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Gabrielle Union’s AGT Firing Sparks SAG-AFTRA Investigation

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  • SAG-AFTRA, a labor union representing actors, has launched a probe into Gabrielle Union’s complaints while on the set of America’s Got Talent, as well as her subsequent removal from the show. 
  • Reports say that Union urged producers to report a racist joke made by Jay Leno to HR, tried to prevent a racially insensitive act from performing, was told her hairstyles were “too black,” and was vocal about other issues with the show and the culture it created.
  • The show opted to not continue with Union’s contract, ending her arc as a judge after just one season.

SAG-AFTRA Probe Launched

The Screen Actors Guild announced that it is investigating the controversies surrounding Gabrielle Union, NBC, and America’s Got Talent. 

Last week, it was revealed that Union was let go after appearing as a judge for one season. Reports from Variety and Vulture soon followed saying that Union was frequently vocal about addressing issues on set. She allegedly encouraged producers to report a joke many found racist, and tried to remove a performer whose act she found racially insensitive. According to Vulture, her complaints were among the reasons NBC’s America’s Got Talent decided to drop her.

“We take issues of workplace health and safety very seriously. We immediately reached out to Ms. Union’s representatives when these reports came to light,” SAG-AFTRA said in a statement published in full by Deadline on Sunday. “While we have taken steps to investigate this matter, we have nothing to report now.”

Deadline’s report said that the investigations are still in their early stages. Their source, however, acknowledged that this investigation is “a high profile and probably high wire act.”

SAG-AFTRA’s announcement came just hours after NBC published a statement of their own regarding the matter. The network claimed to be working with Union’s team to address her concerns.

“We remain committed to ensuring a respectful workplace for all employees and take very seriously any questions about workplace culture,” their statement said. “We are working with Ms. Union through her representatives to hear more about her concerns, following which we will take whatever next steps may be appropriate.”

In what many saw as a response to NBC, Union shared a tweet that gave instructions on how to form a proper apology. 

Complaints in Variety Report

Union’s concerns painted the image of a toxic culture at America’s Got Talent. First unraveled in a report from Variety, it appeared that Union was seeking solutions to these issues to no response. 

One incident involved a joke made by comedian Jay Leno, who was a guest judge in one episode. Four people told Variety that while taping, he pointed to a photo of America’s Got Talent’s producer and judge Simon Cowell surrounded by his dogs. He said it looked like something “on the menu at a Korean restaurant.”

Some of the workers at America’s Got Talent found this joke to be offensive to Asian cultures, with the report also noting that one of the show’s few Asian staffers was present at the time.

Union allegedly encouraged producers and an NBC executive to report the joke to Human Resources, but nothing ever came of it. The joke did not make it into the episode. 

In another case, while taping auditions, one white contestant did rapid costume changes as he impersonated celebrities. While performing as Beyonce, his “hands appeared black.” Finding this racially insensitive, Union tried to convince producers to take him off the line-up, saying the live audience should not have to see this. They disagreed and sent him on stage, though he did not appear on television.

Variety’s report also said that Union and Julianne Hough, who was brought on to judge at the same time as Union and was also let go from the upcoming season, received constant notes about their appearances, hair, and makeup.

Union was reportedly told several times that her rotating hairstyles were “too black” for America’s Got Talent’s audience. One executive disputed this claim to Variety, saying notes on appearance were not given that frequently and only once were judges given notes on “hair continuity.”

Hough, who has a few projects with NBC in the near future, said she had a positive experience on America’s Got Talent and, “loved working with the cast, crew and producers.”

“I am happy to continue my working relationship with NBC. I’m looking forward to what the future holds,” she added.

Vulture Report Includes More Complaints

A few days after Variety’s report went out, a second report from Vulture was published, also laden with riffs between Union and producers. Union, who is allergic to cigarette smoke, complained to staff about Cowell’s habit of smoking inside the theatre, which had only separation curtains and no walls. Even though California law prevents an employer from allowing indoor smoking, producers insisted nothing could be done about Cowell’s smoking. He had reportedly been doing it for years despite complaints, including ones from NBC executives and a fire marshal. 

Producers were also said to have been irritated by Union asking contestants who were competing in drag for their preferred pronouns.

