsuits filed after the singer's death and in graphic detail in "Leaving Neverland."

It also reiterates the estate's position that it was irresponsible for the film not to include any defense of Jackson from those who knew him or further fact checks of the men.

HBO responded with a statement saying its plans to air "Leaving Neverland" remain unchanged.

"Dan Reed is an award-winning filmmaker who has carefully documented these survivors' accounts," the network's statement said. "People should reserve judgment until they see the film."

Reed is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

"Michael is an easy target because he is not here to defend himself, and the law does not protect the deceased from defamation, no matter how extreme the lies are," the lawsuit states. "Michael may not have lived his life according to society's norms, but genius and eccentricity are not crimes."

  • Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019
Police official: Smollett suspected of lying about attack
In this Monday, May 14, 2018 file photo, actor and singer Jussie Smollett attends the Fox Networks Group 2018 programming presentation after party at Wollman Rink in Central Park in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)
CHICAGO (AP) -- 

Chicago detectives suspect that "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett filed a false police report when he said he was the victim of a racist, homophobic attack in downtown Chicago late last month, a police official said Wednesday.

Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi also said Wednesday that detectives and two brothers who were earlier deemed suspects in the Jan. 29 attack were testifying before a grand jury.

Smollett's attorneys, Todd Pugh and Victor P. Henderson, met with prosecutors and police earlier Wednesday afternoon. It's unknown what was discussed or whether Smollett attended the meeting. The attorneys didn't reply to requests seeking comment.

Smollett, who is black and gay and plays Jamal Lyon on the hit Fox TV show, said he was attacked by two masked men at around 2 a.m. on Jan. 29 as he was walking home from a Subway sandwich shop in downtown Chicago. He said they beat him, made racist and homophobic comments and yelled "This is MAGA country" — an apparent reference to President Donald Trump's campaign slogan, "Make America Great Again" — before looping a rope around his neck and fleeing.

Fox Entertainment and 20th Century Fox Television issued a statement earlier Wednesday saying Smollett "continues to be a consummate professional on set" and that his character isn't being written off the show. The statement followed reports that Smollett's role was being slashed amid the police investigation into the reported attack.

Investigators went through hundreds of hours of private and public surveillance video from the area where Smollett said he was attacked but couldn't find footage of the beating. They did find and release images of two people they said they wanted to question. And last week, police picked up the two brothers at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport as they returned from Nigeria and questioned them about the attack. They also searched the men's apartment.

The men, who were identified to multiple media outlets by their attorney as Abimbola "Abel" and Olabinjo "Ola" Osundairo, were held for nearly 48 hours on suspicion of assaulting Smollett before being released Friday. Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said last week that media reports about the attack being a hoax were unconfirmed by case detectives, but on Saturday, he said the men provided information that had "shifted the trajectory of the investigation." He also said detectives had requested another interview with Smollett.

The Osundairos' attorney, Gloria Schmidt, hasn't responded to multiple requests for comment from The Associated Press.

Smollett's lawyers have said the actor was angered and "victimized" by reports that he may have played a role in staging the attack.

"Nothing is further from the truth and anyone claiming otherwise is lying," Pugh and Henderson said in a statement Saturday.

Anne Kavanagh, a spokeswoman for Smollett's lawyers, said they would "keep an active dialogue with Chicago police on his behalf." She didn't respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

Chicago's top prosecutor, Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx, recused herself from the investigation Tuesday, according to a one-sentence statement issued by a spokeswoman.

"Out of an abundance of caution, the decision to recuse herself was made to address potential questions of impartiality based upon familiarity with potential witnesses in the case," spokeswoman Tandra Simonton said. She didn't elaborate as to how Foxx was familiar with anyone in the case and she said Foxx would have no further comment. Foxx's first assistant, Joe Magats, will oversee the case, the office said.

  • Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019
Supreme Court staying out of actor's "Empire" lawsuit
In this Jan. 24, 2019 file photo, the Supreme Court is seen at sunset in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
WASHINGTON (AP) -- 

The Supreme Court is staying out of a lawsuit involving the television show "Empire."

The high court said Tuesday it won't take a case involving the Fox show, which follows a black family navigating the ups and downs of the record industry. That means a decision in favor of "Empire" co-creators Danny Strong and Lee Daniels stands.

Actor Clayton Prince Tanksley sued in 2016, claiming that "Empire" was substantially similar to a television show he had pitched at a competition in 2008. The lawsuit said Daniels was a judge at the competition and expressed an interest in the show Tanksley called "Cream," which involved a black record executive. A trial court dismissed the lawsuit, ruling that the shows weren't substantially similar. An appeals court agreed.

"Empire" debuted in 2015.

  • Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019
Twitter tightens up EU political ad rules ahead of election
In this Nov. 6, 2013 file photo, the Twitter bird logo is on an updated phone post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, FILE)
LONDON (AP) -- 

Twitter said Tuesday it is tightening up rules for European Union political ads ahead of bloc-wide elections this spring, following similar moves by fellow tech giants Facebook and Google.

The social media company said it is extending restrictions already in place for federal elections in the United States.

Under the new rules, which will also apply in Australia and India, political advertisers will need to be certified.

It's also taking steps to increase transparency. Ads, in the form of "promoted tweets," from the past seven days will be stored in a publicly accessible database showing how much was spent, how many times it was seen and the demographics of the people who saw it.

Facebook and Google have put in similar systems ahead of the EU vote in May, as the U.S. tech companies respond to criticism they didn't do enough to prevent misuse of their platforms by malicious actors trying to sway previous elections around the world.

"This is part of our overall goal to protect the health of the public conversation on our service and to provide meaningful context around all political entities who use our advertising products," the company said in a blog post .

Hundreds of millions of people are set to vote for more than 700 European Union parliamentary lawmakers.

