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Academy Sets Diversity and Inclusion Requirements for Best Picture

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  • The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has set new diversity standards that films will have to meet in order to be eligible for the Best Picture Oscar come 2024. 
  • There are four possible standards. Films that want to be considered must fulfill at least two of them.
  • These standards have been criticized by some who think the Academy is prioritizing a diversity checklist over the quality of the films.
  • Others have praised the Academy for encouraging inclusivity, but many experts think these new standards will actually be easy for many studios to meet, and may not change much about what films are eligible.

New Diversity Standards

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on Tuesday unveiled new diversity and inclusion standards that films must partially meet in order to be eligible for Best Picture in 2024 for the 96th Academy Awards. 

There are four standards: A. Onscreen Representation, B. Creative Leadership and Project Team, C. Industry Access and Opportunities, and D. Audience Development. Films must fulfill two of the four standards to be considered for the top prize. The first two standards have three possible checks, and if a movie meets just one of those checks, it fulfills the standard. There are two pieces of criteria in the third standard that must be met in order for it to be fulfilled, and the final one has just one benchmark.

Read the full criteria listed at this bottom of this story.

This change comes as Hollywood, and many other industries, are facing a reckoning when it comes to racial justice and representation. The Oscars is no stranger to this issue; #OscarsSoWhite has plagued the show for several years, and the Academy has vowed to address the lack of diversity among its nominees. Over the past several years, it has added large new classes to its voting body, including larger percentages of women and people of color. These diversity standards, however, are their biggest leap when it comes to inclusion. 

These standards currently only apply to Best Picture. Films that are in the specialty feature categories and are also submitted for Best Picture will be addressed separately. While this rule does not go into official effect until 2024, starting in 2022 films must submit inclusion standards to be eligible, but they do not have to meet them. This effort is part of Academy Aperture 2025, the group’s initiative to further inclusion in the entertainment industry. 

“The aperture must widen to reflect our diverse global population in both the creation of motion pictures and in the audiences who connect with them,” Academy President David Rubin and Academy CEO Dawn Hudson said in a joint statement. “The Academy is committed to playing a vital role in helping make this a reality. We believe these inclusion standards will be a catalyst for long-lasting, essential change in our industry.”

Response to Announcement

These rules were not introduced without their share of criticism. Many thought that by applying a checklist to filmmaking, the Academy is interfering with art and organic creation.

“Another award meant to discern artistic exceptionalism that will now simply recognize the latest definition of social progressiveness,” said former Esquire editor Jay Fielden. “The moral and social obligations of art can’t be enforced by bureaucrats.”

Others also were concerned that by incentivizing diversity with accolades, white filmmakers might start making projects with diverse leads for the wrong reasons, leading to unproductive forms of representation. 

However, others thought that since films only had to meet two of the four standards, and many are not that difficult to fulfill, that these new criteria will just encourage filmmakers to and the Academy itself to be more open-minded and inclusive. 

Writer and columnist Mark Harris posted a Twitter thread about these standards, saying that in the years leading up to 2024, the Academy will likely have to iron out issues with this new policy. 

“I think it will be hard to argue that these standards are excessively rigorous or steep, especially with rules that state that a movie only has to meet parts of 2 out of 4 standards to qualify,” he wrote. Harris also added that larger studios with bigger marketing teams and employment opportunities will likely have an easier time meeting these standards than smaller independent studios. 

“Internships paid for by the studio plus gay people and women in the marketing dept. and the job is done,” he added. “It’s indie moviemakers who will have to meet much more rigorous standards of casting and or production staffing if they want to guarantee eligibility.”

Harris also pointed out that a movie could theoretically meet these standards without hiring a non-white person.

“So…is this stasis disguised as progress?” he asked 

Will This Work?

It will be impossible to fully answer Harris’ question until the standards are applied, but the Academy did base their criteria off of a template that the British Film Institute is already using at the BAFTAs, which is essentially their version of the Oscars. While those standards fall into the same four categories, they do differ in their details, so you can’t make an exact one-to-one comparison when it comes to the potential impact of the Academy’s plans.

As far as this year’s BAFTAs was concerned, the BBC wrote that the standards “didn’t prevent the nominees for best British film this year being dominated by stories predominantly about, made by, and starring white men.”

Best British Film went to “1917,” a film about World War I starring white men and directed by a white man. However, the film was co-written by a woman and had some female producers, so it met the Creative Leadership and Project Team standard and the Industry Access and Opportunities standard as well. It is unclear if this would translate into them meeting that standard per the Academy’s criteria because the details in both are different. 

