The 2017 film “Bitter Harvest” would not, by many definitions, be considered a success.
“It’s a bad sign when even the prayers in this movie are crappy,” observed one reviewer, who contributed to the film’s 15 percent critic rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
It pulled in less than $600,000 in the United States. But that did not mean it did not still have moneymaking potential abroad. All investors needed to do was help buy the rights to distribute it and a number of other films in Latin America, Africa and New Zealand. Major distribution deals with HBO and Netflix were on the cusp of being formalized, they were told. Once those fell into place, the investors would get returns of at least 35 percent.
That is the essence of what the Securities and Exchange Commission and federal prosecutors are calling a Ponzi scheme run by Zachary J. Horwitz, a not particularly famous actor with a rather extravagant home. Mr. Horwitz, who went by the stage name Zach Avery, was arrested on Tuesday on wire fraud charges. He is accused of defrauding investors of at least $227 million and fabricating his company’s business relationship with HBO and Netflix.
“We allege that Horwitz promised extremely high returns and made them seem plausible by invoking the names of two well-known entertainment companies and fabricating documents,” Michele Wein Layne, director of the S.E.C.’s Los Angeles regional office, said in a news release on Tuesday.
most recent film, the horror movie “The Devil Below” (Rotten Tomatoes critic score: 0 percent). Mr. Horwitz did not star in any of the 50 or so films he promised could make investors millions, according to Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles.
Mr. Horwitz was in jail on Wednesday, Mr. Mrozek said. Attempts to reach other employees of One in a Million Productions, whose website features the tag line “When Odds Are One in a Million. Be That One,” were unsuccessful. (Later Wednesday afternoon, the site had been taken down.)
Mr. Horwitz’s lawyer, Anthony Pacheco, did not respond to a request for comment.
The Ponzi scheme began to unravel when an investor wanted money refunded in 2019 and could not get it, Mr. Mrozek said.
For several years, 1inMM — as the company styles its name — found ways to pay investors, according to the S.E.C. Court documents do not list all of the films investors thought they had helped buy rights to, but the complaint features an image from 1inMM’s “library”; the 1989 Jean-Claude Van Damme movie “The Kickboxer” and the 2013 romantic comedy “The Spectacular Now” are included.
The way that money can be made in the movie distribution world is to say, “I’ll give you $100,000 for Latin America rights,” for example, Mr. Mrozek said, adding, “I go to HBO or whomever and say, ‘Give me $200,000 to show the movie.’”
according to the S.E.C.
Since December 2019, 1inMM has defaulted on more than 160 payments, according to court documents. One investor in Chicago, who was owed more than $160 million in principal and $59 million in profits, wanted his returns and could not get them, Mr. Mrozek said. That investor contacted the authorities.
NANDIGRAM, India — The challenger arrived with police vehicles, a band of drummers and the backing of the country’s powerful prime minister. The crowd joined him in full-throated chants of glory to the Hindu god Ram: “Jai Shree Ram!” He brought a warning: If Hindus did not unite around him, even their most basic religious practices would be in danger in the face of Muslim appeasement.
In another part of town, the incumbent took the stage in a wheelchair, the result of what she said was a politically motivated assault. Though her injuries kept her from stalking the stage in her white sari and sandals as usual, she still regaled the audience with taunts for the opposition. And she had a warning of her own: Her defeat would be a victory for an ideology that has no place for minorities like Muslims.
The monthlong election unfolding in the eastern Indian state of West Bengal is deeply personal. Mamata Banerjee, the state’s chief minister for the past decade, is facing off against her former protégé of 20 years, Suvendu Adhikari. He and dozens of other local leaders have defected from her party and are now allied with Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister.
But the heated vote could indicate something broader: whether anybody can stop Mr. Modi’s movement to reshape India’s secular republic into a Hindu-first nation.
state victories. His Bharatiya Janata Party has reduced the main opposition group, the Indian National Congress, to a shadow of its past glory, pushing the country toward becoming a one-party democracy.
West Bengal represents a test of Mr. Modi’s Hindu nationalist reach. The state of 90 million people remains deeply proud of its Indigenous culture and tolerance of minorities. It is run by a strong regional leader with the heft and profile to challenge Mr. Modi directly.
has chronicled the rise of the B.J.P.
“They would have shown that the B.J.P. is an all-India party, that our Hindu nationalism is capable of vernacular adaptation,” Mr. Sitapati said. “And that is a powerful symbol.”
beat her head with metal rods. She trounced the Communists in elections nevertheless.
Last month, in the midst of a jostling crowd, a car door slammed on Ms. Banerjee’s leg. She declared the incident a politically motivated attack, a contention her opponents have questioned. Still, her party has made her cast a symbol of a leader putting her body on the line for her cause.
Mithun Chakraborty, a Bengali actor famous for movies like “Disco Dancer” and “Cobra.”
“I am a pure cobra,” Mr. Chakraborty told one recent rally, as B.J.P. leaders behind him applauded. “One bite, and you will be at the cremation ground!”
Ms. Banerjee’s iron grip over state politics looms over the vote. The B.J.P. is trying to ride anti-incumbent sentiment fueled by her party’s corruption scandals and the way its members have used extortion and violence to keep power.
But Mr. Adhikari and many of the B.J.P.’s local candidates for the state’s 294-seat local assembly were themselves, until recently, members of her party. After decades of heavy-handedness by the Communists and Ms. Banerjee, Mr. Modi’s party began actively expanding in West Bengal only after he became prime minister in 2014, though its infrastructure is still lacking. One joke in the state holds that Trinamool will win a third term even if the B.J.P. prevails.
