Plenty of change is in the air at the Sundance Film Festival, where some 118 feature films are set to premiere over the next 10 days beginning Thursday.
Streaming companies are now among the most likely companies to scoop up buzzed-about breakthroughs. The marquee event of opening day will belong to a Netflix film: the feverishly anticipated Taylor Swift documentary “Miss Americana.” And for the first time in decades, the annual ski town festival is kicking off without a few opening words from its founder, Robert Redford.
Sundance is forgoing its traditional opening day press conference where Redford, the festival’s ever-sunny face, has presided since the 1980s. Last year, Redford made only a brief cameo at the press conference and said he would be stepping back. “We’re at a point where I can move on to a different place,” Redford said then.
Redford, 83, who last year also said he was withdrawing from acting, will still have a presence at Sundance. Aside from being on hand at the festival, he appears in two documentaries playing at Sundance, including one co-directed by his grandson, Dylan Redford.
Still, opening day won’t lack for star power. “Miss Americana” will bring Swift to the snowy streets of Park City in what’s sure to be one of the most frenzied debuts. Over the next week and a half, many more big names will be at Sundance, too, including Hillary Clinton (the subject of a new Hulu documentary series), Lin Manuel-Miranda (a subject in three documentaries at the festival), Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Will Ferrell (stars of the “Force Majeure” remake “Downhill”) and many more.
Discovery, though, is in many respects the main event at Sundance, where countless film distributors will be scouring theaters for the next big thing. Last year’s festival offered up many of the year’s most acclaimed dramas and documentaries, including “The Farewell,” “Honey Boy,” “Apollo 11,” “Clemency” and “American Factory.”
One documentary that may break out will also premiere Thursday. “Crip Camp,” directed by Jim LeBrecht and Nicole Newnham, begins with the story of a ramshackle summer camp for disabled teenagers in New York’s Catskills. But it expands to trace the history of the disability rights movement, illustrating how much of its spirit began at that camp. The film is the latest from Barack and Michelle Obama’s production company, Higher Ground.
John Cooper, the festival’s director, is also stepping down to transition into an emeritus director role. In his last Sundance festival as director, Cooper said he was thrilled to line up a good opening day slate of premieres. “It’s a very exciting and inviting opening day,” said Cooper. “It sets the tone for what people are going to do for the next 10 days.”
“Crip Camp,” too, is a Netflix film. In an interview, Cooper was unambiguous about the impact of streaming companies on independent film. Last year, Amazon made several high-priced acquisitions at Sundance (“Late Night,” “The Report”) that had modest runs in theaters. This year, even more are coming. Disney Plus has films at the festival. And WarnerMedia, ahead of the launch of HBO Max, will host a downtown lodge.
“The streamers are only good news for independent film,” said Cooper. “It’s only been in the last 10 years that everyone looked at the theatrical numbers as success for independent film. It was never considered to be even a possibility. There were exceptions to the rule and those became the norm that everyone has to live up to. With streaming, I think the number of eyes on these films is much, much higher.”
“We’re in a really good place for storytellers,” he added. “How they find audiences is the tricky part, but I think they are finding audiences more than they used to.”
Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP
Rappers Young Thug, Boosie BadAzz Misgender Dwyane Wade’s Trans Daughter – NBC4 Washington
Rappers Young Thug and Boosie BadAzz misgendered Dwyane Wade’s 12-year-old trans daughter, Zaya, in separate statements online, according to NBC News.
“All I wanna say to dwade son is: ‘GOD DON’T MAKE MISTAKES,'” read a tweet from Young Thug’s account Wednesday. “But hey live your true self.”
The since-deleted tweet was followed by one saying: “You’re gods best Creation.”
Boosie BadAzz meanwhile misgendered Zaya in an expletive-laden Instagram videoTuesday in which he said that Wade “had gone too far” and should not refer to Zaya as a girl.
Rapper Pop Smoke Killed in Shooting at a Hollywood Hills Home – NBC4 Washington
Up-and-coming New York rapper Pop Smoke was killed in a shooting during a home invasion early Wednesday at a Hollywood Hills home, multiple sources tell NBC News.