Full Critera

For the 96th Oscars (2024), a film must meet TWO out of FOUR of the following standards to be deemed eligible:

STANDARD A:  ON-SCREEN REPRESENTATION, THEMES AND NARRATIVES
To achieve Standard A, the film must meet ONE of the following criteria:

A1. Lead or significant supporting actors: At least one of the lead actors or significant supporting actors is from an underrepresented racial or ethnic group.
• Asian
• Hispanic/Latinx
• Black/African American
• Indigenous/Native American/Alaskan Native
• Middle Eastern/North African
• Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander
• Other underrepresented race or ethnicity

A2. General ensemble cast: At least 30% of all actors in secondary and more minor roles are from at least two of the following underrepresented groups:
• Women
• Racial or ethnic group
• LGBTQ+
• People with cognitive or physical disabilities, or who are deaf or hard of hearing

A3. Main storyline/subject matter: The main storyline(s), theme or narrative of the film is centered on an underrepresented group(s).
• Women
• Racial or ethnic group
• LGBTQ+
• People with cognitive or physical disabilities, or who are deaf or hard of hearing

STANDARD B: CREATIVE LEADERSHIP AND PROJECT TEAM
To achieve Standard B, the film must meet ONE of the criteria below:

B1. Creative leadership and department heads: At least two of the following creative leadership positions and department heads—Casting Director, Cinematographer, Composer, Costume Designer, Director, Editor, Hairstylist, Makeup Artist, Producer, Production Designer, Set Decorator, Sound, VFX Supervisor, Writer—are from the following underrepresented groups:
• Women
• Racial or ethnic group
• LGBTQ+
• People with cognitive or physical disabilities, or who are deaf or hard of hearing

AND At least one of those positions must belong to the following underrepresented racial or ethnic group:
• Asian
• Hispanic/Latinx
• Black/African American
• Indigenous/Native American/Alaskan Native
• Middle Eastern/North African
• Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander
• Other underrepresented race or ethnicity

B2. Other key roles: At least six other crew/team and technical positions (excluding Production Assistants) are from an underrepresented racial or ethnic group. These positions include but are not limited to First AD, Gaffer, Script Supervisor, etc.

B3. Overall crew composition: At least 30% of the film’s crew is from the following underrepresented groups:
• Women
• Racial or ethnic group
• LGBTQ+
• People with cognitive or physical disabilities, or who are deaf or hard of hearing

STANDARD C:  INDUSTRY ACCESS AND OPPORTUNITIES
To achieve Standard C, the film must meet BOTH criteria below:

C1. Paid apprenticeship and internship opportunities: The film’s distribution or financing company has paid apprenticeships or internships that are from the following underrepresented groups and satisfy the criteria below:
• Women
• Racial or ethnic group
• LGBTQ+
• People with cognitive or physical disabilities, or who are deaf or hard of hearing

The major studios/distributors are required to have substantive, ongoing paid apprenticeships/internships inclusive of underrepresented groups (must also include racial or ethnic groups) in most of the following departments: production/development, physical production, post-production, music, VFX, acquisitions, business affairs, distribution, marketing and publicity.

The mini-major or independent studios/distributors must have a minimum of two apprentices/interns from the above underrepresented groups (at least one from an underrepresented racial or ethnic group) in at least one of the following departments: production/development, physical production, post-production, music, VFX, acquisitions, business affairs, distribution, marketing and publicity.

C2. Training opportunities and skills development (crew): The film’s production, distribution and/or financing company offers training and/or work opportunities for below-the-line skill development to people from the following underrepresented groups:
• Women
• Racial or ethnic group
• LGBTQ+
• People with cognitive or physical disabilities, or who are deaf or hard of hearing

STANDARD D: AUDIENCE DEVELOPMENT
To achieve Standard D, the film must meet the criterion below:

  • D1. Representation in marketing, publicity, and distribution: The studio and/or film company has multiple in-house senior executives from among the following underrepresented groups (must include individuals from underrepresented racial or ethnic groups) on their marketing, publicity, and/or distribution teams.
  • Women
  • Racial or ethnic group
  • LGBTQ+
  • People with cognitive or physical disabilities, or who are deaf or hard of hearing
See what others are saying: (The Hollywood Reporter) (Deadline) (Los Angeles Times)

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Carole Baskin Faces Defamation Suit Brought on by Family of Missing Husband

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  • “Tiger King” star Carole Baskin’s has been sued for defamation by the family of her missing husband, Don Lewis.
  • They claim Baskin is complicit in jokes about his death that appeared on the latest season of “Dancing With the Stars,” where she is currently a contestant.
  • Many believe Baskin played a part in Lewis’ disappearance. and maybe even murdered him, though Baskin has repeatedly denied this.
  • She told TMZ that any jokes about killing or murder in the show are not about Lewis and are actually about the murder-for-hire plots taken against her.

