Sam Mendes Beats Scorcese, Tarantino To Top DGA Prize With “1917”

DGA Feature Film Award winner for ‘1917’ Sam Mendes poses in the press room during the 72nd Annual Directors Guild Of America Awards at The Ritz Carlton on January 25, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. Frazer Harrison/Getty Images/AFP


Hollywood’s directors handed World War I thriller “1917” their top annual prize on Saturday, one of the final major awards shows that typically spells success at next month’s Oscars.

The win makes British auteur Sam Mendes hot favorite for the best director Oscar — the Directors Guild of America Awards have correctly predicted the victor the past six years running.

The movie, which follows two British soldiers on a perilous mission across no man’s land, has already scooped the Golden Globe for best drama and has 10 Oscar nominations.

Mendes praised the work of fellow nominees Martin Scorsese (“The Irishman”), Quentin Tarantino (“Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood”), Bong Joon-ho (“Parasite”) and Taika Waititi (“Jojo Rabbit.”)

“To those who kick dirt on the grave of the movies — not so fast,” he said, dedicating the win to his grandfather, whose life inspired the film.

“I know it sounds a bit loopy but I did feel he was with us in a couple of occasions when I was struggling,” said Mendes.

The victory also boosts the film’s frontrunner status for the best picture Academy Award.

The win comes more than two decades after Mendes first received the DGA award for “American Beauty,” a victory that led to Oscars wins for that film.

Mendes told AFP his first win had been “frightening to be pitched into this sort of frenzy,” adding: “I’m 20 years older and I’m probably a little less scared.”

The film’s two lead actors paid tribute to Mendes.

“He’s a master of so many mediums… he’s pretty much done it all,” said George MacKay.

“We’ll be very excited to see what happens at the Oscars — I’ve never been before!” his co-star Dean-Charles Chapman told AFP.

 ‘New voices’ 

A-list presenters at the glamorous downtown Los Angeles event Saturday included Al Pacino, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Alfonso Cuaron, with Judd Apatow returning as host.

Like the Oscars, the DGAs were criticized this year for excluding women from the top prize shortlist.

DGA president Thomas Schlamme said the movie industry “still has a lot of work to do” on boosting diversity but pointed to the recently introduced first-time director category, featuring three women.

Alma Har’el (“Honey Boy”) won the prize, praising fellow female nominees Mati Diop (“Atlantics”) and Melina Matsoukas (“Queen & Slim”) as “the future.”

The category means “new voices like us can be included and celebrated,” said Har’el, voicing support for a campaign to assist new mothers in the movie industry.

Around 50 Hollywood women including Amy Schumer, Amy Poehler and Greta Gerwig recently co-signed a letter stating women “are penalized for having children in a way that their male counterparts are not.”

 ‘Zeitgeist film’ 

“American Factory,” a film about a US Rust Belt factory reopened by a Chinese billionaire, and which was produced by the Obamas, won the best documentary.

“When we started (the film), we didn’t have President Trump even, let alone trade wars and the conflict with China,” director Julia Reichert told AFP. “I think we’re kind of a zeitgeist film.”

The DGAs also honor television — Bill Hader won for directing dark hitman comedy “Barry,” in which he also stars, while the limited series prize went to “Chernobyl.”

Superhero series “Watchmen” won the drama prize, seeing off an all-HBO shortlist including the much-maligned final season of “Game of Thrones.”

Although lower key than the Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild awards, the DGAs are longer-running and offer prestigious recognition from 18,000 voters including top directors.

“To be nominated alongside these absolute legends is very surreal for me,” Waititi told AFP. “I am amongst the greats right now.”

The Oscars will be handed out in Hollywood on February 9.


‘Joker’ Bags 11 Oscar Nominations

Todd Phillips attends the 25th Annual Critics’ Choice Awards at Barker Hangar on January 12, 2020 in Santa Monica, California. Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for Critics Choice Association/AFP


Todd Phillips’s “Joker,” a dark, arthouse take on the comic book villain starring Joaquin Phoenix, on Monday topped the Oscar nominations with 11.

