- Nigeria’s submission for Best International Feature Film at the Academy Awards, Lionheart, has been disqualified because the majority of the film’s dialogue is in English.
- According to the Academy’s rules, an international film must have a “predominantly non-English dialogue track.”
- Critics like Ava Duvernay pointed out that this rule would essentially bar Nigeria from submitting a film to this category in its official language, which is English. Lionheart can still be submitted for other awards, but it is rare to see a foreign film in slots like Best Picture.
- This has prompted an online discussion on the Academy’s rules and what it should mean to be a considered foreign film.
“Lionheart” Disqualified from Oscars Entry
Leaders in the film industry are speaking out after Nigeria’s first submission to the Acadamy Award’s Best International Feature Film category was disqualified for being primarily in English.
According to a report from The Wrap, The Acadamy sent out an e-mail Monday announcing that Lionheart is no longer eligible for the award formerly known as Best Foreign Language Film. Lionheart was directed by Nigerian actress and filmmaker Genevieve Nnaji, who also stars in the film.
Of the film’s 95 minute run, less than 15 minutes are in Igbo, a language native to Nigeria, and the rest is in English. The Academy defines an international film as “a feature-length motion picture (defined as over 40 minutes) produced outside the United States of America with a predominantly non-English dialogue track.” English, however, is Nigeria’s official language.
When the Oscars initially announced the list of submitted films in October, Lionheart appeared on the list, but it had not yet been reviewed by the International Feature Film Award Executive Committee. A recent viewing prompted the disqualification and an upcoming screening of the film for voters has been canceled.
Reactions to the Disqualification
Because Nigeria’s official language is English, this decision sparked backlash from members of the film community. Director, writer, and producer Ava Duvernay, who is behind projects like Selma and When They See Us, tweeted to the Academy about the news.
Nnaji shared Duvernay’s tweet saying Lionheart “represents the way we speak as Nigerians.”
She also compared Nigeria’s use of English to former French colonies’ relationship with France and the French language.
The idea of colonization became a major talking point in the online discussion of Lionheart’s disqualification. Nigeria was colonized by the British, which is why English is spoken there to begin with.
“So now we are getting penalised for having been colonised by Britain?” writer and journalist Afua Hirsch asked.
“You really can’t win with this lot. Quite literally cannot win,” added journalist Samira Sawlani.
Discussion on Academy Rules
The news of Nigeria being barred for submitting a film in its own official language started a discussion on what it should mean to be classified as a foreign or international film, as well as discussion over how the Oscars should adopt this in their rules. Lulu Wang, who wrote and directed The Farewell, asked questions about how we should define these concepts.
One user pointed out that other award shows have updated their rules after people protested them for being outdated or unfair.
Another suggested that there be two categories for foreign films so more could be included and the rules could be applied in a more even manner.
The Nigerian Oscar Selection Committee responded to the Academy’s decision themselves. In a statement obtained by Variety, they said that many movies in the Nigerian film industry use English to obtain a wider reach.
“The budding Nigerian film industry is often faced with producing films with wide reach which often makes the recording dialogue predominantly English with non-English infusions in some cases,” they said.
They later added that this disqualification was “an eye-opener and step forward into growing a better industry” that could urge filmmakers “to shoot with the intention of non-English recording dialogue as a key qualifying parameter to represent the country in the [contest for the] most prestigious award.”
The Academy has not made a statement on the matter. Lionheart is still eligible to submit itself for Best Picture and other awards. Foreign-produced films, however, rarely make it to these slots and none have ever won the top prize.
See what others are saying: (The Wrap) (Variety) (Los Angeles Times)
Eminem’s Team Addresses Leaked Lyrics About “Siding With Chris Brown” After Rihanna Assault
- Last week, a snippet of an unreleased Eminem track leaked online, featuring lyrics like: “Of course I side with Chris Brown, I’d beat a bitch down too…”
- On Monday, the entire reference track surfaced, prompting Eminem’s team to issue a statement stressing that the lyrics were scrapped and rewritten and that Eminem and Rihanna have a great relationship.
- Many fans point out that these comments are not out of character for the rapper and are more upset with the recent music leaks instead.
Unreleased Version of “Things Get Worse” Leaks
A representative for rapper Eminem issued a statement this week addressing an old unreleased track that recently surfaced, featuring lyrics about Chris Brown’s 2009 assault of Rihanna.
Last week, a Reddit user posted a seven-second snippet of what seems to be an early version of what would later become B.o.B.’s 2011 track “Things Get Worse.”
On Monday, the full reference track containing the lyrics also leaked online, according to XXL.
“I’m not playing Rihanna, where’d you get the V.D. at?” Eminem raps in the song.
“Let me add my two cents/ Of course I side with Chris Brown, I’d beat a bitch down too if she gave my dick an itch now,” he adds.
According to XXL, the track was recorded during sessions for Eminem’s 2009 album Relapse, which released a few months after Chris Brown was charged with felony assault.
