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    ‘The Vigil’ Review: What Could Go Wrong Watching Over the Dead?

    #masthead-section-label, #masthead-bar-one { display: none }What to WatchBest Movies on NetflixBest of Disney PlusBest of Amazon PrimeBest Netflix DocumentariesNew on NetflixAdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main story‘The Vigil’ Review: What Could Go Wrong Watching Over the Dead?Money pulls in a night watcher, but a malicious spirit gets into his head in this feature debut from Keith Thomas.Dave Davis as Yakov in “The Vigil.”Credit…IFC MidnightFeb. 25, 2021, 7:00 a.m. ETThe VigilDirected by Keith ThomasHorror, Mystery, ThrillerPG-131h 29mFind TicketsWhen you purchase a ticket for an independently reviewed film through our site, we earn an affiliate commission.It is Jewish tradition to have someone watch over the dead until they are buried. That person is called a shomer. Yakov (Dave Davis), a young Jewish man who has left behind a strictly Jewish-observant life, is pulled into last-minute night-watch shomer duty. He’s reluctant but could desperately use the $400 that he is promised. What could go wrong with just a few hours spent next to a dead body, anyway?So much. Keith Thomas’s slim but effective “The Vigil” milks terror from a minimalistic setup, relying on the shapes we make out with squinted eyes in the shadows. Yakov’s shift comes with ample warning: The shomer before him dropped out for mysterious reasons. Then there’s the widow, Mrs. Litvak (the late Lynn Cohen, in one of her final roles), who pleads with Yakov, upon his arrival, “to leave now.” Thomas is clever to leave Yakov just vulnerable enough to stay.[embedded content]Also feeding on Yakov’s vulnerability is a Mazzik, a malicious spirit of Jewish folklore, looking for a new host. It manipulates a painful memory from Yakov’s past. He wonders whether he’s imagining things because of a side effect of medication he most likely takes to cope with trauma from his past.Thomas’s missteps occur when he strays from his simple formula. The minuscule flinch of the dead body is far more spine-tingling than the cacophonous chaos that later ensues. The unique premise marries Old World traditions and Holocaust history with present-day Hasidic Brooklyn, but the addition of technological elements is hit or miss. The Mazzik overriding Yakov’s smartphone communication is clever, but the film could have done without Yakov killing time during the vigil by Googling, “How to talk to women.” (period included).The VigilRated PG-13 for the things that go bump in the night. Running time: 1 hour 29 minutes. In theaters and available to rent or buy on Apple TV, Google Play and other streaming platforms and pay TV operators. Please consult the guidelines outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before watching movies inside theaters.AdvertisementContinue reading the main story More

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    ‘The Father’ Review: A Capricious Mind

    #masthead-section-label, #masthead-bar-one { display: none }What to WatchBest Movies on NetflixBest of Disney PlusBest of Amazon PrimeBest Netflix DocumentariesNew on NetflixAdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main storyCritic’s Pick‘The Father’ Review: A Capricious MindAnthony Hopkins gives a scalding performance as a man stricken by dementia in this clever drama.Anthony Hopkins in “The Father.”Credit…Sean Gleason/Sony Pictures ClassicsFeb. 25, 2021, 7:00 a.m. ETThe FatherNYT Critic’s PickDirected by Florian ZellerDramaPG-131h 37mFind TicketsWhen you purchase a ticket for an independently reviewed film through our site, we earn an affiliate commission.At once stupendously effective and profoundly upsetting, “The Father” might be the first movie about dementia to give me actual chills. On its face a simple, uncomfortably familiar story about the heartbreaking mental decline of a beloved parent, this first feature from the French novelist and playwright Florian Zeller plays with perspective so cleverly that maintaining any kind of emotional distance is impossible.The result is a picture that peers into corners many of us might prefer to leave unexplored. When we first meet Anthony (Anthony Hopkins), a hale octogenarian ensconced in an upscale London flat, we’re primed to expect the kind of genteel entertainment Hopkins has long made his own. But Zeller, adapting (with Christopher Hampton) his acclaimed stage play, has nothing so cozy in mind; and when Anthony’s middle-aged daughter, Anne (Olivia Colman), arrives to tell him she’s moving to Paris to pursue a new relationship, his reaction escalates from bafflement to outright distress.[embedded content]Anne is concerned. Anthony has just scared away his most recent caregiver after accusing her of theft, and a new one must be found. After Anne leaves, he hears a noise in the flat and discovers a strange man (Mark Gatiss) reading a newspaper. The man claims to be Anne’s husband, Paul, but isn’t Anne divorced? And why is the man saying Anthony is their guest? Confused and upset, Anthony is relieved to hear Anne return — only now she’s played by Olivia Williams and neither we nor Anthony recognize her. Later still, Rufus Sewell appears as a very different, much angrier Paul, one who will nudge the movie’s tone toward something more complicated and infinitely more dark.Combining mystery and psychodrama, “The Father” is a majestic depiction of things falling away: People, surroundings and time itself are becoming ever more slippery. As if to enforce order on days that keep eluding him, Anthony clings obsessively to his watch. Morning turns to twilight in the space of a single breakfast exchange; conversation ceases whenever his second daughter, Lucy, is mentioned. And while the audience will be able to piece together the plot’s timeline, Zeller’s relentlessly subjective approach places us slap-bang in the middle of Anthony’s distorted memories. It’s a brutal, terrifyingly simple technique, backed by a production design that manipulates the details of his surroundings just enough to make us question where — and when — we are.Whether as Lear or Lecter, Hopkins has never been an especially physical actor — most of the magic happens above the neck — but here he pushes his capacity for small, telling gestures and stillness to distressing limits. For Anthony, senility doesn’t creep, it pounces, and he responds by freezing until it retreats. When it doesn’t, his disorientation manifests in ways that require Hopkins to swerve, sometimes on a dime, from mischievous to enraged and from charming to laceratingly cruel. It’s an astonishing, devilish performance, one that turns a meeting with Anthony’s new caregiver (a terrific Imogen Poots) into a master class of manipulation.There is love in “The Father” — most of it radiating from Colman’s wonderfully warm presence — but there’s no sugarcoating: Compassionate yet unsparing, the movie is more likely to give you nightmares than warm fuzzies.“Do you intend to go on ruining your daughter’s life?” Sewell’s Paul hisses to Anthony at one point, his resentment hanging thickly in the air. Sewell’s screen time is limited, but crucial, his wounded performance revealing a marriage fraying from the strain of Anthony’s condition. That stress results in a couple of scenes that venture shockingly close to horror, and maybe that’s appropriate. In a recent interview, Hopkins confessed to becoming momentarily overwhelmed during filming by a reminder of his own mortality. He probably won’t be the only person to have that response.The FatherRated PG-13 for distressing language and themes. Running time: Running time: 1 hour 37 minutes. In theaters. Please consult the guidelines outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before watching movies inside theaters.AdvertisementContinue reading the main story More

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    Podcasting Is Booming. Will Hollywood Help or Hurt Its Future?

