What a plot twist! The 89th Academy Awards ended in embarrassment when Moonlight earned best picture — but only after La La Land was mistakenly named the winner. The confusion may overshadow a markedly political ceremony, including a boycott from Iran’s Asghar Farhadi, who won best foreign language film and denounced the recent U.S. travel ban in a statement read by astronaut Anousheh Ansari. Casey Affleck, Emma Stone, Viola Davis and Mahershala Ali picked up acting trophies, while La La Land’s Damien Chazelle became the youngest person to ever win best director.
The Presidential Daily Brief
They agree. Like CNN and MSNBC, reportedly planning to skip April’s White House Correspondents Dinner, President Trump has politely declined his invitation, making him the first POTUS to bow out since gunshot-wounded Ronald Reagan. It’s a “nice reset opportunity,” said one organizer of the event, a jovial celebrity-studded power roast much criticized for blurring lines between ideally impartial reporters and the leader they cover. Meanwhile, top Democrats narrowly rejected a Bernie Sanders-backed candidate for party chairman, electing former Labor Secretary Tom Perez to command their struggle to regain traction.
It’s hard to keep up. Week five featured the U.S. secretary of state’s Mexico visit amid reports that immigration policy would send even non-Mexicans south of the border, a reversal of Barack Obama’s transgender bathroom rights directive, and reports that Trump tried to spike findings about administration officials’ dubious Russian contacts. So one could be forgiven for missing the fact that the previous week’s problem of replacing a Kremlin-tainted national security adviser was solved, with Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster bringing a new and nuanced view of Islam to the job.
Mia and Sebastian might not make it. Hollywood-celebrating La La Land is widely expected to sing and dance its way through tonight’s Academy Awards. But this politically charged era could throw the spotlight on Moonlight — about growing up poor, Black and gay — and knock the popular musical down a peg. Another titanic contest? Best Song, pitting La La’s “Audition” and “City of Stars” against Lin-Manuel “Hamilton” Miranda’s “How Far I’ll Go” from Disney’s Moana, while critically acclaimed Manchester by the Sea could deprive the hometown fav of screenplay honors.
Who’s picking and who’s choosing? According to one study, Americans reject farm jobs — and it’s little wonder. The hours are long, the work is tough, and a day’s labor might yield a paltry $60. So the job often falls to Mexicans who make up 93 percent of immigrant farm labor, many working illegally, others as part of a federal program that’s been compared to slavery. Now, as President Trump plans mass deportations, the farming industry will learn the accuracy of its warnings that such a scenario will leave produce rotting in the fields.
Will the real Vladimir Putin please stand up? Whether he’s an omniscient KGB genius, outmaneuvering opponents in the game of realpolitik, a cold-blooded killer, or just an ordinary chuvak from a working-class family, Western pundits are picking their straw man and attacking it as “Putinologists.” Yet sloppy characterizations tell us less about the Russian autocrat than about those who proffer them. In a time of crisis, some argue it’s morally bankrupt — perhaps ironically Putinesque — to find solace in disparaging a distant bad guy, rather than confronting our own problems.
Hit-and-Run Driver Fatally Injures Man in Germany, Malaysian Airport Cleared of Nerve Agent and CPAC Punked With Russian Flags
Know This: A motorist rammed a group of people in Heidelberg, Germany, injuring three people, one fatally, before police shot and captured the driver, a German citizen whose motive is unclear. A sweep of the Malaysian airport terminal where Kim Jong Un’s brother was murdered has found the airport to be free of the nerve agent that killed him. And a reportedly drunken truck driver has injured 28 people in a New Orleans parade ahead of Tuesday’s Mardi Gras celebration.
Wave This: “It’s fun to have a joke sometimes in a very serious situation.” — Jason Charter, 22, after he and a friend handed out 1,000 small “Trump”-emblazoned red, white and blue banners at the Conservative Political Action Conference, which members were photographed waving until organizers noticed they were Russian flags.
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His journey is over. In his most memorable cinematic supporting roles, Bill Paxton was floating: in the North Atlantic finding the wreck of Titanic; on troubled Apollo 13 moon modules; and aboard an Aliens- infested spaceship. Paxton, who died Saturday from heart surgery complications, found starring TV roles as a polygamist patriarch in Big Love in 2006, and led the cast of CBS’ new Training Day series. Tom Hanks, who worked with Paxton on Apollo 13 and the upcoming The Circle, remembered him as a “wonderful, wonderful man.”
They were caught matte red-handed. Seizure of faux cosmetics and perfume has soared in recent years, increasing 25 percent worldwide between 2011 and 2013. Companies like Estée Lauder are fighting back as counterfeiters have switched from hawking cheap knock-offs from card tables to such schemes as the recently exposed $1 million operation of a New Jersey couple who bought Chinese fakes in bulk and resold them. But big makeup may suffer bigger losses in the marketplace, where China’s growing middle class prefers spending disposable income on more proletarian brands of rouge.
It’s frightfully inconvenient. With Brexit looming, the EU’s London-based pharmaceutical regulator needs to move, and loyal European governments are already lobbying to host it. The European Medicines Agency, with 900 employees and a $341 million budget this year, is a coveted bureaucratic plum. The decision could hinge on politics to regional sensitivities to refugee flows, and some fear a bidding war, with Sweden, Denmark, Ireland and Italy seen as leading contenders. Bizarrely, there’s also a remote chance the agency could stay put in the name of continuity.
They lost them at “public.” Once integral to America’s democratic paradigm, public education’s decline is rooted in its democratization. Desegregation inspired the first taxpayer-funded voucher programs for 1950s “segregation academies” so white children could remain separate from Black pupils. More recently, parents seeking better education for their kids clamored for alternatives to troubled public schools, argues writer Nikole Hannah-Jones, and inadvertently helped undermine equal education for all — a trend that could be mitigated now that the institution is under threat by a voucher-touting education secretary.
The medium is the message. With movies based on video games often failing, Adi Shankar, producer of the upcoming Netflix show Castlevania, has declared that television is the new frontier. The animated series is based on the 1986 action/RPG that casts players as vampire hunters. Shankar promises the forthcoming show will be an unmitigated success, because Castlevania will put creativity before the bottom line, and follow in the meteoric rise of comic book adaptations from a genre catering to a narrow audience to a motif with blockbuster appeal across screens of any size.
The D-League’s bringing its A-game. The Development League was once seen as a black hole for hoop dreamers, misfits earning peanuts with no hope of NBA glory. Yet new partnership deals, notably with Gatorade, together with more funding, have transformed the league into a major minor. From its inaugural 2001 season — when just eight players from eight laughable franchises graduated to the big time — it now averages at least 30 NBA contracts a season, outpacing baseball’s long-honored farm system, and may soon expand well beyond its current 22 teams.