Tuesday, November 20, 2018

News Briefs

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  • Friday, Oct. 12, 2018
Film academy honors 19 student filmmakers
Animated film winner Hanna Kim prior to the 45th Annual Student Academy Awards® on Thursday, October 11, in Beverly Hills (photo by Richard Harbaugh/courtesy of AMPAS)
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) -- 

Nineteen student filmmakers got the opportunity to "thank the academy" at the actual Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on Thursday night.

The winners of the 45th Student Academy Awards are eligible to compete for a 2018 Academy Award in the animated short, live action short and documentary short categories. They join an esteemed list of Student Academy Award alumni like Pete Docter, Cary Fukunaga, Spike Lee, Trey Parker, Patricia Riggen and Robert Zemeckis.

During the presentation in the storied Samuel L. Goldwyn theater, presenters like "The Big Sick" star and co-writer Kumail Nanjiani and "Twilight" director Catherine Hardwicke introduced a fascinating array of short films ranging in subject from an animated raccoon trying to handle a flashlight somewhat clumsily to a teenage girl who showcases a suicide confessional in her high school film class and a documentary about dust.

Seven hundred film academy members sifted through 1,582 entries from 400 schools (278 domestic and 122 international) to arrive at the final winners, who hail from locations including China, India, Switzerland, Mongolia and France. Categories recognized include narrative, documentary, animated and alternative productions by American and international college students.

Winners were given a few minutes onstage at the storied Samuel Goldwyn Theater, flanked by two larger-than-life Oscar statuettes to accept the award and give a speech, thanking the film academy, partners, and moms and dads.

"My mom gave me so many children's books for me to read," said Hanna Kim, who won the gold medal for animation for her short "Raccoon and the Light." ''Those books ended up being my main inspiration and reason for making this film."

Not all the winners were young adults. Mart Bira, who won the gold award for international documentary, noted that at 45, she is "the same age as the Student Academy Awards." Bira, who directed the short "Nomadic Doctor," said she was the first Mongolian filmmaker to receive the award, for which she was "truly honored."

The Student Academy Awards is a tradition dating back to 1972 to help spotlight emerging global talent in the entertainment industry. This past year, two winners went on to get Oscar nominations — Kevin Wilson Jr. for his live action short "My Nephew Emmett" and Katja Benrath for "Watu Wote/All of Us."

The 2018 Student Academy Award winners:

  • "Reanimated," Shae Demandt, Florida State University
  • "Daisy," Yu Yu, University of Southern California
  • "Raccoon and the Light," Hanna Kim, California Institute of the Arts
  • "Re-Gifted," Eaza Shukla, Ringling College of Art and Design
  • "The Green Bird," Pierre Perveyrie, Maximilien Bougeois, Marine Goalard, Irina Nguyen-Duc and Quentin Dubois, MOPA
  • "An Edited Life," Mathieu Faure, New York University
  • "Dust Rising," Lauren Schwartzman, University of California, Berkeley
  • "Love & Loss," Yiying Li, University of Southern California
  • "Nomadic Doctor," Mart Bira, University of Hertfordshire
  • "Esta Es Tu Cuba"/ "This Is Your Cuba," Brian Robau, Chapman University
  • "Lalo's House," Kelley Kali, University of Southern California
  • "Spring Flower," Hua Tong, University of Southern California
  • "A Siege," Istvan Kovacs, University of Theatre and Film Arts, Budapest
  • "Almost Everything," Lisa Gertsch, Zurich University of the Arts
  • "Get Ready with Me," Jonatan Etzler, Stockholm Academy of the Arts
  • Friday, Oct. 12, 2018
Risk of streaming fatigue as Walmart, AT&T, Disney join fray
In this Friday, Jan. 17, 2014, file photo, a person displays Netflix on a tablet in North Andover, Mass. Walmart, AT&T and Disney are joining stalwarts such as Netflix in streaming video and creating original shows. But a reality is setting in: Not all will survive. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File)
NEW YORK (AP) -- 

As Walmart, AT&T and Disney join stalwarts such as Netflix in streaming video and creating original shows, a reality sets in: Not all will survive.

Over the past week, Walmart announced plans to partner with MGM Studios on original shows for Walmart's video-on-demand service, Vudu, while AT&T's WarnerMedia said it would create its own streaming service centered on HBO and Turner properties. Disney, meanwhile, is buying Fox's entertainment businesses to beef up its planned streaming service , set to debut next year.

