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15 movies you can buy a virtual ticket to this weekend – Vox.com

In the wake of theater closings due to the Covid-19 coronavirus, and as turmoil roils in the entertainment industry, many film distributors and theater owners have been scrambling to find ways to keep their businesses alive.

Quickly, art-house theaters began working with distributors to adopt virtual theater models. It works like this: Patrons buy a ticket to a film through a theater that had originally planned to show it. They receive a link to watch the film, usually within a window of a few days, often with a marquee branded by the individual theater. And theaters and distributors share the profits from the ticket sale, which means those businesses have a greater chance of still being viable when the crisis has passed. When the films theatrical run is over, the tickets will no longer be available (though most films will eventually come to on-demand services weeks or months later).

One silver lining of this virtual theater boom is that people from all over the country including those who dont live anywhere near a theater that would have shown the film under normal circumstances can now see the movie during its theatrical run and participate in conversations about it, all while giving business to an independent film distributor somewhere that likely needs the support, as well as a small theater.

Though some virtual theater screenings began rolling out around March 20, the weekend of March 27 has the first full crop of movies available to watch, from slick noir to sardonic comedies to repertory titles from the 1970s to Oscar nominees. If youre looking to see something new and exciting this weekend and support independent theater at the same time then here are 15 options available right now.

And Then We Danced is a gay love story set in a Georgian dance company. Georgia is a country where a kiss between two men, if observed by the wrong people, can have severe consequences. Swedish-Georgian director Levan Akin debuted the film at Cannes in 2019, and at the Playlist, Carlos Aguilar writes, Wielding the human body as a captivating artistic tool, Akin permeates his shots with the dynamic force of synchronized rhythm shared by Merab and Irakli or the freeform energy of a club where gays and transgender individuals let loose with total abandon.

Metacritic score: 69 out of 100

How to watch it: Virtual theater listings for And Then We Danced are available on the Music Box Films website.

Bacurau

Its unusually challenging to describe the frenetic, confounding Brazilian film Bacurau, which plays out like a particularly wild episode of Black Mirror crossed with a Western. Juliano Dornelles and Kleber Mendona Filhos film veers from action to horror to dystopian sci-fi to gallows comedy. Centering on a tiny Brazilian village named Bacurau, the film sees a mysterious threat endangering the lives of the residents who then decide they have had just about enough of being exploited by that threat.

Metacritic score: 80 out of 100

How to watch it: Virtual theater listings for Bacurau are available on the Kino Lorber website.

2020 Best International Feature Oscar nominee Corpus Christi is inspired by true events and theyre startling. A 20-year-old violent criminal named Daniel (Bartosz Bielenia) experiences a spiritual awakening while serving a sentence for second-degree murder in a youth detention center. But because he has a criminal background, he cannot become a priest when he leaves. After being mistaken for a cleric once hes free, he simply begins to act like one, posing as a recently ordained priest in a small community thats reeling from a recent tragedy. Corpus Christi (the Latin phrase for the body of Christ, part of the Catholic liturgical mass) explores guilt, redemption, grief, and salvation in a somber, hard-hitting drama.

Metacritic score: 78 out of 100

How to watch it: Virtual theater listings for Corpus Christi are available on the Film Movement website.

Bruno Barretas 1976 sex comedy is set in the Brazilian state of Bahia and stars Snia Braga as Flor, whose useless husband Vadinho (Jos Wilker), an objectively bad husband but a phenomenal lover, drops dead. She remarries his polar opposite staid Teodoro (Mauro Mendona) only to realize that she misses Vadinho. In the Los Angeles Times, Mark Chalon Smith writes that Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands should be seen as liberating, an unpretentious and uncomplicated slant on desire, and that it represented a step forward in Brazilian filmmaking.

Metacritic score: 52 out of 100

How to watch it: Virtual theater listings for Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands are available on the Film Movement website.

The critically acclaimed, award-winning Heimat is a Space in Time is the story of German director Thomas Heises family in three generations, which he tells through their own words. Through the familys letters and notes, the experience of living through some of the 20th centurys most devastating and formative periods comes alive: World War I, Nazi Germany, life in Communist East Germany, and the fall of the Berlin Wall. In Variety, Scott Tobias writes that the overall effect of Heises work is mesmeric, persuasive and cumulatively powerful, as each piece of the puzzle falls into place and he lands on overarching insights into a German century and what it portends for the future.

Metacritic score: 75 out of 100

How to watch it: Heimat is a Space in Time is playing in an exclusive virtual theatrical release with New Yorks Anthology Film Archives.

This lush tragic romance from Italian director Luchino Visconti, first released in 1979, is the tale of an aristocrat with a demanding mistress who becomes interested in his wife again when she begins an affair with a novelist. When the film was first released, Vincent Canby wrote in the New York Times that its a film of effortless command in which the directors presence is everywhere felt and nowhere intrudes.

How to watch it: Virtual theater listings for LInnocente are available on the Film Movement website.

The young director Miko Revereza was brought to the US from the Philippines by his parents when he was 5 years old and has lived in the country as an undocumented immigrant for more than 20 years. While contemplating leaving, he took a trip from Los Angeles to New York via Amtrak, and discovered once aboard the train that it didnt have any wifi available. And he didnt have a data plan on his phone, either. Unable to use the internet, he started filming what he saw with the camera he had brought along. The result is No Data Plan, a documentary that marries observational cinema with Reverezas narration in voiceover about his own familys experiences and, eventually, his frightening encounter with border patrol officers on the train. Its a beautiful, meditative, and jarring film.

How to watch it: Virtual theater listings for No Data Plan are available on the movies website.

Once Were Brothers is a warm and loving portrait of The Band, which broke onto the music scene in the mid-1960s while touring with Bob Dylan and spent years as both an heir to and counterpoint to the music of the time. Its also a portrait of the way that friendships and community can lead to great art. At the Washington Post, Ann Hornaday writes that Once Were Brothers is enormously valuable, if only as a reminder of what an extraordinary run this extraordinary convergence of talents enjoyed until their final show on Thanksgiving Day in 1976.

Metacritic score: 62 out of 100

How to watch it: Virtual theater listings for Once Were Brothers are available on Magnolia Pictures website.

Phoenix, Oregon, written and directed by Gary Lundgren, is an indie comedy about a graphic novelist and a chef who, presented with the opportunity to change their lives, quit their jobs to restore a bowling alley that will serve the worlds greatest pizza. In Variety, Joe Leydon calls it the sort of movie a lot of us need right now, saying its too playfully spiky and unaffectedly down-to-earth to come across as bland pablum.

Metacritic score: 43 out of 100

How to watch it: Virtual theater listings for Phoenix, Oregon are available on the movies website.

Kelly OSullivan (also the films writer) stars as Bridget, an adrift 30-something who lands a gig nannying for a six-year-old named Frances while navigating a relationship with a new maybe-boyfriend named Jace. Directed by Alex Thompson, the film has a lived-in wisdom that sees characters for all their messy complexity. Its truly refreshing to watch a film where nobody has anything figured out, where life proceeds messily and imperfectly, Sheila OMalley writes at RogerEbert.com. Saint Frances is unpredictable in a very human way.

Metacritic score: 79 out of 100

How to watch it: Virtual theater listings for Saint Frances are available on Oscilloscopes website.

Sorry We Missed You is an angrily searing piece of social realism set in modern-day Britains gig economy. Director Ken Loach specializes in realistic dramas built atop roiling class-based anger, movies about the ways ordinary peoples lives are disrupted and upended by systems that leave them powerless to change even as they try everything in their power to change. Sorry We Missed You is the story of a working-class English family trying to scratch out a living any way possible, and of the indignities they experience within a system of short-term contracts and gig work. Ostensibly, employees get to be the masters of their own destiny (to paraphrase an employer in the film), but in truth, companies are just trying to remove any responsibility the employers might bear. It premiered at Cannes in summer 2019, but it feels even more devastatingly, bitingly urgent now.

Metacritic score: 83 out of 100

How to watch it: Virtual theater listings for Sorry We Missed You are available on Zeitgeist Films website.

Vitalina Varela landed on a number of critics lists of the best movies of 2019, praised for its astoundingly beautiful images and deeply human sensibility. Directed by Pedro Costa, Vitalina Varela tells the story of a woman headed from Cape Verde to Lisbon following the death of her husband, who abandoned her for that city years earlier. In Cinevue, Christopher Machell called it a work of astonishing aesthetic beauty, made up of static compositions and use of chiaroscuro that recalls the Dutch masters.

Metacritic score: 83 out of 100

How to watch it: Virtual theater listings for Vitalina Varela are available at Grasshopper Films website.

The Whistlers is a quirky, sly Romanian crime comedy with noir overtones, in which a crooked cop caught in a scheme goes to a remote island to learn a whistling language, the better to communicate with his cronies. At the AV Club, Ignatiy Vishnevetsky writes, Playing with genre cryptograms of gangster villas, opera-loving killers, and glamorously lit cigarette smoke, the film never takes itself too seriously, even if its characters never seem to smile.

Metacritic score: 76 out of 100

How to watch it: Virtual theater listings for The Whistlers are available on Magnolia Pictures website.

Diao Yinans noir thriller is a twisty, dark dive into Chinas underbelly violent and unconventional, a story of mobsters, cops, and revenge. The Wild Goose Lake announces Diao as a major new force in Chinese cinema. Jessica Kiang writes in Variety that The Wild Goose Lake is like an organic feature of the Chinese cinematic landscape, as though it pooled onto the screen in all its oily, murky glory, having welled up from deep inside the ground. Suddenly, China feels like the noirest place on Earth.

Metacritic score: 76 out of 100

How to watch it: Virtual theater listings for The Wild Goose Lake are available on Film Movements website.

Zombi Child runs along two timelines. One follows the happenings in 1960s Haiti after a man is buried and then seems not to be dead at all. The other, set in the present day, follows a teenaged Haitian girl named Mlissa (Wislanda Louimat) , who begins attending an elite boarding school in Paris and becomes close friends with a set of girls. Zombi Child is the kind of lithe and lucid dream that gets its tendrils round your brain stem, so that when all hell finally breaks loose, you cant jolt yourself awake from its grip, Robbie Collin writes in the Telegraph.

Metacritic score: 75 out of 100

How to watch it: Virtual theater listings for Zombi Child are available on Film Movements website.

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15 movies you can buy a virtual ticket to this weekend - Vox.com

How coronavirus is speeding up the move to mobile money – The Paypers

Steve Moffatt, Director of Payments at WorldRemit, on mobile money as the healthy way to manage money through coronavirus

The coronavirus pandemic is unfolding into an event that will starkly define our world in many ways. We are having to reassess and adapt our most routine behaviours, such as how we work, shop, and communicate with loved ones, and it is inevitable that when this is finally over, some of the changes we have made will lead to permanent behaviour change.

The response from businesses involved in payments has had a clear theme: discouraging the use of cash to rule out its ability to spread germs. While the WHO has stopped short of actively discouraging the use of banknotes, a spokesperson has said that, when possible its a good idea to use contactless payments.

Is cash really so dirty? In one study, published in 2017 on research platform PLOS One, researchers found hundreds of species of microorganisms on banknotes, ranging from those that cause acne, through plenty of harmless skin bacteria to vaginal bacteria, microbes from mouths, DNA from pets and viruses. Credit broker money.co.uk worked with London Metropolitan University in 2018 to examine a random selection of all denominations of coins and notes. 19 different bacteria were found across UK coins, polymer GBP 5 and GBP 10 notes and paper GBP 20 and GBP 50 notes. This includes two life threatening bacteria associated with antibiotic resistant superbugs: Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Enterococcus faecium (VRE). The life-threatening airborne bacteria, Listeria was also found.

The 2017 research noted that further tests are needed on whether the microbes it found can be stably transferred from money to individuals, and the potential for infection, and experts dont believe that touching an infected object or surface and then touching the mouth, nose, or eyes is the main mode of transmission for coronavirus, but in the face of a threat like this, who wants to take an unnecessary risk?

Many UK businesses are assuming that customers do not, and also that they should not. Costa Coffee is taking contactless payment only. Greggs, a company that has been incredibly successful at capturing the consumer zeitgeist in recent times, is discouraging the use of cash in its stores. The British Retail Consortium announced last week that an increased contactless limit of GBP 45 is being rolled out ahead of schedule by its members starting this week.

So far so good. If theres a significant problem, there are businesses stepping into the breach to accelerate a change in consumer behaviour with the nudges at their disposal. But what about the left behind? In an increasingly mobile world, some people cant access the services others can, whether due to poverty, disability or simply geography. The underbanked and unbanked include those in the UK who cant handle modern technology, such as some of the elderly, and those who dont have bank accounts and the debit or credit cards needed to register even for some free levels of online services, such as some who work cash in hand in often unstable jobs. In some of the markets we serve, the statistics on the unbanked are hard to credit at first. Around a third of Brazilians dont have bank accounts, because the services are too expensive, branches are too far away, or they dont trust the institutions.

The world still has distance to travel in getting beyond cash, but governments and businesses across countries once thought of as developed and developing are all starting to think about mobile access as a right and a good. In the UK, Open Banking is expected to support efforts to widen adoption of mobile banking, as will the drive towards full fibre. In Africa, mobile money service M-Pesa, which is used by over 37 million people in the continent, recently announced it is waiving fees to discourage the use of cash in the wake of Covid-19.

There are still barriers to overcome in improving the speed, security and convenience of mobile money. Payment technical integration quality varies hugely per geography, and system complexities lead to payment and e-verification delays. Businesses like WorldRemit are working hard to provide the solutions in a way that makes the movement of money online simple, safe and fast, but an increase in awareness of a gradual push away from cash should complement the pull of increased access and its many benefits, and will strongly accelerate change.

About Steve Moffatt

Steve Moffatt is the Director of Payments at WorldRemit. A payments expert with over 15 years of experience in ecommerce, money movement and fraud risk, Steve has held similar roles at Spotify and Betfair.

About Worldremit

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How coronavirus is speeding up the move to mobile money - The Paypers

Olympic sponsors stick by 2021 games, but what will disrupted budgets deliver? – The Drum

The Olympic flame will remain extinguished until next summer, with the tournament now officially having been dialled back by 365 days.

On Monday (30 March), the International Olympic Committee (IOC) penned in the Tokyo 2020 Games from 23 July 2021 to 8 August. Additionally, The Paralympic Games will run between 24 August and 5 September 2021.

Despite running one year behind schedule, there is no rebrand planned. Tokyo 2021 will remain Tokyo 2020. With fresh dates cemented, organisers, athletes and fans have now been relieved of the uncertainty inspired by first postponement in the 124-year modern history of the modern Olympic Games.

For the sponsors bankrolling the Games and athletes, the celebration is muted, their best laid plans now lie in tatters.

US Olympics TV rights holder, NBCUniversal, announced proudly just last month how it had already sold 90% of its commercials for the tournament. The total sum amounted to $1.25bn; a new record, surpassing the total for the 2016 Games in Rio de Janiero and giving an indication of how much advertisers had planned to stump up.

Some brands including Nike, Coke and Adidas have already launched products and activations pinned to this years event. Many have spent the best part of a year laying the pipework for big-budget creative executions, as well as competitions, online promotions and on-the-ground campaigns.

In the meantime, the Covid-19 pandemic has been wreaking havoc on marketers budgets. Airbnb, Budweiser, Coca-Cola and John Lewis are just some companies to have frozen or redirected spend in the wake of the pandemic. At the start of this week, Warc forecast a recession in the first half of the year for the global ad market which, if materialised, will have a knock-on impact on budgets for the next 12 months at least.

The Olympics is a platform for glitzy, award-winning work that delivers real results for brands (see: Under Armours Rule Yourself; P&Gs Thank You Mom; and Nikes Unlimited Youth). In the midst of a coronavirus crunch, where marketing budgets are stretched, Tokyo 2020 could see sponsors take a different approach to Olympic advertising.

Joel Seymour-Hyde is managing director UK at sports and entertainment agency Octagon, which countsMastercard, Unilever, Budweiser and Expedia among its clients. He says, in a world where brands revenues and share prices are tanking it would be nave to think it will be business as usual for Olympic sponsors in 2021.

Will budgets be impacted? Of course they will, he asserts. There is a unique challenge in Olympics marketing: the fact that the partners get minimal media rights in exchange for other main assets like IP and the right to buy tickets.

He adds: Therefore typically the ratio of activation spend, including marketing, campaigns, media, employee engagement, B2B and hospitality, to rights fees is higher for Olympics sponsors v most other properties.

The obvious implications of this for 2021, Seymour-Hyde argues, would be some reduction in associated media spend, and potential reductions in the scale of hospitality initiatives. It ultimately depends on how long and deep the disruption goes, he adds.

At the time of writing, the majority of the IOCs top-tier global brand partners (many of which have inked long-term deals) had issued statements expressing their continued support of the Games.

