The Drama Of Trauma

Trauma — the damage done to a people through acts of violence, whether in a moment during a massacre or over a prolonged period of oppression — is a thread running through many of the international features competing in this year’s Oscar race: The raw horror of the 1995 Srebrenica genocide in Jasmila Zbanic’s Quo Vadis, Aida?, from Bosnia and Herzegovina; the all-but-forgotten 1962 Soviet state massacre of striking factory workers in Russia’s Dear Comrades!, from director Andrei Konchalovsky; the hidden horror, and thirst for revenge for unpunished atrocities, that seeps through Jayro Bustamante’s genre tale La Llorona, Guatemala’s official Oscar entry; Philippe Lacôte’s Night of the Kings for Ivory Coast that struggles to find meaning in the violent legacy of colonialism and more recent political upheavals through a combination of storytelling techniques both Western and traditional; and Kaouther Ben Hania’s The Man Who Sold His Skin, for Tunisia, which takes as its central theme the exploitation of Syrian refugees, even the exploitation of their trauma itself.

From left: Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Quo Vadis, Aida?, Russia’s Dear Comrades!, Ivory Coast’s Night of the Kings, Tunisia’s The Man Who Sold His Skin and Guatemala’s La Llorona.


It’s notable that this year’s International Feature Oscar shortlist does not include any films on the Holocaust, the central trauma of the 20th century. It’s a rare exception. The Nazi genocide of European Jews, or its traumatic aftermath, is the subject of such Oscar winners as Son of Saul (Hungary, 2015), Ida (Poland, 2014), The Counterfeiters (Austria, 2007) and Nowhere in Africa (Germany, 2002). Instead, this year’s contenders look at national stories that have been largely forgotten or passed over despite their very real and continuing impact on their people and societies left behind.


It was 25 years ago that Bosnian Serbs, led by Gen. Ratko Mladic, gathered up 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys near the town of Srebrenica, bused them to killing sites, shot them and dumped the bodies into mass graves. U.N. peacekeeping troops did nothing. Zbanic, whose 2006 Oscar-nominated debut, Grbavica, examined the aftermath of the massacre — in particular the mass rape of Muslim women by Bosnian Serb soldiers — goes directly to the source with Quo Vadis, Aida? The film tracks the horrific events as seen through the eyes of a Bosnian translator (played by Serbian actress Jasna Djuricic), as she tries to push the U.N. commanders to intervene while racing against time to save her husband and two sons from the coming slaughter.
There have been endless hours of documentary and newsreel footage about Srebrenica. There has been a criminal trial of Mladic — who in 2017 was sentenced to life imprisonment for genocide and crimes against humanity— but Quo Vadis, Aida? has become the definitive film of this European tragedy.


The 1962 Novocherkassk massacre was not covered by CNN. The shootings of peaceful striking factory workers by the Soviet state police — estimates vary, but at least 26 protesters were killed and perhaps as many as 87 wounded — were wiped from Russia’s official history. The cover-up began immediately after the killings, when Moscow imposed a nationwide news blackout. The story remained hidden until 1992, after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Konchalovsky reflects that sense of censored memory in Dear Comrades! by shooting his movie in the style of the elliptical, state-approved Soviet films of the period, complete with a tacked-on, deliberately hollow happy ending. Like Quo Vadis, Aida?, it tells its traumatic tale through the eyes of a determined, relentless woman: loyal Soviet apparatchik Lyudmila (Julia Vysotskaya), a faithful Stalinist who initially sees the strikers as traitors to the state, before the guns start firing.
In his Oscar contender, Guatemalan director Bustamante looks at the state massacre of ethnic Mayan civilians in the 1980s (also known as the Silent Holocaust) by reinterpreting the folktale of a vengeful spirit — The Weeping Woman, or La Llorona — into a cry for social justice. In the original tale, the ghost is the guilty one — a mother who drowns her two children and is cursed to walk the world mourning them.


