Brussels, Jun 30 (AP/UNB) — A music festival in Belgium featuring major stars like rapper Cardi B came to a chaotic end before it had even started.
Security concerns were ostensibly the reason behind the cancellation of the VestiVille festival in Belgium on Friday, though local officials have launched a fraud investigation.
That's added a further layer of confusion and rekindled memories of the Fyre Festival, the failed music bash in the Bahamas in 2017 that was brought to the world's attention in a smash Netflix documentary earlier this year.
Videos posted on Twitter show an elaborate stage apparently ready for the three-day music fest on a campsite in Lommel, in Belgium's Flemish region. But thousands of festival-goers from around Europe and elsewhere got a shock as police, some with dogs, moved in to try to keep them out of the grounds.
Belgium's RTBF network said Saturday that the Limbourg prosecutor's office has opened an investigation on suspicion of fraud over payments and quoted spokesman Jeroen Swijssen as saying three of the festival organizers were questioned Friday night. The three were not identified. An investigating judge was said to be questioning them further over the weekend on an array of suspicions including fraud, laundering and breach of trust.
VestiVille wrote on Facebook and Twitter on Friday that Lommel Mayor Bob Nijs stopped the festival on security grounds. The posts said that after consulting security services and security for star rapper A$AP Rocky, "it was decided that the safety of the artist and the public could not be guaranteed."
However, security issues were not currently included in the investigation.
A$AP Rocky said on Twitter that the promoters had told him that "security and infrastructure concerns" would have been "handled but unfortunately for you and me they didn't."
There was no immediate response to an email query to VestiVille about alleged deficiencies and other potential problems behind the cancellation, which recalled the Fyre Festival debacle. That was meant to be a music blowout in a luxurious setting on a Bahamian island. It never opened due to a bevy of problems from security to food.
Rapper Ja Rule, a co-founder of Fyre Festival, was to perform Saturday at VestiVille. He has denied any involvement in any fraud and has never been charged with any wrongdoing related to the failed enterprise.
Billy McFarland, 26, Fyre's co-founder, was sentenced last October in a federal court in Manhattan to six years in prison. He admitted to defrauding investors of $26 million and over $100,000 in a fraudulent ticket-selling scheme after his arrest in the scam.
Angry VestiVille festival-goers posted comparisons between the two festivals across social media. However, some tried to beat back disappointment with fun.
Video on Twitter showed several young people climbing onto the stage and giving goofy performances.
"I was really the only act at #Vestiville," tweeted Sammy @samanthamutongi. Then, she reposted: "Another video of me performing at Fyre Fest.. mean #Vestiville."
Haro, June 29 (AP/UNB) — Getting drenched with red wine might not be everyone's idea of fun, but it is the idea behind one of Spain's most popular — and unusual — fiestas.
The town of Haro staged the annual Wine Battle in Spain's Rioja wine-growing region on Saturday.
Organizers say the aim is to "cover your neighbor in wine as quickly and completely as you can."
After an early morning Mass is held, participants throw wine over each other while music plays until the 70,000 liters (18,500 gallons) of free wine run out.
Among the rules for those taking part: they must wear white, with a red sash; they may use wine-filled water pistols, garden sprayers or buckets; and at no point during the battle can they stop laughing and singing.
Thousands of people come away from Haro's vineyards and woodland soaked from head to toe.
The event is held to celebrate St. Peter and the region's plentiful wine output. It ends with a big lunch.
The festival draws mostly young visitors, from as far away as Australia.
New York, June 29 (AP/UNB) — How does one willingly, even eagerly, walk into a sunlit nightmare like Ari Aster's "Midsommar"? For Florence Pugh, the motivation came while watching the camera zoom between Toni Collette's legs in a particularly balletic moment during the feverish climax of Aster's debut, "Hereditary."
"I remember imagining what she would have had to do. I thought: 'Yeah, I really want to be a part of this,'" recalls Pugh. "It's not like I go: 'I really want to play a lady who goes insane in a field.'"
In "Midsommar," Pugh stars as Dani Ardor, a grief-stricken college student who shortly after her family is killed in a grisly manner, joins her long-term boyfriend (Jack Reynor) and his friends on a summer trip to the pastoral Swedish compound of Harga. She goes full of existential dread and relationship anxiety; their inevitable break-up has been merely postponed by Dani's tragedy. The increasingly dark and hallucinogenic pagan rituals of a seemingly idyllic ancient Swedish cult, it turns out, are less than ideal couples therapy.
