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Celebrity news and blog articles from The Huffington Post

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    Matt Damon, a white man, tried to school veteran producer Effie Brown in promoting diversity in film during the first episode of HBO's revamped "Project Greenlight," a reality series that lets one inexperienced filmmaker direct a $3 million feature.


    "When we're talking about diversity, you do it in the casting of the film, not in the casting of the show," Damon word-vomited onto his fellow panel members during the episode on Sunday night.


    "Wow, OK," Brown responded.





    But let's back up a minute.


    "Project Greenlight" centers around a pre-chosen script, "Not Another Pretty Woman," a romantic comedy about a man who ends up marrying a black prostitute after getting left at the altar, Flavorwire reports. After choosing a director from a pool of contestants, a panel dominated by white bros -- including Damon and Ben Affleck -- guides him or her to success. In the first episode, the panel figures out who that director should be.


    Brown, the sole black panel member, was concerned how the film might treat the black prostitute character, Harmony, who is abused by her white pimp. In a script seemingly chock-full of tired old tropes, Brown wanted to ensure the character would avoid stereotypes as much as possible. She suggested the directing team of Leo Kei Angelos, a Vietnamese man, and Kristen Brancaccio, a woman, might be able to treat Harmony with the most compassion, thus making a better movie.


    Damon was quick to interrupt, to Brown's apparent shock. Recent headlines, of course, have made clear that diversity in Hollywood is a problem behind the camera as much as it is in front of it. While it's important to show audiences diverse actors, the voices shaping those actors' onscreen portrayal from behind the scenes are just as vital to telling stories from different points of view.


    Damon's comments especially hit a nerve on social media, where people began using the hashtag #Damonsplaining to mock the actor-director's fearless opining.  





    "Project Greenlight" airs Sunday at 10:00 p.m. ET on HBO.


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    In 2012, Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson's breakup was treated like biggest tabloid story in years. News of the couple's split was everywhere after Us Weekly published photos of the actress cheating on the British star with married director Rupert Sanders, whom she worked with on "Snow White and the Huntsman." 


    After the photos were published, Stewart actually issued a public apology in which she stated that a "momentary indiscretion" jeopardized her relationship with Pattinson, whom she called, "most important thing in my life, the person I love and respect the most [...] I love him, I love him, I'm so sorry." 


    The pair would break up shortly after that moment of indiscretion was made public, and while they eventually reunited, the two ultimately broke things off for good in May 2013


    Now, more than two years later, Stewart is still reeling a little bit from the split. 


    "It was incredibly painful,” Stewart told The Daily Beast while in Toronto for the city's annual film festival. “Ugh, f**king kill me."


    The 25-year-old went on to say that making her new movie "Equals" was a bonding experience for her and co-star Nicholas Hoult, who had also recently been through a breakup with Jennifer Lawrence. 


    "It was a really good time for both of us to make this movie. Not all of my friends have been through what I’ve been through, or what some people have tasted at a relatively speaking young age, and we were not expected to do anything," she told the website. "Everything that we did was explorative, and a meditation on what we already knew.”


    She added, "Relationships, you just never fucking know.”


    Pattinson, who is now dating (and reportedly engaged) to singer FKA Twigs, opened up about the split last year, telling Esquire UK, "Shit happens, you know? It’s just young people … It’s normal! And honestly, who gives a shit?”


    The actor went on to admit that the hardest part about the whole situation was talking about it afterwards.


    "When you talk about other people, it affects them in ways you can’t predict," he says. "It’s like that scene in 'Doubt,' where [Philip Seymour Hoffman is] talking about how to take back gossip? They throw all those feathers from a pillow into the sky and you’ve got to go and collect all the feathers.”


     


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    Kylie Jenner's bodyguards won't let anyone get in her way, not even a famous billionaire actress just minding her own business. 


    Page Six is reporting one of the 18-year-old's bodyguards "shoved" actress Jessica Alba out of the way while everyone was leaving the Opening Ceremony show during New York Fashion Week. Following the runway presentation, which featured dancers from the New York City Ballet as models, Jenner's bodyguards apparently got a little rougher than necessary. 


    "After the show, trying to leave the venue, it was very crowded,” a source told the paper. "Everyone was in the crush and Jessica had stopped briefly to say hi to someone when all of a sudden from behind came Jenner’s bodyguards. They just shoved Jessica out of the way. She looked astonished!" 


    Another source added "Jessica didn’t freak out" about the situation. 


    As Refinery 29 notes, this isn't the first time Jenner's bodyguards have been accused of being too rough. Véronique Hyland of The Cut tweeted about her own negative encounter with one of the guards, as did a fan named Tori.





    Jenner's and Alba's reps did not respond to our request for comment at press time.


     


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    To prepare for "Room," Brie Larson locked herself in her apartment for weeks at a time. She met with trauma counselors and participated in a silent retreat, revisiting childhood recollections of living in a tiny studio with her single mother and eating Ramen nightly. Larson realized that period was one of the fondest of her life, despite how limited it may have appeared in actuality. And that is what informed her performance in the new adaptation of Emma Donoghue's best-seller, which revolves around a young mother who has birthed and raised her now-5-year-old son inside the shed where they are held captive. 


    Larson recounted her groundwork for the role during a Monday press conference at the Toronto Film Festival, where "Room" screened for media. Talk of an Oscar nomination for the 25-year-old actress rippled through the festival, and for good reason: Larson, who broke out on the Showtime series "United States of Tara" and earned her bona fides with the moving drama "Short Term 12," does her best work to date in the movie. If she were playing someone whose confinement was fresh, Larson would require a big performance, full of panic and anguish. But because it's been several years since her character was kidnapped, by a man who asked for help with his sick dog, Larson must blend the grief that itches at her with the banality of everyday life inside of one tiny outbuilding where her captor visits only to have sex and deliver chintzy groceries. By the time we meet her, she is anesthetized to the experience. That's seen in deadened interactions with her volatile detainer and in the imagination she uses to give her son the most positive upbringing possible. 


