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    Sacheen Littlefeather and the Question of Native Identity

    The actress, who died Oct. 2, became famous for a protest at the 1973 Oscars. Now a researcher and Littlefeather’s own sisters dispute her claims that she was Native American. Her defenders say Indian identity is a complex matter.Two days after the death of Sacheen Littlefeather, her estranged sister was angrily scrolling Twitter.She was furious, she said in an interview this week, at the outpouring of praise for Littlefeather, the actress and activist who became famous when Marlon Brando sent her to the 1973 Oscars to refuse his best actor award and denounce Hollywood’s treatment of Native Americans.“I was reading what all these people were saying: ‘Oh, rest in peace and she was a saint, and she sacrificed herself,’” the sister, Rozalind Cruz, said. The sisters had been estranged for about 13 years for a variety of reasons, Cruz said, but at that point she still believed her family had Indian ancestry.Then she saw tweets by the writer Jacqueline Keeler, a citizen of Navajo Nation who has stirred controversy with her efforts to expose what she calls “pretendians.” Keeler was disputing Littlefeather’s claims that her father was White Mountain Apache and Yaqui.Cruz replied to Keeler on Twitter on Oct. 4 that her grandmother was of “Yaqui and Spanish” descent. Cruz herself had tried to enroll in the White Mountain Apache Tribe. But over the next few weeks, Cruz said, Keeler showed her genealogical research that traced her father’s family back to Mexico in 1850 and said there was no evidence of Native ancestry.Cruz and the middle sister of the family, Trudy Orlandi, were both persuaded by the research. Last Saturday, less than a month after their sister’s death at age 75, The San Francisco Chronicle published an opinion column by Keeler under the headline, “Sacheen Littlefeather was a Native American icon. Her sisters say she was an ethnic fraud.”The column unleashed an intense response in Native American circles on social media.Some condemned Littlefeather, saying she had fabricated an identity to promote her Hollywood career. But others strongly objected to Keeler’s investigation, saying it ignored the complicated ways Native identity can be formed, particularly for those who do not meet the formal criteria for tribal membership. Enrollment typically requires proof of tribal ties, often described in terms of one’s percentage of “Indian blood,” or “blood quantum.”“What many people don’t understand about Native existence is that some Natives aren’t enrolled,” Laura Clark, a journalist who is Muscogee and Cherokee, wrote in Variety in response to Keeler’s column.“Some Natives are reconnecting with their tribes,” Clark wrote. “Some Natives don’t have enough ‘Indian blood’ to register because of blood quantum minimums. And some Natives have had their tribes nearly erased to the point that organized citizenship records simply don’t exist.”The Shoshone poet nila northsun, a friend of Littlefeather’s from their college days in the 1970s, said this week that she was not surprised that Keeler had failed to find tribal affiliations in family records.Native Americans, she said, might have hidden their backgrounds to avoid discrimination or were misidentified.“It’s what you feel in your heart, and what your belief system is,” said northsun, who lowercases her name. “Just because she’s not enrolled or can’t be identified in records doesn’t mean she’s not Indigenous.”In an interview on Wednesday, Keeler rejected such assertions, saying she and volunteer researchers had reviewed records for hundreds of Littlefeather’s relatives. None identified as Native American, nor did they live with or marry members of any Apache tribe or anyone identifying as Yaqui, according to a summary of the research she published on Substack.“Could their family have some distant drop of Indigenous blood from hundreds of years ago?” she wrote in the column. “It’s possible; many people of Mexican descent do. But Indigenous identity is more complicated than that. A U.S. citizen of distant French descent does not get to claim French citizenship. And it would be absurd for that person to wear a beret on stage at the Oscars and speak on behalf of the nation of France.”It was not known if Littlefeather had ever tried to enroll in a tribe. The Pascua Yaqui Tribe in Arizona said in a statement that Littlefeather was not an enrolled member of the tribe, and neither were her parents.“However,” the tribe said, “that does not mean that we could independently confirm that she is not of Yaqui ancestry generally, from Mexico or the Southwestern United States.”The White Mountain Apache Tribe in Arizona did not immediately release a statement.Littlefeather was born Marie Cruz in 1946 and said in interviews over the years that her father, Manuel Ybarra Cruz, was White Mountain Apache and Yaqui and had abused her and her mother, Geroldine Cruz, who was of French, German and Dutch lineage.Rozalind Cruz, 65, of Big Arm, Mont., and Orlandi, 72, of San Anselmo, Calif., have strongly disputed their sister’s accounts of their father’s alcoholism and abuse. He died in 1966 at age 44, when Littlefeather was 19.At the 1973 Academy Awards, Sacheen Littlefeather refused the Academy Award for best actor on behalf of Marlon Brando for his role in “The Godfather.”BettmannBy age 26, Littlefeather was fully identifying as Native American when she protested at the Oscars, wearing a buckskin dress, moccasins and hair ties. She spent the next five decades as an activist in the Native American community and was married to Charles Johnston, a member of the Otoe-Missouria Tribe of Oklahoma, who died last year.She became a revered figure for some. In August, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced that it had apologized to Littlefeather, calling her treatment at the Oscars, where she was booed, “unwarranted and unjustified.”In a statement on Thursday, the Academy Museum, which hosted an event honoring Littlefeather in September, said that it was aware of claims going back decades about her background but that “the Academy recognizes self-identification.”Cruz said that her father, who was deaf and communicated with sign language or a chalkboard, had never told her about Native American relatives.She said she had grown up knowing she had Spanish and Mexican heritage but also believed for most of her life that she was “probably about a quarter” Native American because of her older sister’s professed identity.Cruz said she had even applied last November to become a member of the White Mountain Apache Tribe but was denied because the tribe could not find records to support her claim. But that all changed after her sister’s death. She recalled telling Keeler on the phone: “You’re right. She’s a fraud. She’s a phony.”Some scholars agree, saying Keeler’s research was persuasive.“Keeler proves Littlefeather was a troubled woman who made the stories of others her own,” said Liza Black, an associate professor of history and Native American and Indigenous studies at Indiana University, and a citizen of Cherokee Nation.She said that many Native people understand the complexity of identity because of multiple tribal affiliations, blood quantum restrictions and adoptions, but that “Littlefeather does not fall into any of these true, real and complex Native identities.”Keeler’s research to prove that people are faking Indian identities has prompted blowback from critics who said that her work casts a cloud of suspicion over all Indigenous people.It suggests that “Native people need to create a system where they have to prove who they say they are,” said Andrew Jolivétte, the director of Native American and Indigenous studies at the University of California San Diego, who describes himself as Creole of Opelousa, Atakapa Ishak, French, African, Irish, Italian and Spanish descent.“Why do American Indians have to do that and not other people?” he added.For Keeler, to be Native American or American Indian is to be part of a clearly defined political group that existed before European colonial contact.“We’re not just an identity,” she said. “We are actually a political class. We are citizens of nations. We are sovereign.” Her goal, she said, is to stop non-Indians from profiting off false claims of being Native American.“We want real change and we want real justice, and that’s not going to happen when it all comes down to actors playing us,” she said.For her part, Cruz said she had no regrets.“All I did was, I put a pebble out there,” she said. “And I let the water rip.” More