The pre-dawn Academy Award announcement capped months of ceaseless campaigning by A-listers and studios, revealing which stars and movies have a shot at Hollywood’s ultimate prize next month.

Todd Phillips’s “Joker,” a bleak, arthouse take on the comic book villain starring Joaquin Phoenix, was just ahead of three films.

Quentin Tarantino’s 1960s Tinseltown homage “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood,” Sam Mendes’s World War I odyssey “1917” and Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman” each earned 10 nominations, including best picture as well as best director.

South Korean class satire “Parasite,” from Bong Joon-ho, secured the final best director slot, meaning once again no female directors made the shortlist.

Much of the focus so far this award season has been on the lack of women and ethnic minority filmmakers honored.

Greta Gerwig’s acclaimed “Little Women” adaptation has been notably absent in several award nominations announcements, although it was one of nine films nominated for the best picture Oscar.

“Unfortunately there are just five nominees” for best director in an “incredibly strong year,” one Academy voter who asked not to be named told AFP, pointing to the revered track records of the likes of Scorsese, Tarantino and Mendes.

Controversy over those omissions, in an industry criticized for its lack of diversity, was fueled at last week’s BAFTA nominations, which were also condemned for overlooking ethnic minorities.

Showbiz legend 

The Oscars picked only one non-white actor — British star Cynthia Erivo, who plays US anti-slavery icon Harriet Tubman in “Harriet.”

Notable snubs included Eddie Murphy for blaxploitation biopic “Dolemite Is My Name,” Jennifer Lopez for “Hustlers,” Awkwafina for “The Farewell” and Lupita Nyong’o for “Us.”

Last year, three of the four acting Oscars went to non-white performers.

Voting for Oscar nominees ended last Tuesday, two days after the Golden Globes.

But Taron Egerton’s Globe-winning turn as Elton John in “Rocketman” was not enough to earn an Oscar nomination in an outrageously competitive best actor field.

Renee Zellweger, who has swept the best actress nominations so far during this awards season, headed the best actress Oscar shortlist thanks to her acclaimed turn as showbiz legend Judy Garland in “Judy.”

Some 9,000 Academy members vote for the Oscars.

In the nominations round of voting, members were asked to rank their top choices only for best picture, and for the categories corresponding with the specific Academy branch to which they belong.

Voting for winners — in which members can vote in every category — begins January 30, closing five days later.

The Oscars will be handed out in Hollywood on February 9.


Oscars: Cynthia Erivo, Saoirse Ronan Nominated For Best Supporting Actress


The following are the nominees for the best actress Oscar, which will be handed out on February 9 in Hollywood:

Cynthia Erivo, “Harriet”

Saoirse Ronan, “Little Women”

Scarlett Johansson, “Marriage Story”

Charlize Theron, “Bombshell”

Renee Zellweger, “Judy”


Oscars 2020: Tom Hanks, Al Pacino Among Best Supporting Actor Nominees


The following are the nominees for the best supporting actor Oscar, which will be handed out on February 9 in Hollywood:

Tom Hanks, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”

Al Pacino, “The Irishman”

Joe Pesci, “The Irishman”

Brad Pitt, “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood”

Anthony Hopkins, “The Two Popes”


Hollywood Stars Shine On Globes Red Carpet


Hollywood’s brightest stars sparkled on the red carpet at the Golden Globes on Sunday, the first showbiz awards gala of 2020.

Under sunny skies, the best and brightest of film and television gathered at the Beverly Hilton in their finest for the ceremony, hosted by British comedian Ricky Gervais.

Here is a look at some of the trends spotted on the red carpet:

Black and White

Tinseltown’s A-list wants to make a good impression on the first major red carpet of the year, and how better to do that than in classic black and white, a fashion staple.

Billy Porter attends the 77th Annual Golden Globe Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 05, 2020 in Beverly Hills, California. Frazer Harrison/Getty Images/AFP

Style icon Billy Porter, a nominee for best actor in a TV drama for his work on “Pose,” wowed fans in an all-white Alex Vinash tuxedo with a coat featuring a giant feather train — that zips off, he explained to E! television.