Add to that some existing, but little-known services, such as Filmstruck, Sundance Now, Mubi and others that offer older movies or niche offerings to subscribers.

These companies are trying to keep up with the changing tastes of consumers as they stream video on demand rather than rely on traditional cable subscriptions. But consumers have limited funds to spend; streaming behemoths like Netflix and Amazon got an early start and a lion's share of subscribers so far.

"Too many services (are) going after the same consumer and piece of the pie," Wedbush analyst Dan Ives said. "Streaming represents a significant market opportunity for the coming years but ultimately (streaming video) will have a few clear winners and a graveyard of those vendors that will fail."

In a way, the overabundance of streaming services echoes the proliferation of too many cable channels in the traditional cable model and the old complaint of "so many channels and nothing is on." Back then, cable companies forced you to get those channels and raised monthly fees regularly. Now the power is shifting to the consumer: if they don't want to watch something, they don't buy it.

The streaming market is growing, although at a slowing pace. EMarketer expects the number of people who use one or more video services in the U.S. to grow about 4 percent to 206 million by 2020. Google's YouTube and Netflix are the clear winners so far. YouTube has an estimated 191 million users and Netflix about 133 million, according to eMarketer. Amazon has been nipping at its heels, with an estimated 90 million.

Newer upstarts will face a tough battle to compete.

Each company is hoping its own exclusive content will pique viewers' interest. Walmart and MGM will debut an update on "Mr. Mom." WarnerMedia has HBO's arsenal of hit shows like "Game of Thrones." Disney has an endless stream of popular movies such as "Frozen" and the "Star Wars" and Marvel franchises. It's also planning original shows based on those franchises.

Companies risk extinction if they cannot create their own versions of "Must See TV" shows of the past, said Seth Shapiro, a professor at the University of Southern California's School of Cinematic Arts.

"How many things are people going to want to pay for at once? How many subscriptions can the market bear?" he said. Services "that are sort of nice to have but not really essential will fall by the wayside."

The contest has parallels to the DVD-by-mail competition more than a decade ago. In 2002, Walmart created its own online DVD rental service to compete with Netflix. But the retailer ended that in 2005 and transferred its customers to Netflix, signaling the world's largest retailer couldn't beat the internet upstart at its own game.

  • Friday, Oct. 12, 2018
Coogler to return as writer-director of "Black Panther 2"
In this Jan. 30, 2018 photo, filmmaker Ryan Coogler poses for a portrait at the "Black Panther" press junket at the Montage Beverly Hills in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP, File)
NEW YORK (AP) -- 

Ryan Coogler isn't leaving Wakanda: The filmmaker will write and direct the sequel to "Black Panther."

A person close to the production who requested anonymity because they weren't authorized to announce the deal confirmed Coogler's return to the Marvel franchise on Thursday. The Hollywood Reporter first reported Coogler's widely expected involvement in the "Black Panther" sequel.

Neither a start date nor a release date has yet been announced.

"Black Panther" earlier this year grossed more than $1.3 billion worldwide, including $700 million domestically — a new record for a Marvel release.

Coogler is also a producer on the upcoming "Creed 2," a sequel to the Coogler's 2015 Apollo Creed film.

  • Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018
Deluxe unveils Stage One for color grading
Deluxe's Stage One
LOS ANGELES -- 

Deluxe has unveiled its new color grading environment, Stage One. The expansive theater is equipped with top quality projection, including the world’s largest RealD Ultimate Screen® in a private facility, as well as advanced color grading, audio and editorial systems. Located in Deluxe Audio Seward at Hollywood’s historic Glen Glenn Sound building, the 4,000 square foot space features plush seating, perfect black levels, RealD and Stewart screens, Barco projectors, and advanced audio, among other amenities.

William Sherak, president Deluxe Post Production said that Stage One “represents Deluxe’s commitment to building the largest color and post operation in the world. The scale, the technology, and comfort give filmmakers an unparalleled experience in finishing their projects.”

“I’ve been dreaming of a space like Stage One since I started color finishing,” noted sr. colorist Skip Kimball, whose recent credits include ‘Deadpool 2’ at EFILM. “We’re set up to handle any format and have a fleet of projectors so I can grade on a screen that’s comparable to exhibition; it’s much easier to evaluate the picture and address any issues when you can see it on a 60-foot screen. And the size of Stage One is incredible; it can comfortably accommodate 120 people, so we can handle conform, color and VFX all in one space and with the director and cinematographer for a more streamlined process.”