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    Will Smith Film ‘Emancipation’ Will Be Released in December

    Apple said the movie, Mr. Smith’s first since his infamous slap at the Oscars, will be in theaters on Dec. 2 and begin streaming on Dec. 9.The Will Smith film “Emancipation” — the actor’s first since his infamous slap at the Oscars this year — will be released in December, making it eligible for the upcoming awards season.While releasing a trailer for the film on Monday, Apple said “Emancipation” will have a limited theatrical release on Dec. 2 before becoming available on the company’s streaming service on Dec. 9. The announcement followed a long discussion of whether Apple would release the film this year or delay it until 2023, considering the controversy surrounding Mr. Smith after he slapped the comedian Chris Rock during the Academy Awards ceremony in March. Apple had declined to comment on its plans for the film.After the incident with Mr. Rock, Mr. Smith won the best actor Oscar that night for his performance in “King Richard.” It was his first Academy Award, but shortly afterward he resigned from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, saying he had “betrayed” its trust. The academy then barred him from the organization and all of its events for the next decade.That punishment does not preclude the actor from being nominated for his work, though it did not augur well for “Emancipation,” which had been considered an awards candidate before Mr. Smith slapped Mr. Rock. The decision to release the film in a limited number theaters ahead of its debut on the service suggests that Apple is planning to push it for award consideration this year.That could backfire. The academy has signaled that it is ready to move on from the slap. Bill Kramer, the organization’s chief executive, said it would not even be joked about at the next Academy Awards ceremony.“Emancipation” stars Mr. Smith as Peter, a real-life figure from the 1800s who escaped slavery and fought for the Union Army. Directed by Antoine Fuqua and written by William N. Collage, the film had its first public screening in Washington on Saturday night, during the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s 51st Annual Legislative Conference. The event was followed by a question-and-answer session featuring Mr. Fuqua and Mr. Smith, who has remained largely out of the public eye since the Oscars.Mr. Smith issued a public apology on his YouTube channel on July 29. It has been viewed close to 3.9 million times. More

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    Sacheen Littlefeather, Activist Who Rejected Brando’s Oscar, Dies at 75

    The actress was booed at the Academy Awards in 1973 after she refused the best actor award on Marlon Brando’s behalf in protest of Hollywood’s depictions of Native Americans.Sacheen Littlefeather, the Apache activist and actress who refused to accept the best actor award on behalf of Marlon Brando at the 1973 Oscars, drawing jeers onstage in an act that pierced through the facade of the awards show and highlighted her criticism of Hollywood for its depictions of Native Americans, has died. She was 75.Her death was announced on Sunday by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The cause of death was not immediately known.Her death came just weeks after the Academy apologized to Ms. Littlefeather for her treatment during the Oscars. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter in August, Ms. Littlefeather said she was “stunned” by the apology. “I never thought I’d live to see the day I would be hearing this, experiencing this,” she said.When Ms. Littlefeather, then 26, held up her right hand that night inside the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles — clearly signaling to the award presenters, the audience and the millions watching on TV that she had no desire to ceremoniously accept the shiny golden statue — it marked one of the best-known disruptive moments in the history of the Oscars.“I beg at this time that I have not intruded upon this evening, and that we will, in the future, our hearts and our understandings, will meet with love and generosity,” Ms. Littlefeather said at the podium, having endured a chorus of boos and some cheers from the crowd.Donning a glimmering buckskin dress, moccasins and hair ties, her appearance at the 45th Academy Awards, at the age of 26, was the first time a Native American woman had stood onstage at the ceremony. But the backlash and criticism was immediate: The actor John Wayne was so unsettled that a show producer, Marty Pasetta, said security guards had to restrain him so that he would not storm the stage.Ms. Littlefeather and Mr. Brando had become friends through her neighbor, the director Francis Ford Coppola.Associated PressShe told The Hollywood Reporter in August: “When I was at the podium in 1973, I stood there alone.”Ms. Littlefeather, whose name at birth was Marie Cruz, was born on Nov. 14, 1946, in Salinas, Calif., to a father from the White Mountain Apache and Yaqui tribes in Arizona and a French-German-Dutch mother, according to her website. After high school, she took the name Sacheen Littlefeather to “reflect her natural heritage,” the site states.Her website said she participated in the Native American occupation of Alcatraz Island, which began in 1969 in an act of defiance against a government that they said had long trampled on their rights.Her acting career began at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco in the early 1970s. She would go on to play roles in films like “The Trial of Billy Jack” and “Winterhawk.”Ms. Littlefeather said in an interview with the Academy that she had been planning to watch the awards on television when she received a call the night before the ceremony from Mr. Brando, who had been nominated for his performance as Vito Corleone in “The Godfather.”The two had become friends through her neighbor, the director Francis Ford Coppola. Mr. Brando asked her to refuse the award on his behalf if he won and gave her a speech to read just in case.With only about 15 minutes left in the program, Ms. Littlefeather arrived at the ceremony with little information about how the night would work.A producer for the Oscars noticed the pages in Ms. Littlefeather’s hand and told her that she would be arrested if her comments lasted more than 60 seconds.Then, Mr. Brando won.In the speech, Ms. Littlefeather also brought attention to the federal government’s standoff with Native Americans at Wounded Knee.She later recalled that while she was giving the speech, she had “focused in on the mouths and the jaws that were dropping open in the audience, and there were quite a few.”The audience, she recalled, looked like a “sea of Clorox” because there were “very few people of color.”She said some audience members did the so-called “tomahawk chop” at her and that when she went to Mr. Brando’s house later, people shot at the doorway where she was standing.Last month, Ms. Littlefeather spoke at a program hosted by the Academy called “An Evening with Sacheen Littlefeather,” recalling how she had stood up for justice in the arts.“I didn’t represent myself,” she said. “I was representing all Indigenous voices out there, all Indigenous people, because we had never been heard in that way before.”And when she spoke those words, the audience erupted in applause.“I had to pay the price of admission, and that was OK,” she said. “Because those doors had to be open.”After learning that the Academy would formally apologize to her, Ms. Littlefeather said it felt “like a big cleanse.”“It feels like the sacred circle is completing itself,” she said, “before I go in this life.” More