Ms. Banerjee’s success could depend on convincing voters that her party’s bad apples now work for the B.J.P. The B.J.P.’s dependence on Trinamool defectors has also led to a revolt among local Modi supporters who saw their presence as an insult to their years of work in the face of intimidation by the same people now chosen to represent them.
One defector, an 89-year-old assembly member named Rabindranath Bhattacharya, said he had switched parties only because Ms. Banerjee didn’t nominate him to serve a fifth term.
“I changed my party, but I am not changed,” Mr. Bhattacharya said in an interview at his house. Trinamool flags still hung from the trees and gate.
His candidacy moved hundreds of B.J.P. workers and supporters to pressure Mr. Bhattacharya to step aside. They went on a hunger strike, painted over party signs and ransacked the home of the local B.J.P. chief.
“We started here when no one dared speak as a B.J.P. member,” said Gautam Modak, who has worked for the B.J.P. in the district since 2003. “He got the party ticket three days after joining the B.J.P.”
Mr. Adhikari has said he defected from Ms. Banerjee’s camp because she and her nephew and heir-apparent, Abhishek Banerjee, use other party leaders as “employees” without sharing power. Still, in recent rallies he has put greater emphasis on identity politics, ending with chants of “Jai Shree Ram!”
Voting took place on Saturday in the town of Nandigram, a lush agricultural area, and both candidates were there. At rallies, crowds energized by their moment of power over sometimes abusive politicians braved the heat to listen, cheer and support. Turnout totaled 88 percent.
Satish Prasad Jana, a 54-year-old B.J.P. supporter at Mr. Adhikari’s rally, said he mainly supported Mr. Modi. He had no dispute with Ms. Banerjee except that she couldn’t control the abuse of her party workers, and he knew that some of those same people now work for Mr. Adhikari.
“I have 90 percent faith in Modi, 10 percent faith in Adhikari,” he said.
Hours later, a large rally of Ms. Banerjee’s supporters took place in a school courtyard surrounded by coconut trees. Women in colorful saris outnumbered men. They praised Ms. Banerjee’s government for paving the road that led to the school, for distributing rice at low prices and for making payments to families to keep their girls in school and prevent child marriage, among other initiatives.
But the energy was focused squarely on teaching Mr. Adhikari a lesson.
“You said Mamata is like your mother. The mother made you a leader, a minister, and in charge of the whole district,” said Suhajata Maity, a local leader, addressing Mr. Adhikari.
“Then, you stabbed the mother in her back.”
To resounding applause, she ended her speech with a call to the mothers in the crowd: “Will you teach him such a lesson that he abandons politics all together?”
In one scene, Uyghur women are seen dancing in a rousing Bollywood style face-off with a group of Uyghur men. In another, a Kazakh man serenades a group of friends with a traditional two-stringed lute while sitting in a yurt.
Welcome to “The Wings of Songs,” a state-backed musical that is the latest addition to China’s propaganda campaign to defend its policies in Xinjiang. The campaign has intensified in recent weeks as Western politicians and rights groups have accused Beijing of subjecting Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang to forced labor and genocide.
The film, which debuted in Chinese cinemas last week, offers a glimpse of the alternate vision of Xinjiang that China’s ruling Communist Party is pushing to audiences at home and abroad. Far from being oppressed, the musical seems to say, the Uyghurs and other minorities are singing and dancing happily in colorful dress, a flashy take on a tired Chinese stereotype about the region’s minorities that Uyghur rights activists quickly denounced.
“The notion that Uyghurs can sing and dance so therefore there is no genocide — that’s just not going to work,” said Nury Turkel, a Uyghur-American lawyer and senior fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washington. “Genocide can take place in any beautiful place.”
Western sanctions, the Chinese government has responded with a fresh wave of Xinjiang propaganda across a wide spectrum.The approach ranges from portraying a sanitized, feel-good version of life in Xinjiang — as in the example of the musical — to deploying Chinese officials on social media sites to attack Beijing’s critics. To reinforce its message, the party is emphasizing that its efforts have rooted out the perceived threat of violent terrorism.
In the government’s telling, Xinjiang is now a peaceful place where Han Chinese, the nation’s dominant ethnic group, live in harmony alongside the region’s Muslim ethnic minorities, just like the “seeds of a pomegranate.” It’s a place where the government has successfully emancipated women from the shackles of extremist thinking. And the region’s ethnic minorities are portrayed as grateful for the government’s efforts.
reality on the ground, in which the authorities maintain tight control using a dense network of surveillance cameras and police posts, and have detained many Uyghurs and other Muslims in mass internment camps and prisons. As of Monday, the film had brought in a dismal $109,000 at the box office, according to Maoyan, a company that tracks ticket sales.
initially denied the existence of the region’s internment camps. Then they described the facilities as “boarding schools” in which attendance was completely voluntary.
Now, the government is increasingly adopting a more combative approach, seeking to justify its policies as necessary to combat terrorism and separatism in the region.
Chinese officials and state media have pushed the government’s narrative about its policies in Xinjiang in part by spreading alternative narratives — including disinformation — on American social networks like Twitter and Facebook. This approach reached an all-time high last year, according to a report published last week by researchers at the International Cyber Policy Center of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, or ASPI.
