1. “A Deadly Mix in Benghazi.” The New York Times reports that Al Qaeda may well have had no involvement in the Benghazi attack that killed four Americans in Sept. 2012, and that anti-Muslim propaganda may hold some of the blame.
“Months of investigation by The New York Times, centered on extensive interviews with Libyans in Benghazi who had direct knowledge of the attack there and its context, turned up no evidence that Al Qaeda or other international terrorist groups had any role in the assault. The attack was led, instead, by fighters who had benefited directly from NATO’s extensive air power and logistics support during the uprising against Colonel Qaddafi. And contrary to claims by some members of Congress, it was fueled in large part by anger at an American-made video denigrating Islam.”
2. ”GMA’s Robin Roberts Acknowledges Same-Sex Relationship in New Disclosure.” The popular morning-show co-anchor thanked her longtime girlfriend, massage therapist Amber Laign, in a Facebook post on Sunday.
“Roberts’s disclosure comes just days after a furor over anti-gay remarks made by Phil Robertson, head of the clan featured in A&E’s reality series Duck Dynasty. During an interview with GQ magazine, Robertson cast aspersions on people in same-sex relationships and African-Americans, prompting a suspension by the cabler’s parent, A+E Networks, and a quick reversal of the decision—drawing anger from supporters of both Robertson and the groups he offended. As co-host of what is arguably the nation’s favorite morning program, Roberts may help fuel more discussion and debate in this latest clash of cultural values.”
3. “Britney Spears in Las Vegas: 5 Best and 5 Saddest Moments.” The pop princess netted a lot of raves for Britney: Piece of Me, her Vegas revue that debuted Friday night, but Rolling Stone says some of it was a little too toxic.
“Viewed through a lens of diminished expectations (Britney’s bar for success was reset in 2007 after her well-publicized breakdown), Britney: Piece of Me is an entertaining tour through the 32-year-old star’s nearly 15-year recording career. Compared to pop spectacles staged by Madonna and Beyoncé (and even Katy Perry, who was in attendance for Spears’ opening night along with Miley Cyrus), however, the weaknesses that remain in Spears’ live act are stark.”
4. “Netflix Reportedly Plans Streaming Purge for January 1.” According to a list posted to Reddit, you’d best get some of your Netflix fixes while you can, as the service will soon dump a trove of titles including Being John Malkovich and Do the Right Thing.
“A Netflix representative said the company routinely adds and deletes titles from its streaming service due to licensing contracts for exclusive content. It wasn’t immediately clear where the list came from, but a quick review of the site confirmed that streaming for each of the titles listed above will vanish on Wednesday. In the wake of what some in the media dubbed ’streamaggedon’ earlier this year, Netflix made alterations to its API that made it harder for third-party tools such as InstantWatcher.com to determine when titles will expire. However, the service promised that users will still have access to each movie’s streaming expiration date via each individual title’s page.”
5. “Year in Review: Top 20 Films of 2013, Part I.” The gang at In Review Online unveils numbers 11 through 20 in its countdown of the year’s best films.
“Just as the year in movies seemed all but over by early December, Martin Scorsese roared onto the landscape with The Wolf of Wall Street, not only upending many a Top 20 list on our own staff at the last minute, but inspiring the kind of intense critical debate that hearteningly reminds us that cinema—despite all the crowing to the contrary from certain quarters—is still as healthy an art form as it ever was. As usual, you just have to know where to look for some of the best experiences.”
Video of the Day: Snoop Dogg makes the Obamas and others put their hands in the air during a Herbie Hancock tribute performance at last night’s Kennedy Center Honors:
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Oscar 2019 Winner Predictions: Original Screenplay
This season, Hollywood is invested in celebrating the films they love while dodging the cultural bullets coming at them from every angle.
You know, if it weren’t for the show’s producers effectively and repeatedly saying everything about the Academy Awards is terrible and needs to be changed, and the year’s top-tier contenders inadvertently confirming their claims, this would’ve been a comparatively fun and suspenseful Oscar season. None of us who follow the Academy Awards expect great films to win; we just hope the marathon of precursors don’t turn into a Groundhog Day-style rinse and repeat for the same film, ad nauseam.