Vulture said a boiling point was reached when Union and producers were discussing contestants they wanted to see continue on the show, including a ten-year-old black rapper whom Union found exciting. The producers, however, told Union that the show needed to pick an act “that America can get behind.” They suggested a dance troupe from Texas that consisted of white performers. 

Vulture said that Union “Felt producers were implying that American audiences couldn’t get behind a 10-year-old black rapper, a viewpoint she felt was racist.”

After Union was working on the show for two months, Cowell allegedly sat her down and said that if she had any concerns, she should bring them up with him and not NBC executives, which Union thought was odd, and looked like he was trying to cover things up. Vulture’s report also included sources who said that Union frustrated Cowell and that she was let go from the show for being “difficult.”

NBC explained their reasoning for letting go of Union and Hough in Variety’s initial report. 

“‘America’s Got Talent’ has a long history of inclusivity and diversity in both our talent and the acts championed by the show,” they said. “The judging and host line-up has been regularly refreshed over the years and that is one of the reasons for AGT’s enduring popularity. NBC and the producers take any issues on set seriously.”

Celebrities Stand With Union

Many celebrities spoke up to defend Union and call out NBC for not taking action.

“It’s unfortunate that @nbc the same network that protected disgusting men like Matt Lauer and punished women for speaking out or not putting up with it…has not changed their practices or culture,” Grey’s Anatomy star Ellen Pompeo said. 

Popstar Ariana Grande shared more of Pompeo’s remarks and told NBC to “be better.”

Jameela Jamil, an actress on NBC’s The Good Place said Union should be brought back to America’s Got Talent.

See what others are saying: (Deadline) (Vulture) (Variety)

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2020 Oscar Nominations: Diversity Criticism, Snubs, and More

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  • This year’s Oscar nominations were announced, sparking new celebrations and criticisms over who was placed on and off the list. 
  • The academy is facing backlash for nominating just one Black actress, Cynthia Erivo, and not a single female in the Best Director category. 
  • Movie fans were also surprised to see no nominations for Jennifer Lopez, Awkwafina, and Lupita Noyong’o, among others. 

Joker Earns Most Noms 

The 92nd annual Oscar nominations were announced Monday with a wave of snubs and surprises that have movie lovers talking. 

Issa Rae and John Cho revealed the chosen nominees for all 24 categories, with the controversial drama “Joker” picking up 11 nods – more than any other film this year. “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” “The Irishman,” and “1917,” followed closely behind with 10 nominations. 

All four earned spots in the coveted Best Picture category along with “Little Women,” a tale of four sisters growing up in Massachusetts during the Civil War; “Marriage Story,” which focuses on a couple working through a tough divorce and custody battle; “Parasite,” a South Korean psychological thriller and dark comedy; “Jojo Rabbit,” the story of a young German boy who counts Hitler as an imaginary friend, and “Ford v Ferrari,” based on the true story of Ford working to make a faster car than Ferrari.  

The success of “Parasite” marked a particularly significant moment of recognition as it is the first South Korean film to receive nominations for Best International Film and Best Picture. The film has been widely supported by the Asian American community and earned six total Oscar nods, tying with “Jojo Rabbit,” “Little Women,” and “Marriage Story.”

Oscars Pass on J.Lo 

Perhaps the biggest snub this year was against Jennifer Lopez, who was favored as a Best Supporting Actress contender for her role as Ramona in “Hustlers.” After receiving nominations at the Golden Globes and the SAG Awards, it seemed like J.Lo was a sure bet for an Oscars slot as well. 

A surprise nomination in the category instead went to Kathy Bates, the sole nominee from “Richard Jewell.” 

No Female Director Noms 

Women were also completely absent in the Best Director category yet again, which was frustrating to many who felt “Little Women” director Greta Gerwig should have been an obvious contender 

Nominees for the category include Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, Bong Joon-ho, Sam Mendes, and Todd Phillips. 

Both the Golden Globes and the Directors Guild of America awards shut out women directors in favor of male nominees, leading to widespread industry backlash. The Oscars’ decision has now, of course, added to that outrage. 

As Deadline points out, the lack of women in the Best Director category is a sad Oscars tradition. Only five women have ever earned a nomination in the 92-year history of the Academy Awards: Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker), Lina Wertmüller (Seven Beauties), Jane Campion (The Piano), Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation) and Gerwig (Lady Bird).

