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Bill Cosby: From TV hero to fallen US cultural icon

A celebrity’s fall from grace is always ugly, but that of Bill Cosby — a once beloved comedian who broke through racial barriers to broadcast a successful black family into white living rooms — is a true gut punch to America.

The Cosby name alone once evoked so much — a treasured father figure, a seemingly model citizen and comic with a gentle, self-deprecating style and playful voice that would go from deep to screeching in search of a laugh.

But accusations from around 60 women, many of them formerly aspiring actresses and models, that he was a calculating, serial sexual predator who plied victims with sedatives and alcohol to bed them have left his career and reputation in tatters.

On Monday the 79-year-old, Emmy-winning actor and Grammy-winning stand-up comedian goes on trial in Pennsylvania for aggravated indecent assault, accused of drugging and then assaulting a woman at his home in 2004.

Dozens and dozens of accusers have alleged that the entertainer exploited his fame to feed them sedatives and alcohol, leaving them powerless to resist his advances.

But the trial in Norristown, just outside Philadelphia is the only criminal case to stick as the vast majority of alleged abuse happened too long ago to prosecute.

Cosby insists that relations were consensual but if convicted, he risks spending the rest of his life behind bars on a minimum 10-year sentence and a $25,000 fine.

The trial cements a stunning fall from grace for an avuncular icon synonymous with squeaky clean humor and social progress, who once embodied the American dream.

Today, Cosby cuts a forlorn figure, deserted by celebrity pals and left legally blind, he says, from glaucoma.

On a pre-trial public relations offensive, he suggested that racism may have played a role, in a radio interview at times rambling and confused.

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– Self-made –

“There are so many tentacles. So many different — ‘nefarious’ is a great word,” he told Sirius XM radio, insisting he had “an awful lot to offer” in terms of writing and performing.

Born on July 12, 1937 in Philadelphia to a mother who was a maid and a father who was a Navy cook, William Henry Cosby Jr. developed a reputation as the class clown, and joined the Navy after 10th grade, finishing high school by correspondence.

He won an athletic scholarship to Temple University and started doing stand-up comedy. In his early 20s he appeared on variety programs, but got his first big break in 1965 when he co-starred in the espionage thriller “I Spy.”

It was a time when there were few major roles for black actors. He won three Emmys and went on to star in a string of successful movies in the 1970s.

Then from 1984 to 1992, he portrayed gynecologist Cliff Huxtable, the affable, funny dad of an upper middle class black family with a lawyer wife in “The Cosby Show” — so named thanks to the actor’s overwhelming star power.

The sitcom was a fabulous success, becoming one of the most popular TV shows in history and the ultimate family-oriented series, turning Cosby into a major figure of US pop culture in the second half of the 20th century.

He was heaped in awards for the show, which anchored NBC’s powerful Thursday night line-up and for the first time put an affluent African American family on prime time.

Along the way, he authored best-selling books, and was for decades a member of the Temple board of trustees until he resigned in 2014, stripped of honorary degrees as sexual assault scandals mushroomed.

Comedian friends like Whoopi Goldberg who once supported him have now denounced him. He is isolated, and has largely refused to discuss the allegations against him other than to deny them through his lawyers.

His wife of 53 years, Camille, has stood by his side. The couple have five children. Their son Ennis was shot dead in 1997 while changing a tire in California.

Source – TheJakartaPost

Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, the biggest star of all

Actors come and go, radio presenters live or die by their ratings and musicians top the charts only to be dropped, hostages to the vagaries of fickle public opinion.

But some stars are destined to be remembered forever, their successes immortalized in terrazzo and brass on the Hollywood Walk of Fame — a draw for visitors from across the world that has more staying power than any individual celebrity. 

Launched in 1958, the walk has built up more than 2,600 stars, each a tribute to the contribution of a public figure in the fields of motion picture, television, recording, radio or, latterly, live theater. 