Deluxe’s Stage One, which is already being used in production, features a RealD Ultimate Screen® with a 45’ x 21’7” maximum image and a Stewart Filmscreen SnoMatte 100 screen with 41’3” x 22’4” maximum image, and can accommodate the latest display monitors, allowing production to view content in whatever format is needed throughout production. The space is also equipped with two Christie Dolby Vision™ Eclipse laser projectors, capable of providing 108-nit brightness standard as well as high frame rate projection and 4K resolution; a Barco DP4K-P reference projector for theatrical grading at 48 nits in 4K resolution; and a Barco DP4k-32B projector for RealD stereo theatrical grading at up to 48 nits in 4K resolution. Available color grading and editorial systems include Blackmagic Resolve, Autodesk Lustre and Flame, and Filmlight Baselight.

  • Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018
Appeals court: Lynyrd Skynyrd film can be released
This May 27, 2005 file photo shows members of Lynyrd Skynyard, lead singer Johnny Van Zant, center, guitarists Rickey Medlocke, left, and Gary Rossington performing in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/John Russell)
NEW YORK (AP) -- 

A new Lynyrd Skynyrd film can be released despite a dispute over the band's intentions after a federal appeals court ruled in its favor Wednesday.

The decision by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan came in a case involving a movie called "Street Survivors: The True Story of the Lynyrd Skynyrd Plane Crash."

A lower court judge decided previously the film violated a "blood oath" made by bandmembers not to exploit the group's name after a 1977 plane crash that killed its lead singer and songwriter, Ronnie Van Zant. The band's hits included "Sweet Home Alabama" and "Free Bird."

The 2nd Circuit reversed that decision, saying the movie can be distributed.

Evan Mandel, an attorney for Cleopatra Entertainment, said the filmmaker "is thrilled" the three-judge panel protected the company's right to publish a film about Artimus Pyle's survival in the plane crash. Pyle is a former drummer with the pioneering 1970s southern rock band.

"The band fails to appreciate the irony of singing about freedom while attempting to use a secret gag order to prevent other artists from expressing views with which the band disagrees," said Mandel, representing Los Angeles-based Cleopatra Records Inc. and Cleopatra Films.

"The court's decision is a victory for filmmakers, artists, journalists, readers, viewers, and the marketplace of ideas," Mandel added.

The lawsuit was brought by Van Zant's widow and others, including founding band member Allen Collins. Their lawyers did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The 2nd Circuit concluded a consent order meant to resolve a 1988 lawsuit over how the band's name could be used was insufficiently precise in its language to sustain an order blocking the film's distribution.

The appeals court noted that the filmmaker was supported in its appeal by several journalism and entertainment organizations, highlighting First Amendment concerns.

But the judges said those who believed it was a classic First Amendment violation involving an unlawful prior restraint were wrong.

"It is not," the appeals court said. "No government entity has obtained a court order to prevent the making or release of the film, ... nor does the case involve a claim of defamation or invasion of privacy as to which the First Amendment imposes special requirements."

Yet, the court said, the case does implicate free speech concerns, and courts should be hesitant to block the viewing of an expressive work such as a movie prior to its public availability.

It also noted that Cleopatra did not sign the consent decree.

  • Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018
AT&T's WarnerMedia to offer their own streaming service
This July 27, 2017, file photo shows an AT&T logo at a store in Hialeah, Fla. AT&T and WarnerMedia are joining the ever-expanding list of companies offering a streaming video service. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz, File)
NEW YORK (AP) -- 

AT&T and WarnerMedia are joining the ever-expanding list of companies offering a streaming video service.

They say the service due to launch in late 2019 will include films, TV shows, documentaries, animation and other offerings. No pricing was announced.

It's the second product AT&T has unveiled since its $81 billion acquisition in June of Time Warner, which it renamed WarnerMedia. That same month it launched WatchTV, a cable-like package of more than 30 TV channels delivered over the internet.

More people are switching to streaming video from traditional cable bundles. Other streaming services include Netflix, Hulu, HBO Now, CBS All Access, Showtime, Amazon, YouTube Premium and others. And Disney is set to launch its own service later next year as well.