The longest-standing sponsor of the Games Coca-Cola said it fully respects the decision of the IOC and the Tokyo Organising Committee (TOCOG). We know this decision was made in the best interest of the health, safety and security of all, added a spokesperson.

Airbnb, a newcomer to the (pricey) world of Olympic sponsorship also reaffirmed its commitment. Along with P&G, Dow, Bridgestone and Intel.

Alibaba Group stands firm for the postponement too: Despite the delay, such a decision, made amidst the ongoing global fight against Covid-19, is the epitome of the Olympic spirit of peace, friendship and solidarity, the Chinese firm said.

For its part, payment provider Visa has already made official moves to extend its Olympic athlete sponsorship through to 2021, as well as its headline deal.

As a proud sponsor of the Olympic Movement for more than 30 years, we will work with the IOC, the TOCOG, the government of Japan and our partners in the coming months to make the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 as memorable in 2021 as they would have been this year, it said in a statement.

For sports marketing consultant Tim Crow, its unlikely any flagship sponsors will pull out, unless their own businesses go into freefall.

For the large part, sponsors contracts will allow them to extend their rights to the new date of the Games, and their fees due to the IOC will simply be re-phased.

How much of their lost activation costs they can recover will depend on insurance, which could be a sticking point for smaller, struggling brands on a lower sponsorship tier.

Inevitably there are a lot of lawyers trying to talk up litigation but I don't see that happening either, Crow insists.

Next year's spend will be all about how businesses are doing, how the world economy is doing, and how clear the world is of the virus.

One sponsor to keep a close eye on is new kid on the block Airbnb, which this week unveiled a coronavirus contingency plan to help its business save $800m. This includes the suspension of all marketing activity for the foreseeable future.

Crow believes theres a silver lining to the postponement though, with many brands seeing the 2021 Games as an opportunity to engage with customers following the most tumultuous period in modern history.

These are big businesses with big budgets, and they'll already be seeing the Olympics as a potential means of helping them bounce back, he argues.

Seymour-Hyde agrees, saying that when the Games do return to screens the positive reaction from athletes, consumer, sponsors and broadcaster should be huge.

This applies to all sport, and already there is consensus that the return of live sport will be a huge cultural moment, he adds. Clearly there is nothing a brand or sponsor loves more than tapping it to the cultural zeitgeist, so its a fantastic creative challenge and opportunity.

With every sponsor likely to be on the same page (and sharing the same brief) its going to have to be some very special work to cut above the clutter and noise particularly if traditional media spend budgets are tighter.

Crow chips in: The worldwide context of the Tokyo Games has changed so fundamentally that well see many of the global Olympic sponsors, in particular the consumer brands, re-work their campaigns.

Many, he argues, will seek to capitalise on the inherent DNA of the Olympics, which at its heart is a celebration of humanity, of the best in human spirit: We'll see that really dialled up.

As for the legalities, over the next few months, the ins and outs of what this means for existing sponsorship contracts are likely to be negotiated on an ad hoc basis. Commercial media lawyer Nick Breen told The Drum last month that the implications of cancellation or postponement would be significant for brands; especially those that have already stumped up cash.

He also highlights how the effects would be less severe where an annual or repeated event (like the Olympics) was merely rescheduled and sponsors could carry over agreements into the following year.

It wont always be clean or even possible to reschedule an event or defer a sponsorship to a subsequent event, but in the majority of cases, sponsors and promoters will need to find a commercial and pragmatic solution, rather than resorting to a legal dispute, he explained.

One certain thing is that by the time 2021 rolls around, the world will be more than ready for Tokyo 2020 and everything it represents. If brands are smart they will go for gold in the next 12 months, readying strategies that allow them to bounce back in a post-coronavirus world.

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Olympic sponsors stick by 2021 games, but what will disrupted budgets deliver? - The Drum

The Matrix Movies, Ranked Worst to Best | Screen Rant – Screen Rant

How does everymovie inThe Matrix franchise rank from worst to best? Envisioned by the Wachowski siblings and developed in the late 1990s,The Matrix delivered a pre-millennial dose of existential science fiction action and quickly became a cultural phenomenon. Based in a dystopian future where a war between man and machines ended with AI robots enslaving the human race in a digital simulation (the titular Matrix), the 1999 classic follows a small band of resistance fighters as they fight back against their captors, free others from their virtual prison and wear some damn cool leather trench coats. At the eye of the storm is Keanu Reeves' Neo who proves to be the figure of prophecydestined to finally end the war and liberate mankind.

A pair of sequels followed, both released in 2003,but the Wachowskis' world has also expanded into animation, video games and other media considered canon alongside the cinematic releases. The influence, legacy and popularity ofThe Matrix remains strong 17 years after the last film was released and talk of a fourth entry has been almost non-stop during that period. After much speculation,The Matrix 4 was officially announced in 2019 for a 2021 release, bringing back Neo, Carrie-Anne Moss' Trinity and The Merovingian, while also adding an array of modern stars such as Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Jessica Henwick and Neil Patrick Harris. Although the coronavirus pandemic has put a halt on Neo's return (and pretty much everything else) for the moment,The Matrix 4 is happening and in production, with Lana Wachowski directing.

Related:The Matrix: Everything That Happened After The Original Movies

While fans will certainly need to catch up on all 3The Matrix movies before diving intoThe Matrix 4, which of the trio comes out on top, and which is the glitch in the program? And has the passage of time forced a reevaluation of the less-liked films in a similar manner to theStar Wars prequel trilogy? Here's our ranking of the movies inThe Matrix series, from worst to best.

Upon release, fans widely pannedThe Matrix Revolutions as one of the most disappointing climaxes in science fiction cinema and that opinion has barely improved with the passage of time. It could even be said that fan desire to fix the mistakes of the thirdMatrix movie is as much of a driving force behindThe Matrix 4 as the prospect ofreuniting withKeanu Reeves' Neo or the multitude of story possibilitiesyet to be explored in the Wachowskis' world.

Despite suggestions to the contrary,The Matrix Revolutions isn't an entire disappointment. The finaleputs greater emphasis on story over action, compared toThe Matrix Reloaded, boasting a far meatier plot to chomp on.The Matrix Revolutionsrounds off Neo's deadly feud with Agent Smith, the final days of the war against the Machines, the true purpose and nature of the Matrix, and Morpheus' faith in Neo - all points that lingered in the previous film without much movement.This progression immediately fixes one of the biggest problems withThe Matrix Reloaded, but the 3rd film still doesn't match the storytelling quality of the original. Trinity's death, for example, is a waste of a major character and lacks any real emotional impact. Thankfully,The Matrix 4has a key opportunity to remedy this error.

Another positive to draw fromRevolutions isthe ending itself -even ifhowthose final moments play out largely fail to satisfy. The trilogy concludes with the Matrix rebooted, Neo ending the Machine war with a heroic sacrifice, and humanity given hope at a brighter future. Audiences are afforded the closure of a happy ending but not without a touch of bitter mortality, and this is exactly where The Matrix should have finished.

Related:The Matrix 4: Why Only One Wachowski Sibling Is Directing

Unfortunately, the routeThe Matrix Revolutions takes to reachsaidfinaleleft movie-goers reaching for the blue pill.The end of Neo's story is a meandering and frustrating quest for answers that fails to emulate the philosophical intrigue of the 1999 movie, coming off as pretentious, ambiguous and evasive. AsThe Matrix Revolutions struggles to bring together its real-world Machine storyline and the threat of Agent Smith inside the Matrix, it becomes clear thatReloadedandRevolutions really should've been condensed into a single streamlined film.

As detailed above, the sequels ofThe Matrixfranchisearen't fondly remembered, but while it's tempting to lump the pair together in one disappointing bundle,Revolutionsbears more responsibility thanThe MatrixReloadedfor the series' decline.

Perhaps the most damning indictment ofThe Matrix Reloaded, the middle installment of the trilogy, is that the entire film can be removed and the emphasis of the overall narrativeis barely effected.The Wachowskis' first sequel does precious little to develop the story of the originalMatrixor advance key events, and instead plays more like a procession of action sequences loosely linked together by barely-concealed exposition. While the cast, crew and visuals all remain consistent with the firstMatrix offering,Reloaded actually employs an entirely different ethos, replacing smart subtlety and interesting metaphor with obvious and literal parallels. This more straightforward approach lifts the curtain on the aura of mysteryThe Matrix built, but fails to put anything of substance for viewers to discover underneath. Apart from an awful rave sequence.

Despite its shortcomings,The Matrix Reloaded isn't entirely without merit, and succeeds on two fronts: expanding the fictional universe and visually stunning action. While the plot itself might be largely inconsequential, the secondMatrix movie introduces concepts that would become key to the franchise as a whole and enrich the in-universe dystopia. The Merovingian's influence is explored and his famous twin henchmen introduced, viewers learn more about the formation and hierarchy of the Matrix, and Agent Smith is established as a rogue program - all great additions, but ones that serve the franchise more thanThe Matrix Reloaded as a standalone movie.

In terms of action, the highwaybattle over The Keymaker is without question the most memorable part of the Wachowskis' awkward middle child. The fight sequences are one of the few elements thatfeellike palpable step-up from the original, proving every bit as fun, innovative and artistically intense. And therein lies the key problem withThe Matrix Reloaded; where the original film was a novel blend of philosophical themes, mind-bending science fiction andaesthetically grandioseaction scenes, the follow-up's focus was squarely on heart-pounding adrenaline.The trigger-happy "Reloaded" tagline perhaps should've been an early warning thatThe Matrix's sequel wouldn't meet expectations.

Related:How John Wick Could Be A Matrix Prequel (Or Sequel)

The first 1999The Matrix is quite simply several levels above the other 2 films in the series. Movie sequels are sometimes unfairly judged just because fans are so attached to the original, they struggle accepting any expansion of their beloved franchise. In the case ofThe Matrix, however, there exists a clear and tangible gulf in quality between the original and its successors.

Visually,The Matrix was a revolutionary undertaking from the Wachowskis. The creation of a dual setting - one familiar to viewers but malleable and fake, and one futuristic but completely fabricated - was unlike anything movie-goers had seen before and felt utterly immersive, even with pre-2000 special effects.The Matrix also helped pioneer new trends such as "bullet time" and gun-fu, as the action sequels seamlessly melded together martial arts, firearms and futuristic technology. This approach wasn't just fresh, it also perfectly melded with the zeitgeist of the day - the fears and hopes of the western world heading into the year 2000.

But with the visuals and action sequences consistently stunning across allMatrix movies, what elevates the first above the pack? Somewhat ironically, given the themes at play,The Matrix's true strength lies in its near-perfect balance. As much asThe Matrix is a landmark action movie, the film also incorporates cerebral science fiction subject matter in the style ofBlade Runner, and can either be enjoyed as a mindless fists-and-firefights flick or endlessly analyzed and dissected as a dystopian think-piece. Such balance is lost in the sequels, withThe Matrix Reloaded falling too far into action territory andRevolutions disappearing up its own backside in an attempt to be intelligent. Similarly, The Matrix manages to tread the fine line between intriguing the audience, but without frustrating with a lack of clear answers - unshackled byunnecessary filler or confusing contradictions, unlike the sequels.

With a mind onThe Matrix 4, it's difficult to imagine the 17-year-in-the-making movie happening ifthe original hadn't left such a strong and enduring legacy, navigating the potential damage 2 less-than-impressive sequels might've inflicted. The benefit of hindsight might not have done much to improve fan sentiment towardsRevolutions andReloadedbut, hopefully, the intervening years have allowed Lana Wachowski to finally craft a truly worthy successor toThe Matrix.

More:The Matrix 4 Should Repeat Star Wars: The Force Awakens Trick

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The Office Reboot: Michael Scott Movie Coming To NBC's Streaming Service [UPDATED]

Craig first began contributing to Screen Rant in 2016, several years after graduating college, and has been ranting ever since, mostly to himself in a darkened room. Having previously written for various sports and music outlets, Craig's interest soon turned to TV and film, where a steady upbringing of science fiction and comic books finally came into its own.Craig has previously been published on sites such as Den of Geek, and after many coffee-drenched hours hunched over a laptop, part-time evening work eventually turned into a full-time career covering everything from the zombie apocalypse to the Starship Enterprise via the TARDIS.Since joining the Screen Rant fold, Craig has been involved in breaking news stories and mildly controversial ranking lists, but now works predominantly as a features writer.Jim Carrey is Craigs top acting pick and favorite topics include superheroes, anime and the unrecognized genius of the High School Musical trilogy.

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The Matrix Movies, Ranked Worst to Best | Screen Rant - Screen Rant

We got 5 game devs to explain why Animal Crossing is so damn good – The Next Web

Animal Crossing: New Horizons for the Nintendo Switch launched last week and its been taking this weird quarantined world of ours by storm. Its the second biggest launch on the Switch ever in terms of physical sales in the UK (after Pokemon Sword & Shield), and every Switch owner I know wont shut up about it.

Im no better than them. I got the game last Friday and Ive barely stopped playing since just like I couldnt stop playing Animal Crossing: Wild World for the Nintendo DS back when I was 17.

So what is Animal Crossing, you ask? Well its incredibly complicated and simple at the same time. I dont have a good shorthand to describe it, and theres no other game like it. Wikipedia calls it a social simulation video game, but I dont think thats accurate.

I can tell you what you do in Animal Crossing: You do chores. To pay off a mortgage. Chores like chopping wood, catching fish, and plucking fruit. You pay off your mortgage so you can get a bigger house, with a bigger mortgage.

You fill your house with furniture, you collect fossils to donate to the museum, you decorate, you garden. Its all very mundane and chill. Theres no challenge, no game-over. Everything is cute, and nothing is stressful.

Its also the opposite of what I normally like about video games. I play frustrating games like Dark Souls and DOOM Eternal, because Im a sadomasochist and I want my games to punish me for playing them. Animal Crossing never punishes.

Long story short: I love Animal Crossing but I dont know why and thats a problem when youre tasked with reviewing it.

I had no choice but to get some people who are way smarter than me to do my job for me. I hopped on Twitter, and DMd some friends in the game industry to help me answer my two big questions: Why is Animal Crossing so addictive? And why dont more games like this get made?

Martijn van der Meulen, co-founder and development director at Snap Finger Click with nearly two decades of game industry experience, says Its the pressure of wanting to do the best you can for your village and your villagers. Collecting the fruits, catching the fish you want to get as much as you can every day. It feels like a waste if you dont shake one of the trees! Thats a few more bells you couldve given to [your loan shark landlord] Tom Nook.

Daily tasks and appointments are a big part of the loop in Animal Crossing. In order to get as much as you can out of the game, youll have to jump in every day to check on your villagers to make sure theyre happy.

Van der Meulen says, If you dont visit your neighbor, they might leave and thats personal. That would really hurt your feelings. Everything about the game makes you want to do your best which means spending as much time in it as possible. Animal Crossing has almost perfected the distribution of these tasks.

Sam Sharma, a veteran game producer whos currently working on a secret project at Electronic Arts, believes New Horizons couldnt have come out at a better time. He says theres definitely the comfort of doing daily tasks that weve been missing in self-isolation, that makes it a relaxing escape.

He continues, Even without that though, the game gives a lot of autonomy to the player, to discover and explore. [Animal Crossing] has completion levels and checklists for anything you can do.

He says this creates a virtuous cycle for both kinds of players. Those that like structured tasks have an unending list of things to accomplish all of which are rewarding, and those that like exploration and discovery are constantly rewarded for their curiosity.

Dennis van den Broek, senior designer at Guerrilla Games, expands; Looking at it from a game design perspective it has a level of psychology involved.

He draws a comparison with free-to-play mobile games: They often establish a hook which keeps you returning to it. The basic principle behind this is the player gets a feeling of accomplishment and euphoria when doing small tasks, constantly repeating this, and giving the player simple rewards (things like a different color wallpaper). He says this is exactly how mobile games get players addicted.

Van den Broek says that once this addiction has been established, these games ramp up the time it takes to get rewards, and push you towards paying to cut down the wait by spending real money. Animal Crossing doesnt let you use real money, but the cycle is similar otherwise.

Once the baseline is established, they scale it up. It takes longer to get a reward, but the reward itself is bigger. This means you arent hooked on paying your mortgage, but youre actually addicted to getting rewards.

Eline Muijres, whos currently a producer at Mipumi Games after a long stint as the communications manager at the Dutch Game Garden, says its the ultimate game for completionists like her. Collecting animals, decorating houses, fashion design, meeting neighbors, all at your own pace without time pressure. She adds that she loves the puns. I agree, the puns are so good that even a pun-skeptic like myself gets a chuckle out of them.

Rami Ismail, co-founder at Vlambeer and renowned industry spokesperson, says that Animal Crossing does three things very well:

First, its a game about you it gives you full ownership of your island, along with ways to make it feel yours very quickly, and finally, a loose structure to play. In Animal Crossing, you decide the goals, you set the pace, you decide the priorities and thats how its meant to be played.

