Pasadena, Feb 6 (AP/UNB) — Oscars disarray over the exit of Kevin Hart as the host of the show had an upside — people paid attention, ABC's entertainment president said Tuesday.
"Ironically, I have found that the lack of clarity ... has kept the Oscars really in the conversation, and the mystery has been really compelling," said Karey Burke, whose network is the ceremony's longtime home.
She called the interest proof that the Oscars are still relevant.
Burke's worries about the host-less Feb. 24 ceremony have vanished as it comes together with a "phenomenal" line-up of presenters, she told a TV critics meeting.
Tina Fey, Whoopi Goldberg, Daniel Craig, Jennifer Lopez, Chris Evans and Constance Wu are among them.
The ceremony also has box-office hits — best-picture contenders "Black Panther," ''Bohemian Rhapsody" and "A Star Is Born" — with fans that could boost TV viewership.
The 2018 show drew a record-low 26.5 million people, a 20 percent drop from the 2017 show and the first time Oscar viewership dipped below 30 million, according to Nielsen records that go back to 1974. The best-picture winner, "The Shape of Water," only grossed $57.4 million in the U.S.
Burke also lauded the movie academy's pledge to keep the ceremony to three hours, avoiding the overtime that can drain off viewers.
The host-less Oscars was a decision that everyone involved got on board with fairly quickly after Hart withdrew in December, said Burke, who's been in the top ABC entertainment job just two months.
Hart dropped out amid criticism over years-old homophobic tweets, for which he eventually apologized.
Atlanta, Feb 2 (AP/UNB) — Cardi B said she received an offer to perform at the Super Bowl, but struggled with the decision to turn down the lucrative opportunity in support of ex-NFL player Colin Kaepernick.
The Grammy-nominated rapper told The Associated Press on Friday evening that she had "mixed feelings" after she declined to take the stage at Super Bowl 53 in Atlanta. She said it was a hard decision since her husband, rapper Offset, loves to watch football, but she felt obligated to "stand behind" Kaepernick because he "stood up" for minorities.
"My husband, he loves football. His kids play football. It's really hard for him. ... He really wants to go to the Super Bowl, but he can't go to the Super Bowl, because he's got to stand for something," said Cardi B, who is nominated for five Grammys. She is competing for both album and record of the year.
"You have to sacrifice that," she added. "I got to sacrifice a lot of money to perform. But there's a man who sacrificed his job for us, so we got to stand behind him."
Kaepernick helped start a wave of protests by kneeling during the national anthem to raise awareness to police brutality, racial inequality and other social issues. His efforts ignited a political firestorm over whether social justice needs to be addressed at the NFL's marquee event.
Maroon 5 will be joined by Big Boi of Outkast and rapper Travis Scott at halftime of the game between the Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots on Sunday. Gladys Knight will sing the national anthem.
Some, including Rihanna and Pink, have reportedly turned down offers to perform during this year's halftime. In a recent song, Jay-Z alluded to declining to perform at the Super Bowl, and Amy Schumer refused to appear in a TV ad during the game.
Last year, Cardi B said she wouldn't take the Super Bowl stage until Kaepernick gets a job. With Kaepernick still without a team, she is standing by her words, but will perform at a downtown concert Saturday. She is hosting a party this week and will also appear in a Super Bowl commercial.
Cardi B heard the criticism toward her and other music artists for taking part in Super Bowl-related events. But she believes she can perform at those events outside the championship game without directly supporting the NFL.
"I hear people saying like 'Oh, y'all are saying all this stuff about the Super Bowl, but you're doing all these parties,'" she said. "And it's like, well, if the NFL could benefit off from us, then I'm going to benefit off y'all. Y'all make the most money off our people. Why am I not going to take advantage of y'all and take money from y'all too? Because of y'all, we are getting these parties. OK, thank you."
Cardi B hopes the protests supporting Kaepernick can create positive change in the world, but she's not sure if that will happen anytime soon.
"We got an arrogant president, and the racism right now has been reborn," she said. "They feel mighty brave nowadays. When Obama was around, I just feel like they were praying on the day when his eight years was over. A lot of jealousy."
Cardi B added: "When they see (how) the choices they made due to racism has affected the country, that's when things are going to start changing. Right now, they don't want to accept that their decision has affected the country."
Los Angeles, Jan 29 (AP/UNB) — Michael Jackson's family members said Monday that they are "furious" that two men who accuse him of sexually abusing them as boys have received renewed attention because of a new documentary about them.
The family released a statement denouncing "Leaving Neverland," a documentary film featuring Jackson accusers Wade Robson and James Safechuck that premiered last week at the Sundance Film Festival and is set to air in the spring on HBO and the U.K.'s Channel 4.
"Michael always turned the other cheek, and we have always turned the other cheek when people have gone after members of our family — that is the Jackson way," the statement said. "But we can't just stand by while this public lynching goes on.... Michael is not here to defend himself, otherwise these allegations would not have been made."