The movie, which A24 will release in theaters Wednesday, wasn't a natural choice for Pugh, the 23-year-old British actress. She doesn't like horror movies. But she was drawn by the precision of Aster's choreography, the brokenness of his characters and the appeal of jumping down a twisted rabbit hole.
"There was something about her insanity at the end that I knew I would enjoy, and I knew I needed to do," Pugh said in a recent interview. "I had never played anyone like that before and that was so exciting. She doesn't get better. She gets more confused but in that confusion, she is released. And that is fascinating."
In her short and rapidly expanding career, Pugh has shown a knack for transformation. She has played characters who, with or without sanity intact, come into their own. In her 2017 breakthrough, William Oldroyd's "Lady Macbeth," she played a fiery young Victorian woman who, having been married into a pitiless and drab English household, madly seizes her own freedom. In Stephen Merchant's "Fighting With my Family," released earlier this year, she played a working-class English girl who conquers long odds and self-doubt to become a WWE professional wrestler.
"There's always something appealing about a change and about someone brewing into their own body and into their own self," says Pugh.
It would be convenient to say that Pugh, too, is brewing into herself. And that's true to a certain extent. Days after Pugh spoke, she was to begin production on Marvel's Black Widow standalone film, co-starring alongside Scarlett Johansson. Later this year, she'll co-star in Greta Gerwig's "Little Women," one of the year's most anticipated films. Her fame is set to grow exponentially.
But Pugh also seems already fully formed. She grew up in a large, creative family in Oxford. Her mother teaches dance and two of her siblings also act, including Toby Sebastian who appeared in "Game of Thrones." She has a poise and directness to her that, combined with the vibrancy of her performances, has frequently led to comparisons to Kate Winslet.
"Florence is kind of supernaturally confident," says Aster. "She's really not like Dani at all. Those meeker qualities are nowhere to be found in Florence's personality."
It was "Lady Macbeth" that put Pugh on Aster's radar. They initially Skyped together to discuss the film, but things only came together after the director had gone through hundreds of auditions.
"I just had a very strong feeling about her after seeing 'Lady Macbeth.' In 'Lady Macbeth, she plays this impenetrable, poised, calculating sociopathic woman. But I could see her doing this which is almost the polar opposite," Aster says. "And also there is a trajectory in the film. I was excited to see her realize that arc."
The part was close to Aster; the 32-year-old New York filmmaker based Dani on himself. Just as the terrors of "Hereditary" emerged from family dynamics, the folk-horror of "Midsommar" is predicated on a break-up. Aster wrote it in the aftermath of a college split that, like "Midsommar," mingled emotional pain with psychedelics. Aster conceives of the film as a bad trip.
"In college I did mushrooms a few times and I did have a couple very, very bad trips. I was also in a place in my life where it wasn't a smart idea to do it. Nothing like what she's going through, but in the same way that she probably shouldn't be taking mushrooms, I probably shouldn't have either," says Aster. "I've made a bit of a personal tradition out of writing when I'm in crisis. A lot of these screenplays were inadvertent therapy for me."
Pugh's performance is multi-layered. Her Dani is haunted by an unfathomable sorrow, anxious with insecurity in her relationship and riddled with confusion at her surroundings. She's utterly alone, in the strangest of places.
"I knew that her grief, her pain, her constant tightrope of avoiding emotions, it needed to be exactly how someone would deal with the scenario they were in. And I've never come close to feeling any of that. In my life, I've never witnessed grief like that or seen someone go through that level of pain," says Pugh. "To get it perfect, I knew, would be so exhilarating and the payoff would be a fantastic feeling — which it was."
To say too much about that payoff would spoil it, but suffice to say, it comes with Dani outfitted head-to-toe in a gown of flowers.
"I was a Christmas pudding but of flowers. I mean, that's mental," she says, laughing and then shrugging. "That's why I do what I do."
For over two hours you will be transported to a beautiful village in the middle of nowhere in a foreign land where the sun never seems to set and everyone is wearing ornate flower crowns and enchantingly embroidered frocks. The details of why you're there will seem fuzzy and dubious. Someone's thesis, maybe? But you go along with it even when things start getting weird.
