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The dirty tricks of Oscar campaigns, and what to expect at the 2018 Academy Awards



Q: What are this year’s whisper campaigns?

Belloni: For instance, this year it was that “Three Billboards” is racist, or that “Shape of Water” was stolen from a playwright or it was that Gary Oldman is anti-Semitic. [Oldman apologized in 2014 for a remark to Playboy.] These are the political tactics that people use, and in the past there’s evidence these whisper campaigns have been successful.

You look all the way to “Zero Dark Thirty,” there was a whisper campaign about its authenticity, things that were not accurate in the film, or “Slumdog Millionaire,” that the kids were mistreated. There was an allegation that the real-life subject of “A Beautiful Mind” was anti-Semitic. Everyone thought Harvey [Weinstein] was behind that.

Harvey was the ultimate campaigner and the ultimate negative campaigner, and he taught a lot of people who are now doing this professionally.


Q: Has the Oscar race been different without him?

Belloni: I think so. There is something missing. He would say, “I’d love for you to meet so-and-so. I’d love for you to meet the little kid from ‘Lion.’ ” There were always these press releases that would come out from Harvey, that the City of Los Angeles has declared today “The Artist” day, like a fake film festival that would only give awards to Harvey Weinstein.

Q: He really dominated the campaigning?

Belloni: In recent years it was more reserved, and now all the other campaigns are just as sophisticated. Everyone has caught up, and you see the stunts and all the things Harvey popularized.

Q: Why is the best picture a wide-open race this year?

Belloni: There are two things at work. There is no one film that the academy has coalesced around. Typically people talk and the momentum gets behind one or two movies, and it becomes a showdown. This year, because there isn’t that one movie that everyone loves, or the increasing diversification of the academy, there are five movies that legitimately could win best picture and each have their backers: “Shape of Water,” “Get Out,” “Lady Bird,” “Dunkirk” and “Three Billboards.”

 Frances McDormand wins best actress in a drama for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” at the 75th Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills on Jan. 7. Paul Drinkwater / NBCUniversal

Q: Are any of those best pictures in your mind?

Belloni: I’m not a critic, and I reserve my personal opinions for my wife and occasionally I’ll tweet about a movie I really liked. I do know talking to academy voters that the favorite is “Shape of Water,” but I would absolutely not be surprised if “Get Out” wins. I feel like there was a late push, and people think it’s the most important movie of the year.

Q: Do you think it’s appropriate, whether on the red carpet or during the ceremony, to address politics?

Belloni: I understand why people don’t like it, but I also understand why people who feel strongly about their beliefs would use a powerful platform to get their message across. The Oscars is the biggest platform of the year. There is a history of the entertainment industry leading on certain social issues.

There is a balance. Plus, in a way, it makes it interesting, bigger than just some statues for movies. Oprah’s speech at the Golden Globes influenced what everybody in America was talking about. That was a powerful speech. She knew exactly what she was doing.

 Jordan Peele made his directorial debut with the psychological thriller “Get Out.” Justin Lubin / Universal Pictures

Q: What will the Oscar producers do differently this year?

Belloni: It’s the same team as last year, but they just have this gigantic elephant in the room that they have to address. The Golden Globes really leaned in.

Q: Can we talk about the different movements and whether the academy’s new, broader membership has affected the movies that get picked? Is Hollywood becoming less white male and more diverse?

Belloni: It is still overwhelmingly male and overwhelmingly white. However, over the past three years the number of people who have been invited to the academy has dramatically increased. The academy has made a significant push to diversify not just by gender but by race and nationality. There are more foreign members as well.

So consequently, with the electorate changing, the nominees are going to change. I strongly believe that five years ago, if it was the same choice between “Moonlight” and “La La Land” that “La La Land” would have won. The diversification and the age of the audience coming down, they’re more open in my view to nontraditional Oscar best pictures. That is why I think “Get Out” has a shot.

Q: Why don’t the movies I see at the multiplex ever get nominated?

Belloni: The academy increased the number of best pictures from five to as many as 10. The thinking was this will allow the bigger, more popular and populist movies to get a best-picture nomination. In reality, it’s been more of the same. It’s allowed more of these smaller art house movies that the academy members love, but the public doesn’t, to get in.

 Gal Gadot arrives at the premiere of “Wonder Woman” at the Pantages Theater on May 25 in Hollywood. Frazer Harrison / Getty Images

The argument on the other side is “Wonder Woman” doesn’t need the Oscars to get people to know it’s a good movie, but “Shape of Water,” and “Three Billboards” and “Darkest Hour,” those are the kind of movies people aren’t going to discover unless they get awards attention. And all of those movies have passed $100 million in box office, so people are seeing those movies and they’re seeing them because they’re in the awards competition.

I have mixed feelings about that. I would like to see movies like “Wonder Woman” and “Black Panther,” really well-executed mainstream entertainment, I’d love to see them get into the Oscar race, but I understand why the academy thinks the way they do.

