Los Angeles, Sep 7 (AP/UNB) — The idea to hand out a popular film Oscar has been shelved for now following widespread backlash, but film academy president John Bailey says that the new category was well-intentioned in its efforts to reflect a changing industry and misunderstood by its critics.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said Thursday that it will further study plans for the category, citing the fact that implementing a new award three quarters of the way into the year would create challenges for films that have already been released.
The academy announced the new category for "outstanding achievement in popular film" last month without parameters, spawning immediate questions about the criteria and how it would impact critically and commercially films such as "Black Panther," which has been cited as a possible best picture contender.
Bailey told The Associated Press he was surprised by the negative reaction to the new category and feels that that people did not understand its goal to give recognition to the kinds of films that are being made today.
"The idea of this award was not about trying to make sure that certain kinds of big mass market pictures get recognized. To my mind, it's more about the kind of pictures that are so difficult to get made," Bailey said, citing films that he worked on like "The Big Chill" and "Ordinary People" as the kind of "middle pictures" that major studios don't make as many of and, when they do, aren't often recognized with the film industry's most prestigious award.
"What the board hoped was that in addition to maybe giving an opportunity for some of the larger budget films, (that it) was also and kind of mainly for these kinds of pictures that are so hard to get made — pictures like 'A Quiet Place' or 'Crazy Rich Asians,'" Bailey said. "These are wonderful pictures and deserve to somehow find an ability to be honored as well."
He's unsure of when it will remerge as a possible addition to the Academy Awards ceremony, but it could be as soon as next year.
While the criteria for the new category are still not defined, Bailey said both release size and box office are part of the equation and that a film like "Black Panther" could be submitted and potentially win for both best picture and popular film. The same is true for an animated film.
Oscar viewership is often tied to the box-office muscle of the big nominees. Ratings for the 90th Academy Awards fell to an all-time low of 26.5 million viewers, down 19 percent from the previous year and the first time the glitzy awards ceremony had fewer than 30 million viewers since 2008. The biggest show audience on record came in 1998, when the blockbuster "Titanic" was named best picture.
The last three years the best picture Oscar has gone to "smaller" films —"The Shape of Water," ''Moonlight" and "Spotlight" — none of which made more than $100 million at the North American box office or played in more than 3,000 theaters.
The 91st annual Oscars, to be held Feb. 24 in Los Angeles, will undergo some changes this year, with the academy planning to shorten the ceremony to three hours. In order to do so, it plans to hand out Oscars in six to eight categories during commercial breaks. The academy also still plans to shorten the awards season by moving up the 2020 Oscars a few weeks to Feb. 9, 2020.
For Bailey, the Oscars are not a static entity beholden to a certain way of doing things. He notes the Academy Awards have undergone many changes over the years, including adding and subtracting segments and categories.
The Oscar statuette, he said, "is a symbol of excellence in an ever-changing industry. And what we're trying to do is keep up with those changes and honor those changes. It's not like it's frozen in time, these awards."
He can't help but laugh about some of the apparent hypocrisy from in and outside of the academy.
"Some of the same people who are now so vociferously criticizing this award as a cop-out and a vulgarization of the Oscars are the same people that five years ago, seven years ago said, 'Why don't you guys nominate and honor films that are meant for a wider audience?'" Bailey said. "Everybody loves to jump on the academy."
Still, he has found a silver lining in the uproar.
"For an institution that people keep saying is irrelevant and is out of touch with everything to do with the industry, and there are people who say that, they seem to be very eager to kind of jump into the fray, voice their opinions and create discussion," Bailey said. "If we're that irrelevant, why is everybody so concerned about it?"
New York, Sep 5 (AP/UNB) — NBC News' decision to pass on Ronan Farrow's investigation into Harvey Weinstein's alleged sexual misconduct is an open wound, with Farrow and one of Weinstein's accusers criticizing the network's latest explanation and President Donald Trump chiming in Tuesday.
Trump tweeted that NBC is "now fumbling around making excuses for their probably highly unethical conduct." He called NBC "FAKE NEWS."
NBC News Chairman Andy Lack sent a lengthy email to staff members Monday evening outlining last summer's decision to pass on Farrow's reporting. He said his story wasn't ready to be aired at that time, and that NBC had done nothing to block his reporting.