On that score, mission accomplished. The guilds have been handing their awards out this season as though they met beforehand and assigned each voting body a different title from Oscar’s best picture list so as not to tip the Oscar race too clearly toward any one film. SAG? Black Panther. PGA? Green Book. DGA? Roma. ASC? Cold War. ACE? Bryan Singer’s Bohemian Rhapsody. Even awards-season kryptonite A Star Is Born got an award for contemporary makeup from the MUAHS. (That’s the Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylists Guild, not the sound Lady Gaga fans have been making ever since A Star Is Born’s teaser trailer dropped last year.)
Not to be outdone, the Writers Guild of America announced their winners last weekend, and not only did presumed adapted screenplay frontrunner BlacKkKlansman wind up stymied by Can You Ever Forgive Me?, but the original screenplay prize went to Eighth Grade, which wasn’t even nominated for an Oscar. Bo Burnham twisted the knife into AMPAS during his acceptance speech: “To the other nominees in the category, have fun at the Oscars, losers!” In both his sarcasm and his surprise, it’s safe to say he speaks on behalf of us all.
As is always the case, WGA’s narrow eligibility rules kept a presumed favorite, The Favourite, out of this crucial trial heat. But as the balloting period comes to a close, the question remains just how much enthusiasm or affection voters have for either of the two films with the most nominations (Roma being the other). As a recent “can’t we all just get along” appeal by Time’s Stephanie Zacharek illustrates, the thing Hollywood is most invested in this season involves bending over backward, Matrix-style, to celebrate the films they love and still dodge the cultural bullets coming at them from every angle.
Maybe it’s just tunnel vision from the cultural vacuum Oscar voters all-too-understandably would prefer to live in this year, but doesn’t it seem like The Favourite’s tastefully ribald peppering of posh-accented C-words would be no match for the steady litany of neo-Archie Bunkerisms spewing from Viggo Mortensen’s crooked mouth? Especially with First Reformed’s Paul Schrader siphoning votes from among the academy’s presumably more vanguard new recruits? We’ll fold our words in half and eat them whole if we’re wrong, but Oscar’s old guard, unlike John Wayne, is still alive and, well, pissed.
Will Win: Green Book
Could Win: The Favourite
Should Win: First Reformed
Watch: Joanna Hogg’s The Souvenir, Starring Honor Swinton Byrne and Tilda Swinton, Gets First Trailer
Joanna Hogg has been flying under the radar for some time, but that’s poised to change in a big way.
British film director and screenwriter Joanna Hogg, whose impeccably crafted 2013 film Exhibition we praised on these pages for its “disarming mixture of the remarkable and the banal,” has been flying under the radar for the better part of her career. But that’s poised to change in a big way with the release of her latest film, The Souvenir, which won the Grand Jury Prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Prior to the film’s world premiere at the festival, A24 and Curzon Artificial Eye acquired its U.S. and U.K. distribution rights, respectively. Below is the official description of the film:
A shy but ambitious film student (Honor Swinton Byrne) begins to find her voice as an artist while navigating a turbulent courtship with a charismatic but untrustworthy man (Tom Burke). She defies her protective mother (Tilda Swinton) and concerned friends as she slips deeper and deeper into an intense, emotionally fraught relationship that comes dangerously close to destroying her dreams.
And below is the film’s first trailer:
A24 will release The Souvenir on May 17.
Oscar 2019 Winner Predictions: Sound Mixing
For appealing to voters’ nostalgia for drunken karaoke nights of yore, one film has the upper hand here.
Given what Eric wrote about the sound editing category yesterday, it now behooves me to not beat around the bush here. Also, it’s my birthday, and there are better things for me to do today than count all the ways that Eric and I talk ourselves out of correct guesses in the two sound categories, as well as step on each other’s toes throughout the entirety of our Oscar-prediction cycle. In short, it’s very noisy. Which is how Oscar likes it when it comes to sound, though maybe not as much the case with sound mixing, where the spoils quite often go to best picture nominees that also happen to be musicals (Les Misérables) or musical-adjacent (Whiplash). Only two films fit that bill this year, and since 2019 is already making a concerted effort to top 2018 as the worst year ever, there’s no reason to believe that the scarcely fat-bottomed mixing of Bryan Singer’s Bohemian Rhapsody will take this in a walk, for appealing to voters’ nostalgia for drunken karaoke nights of yore.
Will Win: Bryan Singer’s Bohemian Rhapsody
Could Win: A Star Is Born
Should Win: First Man