Police responded to the home in the 2000 block of Hercules Drive at about 4:30 a.m. One man was found suffering from gunshot wounds, police said.
He later died at a hospital. Sources told NBC News the victim was shot multiple times.
Police said the 911 call came from the East Coast from a friend of someone who was inside the residence. Police did not provide more details regarding the call.
Los Angeles police did not immediately confirm the victim’s identity.
No arrests were reported early Wednesday. Several people were questioned at the scene in the Mount Olympus area. Up to six people are sought in connection with the slaying, police said.
The 20-year-old New York rapper, who was born Bashar Barakah Jackson, released “Welcome to the Party” in April 2019. Nicky Minaj remixed the song, which was originally a part of Jackson’s debut mixtape, “Meet the Woo.”
In December of that year, Jackson collaborated with JackBoys and Travis Scott on “Gatti.”
Minaj, 50 Cent and other artists expressed condolences on social media.
The nearly 3,000-square-foot home home is listed as a home for rent that is owned by Teddi Mellencamp Arroyave, of “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.”
In an Instagram post, she said she had been informed by a third-party leasing and management company overseeing the rental that there had been a shooting on the property.
“Foremost, we would like to extend our prayers and condolences to the family and loved ones affected by this tragic loss of life,” she said.
Ben Affleck says Divorce From Jennifer Garner His ‘Biggest Regret’ – NBC4 Washington
The former Hollywood power couple, who have three children together, officially divorced in 2018 after a long separation. Affleck, 47, opened up about his battle with alcoholism and his marriage when he recently spoke with The New York Times.
“I drank relatively normally for a long time. What happened was that I started drinking more and more when my marriage was falling apart. This was 2015, 2016,” he said. “My drinking, of course, created more marital problems.”
Affleck said he felt guilt and shame at the end of his marriage.
“The biggest regret of my life is this divorce,” he told The New York Times. “Shame is really toxic. There is no positive byproduct of shame. It’s just stewing in a toxic, hideous feeling of low self-worth and self-loathing.”
Affleck sought help for substance abuse in 2001 and twice more in 2017 and 2018 when Garner was photographed driving her ex-husband to a treatment facility. Last fall, he admitted to what he called a “slip-up” after he was photographed appearing to be slightly unsteady during a night out.
While Affleck has been through some difficult life events, he said it’s important that he doesn’t “obsess over the failures — the relapses — and beat myself up.”
“I have certainly made mistakes. I have certainly done things that I regret,” he said. “But you’ve got to pick yourself up, learn from it, learn some more, try to move forward.”
Houston Hologram Tour Set to Begin – NBC4 Washington
Whitney Houston is about to appear on the concert stage again.
Eight years after her death, a holographic Houston will embark on a European tour that starts in England on Feb. 25 and runs through early April, with U.S. dates expected to follow.
“Now is just the right time,” said Pat Houston, the singer’s sister-in-law, former manager and the executor of her estate, which is producing the show in collaboration with BASE Hologram. “In the spirit of Whitney, I know we’re doing all the right things right now.”
Last week, a few dozen members of the media were given a dress-rehearsal preview in Burbank, California of most of “An Evening With Whitney: The Whitney Houston Hologram Tour,” which features a Houston projected onto a nearly invisible scrim on a stage with real dancers and a live backing band.
The concert set includes most of her biggest hits — “How Will I Know,” “Saving All My Love For You,” “I Will Always Love You,” along with some unexpected rarities, including a cover of Steve Winwood’s “Higher Love” that Houston first recorded three decades ago.
The show, which was first conceived five years ago, used a body double along with hundreds of hours of Houston performances and extensive CGI synthesizing.
“We created the hologram the same way they did Carrie Fisher in the ‘Star Wars’ movie ‘Rogue One,’” said Marty Tudor, CEO of BASE Hologram, which has previously revived performing versions of dead singers including Roy Orbison and Maria Callas. “It’s lengthy, it’s tedious, it’s a big, complicated process, but I think it worked.”
The ambitious performance is the modest brainchild of Whitney Houston herself, in at least one respect.
While on her final European tour, she had an “unplugged” section of her show, with a stripped down band and minimal fanfare. Houston liked that so much that shortly before her death at age 48 on the eve of the 2012 Grammy Awards, she expressed a desire to one day do an entire tour that way.