    #masthead-section-label, #masthead-bar-one { display: none }What to WatchBest Movies on NetflixBest of Disney PlusBest of Amazon PrimeBest Netflix DocumentariesNew on NetflixAdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main storyPodcasting Is Booming. Will Hollywood Help or Hurt Its Future?A frothy adaptation market is just one sign of the rapid evolution of the industry. But some worry that big money will stifle the D.I.Y. spirit that has driven much of its success.Once seen as a marginal forum for comedy, tech talk and public radio programming, podcasting is one of the hottest corners in media, with Hollywood hungry for TV and film adaptations.Credit…Hudson ChristieFeb. 25, 2021, 5:00 a.m. ETIn November, production began in Los Angeles on a new series with the trappings of a potential hit.“Unwanted” is a buddy action comedy told with a wink, part “Beverly Hills Cop” homage and part Seth Rogen-esque genre sendup. It stars Lamorne Morris (“Woke” and “New Girl”) and Billy Magnussen (“Game Night”) as slackers who stumble on criminal intrigue in between bong hits, and its script is stocked with gross-out humor. (Sample line: “When I told you I dropped my phone in the toilet, that wasn’t the whole story.”)But “Unwanted” is not the latest Netflix comedy; it’s a podcast — or at least is starting out that way. The show’s first two episodes were released this week by QCode Media, a two-year-old company whose podcasts, with big names and high production values, are all but audio pitches for film and television. In July, for example, QCode introduced “Dirty Diana,” an erotic drama starring Demi Moore; by September, Amazon made a deal to turn it into a TV series.A frothy adaptation market in Hollywood is just one sign of the rapid evolution of podcasting. Though the format dates to the early 2000s — it is named after the iPod — podcasting has had an expansive growth spurt the last few years. Since 2018, the number of available shows has more than tripled, to around two million. Spotify, Amazon, SiriusXM, iHeartMedia and other major streaming and traditional media companies have poured about $2 billion into the industry, both chasing and fueling its growth. Celebrities, even former presidents like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, are piling in, looking at on-demand audio as a key brand-building channel.Once seen as a marginal forum for comedy, tech talk and public radio programming, podcasting is one of the hottest corners in media. Yet its formats and business practices are still developing, leading producers, executives and talent to view the medium as akin to television circa 1949: lucrative and uncharted territory with plenty of room for experimentation and flag-planting.“It’s a new frontier, and we love it,” said Morris, who is also a creator and executive producer of “Unwanted.”But along with the optimism come worries that big money may stifle the D.I.Y. spirit vital to podcasting’s identity. Indie podcasters, used to an open and decentralized distribution system, fear being marginalized if the tech giants push through pay walls and exclusive deals. And as podcasting becomes big business, there is unease that the diversity of voices in our earbuds — never a strong suit of the industry — could be put at risk too.Nick Quah, who writes the Hot Pod newsletter, said that corporate interests tend to run contrary to what has always made podcasting interesting: the idea that anyone, anywhere, can bubble up and find an audience.“As we move forward and more of these platforms assume a stronger gatekeeping position,” Quah said, “there’s a strong possibility for new voices to get pushed out of the space. That’s a real concern.”Lamorne Morris, left, and Kyle Shevrin, are the creators of the buddy action comedy podcast “Unwanted.”Credit…Daniel Dorsa for The New York TimesCracking the Code of the Podcast AdaptationFor the average listener, the most noticeable change in podcasting’s immediate future may simply be higher-quality shows.The influx of money — from tech platforms, advertisers and Hollywood — has attracted talent and driven spending on production resources. Podcasting executives say they are now flooded with pitches for new shows, often from A-list writers, directors and performers.“What you’re seeing now is this incredible flowering of creativity,” said Lydia Polgreen, a former HuffPost and New York Times editor who is now managing director of Gimlet Media, a Spotify-owned studio.For Hollywood, the podcasting space has become a farm team for intellectual property — where story lines can be tested out and promising material scooped up relatively cheaply. And with the movie business dominated by remakes, superhero franchises and other tent-pole mega-productions, the freedom podcasting provides is also refreshing, said Rob Herting, a former agent at the Creative Artists Agency who founded QCode.“I had gotten tired of the repurposing of old intellectual property,” Herting said. “I kind of yearn for original stories. This felt like such a great outlet for those, a place where you can go to be bold, experiment and move quickly.”QCode launched in early 2019 with “Blackout,” starring Rami Malek as a radio D.J. in a small New England town when the national power grid mysteriously goes dark. The company now has a portfolio of 11 series, including “Hank the Cow Dog,” a children’s show with Matthew McConaughey, and “Carrier,” a thriller starring Cynthia Erivo that showcases another feature of many of the best podcasts: intense, consuming sound design. QCode plans 15 new podcasts in 2021.Modest budgets and quick turnaround time enable more risk-taking. Most of QCode’s shows cost in the low to mid six figures to make, Herting said — orders of magnitude less than a film or TV project — and an eight-episode podcast can be taped in just a week or two. A comparable TV season, Morris said, could take two months to shoot.“Unwanted” is the studio’s first comedy, and Morris, who had a part in “Carrier,” said he was unsure whether it would work. For one thing, taping during the pandemic meant working remotely; using audio gear shipped to them at home, actors communicated via Zoom.But Morris said that his worries evaporated the first day on the virtual set. His character, Ben, is introduced pleading for an extension on his student loan, before he is revealed to be calling from a strip club. In the background, the comedian Ron Funches announces the dancers like a lascivious carnival barker: “Put your hands together for the beautiful … Desssstiny!”“I heard the raw playback and I was dying laughing,” Morris recalled. “You forget how immersive audio can be until you sit down and just plug in,” he added. “It really takes you there.”A successful adaptation into film or television can generate $1 million or more for podcast creators, far exceeding what most shows can collect from advertising. (The entire ad market for podcasts was estimated to be less than $1 billion last year, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau.)But as the audience for podcasts grows — at last 104 million Americans listen each month, according to a survey last year by Edison Research and Triton Digital — TV and film properties are increasingly being adapted into audio shows as well.“It really is a two-way street,” said Josh Lindgren, a podcast agent at C.A.A. “It’s not just that Hollywood is coming to gobble up all the podcast I.P. and turn it into TV shows.”Warner Bros. is creating podcasts for Spotify based on DC Comics characters; Marvel is bringing a slate of podcasts, including a scripted series, “Marvel’s Wastelanders,” to SiriusXM. And Ben Silverman, the TV producer behind the American version of “The Office,” whose company Propagate Content made an oral history of that show for Spotify, has struck a new deal with SiriusXM that will establish a new franchise of entertainment oral history podcasts.“There are no rules anymore,” Silverman said. “If you are a creative person, you can go anywhere.”Walled Gardens and the Future of IndiesEmily Cross channeled her inner Seinfeld with “What I’m Looking At,” a podcast where she spends 20 to 30 minutes just talking about what she’s looking at.Credit…Tom Jamieson for The New York TimesHollywood deals have taken podcasting far from its shoestring origins. But the growth story has been building for years.The first mainstream hit arrived in 2014 with “Serial,” an investigative look at the murder of a teenage girl that was made by veteran public-radio journalists. The show — and the media attention it received — demonstrated the format’s storytelling and marketing potential.New stars were minted. Leon Neyfakh was a Slate staff writer in 2017 when he hosted the first season of “Slow Burn,” a meticulous examination of the Watergate scandal.As a writer, Neyfakh said, he was dispirited to find that long feature stories, which had taken months of work, would yield just a few minutes of “average engaged time” from readers. But “Slow Burn” fans would spend hours with the show, listening through to the end of episodes that lasted 30, 40 minutes or more.“People are just willing to give you more of their attention in podcasting than they are in print,” Neyfakh said.Epix turned the Watergate season of “Slow Burn” into a TV documentary and an anthology series starring Julia Roberts and Sean Penn is heading to Starz.Along with high-minded journalism came a flood of comedian-led talk shows, pop-culture gabfests, sex and self-help shows, and every niche dive imaginable. In 2017, Emily Cross, an indie-rock musician, was joking with a friend about the glut of podcasts when she hit on a “Seinfeld”-inspired idea.