His second point is the aforementioned daily tasks. He says Animal Crossing subtly uses a form of FOMO, the mechanic a lot of mobile free-to-play games use to bring you back each day. Animal Crossing expertly uses that by having you check back the next day for things, Rami says.

The final trick Animal Crossing uses is its social aspect. Players want their island to look nice and feel nice. The game allows you to customize your island to the minute details, which means that you can be judged by all [of those little details].

In addition, Ismail says theres actually a bunch of existential and social fear built into the core of the game design, but since it manifests in what is effectively a pleasant grind, I dont think anyone really minds.

Rami has a final word on what he believes makes Animal Crossing feel so good to play: Animal Crossing is also expertly tuned into what creates joy. Small animations, messages of thanks, little progressions, rare occurrences its all there to give a sense of joy and discovery. Nothing can actually harm you in the game and everything in the game builds towards something.

Together with a sense of progression whether its being able to drop off items faster, get more places to find cool stuff, or having a tent evolve into a building, it all combines into play sessions that are frequently almost entirely purely joyful even if you get stung by a bee.

The previous proper Animal Crossing came out eight years ago. In the meantime, weve had the phenomenal Stardew Valley and Dragon Quest Builders games, but beyond those, titles in this genre seem to be pretty rare, despite its popularity.

Martijn van der Meulen says its hard to make a seemingly simple game like Animal Crossing and have people genuinely care about it.

Animal Crossing has charming characters and a rich world with lots to do. Building a game that your players want to invest their time in takes some careful balancing. Its also a huge project. When you think about all the mechanics in Animal Crossing, theyre all minigames that have had tons of thought and effort to make them fun. Its a big risk to try and succeed in this genre.

Eline Muijres agrees that games like this are deceptively complicated. My guess is that because the replay value is so high, its hard to top existing games. These games have long development times and are complex to make; it might not be worth the risk for most developers. She says its especially risky for smaller indie developers who dont make free-to-play games.

Sam Sharma thinks there are two major reasons why these games are few and far between.

Its possible that the data on building and farming games suggest that the audience size for them is such that the peak of the market hits every three or four years or so. He adds that the low rate at which these games come out helps to ensure that the audience stays large enough and hungry enough for the next one to get popular.

His second reason is market dominance. Between Stardew, The Sims, Minecraft, and Farming Simulator there are games that cater to that audience in a big way and dominate the market for long periods. (The Sims 4 came out in 2014, Stardew Valley released in 2016, and Minecraft in 2009!)

Add to that the slow shift of many exploration/building/farming hybrid games to the mobile and free-to-play space, away from consoles; it could mean that its a fragmented and saturated market, that it takes a while for a franchise to find a renewed interest big enough for them to release a new iteration.

That being said, I see a shift towards more crafting- and exploration-based play in games coming soon, as the events we are going through shape our appetite and the tastes of our game developers. Itll start with film, as films have shorter development cycles, and then well see the cultural zeitgeist change in games as well.

Dennis van den Broek disagrees its a rare genre; he says theyre just on different platforms, with different revenue models.

The basis of these games can be found everywhere in mobile games, they just dont let you spend money up front to get it, and often end up hiding content behind a paywall.

But he agrees with the rest that these games are harder to produce then youd think. Making a game like this requires tremendous effort you need a LOT of items to fill your world (rewards), and the economy needs to be tested and tweaked to perfection.

In itself, that is a task that can take months to years; as a developer you then want a quick return on your investment. He concludes that this is why most of these games end up being mobile free-to-play titles.

Rami Ismail tells me developing games like this is like a little puzzle, where nothing really works until everything works. The economy, the activities, the storylines, the movement, the characters, the pacing, the world it all has to be tweaked well to even know whether it might work. The mechanics on their own are meaningless.

And like the rest, Rami emphasizes the perceived market saturation. Its one thing to develop in a difficult-to-develop genre that nobody has made a game in, its an entirely different thing to make a game in a difficult-to-develop genre in which the universally loved multi-million player game Stardew Valley exists, and where your upcoming competition might be a new [and almost certainly immediately popular] Animal Crossing game.

I havent been able to look at Animal Crossing: New Horizons the same way since these experts explained to me exactly how intricate and well-crafted this seemingly simple game is.

If you have a Switch, I cant recommendAnimal Crossing: New Horizons enough. When youre stressed out about this nasty virus, Animal Crossing is just the thing to take your mind off it and help you relax. I guarantee you wont be bored any time soon.

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We got 5 game devs to explain why Animal Crossing is so damn good - The Next Web

Pulsometer watches – How fast is your heart beating? – Trends and style – WorldTempus

In 2020, when every smartwatch and fitness monitor can tell you your heart rate, why in the world would you buy a mechanical watch with a pulsometer? It cant show your current heart rate spontaneously, alert you if your heart rate becomes too high or too weak, or send you a notification in the event of arrhythmia. It cant save your life, like some smartwatches apparently have.

And yet, in 2020, watch brands continue to offer watches with pulsometers. Watchmaking history records that this complication dates back to the start of the 18th century, when two Englishmen came up with the idea. Doctor John Floyer and watchmaker Samuel Watson joined forces to create the Physicians Pulse Watch, an instrument that could calculate a patients heart rate by use of a graduated dial. By the mid-19th century, physicians had access to sphygmographs (or pulsographs) to record patients heart rates, but pulsometer watches continued to be very popular with doctors in the 18th and 19th centuries, because they were more practical and easier to use.

Watson's Pulse Watch

And thats their main advantage. At the time, they met a genuine need of the medical profession to be able to easily calculate a patients heart rate, by simply taking their pulse, and reading the result off the dial. These appropriately named doctors watches were as useful to the medical profession as pilots watches were to aviation pioneers in the era of astronomical navigation.

By pure coincidence, Graham and Montblanc unveiled their latest pulsometer watches the Graham Chronofighter Pulsometer Ltd. and the Montblanc Heritage Manufacture Pulsograph Limited Edition just a few weeks apart.

They are both chronographs, because thats the complication needed to calculate heart rate. They both feature a graduated scale from 40 to 200, located between the 2 and 9 oclock positions, which represents the number of heart beats per minute; and they also both work on the basis of 30 beats (60 beats for Watson's Pulse Watch)

Les deux modles Montblanc et Graham fonctionnent sur une base de calcul de 30 pulsations. Graham / Montblanc

In practical terms, to calculate heart rate, you take the pulse with your spare hand and engage the chronograph while counting 30 beats. After 30 beats, you stop the chronograph, and the hand indicates the number of beats per minute on the graduated scale.

This is how both watches work. Aesthetically, however, they are very different.

Chronofighter Vintage Pulsometer Ltd Graham

The Graham Pulsometer is a chunky 44 mm sports watch in steel with a sunray blue dial (previous versions came with silvered and black dials). But it doesnt look like a chronograph, because it doesnt have the two traditional subdials. The chronograph function is primarily devoted to the pulsometer, via its central second hand. Further evidence of the pre-eminence of the pulsometer on this original model is supplied by the fact that the hours are discreetly indicated by dots, and the small seconds counter is completely blank. Apart from the pulsometer markings, the only other figures visible on the dial are the date and limited edition numbers. As with all Chronofighters, the crown with its impressive protection lever and the chronograph pusher are located on the left. The Calibre G1718 can be seen through the sapphire caseback. It beats at 28,800 vph, providing a power reserve of 48 hours.

Heritage Manufacture Pulsograph Limited Edition Montblanc

The Montblanc Heritage Manufacture Pulsograph Limited Edition marries the deliciously old-fashioned pulsometer with an elegantly refined and unapologetically vintage design featuring an 18K rose gold case, tobacco-coloured dial and sfumato strap. Classic elegance is the order of the day, with the two traditional chronograph counters, dauphine hands, railroad minutes track, domed dial and grained chapter ring. Inside, classical styling gives way to heritage and the weight of history. The Calibre MB.13.21 is a descendant of the famous Minerva 13.20, the first hand-wound monopusher chronograph movement, which cemented the reputation of Minerva chronographs in the 1920s and 30s, and whose main features it reproduces. The Calibre 13.21 is a beautiful movement, whose finishes can be admired through the sapphire caseback.

So, why buy a pulsometer watch? Even if this function is rarely used (and, honestly, how many people regularly use their chronographs or tachymetric scales?) its a historic watch complication that deserves to be remembered. The display leads to some original dial layouts, and its old-fashioned vibe fits well with the vintage-inspired zeitgeist.

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Pulsometer watches - How fast is your heart beating? - Trends and style - WorldTempus

Britain has its first punk-rock government – Spectator.co.uk

The most surprising thing about the letter from Guardian and Observer journalists moaning about Suzanne Moores supposed transphobia is that it contained 338 signatures. This must be the first time a newspaper has had more writers than readers. What an extraordinarily bloated institution how does it survive? Through those often advertised workshops where Owen Jones explains to people how to write a column? Most bizarre.

Surprise number two was that these hacks were prepared to get themselves worked up about a perfectly reasonable piece, for once, by Moore but found no problem what-soever with Steve Bells disgusting and frankly racist depiction of Priti Patel in a cartoon. Patel, Indian and Hindu by ancestry, was portrayed as a bull with horns and a ring through her nose. All this on International Womens Day, too. The left likes its minorities and chicks only when they toe the line and dont get uppity, as I have mentioned before. The left likes clients, not people.

If I had been drawing Ms Patel, it would have been with a safety pin through her nose and a spiky hairdo. With every day that passes it seems to me more and more that we are experiencing Britains first punk-rock administration, pogoing up and down on decrepit institutions and cheerfully gobbing in the direction of its enemies the swamp, the blob, the establishment. It is a fairly glorious thing to behold. One hopes it endures longer than the 18 months or so in which punk was in ascendancy (roughly autumn 1976 to the spring of 1978, since you asked).

The social impact of punk was far more lasting and important than the music, which, by the time the Sex Pistols had dissolved, had already become a jaded and boring caricature of itself. The mistake people make is in seeing punk as a left-wing movement, largely because the awful old hippies at the New Musical Express and Melody Maker tried very hard to insist that it was and stamped on anyone who stepped out of line. Plus a change etc.

In truth it was anything but left-wing. It was anti-establishment, for sure it loathed the torpor of the 1970s, the desiccated institutions and the dead hand of an overbearing state. It loathed the BBC. It despised the big record companies and wished them gone, not because they were agents of capitalism, but because they didnt do capitalism well: they lacked dynamism. It didnt have much time for the trade unions it was union workers, at their unions behest, who refused to press the Sex Pistols single God Save the Queen, and the BBC (and WH Smith, which then had a big record department) which refused to play it. Before they got hammered into supine wokeness, the Jam were pro-Tory royalists, while Sham 69 were singing about the evils of socialism in Red London.

It is true that punk was anti-racist and anti-sexist, considering gender and skin colour an utter irrelevance, as we all surely should. But it was nonetheless born in the lower middle-class suburbs of our major towns and cities, among the people who a year later would propel Margaret Thatcher (from the same background) into No. 10 a tranche of the electorate never renowned for its leftish sensibilities. In the USA, punk was far more explicitly right-of-centre and a riposte to gentle leftish hippiedom you may search long and hard, but I doubt youll find a much more right-wing popular band than The Ramones and sure enough, in 1979 Ronald Reagan ousted Jimmy Carter.

The only big exceptions to the rule in the UK were the very left-wing Clash, led by an ex-public schoolboy, Joe Strummer, and the even further left Tom Robinson Band, led by Tom another public schoolboy, this time from Cambridge. Good bands, but wholly out of step with the real zeitgeist of the time, because of where they were from. To get a truer picture of punk, look at John Lydon vehemently pro-Brexit or the two best writers to emerge from those city suburbs and who chronicled punk, Julie Burchill and Tony Parsons. Not quite bleeding-heart liberals, any of them.

Popular music does not change the world. Not even the most incendiary and exciting leftie stuff from the 1960s Fortunate Son by Creedence Clearwater Revival, Ohio by CSN&Y, Masters of War by Dylan could prevent the bombing of Cambodia by the USA. But it is useful in indicating a certain appetite for change within the population, a dissatisfaction. There are many similarities between the UK now and the UK in early 1979. Back then we had endured a paralysed minority government led by Jim Callaghan and ineffectually buttressed by David Steels Liberals, with all the chaos that brought: the almost perpetual union strife, the rubbish piling up on the streets. As for the past three years, we endured until December a paralysed and hopelessly divided Conservative administration, and the chaos that brought, as we tried to respect the public vote and wriggle free of the European Union.

The vote in December, then, just like the vote in May 1979, was emphatically not for continuity but for change: real, dynamic change. And that means a government prepared to battle with the institutions that will do their damnedest to arrest that change primarily the civil service, but also the BBC, the judiciary, the infrastructure this liberal elite has built around itself. Call it the pink wall, if you like. It needs demolishing with every bit as much vigour as did the red wall in the north of England on 12 December.

Thatcher never quite quietened either the civil service or the wet reactionaries in her party. She flailed occasionally at the BBC, but rarely to great effect. This government realises far better that it is these institutions which need changing before anything else can be done. All together then, to that fine tune by the Ramones: Boris is a punk rocker, Boris is a punk rocker!

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Britain has its first punk-rock government - Spectator.co.uk

How will the new James Bond movie ‘No Time to Die’ navigate the coronavirus and post-MeToo world? – Sydney Morning Herald

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Were driving just after dusk along a wooded country road, rain pitter-pattering on the windscreen, the white beams of the headlights cutting through the shrouding mist to reveal pine trees and furrows of sticky mud lining the roadside. We come to a gentle stop at a small guardhouse beneath a commanding silver sign, the CCTV cameras above watching us. The security guy punches his keyboard, waves us through. Thats when I see her.

Rene.

Zellweger, that is. Her beautiful filled and filtered face is plastered over a towering billboard on the side of a massive white, windowless sound stage at Pinewood studios, west of London, where parts of Judy the Judy Garland biopic were filmed.

But Im not here for Rene. Or Judy. Im here for Bond. James Bond. Nearly all the Bond films were shot here at Pinewood, beginning with Dr. No in 1962. We pass one sprawling sound stage after another there are 18 on the lot including a stretch of cleared land set aside for a massive new stage, testament to the voracious appetite for film and TV content in this age of streaming and nesting.

Located within the green belt, a swath of rural land that rings London, Pinewood opened in 1936 on the grounds of a Victorian manor house, Heatherden Hall. Thousands of films have been shot here, from classics like Oliver Twist (1948) to recent blockbusters like Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019). It hosts the 007 sound stage, one of the largest film stages in the world.

This is the first act in a press junket extravaganza for the latest and 25th James Bond film, No Time to Die. Its late October 2019, over two months before China will alert the World Health Organisation to several cases of an unusual pneumonia in the city of Wuhan. At this point, No Time to Die is pitched for an international release in the first week of April 2020. Box-office takings across Asia will be a crucial determinant of its success and the future of the Bond franchise. Vast amounts of money are at stake. This is the most expensive Bond movie ever made, with a reported budget of $US250 million ($380 million), a crew of 650, and enough sponsored product placement (Omega, Aston Martin, Heineken, Jaguar Land Rover, Bollinger) to make a marketing executives eyes water.

Film junkets on this scale are a devils bargain for journalists leaving us feeling guilty of churlish ingratitude if we dont deliver a positive, gushy story after weve been flown to film sets across the world and put up at fancy hotels, and shamefaced for selling our souls if we do. Scouts honour, Ive been a 007 fan since I was a kid, so Im torn between the Wowww, I cant believe Im on a James Bond set!!! response, and the captive anxiety of Oh no, theyve changed my interview schedule again, Will they give me enough time with Daniel Craig/Rami Malek/Lashana Lynch? and Crikey, how do I make this story not sound like a free ad for the film?

Daniel Craig on James Bond's attitude towards women: "Hes a hero, but hes also deeply flawed. It is up to audiences to decide on Bond. Not for me. Credit:Nicola Dove

Either way, my circadian rhythms have been doing a river dance since I arrived in the UK the day before, after 27 hours in a tin can in the sky. Just after dusk, about a dozen of us, all long-lead print and online reporters from Europe, Japan, the US and UK, pile into two minivans for the 10-minute drive from our hotel to Pinewood. But not before were asked to sign two embargoes and cautioned interviews should be straightforward and film-focused and not involve any games or gimmicks. Its not as if we could go crazy with plot spoilers: even the actors dont know how No Time to Die ends, as three alternatives were reportedly shot.

I know this because, in the interests of hard-nosed investigative reporting, I spent a night in a semi-coma googling fun facts such as 007 author Ian Fleming choosing the name Bond because he considered it short and manly, and his fictional super spy attending Fettes College in Edinburgh, where Sean Connery was the schools milkman in the mid-1940s.

