Keira Knightley Film Calls for Unity in Divided Times

Keira Knightley said her new film The Aftermath, set in the bombed-out ruins of Hamburg just after the end of World War II, had important lessons on building bridges that were very relevant for today’s divided societies.

The romantic drama sees Knightley play Rachael Morgan, who moves to Germany to be with her husband, a British colonel who has a leading role in the reconstruction effort in Hamburg. They move in with a German widower and his troubled daughter.

Her co-stars — Australian Jason Clarke who plays her husband Lewis, and Swedish Alexander Skarsgard who plays a German architect — also attended the world premiere Monday at London’s Picturehouse Central.

“It’s very relevant for now. It’s about building bridges, it’s about how we see each other as human beings and we don’t demonize each other and that’s obviously something that we need to do right now,” Knightley said.

The port city of Hamburg suffered a devastating bombing raid by the Allied forces in July 1943, known as “Operation Gomorrah,” that killed some 40,000 people and caused the destruction of swathes of the city.

“I knew nothing about the rebuilding of Germany … I haven’t thought about how unbelievably difficult it must have been to not only physically rebuild these places but also mentally for English and German people … who had been enemies, who had literally killed each other for six years, to suddenly forgive and move forward,” Knightley said.

Clarke said: “We’ve benefited so much from the Lewis Morgans who put Europe together … guys like him built it up and made Germany and Europe what it is today, we all stand on the threshold of wanting to tear it down.”

The Aftermath opens in cinemas in Britain on March 1, and in the United States on March 15.

Build a better website in less than an hour. Start for free at us.

US Supreme Court Rebuffs Defamation Suit Against Cosby

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday for a second time declined to take up a case related to sexual misconduct allegations against Bill Cosby, refusing to consider reviving a defamation lawsuit against the comedian filed by a woman who said he falsely called her a liar after she accused him of raping her in 1974.

The justices turned away an appeal by Kathrine McKee, an actress and former Las Vegas showgirl, of a lower court ruling in Massachusetts that threw out her lawsuit. Separately, Cosby was sentenced last September to three to 10 years in prison in Pennsylvania for sexually assaulting another woman in 2004.

The Supreme Court last October snubbed an appeal by Cosby in another defamation case, allowing a lawsuit brought by former model Janice Dickinson to go forward against the entertainer best known for his starring role in the 1980s hit television series “The Cosby Show.”

McKee went public with her rape accusation against Cosby in a 2014 interview with the New York Daily News. She is one of more than 50 women who in recent years have accused Cosby of sexual assault dating back to the 1960s by using drugs to incapacitate them.

An attorney for Cosby then sent a letter to the newspaper, suggesting McKee was a liar and calling her an unreliable source. In the letter, Cosby’s lawyer said McKee had admitted lying to get hired as a showgirl.

McKee sued Cosby for defamation in 2015 in federal court in Boston, saying the letter made false statements and harmed her reputation.

A trial judge in Springfield, Massachusetts in 2017 dismissed her claims, saying the lawsuit was barred by the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment guarantee of free speech. The Boston-based 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that ruling.

The appeals court said that by deliberately wading into the controversy, McKee had become a public figure, requiring her to prove Cosby acted with malice — meaning he knew his statements were false — to win a defamation claim.

McKee told the justices that she “should not be victimized twice over” by making it harder for her to prove defamation merely because she went public as an alleged victim.

Cosby, 81, was found guilty in April 2018 of three counts of aggravated indecent assault for the drugging and sexual assault of Andrea Constand, a former Temple University administrator, at his Philadelphia home in 2004. He was sentenced in that case on Sept. 25.

Build a better website in less than an hour. Start for free at us.

Designer Karl Lagerfeld, Chanel’s Global Icon, Dies in Paris

Karl Lagerfeld, the iconic couturier whose designs at Chanel and Fendi had an unprecedented impact on the entire fashion industry, died Tuesday in Paris, prompting an outpouring of love and admiration for the man whose career spanned six decades.

Although he spent virtually his entire career at luxury labels catering to the very wealthy — including 20 years at Chloe — Lagerfeld’s designs quickly trickled down to low-end retailers, giving him global influence.

Former supermodel Claudia Schiffer, who credits Lagerfeld as her mentor, called him her “magic dust.”

“What [Andy] Warhol was to art, he was to fashion; he is irreplaceable,” she said.