Political advertisers can start applying now for certification under Twitter's stricter ad rules, which take effect March 11, by providing more information such as photo ID or a company identification number.

Twitter defines political ads as those bought by a party or candidate or that advocate for or against a candidate or party.

  • Monday, Feb. 18, 2019
Film Craft Executive Jury set for NY Festivals Advertising Awards
Megan Kelly, founder/managing partner/EP of Honor Society
NEW YORK -- 

New York Festivals® Advertising Awards announced the 2019 NYF Film Craft Executive Jury. Members of the jury are:

  • Jesse Brihn, director of production, Droga5
  • Anna de Castro, executive producer, Google Creative Lab, NY
  • Jordana Freydberg, executive producer, London Alley
  • Sara Greco, executive producer, Serial Pictures
  • Charles Howell, managing director, Framestore, New York
  • Megan Kelly, founder/managing partner/EP, Honor Society
  • Zack Kortright, EP/head of business development, Hornet
  • Michael Kuhn, founding partner/director, Greenpoint Pictures
  • Adam Perloff, executive producer, BBH New York
  • Sune Sorensen, director, Cadence Films

These industry professionals dedicated to creativity and the aesthetics of filmmaking will collectively review the innovative Film Craft finalists selected by New York Festivals online Grand Jury. The Film Craft Executive Jury will judge this year’s Film Craft submissions in New York City on April 30 and May 1.

“We’re thrilled to have this highly regarded award-winning collective of production experts to curate the 2019 New York Festivals Film Craft winners,” said Susan Glass Ruse, executive director of New York Festivals Advertising Awards. “Their ability to recognize impeccably creative and flawlessly executed work will result in artistically captivating films being honored.” 

Droga5’s Brihn stated, “Effective advertising finds the perfect balance between art and commerce. And, as an industry of creative problem solvers, it’s our duty to our clients and ourselves, that we honor the public with integrity driven, purposeful content. I’m honored to be a part of the New York Festivals International Advertising Awards and look forward to recognizing this year’s incredible collection of filmmakers.” 

The final deadline to enter the 2019 New York Festivals Advertising Awards is March 1. For more information and to enter the 2019 competition, click here.

  • Monday, Feb. 18, 2019
Lisa Borders steps down as head of Time's Up organization
In this Sept. 7, 2018, file photo, then WNBA president Lisa Borders addresses media members before Game 1 of the WNBA basketball finals between the Seattle Storm and the Washington Mystics in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- 

Lisa Borders says she has resigned as president and CEO of Time's Up, the gender equality initiative formed last year in response to sexual misconduct allegations in Hollywood.

Borders says in statement Monday that she is stepping aside "with deep regret" due to family issues. She didn't elaborate.

Chief Operating Officer Rebecca Goldman will serve as interim CEO while the organization conducts an executive search.

Borders, former president of the WNBA, was named head of Time's Up last year.

The organization was formed in January 2018 in response to sexual misconduct allegations leveled against powerful men in the entertainment industry including Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey.

  • Monday, Feb. 18, 2019
Julia Roberts to receive George Eastman Award for movie work
This image released by Amazon shows Julia Roberts in a scene from "Homecoming," an Amazon series premiering on Nov. 2. (Hilary B Gayle/Amazon via AP)
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) -- 

Actress Julia Roberts will be this year's recipient of the George Eastman Award, given to honor contributions to the art of cinema.

The George Eastman Museum in Rochester says it will honor the "Pretty Woman" and "Steel Magnolias" actress on May 2.

Past recipients include Lauren Bacall, Charlie Chaplin, Gary Cooper and Meryl Streep.

Museum director Bruce Barnes cites the breadth of Roberts' career and roles over the past 30 years. She has earned a best actress Academy Award and three Golden Globes, along with more than a dozen other nominations.

The museum says it established the George Eastman Award in 1955 as the first retrospective award to honor film work of enduring artistic value.

Tickets for the May ceremony go on sale March 18.

 

  • Monday, Feb. 18, 2019
U.K. lawmakers slam Facebook, recommend stiffer regulation
In this May 18, 2012, file photo a television photographer shoots the sign outside of Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. A parliamentary committee report published Sunday, Feb. 17, 2019, has recommended that the United Kingdom government increase oversight of social media platforms like Facebook to better control harmful or illegal content. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, File)
NEW YORK (AP) -- 

British lawmakers issued a scathing report Monday that accused Facebook of intentionally violating privacy and anti-competition laws in the U.K., and called for greater oversight of social media companies.

The report on fake news and disinformation on social media sites followed an 18-month investigation. The parliamentary committee that prepared the report says social media sites should have to follow a mandatory code of ethics overseen by an independent regulator to better control harmful or illegal content.

The report called out Facebook in particular, saying that the site's structure seems to be designed to "conceal knowledge of and responsibility for specific decisions."

"It is evident that Facebook intentionally and knowingly violated both data privacy and anti-competition laws," the report states. It also accuses CEO Mark Zuckerberg of showing contempt for the U.K. Parliament by declining numerous invitations to appear before the committee.

Facebook did not immediately respond to an email request for comment.

Facebook and other internet companies have been facing increased scrutiny over how they handle user data and have come under fire for not doing enough to stop misuse of their platforms by groups trying to sway elections.

The report by the Parliament's media committee echoes and expands upon an interim report with similar findings issued by the committee in July . And in December , a trove of documents released by the committee offered evidence that the social network had used its enormous trove of user data as a competitive weapon, often in ways designed to keep its users in the dark.

Facebook faced its biggest privacy scandal last year when Cambridge Analytica, a now-defunct British political data-mining firm that worked for the 2016 Donald Trump campaign, accessed the private information of up to 87 million users.

  • 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.

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