Don Lewis’s Family Sues Carole Baskin

Big Cat Rescue Founder and “Tiger King” star Carole Baskin is facing a defamation suit from the family of her missing husband, Don Lewis. 

The cat lover is on this season of “Dancing With The Stars,” but a few remarks that appeared on the show have now landed her in hot water. Lewis’ three daughters and former assistant think that Baskin has been complicit in jokes about his death that were made on the show. 

Lewis disappeared in 1997 and was legally declared dead in 2002, but the case into his disappearance is still open. After the Netflix docuseries “Tiger King” became one of the most talked about shows of the year, many who watched it became convinced that Baskin killed or hired someone to kill him. She has repeatedly denied this. 

TMZ obtained court documents that reveal what comments Lewis’ family found to be insensitive. Judges on the show joked about TikToks that reference the theory that Baskin killed Lewis. These videos use a song parodying Megan Thee Stallion’s “Savage,” replacing her lyrics with “Carole Baskin, killed her husband, whacked him. Can’t convince me that it didn’t happen. Fed him to tigers, they snackin.”

Lewis’ family believes that Baskin should have spoken out against these jokes, as well as another comment made by a judge who said she “didn’t quite kill the paso double, it was kind of sedated.” Lewis’ daughters found the references to killing and sedation inappropriate. 

The suit also accuses Baskin of playing along and making jokes of her own. During an appearance on Good Morning America, Baskin said she was ready to “really kill it next week.” The family said this was yet another nod to Lewis’ disappearance and theories that she killed him. 

Responses to Suit

The Lewis Family’s lawyer, Jon Phillips, spoke to Entertainment Tonight about this lawsuit. In addition to filing for defamation, they filed for various breaches. Back in 1998, Baskin paid $50,000 in a settlement for libel and slander claims related to this.

“These exact same false statements, and additional ones, are being made again in 2020. It is malicious,” Phillips told Entertainment Tonight. He also told the outlet that Baskin’s current husband Howard is also listed as a defendant in the lawsuit. 

Baskin dismissed the allegations that she was making jokes about Lewis while on “Dancing With The Stars.” She said the idea that she is referencing him when using phrases like “killing it” is a “stretch.”

Baskin told TMZ that any jokes about murder or killing on the show refer to animal abusers who have tried to kill her. Joe Exotic, the main subject of “Tiger King,” is currently serving a 22-year prison sentence for a slew of charges, two of which are related to a murder-for-hire plot against Baskin. 

Ad Taken Out During DWTS

This is not the first “Dancing With The Stars”-related scuffle Baskin and Lewis’ family have had since she joined the show’s cast. During the season premiere, his three daughters, former assistant, and Phillips ran an ad about his disappearance that played in local Florida markets. It offered a $100,000 reward for information related to his case. 

“Don Lewis mysteriously disappeared in 1997. His family deserves answers,” Phillips said in the ad. “They deserve justice. Do you know who did this? Or if Carole Baskin was involved?”

While speaking with Entertainment Tonight, Lewis said that the family chose to run that ad so they could put their side of the story in the public eye. 

“Carole Baskin goes on YouTube, Facebook and does blogs every single day getting out her narrative,” Phillips explained. “It’s landed her on a major TV show, Dancing with the Stars…There was Tiger King — and it focused on the exotic animal industry — but a lot of it was about the death and disappearance of Don Lewis.”

“So [Lewis’ family] wanted their message out there. They wanted, at least locally, to counter message Carole Baskin’s, in their mind, lies and fraud,” he added.

Baskin thought the ad was nothing more than a PR move. 

“I believe their actions are just a publicity stunt, but if it helps us find Don, then that will be a huge relief,” she said in a statement emailed to CNN.