The German-born designer may have spent much of his life in the public eye — his trademark white ponytail, high starched collar and dark glasses are instantly recognizable — but he remained a largely elusive figure.

Such was the enigma surrounding the octogenarian Lagerfeld that even his age was a point of mystery for decades, with reports he had two birth certificates, one dated 1933 and the other 1938.

In 2013, Lagerfeld told the French magazine “Paris Match” he was born in September of 1935 — which would make him 83 today — but in 2019 his assistant still didn’t know the truth — telling The Associated Press he liked “to scramble the tracks on his year of birth — that’s part of the character.”

Chanel confirmed that Lagerfeld, who had looked increasingly frail in recent seasons, died early Tuesday in Paris. Last month, he did not come out to take a bow at the house’s couture show in Paris — a rare absence that the company attributed to him being “tired.”

“An extraordinary creative individual, Lagerfeld reinvented the brand’s codes created by Gabrielle Chanel: the Chanel jacket and suit, the little black dress, the precious tweeds, the two-tone shoes, the quilted handbags, the pearls and costume jewelry,” Chanel said.

The brand’s CEO Alain Wertheimer praised Lagerfeld for an “exceptional intuition” that was ahead of his time and contributed to Chanel’s global success.

“Today, not only have I lost a friend, but we have all lost an extraordinary creative mind to whom I gave carte blanche in the early 1980s to reinvent the brand,” he said.

Chanel said Virginie Viard, his longtime head of studio, will create the house’s upcoming collections, but did not say whether her appointment was permanent.

Tributes from fellow designers, Hollywood celebrities, models and politicians quickly poured in. Donatella Versace thanked Lagerfeld for the way he inspired her and her late brother Gianni Versace.

Lagerfeld was one of the most hardworking figures in the fashion world, joining luxury Italian fashion house Fendi in 1965 and later becoming its longtime womenswear design chief in 1977, as well as leading designs at Paris’ family-owned power-house Chanel since 1983.

While at Fendi, Lagerfeld helped create the notion of fun fur, lending an ease to a formal wardrobe topper by adding stylized touches.

At Chanel, he served up youthful designs that were always of the moment and sent out almost infinite variations on the house’s classic skirt suit, ratcheting up the hemlines or smothering it in golden chains, stings of pearls or pricey accessories.

Wit was never far behind any collection.

“Each season, they tell me [the Chanel designs] look younger. One day we’ll all turn up like babies,” he once told The Associated Press.

His outspoken and often stinging remarks on topics as diverse as French politics and celebrity waistlines won him the nickname “Kaiser Karl” in the fashion media. Among the most acid comments included calling former French President Francois Hollande an “imbecile” who would be “disastrous” for France in Marie-Claire, and telling The Sun British tabloid that he didn’t like the face of Pippa Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge’s sister.

“She should only show her back,” he advised.

Lagerfeld was also heavily criticized for sending out a negative message to women when he told France’s Metro newspaper that British singer Adele was “a little too fat.”

Despite this, he was very kind to his staff at Chanel, generous with his time with journalists and shared his Parisian mansion with a Siamese cat called Choupette.

“She is spoilt, much more than a child could be,” he told the AP in 2013.

Lagerfeld had little use for nostalgia and kept his gaze firmly on the future. Well into his 70s, he was quick to embrace new technology: He famously had a collection of hundreds of iPods. A photographer who shot ad campaigns for Chanel and his own eponymous label, Lagerfeld also collected art books and had a massive library and a bookstore as well as his own publishing house.

He was also an impressive linguist, switching between perfect French, English, Italian and his native German during interviews at fashion shows.

Even as he courted the spotlight, he made a deliberate effort to hide what was going on behind his trademark dark shades.

“I am like a caricature of myself, and I like that,” British Vogue quoted Lagerfeld as saying. “It is like a mask. And for me the Carnival of Venice lasts all year long.”

After cutting his teeth at Paris-based label Chloe, Lagerfeld helped revive the flagging fortunes of the storied Paris haute couture label Chanel in the `80s. There, he helped launch the careers of supermodels including Schiffer, Ines de la Fressange and Stella Tennant.

In a move that helped make him a household name, Lagerfeld designed a capsule collection for Swedish fast-fashion company H&M in 2004 and released a CD of his favorite music shortly after.