In 2010, Bigelow became the first and only female director to win in the category.

#OscarsSoWhite and Other Notable Snubs 

The academy is also once again being slammed with the hashtag “Oscars So White:” on social media after users pointed out that minorities were largely overlooked. British-Nigerian actress Cynthia Erivo, who appeared in “Harriet,” is the sole Black performer among the 20 actor nominees. 

Jennifer Lopez’s snub sparked huge conversations about Latinx representation. Had she been nominated, Lopez would have been the first American Latinx actress singled out by the academy since Rosie Perez, who earned a best-supporting actress nomination in 1994 for “Fearless.” 

Many were also surprised to see Kenyan-Mexican actress Lupita Noyong’o and Asian-American actress Awkwafina left out of this year’s Best Actress list, especially considering their success at precursor awards. 

Nyong’o, winner of the most lead actress awards from critics organizations this awards season, received widespread praise for her two-sided role in Jordan Peele’s “Us,” meanwhile Awkwafina made history as the first woman of Asian descent to win a lead actress Golden Globe. The star acted in Lulu Wang’s dramedy “The Farewell,” which critics hailed as one of the best films of the year. 

Eddie Murphy, who was just honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award at Sunday night’s Critic’s Choice Awards, also did not earn a nod for “Dolemite Is My Name,” and music star Beyonce was not included in the Best Original Song category for “Spirit” from “The Lion King.”  

Since previous backlash over diversity issues, the academy has worked to double female and minority membership by inviting more film professionals from overseas. While it has made some strides, even after four years of efforts, according to the New York Times, the organization is 68% male and 84% white. 

No Host

The 92nd Academy Awards will be held Sunday, Feb. 9, airing on ABC as part of the network’s long-term agreement with the Academy. For the second year in a row, the Oscars will go on without a host, as it did last year after widespread backlash over Kevin Hart’s hiring and departure. 

Full Nominations

Best Picture

“Ford v Ferrari” (Fox)

“The Irishman” (Netflix)

“Jojo Rabbit” (Fox Searchlight)

“Joker” (Warner Bros.)

“Little Women” (Sony)

“Marriage Story” (Netflix)

“1917” (Universal)

“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” (Sony)

“Parasite” (Neon)

Best Director

Martin Scorsese (“The Irishman”)

Todd Phillips (“Joker”)

Sam Mendes (“1917”)

Quentin Tarantino (“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”)

Bong Joon Ho (“Parasite”)

Best Actor

Antonio Banderas (“Pain and Glory”)

Leonardo DiCaprio (“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”)

Adam Driver (“Marriage Story”)

Joaquin Phoenix (“Joker”)

Jonathan Pryce (“The Two Popes”)

Best Actress

Cynthia Erivo (“Harriet”)

Scarlett Johansson (“Marriage Story”)

Saoirse Ronan (“Little Women”)

Charlize Theron (“Bombshell”)

Renee Zellweger (“Judy”)

Supporting Actor

Tom Hanks (“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”)

Anthony Hopkins (“The Two Popes”)

Al Pacino (“The Irishman”)

Joe Pesci (“The Irishman”)

Brad Pitt (“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”)

Supporting Actress

Kathy Bates, (“Richard Jewell”)

Laura Dern (“Marriage Story”)

Scarlett Johansson (“Jojo Rabbit”)

Florence Pugh (“Little Women”)

Margot Robbie (“Bombshell”)

Adapted Screenplay

Taika Waititi (“Jojo Rabbit”)

Steve Zaillian (“The Irishman”)

Anthony McCarten (“The Two Popes”)

Greta Gerwig (“Little Women”)

Todd Phillips and Scott Silver (“Joker”)

Best Original Screenplay

Rian Johnson (“Knives Out”)

Noah Baumbach (“Marriage Story”)

Sam Mendes and Krysty Wilson-Cairns (“1917”)

Quentin Tarantino (“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”)

Bong Joon Ho and Han Jin Won (“Parasite”)

Animated Feature

“How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World”

“I Lost My Body”

“Klaus”

“Missing Link”

“Toy Story 4”