Ursula Andresss famous scene in 1962s Dr. No.Credit:Alamy

Upon arriving at Pinewood, were ushered into Workshop 10, where a German journalist ahead of me is gazing wide-eyed gasp! at Ursula Andresss white cotton bikini from Dr. No (often dubbed the most famous bikini of all time), which is suspended in a tall glass cabinet in a corner. (I later learn, to my disappointment, that its a replica.) That iconic cinema moment when Andresss character, Honey Ryder, emerges from the glistening Caribbean waters all coppery and dripping was reprised by Daniel Craig in his nutcracking baby-blue togs and tanned, jacked physique more than four decades later in Casino Royale.

Craig in Casino Royale (2006) mirrored Ursula Andress's scene but for a different audience.Credit:

My attention switches to four framed Bond movie posters all Craig vehicles lined up across the walls in order of release: Casino Royale (2006), Quantum of Solace (2008), Skyfall (2012) and Spectre (2015), most featuring the gun-barrel silhouette of 007, brimming with adrenalin and testosterone, with a glam, sexy woman draped at his side.

Its hard to pinpoint the exact moment when excessive, smug masculinity became unfashionable. Even Craig himself has labelled Bond a misogynist, and hates the term Bond girls, something Im keen to ask him about. The problem for the ageing Bond franchise has not been finding crazier stunts, cooler gadgets and more luscious locations. The problem has been Bond himself. 007 is the most famous ladies man in modern cinema, a love em and leave em serial shagger whose pick-up and post-coital lines in the first four decades of the series sound amusingly sexist to 21st-century ears. Take the opening scene from You Only Live Twice (1967), when Sean Connerys Bond is under the sheets with Ling, a pretty Chinese woman:

Bond: Why do Chinese girls taste different from all other girls?Ling: You think we better, huh?Bond: No, just different. Like Peking duck is different from Russian caviar. But I love them both.Ling: Darling, I give you very best duck.

Ah, what a cultural shift has occurred since Roald Dahl, the acclaimed childrens writer who wrote the screenplay for You Only Live Twice, penned those gems. Or has it? Thirty years later, in Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), audiences were treated to the following:

Bond: I always enjoyed learning a new tongue.Miss Moneypenny: You always were a cunning linguist, James.

A pre-#MeToo-era scene from 1967s You Only Live Twice.Credit:Getty Images

Over the past 20 years, the Bond women have been empowered, especially so since Craig became the man from MI6. But can Bond survive the post-Harvey Weinstein world too? No Time to Die has been made at a particularly woke moment. The last film, Spectre, was released in November 2015, two years to the month before #MeToo went viral. No Time to Die risks hitting a new raw spot when everyone is chattering about gender and power dynamics. How do you update 007s man-whore ways without stripping him of his macho mojo?

That question has long been uppermost in the mind of Bond producer Barbara Broccoli, who has just sailed into this office/press room with her producer half-brother Michael Wilson. Broccoli, 59, and Wilson, 78, are lauded as Bond royalty.

Two more nights of shooting, sighs the balding, bearded Wilson in his deep, southern Californian drawl, sitting behind a tabletop of flickering digital recorders and smartphones.

Were exhausted; its been seven months, chimes in Broccoli, who has long, straight, chestnut hair, chocolate-brown eyes and a winning smile.

The wrap in two days time will be bittersweet, she reflects, because Daniel is saying its his last.

But is it really? one journalist cuts in. We managed to talk him around for this one, but I dont think well get him to come back, Broccoli says resignedly.

This is it, adds Wilson quietly.

Craig, who famously griped while promoting Spectre that hed rather slash his wrists than play Bond again, was reportedly talked around when Broccoli and Wilson waved a $US25 million cheque in front of him, plus a percentage of profits.

When one reporter asks if this film has been their biggest headache to date, the duo burst into raucous laughter. (Shooting was plagued by a string of hold-ups, from a change of director over creative differences, to Craig requiring minor ankle surgery after an on-set accident, to the damaged exterior of the 007 sound stage after a controlled explosion went awry.)

Theyre all headaches, says Wilson, tossing his head back, not knowing that the mother of all headaches is still ahead of him.

Broccoli is the daughter of renowned film producer Albert Cubby Broccoli, who in 1961 teamed up with theatre and film producer Harry Saltzman to raise money to bring Ian Flemings character to the big screen. (Saltzman had already put in a bid to the bestselling author for the screen rights.) The two men formed Eon Productions (an acronym for everything or nothing) to produce the first Bond film, Dr. No on a budget of $US1 million, which reaped $US59.5 million and paved the way for the high-grossing blockbusters that followed. When Skyfall hit cinema screens worldwide on the franchises 50th anniversary in 2012, it hauled in $US1.1 billion at the box office, an all-time Bond record. (Its successor, Spectre, raked in a highly respectable $US881 million, but was less warmly received by critics and audiences, which puts greater pressure on No Time to Die to succeed.)

From the outset, this has been a family franchise. Albert Broccoli was married to actor Dana Wilson, who already had a teenage son, Michael, from a previous marriage. The half-siblings spent time on the 007 sets, although over different decades, both moving up the production ranks until Cubby Broccoli passed the keys of the Bond kingdom, and its parent company Eon, to his two offspring in 1995, a year before his death. Since then, Barbara and Michael have held an iron grip on the franchise overseeing every casting decision, signing off on every line of dialogue, presiding over every phase of marketing. (Michaels two sons also work for Eon.)

The title of the movie, announced last August after more than two years of being called Bond 25, has drawn a mixed response from fans, given the word die has popped up so often Live and Let Die (1973), Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), Die Another Day (2002). The title is always difficult, observes Broccoli. I came in one day and thought, Thats it. Then I realised [No Time to Die] was actually the name of a film my father shot in the 1950s. But that made it more special to me. My dads legacy is prominent, all through these films.

Against considerable hand-wringing among her professional peers who believed a blond, rough-edged 007 would be met with a cool response from audiences, Broccoli was determined to cast Daniel Craig after seeing him in the 2004 British indie crime film Layer Cake. It proved an inspired choice: Craigs performance in 2006s Casino Royale, the origin story of 007, succeeded in rebooting the franchise, which was at a creative stalemate following four financially successful but low-calorie Bond outings by Pierce Brosnan. Supported by a more nuanced script, Craig elevated the super spy from a cheesy caricature into something gritty and vulnerable, a man with demons and a capacity for true love. Even Bonds trademark quips got an update: in a casino scene when 007 is asked by a barman whether hed like his vodka martini shaken or stirred, he replies, Do I look like I give a damn?

Glancing at the four movie posters on the wall opposite, Broccoli gushes that Craigs upcoming turn as 007 is his best (this film has an epic emotional quality; its going to blow them away). Rumours are rife that Bond himself will be blown away that in one alternative ending, Bond is killed, which would throw open the door for a radical reboot of the franchise for the post-Craig films. Slumdog Millionaires Danny Boyle, the first director, was replaced after a script dispute by Cary Fukunaga of True Detective fame. But the very title of the film, No Time to Die, suggests Bonds survival.

Whatever his fate, Broccoli and Wilson enlisted Emmy award-winning actor and scriptwriter Phoebe Waller-Bridge, of Killing Eve and Fleabag fame, to sharpen up the dialogue in a script already penned by Bond veterans Neal Purvis and Robert Wade and polished by director Fukunaga. Phoebe has great humour and wit, is in touch with the zeitgeist and Daniel is a fan of hers, so it was a no-brainer, says Broccoli.

Zeitgeist-y or not, its clear the duo is first and foremost aiming to create a huge popcorn hit. Whatever happens in the world in the meantime is outside their control. Nobody wants to make the last Bond film, says Wilson reflectively, adding that theyve followed most of the tried-and-tested formulas, including a liberal dose of exotic locations. We started filming in Norway, then Jamaica, then up to Scotland, then locations in London, then Matera in Italy for three weeks, then back here. It adds up to the usual travel adventure.

Daniel Craig was offered $US25 million plus a percentage of profits to play Bond for the fifth time.Credit:Nicola Dove

Bullets are firing everywhere inside a hotel on a rain-washed, dimly lit Havana street. I have no idea whats going on because Im stuck behind a wire barrier with two other journalists and a publicist, checking out a man who looks eerily like Daniel Craig walk towards us with a pastry and a wide smile. Daniel? I squint, before realising it has to be his stand-in.

This is the dream machine in action in the middle of Pinewood studios. Mark Tildesley, a blue-eyed, bespectacled 56-year-old who is the films head production designer, has already explained how he and his team took a reconnaissance mission to Cuba to suss out how they might film there, but were stymied by pesky politics (they kept asking how we were going to portray the country) and logistics (we faced the prospect of shutting down streets and knocking down walls).

And so, after sketching and taking photos of Havanas finest neoclassical architecture, Tildesley built this whole street at Pinewood in just nine weeks, including the facades of bars, nightclubs and a barber shop. Weve created a set more Havana than anything in Cuba, the cheery, rugby-mad Brit explains, standing beside a diagram of the set.

Weve already been taken on a tour of the production workshops, including those of the prop makers who handcraft 007s guns, but who gives a damn about a rubber Beretta 418 when you get to see a silver birch Aston Martin DB5 replica, the classic Bond car that first appeared in Goldfinger, firing a blaze of fake bullets from pop-out machine guns behind the headlights? (I shamelessly accept an offer from a publicist to take a photo of me beside one of the DB5s used in the film, which I intend to shamelessly post on Instagram.)

In a large tent about 50 metres from the set, we watch Daniel Craig on a monitor, taking his mark on the set of a Havana hotel, looking upwards and firing his gun with both hands. Few men, let alone those over 50, look better in a four-figure Tom Ford suit; few actors do inscrutable swagger better. Between takes, 007 walks into our tent. But the 007 in question is Lashana Lynch, whose character, Nomi, is given Bonds secret agent number after he leaves MI6 (the films opening premise has the super spy coming out of retirement in Jamaica after five years to help his CIA officer friend track down a missing scientist). Lynch, a tallish, vibrant and down-to-earth 32-year-old of Jamaican/British origin, says she is excited to be a major character in the franchise: My character is a black woman in 2019 overcoming so much.

Director Cary Fukunaga (centre) with Craig (left) and Lashana Lynch (right), who plays secret agent Nomi, one of No Time to Dies incredibly strong female characters.Credit:Nicola Dove

Which raises the question, will Lynch be the next James Bond, or is hers a one-off role for this film alone? As Barbara Broccoli has repeatedly said that Bond can be of any colour, but he is male, its unlikely to be the former. In 2018, Broccoli told The Guardian: We dont have to turn male characters into women. Lets just create more female characters and make the story fit those female characters.

In any case, the films have come a long way since the days when the Bond girls had names like Pussy Galore (Goldfinger, 1964), Chew Mee (Man with the Golden Gun, 1974) and Holly Goodhead (Moonraker, 1979). Even in the Pierce Brosnan era the female characters tended to be underwritten stereotypes, with the exception of Judi Dench as M.

As most of the journalists Im accompanying are seasoned entertainment reporters whove interviewed many of the Bond stars before, notably Daniel Craig, I ask one whats he really like. The reporter leans inconspiratorially, outside the earshot of a nearby publicist. Grumpy. He can be quite short with you.

Grumpy? I say, a little too loudly. Whats he got to be a grumpy about?

Daniel Craig on location in the southern Italian city of Matera.Credit:Oliver Palombi / MEGA TheMegaAgency.com

It's early December 2019, only weeks before the announcement of the novel coronovirus outbreak, and the worldwide promotion of No Time to Die is in full throttle. Im in New York for the major one-on-one and group interviews with the cast. As the full twinkling panorama of Manhattan slides into view on this freezing snowy night, my cab driver declares, I must come this way six times a day, but I never get sick of seeing that skyline. Ah, the heady thrill of Noo Yawk, a storybook city thats officially the most popular set location in the film and TV world, but a city that amazingly or perhaps not has seen only one James Bond film, Live and Let Die, set here, back in 1973. (That also happens to be the first Bond film Daniel Craig saw as a little boy.)

I ask the driver, who must be in his early 50s, whether hes a Bond fan, but he mishears me.

Bong fan??

No, no, James Bond, you know, 007. One of the old films, Live and Let Die, was partly filmed here.

Live and what???

His ignorance surprises me: a survey undertaken in 2012 by polling company YouGov found 60 per cent of Americans describe themselves as Bond fans, among them former presidents Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and the late Ronald Reagan.

You have 20 minutes, a publicist tells us the following morning in the conference room of the mega-elegant Crosby Hotel in lower Manhattan. About a dozen of us have already been given a sneak preview of the trailer for No Time to Die; now were set to meet Daniel Craig and Barbara Broccoli in a round table interview. When the pair walk into the room, Im struck by Craigs assured, commanding presence. Dressed in dark blue trousers and a jacket over an open-necked shirt, hes craggier in the face and slighter than I imagined, but by no means short, at 178 centimetres tall, or 5 foot 10.

A reporter kicks off by asking the 52-year-old how hes feeling now hes wrapped up his last Bond film. Craig circles the question briefly, saying he feels sad its over but is immensely proud of the five films, which brought all the Bond tropes back in, but in an original way. He admits, I didnt want to do this movie, I didnt want to do any of them, but Im so glad I did now.

Whats been the hardest thing about playing Bond? Doing this, he says dryly, looking down the table at us.

I didnt want to do this movie, I didnt want to do any of them, but Im so glad I did now.

I seize the awkward pause and ask how he thinks Bond evolved during his 007 tenure, particularly in light of the social earthquake of the #MeToo movement. Are you talking to me? he jokes, turning to face me with more than a little ice. Of course, you, I smile sweetly.

This is a long conversation Ive had with Barbara, he replies. How do you deal with Bonds misogyny, or his problem with women? Hes got a fairly messed-up attitude towards women. I dont make apologies for that. What weve done is find these incredibly strong female characters who hes come up against. Hes a hero, but hes also deeply flawed. It is up to audiences to decide on Bond. Not for me

Broccoli cuts in: Bond has already had trouble forming attachments, and thats part of the character. Hes an orphan. He fell in love with Vesper Lynd [in Casino Royale] and she broke his heart. Craig warms to the theme. We could throw in all kinds of references to the world, and I think we all agree it dates a film.

Within seconds of the duo exiting the room, there is a little echo, beginning with one reporter piping up, Well he was in a good mood today, while another enthuses, So much more open and chatty, and someone else offers nice mood. Even one of the publicists in the lift remarks on how chatty and cheery Daniel is today. Oh, what a tedious grind it must be, having to do interview after interview with reporters asking so many of the same questions. Craig can now return to his $US6.6 million brownstone across town, his day of soulless press meets over.

Im escorted to the 11th floor, seated in a spare chair outside the lift doors, and asked to wait. I count 10 publicists milling about, some crouched on the floor in the corridor, heads in their phones, at least one standing sentry at each door to the suites. Behind each of these doors a major star from the film is ensconced, waiting for reporter after reporter to march in with their list of questions.

A publicist checks her running sheet, says, Youre up next and ushers me down the hallway. Another opens a door with a minor flourish while a third inside immediately clicks on her phones timer for my 10-minute slot. Im about to meet French actress La Seydoux, who plays Dr Madeleine Swann, Bonds love interest in No Time to Die.

La Seydoux as Dr Madeleine Swann, Bonds love interest.Credit:Nicola Dove

I. Cant. Help. Looking. Resplendent in a black pants suit with black high-heel boots and pearl earrings, Seydoux is breathtakingly beautiful. The odd puffs of smoke billowing behind her ears, which I quickly realise are from her discreet vaping, add another disarming touch (smoking-hot French actresses being apparently exempt from no-smoking rules in New Yorks finest hotels). As she describes her character, the 34-year-olds soft, lilting French accent lulls me into a kind of trance.

Shes not there to please Bonds sexuality shes a real character I wouldnt call her a Bond woman.

How much of herself does she bring to the character?

I feed my characters with my experience. I always feel I am many women Im sorry, I hear your phone.

Jolted out of my reverie, I grab my handset in a panic. Its switched to silent.

Our heads turn to the offending publicist. Shes been rustling her notes, for which she apologises profusely. Confused by how Seydoux has mistaken a clipboards paper-shuffling for a ringtone, I offer irrelevantly, Do you find interviews boring?

Nooo Its interesting to speak about what you do. I like it when its a conversation like this you exchange ideas You never know how people will pursue you purr sue? No, no per ceeeve you

She doesnt strike me as someone who worries about what others think of her, I suggest.

Our time up, I ask La Seydoux whether shed like to see a female Bond. I dont really care, she says.

No, not so much before adding that were all a mass of contradictions. I am a very scary person, which she immediately corrects to scared, adding, I am strong and I am weak. I like to be in the light, but I also hate it.

Our time up, I ask whether shed like to see a female Bond. I dont really care, she says, as Im walking out the door.

After another 10 minutes or so, Im escorted deeper down the celebrity corridor, where another door is flung open. Im about to enter the villains lair.

