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Peter Bart: Academy Meetings Intense And Urgent As They Work To Re-Energize The Oscars

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Cynics have tabbed them “The Doomsday Summits.” To believers, however, their mission is to re-energize the Oscars at a moment when award shows in general are in massive retreat.

“The show should represent an exciting battlefield where forces in our culture collide,” suggests a new book titled Oscar Wars: Gold, Sweat and Tears.

While the recent “collisions” have been studies in chaos, the ongoing meetings among the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences leaders, Oscar show producers and ABC/Disney continue to search for the keys to a renaissance. Or at least to survival. Bill Kramer, the new Academy CEO, regards himself as a consensus builder, not a collision builder.

By studying the traumas of the past, what can they learn about re-shaping the present? Viewership has been plummeting in recent years and telecast revenues (guesses put them at $120 million) are key to the survival of the Academy — its awards revenue dipped around 10.8% last year alone.

The portents are cloudy. Many of this year’s nominees were created as streamers even as theaters around the U.S. close their box offices (scores of Regals announced their obits this week alone).

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Mary Pickford, the golden-curled actress and mogul, would understand the angst. Bullied into chairing the first Oscar banquet in May 1927 she fumbled her lines, mindful that her industry was under attack as a Gomorrah of crooks and addicts.

Plus she’d just had to explain to Douglas Fairbanks, her husband and partner in United Artists, that his high-pitched falsetto would undermine his future in the brave new world of sound.

Michael Schulman’s meticulously researched new book Oscar Wars takes the reader though the almost century-long parade of cultural collisions.

The New Yorker writer savors dramatic moments like “the plot against Citizen Kane” in the 1940s; the blacklisting injustices of the ‘50s; the rude emergence of the counterculture in the ‘70s; Allan Carr’s campy disaster in the ’80; the rise and fall of Harvey Weinstein in the ‘90s; and, finally, the more recent “oops moments” of the wrong envelope (La La Land) and the Will Smith slap.

Top Gun Maverick

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And this year’s March 12 collision? Will a Tom Cruise fly-by be allowed to disrupt the tacit bias against popular cinema and even create a Titanic-like sweep? If not, what will be this year’s Moonlight or Birdman – films of merit that remain invisible to ticket buyers.

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As a studious Oscar observer, Schulman loves the built-in mini-dramas, but doesn’t, in my view, always get them right. He attributes a variety of sinister forces to the “snub” of Citizen Kane in 1941, from the dominance of the Hearst press and its gossip columnists (Hedda Hopper) to the short-lived voting clout of film extras.

In his zeal, however, Schulman overlooks the emotional impact of movies like How Green Was My Valley (which won) or even Sergeant York. He also ignores Orson Welles’ arrogant presence on the interview circuit. The surprise victory of CODA last year again reminded voters that emotion would conquer intellect in the quietude of the cinema.

To Schulman, the Shakespeare in Love upset of Saving Private Ryan in 1999 dramatized Weinstein’s talent at bullying and “buying” Academy votes, thus eroding the power of “the Hollywood club.” This ignores the fact that Miramax was riding a hot streak (Pulp Fiction, Life is Beautiful, The English Patient) while that club of entrenched studios seemed to have tuned out.

Actually, Steven Spielberg’s company (DreamWorks) outspent Weinstein in advertising dollars. And, as Vincent Canby wrote in the New York Times, “The post-Oscar outrage displayed by Hollywood’s tough wheeler-dealers seemed like a joke.”

Academy members now total over 10,000, representing a push to enhance inclusion and overseas influence. Voting patterns, however, reflect trends similar to those of its original narrow membership.

Given these realities, can the Oscar show be effectively transformed? Or should it be?

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Debates on the subject often grow emotional. Academy branch members are understandingly alarmed if their contributions are being minimized. The self-protectiveness and media paranoia of celebrities have diminished their contributions to the kudos derbies.

No one is more aware of these phenomena than Kramer, who will attempt to impose discipline on the ongoing debates. The show must go on, with the chaos hopefully diminished.

I wish Mary Pickford were still on hand to give me her personal play-by-play.



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Netflix & Paramount+ To Profile ‘Strip Search Caller’ ; TVOKids Spotlights Down Syndrome With Toon Series; ‘One Piece Film Red’ London Takeover — Global Briefs

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Netflix & Paramount+ UK To Profile ‘Strip Search Caller’

Netflix and Paramount+ have struck a first of its kind-of-deal over a true crime documentary telling the story of the strip search caller in the U.S. Paramount+ has taken UK rights to Pervert: The Hunt for the Strip Search Caller and Netflix has rest of world on the doc, which it will be calling Don’t Pick Up the Phone. The deal is believed to be the first time two streamers have worked in such a way in the UK and rest of world. The doc tells the shocking story of a hoax caller who targeted fast food restaurants across the U.S. – posing as a police officer investigating a theft, the caller instructed managers to strip-search the young female employees he said were suspects. For many victims, what began as a humiliating strip search escalated into sexual abuse.