That concept became the model for the hologram concert.
“This is something that she wanted to do,” Pat Houston said after the media preview of the show. “I get very emotional watching this, because it is so, so close to what she wanted. The only thing missing is her, physically.”
On first appearance it’s clear how far holographic technology has come since previous iterations like Tupac’s holographic stint with Snoop Dogg at Coachella in 2012, with little of the flickering unreality audiences expect. Houston’s appearance in a gold gown looks magically realistic.
The limits are more apparent as the concert goes on, with the projection beam visible and Houston’s movements minimal, but those shortcomings are unlikely to bother the hardcore fans the tour is likely to draw.
Houston was never one for elaborate choreography or flashy moves anyway, and her small gestures — a quivering jaw on long-held notes, fluttering fingers for vocal flourishes, are all captured here.
“Whitney didn’t dance a lot, but when she did do her little moves, they were so perfectly Whitney,” said Fatima Robinson, who choreographed the show. “We did lots of studying her behavior in her videos. We would study her movements, and find the best moments in some of the live videos that just really embody her.”
The show still features plenty of dancing, via four backup dancers and two moving backup singers, all of whom occasionally interact with the hologram.
But Houston mostly preferred to let her voice do the work, and that part of the show works seamlessly, through a blend of studio takes and live performances. Close listeners may think they’re hearing the album version of a hit before it swerves into seemingly spontaneous moments that give it a live feeling.
The sound crew also found moments of between-song patter from Houston that were eternal enough to use for the new show.
“May God bless you and keep you, and let us pray for peace, and pray for the answer,” she says toward the end of the set.
The production may be most effective when it embraces its holographic possibilities — including having Houston swarmed in a shimmering shower of golden sparks during the climactic performance of “I Will Always Love You.”
Dressing the Houston hologram provided its own set of problems and possibilities.
“The first thing is, you can’t do black,” Timothy Snell, who oversaw the wardrobe for the show, said with a mock gasp. “And black and sparkles are your first go-to. But Whitney also loved color.”
Along with the gold gown, her outfits include a shimmering orange jumpsuit and a floor-length pink flowered coat.
“She liked to look sophisticated and timeless,” Snell said. “And those timeless looks really show up here.”
Jury Back for Second Day of Deliberations in Weinstein Trial – NBC4 Washington
Jurors are returning Wednesday for a second day of deliberations in a rape trial that could send Harvey Weinstein to prison for the rest of his life.
The panel of seven men and five women had lots of questions Tuesday as they started weighing charges in the closely watched #MeToo case.
They asked for the legal definition of terms like consent and forcible compulsion and wanted to see evidence including an email Weinstein sent to a private spy agency in 2017 listing certain accusers he feared would come forward as “red flags.”
Weinstein, 67, is charged with raping a woman in a Manhattan hotel room in 2013 and forcibly performed oral sex on another woman, TV and film production assistant Mimi Haleyi, in 2006.
But the way the verdict form is designed, they’ll likely be spending a lot of time weighing actress Annabella Sciorra’s account of a mid-1990s rape.
While her allegation is too old to be charged on its own because of the statute of limitations in effect at the time, the law allows prosecutors to use her allegations as a basis for charges alleging Weinstein is a sexual predator.
That charge carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Early in Tuesday’s deliberations, jurors sent a note seeking clarity on why Weinstein wasn’t charged with other crimes stemming from Sciorra’s allegation.
“You must not speculate as to any other charges that are not before you,” Judge James Burke instructed, adding that jurors must consider “only the charges that are before you.”
Prosecutors built their case around testimony from the women involved in the criminal charges and three other accusers who were not part of the case but were allowed to take the witness stand because they say Weinstein used the same tactics on them.
Weinstein’s lawyers contend the acts were consensual. They focused on friendly, flirtatious emails some of the women sent to Weinstein and further meetings some of them had with him after the alleged assaults.
The Associated Press has a policy of not publishing the names of people who allege sexual assault without their consent. It is withholding the name of the rape accuser because it isn’t clear whether she wishes to be identified publicly.
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