Bustamante turns her into a vengeful spirit, haunting the guilty conscience of Enrique Monteverde (Julio Diaz), on trial for crimes of genocide committed against the Mayan peasants when he was president. Monteverde is a stand-in for real-life former dictator Efraín Ríos Montt, who was indicted for genocide but pardoned by Guatemala’s Constitutional Court. In La Llorona, unlike in real life, Mayan victims get to confront the general and bring him to task for his crimes against humanity. As with this year’s Russian and Bosnian entries, the heart of Guatemala’s Oscar hopeful is its strong women, foremost María Mercedes Coroy as the vengeful spirit and Sabrina De La Hoz as the aging general’s disenchanted daughter.
Men — a Syrian refugee and inmates of an Ivory Coast prison — are center stage in the two African contenders for best international feature. Both films — Ben Hania’s The Man Who Sold His Skin and Lacôte’s Night of the Kings — take a complex approach to telling stories of national trauma. Sam Ali (Yahya Mahayni) is a Syrian refugee living in Lebanon and desperate to travel to Europe to reunite with his lover, Abeer (Dea Liane). In desperation, he enters a Faustian pact: agreeing to let an artist use Sam’s back as a human canvas for an enormous tattoo of a Schengen visa, the document needed to gain entry into Europe. As an actual piece of art and a working commodity, Sam is free to travel across borders, something not possible for Sam the human being. Part political commentary, part moral satire on the art industry, The Man Who Sold His Skin is also a knowing critique of how stories of trauma — like this movie itself — themselves exploit the suffering of the people they depict.


Lacôte’s Night of the Kings is perhaps the most complex film on the Oscar shortlist. Set in Ivory Coast’s infamous La Maca prison, it is a modern-day One Thousand and One Nights. Like Scheherazade, a new prisoner called Roman (Bakary Koné) is tasked with inventing a tale that will keep his audience of fellow criminals captivated until the morning light or face execution. What follows is an intoxicating hybrid of storytelling styles, with Lacôte borrowing from Shakespeare and cinema — Fernando Meirelles’ Brazilian crime drama City of God is name-checked — and combining them with the oral tradition of the West African griot, in which history is told through narrative, music, poetry and dance. Roman’s story knits together the personal and the political. Lacôte at one point splices in clips of former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo, whose refusal to accept electoral defeat in 2011 plunged the country into violence.
What emerges is the narrative of a man and, by extension, a nation struggling to survive and to overcome the damage of the distant and recent past. As with all the tales of trauma on this year’s International Feature shortlist, the fight is as much about the story as about who gets to tell it. READ MORE: https://apple.news/ANBsEMcsvT4y9XQ795ZR2GA

Childish Gambino makes Grammy history

(CNN) Childish Gambino’s “This Is America” won Grammys for song and record of the year on Sunday, becoming the first rap song to win the prestigious awards.The artist — also known as the mutitalented Donald Glover — did not attend the event and reportedly declined an invitation to perform at the Grammys.”This Is America” beat out “Shallow,” “God’s Plan” and other big hits. The Grammy for song of the year honors song writers, while record of the year goes to the recording artist.

The song caused a stir last May when Gambino released its ambitious video, which was full of racial symbolism.Related: ‘This Is America’: The Childish Gambino video explainedThe Recording Academy has made an effort to diversify its membership amid complaints the Grammys have frequently failed to recognize rap and hip-hop artists in the major categories.Earlier this week in an interview with the New York Times, longtime Grammy producer Ken Ehrlich acknowledged, “We continue to have a problem in the hip-hop world.”It’s unclear if Childish Gambino’s wins on Sunday change that.