International Feature Film

“Corpus Christi” (Portland)

“Honeyland” (North Macedonia)

“Les Miserables”(France)

“Pain and Glory” (Spain)

“Parasite” (South Korea) 

Best Documentary

“American Factory”

“The Cave”

“Edge of Democracy”

“For Sama”

“Honeyland”

Best Cinematography

“The Irishman”

“Joker”

“The Lighthouse”

“1917”

“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”

Best Costume Design

“The Irishman”

“Jojo Rabbit”

“Joker”

“Little Women”

“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”

Film Editing

“Ford vs. Ferrari”

“The Irishman”

“Jojo Rabbit”

“Joker”

“Parasite”

Makeup and Hairstyling

“Bombshell”

“Joker”

“Judy”

“Maleficent: Mistress of Evil”

“1917”

Original Score

“Joker”

“Little Women”

“Marriage Story”

“1917”

“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”

Original Song

I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away,” “Toy Story 4”

“I’m Gonna Love Me Again,” “Rocketman”

“I’m Standing With You,” “Breakthrough”

“Into the Unknown,” “Frozen 2”

“Stand Up,” “Harriet”

Production Design

“The Irishman”

“Jojo Rabbit”

“1917”

“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”

“Parasite”

Sound Editing

“Ford v Ferrari”

“Joker”

“1917”

“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”

“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’

Sound Mixing

“Ad Astra”

“Ford vs. Ferrari”

“Joker”

“1917”

“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”

Visual Effects

“Avengers: Endgame”

“The Irishman”

“The Lion King”

“1917”

“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”

Documentary (Short Subject)

“In the Absence”

“Learning to Skateboard in a War Zone If You’re a Girl”

“Life Overtakes Me”

“St. Louis Superman”

“Walk Run Cha-Cha”

Short Film (Animated)

“Daughter”

“Hair Love”

“Kitbull”

“Memorable”

“Sister”

Short Film (Live Action)

“Brotherhood”

“Nefta Football Club”

“The Neighbor’s Window”

“Saria”

“A Sister”

See what others are saying: (Deadline) (The New York Times) (Variety)

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Brazilian Judge Orders Netflix to Remove Special Featuring Gay Jesus

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  • A satirical Netflix Christmas special sparked outrage in Brazil for depicting Jesus as gay and Mary as a marijuana smoker, among another tongue in cheek storylines.
  • A judge ordered Netflix to remove the film after a complaint from a conservative Catholic group, saying that keeping it up could cause more damage than suspending it would. 
  • The decision came after 2 million people signed a petition asking for Netflix to remove the program and after the comedy studio behind the film was attacked with Molotov cocktails.

Court Ruling

A judge in Brazil ordered Netflix to remove a satirical Christmas special on Wednesday that has infuriated politicians and religious leaders across the country for its portrayal of a gay Jesus and weed-smoking Mary. 

“The consequences of the dissemination and exhibition of ‘artistic production’ … are more likely to cause more serious and irreparable damage than its suspension,” Rio de Janeiro judge Benedicto Abicair wrote in his court ruling. 

The appeal in favor of Don Bosco Center for Culture and Faith, a conservative Catholic institute, comes after weeks of escalating outrage over the project titled, “The First Temptation of Christ.” 

The complaint argues that the film, which also depicts Mary having an affair with God and one of the three wise men bringing a prostitute to a party, “attacked the protection of religious freedom.”

It adds that “the level of disrespect, aggression and contempt for faith and the values of Catholics displayed in the film is unspeakable,” according to BBC Brazil.

However, despite the backlash, the cast and filmmakers of the sketch-comedy group Porta dos Fundos have defended the project. Porta dos Fundos co-founder, Fábio Porchat, said last year that Netflix has a right to stream the film and that it supports free speech. He also explained that the film never incites violence or tells people not to believe in God.

In his ruling, the judge called the case a “clear conflict” between two constitutional principles: the right to artistic expression and freedom of speech, and religious freedom and the protection of church and liturgy.

However, he agreed to order the program’s withdrawal, saying  it is “more appropriate and beneficial, not only for the Christian community, but for the mostly Christian Brazilian society, until the merit of the offense is judged.”

The temporary order stands unless Netflix or the comedy group appeals and a higher court strikes it down.