Actor Joey King attends the 2020 Walt Disney Company Post-Golden Globe Awards Show celebration at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 05, 2020 in Beverly Hills, California. Rachel Murray/Getty Images for Hulu/AFP Rachel Murray / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP


Nominated actress Joey King (“The Act”) created a daring carpet moment in a sculptural black and white Iris van Herpen dress with a mind-boggling wavy detail and bare shoulders.


US actress and director Greta Gerwig arrives for the 77th annual Golden Globe Awards on January 5, 2020, at The Beverly Hilton hotel in Beverly Hills, California. VALERIE MACON / AFP


Actress-filmmaker Greta Gerwig — whose “Little Women” was in contention but who was notably snubbed in the best director category — turned heads in a black Proenza Schouler dress with a notable side slit and a white off the shoulder neckline.


Cynthia Erivo attends the 77th Annual Golden Globe Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 05, 2020 in Beverly Hills, California. Frazer Harrison/Getty Images/AFP Frazer Harrison / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP


Nominee Cynthia Erivo (“Harriet”) rocked a similar look — a custom Thom Browne number with flowers embroidered in the inner lining of her dress.




And Awkwafina, who took home the award for best comedy film actress for her starring role in “The Farewell,” sported a sleek Dior tuxedo with a ruffled collar blouse and a long ball skirt.

Midnight (mid-afternoon?) Blues

The stars hit the red carpet in the middle of the afternoon in Los Angeles, but midnight blue was all the rage.

Ana De Armas attends the 77th Annual Golden Globe Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 05, 2020 in Beverly Hills, California. Frazer Harrison/Getty Images/AFP Frazer Harrison / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP


Ana de Armas, a nominee for best comedy actress for the murder mystery “Knives Out,” said she was “a little bit of a mess” at her first Globes but looked like a million bucks in a glittering, strapless Ralph & Russo gown with a full skirt.


Beanie Feldstein attends the 77th Annual Golden Globe Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 05, 2020 in Beverly Hills, California. Frazer Harrison/Getty Images/AFP Frazer Harrison / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP


Beanie Feldstein, a nominee in the same category for “Booksmart,” beamed in her strapless blue Oscar de la Renta gown and matching headband.

Ladies in Red

A red dress is the stuff of Hollywood legends, and some of Hollywood’s biggest stars delivered.

Nicole Kidman attends the 77th Annual Golden Globe Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 05, 2020 in Beverly Hills, California. Frazer Harrison/Getty Images/AFP Frazer Harrison / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP


Nicole Kidman, who stars in the Fox News harassment scandal flick “Bombshell” as Gretchen Carlson, went strapless — a big trend on the night — in a crimson Versace gown with a train and strappy stilettos.


US actress Scarlett Johansson arrives for the 77th annual Golden Globe Awards on January 5, 2020, at The Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California. VALERIE MACON / AFP


Scarlett Johansson, who starred in the searing Netflix divorce drama “Marriage Story,” upped the va-va-voom factor in a plunging strapless Vera Wang gown in a hue that matched her name.


Olivia Colman poses in the press room with the award for Best Performance by an Actress In A Television Series – Drama for “The Crown” during the 77th Annual Golden Globe Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 05, 2020 in Beverly Hills, California. Kevin Winter/Getty Images/AFP KEVIN WINTER / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP


And Olivia Colman, a winner on Sunday for her turn as Queen Elizabeth II in Netflix’s “The Crown,” opted for a red Emilia Wickstead gown with dramatic puff sleeves and an Empire waist.

Shades of Green

Charlize Theron attends the 77th Annual Golden Globe Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 05, 2020 in Beverly Hills, California. Frazer Harrison/Getty Images/AFP Frazer Harrison / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP


Charlize Theron, who plays journalist Megyn Kelly in “Bombshell,” looked stunning in an off-the-shoulder vibrant green Dior gown with a black corset bodice.


Jodie Comer attends the 77th Annual Golden Globe Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 05, 2020 in Beverly Hills, California. Frazer Harrison/Getty Images/AFP Frazer Harrison / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP


“Killing Eve” star Jodie Comer channelled her eccentric assassin character Villanelle in a full emerald green gown with puff sleeves and a canary yellow clutch.

