Wednesday Dec 11, 2013
Actor Christopher Evan Welch, whose roles on stages led to film and TV parts, dies at 48 SANTA MONICA, Calif. (AP) — Christopher Evan Welch, the actor whose roles on New York stages led to a series of film and television parts, including a regular spot on AMC's "Rubicon," has died in Southern California. His family said in a statement Wednesday that Welch died Dec. 2 in Santa Monica. He was 48 and had been diagnosed with lung cancer. The Dallas-born actor won an Obie Award in 2000 for his performance in "A Streetcar Named Desire" at the New York Theatre Workshop. On television, Welch had roles in "The Sopranos" and "The Good Wife," in addition to the conspiracy-themed drama "Rubicon." Last year he played a clerk in the House of Representatives in Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln." Welch is survived by his wife, Emma, their daughter June Harper, his parents, a brother and a sister. Copyright (2013) Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
The online music streaming company is bringing its playlists to much of Latin America and a host of African nations.The announcement is further proof that 2014 is going to be the year that music streaming attempts to surpass MP3 downloads as the most popular way of paying to listen to new music.It also brings Rdio's coverage up to 51 countries around the world. Rdio offers access to a catalog of some 20 million songs as well as the option of creating playlists or radio stations based around a specific artist or genre.New customers from any of the 20 new countries will get the web service for free for six months and two weeks free mobile access when they sign up.The 20 new countries are: Argentina, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Israel, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, South Africa, Uruguay, and Venezuela. Copyright AFP Relaxnews, 2013.
Fans of astrology, take heed. A new study suggests that reading your daily horoscope could lead to impulsive or self-indulgent behavior.For those days when astrology readings were negative, people were more susceptible to temptation, researchers said. The study, announced Tuesday and published in the Journal of Consumer Research last month, revealed that believing in fate was associated with more erratic decision-making after reading bad news in one's horoscope. In their research, scientists from Johns Hopkins University and the University of South Carolina recruited 188 subjects who read an unfavorable horoscope and then were asked to choose between either an indulgence, such as diving into a bowl of ice-cream, or a virtuous alternate, such as cleaning the kitchen. The results showed that for people who believe they could change their fate, an unfavorable horoscope increased the likelihood of that person seeking refuge in an indulgent behavior. However the researchers had expected subjects to choose a more virtuous action to prevent the unfavorable outcome presented in their horoscope. "Conventional wisdom might suggest that for people who believe they can change their fate, an unfavorable horoscope should result in an attempt to improve their fate," the authors said. "Our results showed that reading an unfavorable horoscope actually has the opposite effect on a person."Madonna is reportedly a fan of horoscopes and psychics, as is actress Naomi Watts, who played Princess Diana in a recent film adaptation. According to reports, she admitted to using psychics to communicate with the late princess about the part. Access the study: http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.1086/674196?uid=3738016&uid=2&uid=4&sid=21103103194131 Copyright AFP Relaxnews, 2013.
Vuzix is developing a new optical technology that can turn standard spectacles into augmented reality headsets without making the wearer resemble a geek or an extra from an ill-fated sci-fi TV pilot.The technology in question was developed in partnership with Nokia and within the next 12 months will have been sufficiently refined to disappear into a standard pair of reading glasses or sunglasses, yet project holographic images directly into the wearer's field of vision. But as well as a new level of augmented reality, the device will be able to work with most Android phones and run many standard Android apps. At the moment smart glasses, such as Google Glass, use a prism that projects an image above the eye via a prism and this leads to a less-than-stylish look for the wearer. Vuzix's Waveguide optics technology takes a different approach to bouncing light, and therefore images, into the eye which has allowed the company to shrink down the elements needed so that they're small enough to fit inside the arm of standard glasses and to be aimed across the lenses from the inside (other products project the image in front of the glasses' lenses) yet offer a larger field of vision, directly in front of the wearer rather than up and to one side. However, that's the future. For the present, Vuzix is debuting the technology in something it calls a Smart Monocle. Officially known as the M2000AR HMD, it is not aimed at the stylish or fashion-conscious -- after all, it comes with a built-in hard hat -- rather it is targeted at corporate customers who need hands-free access to data, files and applications while out and about, whether on a construction site or oil platform. As such, as well as the hard hat, the device has been developed to withstand harsh weather conditions and to keep on working after knocks and bumps. It also offers a full HD camera, HDMI interface an integrated compass and head tracking. At $5999 it's not for everyone but it is already the second consumer smart glasses headset the company has rolled out this year, following the launch of its direct Google Glass competitor, the Vuzix M100 earlier this month. Vuzix will be demonstrating both devices at the International CES in Las Vegas in January. Copyright AFP Relaxnews, 2013.