“The criteria for getting a star are longevity in the field of entertainment — of five years or more — awards nominations, and very important to us is that they do philanthropic work,” said Ana Martinez, who arranges the ceremonies.

The ceremonies often coincide with the release of a movie as it is the celebrity who chooses the date, and a $40,000 fee is paid by the honoree’s entourage — $15,000 to cover the event and the rest for maintenance.

Read also: Goldie Hawn, Kurt Russell get Hollywood stars

– Millions of tourists –

Nearly 50 years after its launch, the 2.5-mile (four-kilometer) stretch smack in the middle of Hollywood now attracts an estimated 10 million tourists a year, who come to soak up the glamour. 

“It’s very special to be here, to be here in person to see the stars of the singers I love and I listen to often, and of the actors that I grew up with,” Brazilian tourist Daniela Oliveira told AFP.

Not all the honorees are actors and musicians, of course — the late film critic Roger Ebert has one, as do hockey announcer Bob Miller, LA Lakers owner Jerry Buss and Winnie the Pooh. 

Other stars often go to groups — fictional or otherwise — such as the munchkins from “The Wizard of Oz,” “The Muppets” and “The Simpsons,” while Kermit the Frog, Mickey Mouse and Godzilla have their own. 

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– Selection controversy –

E.M. Stuart, erstwhile president of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, is credited with coming up with the idea in 1953 for an attraction that would “maintain the glory of a community whose name means glamour.”

The walk’s initial costs came to $1.25 million and the first stars honored the likes of Olive Borden, Ronald Colman, Burt Lancaster and Joanne Woodward. 

The selection process for honorees sparked controversy, however, when it emerged that Charlie Chaplin had been turned down for a star and his son sued unsuccessfully for damages amounting to $400,000. 

Chaplin finally got his star in 1972, five years before his death.

The walk was designed to accommodate 2,518 stars, and by the 1990s most of the space had gone, prompting the dedication of a second row.

Now there are hundreds of blank stars — leaving hope for newcomers to the entertainment industry pining after the Hollywood dream. 

Read also: Real places that inspired scenes in Oscar-nominated films

Source – TheJakartaPost

#Ukraine – Kiev puts finishing touches to Eurovision as song contest gets political.

With the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest set to kick off in a few days, host city Kiev puts final touches on preparations.

With the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest set to kick off in just a few days, host city Kiev is rushing to complete the final touches on preparations for the international competition.

Kiev has started welcoming Eurovision fans and set up food stalls, performance stages and big screens in the centre of the town which will broadcast the semi-finals and final next week. But as Ukraine prepares to host the final stages of the Eurovision competition next week, a dispute remains over its decision to bar Russia’s entrant to the contest – because she had performed in Crimea after it was annexed by Russia in 2014.

Russia has vowed to boycott the competition, saying Ukraine’s move had tarnished the event. Ukraine hit back by saying that Moscow had deliberately tried to provoke Ukraine.

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Relations between Ukraine and Russia soured following the annexation and the outbreak of a war between Kiev and Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine that has killed more than 10,000 people. Hostilities spilled over into the glitzy Eurovision show after Ukrainian contestant Jamala unexpectedly won the contest last year with an entry that Russia called politicized.

Russia’s proposed entry, Yulia Samoylova, is due to perform in the Crimean city of Sevastopol on Tuesday, May 9, coinciding with the first semi-final of Eurovision.

Ukraine expects about 12,000-14,000 spectators to attend the competition next week with millions more watching on television. It will be the second time that Kiev hosts the event.

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Rock n’ Roll legend Chuck Berry dead at 90

NEW YORK – Chuck Berry, one of the creators of rock ‘n’ roll who helped shape modern youth culture with his dance-ready rhythms but who struggled to overcome institutional racism, died Saturday. He was 90.

Police in the St. Louis area, where Berry was born and lived most of his life, said that first responders found the guitar legend unresponsive when they answered an emergency call at his home.

“The St. Charles County Police Department sadly confirms the death of Charles Edward Anderson Berry Sr., better known as legendary musician Chuck Berry,” it said on Facebook.