Meanwhile, Farrow's former investigative producer called on the network to agree to an independent investigation of its actions.
Farrow had tweeted overnight that Lack's statement contained several false and misleading statements — in particular Lack's claim that Farrow had no women ready to publicly identify themselves with their accusations.
"The suggestion to take the story to another outlet was first raised by NBC, not me, and I took them up on it only after it became clear that I was being blocked from further reporting," Farrow said. "The story was twice cleared and deemed 'reportable' by legal and standards only to be blocked by executives who refused to allow us to seek comment from Harvey Weinstein."
Farrow took his story to The New Yorker, where seven women were identified making accusations against Weinstein when it was published. He shared a Pulitzer Prize with The New York Times for their stories on Weinstein, which ignited the #metoo movement.
NBC countered on Tuesday that a script of a Farrow story was never reviewed or approved by NBC's legal department. NBC had no comment on Trump's tweet.
One of Weinstein's accusers, Emily Nestor, issued a statement that she had done an interview with Farrow while he was at NBC where her name wasn't revealed, but had been discussing with him the possibility of being added as a named source. She said another woman had also been willing to be identified in the story. NBC said if Nestor had made such an offer then, it was news to them.
In his statement, Lack said he wondered "whether the brave women who spoke to him in print would have also sat before TV cameras and lights."
Nestor said that "the condescension dripping from this phrase is despicable. The implication that these 'brave women' were just not 'brave' enough to go in front of a TV crew undermines all of the dangers, uncertainties and obstacles we faced in coming forward in The New Yorker piece."
She said it was shameful to impugn Farrow's character or conduct in working on the story.
The unusually vitriolic argument between NBC and a former reporter isn't likely to go away soon; Farrow is writing a book about his experiences working on the story. The embarrassment of missing out on a scoop lingers, too. NBC explains its decision to let the story go was because of major disagreements with Farrow and his team. The network also points out that other news outlets had tried and failed to get the Weinstein story before it finally came out.
"If we had tried to hold him and nothing changed, we would have needlessly blocked him from disseminating it via another forum," Lack wrote to his employees. "And that is why we agreed to let him go elsewhere. If some believe that decision a failure of our competitive instincts, so be it. But it was a decision taken honorably and with good intentions toward Farrow and his work."
Rich McHugh, Farrow's former investigative producer who has been speaking out against NBC News since leaving his job at the network last month, called for an independent investigator to look into the dispute.
Dhaka, Sept 4 (UNB) - A two-day photo exhibition on Rohingya crisis began in the city on Tuesday.
The exhibition titled ‘Rohingya Crisis: 1 Year on’ is presented by the government of Bangladesh, the Inter Sector Coordination Group and the United Nations.
It remains open at Bay’s Edgewater Gallery in Gulshan from 10 am to 8 pm.
Earlier, a pre-launch reception was held at the venue on Monday evening participated officials from government, diplomatic community and the United Nations.
A collection of photographs have been put on display at the exhibition shared by the government and over 40 humanitarian agencies that are responding to the Rohingya crisis in Cox’s Bazar.
The photographs bring to life last year’s initial influx, the resilience of the Rohingya, the host community, emergency mitigation and international support to the Rohingya people.
Contributions by IOM, UNFPA, UNHCR, UNICEF, WFP and WHO have made it possible to curate and present this exhibition of emotive photographs that tell a compelling story, said the organizers.
New York, Sep 4 (AP/UNB) — Facing widespread outrage, The New Yorker has dropped plans to interview Steve Bannon during its festival next month.
New Yorker editor David Remnick told The Associated Press in a statement shared Monday with the magazine's staff that he had changed his mind. The former Donald Trump aide and ex-chairman of Breitbart News was supposed to be a featured guest during a prestigious gathering that over the years has drawn some of the world's most prominent artists and public figures. This year's guests include Emily Blunt, Zadie Smith and Sally Yates, who Trump fired as deputy attorney general after she refused to back his initial ban on travelers from Muslim countries. The ban was advocated by Bannon, a senior White House adviser at the time.