An American adaptation of "Reaching for Heaven" is being developed by Sundance and Entertainment One Television, according to Deadline.com.The series, which explores how a family reacts to one member's sudden decision to become devoutly religious, was launched two years ago by Keshet, the production company behind "Hatufim" (which became "Homeland" in the US) and the talent show "Rising Star." In the original version of "Reaching for Heaven," the family patriarch decides to become a strict orthodox Jew. None of his family members choose to follow him down this spiritual path, but they all do their best to preserve the unity of the family. For the US adaptation, the Sundance Channel and Entertainment One Television will move the story to Las Vegas. The first season, with ten episodes, will premiere in 2014. Since the massive success of "Homeland," Showtime's political thriller adapted from "Hatufim," American TV producers are keeping a close watch on Israeli TV for the next big show idea. But Israeli shows have been inspiring American producers for longer than that: the trend seems to have started in 2008, when HBO aired its psychological drama "In Treatment," adapted from the Israeli series "Betipul." On paper, Israeli production companies seem like an unlikely source of ideas for US content. Catering to a population of just seven million over only a few TV networks, Israeli TV producers often operate on very restricted budgets. This weakness has become something of a strength for Israeli production companies, encouraging creativity among screenwriters and directors and led to shows that are relatively inexpensive to make. In addition, Israeli TV shows have a reputation for confronting taboos, whether religious, societal or political. "Hatufim," for example, explored the thorny question of prisoners of war, and how they are treated upon their return. Shows that have yet to reach US shores look into even more controversial subjects. "Mom and Dads" depicts parenthood through the perspective of a homosexual couple and a single woman, parenting as a trio. "Araba Labor" is a comedy on the discrimination experienced by Arabs living in Israel. Finally, "Srugrim" follows the everyday life of five thirty-something orthodox Jews looking for love. Copyright AFP Relaxnews, 2013.
At Vermont lodge run by real von Trapps, recent musical brings business, armchair reviews STOWE, Vt. (AP) — Even if it's good for business, NBC's revival of "The Sound of Music" wasn't one of the von Trapps' favorite things. Three-quarters of a century after they arrived from Austria, and in the week since the televised version of the musical classic became a national topic of conversation, the singing family and the vacation lodge it runs in the hills of Vermont are in high demand. And yes, the family was watching as Carrie Underwood, in a widely watched and panned performance, took over the role of Maria von Trapp, made famous on Broadway by Mary Martin and on film by Julie Andrews. Kristina von Trapp, granddaughter of the real Maria von Trapp, who died in 1987, visited guests as it was shown at the inn in Stowe. And in a blog post, Francoise von Trapp, daughter of Maria von Trapp's stepson Rupert, questioned the casting. "For everyone who thought the whole thing was wonderful and that NBC did a spectacular job, I say maybe your expectations weren't high to begin with," she wrote. "If they hoped to have created a new holiday classic, I think they missed their mark." But they aren't denying the musical is helping business, even if the majority of callers are merely curious and not making reservations. "It definitely stirred up a lot of conversation wanting to know was the family watching, things like that," said Jennifer Vincent, the lodge's marketing director. It wasn't entirely unexpected. Whenever the movie starring Andrews and Christopher Plummer airs on television — typically around Christmas — the lodge gets a lot of traffic on its website and social media, Vincent said. More than 18 million people tuned in to the revival, according to the Nielsen company. NBC plans an encore broadcast Saturday. The musical and movie are a fictionalized account of the life of Maria von Trapp and tell the story of a 1930s Austrian governess who teaches her charges to sing and falls in love with her employer, naval captain Georg von Trapp, and the family's flight during World War II. They moved to Vermont in 1942 after visiting during a singing tour and vacationing in Stowe. "They enjoyed the kind of quality of people that were here in Vermont," said Sam Messer, who gives tours of the lodge. "They loved kind of the work ethic and stick-to-it-iveness." They built a rustic farmhouse and started taking in boarders. As a ski industry developed in the area, they expanded. Fire destroyed it in 1980, but the family rebuilt. One of the captain's daughters, also named Maria von Trapp, would play accordion and teach Austrian dance with