Friday, May 25, 2018

News Briefs

Displaying 1 - 10 of 3018
  • Monday, May. 21, 2018
Sony invests in image sensors, acquires more of EMI Music
Sony Corp. new president Kenichiro Yoshida speaks during a press conference at the company's headquarters in Tokyo Friday, Feb. 2, 2018. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
TOKYO (AP) -- 

Electronics and entertainment company Sony Corp. said Tuesday it plans to invest 1 trillion yen ($9 billion) mostly in image sensors over the next three years, under a revamped strategy to strengthen both hardware and creative content.

Sony also plans to buy for $2.3 billion a 60 percent stake in EMI Music Publishing, from Mubadala Investment Co. EMI has under its wing classics such as the Motown catalog and Queen, and contemporary artists like Kanye West, Alicia Keys and Pharrell Williams.

Sony already owns 30 percent of EMI so once the deal is finalized, it will own 90 percent of the company.

CEO Kenichiro Yoshida told reporters at Sony's headquarters that the company's lead in sensors is key for evolving technologies like self-driving cars and artificial intelligence.

The Tokyo-based maker of the Walkman portable player, Aibo entertainment robot and Bravia TVs has amassed know-how over the decades when it was leading in "analog technology," said Yoshida, who was named president and chief executive in February. He said Sony's CMOS image sensor excels in its speed, lighting range and absence of noise.

Yoshida said the company's main theme was "getting closer to people," by connecting consumer services and content throughout its sprawling operations, which include the PlayStation game platform, music, films and home entertainment, still and video cameras, cellphones, computer chips and financial services.

Yoshida said the initiative to beef up Sony's content was also behind a deal announced earlier this month to acquire a stake in Peanuts Holdings, the company behind Snoopy and Charlie Brown.

But Yoshida topped short of giving numbers for profit goals, saying he was presenting a long-term vision rooted in Sony's founding and ongoing philosophy of emotionally inspiring people.

One area where he is counting on growth is the company's TV content business in India, where the population growth is rapid and TVs are still catching on, he said.

Sony, founded in 1946, has had its share of problems, sinking into the red in recent years. It struggled to adjust to the digital age and was hammered by competition from Apple Inc., Samsung Electronics Co. and other nimbler rivals.

Sony has sold off chunks of its business, including its Vaio personal-computer unit, to turn itself around. Its cellphone operations are still losing money, but the executives promised that will change soon.

  • Monday, May. 21, 2018
George Stevens Jr. adds history to the film academy library
In this Nov. 1, 2017 file photo, AFI founding director George Stevens, Jr. attends AFI's 50th Anniversary Gala at The Library of Congress in Washington. Stevens is adding another chapter to film history with a significant donation of items spanning five generations of his family to the Margaret Herrick Library and the Academy Film Archive. (Photo by Brent N. Clarke/Invision/AP, File)

American Film Institute founder and Kennedy Center Honors creator George Stevens Jr. is adding another chapter to film history by donating hundreds of items spanning five generations of his family to film academy's Margaret Herrick Library and its archive.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said Monday that Stevens Jr. will be contributing papers, letters, photographs and scripts from his life to the Stevens Family collection. The public collection of over 600 items will cover everything from his Hollywood beginnings working alongside his father George Stevens, the legendary director of film classics like "Woman of the Year," to Washington D.C. where he worked with Edward R. Murrow at the United States Information Agency during the Kennedy administration.

Along the way he also founded the American Film Institute, in 1967 and the Kennedy Center Honors in 1977, which he produced until 2014. He made award-winning films and miniseries like the Sidney Poitier-led "Separate but Equal" and served eight years as chairman of the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities under President Barack Obama.

"I'm a great believer in the importance of history as it applies to motion pictures," Stevens Jr., 86, of his decision to add his own papers to the Stevens Family collection, as well as items from his extraordinary family, whose contributions to the entertainment industry span the history of film.

His great grandmother Alice Howell was considered the "female Chaplin," his mother was a Mack Sennett bathing beauty, his father was the Oscar-winning director of "The Diary of Anne Frank," and his late son Michael Stevens was an Emmy Award-winning producer, and those are just a few of the names on the family tree.

Stevens Jr.'s previous donation of a wide-ranging record of his father's distinguished career in 1980 helped turn the Margaret Herrick Library into an internationally respected resource, and has informed books like Mark Harris's "Five Came Back" and Don Graham's account of the making of "Giant."