    An equal match for Larson is Jacob Tremblay, the 8-year-old "Smurfs 2" actor who portrays her long-haired son, Jack. As in the book, the story is told largely from his perspective. Here, that means sporadic voice-overs where Jack explains the world that he knows inside of what he and Ma call Room. In his eyes, everything else is outer space and the people on the television they watch are not real -- at least until Ma introduces a plan to escape. Tremblay's is as much of a lead role as Larson's, and he captures the naïveté of Jack's transition from claustrophobic chamber to a boundless and unfamiliar universe. He panics as Ma informs him of what exists beyond Room, hesitates as he later experiences it for himself and cycles through grief, rage and wonder at the circumstances that burden his young brain. No remarkable child performance should go without credit to the director -- in this case, Lenny Abrahamson ("Frank") -- and the primary co-stars, but Tremblay carries a lot of weight on his tiny shoulders.  


    It is apparent that Larson and Tremblay's connection ran deep while making "Room." At Monday's press conference, they talked about constructing some of the toys featured in their characters' titular home and spending time playing together before production began. “I felt incapable of not talking about 'Star Wars' and which animal would beat what in a battle,” Larson said of the hours they weren't in each other's company throughout the movie's shoot. That kinship comes to life in the two characters' nonverbal communication -- the fury they sometimes unleash upon each other, the warmth that billows through their laughter and the gravity of each's need for the other to survive. 


    There's a lot else to rave about when it comes to "Room," primarily Danny Cohen's roving cinematography. It traces the scenery in a such a way that the audience enters the mindset of being locked away and then discovering or re-entering a world rendered foreign. In faithfully adapting her own novel, Donoghue retains a sense of bewilderment about navigating life for the first time, which is why Jack is the crux of "Room." If you've spent five years whimsically thinking that dogs belong in television sets and friends are the mice that scurry across your single bedroom, imagine the heartache and awe upon learning there is an escape. Imagine the same if you actually knew there was a universe passing you by. Larson and Tremblay masterfully convey that turbulence. By the time "Room" comes to a weepy close, the audience's world seems a bit bigger and brighter than it did two hours earlier.


    "Room" opens Oct. 16.


    For continuous updates from the Toronto Film Festival, follow Matthew Jacobs and Erin Whitney on Twitter.


     

     


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    Long story short, Jessica Alba isn't very good at this game. 


    Jimmy Fallon played a new "Tonight Show" game, "Long Story Short," on Monday with Benicio del Toro, Miguel and Jessica Alba, and things didn't go as planned. To play the game, one person describes a movie in a specific amount of time and the other person has to guess the title. It seems simple, but just don't tell that to Alba, who failed over and over again.


    Look, Fallon's new "Tonight Show" game is probably not a top priority for Alba right now. She and her company have a lot going on. But there is good news for the actress. Even after all her fails, she would get one last shot at redemption, and there's a good chance she comes out feeling like the king of the world ...


     "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon" airs weeknights at 11:35 p.m. ET on NBC.


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    As someone who has been tracking and writing about the childfree choice for some years now, I was delighted to hear Kim Cattrall speaking out about it recently on BBC radio. This is not the first time we have heard from her about her choice to have no children.

    In an Oprah interview a few years ago, Kim said:

    "..I try not to listen to the shoulds or coulds, and try to get beyond expectations, peer pressure, or trying to please--and just listen. I believe all the answers are ultimately within us. When I answered those questions regarding having children, I realized that so much of the pressure I was feeling was from outside sources, and I knew I wasn't ready to take that step into motherhood.

    Since then I've found other ways to fulfill my maternal instincts--when a young actress comes to me for advice about her career, or when I give a talk at a school, babysit my friends' kids, or work with children's charities or organizations. And even though I'm now married, my decision still stands.

    My newest projects sometimes feel like my children. When my husband, Mark, and I wrote our book, the time, energy, and love we put into it felt very much like parenting. And when we finally dropped the book off at the publisher, it was as if we were taking our child to the first day of nursery school--we were so proud and so nervous.

    Being a biological mother just isn't part of my experience this time around. However, I am a mother who continues to give birth to ideas and ways of experiencing life that challenge the norm."

    Since that interview, while she is no longer married, she remains childfree. In the BBC interview, she take her childfree experience further:
    "I have young actors and actresses that I mentor, I have nieces and nephews that I am very close to so I think the thing that I find questionable about being childless or childfree is - are you really?

    "There is a way to become a mother in this day and age that doesn't include your name on the child's birth certificate. You can express that maternal side very clearly, very strongly."

    Cattrall feels that although she may not be a biological parent, she is a parent. She admits that while she "didn't change nappies," in addition to mentoring, she has helped and been there for her niece and nephew in their lives. In her experience, "Those are very motherly things to do, very maternal things to do, very nurturing things to do, so I feel I am a mother of sorts."

    As The Independent coins it, she "considers herself a mother despite not having children."

    I have to admit, this idea gave me pause. To answer Cattrall's question, as a childfree person, "Are you really?" I still say yes.

    Those with no children can mother, to be sure. Notice I am using this word as a verb. Writers like Anne Lamont have written about the need to celebrate "mothering," and all who mother, not just those who have children.

    But when it comes to being childfree, I say "mother" used as a verb is not synonymous with "mother" used as a noun. "Expressing one's maternal side" in the many ways the childfree do does not equate to giving birth and the 24/7 role of raising of a child.

    Cattrall may say, "I just believe, and have always believed since my 40s, that there are many different ways to be a mum." Maybe it's the childfree and 'wordsmither' in me, but to me, as a childfree person, a mother I am not. But there are many ways I can mother.

    What do you think of Cattrall's perspective?

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    They say the British have a different sense of humor, and it may have been lost on the hosts of "Fox and Friends." 