Rami Malek plays the films villain, Safin.Credit:Nicola Dove

The first thing you notice about Rami Malek is his distinctive honey-rich baritone voice. The second is that hes exceedingly polite and exudes a chill vibe. Sitting cross-legged, he patiently answers questions, and good-naturedly gets up to shake my hand at the beginning and end of the interview (the only star to do so during my time in Bonds world).

Im interested in how he manipulates his voice to suit his character, the villain Safin. I really dont enjoy the sound of my own voice, the 38-year-old admits. William Conacher [a British dialect coach] helped me get the phrase voice right for Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody and gave me some ideas for the villain, which I took to Cary Fukunaga to see whether they would fit.

Did he research any of the early cat-stroking Bond villains? Not only did I go through the Bond villains, but a catalogue of cinema history and picked out all my favourite villains. His favourite? The former MI6 agent turned cyber terrorist, Raoul Silva, played by Javier Bardem in Skyfall, because of his backstory. Theres nothing simplistic about being a villain, observes Malek. What drives that human being to do what they are doing? Is their malice defined by them or defined by others?

We proceed to talk very briefly about his extraordinary journey being the son of Egyptian immigrant parents, having a twin brother, growing up in Los Angeles, going to school with fellow actor Kirsten Dunst and his astonishing rise. Look man, if you told me in the span of two years, Id be playing an icon like Freddie Mercury, then the villain in a Bond film, I would have laughed at you, he says. I dont take this for granted for a second.

After receiving his Best Actor Oscar statuette at the Academy Awards last year, he took a stumble on stage; there are videos of him on YouTube taking other falls. Is he a little clumsy? I dont think of myself as clumsy, he laughs. Perhaps I have a little too much on my mind.

Malek has an earnest reverence for his craft. When youre at this level and working with such talented people, there is not much room to be anything other than poised, specific and intense.

As Im leaving the hotel and grabbing my luggage for a mad dash to the airport, it occurs to me that Bond wouldnt be seen dead boarding a plane with a bag. I pass the highly engaging Lashana Lynch on her way to the lifts. You know, youre about the only reporter who still uses a notepad, she observes.

Well, I like to do some things the old-fashioned way, I reply, stealing a Bond line from Casino Royale. Lynch looks at me blankly, the reference clearly passing her by. I feel compelled to elaborate. I record, but the notes are for observational stuff. Ah, I see, she laughs. Hope youll still see the film.

It's early 2020. The much-awaited title song for No Time to Die by 18-year-old singer-songwriter Billie Eilish, beloved by Generation Z, has been released, and the publicity machine has the pedal to the metal in the final lap to the films opening. But news of the coronavirus has become increasingly alarming. While the entertainment industry is hardly a priority in the face of a global pandemic, those whose livelihoods depend on the production, distribution and promotion of films are hit hard as cinemas across China, South Korea, Japan and Italy close their doors in February.

On March 2, the founders of the worlds two biggest James Bond fan sites send an open letter to Eon, MGM and Universal calling for the postponement of the films release because of the public health risk. Then, on the rainy morning of Thursday March 5, my phone lights up with emails and texts. A statement has been issued from the offices of Michael Wilson and Barbara Broccoli: the release of No Time to Die will be postponed until November. The rescheduling is likely to cost unknown millions in cancellation fees and relaunches.

No Time to Die is the first Hollywood blockbuster to shift its release date because of the coronavirus. Suddenly, Lashana Lynchs words outside the lifts back in November seem oddly prescient.

Greg Callaghan flew to the UK and the US courtesy of Universal Pictures.

To read more from Good Weekend magazine, visit our page at The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and Brisbane Times.

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How will the new James Bond movie 'No Time to Die' navigate the coronavirus and post-MeToo world? - Sydney Morning Herald

Paganism and Countercultures | Tom Swiss – Patheos

To live outside the law, you must be honest. Bob Dylan, Absolutely Sweet Marie

Todays Neopagan movement was heavily influenced by the 1960s counter-culture.

The overall zeitgeist of self-expression and self-exploration made space for alternatives to mainstream culture and religion. Feminism helped bring the idea of the divine feminine and the archetype of the witch to new prominence. The ecological movement lent impetus to the idea of nature religion. Fantasy literature notions of wizards brought magical ideas to mind.

But Neopaganism has older roots than the 1960s. We can clearly trace its ancestry back through Gardnerian Wicca and the occult movements of the early 20th century, though Hermetic societies like the Golden Dawn, to Theosophy and Spiritualism.

We can go further back, to the Transcendentalists were previously discussed how Walt Whitman was a proto-Pagan. And before them, the British Romantic poets were important predecessors of Paganism; not only did their poetry help shape our notion of the Goddess and raise Pan to new prominence, they seems to have taken the worship of the Old Gods into their lives to some degree. Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote to a friend, I am glad that you do not neglect the rites of the true religion. Your letter awoke my sleeping devotions, and the same evening I ascended alone the high mountain behind my house, and suspended a garland, and raised a small turf altar to the mountain-walking Pan.

And we can go back through earlier Romantics like Blake and Rousseau; and in the mists of history, we can dimly see the secret and fraternal societies of the 1600s and 1700s, the Bavarian Illuminati, the Rosicrucians, and Freemasons, freethinkers and anti-authoritarians whose ritual structures became templates for occultists of later centuries.

To some degree, each of these ancestors and influences might be said, in a broad sense, to be a counterculture.

The term counter culture was popularized in Theodore Roszaks 1969 book The Making of a Counter Culture. An earlier form, contraculture, was used by sociologist John Milton Yinger in a 1960 article.

(Miriam-Webster.com claims, but does not cite a source, for a first known use of counter culture in 1947. If the term was in use before the 1960s, it was not significant enough to show up in my 1956 Websters New Collegiate Dictionary. Old dictionaries, by the way, are fascinating.)

Roszak was writing specifically about the subculture that developed in the US (with echoes in Europe) in the 1960s, as a response to the materially affluent but spiritually empty technocratic mainstream culture that developed in the post-World War II years. However he did not completely limit his view; he quoted William Blake and named our proto-Pagan Walt Whitman as prophetically counter-cultural.

In contrast, Yinger was writing about a general sociological concept. He used contraculture to refer to subcultures with norms that contain as a primary element, a theme of conflict with the values of the total society, where personality variables are directly involved in the development and maintenance of the groups values, andits norms can be understood only by reference to the relationships of the group to a surrounding dominant culture. He cited examples from jazz musicians to juvenile delinquents.

A counterculture is different than a subculture which merely persists as a minority group in a larger whole. It sets itself up as an opposition, attempting in some way to change, reform, or replace some aspect of the culture at large.

So before the 1960s, we might classify the poets and artists of the Beat Generation in the US as a counterculture; before them in Europe, the Surrealists and the Decadent movement; and before them the Transcendentalists, and the Romantics.

Outside of artistic movements, in the field of lifestyle, we can identity Borsodis back to the land movement; the German Naturmenschen and Libensreform movements of the late 1800s and early 1900s, and the California California Nature Boys of the 1940s whom they inspired; and Ernest Thompson Setons Woodcraft Indians of the early 1900s, who may have been an ancestor tradition to both Wicca and the Boy Scouts.

Each of these movements set out, in some way, to reform or change broader society. In some sense, they (as Yinger described) stood in conflict with the values of society at large, and attracted a personality type in accordance with that conflict.

Now we, wild Pagans that we are, might find each of these groups sympathetic in at least some sense. Artists, poets, nature lovers, advocates for alternative medicine, social reformers, naturalists, wanderers these are our people! They stood opposed to the mainstream cultures of their time in order to push for egalitarianism, creativity, and liberty.

But these are not the only countercultures out there.

Prohibitionists, censors, authoritarians, religions fundamentalists in every society, there are countercultural currents that move in opposition to freedom and openness.

Imagine, for example, that you were invited to join a mystic, social, patriotic, benevolent association with a perfected lodge system, with an exalted ritual form of worknot for selfish profit, but for the mutual betterment, benefit, and protection of initiates, in order to promote liberty, justice, and fraternity among all mankind. If I told you that the initiation rite of the this fraternity involved a chalice and a blade (though called differently) and proceeding widdershins around a sacred altar while wearing ceremonial robes, you might think that I was talking about some cousin to Wicca, or a Rosicrucian group.

In fact, this description is of the Ku Klux Klan a thoroughly twisted counter-culture.

And this is important to us today, because there are twisted counter-cultures around that present with elements of Paganism. Some have real historical ties to groups that were antecedents of the Pagan revival, however badly they have gone off the track.

White supremacists standing in opposition to cultural values of equality who misrepresent Heathenry and Asatru. Trans-exclusive radical feminist witches who believe that the yin qualities of existence are entirely linked with anatomy, standing against the trend towards greater openness about gender.

And of course there are always cults organized for the enrichment or empowerment of the leaders but that present themselves as brave rebels standing against a corrupt society.

There are many advantages to Paganism being decentralized, diverse, and a somewhat underground, countercultural phenomenon. But this also brings with it the risk that seekers will encounter one of these twisted groups which can look Paganish from a distance.

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Exclusive: The Wing Launches The Guild, A New Incubator Program For Women-Owned Businesses – Forbes

The Guild launch at The Wing Williamsburg, Brooklyn location Sunday, March 8.

Womens coworking startup The Wing has launched a new initiative to support female founders. The program, aptly called The Guild, kicked off on International Womens Day and will provide 13 female business owners, including a jeweler, baker and doula, the opportunity to partner with The Wings new location in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, for one year.

The mission of The Wing is advancement through community, says Lauren Kassan, cofounder and COO of The Wing. As we expand into new neighborhoods, we want to support local women-led businesses by helping them utilize The Wing as a platform to grow.

The Wing will offer custom programming and mentorship opportunities to The Guilds inaugural class of business owners throughout the year. Ultimately, the goal is to roll out the initiative in all of its markets and build a network of female entrepreneurs around the world.

When we open a space, were very conscious of the location and its surrounding ecosystem, Kassan says. The purpose of a program like this is to localize us and support women within our four wallsbut also outside of them as well.

Since founding in 2016, The Wing has capitalized on the zeitgeist of the modern feminist revolution by creating a community where its membersor Winglets, as the company calls themcan work, eat, network, shower, breastfeed and even stage a small coup if needed. Celebrities such as Serena Williams, Kerry Washington, Megan Rapinoe and Lena Dunham are among its founding members and investors, and Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lawrence, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Maggie Haberman, Jennifer Lopez, Janet Mock, Hillary Clinton and Christiane Amanpour have spoken at its member events.

The company scaled quickly, raising $75 million in a Series C round led by women partners at Sequoia Capital and Upfront Ventures, with additional participation from Airbnb, NEA and WeWork, in December 2018.

But hyper growth in a volatile market comes with its own complicated set of challenges, including cultural growing pains and a discrimination lawsuit. In early March 2020, WeWork sold its stake in The Wing, a move that slashed the startups estimated $375 million valuation nearly in half to approximately $200 million.

Even so, The Wing is still one of the fastest growing and most well-funded women-led startups in recent history, raising a total of $117.5 million in just over two years. As such, it is well-positioned to make this new vision a reality. With 12,000 members and counting in 11 coworking spaces in New York, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Boston, Los Angeles and London, with plans to open six more spaces by the end of the year, The Wing is quickly becoming one of the most influential womens networks in the $26 billion global coworking market. We didnt anticipate this level of growth so quickly, Kassan says. The growth was a function of the demand and people really wanting us to bring The Wing into their cities.

The Wing cofounders Audrey Gelman, Lauren Kassan and brand director Alex Covington at The Guild ... [+] launch at The Wing Williamsburg, Brooklyn location Sunday, March 8.

Its leaders growing influencecofounder and CEO Audrey Gelman made history last fall when she became the first visibility pregnant CEO to appear on the cover of a major business magazineas well as their seemingly effortless ability to make things happen is, perhaps, a significant part of The Wings allure.

Our business is just one block away from The Wing Williamsburg, says Corinna Williams, cofounder of eco-friendly modern laundromat Celsious and member of The Guild. Weve been following the buildout process and anticipating their opening for the last few months. At the launch party on Valentines Day this year, we bumped into Audrey and instantly agreed that we had to collaborate. That night, she connected us via email. About two weeks later we received an email with an invite to join The Guild.

Christina Viviani, cofounder and creative director of lingerie lifestyle brand The Great Eros, was also invited to join The Guild. While shes managed to secure retail partnerships with Bloomingdales and Net-a-Porter on her own, not to mention celebrity clientele including Gwyneth Paltrow, Scarlet Johannson and Zoe Kravitz, she is looking forward to receiving business guidance. The biggest pain point I face as a founder is isolation, she says. Theres no playbook on this journey of entrepreneurship. You dont always know if the decision youre making is the right one. You learn from experience. With a network as dynamic as The Guild we will all be able to share our stories and benefit from our collective experiences.

Women-owned businesses are a critical part of the U.S. economy. Between 2014 and 2019, the number of women-owned businesses climbed 21% to nearly 13 million and revenues rose 21% to $1.9 trillion, according to American Express 2019 State of Women-Owned Business report. Still, female entrepreneurs face many obstacles that their male counterparts do not, including a $189 billion funding gap, according to new research by Crunchbase.

By launching The Guild, the Wing may have tapped into a huge economic opportunity to help even the playing field for women. Realizing the economic potential of women-owned businesses requires changes in policies, business practices and attitudes, says Geri Stengel, research advisor to American Express. For example, $981 billion in revenue would be added to the U.S. economy if the average revenue of minority women-owned firms matched that of white women-owned businesses. Mentorship and training programs provide advice, build skills, shift mindset, as well as provide access to markets and funding.

Dan Wang, associate professor of business and sociology at Columbia Business School agrees. It is true that women founders receive disproportionately less VC funding than men . . . Organizations like The Wing and Chief can be highly productive in this area by making sure that women founders, who might otherwise be overlooked, receive a greater share of resources, he says. Ultimately, however, I think the entire VC ecosystemwhich includes men and womenhave to dedicate themselves to reversing their biases together.

For some of the women participating in The Guild, however, fundraising isnt the focus. I am proud that Mociun has no outside investment and we have no plans to seek funding, says Caitlin Mociun, founder of her namesake jewelry and homegoods company. Figuring out how to grow my business in a sustainable way that holds true to my values and my business values is what appealed to me the most.

At its core, The Guilds mission is about helping women business owners feel seen and recognized. If youre a founder from a creative background, you tend to be overlooked in a community dominated by VCs and MBA backgrounds, Viviani says. But something you cant overlook is that creatives have an ability to storytell, to have vision and to see opportunity that isnt a recipe found through CACs [customer acquisition cost(s)] or spreadsheets.

Whether intentional or not, The Wing has found itself at the center of a movement, and Gelman and Kassan have become proxies for the female founder community, not to mention a source of inspiration.

Broadening the impact of The Wing is an important reminder that we need to address opportunities for women on all frontsbusinesses supporting a local community and opportunities to reach the C-suites and boardrooms of Fortune 100 companies, says Katia Beauchamp, cofounder and CEO of Birchbox. We must heighten the awareness and the resources to address the entire playing field if we are going to accelerate the balance that we know will serve us all in creating the world we want to live in.

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Cadbury set to launch vegan chocolate bar, as trend steals the show at ISM2020 – ConfectioneryNews.com

The future is plant-based read the sign above the Katjes' booth at this years ProSweets/ISM conference in Cologne, perfectly illustrating the main trend at the sweets and snacks fair and also capturing the wider zeitgeist of a worldwide consumer movement in confectionery.

Irina Beule, insights & innovation manager at Innova Market Insights, told ConfectioneryNews it is describing the trend as the plant-based revolution.

Plant-based is already here, but now it is really taking off, consumers are preferring plant-based, but vegan is growing as fast, especially with younger consumers who want a more healthy lifestyle, but also with a lot of other generations, who want to do something good for the planet, she said.

Katjes, a German sugar confectionery firm, made its debut in 2019 in the chocolate category with the launch of Katjes Chocjes, a vegan chocolate bar in two flavours (Original and Hazelnut) made from oat milk instead of cows milk.

At ISM 2020, it launched four new vegan flavours and attracted thousands of visitors to its booth a clear indication that vegan chocolate is on the rise.

Alex Cramer, brand manager at Katjes, said the new category had been a great development for the company and that plant-based is the future and that chocolate also tastes good without cows milk theres lots of dairy alternatives and we have chosen oatmilk because it is the most sustainable alternative.

Commenting on the launch of its vegan chocolate, Katjes CEO Tobias Bachmuller said: With the expansion of our product line through the launch of Chocjes, we are strengthening our commitment to create great things. Obviously Katjes is an expert at vegetarian fruit jelly sweets. But with Chocjes, we are also catering to a growing consumer audience that is seeking out alternatives to cows milk.

The latest major brand to jump on the vegan bandwagon is Cadbury, announcing it is launching a new plant-based version of its Dairy Milk chocolate bar.

Although owner Mondelz International has not yet confirmed a launch date, ConfectioneryNews understands it has spent two years developing the bar.