sister Rosemarie at the lodge. Rosemarie also taught her sons how to play the recorder, said Phoebe Everson, of Plattsburgh, N.Y., who has been a visitor for decades. Four of the 10 von Trapp siblings are still alive, although none live at the lodge anymore. At least three are still in Vermont. The 96-room chalet style inn is the height of charm during the holidays. With its wide views of the mountains that reminded the family of their native Austria, the lodge is decorated with Christmas trees and poinsettias. In the restaurants, wiener schnitzel and apple strudel are on the menu, as well as the family's beer and some dishes coming from the Scotch cattle and egg-laying hens they raise. Photographs line the halls showing the von Trapp girls in Austrian-style dresses, or the family pouring concrete for the foundation and doing the haying and maple sugaring — which they still do. Aside from a large network of cross-country ski trails, the inn offers fitness and yoga classes, snowshoeing, mountain biking, summer concerts and wine tastings, as well as occasional harp lessons — and frequent music. On Christmas Eve, guests get a special treat: The von Trapp family sings Christmas carols with the guests. But no songs from "The Sound of Music." ___ Online: Francoise von Trapp's blog: http://realvontrapp.blogspot.com Copyright (2013) Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Film and television nominees at 20th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards Nominees for the 20th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards announced Wednesday: MOVIES: Actor: Bruce Dern, "Nebraska"; Chiwetel Ejiofor, "12 Years a Slave"; Tom Hanks, "Captain Phillips"; Matthew McConaughey, "Dallas Buyers Club"; Forest Whitaker, "Lee Daniels' The Butler." Actress: Cate Blanchett, "Blue Jasmine"; Sandra Bullock, "Gravity"; Judi Dench "Philomena"; Meryl Streep, "August: Osage County"; Emma Thompson, "Saving Mr. Banks." Supporting actor: Barkhad Abdi, "Captain Phillips"; Daniel Bruhl, "Rush"; Michael Fassbender, "12 Years a Slave"; James Gandolfini, "Enough Said"; Jared Leto, "Dallas Buyers Club." Supporting actress: Jennifer Lawrence, "American Hustle"; Lupita Nyong'o, "12 Years a Slave"; Julia Roberts, "August: Osage County"; June Squibb, "Nebraska"; Oprah Winfrey, "Lee Daniels' The Butler." Cast: "12 Years a Slave," ''American Hustle," ''August: Osage County," ''Dallas Buyers Club," ''Lee Daniels' The Butler." Stunt ensemble: "All is Lost," ''Fast & Furious 6," ''Lone Survivor," ''Rush," ''The Wolverine." ___ TELEVISION: Actor in a movie or miniseries: Matt Damon, "Behind the Candelabra"; Michael Douglas, "Behind the Candelabra"; Jeremy Irons, "The Hollow Crown"; Rob Lowe, "Killing Kennedy"; Al Pacino, "Phil Spector." Actress in a movie or miniseries: Angela Bassett, "Betty & Coretta"; Helena Bonham Carter, "Burton and Taylor"; Holly Hunter, "Top of the Lake"; Helen Mirren, "Phil Spector"; Elisabeth Moss, "Top of the Lake." Actor in a drama series: Steve Buscemi, "Boardwalk Empire"; Bryan Cranston, "Breaking Bad"; Jeff Daniels, "The Newsroom"; Peter Dinklage, "Game of Thrones"; Kevin Spacey, "House of Cards." Actress in a drama series: Claire Danes, "Homeland"; Anna Gunn, "Breaking Bad"; Jessica Lange, "American Horror Story: Coven"; Maggie Smith, "Downton Abbey"; Kerry Washington, "Scandal." Actor in a comedy series: Alec Baldwin, "30 Rock"; Jason Bateman, "Arrested Development"; Ty Burrell, "Modern Family"; Don Cheadle, "House of Lies"; Jim Parsons, "The Big Bang Theory." Actress in a comedy series: Mayim Bialik, "The Big Bang Theory"; Julie Bowen, "Modern Family"; Edie Falco, "Nurse Jackie"; Tina Fey, "30 Rock"; Julia Louis-Dreyfus, "Veep." Drama series cast: "Boardwalk Empire," ''Breaking Bad," ''Downton Abbey," ''Game of Thrones," ''Homeland." Comedy series cast: "30 Rock," ''Arrested Development," ''The Big Bang Theory," ''Modern Family," ''Veep." Stunt ensemble: "Boardwalk Empire," ''Breaking Bad," ''Game of Thrones," ''Homeland," ''The Walking Dead." ___ Lifetime Achievement: Rita Moreno. Copyright (2013) Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Juan Antonio Bayona will direct Brad Pitt in the follow-up to the extremely lucrative zombie movie, which grossed $540 million at the global box office.A few years after his 2012 film "The Impossible," Juan Antonio Bayona will film Gerry Lane's continued struggle in a world devastated by a zombie epidemic. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the Spanish director has agreed to direct the "World War Z" sequel and to supervise the screenwriting process. Brad Pitt will once again star as the former UN employee who plays a key role in a global fight against a zombie pandemic. The actor will also co-produce the sequel, which, like the first "World War Z" film, will be loosely based on the book by Max Brooks. Producers have not yet revealed a production timeline for "World War Z 2." Copyright AFP Relaxnews, 2013.