25th Annual SAG Award Nominees

MOTION PICTURE

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture

  • “A Star Is Born”
  • “Black Panther”
  • “BlacKkKlansman”
  • “Bohemian Rhapsody”
  • “Crazy Rich Asians”

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role

  • Emily Blunt, “Mary Poppins Returns”
  • Glenn Close, “The Wife”
  • Olivia Colman, “The Favourite”
  • Lady Gaga, “A Star Is Born”
  • Melissa McCarthy, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”
https://www.tntdrama.com/shows/sag-awards/clips/25th-annual-sag-awards-nominations-ceremony

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role

  • Christian Bale, “Vice”
  • Bradley Cooper, “A Star Is Born”
  • Rami Malek, “Bohemian Rhapsody”
  • Viggo Mortensen, “Green Book”
  • John David Washington, “BlacKkKlansman”

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role

  • Amy Adams, “Vice”
  • Emily Blunt, “A Quiet Place”
  • Margot Robbie, “Mary Queen of Scots”
  • Emma Stone, “The Favourite”
  • Rachel Weisz, “The Favourite”

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role

  • Mahershala Ali, “Green Book”
  • Timothee Chalamet, “Beautiful Boy”
  • Adam Driver, “BlacKkKlansman”
  • Sam Elliott, “A Star Is Born”
  • Richard E. Grant, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”

TELEVISION

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series

  • “The Americans”
  • “Better Call Saul”
  • “The Handmaid’s Tale”
  • “Ozark”
  • “This Is Us”

Outstanding Ensemble in a Comedy Series 

  • “Atlanta”
  • “Barry”
  • “GLOW”
  • “The Kominsky Method”
  • “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Limited Series 

  • Amy Adams, “Sharp Objects”
  • Patricia Arquette, “Escape at Dannemora”
  • Patricia Clarkson, “Sharp Objects”
  • Penelope Cruz, “Assassination of Gianni Versace”
  • Emma Stone, “Maniac”

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Limited Series

  • Antonio Banderas, “Genius: Picasso”
  • Darren Criss, “Assassination of Gianni Versace”
  • Hugh Grant, “A Very English Scandal”
  • Anthony Hopkins, “King Lear”
  • Bill Pullman, “The Sinner” 

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series

  • Julia Garner, “Ozark”
  • Laura Linney, “Ozark”
  • Elisabeth Moss, “The Handmaid’s Tale”
  • Sandra Oh, “Killing Eve”
  • Robin Wright, “House of Cards”

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series

  • Jason Bateman, “Ozark”
  • Sterling K. Brown, “This Is Us”
  • Joseph Fiennes, “The Handmaid’s Tale”
  • John Krasinski, “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan”
  • Bob Odenkirk, “Better Call Saul”

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series

  • Alex Borstein, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”
  • Alison Brie, “GLOW”
  • Rachel Brosnahan, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”
  • Jane Fonda, “Grace and Frankie”
  • Lily Tomlin, “Grace and Frankie”

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series

  • Alan Arkin, “The Kominsky Method”
  • Michael Douglas, “The Kominsky Method”
  • Bill Hader, “Barry”
  • Henry Winkler, “Barry”

STUNT

Outstanding Action Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Motion Picture

  • “Ant-Man and the Wasp”
  • “Avengers: Infinity War”
  • “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs”
  • “Black Panther”
  • “Mission: Impossible – Fallout”

Outstanding Action Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Comedy or Drama

  • “Glow”
  • “Marvel’s: Daredevil”
  • “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan”
  • “The Walking Dead”
  • “Westworld”

MTV VMAs 2018: The 15 Best and Worst Moments

J.Lo’s big medley, Madonna’s rambling misfire and more from the show’s 35th annual installment

Joy, tedium, awkwardness, earnestness, Marshmello: Monday’s VMAs had it all. Fortunately, there were quite a few bright spots — Jennifer Lopez’s wildly energetic medley followed by a classy Video Vanguard acceptance speech; Nicki Minaj owning the Oculus; adorable mom moments aplenty — mixed in with the steady procession of face-palm moments. Here, we look back on the highs and lows of the show’s 35th annual edition.