The social media campaign is centered on Chinese diplomats on Twitter, state-owned media accounts, pro-Communist Party influencers and bots, the institute’s researchers found. The accounts send messages often aimed at spreading disinformation about Uyghurs who have spoken out, and to smear researchers, journalists, and organizations working on Xinjiang issues.
Anne-Marie Brady, a professor of Chinese politics at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand who was not involved in the ASPI report, called China’s Xinjiang offensive the biggest international propaganda campaign on a single topic that she had seen in her 25 years of researching the Chinese propaganda system.
“It’s shrill and dogmatic, it’s increasingly aggressive,” she said in emailed comments. “And it will keep on going, whether it is effective or not.”
In a statement, Twitter said it had suspended a number of the accounts cited by the ASPI researchers. Facebook said in a statement that it had recently removed a malicious hacker group that had been targeting the Uyghur diaspora. Both companies began labeling the accounts of state-affiliated media outlets last year.
The party has also asserted that it needed to take firm action after a spate of deadly attacks rocked the region some years ago.Critics say that the extent of the violence remains unclear, but also that such unrest did not justify the sweeping, indiscriminate scope of the detentions.
Last week, the government played up a claim that it had uncovered a plot by Uyghur intellectuals to sow ethnic hatred. CGTN, an international arm of China’s state broadcaster, released a documentary on Friday that accused the scholars of writing textbooks that were full of “blood, violence, terrorism and separatism.”
The books had been approved for use in elementary and middle schools in Xinjiang for more than a decade. Then in 2016, shortly before the crackdown started, they were suddenly deemed subversive.
The documentary accuses the intellectuals of having distorted historical facts, citing, for example, the inclusion of a historical photo of Ehmetjan Qasim, a leader of a short-lived independent state in Xinjiang in the late 1940s.
“It’s just absurd,” said Kamalturk Yalqun, whose father, Yalqun Rozi, a prominent Uyghur scholar, was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2018 for attempted subversion for his involvement with the textbooks. He said that a photo of Mr. Rozi shown in the film was the first time he had seen his father in five years.
“China is just trying to come up with any way they can think of to dehumanize Uyghurs and make these textbooks look like dangerous materials,” he said by phone from Boston. “My father was not an extremist but just a scholar trying to do his job well.”
Moviegoers sent a message to Hollywood over the weekend: We’re ready to return to theaters — and will buy tickets even if the same film is instantly available in our living rooms — but we want to leave our grim world for a silly fantasy one.
“Godzilla vs. Kong,” a throwback monster movie in which a lizard with atomic breath battles a computer-generated ape on top of an aircraft carrier (before everyone decamps to the hollow center of the Earth), took in an estimated $48.5 million at 3,064 North American cinemas between Wednesday and Sunday. It was the largest turnout (by far) for a movie since the pandemic began.
The PG-13 movie was not even an exclusive offering to theaters. “Godzilla vs. Kong,” produced by Legendary Entertainment, was also available on HBO Max, a streaming service that sells monthly subscriptions for $15, less than the cost of one adult ticket at cinemas in major cities.
“Godzilla: King of the Monsters” in 2019 or “Kong: Skull Island” in 2017.
As Hollywood adapts to the streaming age by making new movies more promptly available for home viewing — to the consternation of theater owners — quality matters more than ever, along with size and scope: What is worth a trip to theaters (with face coverings for the foreseeable future) and what is not?
Non-franchise films without spectacular visual effects may have a hard time, box office analysts say, pointing to the disappointing arrival of “Raya and the Last Dragon” last month. Godzilla and King Kong, on the other hand, are cinematic comfort food: time-tested, larger-than-life nonsensical fun. A large percentage of weekend ticket sales for “Godzilla vs. Kong” came from large-format theaters that charge a premium for tickets. Imax, for instance, said that about 1,000 of its screenings in North America were sellouts.
“Audiences are demonstrating that pent-up demand to experience blockbuster moviemaking on the grandest scale,” David King, an Imax distribution executive, said in an email.
That was certainly true of Iveth Vacao, who brought her 8-year-old son, Jayden, to an Imax matinee of “Godzilla vs. Kong” at the TCL Chinese Theater in Los Angeles.
“We don’t usually come to theaters, but we wanted to experience something,” Vacao said before the lights went down. “Covid has made us appreciate this kind of thing more. Sure you can get the same movie at home, but not the same experience.”
Jayden did not care to wager a guess about which creature would emerge as victorious. (“Can they both?”) But he was certain about one thing.
“When the next ‘Venom’ comes out, we’re definitely coming back,” he said, referring to “Venom: Let There Be Carnage,” scheduled from Sony in the fall. “I want to see it on the biggest screen.”
Every month, streaming services in Australia add a new batch of movies and TV shows to its library. Here are our picks for April.
‘Worn Stories’ Season 1
Based on the Times columnist Emily Spivack’s book of the same name, the docu-series “Worn Stories” features short vignettes about what people wear and why. The show’s crew has assembled slice-of-life footage and thoughtful comments from a wide variety of people, who talk about how clothing — or the lack thereof, in the case of one segment about nudism — connects them to history, to their families, and to the communities they love. “Worn Stories” is comforting TV, designed to leave viewers feeling more optimistic about humanity.