Steve McQueen's historical drama was nominated for four SAG Awards, more than any other feature, for the 20th edition of the ceremony, which is a key step on the road to the 2014 Oscars.For their roles in "12 Years a Slave," Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender and Lupita Nyong'o were nominated by the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) respectively in the categories of best male actor in a leading role, best male actor in a supporting role and best female actress in a supporting role. The SAG also nominated "12 Years a Slave" for the award given to the best performance by an entire cast. These four nominations made Steve McQueen's drama the most frequently cited film in the SAG Awards nominations announcement. Coming in just behind with three nominations each were "The Butler," "August: Osage County" and "Dallas Buyers Club." The SAG also revealed its nominations for TV performances. For her role as a manic depressive CIA agent on "Homeland," Claire Danes has once again been nominated for the title of best female actor in a drama series, which she won last year. The actress will defend her title against Jessica Lange ("American Horror Story"), Anna Gunn ("Breaking Bad"), Maggie Smith ("Downton Abbey") and Kerry Washington ("Scandal"). Among the male actors of the TV world, Bryan Cranston has also been nominated for the same award he took home last year: that of best male actor in a drama series. The actor's performance as Walter White on "Breaking Bad" will be in competition with the on-screen performances of Kevin Spacey ("House of Cards"), Peter Dinklage ("Game of Thrones"), Jeff Daniels ("The Newsroom") and Steve Buscemi ("Boardwalk Empire"). The SAG Awards will be distributed in a ceremony January 18. View all of the SAG Awards nominations: www.sagawards.org Copyright AFP Relaxnews, 2013.
The British actor revealed to the public through "Twilight" has landed the title role in "The Childhood of a Leader," Variety reports.Twenty-seven-year-old Robert Pattinson will share the credits with Tim Roth and Juliette Binoche in American actor Brady Corbet's directorial debut. According to Variety, the feature will examine the background of an unspecified post-World War I leader. "The Childhood of a Leader" will be filmed in Europe from next May. Pattinson's other projects lined up for 2014 include Werner Herzog's "Queen of the Desert" -- in which he will play Lawrence of Arabia -- and James Gray's "Lost City of Z." The young actor is also likely to join the cast of the James Dean biopic "Life" in the role of the photographer Dennis Stock. Copyright AFP Relaxnews, 2013.
List of nominees for the 71st annual Golden Globe Awards BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) — Nominees for the 71st annual Golden Globe Awards, announced Thursday in Beverly Hills, Calif., by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association: MOTION PICTURES — Picture, Drama: "12 Years a Slave," ''Captain Phillips," ''Gravity," ''Philomena," ''Rush." — Picture, Musical or Comedy: "American Hustle," ''Her," ''Inside Llewyn Davis," ''Nebraska," ''The Wolf of Wall Street." — Actor, Drama: Chiwetel Ejiofor, "12 Years a Slave"; Idris Elba, "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom"; Tom Hanks, "Captain Phillips"; Matthew McConaughey, "Dallas Buyers Club"; Robert Redford, "All Is Lost." — Actress, Drama: Cate Blanchett, "Blue Jasmine"; Sandra Bullock, "Gravity"; Judi Dench, "Philomena"; Emma Thompson, "Saving Mr. Banks"; Kate Winslet, "Labor Day." — Director: Alfonso Curon, "Gravity"; Paul Greengrass, "Captain Phillips"; Steve McQueen, "12 Years a Slave"; Alexander Payne, "Nebraska"; David O. Russell, "American Hustle." — Actor, Musical or Comedy: Christian Bale, "American Hustle"; Bruce Dern, "Nebraska"; Leonardo DiCaprio, "The Wolf of Wall Street"; Joaquin Phoenix, "Her." — Actress, Musical or Comedy: Amy Adams, "American Hustle"; Julie Delpy, "Before Midnight"; Greta Gerwig, "Frances Ha"; Julia Louis-Dreyfus, "Enough Said"; Meryl Streep, "August: Osage County." — Supporting Actor: Barkhad Abdi, "Captain Phillips"; Daniel Bruhl, "Rush"; Bradley Cooper, "American Hustle"; Michael Fassbender, "12 Years a Slave"; Jared Leto, "Dallas Buyers Club." — Supporting Actress: Sally Hawkins, "Blue Jasmine"; Jennifer Lawrence, "American Hustle"; Lupita Nyong'o, "12 Years a Slave"; Julia Roberts, "August: Osage County"; June Squibb, "Nebraska." — Foreign Language: "Blue Is the Warmest Color," ''The Great Beauty," ''The Hunt," ''The Past," ''The Wind Rises." — Animated Film: "The Croods," ''Despicable Me 2," ''Frozen." — Screenplay: Spike Jonze, "Her"; Bob Nelson, "Nebraska"; Jeff Pope and Steve Coogan, "Philomena"; John Ridley, "12 Years a Slave"; Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell, "American Hustle." — Original Score: Alex Ebert, "All Is Lost"; Alex Heffes, "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom"; Steven Price, "Gravity"; John Williams, "The Book Thief"; Hans Zimmer, "12 Years a Slave." — Original Song: "Atlas" (music