Collection highlights displayed on the film academy's website include personal photos of Stevens Jr., including one of him standing alongside, Elizabeth Taylor, James Dean (who Stevens Jr. calls Jimmy) and his father in Marfa, Texas in 1955 on the set of "Giant."

"That's kind of a favorite picture," Stevens Jr. said. "I worked with my dad on the script and then went in the Air Force for two years and came back and worked with him on the editing. That was the pace he was moving at!"

The collection is a treasure trove for film buffs, where an ordinary family photo could be on the set of "Shane," at the Academy Awards in 1951, when George Stevens was nominated for "A Place in the Sun," or during the Amsterdam production of "The Diary of Anne Frank" with cinematographer Jack Cardiff. Look closer and you'll see Stevens Jr. being sworn in at the USIA, or speaking with Jacqueline Kennedy.

"It was a life-changing experience leaving Hollywood to run the motion picture service of USIA making documentary films," Stevens Jr. said. "After President Kennedy's death Jackie got all of these hundreds of thousands of letters and she wanted to thank the public and so she asked me to film something for her. I went to the house she was staying in Georgetown and we filmed a message to the people for her in 35 millimeter color."

One particularly important item is a letter from John F. Kennedy that wasn't even written to him, but just about his work. Dated October 21, 1963, Kennedy wrote to Murrow that "The Five Cities of June" is "one of the finest documentaries the USIA has ever done." Stevens Jr. produced the short film detailing President Kennedy's trips in June 1963, including his famous trip to Germany and his "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech. It would go on to be nominated for an Academy Award.

On November 23, Stevens Jr. went to speak to Murrow and was handed the letter.

"It had been in his hands three weeks earlier which was profoundly moving," Stevens Jr. said, who tried to give the letter back to Murrow, but Murrow refused. "He said, 'You made the film, you keep the letter,' which is all you need to know about Edward R. Murrow."

The stories run deep for each photo — there's James Cagney getting an AFI Lifetime Achievement Award, but did you know he wrote his speech on a shirt board that you'd find at a laundry? Or that Stevens Jr.'s first big casting coup was getting Sidney Poitier to star in "The Greatest Story Ever Told" which would lead to a lifelong friendship with the actor?

Stevens Jr. is working on getting it all down in a book too, which he laughs is on track for publication in "early 2030." It's quite a life for someone who originally thought he wanted to be a sportswriter.

He thinks back to the documentary he made about his father nine years after his death in 1984, "George Stevens: A Filmmaker's Journey," which begins with a quote that he discovered in one of his father's diaries.

"It read, 'Life is a journey and it's most interesting when you don't know where you're going,'" he said. "And that turned out to be true of mine."

  • Monday, May. 21, 2018
Netflix says it has signed Barack and Michelle Obama to multi-year deal
In this Oct. 8, 2016 file photo, President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama wait to greet Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and his wife Agnese Landini for a State Dinner at the White House in Washington. Netflix says that it has reached a deal with Barack and Michelle Obama to produce material for the streaming service. Netflix said Monday, May 21, 2018, in a tweet, that the former president and first lady will produce films and series for the service, potentially including scripted and unscripted series, documentaries and features. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

Barack and Michelle Obama are getting into the television business with Monday's announcement that they had signed a multi-year deal with Netflix.

The former president and first lady have formed their own production company, Higher Ground Productions, for the material. In announcing a deal that had been rumored since March, Netflix offered no specifics on what shows they would make.

Netflix said the Obamas would make "a diverse mix of content," potentially including scripted and unscripted series, documentaries or features.

"We hope to cultivate and curate the talented, inspiring, creative voices who are able to promote greater empathy and understanding between peoples, and help them share their stories with the wider world," Barack Obama said in Netflix's announcement.

The Obamas can be expected to participate in some of the programming onscreen, said a person familiar with the deal, not authorized to talk publicly about it, on condition of anonymity. The programming itself is not expected to be partisan in nature; a president who often derided the way things were covered on cable news won't be joining in.

The type of people that Obama — like other presidents — brought forward as guests at his State of the Union addresses would likely provide fodder for the kinds of stories they want to tell.