"I've thought this through and talked to colleagues — and I've re-considered," Remnick, who has repeatedly denounced Trump and his administration, wrote of his decision on Bannon. "There is a better way to do this. Our writers have interviewed Steve Bannon for The New Yorker before, and if the opportunity presents itself I'll interview him in a more traditionally journalistic setting as we first discussed, and not on stage."
Remnick also acknowledged that festival guests, unlike those interviewed on radio or for a print story, are paid an honorarium, along with money for travel and lodging.
In an email statement Monday, Bannon wrote: "After being contacted several months ago and with seven weeks of continual requests for this event, I accepted The New Yorker's invitation with no thought of an honorarium."
"The reason for my acceptance was simple: I would be facing one of the most fearless journalists of his generation. In what I would call a defining moment, David Remnick showed he was gutless when confronted by the howling online mob," he added.
A letter from Remnick, dated June 28, details the invitation to Bannon.
"I would like to invite you to sit down with me for an informal, free-ranging discussion of the political movements redefining international and local politics. This would include, of course, your work abroad as well the upcoming midterms. There would be no need for prepared remarks, as we intend these events to be unscripted, lively, and spontaneous," Remnick writes, adding: "Naturally, the magazine would handle all your travel arrangements and accommodations; you would receive an honorarium; and you would also be invited to attend most other Festival events."
"We would be honored to have you," he writes at the end.
The New Yorker's announcement on Bannon came earlier Monday and was denounced by Roxane Gay, Jessica Valenti and many others. Gay tweeted that "the intellectual class doesn't truly understand racism or xenophobia. They treat it like an intellectual project, where perhaps if we ask 'hard question' and bandy about 'controversial' ideas, good work is being done." Filmmaker Judd Apatow had tweeted he would not attend if Bannon was interviewed. Kathryn Schulz was among the New Yorker staff writers who tweeted that they had informed Remnick directly about their objections.
Tweeted Patton Oswalt: "I'm out. Sorry, @NewYorker. See if Milo Yiannopoulos is free?" a reference to the far-right writer and speaker whose memoir was dropped last year by Simon & Schuster after numerous complaints.
In explaining his initial decision, Remnick wrote Monday that Bannon was well aware of their political differences. "The point of an interview, a rigorous interview, particularly in a case like this, is to put pressure on the views of the person being questioned."
"There's no illusion here," he wrote. "It's obvious that no matter how tough the questioning, Bannon is not going to burst into tears and change his view of the world. He believes he is right and that his ideological opponents are mere 'snowflakes.' The question is whether an interview has value in terms of fact, argument, or even exposure, whether it has value to a reader or an audience."
Meanwhile, Bannon is scheduled to appear Sept. 15 at The Economist's "Open Future" festival in New York City. According to The Economist, festival attendees will "discuss the most urgent issues of our time and remake the case for liberal values." At least one guest already plans to drop out. British writer Laurie Penny tweeted Monday that she "cannot in good conscience appear at an event which chooses to dignify a neo-nationalist like Steve Bannon."
Berlin, Sep 3 (AP/UNB) — U2 lead singer Bono is reassuring fans that he'll have his voice back for the rest of U2's European tour after ending a concert in Germany Saturday night, which they are rescheduling.
In a statement posted Sunday to U2's website, Bono says that a doctor has ruled out anything serious related to his loss of voice during the performance in Berlin. He says his relief is tempered by the knowledge that he Berlin audience was inconvenienced, adding that he can't wait to get back there on Nov. 13 for a rescheduled show.
Bono suffered a "complete loss of voice" at the band's Saturday night show at Berlin's Mercedes-Benz Arena, causing the engagement to end early. The 58-year-old frontman made it through the U2 hit "Beautiful Day" with the help of the audience, German news agency dpa reported Sunday.
Concertgoers first were told there would be a short break and eventually were informed the show was over, dpa said. They were advised to keep their tickets for a replacement performance.
U2 opened the European segment of its 2018 "Experience + Innocence" tour in Berlin on Friday. It has a sold-out show scheduled in Cologne on Tuesday and a second concert in the German city on Wednesday before back-to-back performances in Paris on Saturday and Sunday.
A note on U2's website said ticketholders should expect more information from Live Nation regarding the rescheduled Berlin show on Monday.