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    Louise Fletcher, 88, Dies; Oscar Winner for ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’

    She was largely unknown to the public when she was cast as what the American Film Institute called one of cinema’s most memorable villains.Louise Fletcher, the imposing, steely-eyed actress who won an Academy Award for her role as the tyrannical Nurse Ratched in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” died on Friday at her home in the town of Montdurausse, in Southern France. She was 88.The death was confirmed by her agent, David Shaul, who did not cite a cause. Ms. Fletcher also had a home in Los Angeles.Ms. Fletcher was 40 and largely unknown to the public when she was cast as the head administrative nurse at an Oregon mental institution in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” The film, directed by Milos Forman and based on a popular novel by Ken Kesey, won a best-actress trophy for Ms. Fletcher and four other Oscars: best picture, best director, best actor (Jack Nicholson, who starred as the rebellious mental patient McMurphy) and best adapted screenplay (Bo Goldman and Lawrence Hauber).Ms. Fletcher’s acceptance speech stood out that night — not only because she teasingly thanked voters for hating her, but also because she used American Sign Language in thanking her parents, who were both deaf, for “teaching me to have a dream.”The American Film Institute later named Nurse Ratched one of the most memorable villains in film history and the second most notable female villain, surpassed only by the Wicked Witch of the West in “The Wizard of Oz.”But at the time “Cuckoo’s Nest” was released, Ms. Fletcher was frustrated by the buttoned-up nature of her character. “I envied the other actors tremendously,” she said in a 1975 interview with The New York Times, referring to her fellow cast members, most of whom were playing mental patients. “They were so free, and I had to be so controlled.”Estelle Louise Fletcher was born on July 22, 1934, in Birmingham, Ala., one of four hearing children of Robert Capers Fletcher, an Episcopal minister, and Estelle (Caldwell) Fletcher; both her parents had been deaf since childhood. She studied drama at the University of North Carolina and moved to Los Angeles after graduation.She later told journalists that because she was so tall — 5 feet 10 inches — she had trouble finding work in anything but westerns, where her height was an advantage. Of her first 20 or so screen roles in the late 1950s and early ’60s, about half were in television westerns, including “Wagon Train,” “Maverick” and “Bat Masterson.”Ms. Fletcher married Jerry Bick, a film producer, in 1959. They had two sons, John and Andrew, and she retired from acting for more than a decade to raise them.Ms. Fletcher and Mr. Bick divorced in 1977. Her survivors include her sons; her sister, Roberta Ray; and a granddaughter.She returned to movies in 1974 in Robert Altman’s “Thieves Like Us,” as a woman who coldly turns in her brother to the police. It was her appearance in that film that led Mr. Forman to offer her the role in “Cuckoo’s Nest.”“I was caught by surprise when Louise came onscreen,” Mr. Forman recalled of watching “Thieves Like Us.” “I couldn’t take my eyes off her. She had a certain mystery, which I thought was very, very important for Nurse Ratched.”Ms. Fletcher in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” “She had a certain mystery,” said Milos Forman, the film’s director, “which I thought was very, very important for Nurse Ratched.”Herbert Dorfman/Corbis via Getty ImagesReviewing “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” in The New Yorker, Pauline Kael declared Ms. Fletcher’s “a masterly performance.”“We can see the virginal expectancy — the purity — that has turned into puffy-eyed self-righteousness,” Ms. Kael wrote. “She thinks she’s doing good for people, and she’s hurt — she feels abused — if her authority is questioned.”Ms. Fletcher is often cited as an example of the Oscar curse — the phenomenon that winning an Academy Award for acting does not always lead to sustained movie stardom — but she did maintain a busy career in films and on television into her late 70s.She had a lead role as the Linda Blair character’s soft-spoken psychiatrist in “Exorcist II: The Heretic” (1977) and was notable in the ensemble comedy “The Cheap Detective” (1978), riffing on Ingrid Bergman’s film persona. She also starred with Christopher Walken and Natalie Wood as a workaholic scientist in “Brainstorm” (1983). But she was largely relegated to roles with limited screen time, especially when her character was very different from her Nurse Ratched persona.After a turn as an inscrutable U.F.O. bigwig in “Strange Invaders” (1983), she appeared in “Firestarter” (1984) as a fearful farm wife; the police drama “Blue Steel” (1990) as Jamie Lee Curtis’s drab mother; “2 Days in the Valley” (1996) as a compassionate Los Angeles landlady; and “Cruel Intentions” (1999) as Ryan Phillippe’s genteel aunt.Only when she played to villainous stereotype — as she did in “Flowers in the Attic” (1987), as an evil matriarch who sets out to poison her four inconvenient young grandchildren — did she find herself in starring roles again. And that film, she told a Dragoncon audience in 2009, was “the worst experience I’ve ever had making a movie.”Later in her career, she played recurring characters on several television series, including “Star Trek: Deep Space 9” (she was an alien cult leader from 1993 to 1999) and “Shameless” (as William H. Macy’s foulmouthed convict mother). She also made an appearance as Liev Schreiber’s affable mother in the romantic drama “A Perfect Man” (2013). She appeared most recently in two episodes of the Netflix comedy series “Girlboss.”Although Ms. Fletcher’s most famous character was a portrait of sternness, she often recalled smiling constantly and pretending that everything was perfect when she was growing up, in an effort to protect her non-hearing parents from bad news.“The price of it was very high for me,” she said in a 1977 interview with The Ladies’ Home Journal. “Because I not only pretended everything was all right. I came to feel it had to be.”Pretending wasn’t all bad, however, she acknowledged, at least in terms of her profession. That same year she told the journalist Rex Reed, “I feel like I know real joy from make-believe.”Mike Ives More

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    Will Smith’s ‘Emancipation’: What Will Apple Do?