    Actress Emily Blunt recently became an American citizen and she's been using the experience as a talking point in a number of interviews. Recently, she joked to The Hollywood Reporter that after watching the GOP debate she thought that becoming a citizen was "a terrible mistake." 


    The comment, which was much more of a dig at the Republican presidential candidates than anything else, was just too much for "Fox and Friends" co-host Anna Kooiman, who suggested that Blunt "leave Hollywood."


    "Let some American women take on the roles that you're getting, because Americans are watching your movies and lining your pockets," Kooiman said. 


    Co-host Brian Kilmeade responded by recalling comments Blunt made when she was on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" last week, in which she also playfully joked about the citizenship ceremony and having to renounce her Queen, but not really mean it -- which she said was "just so perfect."


    That sealed it for co-host Steve Doocy, who shot back, "You know what Emily Blunt just did? She just Dixie Chicked herself. She has alienated half the country, that now will think twice about going to one of her movies." 


    But did she really? This totally endearing clip of her singing "Yankee Doodle" while dressed as the Statue of Liberty might suggest otherwise: 




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    Jamie Lee Curtis just gave us all another reason to get excited for "Scream Queens." 


    The actress shared a photo of herself on Twitter recreating the iconic shower scene from Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho," made famous by her mother Janet Leigh in 1960. According to her tweet, the scene will appear in a "special" episode of Ryan Murphy's latest show. 


    In the image, Curtis is seen mid-scream in the shower while holding up a photo of her mother doing the same thing. (So meta!) She's got the terrified look down pat. 





    Maybe this means she'll also pay homage to her iconic "Halloween" role. We can only hope! 


    "Scream Queens" premieres on Sept. 22 at 8 p.m. on Fox. 


     


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    Nearly 20 years since they crashed into the zeitgeist with "Wannabe," the Spice Girls are still affectionately known by their personality-defining nicknames: Scary Spice, Ginger Spice, Posh Spice, Baby Spice and Sporty Spice. The names are forever part of the Girl Power lore, but they weren't actually an invention of the Spice Girls themselves, Melanie Brown told HuffPost Live on Tuesday.


    "It was actually a lazy journalist that couldn't be bothered to remember all our names, so he just gave us nicknames," Mel B said. "And we were like, 'Oh, well, that kind of works. I don't mind my name. Do you like your name? Baby? Posh?' We were like, 'Let's just go with it.'"


    That "lazy journalist" was Peter Loraine, who was editor of the British magazine Top of the Pops and led the 1996 meeting in which the names were devised. "We laughed the most when we came up with Scary," Loraine has said. "Jennifer Cawthron, who was also from Leeds, came up with that one because Mel B was so loud and had tried to take over our whole photo shoot."


    Almost two decades later, as she prepares to judge the "America's Got Talent" finale Tuesday night on NBC, Mel B said she's never felt offended that millions of Spice Girls fans know her as Scary.


    "I'm very kind of in-your-face," she said. "I was even more so back then. I was, what, 17, 18, like, 'What! What do you want?!' So I guess I could have come off as Scary. But I like my name."


    Watch the full HuffPost Live conversation with Mel B here. 


    Sign up here for Live Today, HuffPost Live's new morning email that will let you know the newsmakers, celebrities and politicians joining us that day and give you the best clips from the day before!


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    Amber Rose is known for her buzzed and bleached hairstyle, but she knows it's good to shake things up every so often.


    On Sunday, the 31-year-old hit the town rocking a long brown wig, which made us do a double-take. Rose and her BFF Blac Chyna hit up Club Penthouse in West Hollywood, making quite the entrance in the model's pink Ferarri. 




    Rose was still rocking the new look on Monday, when she shared photos of herself and her new Rapunzel-length tresses with her 7.7 million Instagram followers. 



    A photo posted by Amber Rose (@amberrose) on




    A photo posted by Amber Rose (@amberrose) on



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    After what seems like an entire dark, cold winter's worth of speculation surrounding Jon Snow's fate on "Game of Thrones," Kit Harington may have just revealed what happens to his beloved character with a single sentence.


    But before we tell you what he said, be warned ...



    tv show gifs

    Image via HBO/HuffPost


     


    While promoting his new film "Testament of Youth," the actor gave an interview to Belgian magazine Humo in which he talks about his love-hate relationship with the HBO show. A Reddit user named name the_narc_died shared the story two days ago and provided a translation of some key quotes. The Huffington Post confirmed Harington's quotes through translation. 


    " ... I had to pass on amazing parts because I was attached to 'Game of Thrones.' So the show is like a double-edged sword to me: I owe a lot to it, but at the same time it almost completely consumes me," Harrington said. 


    The actor then went on to reveal more than he probably should have (sorry not sorry, HBO). "Oh well, I try not to think about it too much," he said. "The important thing is that I now know exactly how long I am still under contract, and in the meantime -- "


    When asked how many more seasons that contract might involve, the actor responded, "I can’t talk about that. Let’s just say that 'Game of Thrones' will remain a part of my life for a while; I’ll probably be in my 30s when it’s over. One thing’s for sure: the day I’m no longer on 'Thrones' is the day I’ll bury myself in movie projects [laughs]."


    Yes, dear readers, Harington is still under contract, which means he'll probably make an appearance in some way, shape or form next season. But we already knew that, didn't we? 


     


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    "I can responsibly say that Vladimir Putin has not spoken to Sir Elton John.”


    A spokesman for the Kremlin released that head-scratcher of a statement to Russian news agencies on Tuesday, hours after the multiple Grammy award-winning artist publicly thanked Putin on Instagram for speaking with him on the phone.


    "Thank-you to President Vladimir Putin for reaching out and speaking via telephone with me today," John wrote in a caption accompanying a photo of Putin. "I look ... forward to meeting with you face-to-face to discuss LGBT equality in Russia."


    In an interview with the BBC earlier this week, John, who was in Ukraine at the time, said he'd like to meet with Putin to discuss the country's "isolating and prejudiced" stance against gay people.