“What if I just did a podcast about nothing? A podcast about just what I’m looking at,” Cross recalled. “I was like: Actually, I really like that idea. So I just started doing it.”For 20 to 30 minutes each week, “What I’m Looking At” features Cross calmly describing random objects — her shoes, an apple, a box of toothpicks — in soothing detail, like a combination Zen relaxation ritual and conceptual art project. She earns no money from it directly (she has supporters on Patreon), but has built a small community of followers who email her comments after every episode.Shows like “Slow Burn” and “What I’m Looking At” exemplify the power and charm of podcasting — an intimate, technologically simple medium that can help forge a connection with an audience over any topic, weighty or whimsical.That power, and the lure of greater advertising dollars, has begun to draw big investment. In 2018, iHeartMedia, the broadcast radio giant, paid $55 million for Stuff Media, the studio behind hits like “Stuff You Should Know.” Last year, SiriusXM acquired Stitcher, a popular app and distributor, for at least $265 million. And in late December, Amazon agreed to buy Wondery (“Dr. Death,” “Dirty John”) at a price estimated at more than $300 million.Over the last two years, Spotify has paid more than $800 million for a series of podcasting companies, like Gimlet, the Ringer and Anchor. Spotify has also struck content deals with the Obamas, Kim Kardashian West, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and the comedian Joe Rogan, whose no-holds-barred talk — including with guests like Alex Jones — has made him podcasting’s closest thing to Howard Stern.Spending has amped up competition among platforms, many of which have begun to protect their investments by keeping content inside so-called walled gardens, accessible only to subscribers. Spotify, which keeps some shows within its walls, has made it clear that it views podcasts as a way to attract new customers to its service. This month, Spotify said that a quarter of its 345 million customers listen to podcasts.“There is no question that podcasting is helping drive more people to Spotify than ever before,” said Dawn Ostroff, the company’s chief content and advertising business officer. “That’s really our goal at this point.”Consumers have grown accustomed to content arms races among streaming services like Netflix and Disney+. But in podcasting, it has led to fears of corporate Balkanization of what has long been a platform-neutral medium, in which anything but the most high-profile shows could effectively be suppressed.For now, there are signs of experimentation in the distribution model — or at least a hesitancy by platforms to wall off too much of their content. When “The Michelle Obama Podcast” came out in July, for example, it was only on Spotify, but within two months it was widely available, including on Spotify’s archrival, Apple.SiriusXM, which owns Pandora and Stitcher, has developed a hybrid approach to take advantage of the offerings on each of those three brands. The company circulates free podcast versions of some of its subscriber-only radio shows, like Kevin Hart’s “Comedy Gold Minds,” to Pandora and Stitcher, in part as marketing for SiriusXM’s paid service.“We love our three-barrel attack,” said Scott Greenstein, SiriusXM’s president and chief content officer.A Diversity Downside?Lory Martinez, whose Studio Ochenta makes “Mija,” said starting her own company may have been the only way to get her shows — and her multilingual, multicultural approach — to market.Credit…Carolina Arantes for The New York TimesLory Martinez, a Colombian-American podcaster, keeps her grandfather’s press card at her desk in Paris.He was a newspaper reporter in Colombia who covered the country’s Indigenous communities, and saw his role as bringing those people’s stories and perspectives to the entire nation. His approach inspired the mission of Martinez’s company, Studio Ochenta: “Raising voices across cultures.”Ochenta began a year and a half ago with “Mija,” a short-form podcast about the life of an immigrant daughter from Queens — modeled after Martinez herself — that was released in English, Spanish and French. It reached No. 1 on iTunes’s fiction podcast charts in 13 countries, and its third season, about an Egyptian Muslim character in Britain and the United States, will be released in April in English, Spanish and Arabic.“There is now more of a space for voices than you would traditionally hear, and they are appearing in podcasting,” Martinez said. “They’re not only making podcasts, they are starting companies. That’s what’s so exciting about this time.”But Martinez said that starting her own company may have been the only way to get her shows — and her multilingual, multicultural approach — to market.“I don’t think ‘Mija’ would have been made if I pitched it elsewhere,” Martinez said.Increasing corporatization, and the incentive for platforms to favor the shows they own, has intensified concerns that podcasts from underrepresented groups could enjoy less promotion, find fewer listeners and collect less advertising revenue — a vicious cycle that would repeat many of the failings of the old media model.For all the rah-rah talk of podcasts as a democratized medium, building diversity has been a slow undertaking. In 2008, for example, 73 percent of monthly listeners in the United States were white. In those days, “the average podcast you listened to was two white dudes talking about internet routers, and the audience reflected that,” said Tom Webster of Edison Research.Last year, Edison and Triton found that white listeners’ slice of the pie had narrowed to 63 percent, nearly mirroring the 60 percent of Americans who identify as white in census data. But the representation behind the microphone still lags.Juleyka Lantigua-Williams, a former journalist at NPR and The Atlantic who founded a production company focused on work by people of color, said that media and tech companies should look at diversity as a business imperative, given the country’s shifting demographics and the devoted audiences that companies like Studio Ochenta are building.“In the rush to secure the players that look like sure bets,” Lantigua-Williams said, “they are overlooking the creators who are really growing audiences that are going to stay with them five, 10 years down the line.”Yet some podcasters have found success navigating the corporate world from within. Spotify’s “Dope Labs” features two young Black women, Titi Shodiya and Zakiya Whatley — both working scientists with Ph.D.s — who came to podcasting via a Spotify-sponsored accelerator program, Sound Up, that aims to bring talent from underrepresented groups into the medium.“Dope Labs” mingles hard-nosed science and pop culture, with episodes on coronavirus vaccinations, racism in science and the history of Afrofuturism. The show has more than 100,000 followers — a midlevel hit.“People have this stereotypical box of what a scientist looks like, what they sound like and what they care about,” Shodiya said. “And we say, no. We don’t only care about these things. We’re really into fashion. We’re really into music. We’re really into food. We like to break the mold.”Sound Up awarded Shodiya and Whatley $10,000 and offered them training in basics like interviewing and using recording equipment. They were free to take their show anywhere, and Shodiya said they pitched it to other companies, which asked for changes the women did not want to make. They stuck with Spotify.“Spotify seemed to get it,” Shodiya said. “They really appreciate our voices and what we bring to the platform.”Opportunities for CreativityFor a star like Morris, the question of access to media is less of an issue. But even for him, podcasts offer a rare opportunity — to test a new idea, quickly and cheaply.“When you’re a creative person, you need an outlet,” Morris said. “You can’t always say, ‘Let’s go and make a $50 million movie.’ But you can sit down, record, say your idea out loud.”For now, many podcasters say, the money spent by platforms, media companies and advertisers has helped enable experimentation in the format and a sharpening of storytelling techniques.Early fiction hits like Gimlet’s “Homecoming,” from 2016, about a therapist working with returning soldiers, demonstrated some of the potential for innovation, with crosscut scenes and varying audio treatment of voices to indicate different environments — a high-tech take on techniques first heard in 1930s radio dramas. (“Homecoming” became a TV series on Amazon starring Roberts and then Janelle Monáe.)More recently, shows like Audible’s “When You Finish Saving the World,” a five-hour drama by Jesse Eisenberg, have tinkered further with narration and storytelling in long-form audio.“Unwanted,” Morris said, could very well be a film or television project. (A spokeswoman for QCode said no negotiations to adapt it have taken place yet.) The story, he said, was just one of “millions” of ideas that he and Kyle Shevrin, his co-creator and writing partner, have bandied about, and podcasting allowed it to become a reality.“It’s a proof of concept,” Morris said, “to say to the industry: This works, this is fun, this is something that can be done.”AdvertisementContinue reading the main story More