    The Civil War drama “Emancipation” finished filming early this year. Now, Apple faces a quandary on what to do with the movie.Apple has a Will Smith problem.Mr. Smith is the star of “Emancipation,” a film set during the Civil War era that Apple envisioned as a surefire Oscar contender when it wrapped filming earlier this year. But that was before Mr. Smith strode onto the stage at the Academy Awards in March and slapped the comedian Chris Rock, who had made a joke about Mr. Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith.Mr. Smith, who also won best actor that night, has since surrendered his membership in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences and has been banned from attending any Academy-related events, including the Oscar telecast, for the next decade.Now Apple finds itself left with a $120 million unreleased awards-style movie featuring a star no longer welcome at the biggest award show of them all, and a big question: Can the film, even if it succeeds artistically, overcome the baggage that now accompanies Mr. Smith?The sensitivity of the situation is apparent. According to three people involved with the film who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the company’s planning, there have been discussions inside Apple to release “Emancipation” by the end of the year, which would make it eligible for awards consideration. Variety reported in May, however, that the film’s release would be pushed into 2023.When asked for this article how and when it planned to release “Emancipation,” Apple declined to comment on that or anything else about the film.The Race to Rule Streaming TVCable Cowboy: The media mogul John Malone opened up about the streaming wars, the fast-changing news business and the future of his own career.Warner Bros. Discovery: The recently formed media colossus announced plans for a free streaming service and a paid subscription streaming service combining HBO Max and Discovery+.Turmoil at Netflix: Despite a loss of subscribers, job cuts and a steep stock drop, the streaming giant has said it is staying the course.Live Sports: Apple and Amazon are eager to expand their streaming audiences. They increasingly see live sports as a way to do it.e.There is no easy answer. Should the company postpone a film based on an important historical subject because its leading man is too toxic? Or does Apple release the movie and watch the outcome unfold? Audiences could be turned off by Mr. Smith’s presence, perhaps taking some gloss off the well-polished Apple brand. Or they could respond positively to the film, prompting an Oscar campaign, which could then upset members of the academy. And the question of how to publicize “Emancipation” will bring scrutiny to a film marketing unit that has already drawn grumbles of dissatisfaction in Hollywood for skimpy ad spends and disjointed communication — and parted ways with its head of video marketing this month.“If they shelve the movie, does that tarnish Apple’s reputation? If they release it, does it tarnish their reputation?” asked Stephen Galloway, the dean of Chapman University’s Dodge College of Film and Media Arts and the former executive editor of The Hollywood Reporter. “Hollywood likes a win-win situation. This one is lose-lose.”“Emancipation,” directed by Antoine Fuqua (“Training Day”) and with a script by William Collage, is based on the true story of a slave who escaped to the North and joined the Union army to fight against his former captors. Shot outside New Orleans and troubled by delays caused by hurricanes and Covid-19, the movie is about a man known as “Whipped Peter,” whose scarred back was photographed and became a rallying cry for abolition during the Civil War. It finished filming about a month before the 2022 Oscar telecast in March.“Emancipation” was already generating 2023 awards buzz, but plans for the film’s release were thrown into question when Mr. Smith rushed the stage and slapped Mr. Rock. Later in the show, Mr. Smith won the best actor award for his work in “King Richard.”Though Mr. Smith can still be nominated for his work, the reaction to the slap means the Oscar chances for “Emancipation” have dimmed exponentially..css-1v2n82w{max-width:600px;width:calc(100% – 40px);margin-top:20px;margin-bottom:25px;height:auto;margin-left:auto;margin-right:auto;font-family:nyt-franklin;color:var(–color-content-secondary,#363636);}@media only screen and (max-width:480px){.css-1v2n82w{margin-left:20px;margin-right:20px;}}@media only screen and (min-width:1024px){.css-1v2n82w{width:600px;}}.css-161d8zr{width:40px;margin-bottom:18px;text-align:left;margin-left:0;color:var(–color-content-primary,#121212);border:1px solid var(–color-content-primary,#121212);}@media only screen and (max-width:480px){.css-161d8zr{width:30px;margin-bottom:15px;}}.css-tjtq43{line-height:25px;}@media only screen and (max-width:480px){.css-tjtq43{line-height:24px;}}.css-x1k33h{font-family:nyt-cheltenham;font-size:19px;font-weight:700;line-height:25px;}.css-ok2gjs{font-size:17px;font-weight:300;line-height:25px;}.css-ok2gjs a{font-weight:500;color:var(–color-content-secondary,#363636);}.css-1c013uz{margin-top:18px;margin-bottom:22px;}@media only screen and (max-width:480px){.css-1c013uz{font-size:14px;margin-top:15px;margin-bottom:20px;}}.css-1c013uz a{color:var(–color-signal-editorial,#326891);-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;font-weight:500;font-size:16px;}@media only screen and (max-width:480px){.css-1c013uz a{font-size:13px;}}.css-1c013uz a:hover{-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;}What we consider before using anonymous sources. Do the sources know the information? What’s their motivation for telling us? Have they proved reliable in the past? Can we corroborate the information? Even with these questions satisfied, The Times uses anonymous sources as a last resort. The reporter and at least one editor know the identity of the source.Learn more about our process.Indeed, there are some in the film industry who believe that releasing “Emancipation” along with other Oscar contenders this year will only anger academy voters who were embarrassed by Mr. Smith’s actions.Bill Kramer, the newly installed chief executive of the film academy, said on a recent call with reporters that next year’s show will not dwell on the slap, even in joke form. “We want to move forward and to have an Oscars that celebrates cinema,” he said. “That’s our focus right now.”The presence of “Emancipation” would make that difficult. Stephen Gilula, the former co-chief executive of Fox Searchlight, the studio behind such Oscar winners as “12 Years a Slave” and “Slumdog Millionaire,” said releasing the film in the awards corridor between now and the end of the year, would put undue pressure on the movie and make the slap the center of the conversation.“Regardless of the quality of the movie, all of the press, all the reviewers, all of the feature writers, all the awards prognosticators are going to be looking at it and talking about the slap,” Mr. Gilula said in an interview. “There’s a very high risk that the film will not get judged on its pure merit. It puts it into a very untenable context.”To some, the film may be too good to keep quiet. Apple set up a general audience test screening of “Emancipation” in Chicago earlier this year, according to three people with knowledge of the event who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not permitted to discuss it publicly. They said it generated an overwhelmingly positive reaction, specifically for Mr. Smith’s performance, which one of the people called “volcanic.” Audience members, during the after-screening feedback, said they were not turned off by Mr. Smith’s recent public behavior.Mr. Smith largely disappeared from public view following the Oscars. But in July, he released a video on his YouTube channel in which he said he was “deeply remorseful” for his behavior and apologized directly to Mr. Rock and his family.The public mea culpa, which lasted a little more than five minutes and consisted of Mr. Smith sitting in a chair and speaking to the camera, had been viewed more than 3.8 million times since it was posted on July 29. Yet it is unclear whether it has improved the public’s perception of him. Mr. Smith’s Q score, a metric that measures celebrities’ appeal in the United States, plummeted after the Oscars. Before the slap, Mr. Smith consistently ranked among the top five celebrities in the country, alongside Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington, according to data provided to Variety. When his appeal was measured again in July, (before he released his video apology) it dropped to a 24 from a 39, what Henry Schafer, executive vice president of the Q Scores Company, called a “precipitous decline.”Apple has delayed films before. In 2019, the company pushed back the release of one of its first feature films, “The Banker,” starring Anthony Mackie and Samuel L. Jackson, after a daughter of one of the men whose life served as a basis of the film raised allegations of sexual abuse involving her family. The film was ultimately released in March 2020 after Apple said it reviewed “the information available to us, including the filmmakers’ research.”Many in Hollywood are drawn to Apple for its willingness to spend handsomely to acquire prominent projects connected with established talent. But the company has also been criticized for its unwillingness to spend much to market those same projects. Two people who have worked with the company, and who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss dealings with Apple, said it usually created just one trailer for a film — a frustrating approach for those who are accustomed to the traditional Hollywood way of producing multiple trailers aimed at different audiences. Apple prefers to rely on its Apple TV+ app and in-store marketing to attract audiences.Yet those familiar with Apple’s thinking believe that even if it chooses to release “Emancipation” this year, it will not feature the film in its retail outlets like it did for “CODA,” which in March became the first movie from a streaming service to win best picture. That achievement, of course, was overshadowed by the controversy involving Mr. Smith. More