The “Stranger Things” actor Caleb McLaughlin plays a troubled teen named Cole in this coming-of-age drama, set in a Philadelphia neighborhood where the predominately Black residents defy the local authorities by maintaining a stable of horses. Idris Elba plays Cole’s father Harp, who tries to steer him away from the local drug trade by teaching him to cherish the responsibility of caring for a large animal. Based on a Greg Neri novel, “Concrete Cowboy” is an earnest and often lyrical look at an unusual urban subculture.
In the mid-1970s, the con man Charles Sobhraj embarked on a crime spree across eastern Asia, at first swindling and then murdering a succession of tourists, with the help of a handful of loyal followers. Tahar Rahim plays Sobhraj in the British crime drama “The Serpent.” The show features a timeline-hopping structure, meant to compare and contrast the killer’s rampage with the work of the Dutch diplomat Herman Knippenberg (Billy Howle), who investigated the deaths of a young couple from his country. This eight-part mini-series is both a character sketch and a portrait of a wild and sometimes dangerous decade.
‘Shadow and Bone’ Season 1
Fans of big, sweeping Netflix fantasy series — like “The Witcher” and “The Umbrella Academy” — are the ideal audience for “Shadow and Bone.” This adaptation of Leigh Bardugo’s popular series of supernatural adventure novels is set in a world where unstoppable giant monsters terrorize a society governed by a rigid military and unscrupulous outlaws. Jessie Mei Li plays Alina Starkov, an ordinary soldier who surprises her comrades by exhibiting extraordinary superpowers — perhaps strong enough to change their lives.
‘Yasuke’ Season 1
In this animated action-adventure series, LaKeith Stanfield voices the title character, very loosely based on the historical records of an African-born samurai who fought in 16th century Japan. Created by the writer/producer LaSean Thomas (who previously worked on “Black Dynamite” and “Cannon Busters”), “Yasuke” follows this masterless swordsman as he reluctantly agrees to escort a superpowered girl on a dangerous quest. The story jumps back in forth in time, showing how Yasuke fights for his own nobility after a lifetime of bad breaks.
Also arriving: “Prank Encounters” Season 2 (April 1), “Just Say Yes” (April 2), “Madame Claude” (April 2), “Family Reunion” Season 3 (April 5), “Snabba Cash” Season 1 (April 7), “This Is a Robbery: The World’s Biggest Art Heist” (April 7), “The Wedding Coach” Season 1 (April 7), “The Way of the Househusband” Season 1 (April 8), “Night in Paradise” (April 9), “Thunder Force” (April 9), “My Love: Six Stories of True Love” (April 13), “Dad Stop Embarrassing Me!” (April 14), “Law School” (April 14), “Love and Monsters” (April 14), “The Soul” (April 14), “Arlo the Alligator Boy” (April 16), “Fast & Furious: Spy Racers” Season 4 (April 16), “Into the Beat” (April 16), “Ride or Die” (April 16), “Zero” Season 1 (April 21), “Stowaway” (April 22), “Fatima” (April 27), “Sexify” (April 28), “And Tomorrow the Entire World” (April 30), “The Innocent” (April 30), “The Mitchells vs. the Machines” (April 30), “Things Heard and Seen” (April 30).
‘Made for Love’ Season 1
The terrific comic actress Cristin Milioti takes the lead in this offbeat science-fiction dramedy, based on an Alissa Nutting novel. Milioti plays Hazel, who gets fed up with her controlling tech billionaire husband Byron (Billy Magnussen) and flees to the middle of nowhere to spend time with her relatively low-maintenance dad (Ray Romano). Unfortunately, Hazel soon finds she can’t flee modernity — not with her father’s synthetic girlfriend taking up space around the house, and not with Byron’s cutting-edge surveillance equipment tracking her every move and mood.
‘No Activity’ Season 4
The American version of the Australian series “No Activity” features a new approach for its fourth season, necessitated by the pandemic. The show is still mostly about lawmen dealing with the tedium of waiting for something to happen while investigating cases, but the format has now switched from live action to animation — which also allows for an all-star team of guest stars, including Kevin Bacon, Elle Fanning, Will Forte and D’Arcy Carden. Patrick Brammall (who cocreated the original show with the writer-director Trent O’Donnell) returns as a cop who dreams of tackling major crimes but who keeps getting assigned much duller duties.
‘Younger’ Season 7
The seventh season is the last for this beloved sitcom, created by the “Sex and the City” producer Darren Star. “Younger” started out as a shrewd and cynical take on the modern New York publishing business, with Sutton Foster playing a middle-aged divorcee pretending to be a hip 20-something in order to get a job. But over the course of its run, the series has dealt with more than just the generation gap, as Star and his team have explored the fragile state of modern media. Throughout, the heroine’s big lie has remained the main hook, and the foundation for the cliffhanger setting up this final run.
‘Everything’s Gonna Be Okay’ Season 2
One of 2020s most entertaining and emotionally engaging new comedies returns for a second season. Josh Thomas plays Nicholas, a formerly carefree Australian now saddled with the guardianship of his two American half sisters: the high-functioning autistic savant Matilda (Kayla Cromer) and the social misfit Genevieve (Maeve Press). While the show is mostly about the girls — both lovable characters, wonderfully played — it’s also about how Nicholas struggles with whether he should be more of a “dad” to these emotionally fragile teens, as they navigate upper middle-class Los Angeles.
