Month: November 2017

‘Lady Bird’ Named Best Picture by New York Film Critics

Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird has been named best picture by the New York Film Critics Circle, which also awarded Gerwig best director and its star, Saoirse Ronan, best actress.

The film critics’ group announced its awards Thursday on Twitter, throwing its fullest support behind Gerwig’s coming-of-age tale. Considered one of the year’s top Oscar contenders, Lady Bird also has the distinction of setting a record for perfection from Rotten Tomatoes as the most-widely reviewed movie to receive only positive reviews.

Call Me By Your Name breakthrough star Timothee Chalamet took best actor. Tiffany Haddish, the Girls Trip breakout, took supporting actress.

Other winners include Willem Dafoe for his supporting performance in The Florida Project and Paul Thomas Anderson for his screenplay to Phantom Thread.

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German Jobless Rate Hits Best Figure Since 1990 Reunification

Germany, Europe’s most robust economy, said Thursday that its unemployment rate fell to 5.3 percent in November, the lowest figure since West and East Germany were unified in 1990.

Even as Chancellor Angela Merkel and other Berlin politicians struggle to form a coalition government, the German economy remains strong, with a months-long dip in the country’s jobless rate and solid demand for German products from other countries.

The German report came as Eurostat, the statistics agency for the European Union, said the jobless rate for the 19-nation eurozone bloc that uses the euro currency dropped to 8.8 percent in October. It was the lowest figure since January 2009, when Europe and countries across the world were in the midst of a steep recession.

The German and European jobless rates trail those in the United States, the world’s largest economy, where unemployment has dropped to 4.1 percent, a 17-year low. But the U.S. and European numbers point to steady improvement that had been slow to emerge after the devastating job losses and high unemployment seven to nine years ago.

Eurostat said more than 14 million people remained out of work, but that was 1.5 million fewer than a year ago. In Spain, the jobless rate has been cut from about 25 percent to 16.7 percent.

European Central Bank President Mario Draghi said that while wages still are not increasing much, they could rise in the coming months as the continent’s economy continues to rebound.

Patrick Chovanex, chief strategist at New York-based Silvercrest Asset Management, told VOA the U.S. is in the eighth year of its recovery.

“It’s a recovery that has kind of waxed and waned,” he said. “One of the things that has been happening over the past couple years is that different parts of the economy were waxing and waning out of sequence with one another. So housing would be strong while manufacturing would be weak, and then vice versa. Every so often they happen to coincide.

“Right now we’re seeing a pattern of several elements of the economy being strong at once. Hopefully, that will continue.”

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Jim Nabors, TV’s Gomer Pyle, Dies at 87

Actor Jim Nabors, best known for his U.S. television character Gomer Pyle, died Thursday at his home in Hawaii at age 87.

Nabors, born in Alabama, exaggerated his Southern accent for the Pyle character. The dull-witted but lovable Pyle became a beloved presence on television’s The Andy Griffith Show in 1962. The show about a sheriff and his family and friends in North Carolina is remembered today for its idyllic portrayal of small-town American life in the 1960s.

After two years, the popular Nabors character was given his own spinoff. In Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., the gentle, sweet-natured Pyle joined the U.S. Marine Corps and delighted audiences by clashing repeatedly with a no-nonsense drill sergeant, played by Frank Sutton. The show ran for five seasons.

Nabors gave his character a number of catchphrases still remembered by fans today. Among them were “Surprise, surprise, surprise!,” “Shazam!,” and an awestruck utterance of “Gollll-ly!” that stretched the word into four syllables.

For two seasons beginning in 1969, CBS presented The Jim Nabors Hour, on which he joshed with guest stars, did sketches with Sutton and fellow Gomer Pyle veteran Ronnie Schell, and sang country and opera.

‘Difficult to believe’

Offstage, Nabors retained some of the awed innocence of Gomer. At the height of his fame in 1969, he admitted, “For the first four years of the series, I didn’t trust my success. Every weekend and on every vacation, I would take off to play nightclubs and concerts, figuring the whole thing would blow over someday.

“You know somethin’? I still find it difficult to believe this kind of acceptance. I still don’t trust it.”

He was an accomplished singer, recording 28 albums of love songs, sacred music and holiday tunes in his rich baritone voice.

Among his regular gigs was singing Back Home Again in Indiana at the Indianapolis 500 auto race each year, which he first did in 1972. The first time, he wrote the lyrics on his hand so he wouldn’t forget.

“I’ve never thought of [the audience reaction] as relating to me,” Nabors said. “It’s always relating to the song and to the race. It is applauding for the tradition of the race and the excitement.”

Illness forced him to cancel his appearance in 2007, the first one he had missed in more than 20 years. He was back performing at Indy in 2008, saying, “It’s always the main part of my year. It just thrills you to your bones.”