US actress Jennifer Lopez arrives for the 77th annual Golden Globe Awards on January 5, 2020, at The Beverly Hilton hotel in Beverly Hills, California. VALERIE MACON / AFP


Jennifer Lopez is 50 and fabulous, and has earned lots of praise for her Globe-nominated performance as a veteran stripper with a plan in “Hustlers.”

Her red carpet moments are sometimes the stuff of legend, like her iconic green Versace dress at the 2000 Grammys.

But on Sunday, her Valentino look — topped with a giant green and gold bow — was… less than universally loved.

“Jennifer Lopez has come as a giant present. I thought

‘Star Wars: Rise Of Skywalker’ Premieres

HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 16: Stormtroopers are seen at the Premiere of Disney’s “Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker” on December 16, 2019 in Hollywood, California. Rich Fury/Getty Images/AFP


The final film in the epic “Star Wars” trilogy of trilogies brought Hollywood to a standstill, as a galaxy of VIPs from the space saga that began four decades ago descended on a glittering world premiere.

Veterans Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) and Harrison Ford (Han Solo) arrived Monday to bid farewell to the movies that launched their careers in style at a futuristic hangar filled with life-size X-wing starfighters in Los Angeles.

They were joined by a who’s who of Hollywood, with special guests from Steven Spielberg to Spike Lee.

“Tonight, looking at this whole mise-en-scene is quite bewildering,” Anthony Daniels, who has played droid C-3PO in every main “Star Wars” film, told AFP.

“In fact, it’s such a big experience that I’m not sure I can quite cope with it. But I do feel proud to be here and proud to be part of it.”

READ ALSO: Weinstein Says World Forgets He ‘Pioneered’ Women In Film

“The Rise of Skywalker” officially concludes the so-called “Skywalker saga” of films begun by George Lucas in 1977 — a fact Disney’s all-conquering publicity machine has used to ramp up hype on an intergalactic scale.

Analysts predict a stellar $200-$225 million at domestic box offices this weekend, which would put the film among the biggest openings in movie history.

Disney chief Bob Iger told AFP that fans would get “some kind of closure, some sense of satisfaction” for their favorite characters.

“Star Wars is probably the most important, most valuable mythology of our time, of the modern time,” he said.

“If you just consider the global base of fans that have worshipped this storytelling since 1977, over 40 years… tonight being a culmination of nine films is an incredibly important night.”

‘The Final Word’

Heading the glitzy premiere were the new film’s young stars Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and Oscar Isaac.

Plot details have been kept tightly under wraps. But director JJ Abrams has said the trio’s characters — Rey, Finn, and Poe — will be reunited on-screen, after scattering for 2017’s “The Last Jedi”, which divided fans.

While Disney has embargoed full reviews until Wednesday, social media reaction from those inside the three Hollywood theaters blocked out for Monday night’s event was broadly positive.

“Epic. All of it,” tweeted Erik Davis, managing editor of Fandango movie website, calling the finale a “wonderful way to end the Skywalker story.”

“It’s amazing,” wrote The Hollywood Reporter’s Ryan Parker. “‘Last Jedi’ haters will be very pleased.”

The film is set one year after its predecessor, and at 141 minutes will be slightly shorter.

Abrams returns after his first outing, 2015’s “The Force Awakens”, broke the all-time North American box office record, making him the only person other than Lucas trusted to helm multiple “Star Wars” installments.

But his presence has stoked controversy — “Jurassic World” director Colin Trevorrow was initially lined up but was fired for failing to satisfy Lucasfilm bosses with his script.

And Abrams had to cope with the death of Carrie Fisher, whose iconic Princess Leia was set for a central role in the finale. Leia will instead appear using unused, re-cut footage from Abrams’ last film.

Meanwhile, Disney has whetted fans’ appetites further by releasing new clips and trailers at the weekend.

In one, a returning Emperor Palpatine’s voice declares, “This will be the final word in the story of Skywalker,” while Star Destroyers and red Stormtroopers battle X-wings and Resistance fighters.