"Barack and I have always believed in the power of storytelling to inspire us, to make us think differently about the world around us, and to help us open our minds and hearts to others," Michelle Obama said.

No content from the deal is expected to be available until at least 2019, said the person familiar with the deal.

The former president appeared in January on David Letterman's Netflix talk show, "My Next Guest Needs No Introduction." Obama is said to be friendly with Ted Sarandos, Netflix chief content officer, and discussions for other programming were already under way.

"We are incredibly proud they have chosen to make Netflix the home for their formidable storytelling abilities," Sarandos said.

Netflix has 125 million subscribers worldwide. The company has always been reluctant to discuss how many people watch its programming, but it clearly dominates the growing market for streaming services. Roughly 10 percent of television viewing now is through these services, the Nielsen company said.

Forty-nine percent of streaming being viewed now comes through Netflix, and no other service comes close, Nielsen said.

  • Monday, May. 21, 2018
UK government does not intend to block Comcast-Sky deal
This Wednesday, March 29, 2017, photo shows a sign outside the Comcast Center in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Britain's government says it does not intend to refer U.S. media conglomerate Comcast's 22 billion pound ($30.7 billion) takeover offer for London-based Sky to competition authorities, saying the proposed merger doesn't raise concerns on public interest grounds.

Culture Secretary Matt Hancock says he's "reviewed the relevant evidence" and that he is "minded not to issue" an intervention notice.

He says the "proposed merger does not raise concerns in relation to public interest considerations which would meet the threshold for intervention".

The parties have until 5 p.m. May 24 for submissions before he makes a final decision on whether to intervene.

  • Sunday, May. 20, 2018
Patricia Morison, Broadway and Hollywood star, dies at 103
In this Dec. 25, 1949, file photo, Alfred Drake, left, and Patricia Morison, costarring in the musical "Kiss Me Kate," play checkers backstage at the New Century Theatre in New York. Broadway and Hollywood star Patricia Morison has died at age 103. Publicist Harlan Boll says Morison died of natural causes at her home in Los Angeles on Sunday, May 20, 2018. (AP Photo/File)

Patricia Morison, who originated the role of an overemotional diva in the Broadway musical "Kiss Me, Kate," starred on stage opposite Yul Brynner in "The King and I" and appeared in films alongside Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, died Sunday at age 103.

Morison died of natural causes at her home in Los Angeles, publicist Harlan Boll said.

With her long auburn hair and fiery blue-gray eyes, Morison radiated a sophisticated sex appeal.

She had "the most sensual mouth of any lady in the movies," Gregory William Mank wrote in his book "Women in Horror Films, 1940s."

Broadway actress Merle Dandridge posted a picture of herself with Morison on Sunday and tweeted out a tribute.

"Rest, Beautiful Patricia Morison," Dandridge said. "It was an honor to follow in your footsteps."

Morison's career got off to a rocky start. At 18 she was cast in the 1933 Broadway comedy "Growing Pains," which lasted 29 performances. "I was so bad in it, they fired me in rehearsals," Morison told the Los Angeles Times in 2015. "I cried so hard they gave me a walk-on."

Her second Broadway role five years later was only marginally better — "The Two Bouquets" with Alfred Drake lasted 55 performances — but Hollywood noticed and Paramount signed her. (The New York Times praised her "willowy elegance.") Morison made her film debut in 1939's "Persons in Hiding," but she often found her options in the studio system frustrating.

She appeared as Empress Eugenie in 1943's "The Song of Bernadette," opposite John Garfield in the 1943 thriller "The Fallen Sparrow" and in the 1945 Tracy-Hepburn romantic comedy "Without Love."

She was often cast as the femme fatale or villain, including the mastermind in 1946's "Dressed to Kill," sparring with Sherlock Holmes, played by Basil Rathbone. Her other films included "Danger Woman" and "Tarzan and the Huntress."

Morison's death was first reported Sunday by The Hollywood Reporter.

Born in New York, she was the daughter of playwright and actor William R. Morison and Salina Morison. She studied acting and movement with Martha Graham. In 1935, she understudied Helen Hayes in "Victoria Regina" on Broadway.

After Paramount replaced her in several films, Morison left the studio and joined Al Jolson on a USO tour of Britain to entertain troops in 1942. She returned to get a part in one of her most-remembered films — "Hitler's Madman." She also played opposite Lon Chaney Jr. in "Calling Dr. Death" in 1943 and Victor Mature in "Kiss of Death."