and lyrics by Chris Martin, Guy Berryman, Jonny Buckland and Will Champion), "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire"; "Let it Go" (music and lyrics by Kristen Anderson Lopez and Robert Lopez), "Frozen"; "Ordinary Love" (music by Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton, Larry Mullen Jr. and Brian Burton, lyrics by Bono), "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom"; "Please Mr. Kennedy" (music and lyrics by Ed Rush, George Cromarty, T Bone Burnett, Justin Timberlake, Joel Coen and Ethan Coen), "Inside Llewyn Davis"; "Sweeter Than Fiction" (music and lyrics by Taylor Swift and Jack Antonoff), "One Chance." TELEVISION — Series, Drama: "Breaking Bad," ''Downton Abbey," ''The Good Wife," ''House of Cards," ''Masters of Sex." — Actor, Drama: Bryan Cranston, "Breaking Bad"; Liev Schreiber, "Ray Donovan"; Michael Sheen, "Masters of Sex"; Kevin Spacey, "House of Cards." — Actress, Drama: Julianna Margulies, "The Good Wife"; Tatiana Maslany, "Orphan Black"; Taylor Schilling, "Orange Is the New Black"; Kerry Washington, "Scandal"; Robin Wright, "House of Cards." — Series, Musical or Comedy: "The Big Bang Theory," ''Brooklyn Nine-Nine," ''Girls," ''Modern Family," ''Parks and Recreation." — Actress, Musical or Comedy: Zooey Deschanel, "New Girl"; Lena Dunham, "Girls"; Edie Falco, "Nurse Jackie"; Julia Louis-Dreyfus, "Veep"; Amy Poehler, "Parks and Recreation." — Actor, Musical or Comedy: Jason Bateman, "Arrested Development"; Don Cheadle, "House of Lies"; Michael J. Fox, "The Michael J. Fox Show"; Jim Parsons, "The Big Bang Theory"; Andy Samberg, "Brooklyn Nine-Nine." — Miniseries or Movie: "American Horror Story: Coven," ''Behind the Candelabra," ''Dancing on the Edge," ''Top of the Lake," ''White Queen." — Actress, Miniseries or Movie: Helena Bonham Carter, "Burton and Taylor"; Rebecca Ferguson, "White Queen"; Jessica Lange, "American Horror Story: Coven"; Helen Mirren, "Phil Spector"; Elisabeth Moss, "Top of the Lake." — Actor, Miniseries or Movie: Matt Damon, "Behind the Candelabra"; Michael Douglas, "Behind the Candelabra"; Chiwetel Ejiofor, "Dancing on the Edge"; Idris Elba, "Luther"; Al Pacino, "Phil Spector." — Supporting Actress, Series, Miniseries or Movie: Jacqueline Bisset, "Dancing on the Edge"; Janet McTeer, "White Queen"; Hayden Panettiere, "Nashville"; Monica Potter, "Parenthood"; Sofia Vergara, "Modern Family." — Supporting Actor, Series, Miniseries or Movie: Josh Charles, "The Good Wife"; Rob Lowe, "Behind the Candelabra"; Aaron Paul, "Breaking Bad"; Corey Stoll, "House of Cards"; Jon Voight, "Ray Donovan." ___ Previously announced: Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award: Woody Allen. Copyright (2013) Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
During 'Scandal' hiatus, Morton will await fate of debatably diabolical dad Rowan Pope LOS ANGELES (AP) — It's going to be a long, cold winter for the gladiators, and perhaps even longer for actor Joe Morton, who plays the debatably diabolical dad Rowan Pope to his political-fixer daughter, Olivia (Kerry Washington). After the "Scandal" episode airing tonight, the series won't return with fresh installments until late February — a scheme to avoid holiday-time ratings doldrums and also dodge competition from the upcoming Winter Olympics. When last we left "Scandal," Sally had killed her own husband, Huck was torturing Quinn, and Liv was sending her evil mama to a continent far, far away. Oddly enough, Morton said that wacky world feels like home. "I was looking (to play) a really smart bad guy," said the 66-year-old actor, whose Hollywood credits include director John Sayles' revered art-house classic "The Brother from Another Planet" (1984) and the blockbusting "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" (1991). But the play's the thing for the Bronx-born Morton, a Tony-nominated Broadway vet who frequently has returned to work on the stage. "What is wonderful about working on 'Scandal' is that, I believe, almost every member of the cast working on that show are all theatre actors," he noted. "So what that gives us all is, certainly, a very familiar vocabulary, so that we can work much more efficiently with one another." Actor-to-actor, Morton perhaps deals most frequently with "Scandal" star Washington, who has earned an Emmy nomination for her work on the series. On Wednesday, she garnered a Screen Actors Guild nomination for the role, and, this morning, could pick up a Golden Globe nod. "If Kerry never wins an award for her entire career, but she works until she feels she doesn't want to work anymore, then she's got the biggest award ever," Morton said. With 40-plus years of hopping from live-theater to television to film roles, Morton knows whereof he speaks. But he doesn't know everything. "When you play a character as seemingly evil as Rowan is, yes, you always have to think: 'Either they are going to let this character survive, or they're going to kill him,'" Morton explained. "So, we have to see what happens." "Scandal" airs Thursday (10 