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    The Eight Film Festival Movies That Got the Biggest Awards Boost

    “Women Talking,” women fighting, a pair of Brendans and more: After Toronto, Venice and Telluride, here are the titles and performances in the conversation.Who are the front-runners, the dark horses and the long shots? After major film festivals in Venice, Telluride and Toronto, where most of the year’s remaining prestige films have screened, the awards season has finally begun to come into focus.There are still a few significant contenders yet to debut, like Damien Chazelle’s glitzy Hollywood drama “Babylon,” and the industry is buzzing that Apple will soon announce a year-end release for its big-budget slavery drama, “Emancipation,” even though the film’s leading man, Will Smith, was banned from attending the Oscars for the next decade. And some tantalizing questions from these festivals still linger, like whether “Glass Onion,” the rollicking sequel to “Knives Out,” can score the best-picture nomination that the first film missed out on.But in the meantime, here are the eight films that came out of the fall festivals with the biggest awards-season pop.‘The Whale’There are few things Oscar voters prefer more than a transformational role and a comeback narrative, and this season, Brendan Fraser’s got both. In Darren Aronofsky’s new drama, Fraser wears a prosthetic bodysuit to transform into a 600-pound shut-in named Charlie, who attempts to reconnect with his angry daughter (Sadie Sink) as his health falters. Interest is high in the 53-year-old actor’s return to the limelight, and every time a clip hit social media of the emotional Fraser soaking up applause in Venice and Toronto, a young generation raised on his heroics in “The Mummy” reliably made those videos go viral. Though some festival pundits have taken issue with the film’s depiction of an obese protagonist, awards voters will still be wowed by Fraser’s work, making him this year’s prohibitive best-actor favorite.‘The Fabelmans’Steven Spielberg’s new film about his own coming-of-age was warmly received in Toronto, where Michelle Williams won best-in-show notices as Mitzi, the theatrical mother of the movie’s young Spielberg stand-in. Expect the actress to pick up her fifth Oscar nomination and, if she is run as a supporting performer, her first win. Even before its festival debut, awards watchers thought Spielberg’s film would land at the top of their best-picture prediction lists, but the film isn’t juggernaut-shaped — it’s lighter, more intimate and an appealing ramble in a way that people might not have anticipated. That may mean that the field is still open for a best-picture favorite to emerge, or perhaps “The Fabelmans” could sneak its way there in the end without earning the resentment accrued by an early-season front-runner.‘The Woman King’ and the Art of WarViola Davis leads a strong cast into battle in Gina Prince-Bythewood’s action epic inspired by real women warriors.Review:  “‘The Woman King’ is a sweeping entertainment, but it’s also a story of unwavering resistance in front of and behind the camera,” our critic writes.Viola Davis: As our reporter visited her on the set, Davis spoke about how powerful it was to watch Black women transform into warriors.Director Q&A: In an interview with The Times, Prince-Bythewood explained how she went about tackling what would be, logistically, her biggest film yet.Anatomy of a Scene: Prince-Bythewood had the actors perform their own stunts in the film. In some cases, that meant pulling off flips to the dirt as well as wrestling scenes.‘Tár’It’s been 16 years since Todd Field last directed a film, but expect his third feature, “Tár,” to hit the Oscar-nominated heights of his predecessors, “In the Bedroom” and “Little Children.” It will certainly be one of the year’s most talked-about movies: The story touches on hot-button topics like cancel culture and #MeToo as it follows a famed conductor (Cate Blanchett) whose career begins to crumble when her past catches up with her. Blanchett earned career-best raves at Venice for the role — and taught herself German, piano and conducting to boot — so a third Oscar is well within reach. Still, a strong year for best-actress contenders will make Blanchett’s battle a fierce one.‘The Banshees of Inisherin’Five years after “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” earned Oscars for Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell, the writer-director Martin McDonagh is back with a dark comedy whose cast could run the table, too. Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson are longtime friends whose relationship is severed in the most baffling way, and Farrell’s constant attempts to mend the rift push their petty grievances into the realm of tragedy. Both men are wonderful and will probably earn their first Oscar nominations, but if voters really flip for the film — and I suspect they will — then the supporting performers Kerry Condon (as Farrell’s sister) and Barry Keoghan (as a cockeyed friend) will be in the mix as well.‘Women Talking’This Sarah Polley-directed drama about Mennonite women in crisis was Telluride’s most significant world premiere this year, and in that Colorado enclave, which regularly draws a large contingent of Oscar voters, “Women Talking” did quite well. With a sprawling ensemble cast that includes awards favorites Rooney Mara, Jessie Buckley and Claire Foy — as well as three-time best-actress winner McDormand in a small role — “Women Talking” should nab several nominations, even though some of the male viewers I spoke to after the film’s Toronto screening proved surprisingly resistant to the film’s feature-long debate about sexual violence.‘The Woman King’Forget “Women Talking,” how about women fighting? This old-fashioned action epic from the director Gina Prince-Bythewood played through the roof in Toronto and stars Viola Davis as the leader of the Agojie, an all-female group of warriors defending their kingdom in 1820s West Africa. Davis is an Oscar winner (with three more nominations, too) who called “The Woman King” her magnum opus while introducing the film, and a performance this passionate and athletic should be in contention all season. But a notable box-office haul will be crucial to the film’s fate (it opens Friday), since even bigger action films like “Avatar: The Way of Water” and “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” are due at year’s end and will be following Oscar-nominated predecessors.‘All the Beauty and the Bloodshed’The expansion of the best picture race to 10 nominees has made room for all sorts of previously snubbed movies, from Marvel spectaculars to Pixar tentpoles. But when will a documentary be nominated for best picture? Laura Poitras’s new film, “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed,” beat all fiction narratives at Venice to take the Golden Lion, the fest’s top award, and this portrait of photographer Nan Goldin as she protests the wealthy Sackler family’s role in the opioid crisis will be distributed by Neon, the company that managed an Oscar first with the Korean-language best picture winner “Parasite.” At the very least, “All the Beauty” will be a strong contender for the documentary Oscar that Poitras won for her 2014 film about Edward Snowden, “Citizenfour.”‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’This A24 film from the directing team Daniels opened way back in March, but you’d hardly know that based on the major festival tributes to its star, Michelle Yeoh, in both Toronto and Venice. A flag was planted in both places: This indie hit has now entered its awards-campaign phase, and since the fall festivals didn’t produce major front-runners in the picture and directing categories, expect “Everything Everywhere,” to gun for recognition in both races as well as the supporting actor category (where Ke Huy Quan could be this year’s Troy Kotsur), original screenplay and more. Yeoh’s best-actress nomination is almost certain, though she’ll face plenty of competition from Blanchett. Both women were handed dazzling signature roles this year, and their race should be the season’s most exciting. More

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    Wolfgang Petersen, Director of ‘Das Boot,’ Is Dead at 81