Canada’s TVOKids Spotlights Down Syndrome In Animated Series ‘Griffin And Turner’

EXCLUSIVE: Ontario, Canada’s TVOkids and Big Jump Entertainment are working on 2D-animated series Griffin and Turner. Based on real Canadian brothers who a significant online following, the show follows the supportive pair as they, their friends and family undertake personal challenges but focus on the journey rather than winning. Turner has Down syndrome, and TVOKids executive producer Kirsten Hurd noted the series has been developed in consultation with the Down syndrome community. Producer Big Jump is behind shows such as Shutterbug and Big Words, Small Stories.

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London Gets ‘One Piece Film Red’ Takeover After Record Haul

To celebrate the record-breaking haul of One Piece Film Red in the UK, the Straw Hat Pirates are set for a takeover of iconic London locations on November 26. Via local distributor Anime Limited and Toei Animation, the cast and memorable scenes from the series will be projected onto the County Hall of London, opposite the London Eye as well as other key locations. One Piece Film: Red has grossed over £800,000 in the UK and Ireland since it released earlier this month, making it the biggest of the long-running franchise. A phenomenon in Japan, One Piece Film Red has grossed $162M to date worldwide 



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‘All Quiet On The Western Front’, ‘Belfast’ Top 2022 EFA Arts & Crafts Awards

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Edward Berger’s All Quiet On The Western Front and Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast top the European Film Academy’s Excellence Awards honoring achievement in the arts and crafts categories, the winners of which were announced on Wednesday.

Belfast won best European Production Design for Jim Clay, whose credits include Children Of Men, for which he won a Bafta in 2006, and Murder On The Orient Express.

The drama, set against the backdrop of the beginnings of “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland in 1969, also won best European Costume Design for Charlotte Walter (Blithe Spirit, Misbehaviour)

Netflix-backed German WWI drama All Quiet On The Western Front won best European Make-up & Hair for Heike Merker, and Best European Special Effects for Frank Petzold, Viktor Müller and Markus Frank.

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 In other categories, best European Cinematography was won by Kate McCullough for her work on Colm Bairéad’s Irish-language drama The Quiet Girl.

Best European Editing went to Özcan Vardar and Eytan İpeker for Turkish director Emin Alper’s drama Burning Days.

Polish composer Paweł Mykietyn won best European Original Score went for Jerzy Skolimowski’s EO.

Best European Sound went to Simone Paolo Olivero, Paolo Benvenuti, Benni Atria, Marco Saitta, Ansgar Frerich & Florian Holzner for Michelangelo Frammartino’s cave exploration drama The Hole.

The winners, which are decided by a special expert jury, will receive their awards at the European Film Awards ceremony on 10 December in Reykjavík.

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Jennifer Lopez’s Social Media Mysteriously Goes Dark

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EXCLUSIVE: The actress, producer and top-selling performing artist’s social media channels including Instagram, Facebook, Tik Tok and Twitter have suddenly gone dark in their featured/cover images.

Reps for Jennifer Lopez were unavailable for comment, but we hear from others that The Hustlers and Marry Me actress is on the verge of announcing a new project.

Here’s a look at her Instagram tonight:

While Lopez’s Instagram had erased all posts, a trail of her previous postings remained on Facebook, Tik Tok and Twitter. Across all four social media portals, Lopez counts close to 347M followers, the majority of that coming from her Instagram.

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Lopez’s Nuyorican Productions in June 2021 signed a multi-year first-look deal with Netflix spanning feature films, TV series and unscripted content, with an emphasis on projects that support diverse female actors, writers and filmmakers. Lopez co-runs Nuyorican Productions with her producing partner Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas.

Lopez scored her best opening for a live-action movie at the domestic box office with STX’s 2019 stripper caper Hustlers which debuted to $33.1 million, and grossed $105M stateside, $157.6M worldwide.  As a recording artist, Lopez has sold over 70 million albums, with J.Lo became her bestselling album with 3.8M copies sold in the U.S. and 12M global. Her Netflix thriller The Mother from director Niki Caro is set to debut in May. Her romantic comedy Shotgun Wedding with Josh Duhamel will hit Prime Video on Jan. 27.

On Facebook, one of her followers, Steffany Merino wrote, “What’s happened? Hope you and your wonderful family are ok. I’ll pray for your health and safety.”

Again, we hear something special is in the works in the next few days.



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