A weight-loss book he published in 2005 — “The Karl Lagerfeld Diet” — consolidated his status as a pop culture icon. In the book, Lagerfeld said it was his desire to fit into slim-cut Dior suits that had motivated his dramatic transformation.

The son of an industrialist who made a fortune in condensed milk and his violinist wife, Lagerfeld was born into an affluent family in Hamburg, Germany. He had artistic ambitions early on. In interviews, he variously said he wanted to become a cartoonist, a portraitist, an illustrator or a musician.

“My mother tried to instruct me on the piano. One day, she slammed the piano cover closed on my fingers and said, `draw, it makes less noise,” he was quoted as saying in the book “The World According to Karl.”

At 14, Lagerfeld came to Paris with his parents and went to school in the City of Light. His fashion career got off to a precocious start when, in 1954, a coat he designed won a contest by the International Wool Secretariat. His rival, Yves Saint Laurent, won that year’s contest in the dress category.

Lagerfeld apprenticed at Balmain and in 1959 was hired at another Paris-based house, Patou, where he spent four years as artistic director. After a series of jobs with labels including Rome-based Fendi, Lagerfeld took over the reins at Chloe, known for its romantic Parisian style.

Lagerfeld also started his own label, Karl Lagerfeld, which though less commercially successful than his other ventures, was widely seen as a sketchpad where the designer worked through his ideas.

In 1983, he took over at Chanel, which had been dormant since the death of its founder, Coco Chanel, more than a decade earlier.

“When I took on Chanel, it was a sleeping beauty — not even a beautiful one,” he said in the 2007 documentary “Lagerfeld Confidential.” “She snored.”

For his debut collection for the house, Lagerfeld injected a dose of raciness, sending out a translucent navy chiffon number that prompted scandalized headlines.

He never ceased to shake up the storied house, sending out a logo-emblazoned bikini so small the top looked like pasties on a string and another collection that dispensed entirely with bottoms, with the models wearing little jackets over opaque tights instead.

Lagerfeld was open about his homosexuality — he once said he announced it to his parents at 13 — but kept his private life under wraps. Following his relationship with a French aristocrat who died of AIDS in 1989, Lagerfeld insisted he prized his solitude above all.

“I hate when people say I’m `solitaire’ [or solitary.] Yes, I’m solitaire in the sense of a stone from Cartier, a big solitaire,” Lagerfeld told The New York Times. “I have to be alone to do what I do. I like to be alone. I’m happy to be with people, but I’m sorry to say I like to be alone, because there’s so much to do, to read, to think.”

As much as he loved the spotlight, Lagerfeld was careful to obscure his real self.

“It’s not that I lie, it’s that I don’t owe the truth to anyone,” he told French Vogue.

Build a better website in less than an hour. Start for free at us.

Artists Create Contemporary Take on Ancient Art Form

Levitating objects and plastic boxes may not seem to have anything to do with landscape painting, but they are the contemporary take on an ancient Chinese art style called “shan shui hua” or mountain water painting.

Dating back more than 1,000 years, this style of landscape painting, which uses brush and ink, has evolved over time. The art form is evolving once again in an exhibit called “Lightscapes: Re-envisioning the Shanshuihua” at the Chinese American Museum in Los Angeles.

The goal of Nick Dong and Chi-Tsung Wu, the two artists in the exhibit, is to connect the new, digital generation to this traditional type of art and to capture its essence in a new way through modern technology. 

The exhibit forces the viewer to slow down and experience a different world. That’s one of the objectives of the ancient masters of Chinese shan shui paintings.

Escape from reality

“Actually, it was for all these artists to create a world which they want to hide, avoid, escape from reality. So, they create a mountain (and) imagine they could live there,” said Dong, an artist born in Taiwan who now lives in Northern California.

Trained in both Chinese and Western art styles, Dong and Wu use experimental materials and light in the various art pieces in the exhibit. 

In a contemporary approach to what’s real and what is not, one installation involves a slowly moving light directed at clear plastic boxes attached to a wall.

“If we see this through the light, through the different perspective, we could see there’s another world behind that,” Wu said about his installation called Crystal City.

That other world Wu referenced are shadows that look more real and solid than the actual plastic boxes. Wu said the art installation is symbolic of the modern digital age.

“We spend most of our time in our daily life, no matter to work or to our social life or our entertainment, all on this cyberspace,” he said.