A second saw the villainous Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) growl, “I know who you are. I know the rest of your story,” sending fans abuzz over the long-standing mystery about heroine Rey’s parents.

‘Blank Canvas’

These are familiar tropes to “Star Wars” aficionados — but it may be the last time they are seen for years.

“Rise of Skywalker” is the franchise’s fifth film in five years, and Disney has promised to apply the brakes to avoid fatigue.

The company’s release schedule has untitled “Star Wars” films listed for 2022, 2024 and 2026.

“We’re in no rush. We know that fans will want another film, or another few films, and we’ll make them,” said Iger.

Until then, fans can make do with Disney+ television series “The Mandalorian”, and two further series featuring Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and the stars of hit spin-off movie “Rogue One” (2016).

“The beauty of all this is that we stand in front of a blank canvas, and we paint and we paint and we paint,” added Iger. “And when the picture looks good we’ll show it to the world.”


Oscar Honorees Target Hollywood Gender Equality

Geena Davis, Lina Wertmüller, David Lynch, and Wes Studi attend the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences’ 11th Annual Governors Awards at The Ray Dolby Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland Center on October 27, 2019 in Hollywood, California. Kevin Winter/Getty Images/AFP


Hollywood’s female filmmakers set out plans to achieve gender equality Sunday as actress Geena Davis and director Lina Wertmuller collected honorary Oscars at a star-studded ceremony focused on diversity.

“Thelma and Louise” star Davis told the annual Governors’ Awards in Los Angeles how the feminist road movie had prompted her lifelong campaign for gender balance at the movies.

“It made me realize in a very powerful way how few opportunities we give women to come out of a movie feeling excited and empowered by female characters,” said Davis of “Thelma and Louise.”

Davis, already an Academy Award winner, received the special statuette for her work to highlight the lack of women in films. She founded an institute compiling data on gender bias in 2004.

She called on filmmakers to immediately go back to their ongoing projects and “cross out a bunch of names of ensemble characters and supporting characters and make them female.”

Director and actress Olivia Wilde said Davis “was ahead of the #TimesUp conversation by about 20 years.”

“She really bangs the drum on this issue… She’s the real deal,” Wilde told AFP.

Wertmuller, 91, finally received an honorary Oscar more than four decades after she became the first woman nominated for best director.

She collected the statuette flanked by fellow Italian screen legends Sophia Loren and Isabella Rossellini, who translated Wertmuller’s call for the award to be given a new, more feminine name.

“She would like to call it ‘Anna.’ Women in the room, please scream, ‘We want Anna, a female Oscar!'” said Rossellini.

The origin of the nickname “Oscar” is unclear, but is thought to derive from the statuette’s likeness to a male relative of an early Academy member.

 ‘About time’ 

Stars at the glitzy ceremony in Hollywood’s Ray Dolby Ballroom included Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks, Quentin Tarantino, Eddie Murphy, Scarlett Johansson and Jennifer Lopez.

“Last of the Mohicans” star Wes Studi became the first Native American actor to receive an Oscar.

“I’d simply like to say — it’s about time,” said Studi, to a raucous ovation. “It’s been a wild and wonderful ride,” he added.

Studi was introduced by Joy Harjo, the first Native American US poet laureate, and actor Christian Bale, who called it a “long overdue moment.”

“Too few opportunities in film, on both sides of the camera, have gone to native or indigenous artists — we are a room full of people who can change that,” said Bale, who starred with Studi in 2017’s “Hostiles.”

The #OscarsSoWhite protests surrounding the 2016 Oscars drew attention to the awards’ diversity issues.

Studi’s award comes almost half a century after Marlon Brando declined his best actor Oscar for “The Godfather” in protest at the movie industry’s treatment of Native Americans.

Canadian indigenous musician Buffy Sainte-Marie shared a best original song Oscar in 1982.

The night kicked off with an honorary Oscar for David Lynch, the surrealist auteur who has been nominated three times for best director but never won.