The lyrics were especially frustrating for some listeners who noted that Rihanna and Eminem have collaborated together on several occasions for songs like “Love the Way You Lie” and “The Monster” in 2010 and 2013.
Eminem’s Team Responds
After the leaks, Eminem’s spokesperson Dennis Dennehy issued a statement to XXL saying, “This is a leak of something that’s over 10 years old.”
“After Eminem recorded it, he scrapped it, and rewrote it. Obviously he and Rihanna have a great relationship.”
Fans Respond to Music Leaks
After seeing his team comment on the matter, some fans expressed their frustration with Eminem’s recent music leaks rather than the content itself.
Late last month, a different controversial song surfaced. That previous leak was of a Joyner Lucas song reportedly titled, “What If I Was Gay?,” which features Eminem rapping from the perspective of a homophobic man.
One user wrote, “I can’t believe they HAD to explain this. The thing is: stop supporting music piracy, stop buying leaks. Show some respect for your artist. Y’all know how hard Eminem works on his stuff… please, stop.”
Meanwhile, others pointed out that Eminem is knowns for pushing the boundaries with shocking or violent lyrics.
Who cares!!! This is what Eminem has always done… he talked mad shit about the gay community and he ends up performing with the great Elton John at the Grammys and at the end of his performance he flipped is all off… what’s new… it’s his Gimmick— Major1943 (@Major19431) November 11, 2019
This is no where near the most offensive thing he’s ever said face it you can’t cancel eminem it just ain’t possible— Azor ahai ⁶𓅓 (@Killmonger666) November 12, 2019
Chris Evans, Elijah Wood, and Others Speak Out Against James Dean CGI Casting
- A CGI version of James Dean has been cast as a secondary lead in the upcoming Vietnam War movie, Finding Jack.
- The directors and studio received permission from Dean’s family to use his image, however, many do not think it is okay to use an actor in a film posthumously.
- Stars like Chris Evans and Zelda Williams condemned the use of James Dean in this manner, seeing as there is no way to know if Dean would actually want to be in this movie. This started a widespread online discussion on the practice of using CGI to bring stars who have passed onto screens.
James Dean Cast in Film
Critics are speaking out against James Dean being cast in a movie—60 years after his death.
Directors Anton Ernst and Tati Golykh are partnering on the film Finding Jack, which is based on a novel of the same name. It will follow a man who is forced to abandon an injured dog he met while serving in Vietnam. The film is being produced by Magic City Films and Dean is set to play the secondary lead in the story.
Dean suffered an untimely death in 1955 after a car accident in northern California at the age of 24. According to The Hollywood Reporter, “Dean’s performance will be constructed via “full body” CGI using actual footage and photos. Another actor will voice him.”
Dean’s family gave the studio permission to use his image for the film.
“We feel very honored that his family supports us and will take every precaution to ensure that his legacy as one of the most epic film stars to date is kept firmly intact,” Ernst said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter. “The family views this as his fourth movie, a movie he never got to make. We do not intend to let his fans down.”
Ernst also said that they did look at other casting options, but ultimately landed on Dean.
“We searched high and low for the perfect character to portray the role of Rogan, which has some extreme complex character arcs, and after months of research, we decided on James Dean,” he added.
Actors and Others Upset by the News
The concept of casting someone in a film posthumously did not sit well with many in the industry. Zelda Williams, daughter of the late Robin Williams, said it sets an “awful precedent for the future of performance.” In fact, Robin Williams’ family restricted the use of his image for at least 25 years after his death in 2014.
Big-name actors also joined the conversation. Avengers star Chris Evans called the decision “awful.”
Lord of the Rings actor Elijah Wood said, “this shouldn’t be a thing.”
Julie Ann Emery, who has starred in projects like Preacher and Better Call Saul added that it may not give proper credit to the living actor providing Dean’s voice.
“How do Dean’s descendants know that he would WANT to be in a Vietnam movie?” she later asked.
Actors were not the only ones upset about this. An article from Vice pleaded “please don’t do this.”
“For the love of all that is holy, just let his legacy be,” it continued.
Esquire came up with its own suggestions for working actors that would have made a better choice instead of Dean. Their picks ranged from Timothée Chalamet to Harry Styles, to Cardi B and Post Malone, all to say that any living person would be better than a CGI version.
On the other hand, however, some were not as critical of the choice. While their voices were fewer and farther between, some thought that since his family gave it the okay, it should be allowed.
Future and Past Instances
According to The Hollywood Reporter’s piece, Ernst might have future plans to use this kind of technology. Magic City will be working with a Canadian group called Imagine Engine and a South African group MOI Worldwide to produce the CGI, and their list extends past James Dean.
“Our partners in South Africa are very excited about this, as this technology would also be employed down the line to re-create historical icons such as Nelson Mandela to tell stories of cultural heritage significance,” he said.