    The country passed a "gay propaganda" law in 2013, which made it illegal to provide information about homosexuality to minors -- something John dismissed as "ridiculous."


    "It's probably pie in the sky," he told the BBC of the likelihood Putin would call him. "He may laugh behind my back when he shuts the door, and call me an absolute idiot, but at least I can think I have the conscience to say I tried."



    The Kremlin denied that a phone conversation had taken place between the Russian leader and the pop star. In a call with Russian media on Tuesday, Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, questioned the authenticity of John's Instagram post.


    However, he also indicated that Putin would consider such a meeting. “I don’t doubt that if there is such a request, the president will be ready to meet with Elton John among others to give answers to all the questions that he might ask,” he said in a translation provided by The Guardian. “But we haven’t received such signals yet.”


    “Putin is always ready to explain how things really are,” Peskov added.


    John's publicist, Gary Farrow, confirmed the authenticity of the Instagram post to The Associated Press.


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    Ah, the Emmys, one of the most fun awards shows of the year (because let's face it, TV stars know how to get down). While we love the actual awards ceremony itself, the red carpet is what gets most of our attention. 


    With the 67th Emmys on the horizon, the team at E! takes a look back on some of the best (and worst) Emmy red carpet moments of all time. So, who takes first prize for best dressed? We're going to call it a tie between Angelia Jolie's nude-colored gown from 1998 and Cindy Crawford's badass beret and corset look from 1992. As for worst dressed, we're still trying to block out Lena Dunham's 2013 Prada moment. Scroll to 0:55 in the clip above to see other memorable outfits from past shows. 


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    You may know these famous faces from magazine covers and movie credits. But do you know their real names? These 12 celebrities all started out life with another name -- often one far less glamorous and trend-setting. Some stage names are subtle departures from the birth names their parents gave them, while others are a complete makeover.


    Without further ado, here are those little-known real Hollywood names and how they rank with parents today.


    Maggie Gyllenhaal



    Sometimes we’re surprised to learn a celebrity’s real name -- and sometimes it is the celebrity who is surprised! Actress Maggie Gyllenhaal didn’t realize that her real name was Margalit until she sent away for a copy of her birth certificate. While Maggie sits at number 239 on the Social Security Administration's list of 1000 most popular baby names, Margalit -- the Hebrew cousin of Margaret -- doesn't even make the rankings.


    Bruno Mars



    Peter Gene Hernandez has been called Bruno since he was a kid because his dad thought he looked like wrestler Bruno Sammartino. The name stuck, and when he launched his musical career, teenaged Bruno chose Mars as his stage surname because, he’s “out of this world.” Bruno is a less popular name, sitting at 670 on the popularity list, whereas Peter is number 204.


    Vin Diesel



    Vin Diesel was born plain Mark Sinclair. The Vin comes from his stepfather’s surname, Vincent. Diesel turned out to be a fitting surname for the future star of the "Fast and the Furious" franchise. As his career has taken off, Diesel has caught on as cool name for boys. Though neither Vin nor Diesel rank on the top 1000 list, Mark is number 189.


    Lorde



    Royal names are all the rage, from Kingsley to Reign, but Lorde’s given name was the far more ordinary Ella Maria Lani Yelich-O’Connor. The Grammy Award-winning singer was looking for a stage name “with grandeur” and liked the idea of a “one-name alias.” In real life, she doesn’t mind answering to Ella, which is currently the 17th most popular name for girls in the U.S.


    Nicki Minaj



    Nicki sounds like the girl next door. But Trinidad and Tobago-born, Queens-raised rapper-singer Nicki Minaj was actually born with the elegant name Onika Tanya Maraj. Nicki comes from Onika, and one of her early producers changed Maraj to Minaj. Still, both Nicki and Onika are fairly unique names, as neither ranks on the SSA list.


    Lana Del Ray



    Lana Del Ray was born Elizabeth Grant. The sultry singer answered to Lizzy Grant and even May Jailer before settling on the glamorous Lana Del Ray, a name that she described as “gorgeous.” Parents must agree. Since Del Ray’s debut, the name has climbed over 100 spots in the U.S. to number 351.


    Kit Harington



    "Game of Thrones" star Kit Harington belongs in the Maggie Gyllenhaal club. As a child, he assumed his name was Kit, but nope -- it’s Christopher Catesby Harrington. Kit is traditionally a nickname for Christopher, but it’s all-but forgotten in the U.S. Could handsome Mr. Harington spark a revival? While Kit currently doens't rank on the Social Security list, Christopher sits at number 30.


    Lucy Hale



    Plenty of celebrities take their stage names from their given middle names, and Lucy Hale is no exception. The "Pretty Little Liars" star was born Karen Lucille Hale, but adopted the on-trend Lucy when she launched her career. Speaking of launches, Hale gets credit for boosting her character’s name, Aria, into the U.S. Top 100 (number 31 to be exact). Lucy ranks at number 62.


    Reese Witherspoon 



    Another celebrity whose middle name was promoted to the first spot? Reese Witherspoon, of course. Born Laura Jeanne Reese Witherspoon, the mega-star adopted her bonus middle -- and her mother’s maiden name -- as her stage name, and helped put Reese on the list of possibilities for girls. It's currently number 165 on the SSA list. 


    Ashton Kutcher



    It’s not just women who drop their first names professionally. William Bradley Pitt is internationally famous as Brad, and Christopher Ashton Kutcher is just Ashton. Like Reese, Ashton became a popular baby name choice as the actor’s career flourished -- it ranks at 143.


    Theo James



    Sometimes an actor’s first name works fine. But Theodore Peter James Kinnaird Taptiklis dropped his surnames in favor of his second middle -- James, which is a go-to stage name. Veteran television actress Susan Saint James was born plain Susan Miller. And Lily James of "Downton Abbey" fame was born Lily Chloe Ninette Thomson. James entered the top 10 most popular baby boy names last year, whereas Theodore is number 126.