See what others are saying: (TMZ) (Entertainment Tonight) (New York Post)

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Former Ellen Staffers Criticize Talk Show Host’s Apology Monologue

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  • When Ellen DeGeneres returned to her show on Monday, she addressed the numerous reports about the toxic work environment that allegedly existed behind the scenes. She apologized to those who were affected and said changes had been made going forward. 
  • The accusations stated that issues at the show stemmed from top-level producers. Some former staffers said they faced intimidation tactics, racism, and sexual assault and harassment.
  • Her monologue addressing these allegations was praised by some, including singer Demi Lovato, who was happy to see the talk show host return to the studio.
  • However, former employees felt the apology was insincere and self-serving. Some thought that it was inappropriate for DeGeneres to make jokes during it considering the serious nature of the accusations.

Ellen Addresses Allegations

During the opening monologue of her 18th season premiere on Monday, talk show host Ellen DeGeneres addressed the bombshell accusations about the toxic work environment that allegedly existed for employees behind the scenes.

Former staffers, however, were not impressed with what she had to say. 

“How was everybody’s summer, good?” DeGeneres asked in the show’s open. “Mine was great! Super terrific!” 

This joke refers to the several reports that came out over the summer detailing allegations of intimidation tactics, racism, harassment, and more on the set of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” Three top producers were also accused of sexual harassment and assault.

Following the reports, WarnerMedia opened an investigation into the show’s workplace, and those three producers were fired in August as a result. In August, the show also announced that its staff will get extra perks, including more paid time off days, birthdays off, as well as paid time for doctors appointments and family matters.

The reports pulled back the curtain on the show, which prides itself on its “Be Kind” mantra. While what went on television may have been filled with dancing and laughter, former staffers said that the toxic culture behind the scenes started with producers at the very top. While DeGeneres herself was not directly implicated in the accusations, many said that since it’s her show, it’s her responsibility.

In her first appearance since everything unfolded, DeGeneres addressed the allegations and apologized for the pain the toxic work culture on her show may have caused. 

“I learned that things happened here that never should have happened. I take that very seriously and I want to say I am so sorry to the people who were affected,” she said. “I know that I am in a position of privilege and power and with that comes responsibility and I take responsibility for what happens at my show.” 

She then moved on to discuss the ideas that her preachings of kindness were fake, and that she is not who she appears to be on television.

DeGeneres explained that she first began ending her show with the saying “be kind to one another” to honor a young boy named Tyler Clementi who took his life after he was bullied for being gay. She thought the message was important then and was equally important now but said being known as the ‘be kind lady’ has put her in a tricky position. 

“So let me give you some advice out there,” she joked. “If anybody’s thinking of changing their title or giving yourself a nickname, do not go with the ‘be kind’ lady. Don’t do it.”

She further added that while she is who the audience sees on TV, she is also more. She explained that she sometimes gets mad, sad, and impatient, but is working on it. She closed her monologue by saying she wants her show to be an hour of escapism for laughter and announced that her DJ Stephen “tWitch” Boss was promoted to co-executive producer.

DeGeneres posted the monologue to her Instagram page where numerous celebrities, including Demi Lovato, Ellie Kemper, and Scott Foley commented in support of the talk show host. 

“You are the person people see on TV. You are kind, generous and caring,” Lovato wrote. “This video was a perfect representation of that. I love you Ellen.”

Criticism of Monologue

Not everyone was satisfied with her remarks. BuzzFeed News, which broke a lot of the allegations about the show, spoke to current and former employees who said her monologue was insensitive and tone deaf. 

“Not only did Ellen turn my trauma, turn our traumas, into a joke, she somehow managed to make this about her,” one former staffer said. 

“When you’re talking about people who have accused her leadership of the seriousness of sexual misconduct, I don’t think it’s appropriate to have jokes in the monologue,” another claimed.

Others thought it would have been more appropriate for DeGeneres or other executives to personally reach out to those who had been affected by the toxic workplace. A current employee on the show said that while she is amazed that DeGeneres decided to address it on the show, she found the monologue to be “tactical.” She said that DeGeneres was only bringing it up to pull viewers back in for premiere week. 

TV critics also panned her monologue. Daniel D’Add wrote for Variety that her words “had a feeling of obligation, and of being over it all.” In The Daily Beast, Kevin Fallon said her speech worked harder to fix her reputation than it did to address the actual issues. 

“It’s depressing when there’s a palpable sense from people in power that the experiences of those beneath them don’t matter,” Fallon wrote, later noting that while there were flaws in the monologue, he still found the fact that she chose to address the allegations on air “monumental.”