The family points out that Jackson was subjected to a thorough investigation that included a surprise raid of his home, the Neverland Ranch, but was still acquitted at his criminal trial in 2005, in a case involving another young man.
Robson testified at that trial, saying he had slept in Jackson's room many times, but that Jackson had never molested him. Safechuck made similar statements to investigators as a boy. Jackson died in 2009.
Both men filed lawsuits in 2013 saying stress and trauma had forced them to face the truth and admit they were sexually abused. The suits have been thrown out on technical grounds but are under appeal.
The Jackson statement calls the men "perjurers" because of this reversal, saying the family is "furious" that media outlets without evidence have chosen "to believe the word of two admitted liars over the word of hundreds of families and friends around the world who spent time with Michael."
"Leaving Neverland" director Dan Reed said in a statement Monday that the film focuses only on the two men and their families because he felt "no need to include the opinions of people with no direct knowledge of what happened" to them.
"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.
Reed has said previously he has no doubts about the validity of the men's claims.
The Associated Press does not typically identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they come forward publicly, which Robson and Safechuck have done on multiple occasions.
The family insists that truth and evidence are on their side.
"We are proud of what Michael Jackson stands for," the statement said.
Park City, Jan 27 (AP/UNB) —Michael Jackson's estate is blasting a documentary that tells the stories of two men who accuse Michael Jackson of sexually molesting them when they were young boys, calling the film "tabloid character assassination."
A statement released by Jackson's estate late Friday calls the men, Wade Robson and James Safechuck, "two perjurers" — a reference to sworn statements the men gave when Jackson was alive that he had not abused them. The men leveled their abuse allegations after Jackson's death.
The pair's stories are the basis for "Leaving Neverland," a four-hour documentary that will air later this year on HBO and Channel 4 in Britain. It earned a somber standing ovation after its premiere at Sundance on Friday.
The estate accuses the film of focusing too much on Robson and Safechuck and ignoring others who spent significant time with Jackson and "stated that he treated children with respect and did nothing hurtful to them."
Michael Jackson accusers Wade Robson and James Safechuck have been greeted with a solemn standing ovation by a theater full of people at the Sundance Film Festival.
The stories of the two men who allege Jackson sexually abused them as children are detailed in the documentary "Leaving Neverland," which had its only screening Friday at the film festival.
In a Q&A, Robson said it has been an incredible experience being able to talk to Safechuck after feeling isolated for so long. Safechuck added that they were not offered any money to participate in the documentary, which will air on Britain's Channel 4 and HBO this spring.
The Jackson estate denounced the documentary for rehashing "discredited allegations." Jackson was acquitted of molestation charges in 2005.
Paris, Jan 27 (AP/UNB) — Oscar-winning composer and pianist Michel Legrand, whose hits included the score for the '60s romance "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg" and the song "The Windmills of Your Mind" and who worked with some of biggest singers of the 20th century, has died at age 86.
Legrand last performed on stage just last month, and was still composing and practicing piano an hour a day even as fatigue increasingly forced him to economize his energy, said Claire de Castellane, a musician and producer who organized a series of recent solo piano concerts by Legrand. De Castellane confirmed his death Saturday, without providing details.
"MICHEL LEGRAND Feb. 24, 1932-Jan. 26, 2019," read the home page of his official website Saturday, followed by photographs of Legrand with Barbara Streisand, Miles Davis, Yves Montand and others. Tributes poured in on Twitter and Facebook, and French radio and television replayed songs from his vast repertoire.
French President Emmanuel Macron announced condolences to Legrand's wife and children, hailing him as an "indefatigable genius." ''His unique tunes that run through our heads and are hummed in the streets have become like the soundtracks of our lives," he said.
Legrand won three Academy Awards, five Grammys and two top awards at the Cannes Film Festival among other honors, according to his official website. He worked with famed lyricists in Hollywood and on Broadway — including Alan and Marilyn Bergman and Sheldon Harnick — as well as with French New Wave directors.
"The Windmills of Your Mind" won him his first Oscar, as the theme song for 1968's "The Thomas Crown Affair," sung by Noel Harrison. The song was later recorded by Dusty Springfield and many others. His songs marked some of the most memorable musical moments in French cinema, including 1964's "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg" with Catherine Deneuve and "The Young Ladies of Rochefort."
Over a six-decade career he worked with performers ranging from Frank Sinatra to Aretha Franklin and Sting, and played an outsized role on the French musical scene. He continued touring into his 80s, last performing a month ago at the Paris Philharmonic, and was scheduled to give his next concert in February.
Though he had rich and rigorous musical education, Legrand sought to reach ordinary people. "He wrote very elaborate music, but for a regular audience," de Castellane said.
Performing right up until the end "was a very beautiful way to say goodbye," de Castellane said. "He was not afraid of death, he talked about it. He said it made him nervous" — like the nervousness performers feel before going on stage — "but it didn't frighten him."