p.m. EST) on ABC. Copyright (2013) Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Celebrity tutors thrive in Hong Kong's pressure cooker race for university admission HONG KONG (AP) — When the Hong Kong school year began in September, tutor Tony Chow arranged to have his face plastered on the sides of double decker buses to raise his profile. For many of Chow's students, the advertisements may be the closest they'll ever get to him. The 30-year-old teaches English grammar to thousands of secondary school pupils, who attend his after-school lessons or watch video replays of them at Modern Education's 14 branches. Chow is a celebrity tutor in Hong Kong, where there's big money to be made offering extracurricular lessons to parents desperately seeking an edge for their children preparing for the city's intense public entrance exam for university. Global student rankings out last week highlighted the city's cutthroat academic atmosphere. Hong Kong teens, along with Shanghai, Singapore, South Korea and Japan, dominated the list compiled by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. American students showed little improvement and failed to reach the top 20 in math, science or reading. Students in East Asian societies have long relied on so-called "cram schools," but Hong Kong has taken them to a new level in recent years, with the majority of students attending the city's nearly 1,000 tutorial centers. Academies use brash marketing, dressing their tutors in miniskirts and high heels or leather jackets to make them look like pop stars. Advertisements for these "tutor kings" and "tutor queens," as they are known in Cantonese, are splashed on giant roadside billboards, on the sides of shopping malls and on newspaper front pages. Many promise students they can help them ace the entrance exam. "Basically the examination is just a game. When there's a game there must be both winners and losers. They have to know the tricks on how to win the game," said Chow. "We are trying to get them the shortcuts, the fast track to the answers." Chow and others promise, for example, that they will help students learn keywords that many believe examiners award points for when used in written answers. Hong Kong's tutorial industry is worth $260 million a year, according to a report by market research firm Synovate commissioned by Modern Education's parent company, which went public in 2011 and is one of a handful dominating the market. The industry has made some tutors extremely wealthy. One of the best known, Richard Eng, is famous for his love of Lamborghinis and Louis Vuitton. He's credited with kicking off the transformation of Hong Kong's tutoring industry starting around 1996 when he had the inspiration to market himself like a performer. While Chow won't say how much he earns, the top tutors can be paid many times what a public school teacher earns. Modern Education's highest paid tutor earns at least 16 million Hong Kong dollars ($2 million) a year, according to its parent company's latest annual report. The second highest earned $1.9 million and third highest made $1 million. Their identities were not disclosed. The salary figures may not include marketing costs, which the schools share with the tutors, who work as contractors. Chow says he spends thousands of dollars printing glossy exercise books he gives free to students. He split the cost of the bus ads, which cost HK$15,000 per bus, with Modern Education. Another tutor, Karson Oten Fan Karno, moonlights as a rapper and is popularly known by the name K. Oten. Lung Siu Kwan was a public school teacher who released an album of pop songs and was then recruited as a Chinese tutor by the King's Glory Education chain. Facebook profiles, YouTube videos and other social media are also part of the aggressive marketing tactics. "Every night after they finish their classes I will send them messages through WeChat," a popular smartphone app, said Chow. After all, he said, "the most powerful tool is word of mouth within students." To many students, the glamorized images of Hong Kong's celebrity tutors has also, paradoxically, made their regular teachers appear less credible. "It's like he has the teaching skills whereas I don't know if my teachers have the same qualification," said Amy Wong, a 16-year-old who was one of about 60 pupils taking Chow's weekly class on a recent night at branch in a suburban shopping mall. Some students watched the lesson through a glass wall — regulations limit classrooms to 45 pupils so cram schools get around this by subdividing the room. Others who couldn't make his live lesson watched a replay at other branches around the city. But the most they saw of Chow was a close-up of his hand using a pen to complete English idioms in a workbook while explaining almost exclusively in Cantonese. Questions from students are discouraged. Modern Education, which has 428,000 course enrollments, charges up to $74 for four of Chow's one-hour classes each month. Nearly three quarters of Hong Kong students attend tutorial