We are very aware of the rise in consumer interest towards vegan products. We have a brilliant R&D team who are focused entirely on new products and innovation to enable us to offer more great-tasting choices to consumers. We only launch products when we have achieved the best taste and texture that consumers expect from Cadbury, and there are lots of exciting developments in the pipeline, a spokesperson said.

The ISM trade fair was held at beginning of February, a month after Veganuary, a global organisation encouraging people to adopt a vegan lifestyle in January and beyond. Organisers said this years response has been astounding and over 400,000 people signed-up, compared to 250,000 in 2019, far exceeding the groups 2020 target of 350,000.

In his Oscar-winning acceptance speech, A-list actor Joaquin Phoenix championed veganism and also highlighted the movement at The Golden Globes. February was also the month that Ben & Jerrys launched a trio of new vegan ice creams, while along came RAR from passionate challenger brand Froneri, who also introduced a brand new plant-based ice cream suitable for vegans.

Tiia Morsky, an ingredients research team leader at market analysts Campden BRI, told ConfectioneryNews: The rise in veganism and flexitarian diets requires products to be free from animal-based ingredients. The food industry is responding by seeking to develop or reformulate products with plant-based protein ingredients, but this is no easy task. Manufacturers can become confused about which plant-based proteins are available to them, which are most suitable for their product and how they will function during new product development.

Cocoa and chocolate supplier Barry Callebaut also chose ISM2020 to launch its new 'Plant Craft' range that spans chocolate, cocoa, nut products, fillings and decorations to cater for dairy-free and vegan trends.

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Cadbury set to launch vegan chocolate bar, as trend steals the show at ISM2020 - ConfectioneryNews.com

3 roles of Elisabeth Moss & how they speak to the zeitgeist – Entertainment.ie

"[Art] tends to start to reflect what we're talking about" Elisabeth Moss has taken on some fascinating roles of late that are really speaking to the times we're living in.

Commencing her career in the 90s, some of Elizabeth Moss's early roles included 'Girl Interrupted' and 'The West Wing'. But she really came to the forefront playing Peggy Olson in 'Mad Men'.

Since then she has starred in such highly acclaimed movies and shows as the satirical 'The Square', horror movie 'Us' and mystery drama 'Top of the Lake'. Indeed the latter sees her play adetective who specialises in sexual assault and who was the victim of gang rape as a teen. Three of her more recent roles have similarly involved playing women victimised by abusers who take charge and get back.

Last year's 'The Kitchen' would be a prime example of one such role wherein Moss plays Claire Walsh, a timid woman who is beaten by her husband, Rob. When he goes to jail, she and two other women (played by Melissa McCarthy and Tiffany Haddish) continue to operate and eventually take over their husbands' rackets.

Claire is not only inspired to leave her husband, she also takes a lover inGabriel O'Malley (Domhnall Gleeson). She learns to shoot and cut up and dispose bodies from him. She becomes an enforcer for the gang alongside Gabriel and even kills her husband. However she is eventually killed off by a young gang member after a hit is put out on her.

Moss's most recent movie is 'The Invisible Man', in cinemas on Friday. In it, she plays the victim of an emotionally and physically abusive partner who continues to haunt her even in death.

'The Invisible Man' has been read as a fresh take on gaslighting and domestic abuse. Generally it's something of a conventional horror which ends with the 'final girl,' a la Ellen Ripley or Sarah Connor, confronting the "monster" head-on.

Then there's of course 'The Handmaid's Tale' which would be up there among the best shows of the 2010s. It depicts a totalitarian society named Gilead where fertile women, called "Handmaids" are forced into child-bearing slavery.

Moss plays its protagonist, June, who continually rebels against the system in big and small ways. She smuggles her baby out instead of giving it to her "parents"; she also helps her friend leave and in her latest act of revolt, helps dozens of children escape Gilead.

Having been the continuous victim of emotional and sexual abuse, she maintains incredible strength and dignity, though you wonder how it could all pan out for her in season four.

Elsewhere in 2019 there were action movies with strong, kickass women who don't take any sh**, like 'Captain Marvel', 'Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker', 'Alita: Battle Angel', 'Charlie's Angels' and 'Terminator: Dark Fate'. But Moss's roles signify a very different woman, one who is weak, vulnerable, fearful and fragmented. She is initially lost and trapped in a world run by controlling, abusive men, and fighting for survival. But she takes back control, and asserts herself in a decision she makes alone.

We got an opportunity to ask Elisabeth Moss about the similarities of her characters in this respect, and she reflected: "For sure. It does seem like a lot of that, doesn't it?"

She continued: "I think our film and television, and art in general, whether it's music or literature or whatever it is, tends to start to reflect what we're talking about, right? It starts to reflect what we're feeling.

"And I think as women we are exploring that right now because it's what we're thinking and we're talking about. I started it in 'Mad Men' in a different kind of way. But 'The Handmaid's Tale' kind of coincided with a political movement obviously in my country; and then [there was] Me Too and Time's Up so we are sort of talking about it a lot. I feel like the projects that I am attracted to right now are kind of a part of that conversation."

There was a step forward for Me Too and Time's Up this week with the news that disgraced Hollywood mogulHarvey Weinstein was convicted in court, having been the subject of dozens of sexual harassment and assault claims. The women were thanked for their bravery in coming forward.

It leads us again to that age-old question of does art imitate life or vice versa. In any case, this spiritual threequel of performances from Moss has caught on the zeitgeist, speaking volumes to our current era.

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3 roles of Elisabeth Moss & how they speak to the zeitgeist - Entertainment.ie

The Invisible Man, A Horror Movie For The #MeToo Era, Appears At Just The Right Time Post Weinstein Verdict Box Office Preview – Deadline

Its not as if Universal and Blumhouse anticipated the opening of its gaslight thriller The Invisible Man to coincide with the guilty verdict handed down this week to movie mogul Harvey Weinstein in his sexual misconduct trial. But the Leigh Whannell directed and written feature arrives in cinemas at a moment when the #MeToo movement again occupies center stage.

Tracking has been seeing this R-rated thriller starring Elisabeth Moss in the mid-$20 million range for quite some time, but coming away from the ravenous response of Mondays Hollywood premiere, its clear that Universal and Blumhouse have another socially conscious genre film on their hands that could hit a nerve and send this film into Get Outbox office territory. That Jordan Peele Oscar-winning blockbuster opened to $33.37M. Interestingly enough, Invisible Manis opening in the same final February weekend spot asGet Outdid three years ago.

Moss plays a woman in an abusive relationship with a wealthy optics engineer who is the best in his field. She flees from him in the middle of the night. Weeks later she learns that he took his own life. But is he really dead? Quite simply, his presence haunts her like a ghost, tormenting her and those around her but no one believes her. Off 32 reviews to date, Invisible Man has already clocked 90% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, which is plenty to encourage average moviegoers outside the genre faithful to head to the cinema.Get Outfinaled its RT score at 98% certified fresh.

Previews for Invisible Man start Thursday at 7 PM. Well be watching with bated breath to see whether the film, which cost a net $7M off Australian tax credits, overperforms as its truly one of those old fashioned word of mouth movies. Dont be shocked if Moss is in the Best Actress conversation during awards season later this year: Deadline Pete Hammond writes in his review that Invisible Man is more than most films in the horror genre. This one feels comfortably in line with something Hitchcock would have loved, a film that also has something in common with terrifying thrillers like Julia Roberts Sleeping With the Enemy,a movie I thought about while watching it. ButThe Invisible Manmarches to its own beat in the end, and a lot of the success belongs with Moss, who nails this role of a woman under siege, both mentally and physically, with such skill I do not think it is too early to say this is first Oscar-worthy performance of 2020.

Universal shot Get Outout of cannon as the secret movie at Sundance back in 2017, creating immediate buzz that carried it for more than a year into the Oscars with four noms, including Best Picture and a win for Peele in Original Screenplay. The marketing campaign here for Invisible Man has been mostly standard for a genre film, though with a longer lead promo time going back to December with TV spots hitting broad audiences during NBA Christmas games, not to mention the pregame slot of the Super Bowl as well as The Masked Singerthat followed the game. Spots forInvisible Manalso aired during the Grammys, and hit TV series like The Walking Dead, This Is UsandModern Familyas well as the finale of the highest-rated telenovela on Spanish-language television, El Seor De Los Cielos.Currently, the movie is tracking well with males over 25 and females under 25 as well as African American and Hispanic audiences.

While genre movies are traditionally frontloaded with their highest grosses on a Friday during their opening weekends (thats including previews), you know if one is hitting the zeitgeist when Saturdays numbers exceed Friday. That will be a big sign if Invisible Manis being discovered by the masses; i.e., Get Outsaw a 17% spike on its first Saturday from Friday, while Universal/BlumhousesSplitrose 13% over the same period on its way to a fantastic $40M stateside start.

WhileInvisible Manstands alone as the only major studio wide release this weekend, opening today in 1,200 locations is Funimations animeMy Hero Academia: Heroes Rising.The movie already made $15M in Japan back in December and will follow a varying daily theater count pattern much like Funimations niche hit last year Dragon Ball Super: Brolywhich opened to an eye-raising first day of $7M at 1,250 locations, on its way to a $20.2M five-day total and overall domestic of $30.7M. My Hero Academia: Two Heroesdebuted at 513 theaters in 2018, and ultimately made $5.75M.

After making a shocking amount of dough with close to $2.9M through yesterday, WarnerMedias truTVs Impractical Jokers: The Movie will expand from 357 to 1,800 locations. The question on many rival distribution executives minds is how much more meat is left for this comedy, or did all the fans already come out last weekend?

Deadlines Dino Ramos will have more on this weekends specialty releases which include Searchlights alternative Peter Pan take Wendyfrom two-time Oscar-nominated filmmaker Benh Zeitlin, Sony Pictures Classics Michael Winterbottom-directed comedy Greedin NY and LA, John TurturrosBig Lebowskispinoff The Jesus Rollsfrom Screen Media, and Roadside Attractions BMX champ movieThe Ride.

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The Invisible Man, A Horror Movie For The #MeToo Era, Appears At Just The Right Time Post Weinstein Verdict Box Office Preview - Deadline

‘My God, it’s chaos’: Lush’s founder on why he is so downcast – The Guardian

The badge on the lapel of Lushs co-founder, Mark Constantine, does the talking for him today as his beauty retail empire is buffeted by one crisis after another.

A potential pandemic is closing half the bloody world, he explains, as his lapel badge reads: Fuck, fuck, fuckity fuck.

At the moment I have got no shops open in Hong Kong or Milan. Venice is shut, the 67-year-old adds. A couple of months ago half of bloody Spain was shut down [due to the Barcelona riots]. The fires in California and Australia provided another expletive, while the end of freedom of movement is the fuckity bit, he explains. I keep a neurosis top 10 but Ive got to the point where things that were number one or two a year ago are number nine.

This week Lush stepped up to the plate on the coronavirus, opening its doors for passersby to walk in and wash their hands for free with its soap as government advice flagged the role of basic hygiene in keeping viruses at bay. The simplest thing you can do to not get a virus is to regularly wash your hands, so were saying people can come in off the street and wash their hands for free.

The Poole-based retailer, best-known for its fragrant bars of soap and bath bombs, has run diverse campaigns with subjects ranging from the targeting of activists by undercover policemen to preventing the extinction of hen harriers (a subject close to the heart of bird fanatic Constantine).

But these days UK retailers are becoming an endangered species, with store closures rife and established chains struggling to absorb cost increases as sales move online. Rivals such as Boots, he suggests, are shortchanging customers with tired stores after owners banked profits and failed to invest in store refurbishments.

When I go into Boots Im pissed off, he says. I go to the new concept shop in Covent Garden and I think, well yes, that looks like you invested a bit of money into Boots. I want all my Boots shops to look like that.

Lush, which turns 25 this year, has 446 stores around the world and a turnover of 545m, although the business is twice that size once joint ventures and other overseas tie-ups are taken into account. In 2018 the company made an operating loss of 4m but remained in the black making a pre-tax profit of 23.4m thanks to its share of business partners profits. The company, which has more than 12,000 staff, will show a further decline in profits for the year to June 2019 when its accounts are published next month.

The sales disruption caused by the coronavirus outbreak has added to costs stemming from Brexit. Defaulting to World Trade Organization tariffs would cost it 2.6m a year, and Lush has set up a new German plant which it hopes will alleviate some of the business upheaval. The economics of the business have also been affected by the decision to pay UK staff the independently verified living wage, which costs 10m a year more than the legal minimum wage, at a time when its annual business rates bill has also gone up by 1m.

Constantine appears perplexed that his ethical approach to capitalism is not bearing fruit. A perfect situation for me would be, make a profit, pay your tax, give plenty to charity, and make sure youre paying a proper living wage, he explains. So Im not really getting on very well with my perfect virtuous circle.

Lush is the biggest private-sector employer in the Dorset seaside town where it is based. It has 14 manufacturing sites as well as several offices including a trendy set-up reserved for digital-focused staff where hot-deskers can work in a leafy central atrium or overlooking yachts bobbing in the harbour.

Constantine has been an ethical retail crusader for decades and was part of the early success of The Body Shop. He met the late Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop, when he was in his early 20s and became an important supplier to her business, concocting popular products such as peppermint foot cream and cocoa butter body lotion. A tenth of Lush is now owned by staff. The companys founders who include Constantines wife, Mo promise to sell shares to the trust with the ambition that employees will eventually own 35%.

He is confident profits will recover but downhearted that the retailers finances are strained at a time when Lushs business model is in tune with the zeitgeist. I feel very much like Ive been preparing for this moment all my life: where climate change becomes obvious, where excessive packaging is understood, where a sustainable supply is vital and regeneration is important, he explains. But my God, its chaos.

With department stores in the frontline of the retail downturn, Constantine sees scope to commandeer empty stores and turn them into giant soap emporia where shoppers can stock up on shower gel and moisturiser before getting their hair done or having a facial. All 23 Beales outlets including the prominent store in Poole are closing after the department store chain went bust, adding to the growing number of empty stores around the country.

Lush has invested in a 1,390 sq metre (15,000 sq ft) store in Liverpool that the businessman hopes will impress landlords. Perhaps they would like to pop round and have a look? he says. They would have to help me though because Ive spent all me bleedin money doing the big stuff.

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'My God, it's chaos': Lush's founder on why he is so downcast - The Guardian

The Beef with Kobe – CounterPunch

Great teams have great benches. So strong was the musical squad assembled for Kobe Bryants send-off at Los Angeless Staples Center on Monday, that even Hall of Famer Jennifer Lopez didnt rate any playing time. All the megastar got was a couple of call-and-response notes in the massed sing-along to Beyoncs XO, claimed by that singer to be Bryants all-time favorite song. Beyonc called the tune, not JayLo.

Lopez didnt even get the musical equivalent of a few layups during the warm-up. She had to sit and watch otherinferior!talents hog the limelight and pad their stats. JayLos agony must have been akin to that of the young Bryant when he was forced to come off the bench in his first two seasons with Lakers, the years just prior to the construction of Staples Center, the cathedral in which his hardwood heroicsincluding Mondays posthumous oneswere recorded and have now been enshrined. Jerseys and Jumbotron are the relics and icons of our Age.

At least JayLo had someone to hold on to while riding the bench. Her grip around boyfriend Alex Rodriguezs arm tightened noticeably during Christina Aguileras rendition of Franz Schuberts Ave Maria at the close of the ceremony. JayLo clung fervently to those infamous bi- and triceps as if they were steroid-enhanced rosary beads.

As for Aguilera, she stood saintly still during her performance even while her voice shimmied and shook. Aguileras funerary showboating ran up the score on bespectacled and beleaguered Franzand JayLo, too.

Had there been a scorers table, Aguilera might have tried to jump onto it as Bryant had done near that very spot a decade earlier after Game 7 of the NBA Finals when he won his fifth championship at Staples Center. Atop his spontaneous plinth, the demi-god extended his arms with basketball in one hand like Herculess club, as if to gather within his mighty wingspan all the confetti and adoration raining down on him.

All Aguilera could do after her star turn was beam and bask. Emcee Jimmy Kimmel then mounted the podium to remind her to stand down, making a lame joke about her singing in Italian. Mr. Kimmel take note: half-Latina Aguilera sang Schuberts wedding warhorse fully in Latin, as its always done. Because Aguilera didnt vacate the stage expeditiously, she alone got a double ovation. However odd at a memorial service, ovations at Hollywood ceremonies, whether Oscars or obsequies, come with the territory in Tinseltown.

Perhaps Lopezs antics at the recent Super Bowl in Miami had disqualified her from ascending the altar and lifting a hymn to the departed. On that Sabbath Day earlier in the month, she got vertical and twirled on a strippers pole doubling as the antenna of the Empire State Building. Hers were the motions of a slo-mo sex-copter enacted while Bryants ongoing period of mourning was still in effect. There were three songstresses Monday morning: besides Beyonc and Aguilera, Alicia Keyes appeared at the event. All had appeared in variable states of provocative undress on previous Super Sundays. But these vocal and dance athletes have been on the bench for a string of state and civic rituals. It was their time to score some points.

