ARTS & LEISURE Tuesday, January 1, 2013 FDR ‘most formidable character’ Bill Murray’s played By John Horn Los Angeles Times/ MCT Actors are used to pressure, but the task before Bill Murray in “Hyde Park on Hudson” was more than a little stressful. Director Roger Michell said that if the “Ghostbusters” and “Groundhog Day” veteran didn’t want to star as Franklin Delano Roosevelt, he wouldn’t make the movie at all, and Murray knew he would be playing someone so famous, as the actor put it, that “he’s on the dime!” Although the film has received mixed reviews, the 62-year-old Murray has attracted some critical attention for his performance as FDR, including a Golden Globe nomination for lead actor in a comedy or musical, a category that includes Hugh Jackman from “Les Miserables” and Bradley Cooper for “Silver Linings Playbook.” “Hyde Park” isn’t the only Murray movie receiving award consideration. Wes Anderson’s comedy “Moonrise Kingdom,” in which Murray plays the father of a runaway girl, is a contender for the original screenplay Academy Award and a dark horse for the best picture Oscar shortlist. Set on the eve of World War II, “Hyde Park on Hudson” focuses on the 32nd president’s many romantic entanglements, most prominently his love affair with distant cousin Margaret “Daisy” Suckley (Laura Linney), just as King George VI (Samuel West) and Queen Elizabeth (Olivia Colman) are coming to visit the president at his New York vacation compound. As written by playwright Richard Nelson, the movie largely steers clear of global or even national politics. Instead, “Hyde Park” is chiefly concerned with FDR’s juggling of so many women, including his wife, Eleanor (Olivia Williams). In one of the film’s most striking scenes, the president’s sexual relationship with Daisy commences with some unusual philandering in the front of the president’s convertible. In a late summer conversation at the Telluride Film Festival, Murray said he was attracted to the movie because it offered an unsentimental look at an unusual couple who, though not lonely, were clearly needy. “It’s not necessarily romantic,” the actor said. “But it is intimate. These are two people who need each other.” The movie is informed in large part by Suckley’s diaries and correspondence with FDR, which Murray read along with a number of biographies. “Her stuff is on a completely different level,” Murray said. “He is saying stuff to her that he doesn’t share with anyone else. This is someone he trusted. She was intelligent. She was not a dowdy, hopeless woman.” Murray called FDR “the most formidable character” he’d ever played and spent months researching the president’s life and listened to recordings of Roosevelt to approximate FDR’s voice. Michell said he wanted only Murray because audiences grant him the slack that the role necessitates. “He has a charismatic charm as an actor that lets you forgive his character’s mischief,” the filmmaker said. His younger sister’s contracting polio as an infant helped guide the stoicism found in Murray’s performance. Her treatments in the 1950s included immersion in scalding water, and Murray recalled hearing her screams. “That shaped the state I was in while I worked because I realized she didn’t complain about anything.” Although he’s not working as frequently as some of his peers, Murray could return next awards season with another two contenders under his belt: He has George Clooney’s “The Monuments Men” MCT and Anderson’s next film, “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” both due Laura Linney stars as Daisy, left, and Bill Murray stars as FDR in Roger Michell’s out next year. historical tale “Hyde Park On Hudson,” a Focus Features release. ‘The Hobbit’ stays atop box office for third week LOS ANGELES, AP AFP A block of art A sculptor looks at his work as he carves a block of ice into a cricket in front of a crowd at the Machines de l’Ile, an artistic venue in Nantes, western France, on Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012. “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” continues to rule them all at the box office, staying on top for a third-straight week and capping a record-setting US$10.8 billion year in moviegoing. The Warner Bros. fantasy epic from director Peter Jackson, based on the beloved J.R.R. Tolkien novel, made nearly US$33 million this weekend, according to Sunday studio estimates, despite serious competition from some much-anticipated newcomers. It’s now made a whopping US$686.7 million worldwide and US$222.7 million domestically alone. Two big holiday movies — and potential Academy Awards contenders — also had strong openings. Quentin Tarantino’s spaghetti Western-blaxploitation mashup “Django Unchained” came in second place for the weekend with US$30.7 million. The Weinstein Co. revenge comedy, starring Jamie Foxx as a slave in the Civil War South and Christoph Waltz as the bounty hunter who frees him and then makes him his partner, has earned US$64 million since its Christmas Day opening. And in third place with US$28 million was the