That space is an escape for many people similar to the landscape paintings.

Philosophy and the spiritual

To capture the philosophical elements of the landscape painting, magnets are used to levitate objects to show that there is a force between everything in nature.

Another art piece in the exhibit is a take on one’s relationship with the universe. To view Dong’s representation of heaven, one has to step into a room filled with mirrors from ceiling to floor. There is a stool in the middle of the room.

“We’re all searching. We’re all longing for growth, become better and, ultimately, good enough to go to heaven. So, in my mind, heaven is a place of selfless, so eventually once you’ve entered the installation, at first you’ll see a lot of your reflection. But once you sit down, you trigger the mechanism of the room. The mirror actually starts to reflect, and you yourself will disappear within the space. You vanish. All you have is this empty, wide-open space. For me, it’s the ultimate evolution,” Dong explained.

The art pieces in the exhibit are ways the artists hope the modern-day viewer will be able to experience what the ancient artists of the landscape paintings were trying to achieve. 

“They (ancient scholars) were able to say, ‘We’re seeking a spiritual outlet. We’re seeking a way to refine the spirit and refine the soul.’ This work, today, it’s hard to have that experience with the traditional artwork because they’re such a contained device. You see them in a museum under glass, and they’re hard to approach,” said Justin Hoover curator of the Chinese American Museum, Los Angeles.

Contemporary artists hope their use of lighting and experimental materials will make an ancient art form more tangible and real in the 21st century.

Build a better website in less than an hour. Start for free at us.

Artists Emulate Ancient Art With Modern Technology

Dating back more than 1000 years ago, the style of Chinese landscape painting that uses brush and ink has evolved over time. This traditional art form is evolving once again in an exhibit called “Lightscapes: Re-envisioning the Shanshuihua.” It is on display at the Chinese American Museum in Los Angeles. The goal: to connect the new, digital generation to this type of art and capture its essence in a new way. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee has the details

Build a better website in less than an hour. Start for free at us.

Indonesia Submits Bid to Host 2032 Olympics

Indonesia has submitted a bid to host the 2032 Olympics, the state news agency said on Tuesday, after winning praise for hosting last year’s Asian Games, though it could face competition from India and a joint bid by North and South Korea.

Indonesia’s ambassador to Switzerland submitted a letter from President Joko Widodo to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) last week.

“The IOC has acknowledged Indonesia’s capabilities during the Asian Games and Asian Paragames of 2018,” the Antara news agency quoted Ambassador Muliaman D. Hadad as saying. “We feel that is a strong foundation.”

A senior official in the coordinating ministry for human development and culture, Gunawan, who goes by one name, confirmed the bid.

If Southeast Asia’s most populous nation wins the opportunity to host the summer Olympics, it would become the fourth Asian country to do so, after Japan, China and South Korea. The IOC will pick the 2032 host by the year 2025.

Tokyo is to host the next Summer Olympics in 2020, with Paris holding the 2024 Games and Los Angeles confirmed to host the event four years later.

Build a better website in less than an hour. Start for free at us.

Puck, Goal, Sticks And A Snorkel: Underwater Hockey Stages A Comeback

The sport of hockey – where players use hockey sticks to knock a puck into a goal – is now not just limited to being played on ice or on the field. It can be played underwater too by players equipped with snorkels and fins. Underwater hockey, which first appeared in the U.S. in the 1950s – is making a comeback with a splash! Maxim Moskalkov has the story.

Build a better website in less than an hour. Start for free at us.

Carnival Season Looks to Cheer Up Gloomy Winter Days

This past weekend marked the start of the carnival season which will culminate with Mardi Gras on March 5. People around the world will attend costume parties, watch parades and enjoy abundant meals before the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday. Christian tradition dictates observance of about six weeks of moderation and prayer in preparation for Easter, which falls on Sunday, April 21, this year. VOA’s Zlatica Hoke reports.

Build a better website in less than an hour. Start for free at us.

NYC’s Chinatown Welcomes Year of the Pig With Vvibrant Parade

Drums, dragons and dancers paraded through New York’s Chinatown on Sunday to usher in the Year of the Pig in the metropolis with the biggest population of Chinese descent of any city outside Asia.

Confetti and spectators a half-dozen or more deep at points lined the route of the Lunar New Year Parade in lower Manhattan.