To appear in "Kiss Me, Kate," Morison needed to get out of a commitment to appear in what was a new line of work for actors in 1947 — a TV series. She had been cast as a psychiatrist who helps a detective solve cases. The producer shot all of her 13 segments on the show in a quick two-week period.

"Kiss Me, Kate," in which she was reunited with Drake, turned out to be Cole Porter's biggest musical success and gave Morison the opportunity to play the temperamental Lili Vanessi and sing such songs as "Wunderbar" and "So in Love."

She told The Associated Press in 1988 that she went to Porter's home to audition for him but picked a Rodgers and Hammerstein song to sing. "I thought it was safer," she explained. She went on perform the role for almost 1,500 performances on Broadway and in London. The New York Times called her "an agile and humorous actress who is not afraid of slapstick and who can sing enchantingly."

In 1954, Morison appeared on Broadway as a replacement Anna Leonowens with Brynner in "The King and I" and joined him on tour. She took over the role in 1952 shortly after Gertrude Lawrence died while performing the lead character. "She was marvelous," Brynner said. "I could do anything with her."

One story she told frequently was knocking on Brynner's stage door and opening it to find Brynner sitting naked, in a Buddha style position, waiting to get his skin stained with a special juice to look like the King of Siam.

In 2000, she was struck by a car and the right side of her body was badly hurt.

Morison, who never married, lived in a Los Angeles apartment with a piano upon which there were signed photographs of Porter and Oscar Hammerstein II.

  • Saturday, May. 19, 2018
In HBO film, McCain says Americans deserve more from Washington
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., speaks about Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., at an event on Capitol Hill to debut a documentary film about McCain, in Washington, Thursday, May 17, 2018. McCain, currently away from the Senate, was diagnosed in last July with glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Sen. John McCain ends a documentary about his life by sending the message that Washington is not giving the American people the government they deserve.

The Arizona Republican also makes clear he is doing everything he can to fight the brain cancer that has stricken him. He says he loves life and wants to stick around forever but also believes "there is a great honor that you can die with."

McCain's comments come in the HBO documentary "John McCain: For Whom the Bell Tolls." The title stems from McCain's favorite book and his current condition. The 81-year-old was diagnosed in July with glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer. He left Washington in December and has yet to return, though he continues to weigh in on an array of issues.

Earlier this month, he urged his fellow senators to reject President Donald Trump's nominee to lead the CIA. A White House aide subsequently dismissed his opposition, saying it "doesn't matter" because "he's dying anyway," setting off a firestorm of criticism and calls for a public apology.

There was no mention of that episode as dozens of McCain's Senate colleagues took nearly two hours out of their day to watch the documentary Thursday afternoon. Some of them spoke about McCain before the movie aired.

"The movie is excellent. It tells the story, warts and all," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., one of McCain's closest friends.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said she will always remember McCain interrupting a supporter in her home state to stick up for Barack Obama, his Democratic opponent in the 2008 presidential race. The supporter had said she couldn't trust Obama and called him an "Arab."

McCain replied: "No, ma'am, no, ma'am. He's a decent family man, a citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues, and that's what this campaign is all about."

That scene made it into the movie, which was followed by praise from Obama, who said he admired McCain's civility in an uphill battle. "For John, in the middle of that to say, 'Hold on a second. We don't demonize each other. We're all Americans. We're all on the same team,' I thought was an indication of who John fundamentally was," Obama said.

Indeed, praise from Democrats was featured prominently in the film, including from former Vice President Joe Biden, previously a colleague of McCain's in the Senate, and former Sen. Joe Lieberman. In the film, McCain expresses regret for not picking Lieberman as his running mate in place of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. He said advisers talked him out of it.

"That was another mistake that I made," McCain said.

Fewer appearances were made by Republican lawmakers. Trump, with whom he has feuded, is not interviewed, though Trump's 2016 Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, was.

The film's closing moments include McCain's deciding vote against the GOP's health care bill and his Senate speech before departing for Arizona. As bells begin to toll, McCain gives a quick take on Washington: "We need to make sure we give the American people what they deserve, and right now they're not getting it."

And on his current circumstances: "I'm confident, I'm happy and I'm very grateful for the life I've been able to lead and I greet the future with great joy."