    He made it big in Hollywood with box-office hits, but he’s best remembered for a harrowing, Oscar-nominated German film set inside a U-boat in World War II.Wolfgang Petersen, one of a handful of foreign directors to make it big in Hollywood, whose harrowing 1981 war film, “Das Boot,” was nominated for six Academy Awards and became one of Germany’s top-grossing films, died on Friday at his home in the Brentwood section of Los Angeles. He was 81.The cause was pancreatic cancer, according to Michelle Bega, a publicist at the agency Rogers & Cowan PMK in Los Angeles. His death was announced on Tuesday.Mr. Petersen was the most commercially successful member of a generation of filmmakers active in West Germany from the 1960s to the ’80s, whose leading lights included Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Wim Wenders and Werner Herzog. But he was equally known in Hollywood.Over five decades Mr. Petersen toggled between his native Germany and the United States, directing 29 films, many of them box-office hits like the 1990s political thrillers “In the Line of Fire,” with Clint Eastwood, and “Air Force One,” with Harrison Ford.With a knack for genre filmmaking — action films were another strong suit — he also made forays into fantasy “(The NeverEnding Story”), sword-and-sandal epic (“Troy’) and science fiction — all while attracting marquee names to star in them, like Dustin Hoffman in “Outbreak,” Brad Pitt in “Troy” and George Clooney in “The Perfect Storm.”Jürgen Prochnow, right, played a U-boat captain in “Das Boot.” It’s considered among the finest antiwar films ever made.Columbia PicturesFor all his success in Hollywood, however, “Das Boot,” a tense drama about sailors on a German U-boat during World War II, is the work for which Mr. Petersen will mostly likely be remembered. In the English-speaking world, that frequently mispronounced title alone (“Boot” is spoken exactly like the English “boat”) has attained a kind of pop-cultural status, thanks to references on “The Simpsons” and other TV shows.“‘Das Boot’ isn’t just a German film about World War II; it’s a German naval adventure epic that has already been a hit in West Germany,” Janet Maslin wrote in her review in The New York Times when the film opened in the U.S. in early 1982.The movie won high praise for its historical accuracy and the clammy, claustrophobic effect achieved by the cinematographer Jost Vacano, who shot most of the interior scenes with a small hand-held Arriflex camera. Although the critical response in Germany was divided, with some accusing the film of glorifying war, it encountered a more uniformly positive response abroad. Nowadays it is considered among the finest antiwar films ever made.“Das Boot” (also titled “The Boat” in English-speaking countries) grossed over $80 million worldwide, and though it did not win an Academy Award, its six Oscar nominations — including two for Mr. Petersen, for direction and screenplay, and one for Mr. Vacano, for cinematography — remain a record for a German film production. (It was not nominated in the best-foreign-language-film category; West Germany’s submission that year was Mr. Herzog’s “Fitzcarraldo,” which did not make the Academy’s short list for the Oscar).Mr. Petersen in 1997 with the director’s cut of “Das Boot.”Michael Ochs Archives/Getty ImagesMr. Petersen prepared various versions of “Das Boot” over the next decade and a half. In 1985, German TV broadcast a 300-minute version (twice as long as the theatrical release), which Mr. Petersen claimed was closer to his original vision but commercially unfeasible at the time.After “Das Boot,” he teamed up with the producer Bernd Eichinger, whose fledgling studio, Constantin Film, co-produced the English-language “The NeverEnding Story,” an adaptation of a 1979 fantasy novel by the best-selling German children’s author Michael Ende.Released in 1984, “The NeverEnding Story,” about a bullied boy who enters into an enchanted book, was another-box office hit in Germany and abroad — although it, too, received its share of negative reviews, including from The Times’s film critic Vincent Canby, who called it “graceless” and “humorless.”Despite a tepid U.S. box-office return, which Mr. Petersen chalked up to the film’s being “too European,” “The NeverEnding Story” became a cult favorite over the decades, for its trippy production design, scrappy special effects and synth-heavy theme song, written by Giorgio Moroder and sung by the British pop singer Limahl.The film was mostly shot at Bavaria Film Studio, near Munich, where present-day visitors can ride Falcor, the “luck dragon” that Mr. Canby compared to “an impractical bath mat.” (The studio’s theme park, Bavaria FilmStadt, also offers tours of the submarine from “Das Boot.”)Mr. Petersen with Clint Eastwood on the set of “In the Line of Fire,” in which Mr. Eastwood played a Secret Service agent trying to prevent a presidential assassination. Bruce McBroom/Sygma via Getty ImagesWolfgang Petersen was born on March 14, 1941, in Emden, in Northern Germany. His father was a naval lieutenant in World War II who later worked for a shipping company in Hamburg.Growing up in the immediate postwar period, the young Mr. Petersen idolized America and American movies. On Sundays he would go to matinee screenings for children at the local cinema to see westerns directed by Howard Hawks and John Ford and starring Gary Cooper and John Wayne.