“The pig year is one of my favorite years, because it means lucky — everybody likes lucky — and, for me, a relationship or family” and a better life, Eva Zou said as she awaited the marchers. “Because I just moved here several months ago, so it’s a big challenge for me, but I feel so happy now.”

There’s an animal associated with every year in the 12-year Chinese astrological cycle, and the Year of the Pig started Feb. 5.

Some marchers sported cheerful pink pig masks atop traditional Chinese garb of embroidered silk. Others played drums, banged gongs or held aloft big gold-and-red dragons on sticks, snaking the creatures along the route. Someone in a panda costume marched with a clutch of well-known children’s characters, including Winnie the Pooh, Cookie Monster and Snoopy.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, both Democrats, were among the politicians in the lineup, where Chinese music mixed with bagpipers and a police band played “76 Trombones,” from the classic musical “The Music Man.”

The lunar year is centered on the cycles of the moon and begins in January or February. Last year was the Year of the Dog.

While some parade-goers were familiar with the Chinese zodiac, others said they were just there to enjoy the cultural spectacle or partake in a sense of auspicious beginning.

“We’re here to get good luck for the year,” said Luz Que, who came to the parade with her husband, Jonathan Rosa.

His hopes for the Year of the Pig?

“Wellness, well-being and happiness,” he said.

Build a better website in less than an hour. Start for free at us.

Fiascos and Fumbles: Oscar Organizers Stumble to Restore Glory

First it was the furor over a proposed new “popular” film category, then it was the fiasco over planned host Kevin Hart, and last month the organizers of the Oscars were accused of intimidating celebrities not to present at rival award shows.

Last week, another storm erupted when, as part of a pledge to shorten next Sunday’s Oscars ceremony, plans to present awards for cinematography, film editing, live-action shorts and makeup/hairstyling during commercial breaks were slammed as insulting by actors, directors and cinematographers. Five days later, the plan was scrapped.

It’s been a tough 12 months for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as it battles to restore its annual Oscars show to a must-see event after the U.S. television audience slumped to an all-time low last year.

“This year, the bigger question than who will win at the Oscars is what the heck is going on at the academy?” said Tim Gray, awards editor at Hollywood trade publication Variety.

“There have been a slew of bungles,” Gray added. “I feel they are flailing around and acting out of desperation.”

Under pressure from the ABC television network to trim and liven up the ceremony, the academy has seen many of its efforts backfire.

Bungles include a retreat in September over a proposed new “popular film” category, the withdrawal in December of Oscars host Kevin Hart because of past homophobic tweets, and an accusation in January by the U.S. actors union that the academy was pressuring celebrities not to appear or present at award ceremonies other than the Oscars.

The Oscars is the last in a long Hollywood season that sees award shows and celebrity-packed red carpets every week over two months.

“The academy is caught between its role as a venerable institution that confers honors for the ages on film and the demands of the hurly-burly of social media, the 24/7 news cycle and the demands of the ratings,” said Sharon Waxman, founder and editor in chief of Hollywood website The Wrap.

‘People really care’

The academy did not return a request for comment for this story, but said in a letter to members last week that show producers “have given great consideration to both Oscar tradition and our broad global audience.”

ABC Entertainment President Karey Burke told reporters earlier this month she believed that the publicity around the Kevin Hart withdrawal showed the Oscars was still relevant.

“I, ironically, have found that the lack of clarity around the Oscars has kept the Oscars really in the conversation, and that the mystery has really been compelling,” Burke said. “People really care.”

The missteps have all but drowned out initial kudos over this year’s diverse Oscar nominations list, which range from art house films like “Roma” to superhero blockbuster “Black Panther” and crowd-pleasing musicals “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “A Star is Born.”

Awards watchers say the Academy’s efforts to deliver a compelling show for viewers next week still risk falling flat.

“The Academy is dealing yet again with what appears to be a leading film that is a very small film, in Spanish, and in black and white, that has not been seen by that many people, Waxman said, referring to best picture front-runner “Roma.”

Recent best-picture winners include small art-house films “The Shape of Water” last year and “Moonlight” in 2017.

“That is the more fundamental problem the Academy is facing with this telecast,” Waxman added.

Variety’s Gray said that, for the movie industry, the Oscars ceremony is always an enjoyable family get-together.

“The Oscars should also be fun for the viewing audience,” he said. “We will see if they are.”

Build a better website in less than an hour. Start for free at us.