    Aloe Blacc 



    Sometimes a celebrity’s name is completely unrelated to his name at birth. Musician Aloe Blacc was born Egbert Nathaniel Dawkins III. His musician wife, Maya Jupiter, started out life as Melissha Martinez. In 2013, they welcomed a daughter named Mandela -- a name just as daring as those adopted by her parents. Neither of her dad's names rank on the Social Security list.


     


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    At the Toronto International Film Festival, the Hollywood elite hobnob against a background of arthouse screenings and Oscar-hopefuls, highbrow panel discussions and red carpet photo-ops.


    Instead of asking celebrities the typical lines about "influences" and "getting into character," however, Vanity Fair editors posed a question far more relevant: What color is celebrity GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump's hair? Watch Brian Cranston, Julianne Moore, Kristen Stewart, Liam Hemsworth, Helen Mirren, Dakota Fanning and Jason Bateman, among others, try to figure it out:




    A sampling of responses:


    "Corn."


    "Cornflake."


    "Tuscan surprise."


    "Golden-egg."


    "Horrible."


    In the end, Trump's hair -- much like his candidacy -- remains an enigma. 


     


    Also on HuffPost:


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    0 0


    The following article is provided by Rolling Stone. 


    "I think people are expecting Edward Snowden to walk out on stage right now," Michael Moore joked from the stage at the Toronto International Film Festival, in an introduction that doubled as a public apology. He understood that, when you name your latest project Where to Invade Next and slap a kitschy picture of the Joint Chiefs of Staff above your fest's catalog blurb, it's bound to suggest any number of things: a take-no-prisoners takedown of America's military-industrial complex; a scathing indictment of our nation's perpetual-war fetish; how the government sends its soldiers into war and then ignores them once they come back home. (These were simply the three most popular rumors about the movie leading up to its premiere; there were dozens of others.) The fact that virtually no one knew the 61-year-old cinematic muckraker was even making a movie until it was announced as one of the event's opening night selections attests to how under-the-radar the project has been since he'd started on it last year.


    As Moore sheepishly admitted to the audience, however, Invade is none of these things. "I'm not exposing NSA secrets," he declared. "I have to say that out loud." Rather, what the Fahrenheit 9/11 director presented was his own socially conscious variation on Mark Twain's The Innocents Abroad. After a bit of misdirection involving the filmmaker being "summoned" by the Pentagon (sayeth the Joint Chiefs of Staff on the subject of occupying foreign countries: "We don't know what the fuck we're doing"), he tells the assembled brass that from now on, "I'll do the invading." So off Moore goes to numerous pictureseque places, examining things that our European neighbors do right: worker-friendly factories in Italy, a humane prison system in Norway, healthy school lunches in France, a different attitude towards the war on drugs in Portugal, tuition-free college in Finland and so on. He then plants an American flag in these countries, claiming these ideas for the good ol' U.S. of A. — a satirical imperialism dedicated to pilfering progressive ideologies for "the common good."


    Despite the fact that Where to Invade Next has all the hallmarks of a typical Moore movie (rhetorical flourishes that lean to the far-left, ironic narration, a wicked sense of humor), his first new film since 2009's Capitalism: A Love Story displays a kinder, somewhat gentler version of his usual gonzo style, one laced with a sense of uncharacteristic optimism instead of boiling-over outrage. The morning after the film's premiere, the filmmaker — bleary-eyed and checking his BlackBerry as distributors circled to buy his self-produced movie — talked about why Americans should be open to better ways of doing things and why the "dinosaurs" and "performance artists" of the political right are courting extinction.


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    Was there a particular call-to-action moment that inspired this?
    
How about it's just enough that it'd been a long while since I'd made a movie and I felt like making one? Why did the guy who made Birdman want to make a movie?


    Okay, sure, it'd been six years — but let me rephrase this: You could have made a movie about anything…
    …And I made a film about virtually everything. It was an attempt to make a film about the United States without actually going to the U.S. How do you show us without actually showing us? To quote a famous Canadian rock band: Why are we here? Because we're here. [Pause] Roll the bones.


    I genuinely thought you were going to say "Fight the good fight, everybody."

    [Laughs] The reviews have been nice so far, but I've noticed people have been focusing on the fact that it doesn't focus on one theme or a central subject matter. You know, at the end of every year, they put out that Best American Short Stories anthology — and I love those. I buy them every year. There's no thread there, except good writing. You could say there were nine short films in one feature-film format.


    Trump Seriously: On the Trail With the GOP's Tough Guy


    Except there's a bit more of a connection here.

    As in I'm a humorist "invading" all these countries, yeah. I mean, when the Pentagon decides they're going occupy these places, do they consult a travel agent? Why go to Iraq when there's the South of France and the fjords of Norway? If we're going to send our troops somewhere, let's send them somewhere nice! Let's invade Europe.


    When we invade a country, why do we do it? These days, it's because we want something from that country. Now, rather than go back to being the complete isolationists we were before Pearl Harbor, we said to ourselves: What if there were other good things beside oil that we need, and what if we approached the countries that seem to be doing these things right and get some for ourselves, without killing anyone in the process? The great thing about the National Health Service in Britain or Finland's education system is that they've been doing this for decades. They've done the trial-and-error phases for us. We don't have to be guinea pigs.


    And many of these concepts were taken from our own ideas, as you point out in the movie, right?

    If not directly from specific ideas, like the progressive education idea that one of the Finnish teachers brings up, then certainly from the philosophies espoused by the founding fathers of this country. How about starting with the very first American word — the one that kicks off our Constitution? It's "we." In that one sentence we call the preamble, it has "we," "welfare," "union," "the common good"…


    Throw in "socialism and you'd have a far-right–winger's nightmare.
    I guarantee you, if socialism had been a word then, it would have been in there! It's all "we, the people," not "go out and make a killing." These other countries now believe more in our original ideology more than we do. That's depressing.


    25 Must-See Movies at Toronto Film Festival 2015


    There will still be people who watch this film and go, "Well, he's just peddling his ‘America sucks' ideology, and…
    Really? Who are these people? Tell me their names. I want a list.