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    Kingsley Ben-Adir’s Breakthrough Year Didn’t Come Easily

    #masthead-section-label, #masthead-bar-one { display: none }What to WatchBest Movies on NetflixBest of Disney PlusBest of Amazon PrimeBest Netflix DocumentariesNew on NetflixAdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main storyThe ProjectionistKingsley Ben-Adir’s Breakthrough Year Didn’t Come EasilyPlaying Malcolm X in “One Night in Miami” is a dream realized for the British actor, but drama school didn’t prepare him for all the disappointments along the way.Ben-Adir has been the subject of awards chatter for his turn as Malcolm X.Credit…Danny Kasirye for The New York TimesFeb. 24, 2021Updated 3:43 p.m. ETOver the past year, all the pieces finally began to fit together for Kingsley Ben-Adir.Foremost among them was the British actor’s breakthrough performance as Malcolm X in Regina King’s “One Night in Miami,” in which he movingly mines the human, vulnerable side of an icon. But there were also roles as varied as Barack Obama in “The Comey Rule” and Zoë Kravitz’s love interest in “High Fidelity.” And then, the most unambiguous sign of “making it”: Ben-Adir even popped up as a character played by guest host Regé-Jean Page on the latest “Saturday Night Live.”But this sudden rush of attention, success and awards buzz is a heady development for Ben-Adir, who had begun to question everything about his approach to acting only three years ago. “I felt like I was just making it up as I was going along, sometimes hitting and sometimes missing,” the 35-year-old actor said on video chat from his home in London. “And I really got to a point where I won’t say what show it was, but I saw something I had done on television and I felt so depressed by the work. I was like, ‘Is that it? All of the work that went into it, and that’s what it was?’”Raised on a steady diet of “Inside the Actors Studio” episodes — “I’ve seen every one of those two or three times,” he said — the London-born Ben-Adir expected his passion for acting to be stoked at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, which he graduated from in 2011. Instead, Ben-Adir got a stiff, technical education meant mainly to prepare him for big British stages. “The training that I had and the training that I dreamed about, they were two completely different things,” he said.Ben-Adir as Malcolm X in a scene from “One Night in Miami.”Credit…Patti Perret/Amazon StudiosThat left Ben-Adir feeling disconnected as he began to put together his career. But acting classes he began taking three years ago with the teacher Victor Villar-Hauser taught him how to better marry head and heart, and without that renewed commitment, Ben-Adir said he couldn’t have made it through “One Night in Miami.” Directed by Regina King, the film imagines a quartet of Black icons — Malcolm X, Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.), Muhammad Ali (Eli Goree) and Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge) — as they spend one tumultuous night together hashing out their issues.Ben-Adir was the last to be cast in the film after the original actor playing Malcolm dropped out, and had only 14 days to get ready before the shoot began. “It was a complete whirlwind,” he said.These are edited excerpts from our conversation.Why did you have so little time to prep for “One Night in Miami”?After I auditioned, I kept being promised that I was going to find out in a few days, and those few days turned into a couple of weeks. I was really losing faith that the part was going to come to me, and then we got to the 21st of December, and I said to my team, “Guys, we’re shooting on the 3rd of January. This is insane. What’s going on?” I told them, “I’m out, because I’ve been robbed of my preparation time.” That message didn’t get passed on, so when the offer came, it was a real surprise.How different would this role have been if you’d had a year to prepare for it?I would have had an encyclopedic knowledge of Malcolm that I didn’t have going in — I was learning as I was going along. But I don’t necessarily think that’s always helpful, to know too much. There’s something about not knowing and feeling unsure that’s very, very useful to being vulnerable in the moment and just having to trust in everything that’s going on around you. You should be flying into those scenes with your chin out, in full surrender. Ben-Adir on what he hadn’t been prepared for when he left drama school:  “I saw something I had done on television and I felt so depressed by the work. I was like, ‘Is that it? All of the work that went into it, and that’s what it was?’”Credit…Danny Kasirye for The New York TimesIn this case, it probably helped that you knew the other characters well: You’ve auditioned to play Sam Cooke in different projects, and you spent years attached to star in a Muhammad Ali movie for Ang Lee that fell apart.I had a huge understanding of Sam’s history, and I know Muhammad Ali’s story probably better than I do Malcolm’s — that’s how many years I spent working on Muhammad Ali. But without getting too witchy-woo about it, genuinely I feel like it was the accumulation of all the projects and experiences that I’d had up to that point really allowed me to connect with Regina in a way that was equal and collaborative. And what you have in Regina is someone who understood that it needed to be a different Malcolm, a vulnerable Malcolm. A Malcolm we haven’t seen before, a Malcolm in private with his friends.As an actor, you have to call upon that vulnerability a lot, but at the same time, doesn’t this profession require a thick skin?Yeah, absolutely. Last week, I realized that my accountant here has been [screwing] me over for six years, and it was a really big wake-up call, because I realized the business and the creative are linked and you have to be on top of both of them. It’s no good to just be like, I’m an artist. No, you need to get a real handle on the business so that you can be really free within your art. In drama school, no one expressed the importance of being sensible with money and how much impact that has on you creatively.How much impact does it have when you get your hopes up for a big project and it falls through? That Ang Lee film was supposed to be your breakthrough, and then it didn’t happen.I feel like 95 percent of this job is dealing with disappointments and getting your energy up only to be let down. Something fell through last week that I’ve been working on and off for a year, but I made that work about me and my journey as an actor, and I learned something about myself through that process. Yes, it hurt, and you have to cope, but I feel like working with Ang for those two years was a major lesson in how you do not get your hopes up about anything until you’ve wrapped, it’s edited and it’s out.You go, “That door’s closed, another one will open. Show gets canceled, that means you’re available for other stuff.” Lots of people I’ve come up with through the years aren’t able to do that, and you’ll become resentful, bitter, and depressed. I feel real disappointment sometimes, but the bigger the disappointments, the better the highs will be when you get them.If this success had happened when you graduated from drama school, how different would it feel?I don’t think I would have been ready for this when I was 24, I really don’t.For years Ben-Adir was set to play Muhammad Ali for an Ang Lee film, but that project is no longer on.Credit…Danny Kasirye for The New York TimesBut I’m sure that at 24, you felt ready for this, right?More than ready! I was convinced that I should have been walking out of that drama-school building on to playing No. 2 with Brad Pitt. That’s not what happened, but I’m so glad it didn’t, because I know a lot of people who got huge opportunities too early, and they’re not around anymore.The first time I went to L.A., I was scared away and I didn’t go back for four years because I just wasn’t ready. I hadn’t done enough work on the dialect, and I had some really bad experiences with being stopped halfway through auditions because it wasn’t working. I was really lonely — L.A., if you don’t know people, can be really isolating — and I had no money and a terrible manager who ignored me the whole time I was there.So I was like, “Let me just go home.” And then I stayed onstage for a few years and let it happen more naturally. All those small parts where I got to be on set watching Brenda Blethyn, Mark Rylance, Michael Fassbender … you take bits.You’ve said before that part of the reason you came to L.A. in the first place is because your options were limited as a Black actor in the U.K. After the year you’ve had, is that changing at all?Yeah, massively. It’s hard to talk about offers and stuff without it sounding arrogant, but in the last few weeks since the movie’s come out, there’s 16 scripts. It’s really confusing, and it takes you a second. I was like, This is what you dreamed about. This is it.I’m so grateful, man. Yesterday, I had a teaching session at 9 on Zoom, and then I had a singing lesson, four hours of script reading, and two movies that I had to watch. How lucky am I? I really don’t need much. My agents hate me saying it, but I know how to live off $200 a week. I don’t want a big car, although I’d like a garden one day. But I am turned on and excited by the possibilities of my life, which is to be with the people I love, traveling and seeing the world, and then making cool movies.AdvertisementContinue reading the main story More

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    History Meets the Present on the ‘Judas and the Black Messiah’ Album