This is also not the first time a late actor has been used on the screen in this way. In 2016’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Peter Cushing, who died two decades before the film’s release, made an appearance as Grand Moff Tarkin via CGI. He originally played the character in Star Wars: A New Hope. When Rogue One hit theaters, his presence caused its own controversy, with some also thinking it was wrong to do this.
See what others are saying: (The Hollywood Reporter) (Deadline) (Los Angeles Magazine)
Ellen DeGeneres and Sandra Bullock Sue Over Phony Endorsements
- Ellen DeGeneres and Sandra Bullock have filed a joint lawsuit against individuals and entities who use their likeness to create fake endorsements of products, in an effort to “expose the Celebrity Endorsement Theft Industry.”
- Fake celebrity endorsements have become more common thanks to scammers who prey on consumers in a growing era of affiliate marketing.
- For years celebs have issued cease-and-desist orders, but these companies operate quickly, taking down one site only to replace it with another soon after.
Stars File Lawsuit
Hollywood stars Ellen DeGeneres and Sandra Bullock are fed up with websites using their likeness without consent to falsely promote their products
The two filed a lawsuit on Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court as part of an effort to “expose the Celebrity Endorsement Theft Industry,” which they say has become a major issue for stars in the digital age.
DeGeneres and Bullock are specifically going after scammers in the affiliate marketing industry who direct traffic to e-commerce sites by creating phony advertisements.
The two have issued a “right of publicity” claim, saying that these individuals and entities use their names and likeness for false advertising of products like face creams, anti-aging serums, dietary supplements, and more.
But these obscure internet companies have proven to be difficult to go after. For two years, representatives for DeGeneres and Bullock have sent out cease-and-desist orders, but once one site is taken down, another pops up in its place under a slightly different name or form.
“These companies change names frequently, merge in and out of entities formed in states that allow for secrecy, operate websites that pop up and disappear overnight, and generally do everything possible to ‘stay one step ahead of the sheriff,’” the complaint said, according to The New York Times.
Because DeGeneres and Bullock don’t know for sure who exactly is behind the fraud, the defendants have been listed as John Does 1 through 100 and their lawyers can now issue subpoenas to undercover them.
The Era of Affiliate Marketing and Scams
Their lawsuit brings the issue of fake celebrity endorsements to the forefront, a problem that has become especially more rampant for Hollywood stars thanks to scammers who prey on consumers in a growing era of affiliate marketing.
Affiliate marketing is a popular way for online figures to earn money by promoting products and directing consumers to the online seller. In most cases, a click that generates a sale can earn the publisher a commission, though other types of compensation arrangements are sometimes also agreed upon.
It can be a very powerful marketing tool, especially when those promoting a product have built a strong reputation for trustworthiness with their audience.
According to estimates from Forrester Consulting, by next year the affiliate industry will be a $6.8 billion business, And while most participants are legitimate, others are not. Some take advantage of celebrities who have developed a strong reputation, as well as consumers who they may hold influence over.
Bullock and DeGeneres aren’t alone in being targeted by these shady websites. Stars over 40 whom the public considers trustworthy or admirable are often used for these scams, including celebs like Oprah Winfrey, Kelly Ripa, and Denzel Washington, who is often used to falsely promote erectile dysfunction pills.
As The Times points out, bombarding the web with these fake endorsements can actually be damaging to a celebrity’s reputation and hurt their ability to secure legitimate endorsement deals.
How It’s Done
A common trick these scammers use involves setting up websites “designed to look like legitimate and independent news reports or magazine articles about various Beauty products,” the complaint says.
Then they post real images of celebrities that have been doctored to become a fake endorsement. The lawsuit points to some examples, like one image of Bullock appearing on NBC’s Today show to promote a film. The image was converted into an ad that read: “Sandra Bullock Talks About Her New Skin Care Line,” despite the fact that Bullock has never had a skincare line.
The ad is then accompanied by a link that leads to a site selling the celebrity’s supposed product.
Another example in the suit shows that ads include fabrications like: “Sandra even admitted that plastic surgeons are furious with her after noticing a large decline in patients.”
In their complaint, DeGeneres and Bullock listed 40 beauty products that have been sold online with their names fraudulently linked.
“The celebrity endorsement-theft business model is based on a scheme to trick consumers into disclosing their credit card and/or debit card information in order to enroll them in costly programs with undisclosed, or poorly disclosed, recurring charges,” Bullock and DeGeneres said in the complaint. Ads for the products “typically include unsubstantiated claims that the products will lead to dramatic results,” they continued.
Many of these fake ads also offer free trials, but the complaint says that in reality, customers are often charged full price.
According to a 2018 report from the Better Business Bureau, offers of free trials put forward through this type of marketing “have infested the internet and social media” and cost more than a million victims upward of $1.3 billion over the past decade.
Along with claiming violations of their rights of publicity in the suit, DeGeneres and Bullock are claiming false advertising and unfair competition. The lawsuit demands an injunction and compensatory damages. First, though, the suit seems designed to kick off an investigation into responsibility for the marketing.