See what others are saying: (New York Times) (Entertainment Weekly) (Slate)

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Judge Sides With Nicki Minaj in Tracy Chapman Copyright Dispute

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  • Nicki Minaj recorded her song “Sorry” in 2017, which featured lyrics and melodies from Tracy Chapman’s 1988 song “Baby Can I Hold You.”
  • When Chapman repeatedly refused to give Minaj licensing permission for the track, it was dropped from Minaj’s 2018 “Queen” album. However, the song later leaked on the radio and online, prompting Chapman to file a copyright infringement lawsuit against Minaj.
  • Chapman accused her of distributing the song to a radio DJ and claimed she shouldn’t have even been allowed to record it. 
  • Minaj’s team denied distributing the song and warned that artists need to be able to experiment with existing material without worrying that they could be sued once they actually do approach that rights-holder for a license. 
  • A judge sided with Minaj Wednesday, saying her demo song falls under fair use, adding, “A ruling uprooting these common practices would limit creativity and stifle innovation within the music industry.”

The Two Songs 

A judge has ruled in favor of Nicki Minaj on Wednesday in a copyright infringement lawsuit brought against her by fellow singer Tracy Chapman.

Music lovers and members of the industry have had a close eye on this case, believing it could have a huge impact on the music industry.

The suit stems from a 2017 song Minaj recorded featuring Nas called “Sorry.” At the time, the rapper was reportedly under the impression that the song was a remake of a one created by artist Shelly Thunder. However, she later discovered that most of the lyrics and some of the melody came from Tracy Chapman’s 1988 song “Baby Can I Hold You.”

After learning this, Minaj’s representatives reached out to Chapman for permission to use the song, but Chapman repeatedly refused. According to Chapman, she had a blanket policy against granting such permission, so in 2018, Minaj dropped her “Queen” album without the song “Sorry.”

The unreleased track then somehow made its way into the hands of a New York radio DJ known as Funkmaster Flex, who played it on air. Portions of the track also later aired on “The Breakfast Club,” before leaking online. 

The Lawsuit 

In response, Chapman filed a copyright infringement lawsuit accusing Minaj of providing the DJ with the song and arguing that Minaj shouldn’t have even been allowed to make the unauthorized track in the first place.

Both Minaj and Flex have denied that the song came from her or her authorized representatives. Instead, Flex said he received it from one of his bloggers.

Minaj’s attorneys then filed a motion warning that Chapman’s suit “should send a shiver down the spine of those concerned with the entertainment industry.” 

They argued that artists need to be free to create something based on existing material without worrying that they could be sued for experimenting once they actually do approach that rights-holder for a license. 

“Such free-flowing creativity is important to all recording artists, but particularly in hip hop,” her legal team said.

“With that category of music, a recording artist typically goes into the studio and experiments with dozens of different ‘beats’ or snippets of melodies, before hitting upon a pleasing combination.”

They also warned that ruling in Chapman’s favor “would impose a financial and administrative burden so early in the creative process that all but the most well-funded creators would be forced to abandon their visions at the outset.”

Judge’s Ruling

The latest update to the case came Wednesday when U.S. district judge Virginia A. Phillips ultimately sided with Minaj.

In her ruling, the judge said the rapper’s experimentation with the song constitutes “fair use” not copyright infringement.

“Artists usually experiment with works before seeking licenses from rights holders and rights holders typically ask to see a proposed work before approving a license,” she explained.

“Chapman has requested samples of proposed works before approving licensing requests herself because she wanted ‘to see how [her work] will be used’ before approving the license, yet Chapman argues against the very practice she maintains. A ruling uprooting these common practices would limit creativity and stifle innovation within the music industry.”

What’s Next? 

The decision is a major win for Minaj but the dispute between the two artists isn’t exactly over. 

That’s because Chapman is still trying to argue that Minaj infringed on her song rights by sending the song to Funkmaster Flex. Chapman’s lawyers asked the judge to find that the distribution constituted copyright infringement as a matter of law, but the judge ruled that that dispute would need to go to a jury. 

That could end up being a pretty tricking case for Minaj because according to Chapman’s legal team, she reached out to Flex on August 3, 2018, offering the song. Minaj allegedly followed up a week later on August 10 saying, “You got me tonight? The song is me and Nas. Send your number.” The next day, the song was played on the radio and promoted on social media.

Minaj’s team has pushed back against some of these points, as well as other claims, still maintaining that she did not send the song.

In her decision, judge Phillips noted factual disputes concerning when Flex received the work, who exactly gave it to him, whether it was a mastered version, and more. When the trial takes place, Minaj will likely be pressed on some of this conflicting information. 

See what others are saying: (Variety) (Complex) (MarketPlace

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