    #masthead-section-label, #masthead-bar-one { display: none }What to WatchBest Movies on NetflixBest of Disney PlusBest of Amazon PrimeBest Netflix DocumentariesNew on NetflixAdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main storyCritic’s PickHistory Meets the Present on the ‘Judas and the Black Messiah’ AlbumThe songs inspired by Shaka King’s film about the 1969 police killing of the Illinois Black Panther Party chairman Fred Hampton mostly don’t appear in the movie, but they expand its story.“Judas and the Black Messiah” arrived with an ambitious soundtrack stocked with songs featuring a soulful, somber and retro aesthetic.Credit…Glen Wilson/Warner BrosFeb. 24, 2021, 12:10 p.m. ETJudas and the Black Messiah: The Inspired AlbumNYT Critic’s PickA movie’s message doesn’t have to end with the closing credits. Black filmmakers and musicians have been making the most of “inspired by” albums that are anything but afterthoughts; they boldly extrapolate from the story told onscreen. “Black Panther,” “The Lion King” and now “Judas and the Black Messiah” — the director Shaka King’s film about the 1969 police killing of the Illinois Black Panther Party chairman Fred Hampton — arrived with companion albums that connect fantasy and history to their repercussions in the here and now.“Judas and the Black Messiah: The Inspired Album” overflows with music and ideas: 22 tracks, many of them collaborative. With Hit-Boy as one of the executive producers (and the rapper on a track of his own), the album gathers past and current hip-hop hitmakers, with Nas, Jay-Z and the Roots’ Black Thought alongside Pooh Shiesty, Polo G, Lil Durk and BJ the Chicago Kid.Although the album is a compilation from dozens of rappers, singers, producers and songwriters, it has a coherent sound: soulful, somber and retro like the film’s closing song, H.E.R.’s “Fight for You,” which is steeped in Marvin Gaye’s mournful determination. Much of the album looks back toward 1990s hip-hop: relying on instruments and samples of full bands, laced with melodic hooks and firmly enunciating the lyrics.H.E.R. provides the movie’s closing song, “Fight for You.”Credit…Amy Harris/Invision, via Associated PressSome tracks directly address the film’s particulars. The album opens with an appearance by Fred Hampton Jr. in “Cointelpro/Dec. 4”: memorializing his father, reminding listers about Cointelpro (the F.B.I.’s illegal covert 1960s Counterintelligence Program aimed at civil rights groups and other perceived subversives) and firmly connecting political oratory to hip-hop; the track ends with a loop of the elder Hampton proclaiming, “I am a revolutionary!”Rakim’s “Black Messiah” delivers a terse, magisterial biography of Hampton over samples of a 1967 soul single, Them Two’s “Am I a Good Man.” In “Somethin’ Ain’t Right,” over bluesy guitar chords, Masego sings about corruption and Rapsody vows, “Cointelpro got the target on me/But we don’t stand down till the people all free.”But the focus inevitably widens to encompass the present. Polo G’s “Last Man Standing” — with bleak piano chords and a shivery vocal sample — bitterly connects thoughts of Hampton and the Black Panthers to deep-seated systemic racism, police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement. Smino and Saba collaborate on “Plead the .45th,” sketching paranoia and resentment in brisk, jazzy phrases. Black Thought’s “Welcome to America,” with gritty vocal choruses from C.S. Armstrong and flashes of a gospel choir, is a vehement reminder of centuries of exploitation, remembering “every lost body crossed, tarred, feathered and tossed” and insisting, “This American cloth has never been soft/while history was running its course.”Memorial and news flash combine in “What It Feels Like” by Nipsey Hussle — who was killed in 2019 — and Jay-Z, a hip-hop march with foreboding piano, horn-section chords and hovering choral vocals. The song warns that success turns Blacks into targets: “You get successful, then it get stressful,” Hussle rapped. Then Jay-Z’s verse pivots from similar ideas — “You know they hate when you become more than they expect” — to the inadequate police response to the insurrection on Jan. 6: “You let them crackers storm your Capitol, put they feet up on your desk/And yet you talkin’ tough to me, I lost all my little respect.” Jay-Z was born December 4, 1969, the day Hampton was killed in a police raid. The history sounds personal.Various Artists“Judas and the Black Messiah: The Inspired Album”(Six Course Music Group/RCA)AdvertisementContinue reading the main story More

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    ‘My Zoe’ Review: Julie Delpy’s Provocative Family Drama

    #masthead-section-label, #masthead-bar-one { display: none }What to WatchBest Movies on NetflixBest of Disney PlusBest of Amazon PrimeBest Netflix DocumentariesNew on NetflixAdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main story‘My Zoe’ Review: Julie Delpy’s Provocative Family DramaThe characters can be confoundingly self-involved, but Delpy finds unusual threads to pull you closer to them and their crises.From left, Richard Armitage, Sophia Ally and Julie Delpy in “My Zoe.”Credit…Blue Fox EntertainmentFeb. 24, 2021, 7:00 a.m. ETMy ZoeDirected by Julie DelpyDramaR1h 40mFind TicketsWhen you purchase a ticket for an independently reviewed film through our site, we earn an affiliate commission.The French filmmaker Julie Delpy is still best known as an actor, but she’s been building a varied and impressive filmography as a feature writer and a director since the early part of the century. Her new picture, “My Zoe,” in which she also stars, is an unusually compelling domestic drama with sharp ears, a sharp eye, and up to a point, sharp teeth.Delpy plays Isabelle, a geneticist living in Berlin with her young and adorable daughter Zoe. Her ex-husband, James (Richard Armitage), seems a perpetual and arbitrary thorn in her side, constantly needling her about visitation days and the competence of babysitters. The bickering doesn’t stop when disaster strikes. While their daughter has surgery to relieve the pressure on her brain caused by an aneurysm, Isabelle and James argue about their married sex life.[embedded content]Sounds like something to be appalled by. But Delpy writes these characters with such depth, and stages their interactions with such sensitivity, that you understand them without necessarily approving of them.The movie takes a likely unexpected turn from the conventional bad marriage story. Isabelle travels to Russia, appealing to a controversial medical researcher, Thomas Fischer (the frequent Delpy collaborator Daniel Bruhl), for a radical solution to a family tragedy.For nonspoiler purposes, let’s call that solution “the shiny object” — a project of dubious ethics, and little probability of succeeding, that nevertheless proves irresistible to all who contemplate it. As it happens, it proves irresistible to filmmaker Delpy as well. It’s in her embrace of it that the movie, so tart and assured up to a certain point, goes wrong. But Delpy is a sufficiently assertive cinematic voice that she’s well worth arguing — and maybe ultimately disagreeing — with.My ZoeRated R for language and themes. Running time: Running time: 1 hour 40 minutes. In theaters. Please consult the guidelines outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before watching movies inside theaters.AdvertisementContinue reading the main story More

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    Clown Princes: Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall on ‘Coming 2 America’