Regarded as one of the greatest American filmmakers of his generation, Lynch is the enigmatic director of cult classics such as “Blue Velvet” and “Mulholland Drive,” as well as television’s “Twin Peaks.”

He was introduced by Laura Dern and Kyle MacLachlan, who have both acted in several of his films.

The pair paid tribute to Lynch as a “modern Renaissance man.”

“David is a man who dares to invent and to create and challenge himself, every single day,” said Dern.

The honorary Oscars are handed out every year to honor lifetime achievement, and were spun off into a separate event in 2009 to declutter the main show’s packed schedule.


Harvey Weinstein To Face New Indictment In Court

Weinstein's Waning Power Broke Code Of Silence - Rachel Weisz
US film producer Harvey Weinstein. Yann COATSALIOU / AFP


Fallen movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, who is awaiting trial on two sexual assault charges, will return to court next week to hear a new indictment against him, prosecutors said Thursday.

Weinstein, 67, will appear in a New York state court on Monday, said a spokesman for the Manhattan District Attorney, declining to comment on the details of the indictment.

He added, however, that it did not contain new charges and that the film producer’s trial would start as scheduled on September 9.

The indictment is likely to allow another alleged victim of Weinstein to testify at the trial.

Accusations against Weinstein, 67, propelled America’s #MeToo movement in 2017.

Once one of the most powerful men in Hollywood, Weinstein has been accused of harassment and assault by more than 80 women, including stars such as Angelina Jolie and Ashley Judd.

But he only faces charges involving two women — one who alleges he raped her in 2013, the other that he forced her to perform oral sex on him in 2006.

A lawyer for Weinstein confirmed last week that prosecutors had asked a grand jury to approve a new indictment against him to include the allegations of a third woman.

US media have reported that it is actress Annabella Sciorra, known for her role in hit television series in “The Sopranos.”

In an interview with The New Yorker magazine published in October 2017, she accused Weinstein of raping her after he forced himself into her apartment in the 1990s.

Damon Cheronis, a lawyer for Weinstein, said adding new allegations so close to trial was “unconstitutional” and that the defense would ask for the indictment to be dropped.

Weinstein’s attorneys have also requested the trial be moved, arguing that intense coverage in New York’s tabloids has meant he won’t get a fair trial.

A decision on that is pending.


Denzel Washington Celebrated By Hollywood

Spike Lee (R) presents the award to Denzel Washington during the 47th AFI Life Achievement Award honoring Denzel Washington at Dolby Theatre on June 06, 2019 in Hollywood, California. PHOTO: Amy Sussman / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP


Actor Denzel Washington was honored by Hollywood on Thursday for a pioneering career spanning five decades and two Oscars that opened the door for a generation of black movie stars.

Director and frequent collaborator Spike Lee presented the 64-year-old with the American Film Institute (AFI) Life Achievement award — billed as “the highest honor for a career in film” — at a gala event at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.

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Hollywood’s small elite of A-list black leading men paid tribute to Washington’s trailblazing career — fellow Oscar winners Morgan Freeman, Jamie Foxx, and Mahershala Ali took to the stage, as did “Black Panther” stars Chadwick Boseman and Michael B. Jordan.

“You paved the way. You showed us the path. But what’s truly monumental is that your influence, your reach, transcends race without ever denying it,” said Ali.

He added: “We are here because we stand on the shoulders of a giant.”

“There is no ‘Black Panther’ without Denzel Washington,” said Boseman, referring to Marvel Studios’ first film to focus on a black superhero.

Predominantly white Hollywood has been heavily criticized for its diversity problem, notably in the #OscarsSoWhite campaign surrounding the 2016 Academy Awards.

Washington is one of only four black stars to win the best actor Oscar.

He won a best supporting actor Oscar for American Civil War epic “Glory” (1989) and the best actor statuette for his bad cop character in Antoine Fuqua’s crime thriller “Training Day” (2001).

One of cinema’s most versatile actors, Washington has received acclaim for both cerebral, nuanced roles and action parts in movies such as “Man on Fire,” “American Gangster” and “Remember the Titans.”