classes, according to a survey by Mark Bray, director of Hong Kong University's Comparative Education Research Center. With the rate so high, others "that don't go to tutoring begin to feel nervous," Bray said. "The companies like that, the companies like nervous people and they trade on anxiety." Pressure is also rising after Hong Kong's education authorities in 2012 reduced the number of university entrance exams to one from two. The move was designed to reduce student anxiety but Bray said it had the opposite effect, turning it into a "make or break" test. He said Hong Kong's tutoring companies are using technology to lower costs to students, but that doesn't necessarily mean students are learning as much as they would if they had one-on-one tutoring. "It's a bit like the fast food Industry. You can go to a fancy restaurant and have white table cloth and beautiful music in the background or you can go to fast food," Bray said. "You can still fill your stomach but maybe the quality is different." __________ Follow Kelvin Chan at twitter.com/chanman Copyright (2013) Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
'American Hustle,' '12 Years a Slave' lead Golden Globes with 7 nominations each The searing historical epic "12 Years a Slave" and the con-artist caper "American Hustle" lead the 71st annual Golden Globes with seven nominations each. The nominations announced Thursday morning in Beverly Hills, Calif., by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association suggested "American Hustle" and "12 Years a Slave" — one farcical and outlandish, the other grimly accurate — may be this year's Oscar favorites. Hailed by critics as the movies' most unblinking portrait of slavery, "12 Years a Slave" verified its front-runner status with nominations including best film drama, Chiwetel Ejiofor for best actor in a drama, Steve McQueen for best director and Michael Fassbender and Lupita Nyong'o for their supporting roles. "American Hustle" dominated on the Globes' other category side: comedy or musical. The fictionalized story of the FBI's Abscam investigation in the late 1970s earned nominations for best movie comedy and David O. Russell for best director. Much of its starry cast received nominations, including lead actors Christian Bale and Amy Adams, as well as last year's Oscar darling, Jennifer Lawrence for best supporting actress. Also in the mix are Alexander Payne's father-son road trip "Nebraska," with five nominations, including best actor for Bruce Dern. The space odyssey "Gravity" earned four nominations, as did the Somali pirate thriller "Captain Phillips," starring Tom Hanks as the kidnapped cargo ship captain. Alfonso Cuaron's innovative 3-D spectacle "Gravity," for which star Sandra Bullock received a best actress nomination, should be a bigger Oscar heavyweight at the Academy Awards, which honor technical categories that the Globes don't. With more than $630 million in worldwide box office, "Gravity" also figures to be the populist favorite. This year's comedy competition — usually a mixed bag compared to the dramatic categories — could be the strongest field ever for the Globes. Aside from "American Hustle," the group includes Martin Scorsese's "The Wolf of Wall Street," Alexander Payne's "Nebraska," Spike Jonze's "Her" and the Coen brothers' "Inside Llewyn Davis." The soulful futuristic romance "Her" and '60s Greenwich Village folk tale "Inside Llewyn Davis" both reaped three nominations, including nods for its stars: newcomer Oscar Isaac for "Llewyn Davis" and Joaquin Phoenix for "Her." The last film of 2013 to screen, Scorsese's three-hour financial industry extravaganza had been one of the biggest question marks this awards season. After being snubbed Wednesday by the Screen Actors Guild Awards nominations, it earned a nomination for Leonardo DiCaprio's performance as an out-of-control Wall Street trader, along with the best picture nomination. The 77-year-old Dern rounds out best actor in a comedy for his performance as a taciturn Montana man who believes he's won a mailing sweepstakes. He's joined on the dramatic best actor side by another 77-year-old veteran, Robert Redford. The actor, who hasn't ever won an acting Oscar, was nominated by the Globes for his nearly unspoken performance as a man shipwrecked in the Indian Ocean in "All Is Lost." In the dramatic best picture category, "12 Years a Slave" was joined by "Captain Phillips," ''Gravity," ''Philomena" and "Rush." Most notably shutout was "Lee Daniels' The Butler," the Civil Rights history told through a long-serving White House butler played by Forest Whitaker. The awards and their boozy telecast are known for a desire to attract stars, even if their films aren't quite up to snuff. (It will be a long time before the HFPA, a collection of about 85 largely freelance journalists, lives down its nominations for Johnny Depp's "The Tourist.") This year's ceremony on Jan. 12 will again be hosted by Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, who led last year's broadcast to 19.7 million viewers, a