    We could start with Roger Ailes and work our way down, I guess.
    You're talking about a species that's dying. Roger Ailes is the biggest dinosaur of that bunch, and they are on their way out. They know it, too. The angry white men who've run things for so long…they know their days are numbered. They know you can't win a national election without appealing to women, people of color and young people — three constituencies that the Republican party have completely lost.


    Except there are over a dozen candidates vying for the GOP slot for the presidency, and the majority of them fit that angry-white-man description to a tee, Michael.
    
I don't consider them candidates. I consider them performance artists; the reason Donald Trump is leading in the polls is that his shtick is the best.


    Still, some people will have a knee-jerk reaction to this sight unseen, don't you think?
    
Of course, but hopefully enough people will pick up on the fact that I'm not saying these countries I'm traveling to are perfect. I'm very deliberately cherry-picking things that they are doing right and saying, let's take a look at how they're handling this and learn from it. I cherry-pick stuff all day, whether I'm buying a pair of shorts or, you know, "I don't want to sit with those people at work, they're mean. I'll sit over here." [Laughs] You do the same thing. So do most folks. There was a line I said at the film's premiere that I should add into the film" "I went to pick the flowers and not the weeds."


    Inside the GOP Clown Car


    So how do you decide how selective you're going to be when you present your cherry-picked results? You talk about Italy's worker-friendly environment but don't mention the economy or Berlusconi's legacy.
    Yeah. Right.


    You briefly mention Iran's stem-cell research — which, honestly, is not the first thing you think of when you think of Iran.

    But that's why I'm mentioning it. The country clearly has more going on than that, but how many people here even knew they were also doing pioneering research in this field? If we didn't have a President for eight years — I'm talking 2000-2008 — who wasn't opposed to science and wasn't just plain dumb, think of how far we'd be in our own research. Think of how many people would not have died. We lost eight years and a lot of lives because of this. So I'm not saying we should model ourselves on Iran, but we could pay attention to what they are doing in that particular field, for sure.


    Look, one of my jobs, as far as I see it, is pointing out things the mainstream media may not get around to or won't look into. You could have also brought up that I namechecked Rwanda at one point, which also has a rough past. Well, sorry — they're a democracy now, and half of their parliament is made up of women. Why is that not the case with the U.S. as well? It boggles my mind that women are not angrier about the lack of power they have.


    That discussion seems to be changing for us, hopefully — especially as we enter an election with a female candidate who has a viable shot at becoming the President of the United States.

    It's changed radically and for the better. There still lots to be done, but you can see things getting better. Look at what's happened with gay marriage, parents organizing against standardized testing in schools, Obama finally starting to release prisoners who were incarcerated for nonviolent crimes, the slow legalization of marijuana. Social media has played a huge role in these discussions, because it really dispels ignorance.


    Speaking of social media, how did you manage to keep the fact you were making this documentary a secret in the Twitter age?

    We simply disconnected ourselves from it in terms of the film. I love social media; I was on Twitter the entire time we were filming. I just didn't mention it once. We didn't think we could pull it off, because I was out there filming — it wasn't like I had a fake nose and beard! But by the third country we realized that the American news agencies had shut down most of their foreign bureaus, so we weren't encountering American reporters. If I'm filming in Slovenia, no one is going to say, "Hey, let's get a reporter over to Slovenia, or let's hire a translator to see what the Slovenian media says Michael Moore is doing." It's not going to happen. 



    Michael Moore Responds to 'Haters' After 'American Sniper' Uproar


    You've been doing this for over a quarter of a century. Do you feel that it's harder to do what you do — the gonzo political documentarian thing — now than it used to be? You're a known commodity.
    Wow, I've never thought of myself as a commodity.


    Let's say "celebrity" then.
    
Yeah, I see what you're saying. People know it's me when I walk into a room. Though given how I look, maybe people usually think I'm just a roadie for a band. [Laughs] It's about the same, I guess. What's changed is that there are more people out there doing it now than there was back in the late Eighties. Political satire is nothing new; just ask anyone who's read Jonathan Swift. But when I see people like Jon Stewart and John Oliver doing what they do, going after institutions and corporations, asking for accountability, using humor to expose what's going on — I feel honored to be in that company. When someone likes Jon Stewart hires folks who used to work on my movies or TV shows, that feels incredible to me.


    Those Daily Show field reports always felt like they could have been TV Nation or Awful Truth segments.
    An improved-upon imitation is the sincerest form of flattery [laughs].


     


    Also on HuffPost:



    -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.


    0 0


    Netflix might be making history with its first feature film, "Beasts of No Nation." 


    The Cary Fukunaga-directed drama about a young West African boy who finds himself a child soldier in a war, has been making the rounds on the festival circuit to critical acclaim. This past week, it premiered at the Toronto Film Festival to raucous applause, generating even more Oscar buzz than it already had.


    The film is a masterfully-executed onscreen portrayal of the child soldier narrative. Fukunaga's direction and writing, coupled with stellar, heartbreaking performances by Idris Elba and child actor Abraham Attah (winner of the Best Young Actor prize at the Venice Film Festival), have resulted in a movie as beautiful as it is brutal to watch. As director and DOP Fukunaga uses the visual flourishes that made his first season of "True Detective" so breathtaking -- his use of violence is merciless, but deliberate.


    As a piece of filmmaking standing on its own, "Beasts of No Nation" is an exciting example of how streaming services like Netflix have an opportunity to develop content no one has ever seen before. And yet, does the skill and passion that clearly went into the film erase its place in a media landscape that consistently shines a spotlight on stories of African misery? Yes, it is a gorgeous film -- but so what? Is it really doing or saying anything we haven't seen before? 