    #masthead-section-label, #masthead-bar-one { display: none }What to WatchBest Movies on NetflixBest of Disney PlusBest of Amazon PrimeBest Netflix DocumentariesNew on NetflixAdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main storyClown Princes: Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall on ‘Coming 2 America’The comic stars and longtime friends talk about their history together and their many, many roles in the original film and the new sequel.Eddie Murphy, left, at home in the Hollywood Hills and Arsenio Hall in Los Angeles. “There’s never been a period where we haven’t been friends,” Murphy said.Credit…Photographs by Brad Ogbonna for The New York TimesFeb. 24, 2021, 5:00 a.m. ETThere was a time when Eddie Murphy ruled the multiplex like a king — or at least a prince.In the 1980s, he capped off a series of comedy blockbusters (“48 Hrs.,” “Trading Places,” “Beverly Hills Cop”) and stand-up sets (“Raw”) with “Coming to America.” That 1988 film cast Murphy as Prince Akeem, the wealthy potentate of the fictional African nation of Zamunda, who travels incognito to New York with his faithful attendant, Semmi (Arsenio Hall), in search of a woman who will love him for himself.“Coming to America,” directed by John Landis, was propelled by his chemistry with Hall and their aptitude for playing countless other characters, including an unctuous reverend (Hall), a mediocre soul singer (Murphy) and the squabbling denizens of a local barber shop (Murphy, Hall and Murphy).Murphy has had many career highs and lows since, though he has lately been on an upswing that includes his hit 2019 biopic, “Dolemite Is My Name.” And now he’s returning to Zamunda in a long-awaited sequel, “Coming 2 America,” which Amazon will release on March 5.The follow-up, directed by Craig Brewer, finds an older Akeem reckoning with a grown daughter (KiKi Layne) who wants her own opportunity to rule the kingdom. He rushes back to New York with Semmi after learning that he fathered a son (Jermaine Fowler) there on his original visit. Murphy and Hall reprise several of their supporting characters, joined by “Coming to America” alumni James Earl Jones, Shari Headley and John Amos, as well as franchise newcomers like Wesley Snipes, Tracy Morgan and Leslie Jones.Hall and Murphy in “Coming 2 America.” Initially there were no plans for a follow-up. When Ryan Coogler proposed one, Murphy rejected it, but “that made me start thinking, maybe we should do a sequel.”Credit…Amazon StudiosThe making of “Coming to America” and its sequel is a story that spans the real-life friendship of Murphy and Hall, from their first encounter as stand-up comics to the present day. Murphy and Hall got together recently for a video interview to talk about the creation of “Coming 2 America” and their camaraderie, and to needle each other as only good friends can.These are edited excerpts from that conversation.How did you first meet?EDDIE MURPHY When we started doing comedy, there may have been, like, 10 Black comics in all of the country, so everybody knew each other. Comics are very cliquish, so you get in a clique with the people you think are funny. Of the 10 Black comics, there were four or five that I never became friends with. [Laughter] When I came out here [to Los Angeles], I met Arsenio through Keenen [Ivory Wayans].ARSENIO HALL We’re standing in front of the Improv, Keenen introduces me, I shake Eddie’s hand and we talk for a while and then coming down the street is Damon Wayans. But I had never met him. Keenen introduces us to Damon and he’s doing that character that Eddie let him do eventually in “Beverly Hills Cop,” the hotel guy. It was so convincing, I didn’t laugh because I didn’t know whether it was real. But that’s how he got the role in “Cop” 1.Eddie, what got you interested in the idea of seeing America and New York through the eyes of this African prince, Akeem?MURPHY This was at the height of when I first got in the business. I was on tour and had just broke up with a girlfriend, and a conversation started on the tour bus about wanting to meet a girl that didn’t know I was this dude and just liked me for me.The two in the original hit comedy, from 1988.Credit…Paramount PicturesArsenio, at that point I think your only movie credit was a comedy sketch in “Amazon Women on the Moon.” How did you get involved in the original film?HALL It’s funny, I was not a movie star, I was a stand-up comic —MURPHY Oh, no, no — he also did an episode of [the revived] “Love, American Style.” He’s with a “Soul Train” dancer named Damita Jo Freeman and they play a couple. I’ve looked all over. I looked on YouTube, but I can’t find it. [The segment can be found here.] We were friends, and I always like to be with some other comedian, to make it as funny as it can be. There’s me and Richard [Pryor in “Harlem Nights”], there’s me and Arsenio, me and Martin [Lawrence in “Life”]. I’m not going to be shouldering this [expletive] by myself.HALL But it’s funny you mention “Amazon Women” — Eddie and I are riding through Manhattan in a new white Corvette he had bought and Eddie says we’ve got to find somebody to direct this movie. And I remember saying, well, I’m not going to be much help, because I’ve only done one movie and it was with John Landis, called “Amazon Women on the Moon.” And I saw something go off.MURPHY You know what’s funny? John Landis says to me, “You know who’s really funny? Arsenio Brown.” I was like, “Arsenio Brown? Arsenio Hall.” “Oh, yes, Arsenio Hall.” To this day, he’ll still call himself Brown.HALL I think Reverend Brown came from that joke.MURPHY Arsenio Brown! It actually has a ring to it. Arsenio Hall sounds kind of stagy, like he made it up. Arsenio Brown sounds like a real person.Whose idea was it to have you play multiple characters in the movie?MURPHY The original idea didn’t have multiple characters. Once John Landis got involved, he knew I was able to do the Yiddish accent, so he was like, that would be hysterical. He had worked with [the special makeup-effects designer] Rick Baker before, so he was like, Rick could make you look like an old Jewish man — that would be hysterical. And that’s how that stuff started.Your careers went in very different directions after “Coming to America.” Did that make it difficult to remain in each other’s lives?MURPHY There’s never been a period where we haven’t been friends.HALL We can share different experiences. Part of it is being comfortable with who you are and knowing who you are. I’m a stand-up comic and a guy who does TV. Eddie is a movie star. But we share with each other because the bottom line is we’re both comfortable in our own skin.“If I’m thinking about my legacy — and I rarely do — my career never even comes into it,” Murphy said. “My legacy is my children.”Credit…Brad Ogbonna for The New York TimesWhat’s something that’s different about the two of you?HALL I’m here ’cause I’m broke — he’s here ’cause he’s good. [Laughter]MURPHY I don’t see myself as a movie star or a comedian or any of those things. I see myself as an artist. And I feel like there’s a bunch of different ways I can express myself.HALL You can pop by Eddie’s, and he’ll play a song for you. And you can’t even believe, wait, that’s you on guitar? That’s you singing? You wrote and produced this track? And that’s what he does for fun. For him it’s like crocheting a hat.MURPHY I have so many tracks and collaborations with people — Michael [Jackson], El DeBarge — all these people I’ve been in the studio with over the years and never finished it or never released it.HALL He does so many things. He does them as well as anybody else. He’s a beast. It’s hard to deal with.What took you so long to make a sequel to “Coming to America”?MURPHY We never thought about doing a sequel. The way the story ended was kind of like, “And they lived happily ever after.” Then all this time passed and the movie became this cult thing. Catchphrases from the movie start working their way into the culture. Stores turning themselves into McDowell’s. I see