Beyonc opened the observances with XO and the suitably heavenly Halo. But over the ensuing two hours it was to be classical music, a confirmation of the prematurely departed Laker stars own classic status.

Before Aguileras Ave Maria, an even bigger hit had been heard: Beethovens Moonlight Sonata. It was fitting that the piece should be called on, and not just because of its somber C-sharp minor ruminations. Beethoven, too, was given a huge public funeral, estimated at some 20,000 people, about the number of people who gathered in and around Staples Center, thus a much larger percentage of Viennas population in 1827 than Bryants rites tallied in LA in 2020.

Like incense, an unsettling synchronicity hung in the air of Staples as Bryant was sainted. One expected the Zeitgeist to appear on the Jumbotron, or at least see an ad for Hegels Drive-Thru-World-of-Spirits on Hollywood Boulevard. 2020 marks the 250th year since Beethovens birth, and no one could have expected that the most famous piano piece this side of Fr Elise would reach its biggest ever global audience thanks to the untimely death of a basketball star.

According to another of the speakers, Bryants best friend and one-time agent (now the General Manager of the Lakers), Rob Pelinka, Bryant was always dreaming up romantic gestures for his wife, Vanessa, who stoically, touchingly delivered the mornings first address. Pelinka related how Bryant once found himself in a hotel suite with a piano and seized the opportunity to learn the opening bars of Beethovens sonata by ear so that he could play them for his spouse.

Pelinka then introduced the performer Alicia Keyeslike Beyonc and Aguilera, a Grammy winnerand the piece she was about to play as the Moonlit Sonata. Pelinkas unwitting grammatical transformation of the nickname was strangely appropriate, as if that musical moon were a klieg light on the movie set that is LA. At least visibility was good.

The sobriquet Moonlight for this sonata goes back to an 1823 story by the Beethoven admirer, poet and music critic, Ludwig Rellstab. Here is the scene he sets to Beethovens piano celebrated piece: A lake reposes in the faint shimmer of the moon; the waves lap softly on the dark shore; gloomy wooded mountains rise up and cut off the holy region from the world; swans glide like spirits through the water with whispering rustles, and an Aeolian harp mysteriously sounds laments of yearning lonely love down from those ruins. The passages portent now extends to a mountainside in southern California. (In Staples the harp would have to wait until Aguileras Ave Maria.) Keyes Romantic surges and shifts were more dramatic than even the impetuous Beethoven might have countenanced.

She played the piece on a piano that was purplelike the face of the new moon before a solar eclipse. Keyes was clad in matching color, her singing voice silent for these musical reflections: contemplation not cantillation was called for at this juncture in the mournful rites. An all-black string quartet made sure the sonata became a safe space by adding a shimmering halo of musical and moral support for Keyess Beethovenian encounter. Ludwig Vans production design was deemed insufficient on its own. (Aguileras string quartet was made up exclusively of white players with that heavenly harp thrown in just in case the conjuring of the pearly gates wasnt clear enough already. Separate but equal obtained among the Staples fiddlers.)

Purple piano and purple planets had aligned. A coast away from the Staples solemnities, Harvey Weinstein got done on two out of three chargesat 66%, a damn sight better than the abysmal free-throw percentage of Bryants former Lakers teammate and the last of Mondays eulogists, Shaquille ONeal. Weinstein could never soar through the air and thrill crowds, make people love him even for one magical moment.

In drop-stepping away from rape charges back in 2003, Bryants defense team had followed the tried-and-true game plan of slut-shaming the accuser and leaking her identity to the press. The nineteen-year-old woman subsequently refused to testify in court and the Colorado prosecutors dropped the charges just before trial, even though the case had looked strong. There had been blood on her undergarments and on his shirt; the woman had bruises on her neck and tears in her vaginal wall. Bryant had admitted that he had not received explicit consent from her. She later brought a civil case against him and received an undisclosed settlement. Though he publicly apologized, Bryant maintained that he had believed the sex consensual.

In the aftermath of the rape charges, Bryant shed the skin of his previous brand (Kobe Bryant) for that of Black Mambathe lethal, phallic snake that strikes in the movie, Kill Bill: Vol. 2 by Quentin Tarantino, the filmmaker whose work helped make Harvey Weinstein into a Hollywood mogul of power and prestige. The first installment of Kill Bill came out in 2003, the year of Bryants alleged assault.

With charges pending MacDonald and Coca Cola cut ties with him, Nike did not. Bryants Mamba shoe deal with that company brought him some sixteen million dollars annually.

Even for all his moves, Bryant could not completely shake the past. In 2018, after the advent of the #MeToo movement that Weinsteins depredations had ushered in, Bryant was dropped from a film festival jury. Aside from that lone referees whistle, Hollywood embraced Bryant, even as it turned on Weinstein.

In basketball, as in life and death, there are winners and losers. Weinstein received the first installment of his earthly judgement the same day Bryant was being sanctified in Staples and his constellation spread across the firmament, Beethovens music rising up towards the darkened vault from which shone the gold and purple stars 8 and 24.

Beethoven did not connect his famous sonata with moonlight. He called the piece Sonata quasi una fantasiasonata in the manner of a fantasy. The phrase bespoke freedom from constraining rules, yet the composers admirers heard a profound unity across the works three movements. One can also hear dark urges in this music. Beneath its uncanny calm lurks danger, even violence, however hard the maudlin string quartet of Keyess rendition worked to diffuse the threat.

Likewise, in Bryants life, work, and death one can trace intersecting lines, tragic vectors. Bryant was a self-styled Romantic of the hopeless variety. Dear Basketball, the short-animated film that Bryant wrote, won an Oscar in 2019, the retired star taking full advantage of his Hollywood homecourt advantage. The movie was shown again at Mondays ceremony. To his own voice-over a cartoon version of Bryant is artfully portrayed accomplishing one of his greatest athletic feats. He flies through the air, spins, and completes a reverse dunk. Its a rapturous, godlike act, the very embodiment of imagination and skill, desire and gratificationof fantasy and fulfillment. Icarus without wings, Bryant seems to defy gravity, launched as if to fly on forever. But after attaining his seemingly impossible goal of putting the rock in the hole he crashes back to earth.

Bryants legacy escapes those forces. For that to happen he had to have teammates who would sing his praisesin, on, and off court.

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The Beef with Kobe - CounterPunch

Sundance 2020: Duke alums feature prominently in this year’s festival – Duke Chronicle

Duke alumni made a splash at Sundance this year many of the films in competition were acted, directed and produced by Duke graduates now working in the industry. Duke has one of the largest networks of alumni in the arts and entertainment industries in Los Angeles and New York, one that rivals even the University of Southern Californias. With so many graduates out in Hollywood, many have found success as actors or producers and have even worked on projects that have gone on to win awards.

This year, producers Clarence Hammond (Trinity 08) and Niel Creque Williams (Trinity 06), actress Angela Zhou (Trinity 14) and documentary director known for Ask Dr. Ruth, Ryan White (Trinity '04), each pemiered their projects at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, many having worked alongside major names in Hollywood. Hammond, a producer at Will Smiths production company, Overbrook Entertainment, is no stranger to Sundance. He was a producer on Minhal Baigs film Hala, which was quickly picked up by Apple after the 2019 festival.

Hammonds most recent film, Charm City Kings, is a poignant coming of age story that follows a boy who wants to join a dirt bike gang that rules the streets of Baltimore. It stars Meek Mill and Jahi Di'Allo Winston, and Moonlight director Barry Jenkins is among the credited writers. Charm City Kings was awarded the U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Outstanding Ensemble at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.

Zhou, an actress and member of the Screen Actors Guild of America, is featured in the Emerald Fennell-directed, Margot Robbie-produced and Focus Features-distributed film Promising Young Woman, the story of a womans trauma and revenge against the men that sexually assaulted her best friend. Among the New Zealanders co-stars are Carey Mulligan, Laverne Cox, Bo Burnham and Alison Brie. The Chronicle interviewed Hammond and Zhou about Sundance, their Duke experiences and their respective projects.

Interview with Clarence Hammond (Trinity 08)

The Chronicle: You mentioned this project took six years to bring to life. What was the story like initially and what did the team want it to be?

Clarence Hammond: We always loved the idea of centering it around a young boy whos trying to grow up even though he's so young, so small, so mousey, we were drawn to that type of story, about a boy who needs to become a man. With that in mind, we needed to consider, "What's the journey?" Coming of age stories are always about collateral damage. You try to rail against everything you've known, lie to your mom and sneak out, but many of those actions have big life changing consequences.

TC: There were four writers involved in creating the story for Charm City Kings. Could you describe the initial stages of developing the script and at what stage each writer came on board?

CH: Once we figured out the story, we went to writers Kirk Sullivan and Chris Boyd. Their sample added a great youthful, fun voice to the children they wrote. After two or three drafts of their version, almost randomly, I was linked up with Barry [Jenkins] this is before Moonlight became what it is now. What I love about Barry's voice is that he added lyricism and sensitivity to the story. Sherman [Payne]s part was to take the foundation that Kirk, Chris and Barry built. Hes the one who decided how to build the world and paint its walls. He added a lot of commercial and group dynamics while holding on to the sensitivity that Barry brought to the story.

TC: Often production companies are unwilling to invest in stories from underrepresented voices in the industry, but things have been rapidly changing with inclusion in Hollywood. Where have you personally begun to notice a change in this mindset?

CH: There are many angles to it. As my generation grew up in the industry, we came in as a diverse assistant body, and in the decades since, we've become coordinators, executives, writers, directors and producers. Now, people are more inclined to tell the stories of their own experiences. As we come into these positions, the content we create is reflective of our diversity. We are also fortunately at a time where diversity is becoming more commercial of profitable films like Black Panther, for example, are starting to have such a following and success that will lead to a more diverse box office landscape in the years to come.

TC: What would you say is the importance of festivals like Sundance for independent filmmakers and producers?

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CH: Sundance has a pretty discerning power. There's the pressure of it, the excitement of it; it's almost like "the beginning of the school year" for the industry it gets the conversation started and sets the tone for what's to come. For us, it was great that we were already attached to Sony Pictures Classics, so being at Sundance this year meant beginning to promote the film's release. We needed to make sure Charm City Kings first appearance to the world was as successful as possible, and it couldn't have been better; there were people laughing, crying and jumping at the premiere.

TC: Is there anything you could say about your Duke experience that helped you arrive at this moment of premiering films at major festivals?

CH: My Duke experience helped teach me the value of understanding differing perspectives. My Political Science major, English minor and certificate in film gave me three drastically different experiences and allowed me to develop three different work approaches; Duke really taught me that and helped me broaden my horizons. For students at Duke now, it is important to cultivate your tastes and try to consume as much content as possible whether that be a podcast, play, documentary at Full Frame or screening at Duke, whatever you can do to soak up as much content will help you in telling your own stories.

Interview with Angela Zhou (Trinity 14)

The Chronicle: What stood out to you about the script for Promising Young Woman and why did you decide to pursue this project?

Angela Zhou: One big thing that stood out was that [Emerald Fennell] could mix your classic cute romantic-comedy moments with more dark humor and serious elements. Reading the script was like a roller coaster, you could go up at one moment, and then right back down to where it felt like the worst was happening. Just when you think nothings going to go right, [the script] gives you this crazy victorious feeling. I dont think Ive ever read a script thats given me such a sense of victory before.

TC: Without spoling too much, Promising Young Woman deals with themes of trauma and sexual assault. Could you speak to the timeliness of this film and its relevance to the Me Too movement?

AZ: The film is definitely timely, especially with the Me Too movement, and that was another part of what drew me to the script. There has been a lot of talk about Me Too, but no movies have broken through to discuss it until now. Its such a tough topic, because you want to tackle the situation with the right amount of nuance. The characters in the movie are all multidimensional, and the movie recognizes the shades of grey the issue [of sexual assault] is never black and white. When you see an amazing script thats one thing, but [Promising Young Woman] was not only new and fresh but in the zeitgeist of the moment.

TC: What was it like working with Emerald Fennell and a team that has been working to make womens voices heard in the industry?

AZ: Emerald is great in the sense that shes also an actor, so she knows exactly how to give direction in a way that an actor can actually understand and process. I think its an exciting time in the industry, especially with women like Emerald Fennell and Phoebe Waller-Bridge leading the way. They are my complete idols because they get to make their own narratives and do whatever they want and nobody stops them. They get to write, act, direct and produce, so it really is their own individual voices coming through in a way that is entirely unapologetic.

TC: Is there anything about your Duke experience that helped you reach this point in your career?

AZ: I dont think I ever couldve had a career in this business if I hadnt gone to Duke. I came from New Zealand, and when I fell in love with performance and storytelling, I didnt know how to translate that into a career. But, through the connections at Duke, my internships allowed me an idea of what the industry is and who the different players are. I am really grateful to all of the Duke alumni who took the time to meet with me and give me advice. Thats what really gave me my entryway into the industry.

Charm City Kings comes out in select theaters April 10 and nationwide April 17. Promising Young Woman hits theaters April 17.

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Sundance 2020: Duke alums feature prominently in this year's festival - Duke Chronicle

Andrew Weatherall was uncompromising, pioneering, and a true alternative visionary – DJ Mag

One of the most respected, important and influential DJ/producers in our scene, Andrew Weatherall, has passed away. The tragic news was confirmed by his management in the afternoon of Monday 17th February in a short statement. He was 56.

A wry, sardonic character with a wicked sense of humour, Andrew was a legend of the underground scene. Uncompromising, pioneering, and a true alternative visionary, his influence on modern-day music cannot be underestimated.

Brought up in Windsor in Berkshire, west of London, Weatherall was a music fiend from the off. Thrown out of school, he was influenced by punk and post-punk and started playing in bands in his teenage years. When the acid house wave hit the UK in the late 80s he was at the centre of it, acerbically chronicling the nascent scene via the Boys Own fanzine and DJing at early London acid house club-nights like Shoom, Spectrum and The Trip.

Weatherall soon got into production, sitting in on sessions with Manchester hell-raisers the Happy Mondays, before getting the gig producing tracks on the new album by Primal Scream. A largely ignored Scottish indie band at that point, Primal Scream had taken to accompanying Weatherall on assorted DJ excursions, and when he remixed one of their songs into the dubbed-out, exultant Loaded prefixing the track with a We wanna get loaded and have a good time sample from 1966 Peter Fonda movie The Wild Angels it became massive in the clubs as much of the nations youth partied every weekend.

His work on Screamadelica was simply magnificent: his dubby, blissed-out takes on tracks like Come Together and Higher Than The Sun captured the UKs post-E zeitgeist immaculately, and led to the album topping most end-of-year Best Of lists on release in 1991. It won the first ever Mercury Music Prize in 1992, and is still cited as one of the finest albums ever in any genre.

As the most celebrated producer and remixer in the scene at the time (his work with My Bloody Valentine, One Dove and Saint Etienne was also justifiably lauded), Weatherall couldve cashed in at this point but instead took a left-of-centre turn. He set up Sabres Of Paradise with Jagz Kooner and Gary Burns (later both of The Aloof) most memorably producing astounding chill-out cut Smokebelch II that came out on Warp, followed by albums Sabresonic, Haunted Dancehall and Versus and also set up a label and club-night using the Sabres name. At Sabresonic he chiefly span techno and electro, providing a platform for talent from the emerging techno movement and a futuristic soundtrack for the more discerning London clubber.

After Sabres dissolved he set up Two Lone Swordsmen with Keith Tenniswood, a number of new labels Emissions Audio Output, Rotters Golf Club and then a number of experimental projects over ensuing years, including The Asphodells (with Tim Fairplay) and A Love From Outer Space (with Sean Johnston). He also produced the debut album by Bristol noiseniks Fuck Buttons.

A DJs DJ, Weatherall was frequently spoken about in hushed terms by the scenes cognoscenti as, pretty much, the Ultimate Don. Mixing up cosmic dub, skewed electro, trippy techno, raucous rockabilly and anything else he goddamn fancied, a Weatherall DJ set was always an out-there journey.

Over the years Weatherall was also a prolific lino-print artist; was artist in residence for book publishers Faber & Faber; was terminally a champion of many underground, leftfield artists; and one of the funniest and most down-to-earth people in the business. Genius is an over-used term, but it is undeniably apt when applied to Andrew.

Only last week he announced details of his new, low-slung spacey dub release, Unknown Plunderer, and was looking forward to a fruitful year which was to include DJ dates under the A Love From Outer Space brand.

Andrew was treated in Whipps Cross hospital in east London for a blocked artery, but sadly died on the morning of the 17th of February of a pulmonary embolism when the blood clot reached his heart. His death was swift and peaceful, according to the statement from his management company. The dance scene was united in grief at the passing of one of the absolute legends in the game.