“I got to know the medium of film when I was 8 years old, and I was immediately enthusiastic about it,” he told Elfriede Jelinek, a future Nobel Prize winner for literature, in a 1985 interview for German Playboy. “When I was 11, I decided I wanted to become a film director.”In 1950, his family moved to Hamburg, and when Wolfgang was 14, his father gave him an eight-millimeter film camera for Christmas.After graduating from high school, Mr. Petersen was exempted from compulsive military service because of a spine curvature. In the early 1960s, he worked as an assistant director at the Junges Theater (now the Ernst Deutsch Theater) in Hamburg. He then studied theater in Hamburg and Berlin for several semesters before enrolling at the German Film and Television Academy Berlin, West Germany’s first film school, which opened in 1966.In 1970, his graduation film, “I Will Kill You, Wolf,” was picked up by West German television, and this led to a directing offer for the long-running German crime series “Tatort.”Mr. Petersen, right, on the set of “Poseidon,” a 2006 remake of the 1972 movie “The Poseidon Adventure.” Claudette Barius/Warner Brothers PicturesOver the next decade, Mr. Petersen worked at a feverish pace, directing for both television and the big screen, starting in 1974 with the psychological thriller “One or the Other of Us.”From the beginning, audience approval was of central importance to him. “I crouched in the cinema to see how the audience would react” to one particular film, he recalled in the Playboy interview. “And what happened? People walked out of the film. I was devastated. Because I’m obsessed with making films for everyone.”He often succeeded, with popular early-career thrillers that tackled thorny political and social issues. “Smog” (1972) dealt with the effects of pollution in the Ruhr, the industrial region in Northwest Germany. “The Consequence” (1977) was controversial for its frank depiction of homosexuality, a taboo topic at the time.He was married to the German actress Ursula Sieg from 1970 to 1978. He later married Maria-Antoinette Borgel, whom he had met on the set of “Smog,” where she worked as a script supervisor.He is survived by his wife as well as a son from his first marriage, Daniel, a filmmaker, and two grandchildren.Mr. Petersen had nearly 20 films to his credit by the time he made “Das Boot.” A triumph that few, if any, could have predicted, the movie established his international reputation and opened the door to Hollywood.Mr. Petersen with the cast of “Troy” at the Cannes International Film Festival in 2004. With him, from left, were Eric Bana; Saffron Burrows; Sean Bean; Mr. Petersen’s wife, Maria-Antoinette Petersen; Brad Pitt; Jennifer Aniston, who was Mr. Pitt’s wife at the time (and not in the film); Orlando Bloom; and Diane Kruger.Pascal Guyot/AFP via Getty ImagesIn his autobiography, “I Love Big Stories” (1997, written with Ulrich Greiwe), Mr. Petersen recalled the first American test screening of “Das Boot” in Los Angeles. At the beginning, the audience of 1,500 applauded when the screen flashed with the statistic that 30,000 Germans onboard U-boats were killed during the war. “I thought: This is going to be a catastrophe!” Mr. Petersen wrote. Two and a half hours later, the film received a thunderous ovation.After “The NeverEnding Story,” Mr. Petersen made “Enemy Mine” (1985), a science fiction film starring Dennis Quaid about a fighter pilot forced to cooperate with a reptilian enemy after they both land on a hostile alien planet. Ms. Maslin called it “a costly, awful-looking science-fiction epic with one of the weirdest story lines ever to hit the screen.”A year later, Mr. Petersen moved to Los Angeles, where he would remain for two decades, working with big stars in a string of mainstream successes that included the political dramas “In the Line of Fire” (1993), about a Secret Service agent’s efforts to prevent a presidential assassination, and “Air Force One” (1997), about the hijacking of the presidential jetliner. There were also the disaster films “Outbreak” (1995), about a deadly virus, “The Perfect Storm” (2000), about commercial New England fishermen caught in a terrifying tempest, and “Poseidon” (2006), a remake of “The Poseidon Adventure,” the 1972 blockbuster about a capsized luxury liner.Mr. Petersen accepted applause during a 25th anniversary celebration of “Das Boot” in Berlin in early 2007. Sean Gallup/Getty ImagesEven at their most commercial, Mr. Petersen’s films often had undercurrents of political commentary. Discussing the “Iliad”-inspired “Troy” (2004), Mr. Petersen drew parallels between Homer’s epic and the reign of George W. Bush. “Power-hungry Agamemnons who want to create a new world order — that is absolutely current,” he told the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung.His film career seemed to come full circle in 2016 with “Vier gegen die Bank,” a remake of his 1976 comedy-heist film based on an American novel, “The Nixon Recession Caper,” by Ralph Maloney. It was Mr. Petersen’s first German-language film since “Das Boot” a quarter-century earlier.Throughout his career, he seemed unconcerned by critics who called his artistic merit into question.“If someone asked me whether I felt like an artist, I would have a strange feeling, because I don’t really know,” he once said. “What is an artist? Maybe it’s someone who produces something much more intimate than film, more like a composer or writer or painter.”“My passion,” he added, “is telling a story.” More