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Liz Truss hails ‘hard-headed’ AUKUS submarine deal amid deepening row with France | Politics News



New Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has defended the UK’s “hard-headed” security pact with the US and Australia, amid a deepening diplomatic row with France.

The AUKUS deal saw the UK, Australia and the US form a security pact to develop and deploy a new fleet of nuclear-powered submarines, adding to the Western military presence in the Pacific region.

Ms Truss said the agreement showed Britain’s readiness to be “hard-headed in defending our interests”, adding that it could result in hundreds of new jobs.

France was outraged by the deal which sees them losing out on a £30bn contract to supply conventional submarines to Australia, who opted for nuclear-powered subs provided by Britain and the US.

In response, they recalled their ambassadors to the US and Australia, although there was no similar order to return to Paris for the French envoy to London.

Writing in The Sunday Telegraph, Ms Truss made no mention of the diplomatic stand-off with the French.

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British nuclear-powered subs make rare ‘surface’

Earlier, however, a French minister scornfully referred to the UK as the “junior partner” in the trilateral agreement and accused it of returning to hide in the “American lap”.

It comes after Gerard Araud, a former French ambassador to the US, referenced the omission of UK from the ambassador recall.

He wrote on Twitter: “You can interpret the omission of the UK as a sign of conciliation or contempt. Your choice.”

In her article, Ms Truss said the agreement, widely seen as a counter to increasing Chinese military assertiveness in the region, underlined the UK’s commitment to the Indo-Pacific.

She said Britain would always be a “fierce champion” of freedom and that the agreement illustrates the nation’s commitment to “challenging unfair practices and malign acts”.

“Freedoms need to be defended, so we are also building strong security ties around the world,” she wrote.

“That is why last week the prime minister announced, alongside our friends President Biden and Prime Minister Morrison, the creation of a new security partnership called AUKUS.

“It shows our readiness to be hard-headed in defending our interests and challenging unfair practices and malign acts.”

On Saturday, the president of the French National Assembly told Sky News that the bonds of friendship between France and the UK, US and Australia have been “tarnished” by the AUKUS pact.

Speaking while attending the G7 Speakers’ Conference in Chorley, Lancashire, Richard Ferrand said: “I think it has somewhat tarnished the bonds of friendship that we have. Yes, it has made things more difficult in terms of trust and friendship.”

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‘AUKUS alliance will bring us closer than ever’

Pressed on why Catherine Colonna, the top French diplomat in the UK was not recalled, Mr Ferrand said: “Obviously it was not my decision but we thought it was more important to recall the ambassadors of the two main protagonists in this thing.”

Andreas Michaelis, Germany’s ambassador to the UK, has suggested the AUKUS agreement threatens the “coherence and unity of the West”.

In the Commons on Thursday, Boris Johnson sought to smooth over the differences, insisting relations with France remained “rock solid” while Downing Street described Paris as “a close ally and friend” of the UK.

Nevertheless, the prime minister also made clear he expected the agreement to bring “hundreds” of highly-skilled jobs to Britain – jobs which may well have otherwise gone to France.

Ms Truss said the deal could “create hundreds of new and high-skilled jobs, from the shipyards of Govan to the factories of Tyneside”.

The French were reportedly given just a few hours’ notice of the new agreement ahead of what is expected to be a tough election year for Mr Macron.

French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the snub was a “stab in the back” and constituted “unacceptable behaviour between allies and partners”.

The pact between the UK, US and Australia has been widely seen as an attempt to counter the growing military assertiveness of China in the Indo-Pacific region.

Beijing swiftly denounced the initiative as “extremely irresponsible” and a threat to regional peace and stability.

Mr Johnson, however, said it was not intended as an “adversarial” move against China or any other power.

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SpaceX Inspiration4 mission: All-civilian crew touch down on Earth after historic three days in orbit | US News



A SpaceX capsule carrying the first all-civilian crew into space has touched back down on Earth after three days in orbit.

The four amateur astronauts orbited the planet every 90 minutes at a speed of more than 17,000mph and an altitude of up to 363 miles – higher than the International Space Station and Hubble Telescope – during their time in space.

Their dragon capsule safely parachuted into the ocean just before sunset on Saturday, off the Florida coast where the private flight began three days ago.

Commander Jared Isaacman, pilot Sian Proctor, medical officer Hayley Arceneaux and mission specialist Chris Sembrosk took part in the Inspiration4 mission, making them the first to circle the world without a professional astronaut.

inspiration4x  Twitter pictures
(L-R) Jared Isaacman, Hayley Arceneaux, Chris Sembroski, and Dr Sian Proctor seemed in good spirits after their first day in space. Pic Twitter/Inspiration4x

“Your mission has shown the world that space is for all of us,” SpaceX Mission Control radioed as the capsule landed.

“It was a heck of a ride for us… just getting started,” replied trip sponsor Mr Isaacman, hinting at more private flights in the future.

Mr Isaacman, a billionaire, paid undisclosed millions for the trip for himself and his three guests – all of whom were strangers to him before the trip.