You will eat strange food and drink strange drinks. You will take drugs you don't want and be subjected to ceremonies and rituals and a language you don't understand. You will witness some of the most disturbing things you've ever seen. You will not be too concerned when people start disappearing. You will lose the ability to rely on your one anchor to the real world. And even though you will barely comprehend what's going on around you, you won't be able to leave or look away.
Writer and director Ari Aster is to thank, or blame, for this extraordinary experience that's equal parts befuddling and enthralling. It's only Aster's second feature film following the terrifying family drama "Hereditary" and it's clear that the talent and deranged verve he teased there was no fluke.
But enter with caution: "Midsommar" is not as straightforward a horror as "Hereditary" was. It's hazier and harder to grasp, despite taking place almost entirely in blunt daylight. This is an experiment in escalating uneasiness absent any release or catharsis.
As in "Hereditary," a family tragedy sets an ominous tone, but this time it hits you right at the beginning before you've gotten to know anyone. We meet Dani (Florence Pugh) while she is frantically trying to contact her family to make sure her sister is OK, but no one is responding. It's the worst possible outcome.
Unfortunately for her the only person she has for comfort is a boyfriend, Christian (Jack Reynor), who has already broken up with her in his mind but hasn't gotten around to communicating that to her just yet. Too bad for Christian and his unsympathetic friends (Will Poulter, William Jackson Harper, Vilhelm Blomgren) Dani's family crisis makes the otherwise imminent split all but impossible. So, Dani, a haunted shell of a human, becomes a permanent fixture at Christian's side, even going so far as to accompany the four guys on their bro trip to the Swedish commune where one of them was raised for a midsummer festival that happens every 90 years.
Aster literally turns the camera upside down as the five travel to this blindingly bright area. It helps you arrive a little queasy and disoriented (although not quite as much as the characters, who've just ingested some psychedelic mushrooms).
Still, the drug-induced visions are nothing compared to what they will experience as clear-minded tourists in this village, which at first seems like a quirky novelty. But as with so many chic cults, there is unfathomably grotesque violence and brutality lurking underneath the Instagram-worthy aesthetics. Aster lures you in with relative normalcy, including often very funny dialogue and situational absurdity as the Americans try to fit in in this world. But before you know it, it's too late to turn back and you're stuck patiently watching this floral paradise curdle into a pagan inferno.
"Midsommar" is audacious filmmaking and totally transfixing despite its lengthy runtime. It's heartening to know that big, original cinematic swings like this have not gone extinct.
And yet, as with Jordan Peele's highly anticipated sophomore feature "Us," ''Midsommar" might not actually add up to anything especially satisfying, or completely coherent, in the end. Aster also curiously reuses some of the striking images he used so effectively in "Hereditary," such as pagan iconography and starkly naked and desexualized bodies. And somehow these characters never evoke empathy on par with the "Hereditary" ensemble.
But the journey is fascinating enough that it's still worth the trip. And by that point you'll probably just be grateful that you're finally allowed to wake up.
"Midsommar," an A24 release, is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for disturbing ritualistic violence and grisly images, strong sexual content, graphic nudity, drug use and language. Running time 140 minutes. Three stars out of four.
Los Angeles, June 29 (AP/UNB) — There are more days ahead for "One Day at a Time."
The CBS Corp.-owned cable channel Pop TV says Thursday it's greenlighted a new season of the reboot canceled by Netflix.
In a statement, Pop TV President Brad Schwartz called the series both "culturally significant" and funny.
The original 1975-84 sitcom about a single white mom was reimagined with a Latino family at its center, a TV rarity.
Justina Machado stars as Penelope Alvarez, a Cuban American parent and military veteran, with Rita Moreno playing her mother, Lydia.
"One Day at a Time" was dropped by Netflix earlier this year after three seasons, prompting an outcry from fans. The streaming service said not enough people watched the show to justify renewing it.
Famed producer Norman Lear, who co-created the original series and is executive producer on the remake, said he was "heartbroken" when it was canceled.
"Today, I'm overwhelmed with joy to know the Alvarez family will live on," Lear said in a statement.
Pop TV says the new 13-episode season is planned for 2020.