While details about the service have not been announced, WarnerMedia has media properties including HBO, which offers its own stand-alone streaming service that carries popular shows like "Westworld" and" Game of Thrones." Other properties include Warner Bros. movie studio, D.C. Comics and Turner Broadcasting.

  • Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018
Steve McQueen's thriller "Widows" opens London Film Festival
A scene from Steve McQueen's "Widows" (courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox)
LONDON (AP) -- 

The London Film Festival is kicking off Wednesday with the European premiere of British director Steve McQueen's whip-smart heist thriller "Widows."

The film stars Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez and Elizabeth Debicki as women who band together after their husbands are killed in a robbery gone wrong. The Chicago-set movie by the Academy Award-winning, London-born director of "12 Years a Slave" weaves insights about race, money and class in America into a twisting thriller plot.

The 62nd London festival includes the event's biggest-ever batch of films by women. Organizers say 38 percent of all films and 30 percent of the 225 features in the lineup have female directors, an increase on 24 percent of features in 2017.

Films directed by women include Sudabeh Mortezai's sex-trafficking drama "Joy"; Karyn Kusama's police thriller "Destroyer" starring Nicole Kidman; and Sara Colangelo's drama "The Kindergarten Teacher" with Maggie Gyllenhaal.

The schedule also includes David Mackenzie's kilts-and-carnage Scottish epic "Outlaw King"; Joel and Ethan Coen's Western anthology film "The Ballad of Buster Scruggs"; Alfonso Cuaron's Mexico-set "Roma"; Mike Leigh's historical epic "Peterloo"; and Peter Jackson's documentary "They Shall Not Grow Old," which transforms grainy footage from World War I into color.

Prince William is due to attend the premiere of Jackson's film on Tuesday, weeks before the centenary of the end of the 1914-18 war in which 20 million people died.

The "Lord of the Rings" director restored film from the Imperial War Museum using cutting-edge digital technology and hand coloring, pairing it with archive audio recollections from veterans of the conflict.

Jackson said the process revealed new details and brought out the humanity of the soldiers.

"They suddenly are human beings just like we are," he told The Associated Press.  "You can see the jokers and the serious ones and the worrying guys and you know, all the different sort of personality types that you encounter today — they were all there and you could see it on their faces."

The festival closes Oct. 21 with John S. Baird's Laurel and Hardy biopic "Stan & Ollie."

Hilary Fox contributed to this story.

  • Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2018
Gunn, fired from "Guardians," to write new "Suicide Squad"
In this Nov. 11, 2017 file photo, director James Gunn arrives at the 9th annual Governors Awards in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File)
NEW YORK (AP) -- 

James Gunn may have been fired from Marvel's "Guardians of the Galaxy," but DC Comics will welcome him with open arms.

Warner Bros. on Tuesday confirmed that Gunn will write the script to the studio's next installment of "Suicide Squad," the DC supervillain team-up franchise. In July, Disney fired Gunn after jokes involving rape and pedophilia he wrote years earlier on Twitter resurfaced.

The creative force between the two hugely popular "Guardians" films, Gunn's firing prompted its own backlash. The cast issued a statement of support for their writer-director, imploring Disney to reinstate him.

But instead, Gunn will take over "Suicide Squad," the franchise led by Will Smith, Margot Robbie and Jared Leto. The first film, written and directed by David Ayer, earned $747 million in 2016 but drew withering reviews. Gunn is expected to take an entirely new approach, and potentially direct the new "Suicide Squad" installment.

Gunn's tweets, largely from 2009-2012, received renewed attention after Gunn's criticism of President Donald Trump prompted far-right propagandists Mike Cernovich and Jack Posobiec to comb through Gunn's social media history. Gunn apologized.

"My words of nearly a decade ago were, at the time, totally failed and unfortunate efforts to be provocative," said Gunn. "I have regretted them for many years since — not just because they were stupid, not at all funny, wildly insensitive, and certainly not provocative like I had hoped, but also because they don't reflect the person I am today or have been for some time."

The "Suicide Squad" job is the first Gunn has taken since departing "Guardians," for which he had been expected to make a third film.

Gunn gives Warner Bros. and DC Comics one of the most fan boy-approved voices in comic book films at a time when Warner Bros. is remaking much of its superhero operations. Gunn's witty, irreverent sensibility turned Marvel's "Guardians of the Galaxy" from little-known minor characters into one Disney's most acclaimed and bankable franchises. The first "Guardians" grossed $773 million and the sequel grossed $863 million.