    It's a question that, as an African, as a Ghanaian, I found myself pondering over and over again during a recent screening of the film at TIFF. As I watched young Agu descend into a world of more and more depravity, I couldn't help but feel that this film was reintroducing a narrative that I have seen and heard too many times before. The opening of the movie had a jarring effect -- as it established the young character of Agu, his family, and his quickly destabilizing world, I recognized the sound of my language, Twi, being spoken, and recognized the food and music so synonymous with my life back home. 





    This is part of the subtle, seemingly harmless ways that the African narrative has been built and delivered to the rest of the world. "Beasts of No Nation" was filmed primarily in Ghana, and had a mostly local Ghanaian cast and crew. It uses Ghanaian language and culture to create Agu's world before he's thrust into horror. But like the book it's based on, it's set in a nameless African country (the only African country mentioned in the film is Nigeria). 


    The trope of the unnamed African country is found throughout fiction, in both movies and literature, and sometimes can be used as a powerful tool for allegory and political commentary, as in Chinua Achebe's "A Man of the People." "Beasts of No Nation" is based on a novel by Nigerian-American author Uzodinma Iweala who uses his knowledge of Nigerian culture and language as the basis for the story of Agu. The novel is representative of an idea, of a potential rather than inevitable reality.




    It promotes this idea of Africa as a monolith, as a site of misery and pain so widespread that it doesn't matter where in Africa the story is actually taking place.

    But in film, there's a removal of this context, in a story where context is everything. The political history of Ghana has not been perfect or unblemished, but there has, to date, never been the kind of rebel warfare and child soldiers depicted in this film.What was jarring, unsettling, was the use of Ghana as the stand-in for this kind of narrative. The film actively erased a real history for the sake of plot.


    Just because this film is based on the work of an African doesn't negate its harmful implications. It promotes this idea of Africa as a monolith, as a site of misery and pain so widespread that it doesn't matter where in Africa the story is actually taking place. 





    There have been many films in the last several years that highlight the child soldier and African war narrative -- documentaries like "Soldier Child," "War Dance," and "Invisible Children," and narratives like "Johnny Mad Dog" and "War Witch" (filmed in the Congo, set in another nameless African country).  These films obviously have the potential to educate and spread awareness. But they have the equal potential of perpetuating a single story about Africa.  




    Her default position toward me, as an African, was a kind of patronizing, well-meaning pity.
    Chimamanda Adichie

    During a 2009 TEDTalk, author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie spoke about the danger of "a single story," recalling a time as a student when a white roommate, upon learning she was Nigerian, was shocked that she could speak English, or even use a stove. "What struck me was this," Adichie explained, "She had felt sorry for me even before she saw me. Her default position toward me, as an African, was a kind of patronizing, well-meaning pity."  


    It's that sort of well-meaning pity that the film's narrative sustains. Like so many movies centered on African misery, "Beasts of No Nation" exquisitely takes the most gruesome and horrifying elements of war and turns them into a kind of visual poetry. It endears us to our protagonist by making his suffering a cathartic kind of entertainment. And by the end of it all, we're supposed to walk away feeling somehow more aware, more human. 


    But the issue with revisiting these narratives of African pain over and over again is that they have, in a way, become the only way that the media seems willing or able to digest the African identity or experience. Why is it that whenever a movie about Africa gets Oscar-buzz or makes it on an international level, it almost always is directed and produced by non-Africans, and about war, disease, or corruption? Is that really all Africa has to offer? Or is that all anybody wants to see? 




    By the end of it all, we're supposed to walk away feeling somehow more aware, more human.

    There's never the same level of interest in African tales of romance, or comedy, or human drama not predicated on political strife. That isn't to say that movies like "Beasts of No Nation" are unimportant -- this isn't about only presenting sanitized, censored, depictions of African identity. Fukunaga's use of his source material is as good as it gets. There are, thankfully, no white savior characters in the film, and it's gratifying that so many local actors and artists were a part of this production. But that doesn't change the fact that African trauma has become a kind of international entertainment. It's a problem that, in the climate of buzzwords like "representation" and "diversity" no one is really talking about. Perhaps it's time that we started. 


    Also on Huffpost:


    -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.


    0 0


    Well, at least Tom Brady had made it a few consecutive days without being at the crux of a controversy. But that’s over now.


    On Wednesday, Brady entered the political ring again when he threw his support behind his "good friend" Donald Trump.








    The New England Patriots quarterback -- who spent much of the summer both in the headlines and in the courtrooms -- raised the blood pressure of his PR team last week when a hat featuring  Trump’s campaign slogan was seen in his locker.





    At the time, Brady dodged giving a direct answer as to whether he would vote for the controversial candidate. But today, the equivocation was axed -- Brady wants Trump in 2016.


    In a way, it makes sense. Both figures are charismatic but oft-caricatured, and popular within their respective bases while being polarizing to the rest of the nation. 


    Brady, however, should be a better friend to his 69-year-old golf buddy, and should perhaps reconsider his public vote of confidence in Trump. Why?


    Friends don't let friends make an ass of themselves by running for president. 


     


    Also on HuffPost:



    -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.


    0 0


    Netflix might be making history with its first feature film, "Beasts of No Nation." 


    The Cary Fukunaga-directed drama about a young West African boy who finds himself a child soldier in a war, has been making the rounds on the festival circuit to critical acclaim. This past week, it premiered at the Toronto Film Festival to raucous applause, generating even more Oscar buzz than it already had.


    The film is a masterfully-executed onscreen portrayal of the child soldier narrative. Fukunaga's direction and writing, coupled with stellar, heartbreaking performances by Idris Elba and child actor Abraham Attah (winner of the Best Young Actor prize at the Venice Film Festival), have resulted in a movie as beautiful as it is brutal to watch. As director and DOP Fukunaga uses the visual flourishes that made his first season of "True Detective" so breathtaking -- his use of violence is merciless, but deliberate.


    As a piece of filmmaking standing on its own, "Beasts of No Nation" is an exciting example of how streaming services like Netflix have an opportunity to develop content no one has ever seen before. And yet, does the skill and passion that clearly went into the film erase its place in a media landscape that consistently shines a spotlight on stories of African misery? Yes, it is a gorgeous film -- but so what? Is it really doing or saying anything we haven't seen before? 