Beyoncé and Jay-Z dressed up like the Zamunda characters for Halloween.Then Ryan Coogler, before he directed “Black Panther,” I meet with him and he says, I want to do a “Coming to America” sequel. He had an idea for Michael B. Jordan to play my son and he would be looking for a wife. I was like, then the movie would be about the son, it’s not our characters, we already did that. It didn’t come together.But all that made me start thinking, maybe we should do a sequel. I saw the “Terminator” movie where they made Arnold Schwarzenegger young — his face looked like Arnold, but young — and that’s where I got it. [Snaps fingers] If we use that to make us young and create a new scene in the club [from the original “Coming to America”] where we’re out looking for the girls, so it’s part of that night. I go home with a girl and I’m high — that was the piece we needed to start the flow.HALL I never thought about it because we had always said we’re going to leave “Coming to America” where it is. But I text him sometimes when I do my coffee run in the morning, and he says, What are you doing? I think you should read this script now. And I read half of it sitting in his yard. It was so exciting and so good.“I’m a stand-up comic and a guy who does TV,” Hall said. “Eddie is a movie star. But we share with each other because the bottom line is we’re both comfortable in our own skin.Credit…Brad Ogbonna for The New York TimesDid the lawsuit won by Art Buchwald, who said “Coming to America” was based on a treatment he wrote, affect your ability to make a sequel?MURPHY Oh, not at all. I’m not even sure how all that stuff was resolved, what the exact wording was. But at the end of the day, I think it’s all good. In the credits, they give a thank you to the Art Buchwald estate.In both “Coming to America” films, we see Zamunda as this nation where Black people are able to fulfill their potential and achieve greatness without white people interfering or oppressing them. Was that a point you were trying to make explicitly?MURPHY We never say that. We never show you the history of the country. We just are. We’re like Wakanda.HALL And how perfect to do “Coming to America” 2 in Atlanta, where it’s very hot and the palace actually is owned by Rick Ross.MURPHY Yeah, his house is so big, we literally were able to dress it and make it look like a palace. That stuff you see where I’m walking on the African plain and there’s antelopes running — that’s Rick Ross’s backyard. He has like 300 acres or something.HALL And a lake! Do you have a lake? You’ve got to start rapping. Let me hear you say [Rick Ross voice], “Hunh.”Were there any character bits that were written for the sequel but didn’t make the cut?MURPHY There was a draft where the barbers had on MAGA hats and it turned out that they were Republicans. But it wasn’t because they were for Trump — they were Herman Cain supporters. We thought it was funny but it kind of dates the movie if we do this. We had these two old goat herders that had a dispute over a goat, and it was very funny but it culminated in, one of these guys [had sex with] this goat. It was like, uhhhh, we’ve got James Earl Jones in this movie — let’s keep it all classy. [Laughter] In the early drafts, Tracy Morgan was my son.HALL I’m like, I love Tracy and he’s the funniest guy in the world. But yo, Ed, y’all about the same age. [Murphy voice] “We’ll work it out, man, we’ll figure it out. He’s funny.”Murphy and Hall have been friends since early in their careers. “Comics are very cliquish, so you get in a clique with the people you think are funny,” Murphy said.Credit…The LIFE Picture Collection, via Getty ImagesDid the barbershop guys remain eternally the same age?MURPHY You look at the makeup — we aged them up nice and good. They’re supposed to be in their late 80s, early 90s now. Looking at the first one, I was amazed at how young we looked — the skin is tight, Saul [the barbershop patron], there are no age spots on his face, his face is all even-toned.What do you do to pass the time when you’re in the makeup chair?HALL It’s funny because we go to different places. We can’t be in the same trailer. He watches certain things and I watch certain other things. We tried it, the first day, together, and there were times when I didn’t want to see Prince videos.MURPHY Oh, you didn’t want to see MonoNeon?HALL Oh God!MURPHY MonoNeon — what’s the best way to describe him?HALL Something that makes Arsenio need his own trailer.MURPHY MonoNeon is a musician who plays bass and he’s unbelievable. He’s Jimi Hendrix and Basquiat and Skittles, all combined. I could watch it for hours and hours and hours and hours. [Hall begins to grimace and Murphy does Hall’s voice] “You’re watching MonoNeon again?!”HALL I’m a news junkie and I’ll watch the left, the right and the center, all day long.MURPHY I’m the exact opposite. Before the pandemic, I never, never watched the news. I never know what’s going on. I’ll be like, “What happened?” “Trump is the president!” I totally don’t follow any of that stuff.Murphy and Hall reprise their many, many characters in the sequel.Credit…Amazon StudiosIn the new movie, we see Akeem adjusting to changing times and reckoning with the desires of his grown children. Eddie, is this at all a metaphor for your life? Are you starting to think of the legacy you’ll someday leave behind?MURPHY If I’m thinking about my legacy — and I rarely do — my career never even comes into it. My legacy is my children. When I’m dead, and they’re doing my eulogy, ain’t nobody going to be standing over the coffin talking about, [preacher voice] “And then, he did ‘48 Hrs.,’ which was a wonderful film. Burst on the scene with Nick Nolte and shook up the world. Moved onto ‘Trading Places’ and then the great ‘Beverly Hills Cop.’ And then the classic ‘Raw’ — let’s show a clip.” [laughter]HALL [indicating the array of trophies that Murphy is seated in front of] I know you think those awards behind him are for show business, but those are Daddy of the Year Awards.MURPHY One for each child.Do you have any plans for another collaboration?HALL I think it’s back to the comedy clubs for me. I’ll be at the Milk Through Your Nose in Canada next Friday.MURPHY The plan was for all of us to be doing standup. When I got up off the couch and did this little patch of work, it was, let’s do “Dolemite.” Let’s do “Saturday Night Live.” Let’s do “Coming 2 America.” Because I want to go do standup again, but I don’t want to just pop up out there when people hadn’t seen me be really funny in a while. I didn’t want to do standup after the last movie you’ve seen me do is “Meet Dave.” [Laughter] Let me remind them that I’m funny. And then the pandemic hit and we had to pull everything back. But when the pandemic is over and it’s safe to be around people, I’m going to go do standup again. There’s so many comics in “Coming 2 America.” I’d love to do a tour with all the comedians, me, Arsenio, Leslie Jones, Tracy Morgan, Trevor Noah, Jermaine Fowler, Louie Anderson, Michael Blackson.Is it perilous for the two of you to hang out in public? If people see you together, do they just start quoting “Coming to America”?MURPHY We haven’t been out in a year because the bottom fell out of the world. But when the world gets back to normal, I don’t have a problem going anywhere. When I was young I used to have bodyguards. Then one day it was like, hey, wait a second — I don’t need all these bodyguards! [Laughs] And I haven’t had them since. I don’t restrict my movements or not go to places. When you go somewhere, you just say, “What’s up?,” take a picture and keep it rolling.HALL I can’t wait for those times to come back. The only problem with Starbucks is, Eddie’s a big tipper. When I go back alone, there’s always this look, like [mimes someone looking behind him to see if Murphy is also coming]. I leave $5. Eddie will leave them a Rolls-Royce tire.Bella Murphy contributed additional camera operating for the photographs of Eddie Murphy.AdvertisementContinue reading the main story More