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    An Oscars Apology for Sacheen Littlefeather, 50 Years After Brando Protest

    The Apache activist and actress was booed onstage in 1973 after she refused the best actor award on Marlon Brando’s behalf and criticized Hollywood for its depictions of Native Americans.The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has apologized to Sacheen Littlefeather, an Apache and Yaqui actress and activist who was booed onstage at the Oscars in 1973 after she refused the best actor award on behalf of Marlon Brando.The Academy said in a statement on Monday that it had apologized to Ms. Littlefeather, 75, in June, nearly 50 years after Ms. Littlefeather pierced through the Academy Awards facade of shiny statues and bright lights in 1973 and injected the ceremony with criticism about Native American stereotypes in media.Her appearance at the ceremony, the first time a Native American woman stood onstage at the Academy Awards, is perhaps one of the best-known disruptive moments in the history of the award ceremony.When Ms. Littlefeather, then 26, spoke, some of the audience cheered her and others jeered. One actor, John Wayne, was so unsettled that a show producer, Marty Pasetta, said security guards had to restrain him so that he would not storm the stage.Ms. Littlefeather said she was “stunned” by the apology in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. “I never thought I’d live to see the day I would be hearing this, experiencing this,” she said.“When I was at the podium in 1973, I stood there alone,” she added.Ms. Littlefeather also brought attention to the federal government’s standoff at Wounded Knee with Native Americans in the 1973 speech, which she came up with shortly before being called onstage on behalf of Mr. Brando, who was to receive the best actor award for his performance as Vito Corleone in “The Godfather.”Ms. Littlefeather said in an interview with the Academy, which was published on Monday, that she had been planning to watch the 45th Academy Awards on television like everyone else when she received a call the night before the ceremony from Mr. Brando. The two had become friends through her neighbor, the director Francis Ford Coppola. Mr. Brando asked her to refuse the award on his behalf if he won.Ms. Littlefeather arrived at the ceremony with only about 15 minutes left of the official program, wearing a glimmering buckskin dress, moccasins and hair ties. Ms. Littlefeather said she had little information about how the night would work, but Mr. Brando had given her a speech to read if he won.That plan evaporated when a producer for the Oscars saw the pages in her hand and told he she would be arrested if her comments lasted more than 60 seconds, she said.She introduced herself, then explained that Mr. Brando would not be accepting the award because of his concerns about the image of Native American people in film and television and by the government. She paused when a mix of boos and cheers erupted from the audience.“And I focused in on the mouths and the jaws that were dropping open in the audience, and there were quite a few,” she told the Academy. “But it was like looking into a sea of Clorox, you know, there were very few people of color in the audience.”The crowd quieted, and Ms. Littlefeather mentioned the Wounded Knee standoff and then left the stage without touching the golden Oscars statue. She said some audience members did the so-called “tomahawk chop” at her and that when she went to Mr. Brando’s house later, people shot at the doorway where she was standing.“When I went back to Marlon’s house, there was an incident with people shooting at me,” she said. “And there were two bullet holes that came through the doorway of where I was standing, and I was on the other side of it.”Ms. Littlefeather, who was not available for an interview on Tuesday, told the Academy that speaking about these events in 2022 “felt like a big cleanse.”“It feels like the sacred circle is completing itself before I go in this life,” said Ms. Littlefeather, who told The Guardian in June 2021 that she had terminal breast cancer.The former president of the Academy, David Rubin, wrote in the apology to Ms. Littlefeather that the abuse she faced because of the speech was “unwarranted and unjustified.”“For too long the courage you showed has been unacknowledged,” Mr. Rubin wrote. “For this, we offer both our deepest apologies and our sincere admiration.”Mr. Rubin’s letter will be read next month at a program at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, “An Evening with Sacheen Littlefeather.”The Academy described it as an event of “conversation, reflection, healing and celebration.” Ms. Littlefeather said in a statement that she was looking forward to the Native American performers and speakers at the event, including Calina Lawrence, a Suquamish singer, and Bird Runningwater, the co-chair of the Academy’s Indigenous Alliance, who is Cheyenne and Mescalero Apache.“It is profoundly heartening to see how much has changed since I did not accept the Academy Award 50 years ago,” she said. “I am so proud of each and every person who will appear onstage.” More