    It's a question that, as an African, as a Ghanaian, I found myself pondering over and over again during a recent screening of the film at TIFF. As I watched young Agu descend into a world of more and more depravity, I couldn't help but feel that this film was reintroducing a narrative that I have seen and heard too many times before. The opening of the movie had a jarring effect -- as it established the young character of Agu, his family, and his quickly destabilizing world, I recognized the sound of my language, Twi, being spoken, and recognized the food and music so synonymous with my life back home. 



    This is part of the subtle, seemingly harmless ways that the African narrative has been built and delivered to the rest of the world. "Beasts of No Nation" was filmed primarily in Ghana, and had a mostly local Ghanaian cast and crew. It uses Ghanaian language and culture to create Agu's world before he's thrust into horror. But like the book it's based on, it's set in a nameless African country (the only African country mentioned in the film is Nigeria). 


    The trope of the unnamed African country is found throughout fiction, in both movies and literature, and sometimes can be used as a powerful tool for allegory and political commentary, as in Chinua Achebe's "A Man of the People." "Beasts of No Nation" is based on a novel by Nigerian-American author Uzodinma Iweala who uses his knowledge of Nigerian culture and language as the basis for the story of Agu. The novel is representative of an idea, of a potential rather than inevitable reality.




    It promotes this idea of Africa as a monolith, as a site of misery and pain so widespread that it doesn't matter where in Africa the story is actually taking place.

    But in film, there's a removal of this context, in a story where context is everything. The political history of Ghana has not been perfect or unblemished, but there has, to date, never been the kind of rebel warfare and child soldiers depicted in this film.What was jarring, unsettling, was the use of Ghana as the stand-in for this kind of narrative. The film actively erased a real history for the sake of plot.


    Just because this film is based on the work of an African doesn't negate its harmful implications. It promotes this idea of Africa as a monolith, as a site of misery and pain so widespread that it doesn't matter where in Africa the story is actually taking place. 





    There have been many films in the last several years that highlight the child soldier and African war narrative -- documentaries like "Soldier Child," "War Dance," and "Invisible Children," and narratives like "Johnny Mad Dog" and "War Witch" (filmed in the Congo, set in another nameless African country).  These films obviously have the potential to educate and spread awareness. But they have the equal potential of perpetuating a single story about Africa.  




    Her default position toward me, as an African, was a kind of patronizing, well-meaning pity.
    Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

    During a 2009 TEDTalk, author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie spoke about the danger of "a single story," recalling a time as a student when a white roommate, upon learning she was Nigerian, was shocked that she could speak English, or even use a stove. "What struck me was this," Adichie explained, "She had felt sorry for me even before she saw me. Her default position toward me, as an African, was a kind of patronizing, well-meaning pity."  


    It's that sort of well-meaning pity that the film's narrative sustains. Like so many movies centered on African misery, "Beasts of No Nation" exquisitely takes the most gruesome and horrifying elements of war and turns them into a kind of visual poetry. It endears us to our protagonist by making his suffering a cathartic kind of entertainment. And by the end of it all, we're supposed to walk away feeling somehow more aware, more human. 


    But the issue with revisiting these narratives of African pain over and over again is that they have, in a way, become the only way that the media seems willing or able to digest the African identity or experience. Why is it that whenever a movie about Africa gets Oscar-buzz or makes it on an international level, it almost always is directed and produced by non-Africans, and about war, disease, or corruption? Is that really all Africa has to offer? Or is that all anybody wants to see? 




    By the end of it all, we're supposed to walk away feeling somehow more aware, more human.

    There's never the same level of interest in African tales of romance, or comedy, or human drama not predicated on political strife. That isn't to say that movies like "Beasts of No Nation" are unimportant -- this isn't about only presenting sanitized, censored, depictions of African identity. Fukunaga's use of his source material is as good as it gets. There are, thankfully, no white savior characters in the film, and it's gratifying that so many local actors and artists were a part of this production. But that doesn't change the fact that African trauma has become a kind of international entertainment. It's a problem that, in the climate of buzzwords like "representation" and "diversity" no one is really talking about. Perhaps it's time that we started. 


    Also on Huffpost:


    -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.


    0 0



    Nicholas Brendon, best known for his role as “Xander Harris” on the "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and most recently for his role as “Kevin Lynch” on "Criminal Minds," reveals that he has been battling depression and alcohol abuse and has found himself arrested five times in the last eight months.


    “Dual diagnosis means that I’m [expletive] crazy, and I’m a [expletive] drunk,” Brendon says. “Depression is a real thing; and I was ashamed of it a little bit, too.” 


    Brendon says he began drinking socially at the age of 26, and it soon became a way for him to cope with anxiety. “It goes from, Hey, I’m having fun, to then I, literally, needed to have a drink before I could have a conversation with people,” he says. “I knew by the end of 'Buffy' that things were a little out of control for me.”


    After "Buffy" ended, Brendon says he landed a role on another TV show that soon was cancelled, and he says he felt like Hollywood wasn’t interested in him anymore. "I took it personally," he says, adding that he drinks because he can't handle his emotions. Drinking initially quells the anxiety, definitely, but then it just adds to the anger.” 


    Brendon explains the dangerous combination that he believes led to his string of arrests – sleeping pills and alcohol. “That combination, for me, was very deadly,” he says. “When you do those two things, you just black out and obviously, a rage exists, because I would trash hotel rooms. I truly was insane. There was no rational thinking in it at all.”


    In the video above, Dr. Phil tells Brendon he wants to make a plan to save his life, but when he starts to ask the actor about his behavior, Brendon walks away. This episode of "Dr. Phil" airs Wednesday. Is Brendon ready to make hard choices and take the steps needed to save his life and career? Find out where you can watch here.



    Also on HufPost:


    -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.


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