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Andrew Weatherall was uncompromising, pioneering, and a true alternative visionary - DJ Mag

OPINION: If face masks are the new normal, why are we acting like everything’s business as usual? – ABS-CBN News

January was a long month. 2020 took us into its thorny arms withthe impending threat of World War 3, the Australian bush fires, the passing of Kobe Bryant, and a host of other catastrophic events that made Biblical apocrypha look plausible.

And while we didnt get a seven-headed beast rising up from out the sea, we did get something pretty closethe eruption of Taal and days of ashfall, and the coronavirus. Thats like two for the four horsemen of the apocalypse, if were still stretching the Revelation metaphor.

These calamities prompted, well, widespread panic, and the harried procuring of face masksspecifically the N95 model, the kind you see on doctors and nurses on a normal day. The Mercury Drug near my place was small, so it wasnt long lines I saw but an anxious throng of people pooling up at the counter as I queued up. Owning this commodity was life or death. I mean, we're talking about the unofficial successor of SARS, and a condition in which microscopic volcanic glass shreds your lungs up from the inside.

I had heard stories of doomsday opportunists buying masks in bulk and reselling them for exorbitant prices, taking advantage of shortages they themselves caused. But it wasnt long until everybody got a face mask and, despite the dystopic mood that plagued (pun tragically intended) our day-to-day lives, we carried on, faces covered up and fears slightly assuaged.

And then it became... a look. It seemed as though the face of the city had changed, and the N95 became a wardrobe staple. The sight of crowds suddenly appeared a little unfamiliar with noses and mouths obscured. Surgical masks became neutral pieces, compatible with business formal and smart casual. It wasnt long before I started seeing custom face masks in different colors, shapes and prints, some even with tastefully placed filters.Look at this goddamned Instagram postof a face mask hooked up to a mason jar with leaves in it.

A friend told me hed go to the office and see people comparing face masks. His was a model from Airinium, a face mask company designed to keep you respitorally healthy in any urban environment,whose website describes its productas one that offers a personalized fit for optimal comfort and with such sleek design that it will enhance your everyday outfit. Masks come in quartz grey, onyx black, pearl pink, and other designs.

"Warcore" is a termcoined by VOGUEto describe a fashion movement inspired by the aesthetics of armed combat. You'll know it when you see it: military fatigues, assault vests, glossy black boots designed for both runway-rocking and curbstomping coppers. While sartorial items like camo pants and wearing your Doc Martens to protests isn't new, warcore is different. According to Mr Porter, "'Warcore' is something thats come off the back of the utilitarian trend thats been doing the rounds, but is a bit more aggressive. What this means is super-thick, anti-stab fabric, waistcoats in the style of bulletproof flak jackets, buckled belts and sportswear layered over more sportswear."

A friend told me hed go to the office and see people comparing face masks. His was a model from Airinium

The proliferation of face masks seems to fall squarely into the trend of warcore. While we've seen the item in non-conflict settingsfor example, Kpop stars hiding their faces when they show up at the airportthe face mask constantly shows up on our feeds, in a news cycle that perpetually reports violence on a global scale. Hong Kong protestors wear face masks to defend against gas attacks and the scrutinizing eye of a growing surveillance state. Mass movements over the last decade have been encapsulated in at least one picture of a triumphant rioter with a bandana over their face.

Its comforting though that warcore seems to take on a more anti-authoritarian edgeits proponents looking more like Banksy caricatures than fascist pigs. Entertain the thought, though. Jawnz lords stepping up to the plate when the class war reaches its boiling point, throwing molotov cocktails at the boys in blue while donning Virgil Ablohs.

But this isntreallyabout warcore. My gripe is not high fashion's tendency to take the look of the streets and luxify it for haute couture consumption. That's a whole different conversation. We can't stop people from beautifying things we're already wearing for specifically utilitarian purposes. There is an argument for letting humans be human, and allowing them to find art and beauty in disaster. As VOGUE themselves put it: If fashion people are quick to adopt a trend or idea, the best we can hope is that this form of visual resistance lines up with actual resistance, actual political change. The clothes wont protect us and our freedoms, but the people inside them might."

We can't stop people from beautifying things we're already wearing for specifically utilitarian purposes. There is an argument for letting humans be human, and allowing them to find art and beauty in disaster.

And as much as I'd like to posture disdain at how capitalism commodifies our anxieties, I really freaking want an Airinium mask. That shit looks fly as hell, and I too am enchanted by the idea of looking like a decked-out badass in a riot, even though a record of perfect behavior in school leaves me completely unprepared for the event I tussle with a trained law enforcer.

What actually stresses me out is the omnipresence of the commodity, warcore aside. The face mask has, whether we notice it or not, shifted the way we go about our day-to-day affairs. There are times when I've gone out while wearing a face mask to catch up with an old friend, deadset on battling loneliness while suiting up for invisible contagions. For a period of a couple of weeks, my IG stories were chock full of the gear, people posting face mask selfies while making peace signs. I'm sure that shit is normal in South Korea, especially for bracing against the winter season's dry winds, but it ain't normal here. What used to be normal for motorcycle drivers and medical attendants became a wardrobe staple for the zeitgeist.

I look at the face of the city and its nose and mouth are erased. All I see are eyesnever shifty or panicked, but just resigned to the way of things. It's like a dystopian sci-fi movie, the kind where the hoi polloi lug around ramshackle cyborg prosthetics while doing normal shit like bargaining at the neon-lit wet market. Or like, a dieselpunk film, where Mad Max types sport war paint while doing non-desert raid related activities.

What I mean to say is, there is a clear dissonance between how our dystopia looks and how we feel about how it looks. I would feel more comfortable and sane if we, the general populace, were more aware of the dystopic quality of the present since we're already wearing its threads. And by that I don't mean using our coronavirus hysteria as an excuse to stoke anti-Chinese sentiments. I mean, we shouldn't be going to work. I mean, we shouldn't be acting like our days must go on as usual despite these disasters. The eruption of Taal and the spread of the coronavirus came at us full swing in that single hellish month and messed up our collective psycheshouldnt we be more anxious?

And even though these events are being managed in varying degrees of efficacy, shouldnt we be acting more like death is around the corner, what with all the other terrible shit happening in the world everyday? I come to work looking like I'm on the run from Big Brother, and sit down to discuss content output. Like this article. Sometimes, that distorted sense of (ab)normalcy is easy to take. Sometimes, it's hard to breathe.

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OPINION: If face masks are the new normal, why are we acting like everything's business as usual? - ABS-CBN News

Bleeding Edge Closed Beta Impressions – Attack of the Fanboy

Over the Valentines Day weekend Microsoft and Ninja Theory held a closed beta for Bleeding Edge that was available to all Xbox Game Pass members. I spent a solid twenty-hours playing it myself (and would have played more if I wanted to sleep on the couch), and came away feeling generally positive about the experience. Ninja Theory has poured a healthy helping of love and passion into Bleeding Edge, and it shows in every conceivable way. But, despite the fantastic aesthetic, confident style, and solid combat I couldnt shake this feeling that a key ingredient was missing.

The moment I loaded into the game on my PC I noticed the distinct art-style, a mix of Borderlands and Overwatch if I had to sum it up. Bleeding Edge has a cell-shaded aesthetic bolstered by crisp character-designs that each ooze personality. There is the metal-head Nidhogger with his flamethrower throat (how does he eat?), the spunky Gizmo and her large pink mechanical arm, and a damn robot snake piloting a corpse.Yeah, Kulev gives me the creeps, but I loved how wild his design was.

Each character on the roster had a distinct charm to them, and they were all meticulously animated and expertly voiced. Its the level of detail and care youd hope to see in a character-driven multiplayer game, especially after both League of Legends and Overwatch set the bar sky-high. The quality of the character design was evident in all aspects of the game, from the handful of emotes on offer, the quips and callouts made during matches, and the skillset associated with each brawler.

Zero Cools hovercraft/gaming chair came with an evasive double jump that allowed him to pop up and out of a fight while maintaining either his heals or attacks, whereas Cass had a combination of ranged and melee attacks, with gap-closer and disengage skills that allowed her to weave in and out of combat encounters. Gizmo had a jump pad she could use to either escape fights or join them, and Daemons stealth made me want to scream at my screen multiple times as the sneaky bastard appeared out of nowhere to ruin my day. No two characters felt similar, which is what youd hope to see in a game like this.

This confident design bleeds (heh) into every other aspect of the game. David Garcia has cranked out yet another exceptional soundtrack, after his stellar work in Hellblade, and it elevates the future-anarchist tone of the title. The menus have this street art/graffiti vibe to them that perfectly balances form and function, and the cosmetic upgrades for the hoverboard alone had a variety of wild options to unlock. Bleeding Edge absolutely nails it in the audio and visual departments, giving the game a clear identity that allowed me to more easily mesh with the title. This isnt some soulless attempt by Microsoft and Ninja Theory to emulate other similar character-driven multiplayer arenas, and the passion will no doubt help endear the game to the masses.

Gameplay also sets Bleeding Edge apart from the pack: its an objective-based, competitive, predominately melee brawler. Considering Ninja Theorys track-record, this shouldnt shock many. The question going into the beta, however, was how well their brand of gameplay would translate into a multiplayer environment. For the most part, it works out rather well.

Combos are simple, and the game largely uses auto-targeting (though, you can hard lock onto an enemy with the press of a button). Whats here worked, and felt punchy. Mostly. Ranged characters could sometimes struggle without lock-on due to the auto-targeting cycling between shots, but nothing that couldnt be overcome after some familiarization. That, and it was not difficult to find yourself stun-locked. Despite having all my evade charges Id often find myself unable to escape an enemy combo, despite the tutorial making it clear I should. Those moments felt cheap, but Id be lying if I said I didnt mind being on the delivery end of that relationship.

There were only two game-modes on offer: Capture and Power Collection. Capture works as you assume it does: capture the activated capture-point and defend them from the opposing team; first team to reach 600 points wins. Power Collection was rather straight-forward in design: collect power cells located around the map during one phase, then bank them at a set point during the next. Rinse, repeat, hopefully win. Theyre not exactly novel on paper, but the creative map design sets them apart from similar titles. For example, on one map the capture points rotated around the area on a stream that would occasionally pass through electrical gates, forcing constant movement around the map. Another map had a barrage of missiles that would launch every so often, usually targeting an active control point, giving the attacking team a chance to seize the objective once the fireworks had concluded.

Overall, I walked away from the beta feeling like all these pieces did an excellent job clicking together, making Bleeding Edge both familiar and unique. Its already a polished, well-realized title with a personality all its own. But, I felt this weird itch at the back of my brain, like something was missing. You know the sensation: when you walk into room you know well, but something minor is off. Is it the missing family portrait that once sat on the mantle? Is the cat not in their usual spot on the recliner napping? It was this nagging feeling I couldnt shake all weekend, despite enjoying my time with the Bleeding Edge beta.

Im not the only person who felt this way, and even now the subreddit is littered with posts offering up various suggestions. Something about Bleeding Edge feels off, like its missing the final bits of a 1000-piece puzzle. Was it the lack of music during matches? Perhaps the omission of an in-game announcer? Do characters need more skill-based combos? Did the matches drag on too long? Maybe its the maps feeling too large for eight players? Healing felt a bit too powerful, so it could be that. Its these little quibbles that added up slowly as I played, and kept the game from fully clicking with me. I loved what I played, but I never felt an underlying drive to continue playing; that one more match factor.

There is a key ingredient missing here, but its hard to put my finger on. Maybe its as simple as addressing those little nits I listed above, maybe its just shortening the matches and having a proper ranked mode? There is something about the Bleeding Edge beta that, despite all the obvious love and care put into it, is keeping it from truly exploding into the zeitgeist. There is another beta weekend in March, and Ill play the game again then to see if I can figure out whats not syncing with the title. Bleeding Edge is a fantastic game, but what it needs to catapult into the limelight isnt quite here yet.

- This article was updated on:February 17th, 2020

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Bleeding Edge Closed Beta Impressions - Attack of the Fanboy

In theaters – Duluth News Tribune

"Blumhouse's Fantasy Island"

The enigmatic Mr. Roarke makes the secret dreams of his lucky guests come true at a luxurious but remote tropical resort, but when the fantasies turn into nightmares, the guests have to solve the island's mystery in order to escape with their lives. PG-13, 2:36, Premiere, Duluth 10, Lakes 10

"Downhill"

A woman starts to have second doubts about her husband after he runs away from an approaching avalanche, leaving her and their two sons behind. R, 1:26, Premiere

"The Photograph"

When famed photographer Christina Eames dies unexpectedly, her estranged daughter, Mae, finds a photograph tucked away. She soon finds herself delving into her mother's early life an investigation that leads to an unexpected romance with a rising journalist. PG-13, 1:46, Duluth 10

"Sonic the Hedgehog"

Sonic tries to navigate the complexities of life on Earth with his newfound best friend -- a human named Tom Wachowski. They must soon join forces to prevent the evil Dr. Robotnik from capturing Sonic and using his powers for world domination. PG, 1:40, Premiere, Duluth 10, Lakes 10

"Pocahontas"

This is the Disney animated tale of the romance between a young American Indian woman named Pocahontas (Irene Bedard) and Capt. John Smith (Mel Gibson). G, 1:31, screens Friday through Sunday only, Duluth 10.

Second annual Classic Horse Movie Night screens "The Man From Snowy River," 6:30 p.m. today, Feb. 13, Zeitgeist Teatro, 222 E. Superior St. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. with happy hour and silent auction. Tickets: $10 for adults, $5 for youth.

The director and executive producers of "The Hunter," a full-length narrative art film shot in Duluth and currently in post-producton, will be hosting a Cinematic Evening," with sample footage, 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 15, Zeitgeist Teatro Zuccone, 222 E. Superior St.

"1917"

During World War I, two British soldiers Lance Cpl. Schofield and Lance Cpl. Blake receive seemingly impossible orders. In a race against time, they must cross over into enemy territory to deliver a message that could potentially save 1,600 of their fellow comrades including Blake's own brother. R, 1:59, Premiere, Duluth 10, West, Lakes 10

"Bad Boys for Life"

Old-school cops Mike Lowery (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) team up to take down the vicious leader of a Miami drug cartel. R, 2:04, Duluth 10, Lakes 10

"Bombshell"

When Gretchen Carlson slaps Fox News founder Roger Ailes with a lawsuit alleging sexual harassment, not a soul could predict what would happen next. Her decision leads to Fox News correspondent Megyn Kelly coming forward with her own story, as well as multiple other women, inciting a movement that reverberates around the world. R, 1:49, Zinema 2 Note: 7 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 16 screening offers open captioning.

"Doolittle"

Dr. John Dolittle (Robert Downey Jr.) lives in solitude behind the high walls of his lush manor in 19th-century England. His only companionship comes from an array of exotic animals that he speaks to on a daily basis. But when young Queen Victoria becomes gravely ill, the eccentric doctor and his furry friends embark on an epic adventure to a mythical island to find the cure. PG, 1:31, Premiere, Duluth 10, Lakes 10

"Frozen II"

Elsa the Snow Queen and her sister, Anna, embark on an adventure far away from the kingdom of Arendelle. They are joined by friends, Kristoff, Olaf and Sven. PG, 1:43, Lakes 10

"Gretel & Hansel"

A girl and her younger brother unwittingly stumble upon the house of an evil witch in the dark woods. PG-13, 1:27, Duluth 10

"Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey"

After splitting with the Joker, Harley Quinn joins superheroes Black Canary, Huntress and Renee Montoya to save a young girl from an evil crime lord, Black Mask in Gotham City. R, 1:49, Premiere, Duluth 10, Lakes 10

"Jumanji: The Next Level"

When Spencer goes back into the fantastical world of Jumanji, pals Martha, Fridge and Bethany re-enter the game to bring him home. But everything about Jumanji is about to change, as they soon discover more obstacles and more danger to overcome. PG-13, 2:03, Lakes 10

"Knives Out"

A detective and a trooper travel to a lush estate to interview the quirky relatives of a patriarch who died during his 85th birthday celebration. PG-13, 2:10, Zinema 2

"Little Women"

Following the lives of four sisters, Amy, Jo, Beth and Meg, as they come of age in America in the aftermath of the Civil War. Though all very different from each other, the March sisters stand by each other through difficult and changing times. PG, 2:15, Duluth 10

"Parasite"

Greed and class discrimination threaten the newly formed symbiotic relationship between the wealthy Park family and the destitute Kim clan. R, 2:12, Duluth 10, Zinema 2

"Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker"

The surviving Resistance faces the First Order once more as Rey, Finn and Poe Dameron's journey continues. With the power and knowledge of generations behind them, the final battle commences. PG-13, 2:22, Duluth 10, Lakes 10

Summaries from IMDb and official movie websites.

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In theaters - Duluth News Tribune


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