The final scene includes McCain's October address after receiving the National Constitution Center's Liberty Medal. In the speech, he blasted a "half-baked, spurious nationalism" in the United States "cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems."

  • Saturday, May. 19, 2018
Filmmaker Luc Besson targeted in Paris rape complaint
In this March 19, 2017 file photo, Director Luc Besson poses for photographers with his Inspiration award at the Empire Film Awards show in London. (Photo by Joel Ryan/Invision/AP)
PARIS (AP) -- 

French authorities said Saturday they are investigating a rape accusation against "Valerian" filmmaker Luc Besson, who denies wrongdoing.

A judicial official told The Associated Press that a 27-year-old woman filed a complaint Friday accusing the 59-year-old director of drugging and penetrating her at the hotel Bristol in Paris.

The official was not authorized to be publicly named.

BFM television and Europe-1 radio cite Besson's lawyer as saying he denies the accusations. His attorneys did not return messages from the AP.

The reports came as the Cannes Film Festival is wrapping up; accusations of sexual misconduct and inequality in the movie industry have been prominent themes at the festival this year.

Besson has produced nearly 100 films and written and directed many of them. His films include the "Taken" series, "The Fifth Element" and "Leon." His Europa Corp. production company didn't respond to requests for comment.

  • Thursday, May. 17, 2018
Facebook's Zuckerberg to meet EU next Tuesday
In this May 16, 2012, file photo, the Facebook logo is displayed on an iPad in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will meet with leaders of the European parliament in a closed-door meeting next Tuesday about the data protection scandal that has engulfed his company.

Even though his visit had been announced, it was left unclear exactly when Zuckerberg would visit the European Union legislature.

The EU and British parliaments have been calling for Zuckerberg to appear before them for weeks ever since it emerged that a company, political consultants Cambridge Analytica, had been allowed to misuse the data of millions of Facebook users.

The EU meeting however is set to be private with the leaders of the political groups and a justice and civil rights expert. Many in the European Parliament had been calling for a public hearing.


  • Thursday, May. 17, 2018
Cannes: Brazilians stress land plight of indigenous people
Cast and crew from the film 'The Dead and The Other' Thiago Macedo Correia, from left, producer Ricardo Alves Jr., producer Isabella Nader, co-director Renee Nader Messora, co-director Joao Salaviza and actor Ihjac Kraho, right, hold placards calling for the demarcation of indigenous lands and a halt to the genocide of indigenous people in Brazil, upon arrival at the premiere of the film 'Dogman' at the 71st international film festival, Cannes, Wednesday, May 16, 2018. (Photo by Joel C Ryan/Invision/AP)
CANNES, France (AP) -- 

Cast and crew members of the Brazilian film "The Dead and the Other" held up placards on the Cannes Film Festival red carpet Wednesday to protest what they called "the genocide" of indigenous people in Brazil.

The movie is based on the filmmakers' experience living for nearly a year in a village of Kraho people in north Brazil. It is playing in the Un Certain Regard section at Cannes.

Co-directors Joao Salaviza and Renee Nader Messora joined actor Ihjac Kraho in displaying the signs calling for the protection of indigenous lands. They were attending the premiere of "Dogman."

Brazilian politicians last year changed how land is to be demarcated for 900,000 aboriginal people. Activists maintain that without more protection, indigenous groups are being pushed off their land in violent disputes.

  • Thursday, May. 17, 2018
Ruth Bader Ginsburg documentary "RBG" has box office muscle
This image released by Magnolia Pictures shows U.S. Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg in a scene from "RBG." (Magnolia Pictures via AP)

The Ruth Bader Ginsburg documentary "RBG " is turning into a mini box office phenomenon. The film cracked the top 10 this weekend with $1.2 million from only 180 screens nationwide.

In just over two weeks of limited release it's made over $2.2 million

Exhibitor Relations box office analyst Jeff Bock says documentaries don't often enter the top 10 if they're not politically charged or about cuddly animals, noting that "RBG" is neither. He says that for a documentary, "RBG" is essentially doing blockbuster business.

The film from directors Julie Cohen and Betsy West gives an intimate peek at the life of the famed Supreme Court associate justice from her childhood to her present day pop culture icon status and even her impressive workout routine.

"RBG" expands to 330 screens on Friday.