  • Monday, Oct. 8, 2018
Arnold Kopelson, "Platoon" producer, dies at 83
In this Monday, March 31, 1987 file photo, Claire Simpson, center, is flanked by Arnold Kopelson, left, and Oliver Stone as the threesome meets backstage at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles after receiving Oscars, for best editing (Simpson), best direction (Stone) and best picture (Kopelson) for the film, "Platoon." (AP Photo/Lennox McLendon, File)
NEW YORK (AP) -- 

Arnold Kopelson, a versatile film producer whose credits ranged from the raunchy teen smash "Porky's" to the Holocaust drama "Triumph of the Spirit" to the Oscar-winning "Platoon," died Monday. He was 83.

Family spokesman Jeff Sanderson told The Associated Press that Kopelson died of natural causes at his home in Beverly Hills, California. He is survived by his wife and business partner, Anne Kopelson, and by three children.

On Twitter, fellow director William Friedkin mourned his passing, and Joan Collins posted a picture of her with Kopelson and called him "a great friend, a brilliant producer and a fabulous dinner companion."

A New York City native and graduate of New York Law School, Kopelson broke into show business as an entertainment and banking attorney and began producing films in the late 1970s. A notable and very profitable project was "Porky's," the low-budget and lowbrow comedy made in Canada after Hollywood shunned it that went on to make more than $100 million.

Kopelson would eventually aim higher. Director-screenwriter Oliver Stone had tried for years to get financing for "Platoon," the Vietnam War drama based on his own time in the military. A 1984 deal with producer Dino De Laurentiis fell through and led to legal action.

Kopelson stepped in, and Stone was able to make "Platoon" after a tumultuous production in the Philippines in early 1986, during the time the country's longtime president, the dictator Ferdinand Marcos, was being forced out of power.

"Platoon," which starred Willem Defoe and Tom Berenger, came out in December 1986 and has been cited as the first major feature film about Vietnam directed by a veteran of the war. The film was a box office success and won four Academy Awards, including one for Kopelson for best picture.

Kopelson went on to produce other films, including the cult favorite "Seven"; "Triumph of the Spirit," which starred Defoe as a boxer imprisoned in Auschwitz; "The Fugitive," a best picture nominee in 1994; and "A Perfect Murder."

In recent years, Kopelson served on the CBS board of directors and was in the news this past summer when a video he shot of media mogul Sumner Redstone became part of a lawsuit involving CBS and whether the 95-year-old Redstone was still able to make decisions.

  • Monday, Oct. 8, 2018
Former Trump aide Hope Hicks to work at Fox company
In this Feb. 27, 2018 photo, White House Communications Director Hope Hicks, one of President Trump's closest aides and advisers, arrives to meet behind closed doors with the House Intelligence Committee, at the Capitol in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)
NEW YORK (AP) -- 

President Trump's former communications chief Hope Hicks is taking on a similar role at the new Fox company, meaning she'll supervise messaging at her former boss' favorite television network.

The new company, being created by the shedding of many of 21st Century Fox's entertainment assets to the Walt Disney Co., will include Fox News Channel, the Fox broadcasting network, several local Fox stations and Fox Sports.

Hicks' hiring was announced Monday by Viet Dinh, chief legal and policy officer. Hicks, who left the White House on March 29, will be based in Los Angeles.

Hicks had a mostly behind-the-scenes role at the White House. But she was one of the president's most trusted aides, and had worked for him at his real estate company before Trump was elected president.

It's not immediately clear how much of a role Hicks, 29, will have at the New York-based Fox News, where communications has been run for several years by Irena Briganti. It seems to deepen the relationship between Fox News and the White House, where former Fox News executive Bill Shine is the communications director.

Trump gives the bulk of his television interviews to Fox News.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders tweeted that Fox won't find anyone smarter or more talented than Hicks. "So happy for my friend," she tweeted. "They are beyond lucky to have you."

Dinh also announced the hiring of Danny O'Brien from General Electric as head of government affairs for the new company. O'Brien is a longtime Washington hand who was staff director of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and chief of staff to three senators.

The new company is expected to get an official name and begin operations early next year.

Julie Henderson and Nathaniel Brown, the communications team at 21st Century Fox, aren't moving to the new company.

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