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Best of the Night: Jennifer Lopez Nabs the Video Vanguard Award — and Works for It
“Music, acting, performing,” J.Lo said, Moon Person in hand, “this career has always been an obsession for me. When people said to me, ‘You do too much, you can only do one thing!’ I was always the person [to be] like, ‘Why not?’” Case in point: Her dazzling, epic performance from just minutes before. The 49-year-old Nuyorican icon took to the stage Monday night in blue-and-gold brocade, powering through no fewer than a dozen hits, from 1999’s “Waiting for Tonight” to 2018’s “Dinero,” with snazzy choreography and set changes aplenty. Midway through her medley, Lopez stripped down to a sparkling gold bodysuit that would be the envy of Donatella — then slipped on a fur coat for a momentary snowfall, evoking the holiday breakup anthem “All I Have.” She promptly vanished behind a makeshift brick wall, so that a replica of an NYC 6 train could come crashing through, with Lopez in tow as she sang the chorus of “Jenny From the Block.” And somewhere in there, surprise guest Ja Rule resurfaced from a long, post-Fyre Festival hiatus for a quick cameo. Ever the Instagram artiste, Lopez’s beau Alex Rodriguez stood by with pursed lips and his iPhone camera at the ready, as the star popped her legendary booty in gold spandex. Not even a gracious introduction by a soft-spoken Shawn Mendes could contain the uproar of her fans who cheered well into her acceptance speech.

Best: Nicki Minaj Returns to the Throne
Performing from a previously undisclosed location (spoiler: it was the Oculus in downtown NYC, and it was packed with her extremely enthusiastic fans) Nicki Minaj appeared in gold, backed by gold-clad dancers, in front of an imposing golden throne. She performed a quick-moving medley beginning with a brisk “Majesty,” forgoing the Eminem verse in favor of moving on to “Barbie Dreams,” the song filled with a series of (good-natured) shots heard round the world when she dropped it on Queen’s release day last week. She then rounded out the performance with an a capella verse from album opener “Ganja Burns,” before closing with her 6ix9ine collaboration — and current Number 5 single — “FEFE.”

Worst: Madonna’s Aretha Tribute Goes Off the Rails
Honoring Aretha Franklin is no easy task, but the VMAs’ tribute was an unequivocal failure. The show-runners recruited Madonna to give a speech — potentially a major coup — but unfortunately it had little to do with the Queen of Soul. The star began her address by saying that “Franklin changed the course of my life”; she ended it by noting that “none of [my career] would’ve happened … without our Lady of Soul.” In between, there was a story about failed auditions, an assertion of Madonna’s rebelliousness, a “bitch I’m Madonna” joke and a bad, possibly offensive imitation of a French accent, but nothing more than a passing mention of Aretha. Needless to say, Twitter was none too pleased.

Best: Logic Takes a Stand
Logic isn’t subtle. And, when you want to get a point across quickly and effectively with a single song performance on a nationally televised awards show, that’s a strength. Taking to the stage wearing a black “Fuck The Wall” T-shirt and followed by a stream of children, some of whom were displaced by our country’s immigration laws, Logic (alongside Ryan Tedder) used his “One Day” performance to make a blunt, powerful and necessary statement.

READ MORE: https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-news/mtv-vmas-2018-the-15-best-and-worst-moments-713826/

Watch: Raekwon Brings Out Troy Ave, Bobby Shmurda, AZ & More At 2014 Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival

raekwon-bk-hip-hop-festivalThis year’s tenth anniversary celebration of the Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival brought a slew of hip-hop heavyhitters to Williamsburg. Following Jay Electronica’s set featuring Jay Z, J. Cole, Talib Kweli and Mac Miller, the legendary Raekwon had a few tricks up his sleeve for his headlining set as well.

While fans may have anticipated a Wu-Tang reunion on the stage, Raekwon switched things up for the crowd by bringing out Internet rap sensation Bobby Shmurda. The newcomer performed his viral hit “Hot Nigga.” The Chef also brought out other natives of the borough: Papoose, Troy Ave, and M.O.P.’s Lil’ Fame. Fans of classic rap got a special treat as well, with an appearance from AZ, who took the stage with “Life’s A Bitch.”