‘Godfather of Harlem’ Season 2
The first season of this period crime drama introduced Bumpy Johnson (Forest Whitaker), an aging crime boss trying to reestablish his dominance in early 1960s New York after a decade in prison. The initial ten episodes covered the rapid changes in politics and pop culture, in an era when African-Americans were wielding power more publicly — even in the drug trade. Season two will add even more real-life (and fictional) gangsters, activists and celebrities, and should further the show’s reputation as one of TV’s best-acted and most ambitious crime dramas.
‘Rutherford Falls’ Season 1
The latest project for the writer-producer Michael Schur — one of the creators who brought “Parks and Recreation” and “The Good Place” to the small screen — is a sitcom about the complex and sometimes combative relationship between the residents of a Native American reservation and a nearby community in upstate New York. Ed Helms (another of the show’s creators) stars as the descendant of a local historical figure. The “Rutherford Falls” head writer Sierra Teller Ornelas leads a staff that is primarily made up of Indigenous people, lending authenticity — as well as some wryly self-aware humor — to these stories of small town life.
‘Jimmy Barnes: Working Class Boy’
Based on Jimmy Barnes’ frank memoir, this documentary tells the story of how the Scottish-born singer-songwriter overcame a rough childhood to become one of the most popular musicians in Australia. The film isn’t a comprehensive look at Barnes or his band Cold Chisel. Instead the director Mark Joffe lets his subject talk at length about his formative years, while cutting occasionally to some new performance footage in an intimate setting, in which Barnes strips his music — and his life — down to its soulful core.
Kate Winslet won Best Actress at the AACTA Awards — and her co-stars Judy Davis and Hugo Weaving won Best Supporting Actress and Best Supporting Actor — for this darkly comic melodrama, about a talented tailor who returns to her inhospitable hometown with vengeance on her mind. Winslet plays the title character, who was driven away by her neighbors as a little girl because of a crime she’s pretty sure she didn’t commit. Directed and co-written by Jocelyn Moorhouse (adapting a Rosalie Ham novel), “The Dressmaker” is stylish, dynamic and shockingly — and wonderfully — dark in places.
Also arriving: “Cheat” Season 1 (April 1), “Dinner with Friends” (April 1), “I Used to Go Here” (April 1), “Jiu Jitsu” (April 1), “Recoil” (April 1), “Tyson” (April 1), “The Capture” Season 1 (April 2), “The Moodys” Season 2 (April 2), “Pitch Perfect” (April 7), “Pitch Perfect 2” (April 7), “Home Economics” Season 1 (April 14), “Grow” (April 8), “Reservoir Dogs” (April 10), “Van Der Walk” Season 1 (April 16), “Confronting a Serial Killer” (April 18), “Baby Done” (April 20), “Gold Diggers” (April 22), “Anzacs” Season 1 (April 23).
‘Them’ Season 1
“The Chi” creator Lena Waithe is one of the producers of this socially conscious horror anthology, from the mind of the writer Little Marvin. In season one — subtitled “Covenant” — Deborah Ayorinde and Ashley Thomas play the Emorys, a pair of married Black parents from North Carolina who move to a white middle-class neighborhood in Los Angeles in the early 1950s. Alison Pill plays the block’s bigoted tastemaker, who persuades her girlfriends and their husbands to make the Emorys feel unwelcome. The story eventually takes a turn toward the supernatural, although it’s plenty terrifying when it’s just about discrimination.
Also arriving: “Frank of Ireland” (April 16), “Without Remorse” (April 30).
BUCHAREST, Romania — On Oct. 30, 2015, a fire ripped through a nightclub in the Romanian capital, Bucharest, leaving 64 people dead. Almost six years later, a documentary about the fire and its tragic aftermath has been nominated for two Oscars.
It would be the first Oscar win for the Eastern European country, but the film’s success is bittersweet for many Romanians, given its painful subject matter — particularly since many believe not enough has changed since 2015.
“Collective,” which has been nominated for best documentary feature and best foreign film, follows a group of investigative journalists from a sports newspaper as they uncover painful truths about the Romanian health care system.
a review for The New York Times late last year, Manohla Dargis described “Collective” as a “staggering documentary” that offered “no moment when you can take an easy breath, assured that the terrible things you’ve been watching onscreen are finally over.”
For people in Romania, however, much of what is shown onscreen is painfully familiar.
Catalin Tolontan, then the editor in chief of the daily newspaper Gazeta Sporturilor, is one of the main protagonists of “Collective.” Before the documentary, “We used to receive 10 or 15 messages per day from the public, with scoops or information,” he said in an interview. “After the movie we received 70 to 80 a day.”
Earlier this year in Mongolia, when a woman with Covid-19 was transferred from the hospital in freezing temperatures just days after giving birth, journalists began asking tough questions of the government, apparently encouraging one another on Facebook by referencing “Collective,” which a local television station had shown days earlier. Protests followed, and the government ultimately resigned.
“If you are a journalist in a small country and saw ‘Spotlight,’ you could say, ‘Well, this is the U.S., they have a lot of resources, they have a strong democracy, they have a bond between the public and government,’” Tolontan, the newspaper editor, said. “But if you are in Mongolia or the Czech Republic, Indonesia, and you saw this movie, you think ‘They’re like us.’”
4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days,” “Beyond the Hills” and “Child’s Pose” have received top awards at international festivals over the years, but none has won an Oscar.
Andrei Gorzo, a Romanian film critic, said that it was harder for Romanian viewers to see “Collective” as a morally clear-cut tale of a few good people fighting to change the rotten system.