Widespread Backlash 

The decision comes as a win for conservatives who have been fighting against the special for weeks. In December, over 2 million people signed a petition asking Netflix to remove it from the streaming platform.

On Christmas eve, a group of men attacked the Porta dos Fundos headquarters with Molotov cocktails. No one was injured during the incident and days later, a video circulated on social media featuring three men claiming responsibility. 

The men said they carried out the attack on behalf of Brazil’s “integralists,” a 1930s-era ultranationalist movement inspired by Italian fascism. The video’s narrator, who used a digitally altered voice, said the group wanted to defend “all Brazilians against the blasphemous, bourgeois and anti-patriotic attitude” of the filmmakers, labling them as “militant Marxists.”

The comedy group condemned the violence on Twitter, writing that “love will prevail along with freedom of expression.”

At this time, it is unclear when and if Netflix plans to comply with the order or fight against it. Porta dos Fundos said Wednesday that it has not received any direction to remove the project yet, however, Netflix has complied with other government requests to take down movies in the past. 

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (BBC Brazil) (Time

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Camila Cabello Apologizes for Old Racist Tumblr Posts

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  • A Twitter user uncovered racist posts that singer Camila Cabello allegedly posted and reblogged on Tumblr in 2012 and 2013, when she would have been 15 or 16 years old. 
  • Some of these posts included the N-word, racist jokes made at the expense of Black, Asian, and Mexican people, as well as a joke about Rihanna being a victim of domestic violence.
  • She apologized for these posts, saying that she was “uneducated and ignorant” at the time and that she will regret them forever.

Racist Posts Surface on Twitter

Singer Camila Cabello has apologized after a Twitter user uncovered old racist posts she allegedly shared on Tumblr several years ago. 

The posts were made in 2012 and 2013 when Cabello was 15 and 16 years old. She posted and reblogged them onto a Tumblr account called “vous-etess-belle.” As the Twitter user who shared the posts pointed out, the profile picture appears to be of a young Cabello. On her confirmed Tumblr account, she also once said that “vous-etess-belle” belonged to her. 

The thread started by saying, “exposing camila cabello‘s racist and downright disturbing tumblr reblogs: a thread.” The first post included in the thread was an original text post using the N-word.

The other posts had been reblogged on the account. Several of those also included the n-word. 

There were several other posts that referenced and made light of racist stereotypes.

Others made jokes at the expense of Black, Mexican, and Asian people. 

Another controversial post was a meme making fun of the abuse Rihanna faced when dating Chris Brown. 

A post from her main Tumblr page was also included. In it, someone asked Cabello how to be a “strong independent” Black woman like her. 

“Its not easy i guess its just something u have to work at,” she responded.

Reactions to Posts

This thread went viral, causing a lot of backlash online. Many called these posts out for being racist. A number of people also used the hashtag #CamilaCabelloIsOverParty to condemn the singer. 

Some of her fans, however, came to her defense, arguing that she was young and has grown since this incident.

But many also thought her age was not an excuse, arguing that a teenager should know better than to use racial slurs. 

Others also said that many of the people forgiving Cabello were white. “How do you forgive words that weren’t directed at you…?” one user asked. 

The  “vous-etess-belle” account was taken down not long after the thread was posted. The URL now belongs to a fan of K-pop star Luna, who is using the page to promote the artist. 

Cabello Apologizes

On Wednesday afternoon, the “Havana” singer took to Twitter and Instagram to apologize. She did not explicitly mention the thread or posts, but did say she was sorry for the language she once used. 

“When I was younger, I used language that I’m deeply ashamed of and will regret forever,” she wrote. “I was uneducated and ignorant and once I became aware of the history and weight and the true meaning behind this hurtful language, I was deeply embarrassed I ever used it. I apologized then and I apologize now.”

“I’m 22 now, I’m an adult and I’ve grown and learned and am conscious and aware of the history and the pain it carries in a way I wasn’t before,” she added in the text post. “Those mistakes don’t represent the person I am or a person I’ve ever been. I only stand and have ever stood for love and inclusivity, and my heart has never, even then, had any ounce of hate or divisiveness.”

See what others are saying: (L.A. Times) (The Cut) (Cosmopolitan)

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