significant bump for the Globes. They often serve a preamble to the more prestigious Oscars, which will be held March 2. This year's Cecil B. DeMille lifetime achievement award will be given to Woody Allen, who, long a absentee from award shows, isn't expected to attend. His latest film "Blue Jasmine," a portrait of a bitter, fallen socialite played by Cate Blanchett, won nominations Thursday for Blanchett and Sally Hawkins. The last two years, one of the Globes' best-picture winners went on to top the Academy Awards. Last year, the Globes awarded Ben Affleck's "Argo" best picture for drama. The year before that, the silent film ode "The Artist" won best picture for a comedy. Though the Globes are often known for idiosyncratic choices (last year "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen" received three nominations), their 2013 picks contained few oddities. Disney's making-of "Mary Poppins" tale "Saving Mr. Banks," a possible Oscar contender, fared poorly Thursday, earning only a nomination for Emma Thompson's lead performance as "Poppins" author P.L. Travers. While the Texas HIV drama "Dallas Buyers Club" was rewarded with expected nominations for Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto, it failed to land any others. McConaughey, Redford and Ejiofor are joined in best actor by Tom Hanks for "Captain Phillips" and Idris Elba, who plays the late Nelson Mandela in "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom." A film that could have easily been a theatrical release, Steven Soderbergh's Liberace drama "Behind the Candelabra," topped the Globes' television nominations. The HBO film helped lead the cable network to a leading nine nominations. The digital platform Netflix, though, emerged as a new challenger with six total nods. The subscription service's first major foray into original programming, the political thriller "House of Cards," tied "Candelabra" with four nominations. "House of Cards," produced by David Fincher and starring Kevin Spacey, is also a product of filmmakers who turned to the small screen. HBO leads all television networks with nine Globe nominations. ___ Online: http://www.goldenglobes.com ___ Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jake_coyle Copyright (2013) Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Neiman Marcus store honors Karl Lagerfeld a day after his Chanel fashion show in Dallas DALLAS (AP) — A day after Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld's extravagant Metiers d'Art fashion show in Dallas featuring models wearing fringe, feathers and leather, he accepted Neiman Marcus' fashion award at its flagship store on Wednesday. "Everything is bigger in Texas and Karl has finally found a place that thinks and acts on the epic scale that he does," Vogue editor Anna Wintour said during the ceremony. "Nowhere is his grand vision more evident than in his legendary fashion shows." Lagerfeld accepted the Neiman Marcus Award for Distinguished Service in the Field of Fashion, the same award that brought Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel to Dallas in 1957. Lagerfeld, who also won the award in 1980 for his work at Chloe, is the only person who's been given the honor twice. "We are beyond excited that the fashion world has converged on Dallas," said Karen Katz, president and CEO of Neiman Marcus. Lagerfeld picks a city linked to the Chanel fashion house for the theme of the show staged each December to highlight the work of its artisans. For Tuesday night's runway show at Dallas' Art Deco exhibition venue Fair Park, Chanel turned one of the halls into a barn, complete with a hay-scattered runway. Models sported Western-style hats and boots. Many outfits included Native American-inspired prints, with most of the models wearing a single feather in their hair. The final model was dressed in an all-white ensemble that included fringed pants and a floor-grazing feather headdress. Lagerfeld, who is German, said after the show Tuesday night that he was inspired by "the idea of the old Texas, even before the Civil War." Wintour said Wednesday that in addition to being a fashion designer, he's also "a writer, a photographer, a linguist, a critic, an illustrator, a raconteur, a historian, a collector, a movie director, a brilliant ballroom dancer." She added that he's also a "genius" at decorating who "changes the look of his sensational houses as often as you and I change our shoes." She said he's happiest at home with his cat, surrounded by his stacks of books, "sketching those beautiful, beautiful clothes for all of us to wear." Stanley Marcus, son of one of the store's founders, established the award in 1938. It was given yearly through the 1960s, and awarded intermittently in later years. Marcus, who eventually led Neiman Marcus, was given the award in 1995. Other recipients have included Grace Kelly, Miuccia Prada, Bill Blass and Elsa Schiaparelli. ___ Online: http://www.chanel.com http://www.neimanmarcus.com Copyright (2013) Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.