Instead, he said, it captures a specific moment in Romania, when urban, middle-class votersbelievedin a new breed of politician, young and unsullied, who could clean up Romanian politics. “It is impossible for me to watch the film without acknowledging that a lot of that romanticism has turned sour since then,” he said.
Others are more optimistic.
“The generation that will change things here is not the generation that is 35-plus,” Nanau said. “It’s the younger generation, and these are the people that write to us, that we have met in the cinemas.”
Tolontan said he saw “Collective” as “a point of no return” for Romanian society.
Whether the film wins at the Oscars ceremony next month, many Romanians still hope that the film’s biggest impact will be at home, and that they can leave its content in the past.
Fans of the WWE Network have seen and heard racist tropes in the ring for years.
In 1990, during a showdown between Roddy Piper and Bad News Brown, a Black wrestler, Mr. Piper, who is white, showed up to the match with half his face painted black.
In 2005, Vince McMahon, the chief executive of WWE, used a racial slur repeatedly in a prepared skit.
Until recently, those segments were available to watch on the WWE Network, which allowed subscribers to revisit old episodes and seasons of WrestleMania going back to the 1980s. But this month, after WWE episodes began moving to Peacock, NBCUniversal’s fledgling streaming service, longtime viewers of wrestling noticed they could not find either segment.
“The whole match is gone,” said Christopher Jeter, 30, who has watched professional wrestling since he was 10 and now writes about it for Daily DDT, a news and opinion site about WWE. “I wouldn’t say it’s a big loss.”
NBCUniversal said that Peacock was “reviewing WWE content to ensure it aligns with Peacock’s standards and practices,” as it does other shows and films on the platform.
said in January that Peacock had acquired exclusive streaming rights to WWE Network content through a multiyear agreement.
In March, the company announced that Peacock would feature WWE “fan-favorite content at launch, including all past WrestleManias leading up to WrestleMania 37.”
The company said that Peacock would continue to add WWE Network content to its library, making the entire archive available to fans.
The removal of the segments come as other streaming services and entertainment companies have sought to give audiences context for older films and television shows that feature offensive content.
Disney’s streaming service includes a 12-second disclaimer that cannot be skipped before films like “Dumbo” and “Peter Pan” that tells viewers they will see “negative depictions” and “mistreatment of people or cultures.”
Turner Classic Movies showed 18 classic films, including “The Jazz Singer” and “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” that were preceded by commentary from film experts who prepared viewers for scenes they could find jarring or upsetting.
HBO Max initially removed “Gone With the Wind” from its streaming service, then added it again with a four-minute introduction by the TCM host Jacqueline Stewart, who explains the enduring cultural importance of the film even as it “denies the horrors of slavery as well as its legacies of racial inequality.”
Last June, an NBC spokesman said four episodes of “30 Rock” that featured blackface were being removed from circulation at the request of Tina Fey, the show’s creator, and Robert Carlock, an executive producer and showrunner.
Mr. Jeter, the WWE fan who writes about wrestling, said that racist and sexist depictions of women, Black people and other people of color have long been a part of professional wrestling.
“It became such a part of watching the product that it became expected,” he said. “But it’s not why I watch wrestling.”
Most fans, he said, watch wrestling because they enjoy the combination of athleticism and dramatic storytelling. The racist tropes were often a distraction from that, Mr. Jeter said.
“I’m sure there are fans who are saying, ‘Why are you censoring?’” he said. “But it really isn’t a big deal that they’re getting rid of these stories and segments that haven’t really aged well, and weren’t really good at the time.”
The Event Horizon Telescope collaboration, an international team of radio astronomers that has been staring down the throat of a giant black hole for years, on Wednesday published what it called the most intimate portrait yet of the forces that give rise to quasars, the luminous fountains of energy that can reach across interstellar and intergalactic space and disrupt the growth of distant galaxies.
The black hole in question is a monster 6.5 billion times as massive as the sun, and lies in the center of an enormous elliptical galaxy, Messier 87, about 55 million light-years away in the constellation Virgo. Two years ago, the team photographed it, producing the first-ever image of a black hole; the hitherto invisible entity, a porthole to eternity. It looked like a fuzzy smoke ring, much as Albert Einstein’s equations had predicted a century ago.
The group has spent the last two years extracting more data from their observations about the polarization of the radio waves, which can reveal the shape of the magnetic fields in the hot gas swirling around the hole.
Now, seen through the radio equivalent of polarized sunglasses, the M87 black hole appears as a finely whiskered vortex, like the spinning fan blades of a jet engine, pumping matter into the black hole and energy outward into space.
two papers published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters by the Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration, and in a third paper, by Ciriaco Goddi of Radboud University in the Netherlands and a large international cast, that has been accepted by the same journal.
Dark demons of the cosmos
the Event Horizon Telescope, an international collaboration that now comprises some 300 astronomers from 13 institutions.
The telescope is named after the point of no return around a black hole; beyond the event horizon, all light and matter is consumed. In April 2017, when the telescope spent 10 days observing M87, it consisted of a network of eight radio observatories around the globe — “a telescope as big as the world,” as Dr. Doeleman likes to say, able to spot details as small as an orange on the moon. The team then took two years to process the data. The results came together in April 2019, when Dr. Doeleman and his colleagues presented the first-ever images — radio maps, really — of a black hole, the monster in M87.
framed by a swirling doughnut of radiant gas in the center of the galaxy Messier 87.