Berry became a sensation in the years after World War II as the baby boom generation came of age in an increasingly prosperous America. The middle-class son of a carpenter and a high school principal, Berry grew up under segregation but instinctively sensed how to bridge the racial divide.

 Berry had played blues guitar but found that his white audience was more interested in country. He merged the styles with an electric energy and consummate stage showmanship, although he hesitated to say that he created rock ‘n’ roll.

“It used to be called boogie-woogie, it used to be called blues, used to be called rhythm and blues,” he later said. “It’s called rock now.”

Whatever the music was named, Bruce Springsteen, one of many artists heavily influenced by Berry, said the man was indispensable.

“Chuck Berry was rock’s greatest practitioner, guitarist and the greatest pure rock ‘n’ roll writer who ever lived,” Springsteen wrote on Twitter.

His 1958 hit “Johnny B. Goode” was so influential and recognizable that the US space program chose it to represent rock music for potential extraterrestrial listeners on the Voyager spacecraft.

Struggles with racism 

“Roll Over Beethoven” from 1956 was almost a manifesto of rock ‘n’ roll as the charismatic Berry urged the DJ to switch off the classical records and turn to the new genre of the youth.

Other hits included “Maybellene,” one of the pioneering rock songs that gave a guitar edge to a popular fiddle tune, and “Sweet Little Sixteen,” in which Berry hailed rock ‘n’ roll’s sweep across the United States.

Berry was one of the first African Americans to find a widespread white audience, with his gentle demeanor and the usually innocuous subject matter of his songs initially insulating him in a country where many black people lived under Jim Crow institutionalized racism.

But that changed as his fame grew. After a packed performance in 1959 in Meridian Mississippi, a white crowd set upon Berry and forced him to leave through a side entrance after accusing him of kissing a white girl among his fans.

“One of the girls threw her arms around me and hung a soul-searching kiss that I let hang a second too long,” Berry later explained. He was arrested for disturbing the peace and left the city after paying a fine.

His career soon was interrupted when he was arrested in 1959 under an obscure law for taking a 14-year-old girl across state lines for “immoral purposes.”

Berry defended himself against allegations that he had slept with the young waitress. But he was convicted by an all-white jury and served a year and a half in prison. In a bitter irony, he was incarcerated just as the United States was swept by white rockers influenced by him, including the British invasion led by The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.

Mick Jagger hailed Berry on Saturday as an inspiration, saying: “He lit up our teenage years, and blew life into our dreams of being musicians and performers.”

Final album due 

After his prison time, friends described the laid-back and fun-loving Berry as a changed man, and the conviction has long been viewed in the African American community as a warning sign for artists on the rise.

Berry mostly avoided the media limelight as he resurrected his career. In a rare 1987 interview with NBC television, Berry declined to describe himself as the father of rock ‘n’ roll, listing others including his contemporary Elvis Presley as well as Fats Domino and Little Richard.

“We’re all I think just a cog in the wheel. We all got the ball rolling,” he said.

Berry initially found success after record executive Leonard Chess sensed his crossover potential and signed him after an introduction from Muddy Waters. Berry late in his life stayed low-profile in St. Louis where he played two decades worth of shows at the Blueberry Club, with his son Charles Berry Jr. in his backup band.

In a surprise, Berry last year celebrated his 90th birthday by announcing that he had recorded his first album in 38 years.

Entitled simply “Chuck,” the album is slated to be released sometime this year.

In a statement as he announced the album, Berry dedicated it to his wife of 68 years, Themetta Berry.

“My darlin’, I’m growing old! I’ve worked on this record for a long time. Now I can hang up my shoes!”

‘Logan,’ an R-Rated Super-Hero Film With Box Office Powers

The R-rated “X-Men” spinoff “Logan” slashed into the weekend box office, opening with a massive $85.3 million in North American theaters, according to studio estimates Sunday, while best-picture winner “Moonlight” got a significant, if far from superhero-sized, Oscar bump.