As if seeing Raekwon wasn’t enough. Peep clips from his Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival set below:
http://www.vibe.com/article/watch-raekwon-brings-out-troy-ave-bobby-shmurda-az-more-2014-brooklyn-hip-hop-festival

Why Denzel’s Already Won (And He Doesn’t Need An Oscar To Prove It)

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If Denzel Washington wins the best actor Oscar this month, it won’t break any obvious records; the actor won his first Academy Award in 1990. However, his role as Whip Whitaker in “Flight” (now available on XFINITY On Demand™) stands out for a reason made plain by the film’s review in the New York Times: “Flight Stars Denzel Washington as an Alcoholic Pilot.” Newspaper headlines have to say a lot with little, but these eight words demonstrate how much ground Black men have covered in Hollywood since Denzel Washington accepted his first Oscar from Geena Davis 23 years ago. He gripped the statue and gave it a long look as the camera panned to a beaming Morgan Freeman. Denzel soaked up the applause and adjusted his tux before he made his acceptance speech that concluded with an homage to the “Black soldiers who helped to make this country free.” The moment was a watershed in American culture. Not only did we get to witness the rise of a modern-day Sidney Poitier who moved with a showman’s swagger, but we also saw the birth of a nuanced presence for Black men in Hollywood. In the 23 years since Denzel Washington won, we’ve moved from a Black man portraying a slave who becomes a heroic soldier to portraying a drug- and alcohol-addicted airline pilot whose heroism can’t outweigh his own flaws. We are in a time where storytelling about black lives lean toward the individual rather than the collective “We” that long typified movies made about Black Americans. In her essay collection “The Black Interior,” cultural critic Elizabeth Alexander characterizes the period in which Washington came-of-age as revolutionary. “Washington has made very precise career choices, and there are no careless moves in his filmography,” she writes. “To portray Black historical characters was the necessary work of the 1980s and 1990s as opportunities for Black actors and directors expanded and Black people took more control of the image-making onscreen.” The care with which Denzel Washington and his advisors crafted his career is nothing short of remarkable. For most Black actors, their glory is summed up in one or two memorable roles. Haven’t we all heard the argument that there aren’t enough good scripts written for Black talent? However, Washington’s half-dozen Oscar nominations track the evolution in his filmography from historical heroic figures to more deeply flawed creations in which the character’s race may be the least interesting element.

His first nomination came in 1987 as a supporting actor for his portrayal of martyred anti-apartheid activist and journalist Steve Biko in “Cry Freedom.” That was followed by his Oscar-winning turn as slave-turned-soldier Private Trip in “Glory” (1989), then as the titular “Malcolm X” in 1993 (his first Best Actor nomination). In 1999, he was Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, the legendary middleweight boxer who was falsely accused of murder, in “Hurricane.” And then with “Training Day” (2001), as corrupt Los Angeles police detective Alonzo Harris, he crossed the rubicon: He won the Oscar with a character who was complex, unredeemed and entirely fictional. “Flight” arguably raises the stakes even higher: While Det. Harris was a very smart twist on the gangsta characterizations of so many films, the story of pilot Whitaker wasn’t attached to any race; as many films have already proven, addiction struggles can belong to anyone. Washington has been liberated to do what Poitier was never allowed to be on screen: fully human. Poitier acknowledged as much in an interview with the Academy shortly after Washington won for “Training Day,” on the same night that Poitier received an honorary award representing his body of work.http://www.oscars.org/video/watch/mi_spoitier_denzel.html

Noted Poitier, “It represented progress. It represented… a kind of democracy that had been very long in maturing. His following me as he did, he had taken the concept of African-Americans in films to a place where I couldn’t, I didn’t. I thank him for that. He helped me that evening to a closing of my artistic life.”

First Lady Gets Grammy Nod

michelle-obama-x-large-300x225Michelle Obama has been nominated for the 2013 Grammy awards. The first lady is up for Best Spoken Word Album. She is represented in the category for the audio version of her book, American Grown. As a politician she’s not alone — Bill Clinton was also nominated for the audio version of his book, Back to Work: Why We Need Smart Government For a Strong Economy. With her one nomination she leads other artists, like Justin Beiber and Nicki Minaj, that were shut out of the prestigious music award show. The 55th Annual Grammy Awards airs on February 10th. Will you be watching?