“We have seen what we thought was unseeable,” Dr. Doeleman said at the time. The picture appeared on the front page of newspapers around the world, and a copy is now in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
But that was only the beginning of the journey inward.
Inside the dynamo
It took another two years for researchers to produce the polarized images released on Wednesday.
Jets and lobes of radio, X-ray and other forms of energy extend more than 100,000 light-years from the black hole in M87. Much of this radiation comes from energetic electrical particles spiraling around in magnetic fields.
The newly processed image allows the astronomers to trace these fields back to their origins, in a hot, chaotic ring of electrified gas, or plasma, about 30 billion miles across — four times as wide as the orbit of Pluto. That achievement is made possible because the light from the disk is partly polarized, vibrating more in one direction than in others.
“The direction and intensity of the polarization in the image tells us about the magnetic fields near the event horizon of the black hole,” said Andrew Chael, an astrophysicist at Princeton University who is part of the Event Horizon team.
Astronomers have debated for years whether the magnetic fields surrounding so-called low-luminosity black holes like M87 were weak and turbulent or “strong” and coherent. In this case, Dr. Chael said, the magnetic fields are strong enough to disrupt the fall of the gas and transfer energy from the spinning black hole to the jet.
“The E.H.T. images also provide hints that the bright jet in M87 is actually powered from the rotational energy of the black hole, which twists the magnetic fields as it rotates,” said Michael Johnson another Event Horizon member from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
As a result, Dr. Doeleman said, “This gives the emitted radio waves the azimuthal twist” observed in the curving pattern of the new, polarized images. He noted that azimuthal twist would be a “fine name for a cocktail.”
A byproduct of the work, Dr. Doeleman said, was that the astronomers were able to estimate the rate at which the black hole is feeding on its environment. Apparently it isn’t terribly hungry; the black hole is eating “a paltry” one-thousandth of the mass of the sun per year.
“Yet it’s enough to launch powerful jets that stretch for thousands of light years, and it’s radiant enough for us to capture it with the E.H.T.,” he said.
Dr. Doeleman is already laying the groundwork for what he calls the “next generation” Event Horizon Telescope, which will produce movies of this magnetic propulsion structure in action.
“This is really the next big question,” Dr. Doeleman said. “How do magnetic fields extract energy from a spinning black hole? We know it happens, but we don’t know how it works. To solve that, we will need to create the first black hole cinema.”
When the N.B.A. shut down its season last year because of the pandemic, one of the first phone calls Chris Paul made was to the Hollywood producer Brian Grazer. Mr. Paul, then a point guard with the Oklahoma Thunder, knew he wanted to chronicle what was going on, and he wanted Mr. Grazer’s help.
“The idea was, basically, film everything that had taken place in that game that night and what was going to come of it,” Mr. Paul said. “We had no clue what would happen next.”
The result was “The Day Sports Stood Still,” a documentary about the shutdown, the N.B.A.’s pandemic bubble and the impact of the Black Lives Matter movement on the league. (Mr. Paul appears in the film and is an executive producer.) It is a portrait of the ways the pandemic convulsed the sports world, but also an example of how Covid-19 has upended the entertainment industry.
The film, which debuts Wednesday on HBO and HBO Max, comes from Mr. Grazer’s Imagine Entertainment and a newer entrant to Hollywood: Waffle Iron Entertainment, Nike’s production entity.
General Electric Theater” television show from 1954 through 1962.
In the past decade, branded filmmaking has only proliferated.
Patagonia funded a feature-length documentary about dams, called “DamNation,” in 2014. Pepsi backed the 2018 movie “Uncle Drew,” which showcased the basketball star Kyrie Irving recreating his septuagenarian character from a popular series of Pepsi Max commercials. The film made $42 million and marked one of the first branded entertainment campaigns to be adapted into a major motion picture. “Gay Chorus Deep South,” a documentary produced by Airbnb, debuted on the festival circuit in 2019. And Apple’s acclaimed “Ted Lasso” began its life as an NBC Sports promotion for its acquisition of the broadcast rights to the English Premier League.
Imagine Entertainment, the production company founded by Mr. Grazer and Ron Howard in 1985, formed Imagine Brands in 2018 to pair companies with filmmakers, hiring Mr. Wilkes and Marc Gilbar, the creator of the “Uncle Drew” Pepsi campaign and an executive producer on the film, to run the group. The division has produced both feature-length documentaries and narrative films with their partners, which have included Unilever, Walmart and Ford.
Imagine is also working with the consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble. The company, which effectively created soap operas when it began to sponsor serial radio dramas in the 1930s to help promote its soap products, is cofinancing a feature-length film with Imagine called “Mars 2080.” It will be directed by Eliza McNitt and begin production later this year. The film, which is scheduled to be released theatrically by IMAX in 2022 before moving to a streaming service, focuses on a family resettling on Mars.
It grew out of a breakfast in New York in 2019, where Mr. Wilkes, Mr. Howard and Marc Pritchard, Procter & Gamble’s chief brand officer, discussed technology in the pipeline. The Imagine team later toured Procter & Gamble’s research labs in Cincinnati, seeing examples of its “home of the future” products and meeting its scientists.
Kimberly Doebereiner, the vice president of Procter & Gamble’s future of advertising division, said the company hoped to do more long-form storytelling, like “The Cost of Winning,” the four-part sports documentary its shaving brand Gillette produced. It debuted on HBO in November.