The debut of 20th Century Fox’s “Logan,” starring Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, ranks among the biggest March openings ever and top R-rated debuts. Like last year’s R-rated “Deadpool” (also a Fox release), the better-than-expected opening for “Logan” — a darkly violent, grittily dramatic movie applauded by critics — further proves moviegoers’ hunger for less conventional comic book films.

Read also: Why final Wolverine movie ‘Logan’ has best possible finale

“‘Deadpool,’ was to comedy what ‘Logan’ is to drama. The only common theme is that they’re quote-unquote ‘comic-book movies’ and they’re rated R,” said Fox distribution chief Chris Aronson, who credited director and co-writer James Mangold and Jackman for executing their personal vision for the film.

Jackman has said it will be his final performance as Wolverine, whose claws he has worn for 17 years. “Logan,” made for about $100 million, also sold $152.5 million in tickets overseas.

“On a global scale, we’ve exceeded all pre-release expectations,” Aronson said.

Last week’s No. 1 film, Jordan Peele’s horror sensation “Get Out” slid just 22 percent — a small drop for any movie but particularly in the horror genre. The acclaimed Universal Pictures release, made for $5 million by Blumhouse Productions, dropped to second place but still grossed $26.1 million. Its 10-day total is $75 million.

The Oscar best-picture winner “Moonlight” had its widest release yet, appearing on 1,564 screens. It turned in its biggest weekend, too, with an estimated $2.5 million. That accounts for roughly 10 percent of the movie’s total domestic haul of $25.3 million.

“Moonlight,” made for just $1.5 million, is also out on DVD and on-demand. Indie distributor A24 said it will be its highest-grossing release in its five-year existence. “Moonlight” also ranks fourth on iTunes.

“That’s a true Oscar halo effect in full view,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for comScore. “Usually the biggest bounce comes from the nominations. But this film hadn’t made a ton of money. A24 smartly expanded into more theaters, and it really worked for them.”

Barry Jenkins’ drama is nevertheless one of the least widely seen best-picture winners. Only Kathryn Bigelow’s “The Hurt Locker” ($17 million) earned less at the domestic box office.

Though it memorably did not win best picture, Lionsgate’s “La La Land” — winner of six Academy Awards — is closing in on $400 million globally after adding another $11 million internationally and $3 million domestically.

Lionsgate’s “The Shack” also opened in North American theaters over the weekend and came in third with $16.1 million. The Christian tale, starring Sam Worthington and Octavia Spencer, was slammed by critics, but it attracted one of the largest faith-based audiences in recent years.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to comScore. Where available, the latest international numbers also are included. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.

Cambodia International Film Festival

Now in its seventh year, the festival is attracting filmmakers, stars, students and fans from around the city and the globe. This week’s events offer a wide range of themes for movie, art and music lovers, and a unique platform for the Kingdom to celebrate its creativity

When the Cambodia International Film Festival began in 2009, it was responding to a very specific need: films made in the country simply did not have a platform for screening. With no major cinemas, the crewmembers often would not even have a chance to view their own work on the screen.

“We started to say ‘we should bring some of these films back,’” says Cedric Eloy, the chief executive officer of the Cambodian Film Commission and one of the festival organizers. After beginning with an approximate audience of a thousand people, the festival has grown yearly, and organizers expect this incarnation, which begins tonight and runs through Thursday, to exceed 20,000 attendees.

Despite expanding alongside the industry, Eloy says the festival has maintained its mission – to give filmmakers a platform, to present trends in local cinema to outsiders working in the industry, and to develop a local knowledge base about movies from all over the world.

For the first time, this year’s edition will be held in the spring, where Eloy expects it to remain in coming years. The lineup is an intoxicating mix of local and regional films, with Western offerings sprinkled throughout, as well as a celebration of local music, arts and dance. Because of the range of films, the organisers have tried to arrange the agenda as much as possible by theme – for example, there will be a showcase of Lao cinema, a series on the Rwandan genocide, and a collection of films for children.