sweeping, allsinging “Les Miserables,” based on the international musical sensation and the Victor Hugo novel of strife and uprising in 19th century France. The Universal Pictures film, with a cast of A-list actors singing live on camera led by Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway and Russell Crowe has made US$67.5 million domestically and US$116.2 worldwide since debuting on Christmas. Additionally, the smash-hit James Bond adventure “Skyfall” has now made US$1 billion internationally to become the most successful film yet in the 50-year franchise, Sony Pictures announced Sunday. The film stars Daniel Craig for the third time as the iconic British superspy. “This is a great final weekend of the year,” said Paul Dergarabedian, an analyst for box-office tracker Hollywood.com. “How perfect to end this year on such a strong note with the top five films performing incredibly well.” The week’s other new wide release, the Billy Crystal-Bette Midler comedy “Parental Guid- ance” from 20th Century Fox, made US$14.8 million over the weekend for fourth place and US$29.6 million total since opening on Christmas. Dergarabedian described the holding power of “The Hobbit” in its third week as “just amazing.” Jackson shot the film, the first of three prequels to his massively successful “Lord of the Rings” series, in 48 frames per second — double the normal frame rate — for a crisper, more detailed image. It’s also available in the usual 24 frames per second and both 2-D and 3-D projections. “I think people are catching up with the movie. Maybe they’re seeing it in multiple formats,” he said. “I think it’s just a big epic that feels like a great way to end the moviegoing year. There’s momentum there with this movie.” “Django Unchained” is just as much of an epic in its own stylishly violent way that’s quintessentially Tarantino. Erik Lomis, The Weinstein Co.’s president of theatrical distribution, said the opening exceeded the studio’s expectations. “We’re thrilled with it, clearly. We knew it was extremely com- petitive at Christmas, particularly when you look at the start ‘Les Miz’ got. We were sort of resigned to being behind them. The fact that we were able to overtake them over the weekend was just great,” Lomis said. “Taking nothing away from their number, it’s a tribute to the playability of ‘Django.’” “Les Miserables” went into its opening weekend with nearly US$40 million in North American grosses, including US$18.2 on Christmas Day. That’s the secondbest opening ever on the holiday following “Sherlock Holmes,” which made US$24.9 million on Christmas 2009. Tom Hooper, in a follow-up to his Oscar-winner “The King’s Speech,” directs an enormous, ambitious take on the beloved musical which has earned a CinemaScore of “A” from audiences and “A-plus” from women. Nikki Rocco, Universal’s head of distribution, said the debut for “Les Miserables” also beat the studio’s expectations. “That US$18.2 million Christmas Day opening — people were shocked ... This is a musical!” she said. “Once people see it, they talk about how fabulous it is.” Kanye West tells fans at concert that he, Kim Kardashian are expecting first child ‘African Grammys’ hit by series of hitches By Mesfin Fekadu ATLANTIC CITY, New Jersey, AP A kid for Kimye: Kanye West and Kim Kardashian are expecting their first child. The rapper announced at a concert Sunday night that his girlfriend is pregnant. He told the crowd of more than 5,000 at Revel Resort’s Ovation Hall in song form: “Now you having my baby.” The crowd roared. Most of the Kardashian clan tweeted about the news, including Kim’s sisters and mother. Kourtney Kardashian wrote: “Another angel to welcome to our family. Overwhelmed with excitement!” West also told concertgoers to congratulate his “baby mom” and that this was the “most amazing thing.” Representatives for West and Kardashian didn’t immediately respond to emails about the pregnancy. The rapper and reality TV star went public in March. Kardashian married NBA player Kris Humphries in August 2011 and their divorce is not finalized. West’s Sunday night show was his third consecutive performance at Revel. He took the stage for nearly two hours, performing hits like “Good Life,” “Jesus Walks” and “Clique” in an all-white ensemble with two band mates. Passion and idealism of arts council in Pakistan strike a finely pitched harmony By Taimoor Farouk LAHORE, Pakistan Dawn/ Asia News Network Of all the musical instruments being taught at Alhamra Arts Council in Lahore, the guitar is by far the most popular. On a typical evening at the iconic performing arts venue, dozens of young aspiring musicians can be seen strumming their guitars. “Routine practice,” one would think. But what distinguishes them from others is a combination of raw passion and idealism: all of them want to make it big; and that too, in the shortest time possible. For 18-year-old Taimoor Hassan, making it big means to become a rock star. “Initially it was Atif Aslam, but recently I’ve been inspired by Ranbir Kapoor,” he says. Taimoor is referring