“We want to be more interesting so consumers are leaning into our experiences and we’re creating content that they want to see as opposed to messages that are annoying to them,” she said. “Finding a way to have content that is in places where ads don’t exist is definitely one of the reasons why we’re leaning into this.”
It’s all part of a deliberate shift by brands to try to integrate themselves more fully into consumers’ lives, the way companies like Apple and Amazon have, said Dipanjan Chatterjee, an analyst with Forrester. And they want to do so without commercials, which, he said, have “zero credibility” with consumers.
“If the right story has the right ingredients and it becomes worthwhile for sharing, it doesn’t come across as an intrusive bit of advertising,” Mr. Chatterjee said. “It feels much more like a natural part of our lives.”
Alessandro Uzielli, the head of Ford Motor Company’s global brand and entertainment division, first met with Imagine Brands in early 2018. He was looking for a way to augment Ford’s advertising campaign for its relaunched Bronco with a piece of entertainment that would reach a younger audience. The result was “John Bronco,” a 37-minute long mockumentary directed by Jake Szymanski (“Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates”) and starring Walton Goggins (“Justified”) as the greatest fictional pitchman of all time.
The short film earned a slot in the Tribeca Film Festival and is now streaming on Hulu. In addition to featuring guest spots from Tim Meadows, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bo Derek, it helped reintroduce the Bronco, a sport utility vehicle that the automaker pulled in the mid-1990s.
“This helped us speak to an audience that we probably weren’t going to speak to on our own,” Mr. Uzielli said.
“It was Imagine’s project, and we didn’t want to cloud their process, to try to make it feel like too much of a sales job,” he added.
Mr. Szymanski, who has directed both feature films and commercials, including ads for the Dodge Durango starring Will Ferrell’s “Anchorman” character Ron Burgundy, said Ford allowed him a great deal of creative freedom. “I think they could have tried to impose a much larger shadow on it than they did,” he said.
Now, Imagine, Mr. Szymanski and Mr. Goggins are trying to turn John Bronco into the next Ted Lasso — an effort in the early stages of development.
“It’s kind of a win-win,” Mr. Szymanski said of a possible television series based on Mr. Goggins’ character. “I don’t think Ford would have any creative control over it but to have a character named John Bronco in the world, that would be a good thing for them.”
Jessica McClintock, a fashion designer whose romantic, lacy confections dressed generations of women for their weddings and proms, died on Feb. 16 at her home in San Francisco. She was 90.
The cause was congestive heart failure, said her sister, Mary Santoro.
In 1969, Ms. McClintock was a newly divorced mother and had been teaching science and music to sixth graders in Cupertino, Calif., when she invested $5,000 in a San Francisco dress business called Gunne Sax. (In creating the name, the founders, Eleanor Bailey and Carol Miller, had riffed on the idea of a “sexy gunny sack,” according to Vogue magazine.)
Soon after, Ms. McClintock became the sole owner, designer and saleswoman. She had no design training, but she could sew.
Inspired by those she called San Francisco’s “flower children,” she began making calico, lace and beribboned pastiches known as granny dresses. It was a style — a little bit Victorian, a little bit prairie — that hippies in the Haight-Ashbury section had popularized by putting together the wares of vintage clothing stores.
Dorothy Rodham, said no way: She had to wear something new for her wedding.
Representative Jackie Speier, who serves California’s 14th District, in the Bay Area. Ms. McClintock designed a wedding dress for her. (Ms. Speier called her “the fashion designer for Democrats” because of her inclusive price points, though Ms. McClintock was a registered Republican.)
Vanna White, who has made a career out of elegantly flipping the letters on the game show “Wheel of Fortune” clad in satiny sheaths, did so for a time in Jessica McClintock gowns.
But Ms. McClintock’s bread and butter was also in gussying up young women for their proms and quinceañeras and even elementary school graduations, particularly in the heyday of the 70s, as they danced to Fleetwood Mac or Peter Frampton, their hair done in Dorothy Hamill-style bobs.
As the decades marched along, so did Ms. McClintock’s styles, from pale Victorians and Great Gatsby-esque satins in the 1970s to poofy silk taffeta in the ’80s to more streamlined dresses in iridescent silk in the ’90s and beyond.
In 1999, when her business, a private company, turned 30, sales were at $140 million, according to Women’s Wear Daily. She operated 26 stores around the country, marketed a fragrance, Jessica, and had licensing agreements for handbags, jewelry, china, eyeglasses, bedding and home furnishings.
signed an agreement with Asian Immigrant Women Advocates, a community organization, to promote fair labor practices and establish an education fund for garment workers.
In addition to her sister, Ms. McClintock is survived by her son. Her longtime partner, Ben Golluber, who was chief financial officer of the company, died in 1998.
Ms. McClintock retired from the day to day management of her company in 2013, only to return a year later.
Since the early 1980s, the company headquarters were in a commercial building in San Francisco’s Potrero Hill neighborhood, but Ms. McClintock sold the space in about 2016 and thereafter ran the business from her home office.
She lived in a Queen Anne Victorian house in Pacific Heights, which she bought from the filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola. With a decorator’s help she turned it into a romantic fantasy, with Venetian chandeliers, billowing pink satin curtains, inlaid marble floors and Aubusson carpets — just the right backdrop for the Old World fashions she favored.
“I have a romantic feeling about life,” Ms. McClintock told a reporter in 2007. “I like Merchant-Ivory movies and candlelight and beautiful rooms. I like the patina of age.”