He portrayed the American Muslim minister and civil rights campaigner Malcolm X in Lee’s 1992 biopic.

Other recent recipients of the annual AFI lifetime achievement award include George Clooney, Al Pacino, and Meryl Streep. Freeman and Sidney Poitier have also been honored.

The gala, which also featured a surprise appearance by Beyonce, will be broadcast by TNT on June 20.


US Returns $57m Hollywood Money To Malaysia

Millions of dollars forfeited by the company behind the Leonardo DiCaprio film “Wolf of Wall Street” have been sent to a Malaysian account set up to recover money looted in a massive state fraud, officials said on Tuesday.

Billions of dollars were stolen from sovereign wealth fund 1MDB, allegedly by ex-prime minister Najib Razak and his cronies in a crime that stretched around the world.

The US Department of Justice is in the process of seizing assets it says are linked to the scandal.

It has now transferred funds that were handed over by Red Granite Pictures, the Hollywood production company behind the 2013 film about a massive stock market scam that netted its perpetrator millions of dollars.

Malaysia’s attorney-general Tommy Thomas said the money represented “the first installment of funds recovered from asset seizures related to 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB)”.

The funds, totalling $57.04 million, were sent to an account specially set up to receive recovered 1MDB funds, he said in a statement.

US prosecutors allege that the film company, co-founded by Najib’s stepson Riza Aziz, was funded by money stolen from 1MDB.

In 2017 Red Granite agreed to settle a US civil lawsuit against it for $60 million. About $3 million was deducted to cover costs before the funds were returned, Thomas said.

As well as “The Wolf of Wall Street”, Red Granite also produced the Jim Carrey hit “Dumb and Dumber to” and “Daddy’s Home”, starring Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg.

Prosecutors had made claims for profits generated by all three films as part of their case.

The DoJ is also in the process of returning a further $139 million of looted funds that came from the sale of a stake in the Park Lane Hotel in New York, Thomas said.

It was bought by Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho, who was accused of playing a central role in plundering 1MDB, he said.

Low is also believed to have bought a luxury yacht with about $250 million of looted cash.

The scandal played a major role in Najib’s election loss last year. Malaysia’s new government has re-opened probes into 1MDB, and Najib has been arrested. He went on trial last month over the allegations.


George Clooney Calls For Boycott Of Brunei-Owned Hotels

In this file photo taken on June 07, 2018 US actor George Clooney speaks after receiving the 46th American Film Institute Life Achievement Award at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood. VALERIE MACON / AFP


American actor George Clooney has called for a boycott of nine Brunei-owned hotels over the sultanate’s imposition of the death penalty for gay sex and adultery.

“Every single time we stay at or take meetings at or dine at any of these nine hotels, we are putting money directly into the pockets of men who choose to stone and whip to death their own citizens for being gay or accused of adultery,” Clooney wrote on the website Deadline Hollywood.

“I’ve learned over years of dealing with murderous regimes that you can’t shame them. But you can shame the banks, the financiers and the institutions that do business with them and choose to look the other way,” he added.

Brunei is an absolute monarchy which has been ruled for 51 years by Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah.

The former British protectorate on Borneo island is surrounded by Malaysia. It has long depended on abundant, but declining, crude reserves and was plunged into recession when global prices fell about five years ago.

The nine hotels mentioned by Clooney are located in the US, Britain, France and Italy.

Brunei will implement the harsh new penal code — which also mandates amputation of a hand and foot for theft — starting next Wednesday.

Homosexuality is already illegal in the sultanate, but it will now become a capital offence. The law only applies to Muslims.

The government did not respond to AFP’s request for comment but on Saturday the prime minister’s office issued a statement saying the country has always practiced “a dual legal system,” one based on Islamic Shariah law and another on Common Law.

“In fully implementing the Shariah Penal Code Order (SPCO) 2013 from 3rd April 2019, both systems will continue to run in parallel to maintain peace and order and preserve religion, life, family and individuals regardless of gender, nationality, race and faith,” the statement said.

Brunei first announced the measures in 2013, but implementation has been delayed as officials worked out the practical details, and in the face of opposition by rights groups.