to the 2011 Bollywood film “Rockstar” in which Ranbir plays Jordan — a college student who dreams of becoming a rock star but is laughed at by his friends. Of course, after a series of ups and downs, Jordan succeeds and gains a cult following in the process. While in real life there is no musical romantic drama at play but by no means does that imply Taimoor is not serious about making his dream come true. In fact, at 18, he’s already said goodbye to PAF Public School in Sargodha and moved to Lahore to follow his passion. “I do have an opportunity to learn from an acclaimed qawwal, but guitar is what I really want to play,” he says. If Taimoor’s struggle to become a musician is inspiring, meet another 20-year-old, Armughan Sarwar who has come from Sialkot to join the guitar class. “I’m not interested in studying any further since I’ve already decided that music is what I want to pursue ... its tough but I know I can do it.” Armughan’s story began years dpa Of all the instruments taught at Alhamra Arts Council, guitar is the most popular. ago when along with three close friends of his, he decided to form a band and create patriotic songs. Since none of them knew how to play an instrument at the time, they decided to divide responsibilities. Armughan is learning to play the guitar here in Lahore and whenever he goes back to Sialkot, he teaches it to his future band member who will be playing the lead guitar. Similarly, the third and fourth members of the band are learning to play the drums and keyboard. “I don’t have support from my family and I don’t expect them to provide me any either,” says Armughan, who is currently looking for a night job so he can practice during the day. “A guitar is the trendiest out of all the instruments and I love how it draws attention,” he adds. What really draws attention, however, is the similar fashion sense of these aspiring guitarists. The flashy bracelets, skull caps, torn jeans and sunglasses worn by them, seem to have come out of one huge box from the sets of “Rockstar.” Everything is so similar that at first glance one cannot help but discredit the individualities of these musicians. “But there is more to it than meets the eye,” says their instruc- tor Sajjad Tafu, an accomplished eastern classical guitarist hailing from the Muzang Gharana of Lahore. “Currently the class consists of 30 students and all of them are so talented and committed that I do whatever I can to help them,” he says. Tafu mentions that many of his former students have become professional guitarists while others are teaching music at various colleges and universities. A former student of his, Safeer Jaffery, is already in the limelight. The 20-year-old singer/songwriter has performed at colleges around Lahore and has his own house band. Jaffery plans to collaborate with Ahmed Jahanzaib and Sanam Marvi in the near future. “Like any other art form, learning to play the guitar properly requires patience and practice and its not as easy as some of these kids think,” Tafu adds. Tafu is right. The dreams of these youngsters may not be the most realistic, but the commitment and passion displayed by them in learning the art of music has no bounds. Above all, they represent a generation that progressives such as Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, Mohammad Ali Jinnah and others had envisioned. ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast, AFP A music awards show dubbed the “African Grammys” was hit by an embarrassing series of hitches culminating in the absence Sunday of star Chris Brown and an apology by the organizer. The show had been delayed from Saturday to enable rapper Brown to attend, with organizer Ernest Adjovi initially blaming the delay on Brown missing his flight but later saying heavy rains and other logistical hiccups were behind the postponement. Brown finally arrived with singer Rihanna in the Ivory Coast city of Abidjan on Sunday, when he was due to perform at the glitzy Kora Awards that recognize musical achievements from around the continent. But while the Koras were going on at a luxury hotel, the U.S. singer was a few minutes away in the national stadium performing at a much-delayed concert for “Peace in Africa.” Benin businessman Adjovi later apologized for the numerous “dysfunctions” that had occurred during the three-hour ceremony. R&B star Brown landed overnight in Abidjan, the Ivorian eco- AFP Dancers perform during the Kora Awards ceremony in Abidjan, on Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012. The show was hit by an embarrassing series of hitches. nomic capital. Rihanna, who hails from Barbados, was by his side, wearing dark glasses. The pair have a tumultuous history, and celebrity watchers obsessed about whether they are an item again after Brown admitted assaulting Rihanna in a case dating back several years. Brown was sentenced to five years probation, a yearlong domestic violence program and 180 days of community labor after pleading guilty to assaulting Rihanna on the eve of the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles in 2009. Ivorian quartet Magic System won the Kora award for best African group of the year while best artiste from the continent was DJ Arafat, another Ivorian. Chidinma from Nigeria enchanted the ceremony and won the award for best musician from west Africa, while Algerian rai singer Cheb Khaled was best north African artiste, and French rap group Sexion d’Assaut took the award for the “African diaspora” in Europe. Chris Brown, whom fans call “Breezy,” won the U.S. equivalent. “Mama” Patience Dabany, former first lady of Gabon and mother of current head of state Ali Bongo, was proclaimed “woman of the year.” Past Kora ceremonies have been attended by South African anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela and the late “King of Pop” Michael Jackson. For Ivory Coast, which is still recovering from four months of postelection violence that ended in April 2011 after claiming some 3,000 lives, the event signals a return to normality. But the awards have drawn fire over the price of admission, with tickets costing 1 million CFA francs (US$2,000) for a seat in the luxury hotel for the ceremony. Such a sum is far from the reach of people in this poor west African country, the world’s top cocoa producer. Painter shows his class in Tibetan village By Huang Zhiling CHENGDU, China China Daily/Asia News Network A group of women and children gather in a remote village square in Shiqu county, Sichuan’s Garze Tibetan autonomous prefecture. The children all have books in their hands, which arouses the attention of artist Wang Qijun. The 58-year-old professor of the Beijing-based China Central Academy of Fine Arts follows the kids into a temple as they sit in front of a Buddha statue, attended by a lama in a red robe. Preoccupied with their studies the students ignore him as the sunlight streams in through a window and inspires Wang to paint “Tibetan Class in the Village.” The painting is one of many Wang has done in the wake of his trip to the Tibetan-inhabited ar- eas of Sichuan in December 2011. Together with Tian Haipeng, vice president of the CCAFA, Wang led a delegation of painters from the academy for a weeklong trip to the area, where they visited Tibetan villages and talked to local art students. Situated on the plateau 3,000 to 4,000 meters above sea level, Sichuan’s Tibetan areas used to be poor but have improved economically in recent years, which is reflected in Wang’s oil paintings. Walking on a country road in Ma’nai village, Jinchuan, Wang sees a young mother carrying her child and walking under the sun. “The intense sunlight turned the mother and child into glowing colors and I felt the warmth of maternal love and did the oil painting Heart Filled with Love.” This was not Wang’s first visit to Tibetan-inhabited areas: “I visited as a painter for the first time in 1985. That year, I went through Gansu and Qinghai provinces to enter Tibet.” Roads were inaccessible and the long-distance bus could travel only about 200 km in a single day. “When we were near Qinghai Lake, 3,300 meters above sea level, the bus broke down. The Tibetan driver spent more than five hours repairing it. As I could not speak Tibetan, I had to wait patiently and we had no water to drink,” Wang recalls. When he visited a farming area in southern Tibet in 1997, Wang could readily appreciate all the changes taking place. “Many Tibetan children attended schools in big cities like Beijing and Shanghai. The state paid for their education. When I talked with their parents, the children could speak fluent Mandarin and interpret for us,” he says. He saw further improvements in living standards during his visit in December 2011. Herdsmen had fixed up their residences and they all had TV sets and cellphones, Wang says. He says that when he visited a Ganbao Tibetan village square in Lixian county, Sichuan’s Aba Tibetan and Qiang autonomous prefecture, locals were celebrating the Tibetan New Year. “When I chatted with an old Tibetan woman, her son called from outside their hometown. “I instantly felt what a happy life meant. It became the inspiration for the oil painting ‘Message of Spring.’” US beauty queen shocked by US$5 mil. defamation ruling million for defamation. A Pennsylvania beauty queen Former Miss Pennsylvania USA who resigned after alleging that Sheena Monnin tells the Pittsburgh the Miss USA pageant had been Tribune-Review that the “most fixed says she is stunned by an logical course” would be to contest arbitrator’s ruling that she must the ruling, but she’s considering pay the pageant organization US$5 her options. PITTSBURGH, AP Arbitrator Theodore Katz says Monnin’s allegations that finalists had been selected in advance were false, harmful and malicious and cost the pageant a US$5 million fee from a potential 2013 sponsor. Monnin points to a Miss USA contract clause giving top pageant officials the power to pick the top five finalists and the winner, but a company official calls that a catch-all that’s never been used.
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