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    The Golden Globes’ Biggest Winner May Be the Group That Hands Them Out

    #masthead-section-label, #masthead-bar-one { display: none }Awards SeasonNetflix’s First Winner?Our Best Movie PicksStream Top Oscar ContendersOscar-Winning DocumentariesAdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main storyThe Golden Globes’ Biggest Winner May Be the Group That Hands Them OutMembers of the tax-exempt Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which puts on the ceremony, are courted by stars and studios, and sometimes paid.A Golden Globe win can boost careers, jack up box office earnings and foreshadow an Academy Award.Credit…Frazer Harrison/Getty ImagesCara Buckley and Feb. 23, 2021Updated 4:32 p.m. ETThe Hollywood Foreign Press Association has been widely viewed as colorful, generally harmless, perhaps venal and not necessarily journalistically productive. But because the group puts on the Golden Globes, courting the favor of its members — there are only 87 — has become a ritualized Tinseltown pursuit.Celebrities send them handwritten holiday cards. Studios put them up at five-star hotels. Champagne, pricey wine, signed art, cashmere blankets, slippers, record players, cakes, headphones and speakers are among the gifts that have arrived at their doorsteps, recipients say.The suitors — studios, production companies, strategists and publicists — are all chasing the same thing: members’ votes. Every one counts. A Golden Globe nomination, and certainly a win, is a publicity boon that can boost careers, jack up box office earnings and foreshadow an Academy Award.Boozy, irreverent and generally jolly good fun, the Globes are the third most-watched awards show after the Grammys and the much more staid Academy Awards. The show occupies a curious place in the entertainment industry. Mocking the Globes, and their occasionally off-the-wall nominations and picks, as irrelevant has become an annual blood sport in the Hollywood press, which covers them anyway, and the association’s members, many of whom work for obscure outlets, are regularly painted as doddering, out of touch and faintly corrupt.“The Golden Globes are to the Oscars what Kim Kardashian is to Kate Middleton,” Ricky Gervais, who has hosted them multiple times, said at the ceremony in 2012. “Bit louder. Bit trashier. Bit drunker. And more easily bought, allegedly. Nothing’s been proved.”But on the eve of the Feb. 28 show, a recent lawsuit and a series of interviews and financial records are providing a more unsparing look at the group, which does not publicly list its roster, admits very few applicants, and, despite being a media association, has some members who say they are fearful of speaking to the press. The group is also coming under increased scrutiny from news organizations, including The Los Angeles Times, which recently delved into their finances; one of its findings, that the group has no Black members, made headlines.Kjersti Flaa, a Norwegian reporter, sued when the Hollywood Foreign Press Association denied her entry. Most of her lawsuit was thrown out, but she recently amended it.Credit…Rozette Rago for The New York TimesThe latest re-examination began last year when Kjersti Flaa, a Norwegian reporter who has thrice been denied admittance to the group, and whose romantic partner is a member, sued the organization, saying that it acted as a monopoly, hogging prized interviews even though relatively few of its members actively worked as journalists. Studios went along to ingratiate themselves, she said, because of the value of the members’ votes.“It’s very obvious who’s important for the studios and who’s not,” Flaa said in an interview. “And the thing is, no one has said anything about this before. It’s just been accepted.”Members are territorial and loath to welcome competitors, she alleged, lobbying each other to accept or deny entry to new applicants, with little consideration for journalistic merits. Flaa pointed to a fracas involving a Russian member who in 2015 was accused of demanding that a Ukranian applicant not write for any Russian outlets and hand over her extra Golden Globes tickets — and guarantee her promise in a notarized letter — in exchange for being considered for admission.Flaa said outsiders had a nickname for the association: “The cartel.”The association would not comment specifically on the 2015 incident, but Gregory Goeckner, the organization’s chief operating officer and general counsel, said that such actions were prohibited, and that in 2018 its board approved a policy confirming any such letters as “void and unenforceable.” Goeckner also described Flaa’s allegations as “salacious,” and said it was studios, not the association, that made decisions about press access.A judge threw out the majority of Flaa’s suit, but she has recently amended it, and another journalist who also has been denied entry to the association has joined her complaint.Several current and former association members said Flaa’s accounts of the inner machinations were accurate, but requested anonymity because they said they feared retaliation from the group.The Hollywood Foreign Press Association was born in the ’40s, when foreign correspondents covering Hollywood banded together to gain access to movie stars. The Globes recognize movies and television, and is chockablock with stars, with nary a snoozy category — no sound editing prize here. As the awards industry complex mushroomed — it’s now a near year-round enterprise shaped by strategists and closely tracked by reporters — members’ relative power grew too.The association, which is sitting on millions of dollars in cash, is planning to upgrade its West Hollywood headquarters.Credit…Barry King/Alamy Stock PhotoAfter the show was picked up by television, it became a golden goose. In 2018, NBC agreed to pay $60 million a year for broadcast rights, about triple the previous licensing fee. While the Academy Awards and the Emmys have lost millions of viewers in recent years, the Golden Globes audience has held steady at 18 million to 20 million, which is why NBC was willing to fork up.“It’s a big-tent network television show, and as such, invaluable to film campaigns hoping to contend for Oscar nominations and wins,” said Tony Angellotti, a publicist who runs awards campaigns, in an email. “And the H.F.P.A. track record for identifying worthy films is indisputable. That’s not nothing.”To be able to vote for a Globe, members must publish at least six times a year, and attend 25 of the association’s news conferences, where celebrities and newsmakers are invited to appear, several members confirmed. If members want to travel to film festivals on the association’s dime, they have to attend even more news conferences, according to a copy of the travel policies reviewed by The New York Times. The rules say they don’t have to produce any press clippings related to their travels if they take five or fewer trips.Because the organization is a nonprofit, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association is also tax-exempt. The filing from the tax year ending in June 2019 showed that the group was sitting on about $55 million in cash. It donated about $5 million to assorted causes, including $500,000 to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and $500,000 to the environmental site Inside Climate News.“The funding was enormously important,” David Sassoon, the founder and publisher of Inside Climate News, said in an email. “It solidified our finances and helped us get through the nightmares of 2020.”According to the tax filings, the tax-exempt nonprofit paid more than $3 million in salaries and other compensation to members and staff. The tax filing also showed $1.3 million in travel costs for that year; the association has said it typically pays the expenses of members who seek to travel to film festivals and the like.There is also compensation for performing duties that several members say used to be done for free. Being on the association’s TV Viewing Committee pays $1,000 a month, according to the treasurer’s report from the association’s January general meeting. Members of the Foreign Film Watching Committee pocket $3,465 apiece. Two dozen people sit on that committee, according to the minutes, which meant that the demands of watching international movies cost the association $83,160 in one month.The association also has an advisory committee, a history committee, a welfare committee, a travel committee, a film festival committee, a financial committee and an events committee — all of which come with stipends, according to the treasurer’s report.Some members said the number of paying committees has exploded in recent years, with members jockeying to nab multiple positions and loyalty rewarded with committee appointments. This has caused angst for some who want to see the association become less of a punchline around town. One member worried that the group will become overrun by members who draw most of their income from the organization and not from journalism.Ricky Gervais rolled out the red carpet at the Golden Globes last year.Credit…Christopher Polk/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank, via, Getty ImagesGoeckner said the association only remunerates members when they do extra work and basically serve as employees, doing tasks that would constitute paid staff work elsewhere. The compensation, he said, was “orders of magnitude less” than what similar organizations pay. And he noted that the group was “not a charity,” and that its accumulated capital was earmarked for a planned upgrade of its West Hollywood headquarters.Still, there is debate over how much of its earnings the association should keep to itself.Flaa’s lawyer, David Quinto, said that by virtue of its tax-exempt status, the association should be benefiting foreign arts journalists more broadly, not just the ones in the group. He said the association “believes it is above the law” and called its conduct “blatantly improper.”But Ofer Lion, a Los Angeles lawyer with expertise on tax-exempt organizations, said that mutual benefit corporations like the association need only benefit a common purpose of its members, and as a 501(c) (6) tax-exempt organization, must only ensure they in some way benefit their industry overall. Payments to members for their work for the organization are legal, he said, as long as they are considered reasonable.“There are some healthy numbers on there,” Lion said, after reviewing the organization’s tax return, “but not really beyond the pale.”The group’s stated mission is essentially to help bolster ties between the United States and foreign countries by covering its culture and entertainment industry. But it has continuously come under scrutiny when puzzling award decisions have been handed down, most infamously in 1982, when Pia Zadora was named best new star over Kathleen Turner and Elizabeth McGovern. It was later revealed that Zadora’s producer, who also happened to be her husband, had flown the group to Las Vegas before the vote. CBS, which had been airing the show, dropped its broadcast, and it would be years before it returned to network television.In 2014, a former association president published a memoir in which he suggested that his colleagues could be swayed by favor trading.The association has tried to rehabilitate its image in recent years. In 1999, it sent back $400 Coach watches given to members by a film company and asked members in 2016 to return part of the Tom Ford-branded fragrance gift sent to each of them from the producers of “Nocturnal Animals.”Nowadays, members aren’t supposed to accept gifts in excess of $125. (The group says it has adopted a “more robust” gift policy.) Still, they can be wooed. For some, there was little surprise when the frothy series “Emily in Paris” — which got decidedly mixed reviews from critics — picked up two Golden Globe nominations this year. In September 2019, dozens of association members flew to Paris to visit the “Emily” set and were put up by the Paramount Network at the five-star Peninsula hotel.And although there purportedly has been a wave of reforms, the group’s eclectic membership list has remained largely the same for years.A review of a 2020 roster shows that its members include Yola Czaderska-Hayek, a woman known as the “Polish First Lady of Hollywood”; Alexander Nevsky, a former Mr. Universe and bodybuilder who has starred in movies like “Moscow Heat”; and Judy Solomon, an organization veteran of more than 60 years who has drawn attention for her role as what The Daily Beast called “The Golden Globes Seating Arbiter,” a job of no small importance when it comes to seating celebrities at the ceremony without ruffling feathers.In statements provided to The New York Times, two longtime members of the organization expressed pride in the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and its work. One of the members, Meher Tatna, the current board chair, touted the group’s philanthropic initiatives, saying it received thank-you letters year-round.Czaderska-Hayek echoed that pride in a video posted on YouTube by the Polish government in 2010, but also noted that membership demands could be taxing.“It’s unbelievably hard work,” Czaderska-Hayek said, according to the video’s English subtitles. “We must see at least 300 U.S. films every year.”Alain Delaquérière and Kitty Bennett contributed research.AdvertisementContinue reading the main story More