In addition to his film-making work that has netted him two Oscars, Clooney is known for his globe-trotting political activism, especially his tireless campaigning to draw attention to the conflict in Sudan’s Darfur region.

Alfonso Cuaron Reliving His Childhood In Black And White

Best Director, Best Foreign Language Film, and Best Cinematography winner for “Roma” Alfonso Cuaron poses in the press room with his Oscars during the 91st Annual Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, California on February 24, 2019. FREDERIC J. BROWN / AFP


Alfonso Cuaron, who won three Oscars on Sunday, owes much of his success to his 10-year-old self.

Cuaron turned 10 in 1971, a turbulent, formative year in the Mexican filmmaker’s life, as he depicts it in “Roma,” the widely hailed, semi-autobiographical film that won statuettes for best director, best cinematography and best foreign language film.

“Being here doesn’t get old,” Cuaron told the audience at Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre.

“This award belongs to Mexico. It’s a Mexican film on every single front.”

Cuaron has now won Academy Awards with his past two movies, both of which mined the creative material of his childhood — albeit in very different ways.

The 10-year-old Cuaron wanted to be an astronaut, a dream he returned to in 2013 with “Gravity.” That film that won him his first Oscar, for best director — the first-ever Latin American to claim the honor — and best film editing.

Five years later, Cuaron again returned to his childhood — this time, the reality instead of the fantasy.

Set in Mexico City’s Roma neighborhood, filmed in black and white, and written in Spanish and the indigenous Mixtec language, Cuaron’s latest movie is a hauntingly intimate portrait of a tumultuous year in the lives of his family, their nanny and Mexico itself.

Known as a consummate craftsman, Cuaron, 57, meticulously recreated his childhood neighborhood and home for the film.

Aside from its technical mastery, however, “Roma” could hardly be more different from “Gravity,” a 3D outer-space blockbuster that starred George Clooney and Sandra Bullock.

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Cuaron’s latest film has no Hollywood stars and a cast of mainly novice actors.

“When I finished my last film, I promised myself the next one would be something more simple and personal,” Cuaron said when “Roma” was released.

“I realized this was the moment when I could finally return to Mexico to make a movie, with all the resources, tools and techniques I’d acquired over the years.”

 Triumphant homecoming 

“Roma” tells the story of the two women who raised Cuaron: his mother, who is in the process of separating from his father, and his nanny, a young indigenous woman dealing with her own unplanned pregnancy while caring for the crumbling family that employs her.

“There comes a time in your life when you want to understand who you are, starting at the beginning,” Cuaron told AFP at the film’s Los Angeles premiere.

Cuaron’s mother, Cristina Orozco, is the one who gave him his first movie camera, two years after the events in the film. That is when his astronaut dreams started to give way to an all-consuming interest in making movies.

Cuaron went on to enroll at the film studies institute at Mexico’s largest university, UNAM, only to drop out a year shy of graduating.

He got a job as an assistant director, then landed funding to make a feature film of his own, “Solo con Tu Pareja,” in 1991. It won a series of prizes at film festivals and helped Cuaron get his foot in the door in Hollywood.

His breakout success came in 2001, with “Y Tu Mama Tambien,” a wild but widely acclaimed road movie and coming-of-age story.

That led to a job directing “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” (2004), the third installment in the massively successful franchise, and later “Children of Men” (2006) and “Gravity.”

“Roma” is the first film he has made in Mexico since “Y Tu Mama Tambien” — a triumphant homecoming after winning both critical acclaim and box office success in Hollywood. It earned 10 nominations overall.

 Political overtones 

Cuaron’s win was laden with political overtones in the Mexico-bashing era of US President Donald Trump.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has positively fallen in love with Mexican directors in recent years.

Cuaron, Guillermo del Toro and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu — the so-called “Three Amigos” — have won the best director Oscar in five of the past six years.

After winning best film at Britain’s BAFTA awards, Cuaron alluded to the political symbolism of a border-crossing Mexican making it in Hollywood on his own terms.

The film’s success “in an age where fear and anger are proposed to divide us means the world to me,” he said.