The group wanted to show that ordinary people could blast into orbit by themselves, and SpaceX founder Elon Musk took them on as the company’s first rocket-riding tourists.

They were treated to unparalleled views of earth during their time in orbit through a large bubble-shaped window added to the top of the capsule.

The passengers aboard a SpaceX capsule react as the capsule parachutes into the Atlantic. Pic: Inspiration4 via AP
The passengers aboard the SpaceX capsule react as it parachutes into the Atlantic. Pic: Inspiration4 via AP
The SpaceX capsule lands off the Florida coast. Pic: Inspiration4 via AP
The all-amateur crew was the first to circle the world without a professional astronaut. Pic: Inspiration4 via AP

The 38-year-old entrepreneur and experienced pilot aimed to raise $200 million (£145 million) for St Jude Children’s Research Hospital through the trip.

Donating 100 million himself (£72.5 million), he held a lottery for one of the four seats. He also held a competition for clients of his Allentown, Pennsylvania payment-processing business, Shift4 Payments.

Ms Arceneaux, 29, a St Jude physician assistant who was treated at the Memphis, Tennessee hospital nearly two decades ago for bone cancer, took one of the seats.

Mr Sembroski, 42, a data engineer in Everett, Washington, and Ms Proctor, 51, a community college educator, scientist and artist from Tempe, Arizona won their seats through competitions.

They spent six months training and preparing for potential emergencies during the flight but did not have to undergo the rigorous preparations that astronauts go through.

During the trip they chatted with St Jude patients, conducted medical tests on themselves, rang the closing bell for the New York Stock Exchange, and complete some drawing and ukulele playing.

The four also took calls from Tom Cruise, interested in his own SpaceX flight to the space station for filming, and the rock band U2’s Bono.

Ms Arceneaux, the youngest American in space and the first with a prosthesis, told her patients: “I was a little girl going through cancer treatment just like a lot of you, and if I can do this, you can do this.”

Even their space menu was not typical: Cold pizza and sandwiches, but also pasta Bolognese and Mediterranean lamb.

Nearly 600 people have reached space – a scorecard that began 60 years ago and is expected to soon skyrocket as space tourism heats up.

The group are the first space travellers to end their flight in the Atlantic since Apollo 9 in 1969. SpaceX’s two previous crew splashdowns – carrying astronauts for NASA – were in the Gulf of Mexico.

NASA had little to do with the mission, only lending the use of its Kennedy Space Centre launch pad.

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Faroe Islands pledges review of dolphin killing regulations after uproar over record slaughter | World News



The Faroe Islands has said it will review regulations governing its tradition of hunting dolphins after widespread uproar over the killing of more than 1,400 from a “super pod”.

Campaign group Sea Shepherd released footage showing hundreds of dead animals lying on a beach, while others were herded into shallow waters by boats and jet skis.

The footage showed the water turn red as people killed the dolphins with knives for their meat and blubber.

The dead animals are lined up on the beach. Credit: Sea Shepherd Faroe Islands Campaign
The dead animals were lined up on the beach after the slaughter. Pic: Sea Shepherd Faroe Islands Campaign

Further out to sea, the fjord boats formed a barrier to stop the Atlantic white-sided dolphins from swimming away.

Sea Shepherd, which is based in the US, described the hunt as “brutal”, with the graphic footage leaving many viewers from around the world shocked and calling for action.

The Sea Shepherd Faroe Islands Campaign Facebook page wrote: “We are sharing with you 10 minutes of unedited footage. We are doing this so you can grasp the reality of what happened yesterday.

“Because while the Faroese newspapers have been busy reporting on the reactions to the hunt all through the day, there has been no proper covering of the actual illegalities and brutality of the hunt.

“What will it take for the locals to demand a shut down of all hunts of this sort?

“We believe it takes a good honest look at the truth.”

Pic: Sea Shepherd Faroe Islands Campaign
Over 1,400 dolphins were killed. Pic: Sea Shepherd Faroe Islands Campaign

The Faroe Islands has defended its decades-long tradition of chasing dolphins or whales towards the shore and slaughtering them on beaches.

The slaughter has been a part of the archipelago’s tradition since the ninth century, and the meat and blubber are shared within the community.

However, the government said the latest catch had been “extraordinary” due to the size of the pod, and it would look into regulations around the tradition.

Young children were present at the hunt. Credit: Sea Shepherd Faroe Islands Campaign
Young children were present at the hunt. Pic: Sea Shepherd Faroe Islands Campaign

It said the catch was a record – on average around 250 dolphins and 600 pilot whales are caught each year in Faroese waters, it added.

“We take this matter very seriously. Although these hunts are considered sustainable, we will be looking closely at the dolphin hunts, and what part they should play in Faroese society,” Prime Minister Bardur a Steig Nielsen said.

Regin Jacobsen, one of the Faroe Islands’ largest farmed salmon exporters, condemned the slaughter as “totally unacceptable”.

The Bakkefrost CEO said his firm was not involved in the hunt and none of its assets were used.

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