“There’s really a desire to make it accessible to a large audience without it feeling too overwhelming, so that’s why there’s an intention to have all these different themes,” Vanaka Chhem-Kieth, a press officer for the festival, says. On top of providing nearly a week of entertainment for residents, the festival is also an opportunity to foster a local film ecosystem.

“We do film production and film training most of the year, so we connect everything we do [with the festival] … and people can make professional connections between Cambodia and other industries [elsewhere],” Eloy says. “A lot of people, when they come to present their film here, discover that there is an industry. They make connections and might have an idea for other projects. So it leads to other films in the future and other collaborations.”

Director Rithy Panh, whose documentary Exile will be making its Cambodian premiere, sees the festival as an opportunity for locals to see and hear perspectives potentially unfamiliar to them.

“You have nearly 30 different countries [where films being shown are made] and these are 30 different points of view and ways of doing cinema differently, and I find that it’s important for our youth to discover these different viewpoints,” he says. “It’s not sufficient [for success] to have a good diploma in management. You also need culture.”

In order to make the festival as accessible as possible for the public, the organisers have implemented a ticketing system that allows the first half of the audience to get in free, while all subsequent tickets cost just $1.

For admission to all the events, and the perk of getting to skip lines, the public can purchase a pass for the entire festival for 50,000 riel ($12.50). In line with targeting a young, local audience, Koh Pich will host a series of open air events, including a screening of Davy Chou’s celebrated film Diamond Island.

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Indonesia – 10,000 dancers to perform Saman Dance in Aceh

Up to 10,000 dancers are set to participate in a traditional Saman Dance performance in March at Blang Kejeren city stadium in Gayo Lues regency, Aceh.

The mass Saman Dance performance has been held twice and previously involved 5,000 dancers.

“Five thousand dancers was considered to be the biggest, but they will present [more than] 10,000 dancers,” Aceh Cultural and Tourism Agency head Reza Pahlevi told kompas.com.

(Read also: Indonesian troupe to perform Majapahit-inspired dance in India)

Reza said that the performance was part of the dance’s preservation and promotion program and the dancers themselves would be representative of all districts in Gayo Lues regency.

“Almost all Gayou Lues residents can perform the traditional dance,” said Reza. “This is why [the Saman Dance] has received recognition from UNESCO, as it is very authentic and rooted in the people’s lives.”

At the time of writing, Reza had yet to reveal the performance date. He mentioned that the committee was still waiting for the Aceh regional election. “In the meantime, the event is slated for mid-March.” (jes/kes)

Source: TheJakartaPost

Johnny Depp – Jack Sparrow faces rival in ‘Pirates of the Caribbean 5′

Jack Sparrow returns for the fifth time in “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” trailer.

In the hair-raising trailer released on Monday, the trouble-making and mellow buccaneer (Johnny Depp) is shown to be soaked in mud as he faces his adversary, Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem).

Salazar, fleeing from the Devil’s Triangle, happens to lead a syndicate of ghost pirates who target to systematize a “killing spree” for all pirates.

Sparrow will be assisted by his crew composed of Captain Barbosa (Geoffrey Rush), Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Joshamee Gibbs (Kevin McNally).

To counter Salazar evil’s forces, Sparrow must also team up with a prodigious astronomer, Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario), and Henry (Brenton Thwaites), a young sailor in the Royal Navy, to locate the Trident of Poseidon.

“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man Tell No Tales” will first grace theaters on May 26. The film’s previous franchises, chiefly “Dead Man’s Chest” and “On Stranger Tides,” have grossed billions of dollars.

VIDEO

Source: TheJakartaPost

Beyoncé shares (naked) pregnancy photos

Besides the pregnancy announcement of Beyoncé on Twitter and Instagram, she shares even more pictures with her fans, including some in Eve costume ....

Source: Twitter / Instagram/ Beyoncé website