In 2014, Nabors announced he would be singing for the last time at the race, because his health was limiting his ability to travel from his home in Hawaii.

Nabors lived in Hawaii with Stan Cadwallader, his partner of more than 40 years. He had told Hawaii News Now, years earlier, that he had first visited the farthest-flung U.S. state in the 1960s and knew he wanted to make it his home.

Friendliness of Hawaii

“I just walked off that plane and knew this is where I wanted to be,” he said. “It was the air and the friendship and the friendliness and the people, you know. I just knew — there’s something inside me that told me, ‘Hey, you’re gonna end up here.’ ”

Nabors ended up buying a flower-and-nut farm on the island of Maui.

Nabors, who underwent a liver transplant in 1994 after contracting hepatitis B, died peacefully at his home in Hawaii after his health had declined for the past year, said Cadwallader, who was by his side.

“Everybody knows he was a wonderful man. And that’s all we can say about him. He’s going to be dearly missed,” Cadwallader said.

The couple married in early 2013 in Washington state, where gay marriage had recently been made legal. Nabors’ friends had known for years that he was gay, but he had never said anything to the media.

“It’s pretty obvious that we had no rights as a couple, yet when you’ve been together 38 years, I think something’s got to happen there, you’ve got to solidify something,” Nabors told Hawaii News Now at the time. “And at my age, it’s probably the best thing to do.”

In 1991, Nabors got a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame in ceremonies attended by pals Carol Burnett, Loni Anderson, Phyllis Diller and Florence Henderson. His reaction? “Gollll-ly!”

The late Associated Press Entertainment Writer Bob Thomas wrote biographical material for this story.

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OPEC Agrees Oil Cut Extension to End of 2018

OPEC agreed on Thursday to extend oil output cuts until the end of 2018 as it tries to finish clearing a global glut of crude while signalling it could exit the deal earlier if the market overheats.

Non-OPEC Russia, which this year reduced production significantly with OPEC for the first time, has been pushing for a clear message on how to exit the cuts so the market doesn’t flip into a deficit too soon, prices don’t rally too fast and rival U.S. shale firms don’t boost output further.

The producers’ current deal, under which they are cutting supply by about 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd) in an effort to boost oil prices, expires in March.

Two OPEC delegates told Reuters the group had agreed to extend the cuts by nine months until the end of 2018, as largely anticipated by the market.

OPEC also decided to cap the output of Nigeria at around 1.8 million bpd but had yet to agree a cap for Libya. Both countries have been previously exempt from cuts due to unrest and lower-than-normal production.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries has yet to meet with non-OPEC producers led by Russia, with the meeting scheduled to begin after 1500 GMT.

Before the earlier, OPEC-only meeting started at the group’s headquarters in Vienna on Thursday, Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said it was premature to talk about exiting the cuts at least for a couple of quarters and added that the group would examine progress at its next meeting in June.

“When we get to an exit, we are going to do it very gradually… to make sure we don’t shock the market,” he said.

The Iraqi, Iranian and Angolan oil ministers also said a review of the deal was possible in June in case the market became too tight.

International benchmark Brent crude rose more than 1 percent on Thursday to trade near $64 per barrel.

Capping Nigeria, Libya

With oil prices rising above $60, Russia has expressed concerns that such an extension could prompt a spike in crude production in the United States, which is not participating in the deal.

Russia needs much lower oil prices to balance its budget than OPEC’s leader Saudi Arabia, which is preparing a stock market listing for national energy champion Aramco next year and would hence benefit from pricier crude.

“Prices will be well supported in December with a large global stock draw. The market could surprise to the upside with even $70 per barrel for Brent not out of the question if there is an unexpected interruption in supply,” said Gary Ross, a veteran OPEC watcher and founder of Pira consultancy.

The production cuts have been in place since the start of 2017 and helped halve an excess of global oil stocks although those remain at 140 million barrels above the five-year average, according to OPEC.

Russia has signaled it wants to understand better how producers will exit from the cuts as it needs to provide guidance to its private and state energy companies.

“It is important… to work out a strategy which we will follow from April 2018,” Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said on Wednesday.

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Past and Future Fed Chairs Testify Before US Lawmakers

Fed Chair Janet Yellen appeared on Capitol Hill Wednesday for what may be the last time she speaks before U.S. lawmakers. Yellen, whose term expires in February, will likely be succeeded by President Donald Trump’s pick, Federal Reserve governor Jerome Powell. This week, members of the U.S. Congress got a chance to speak to both. Mil Arcega has more.

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Hollywood’s Long-Awaited Movie Museum to Open in 2019

The founders of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, including silent film stars Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, said at its inception in 1927 that the organization needed a library and museum. The Academy, best known for giving Oscars at its annual awards ceremony, soon got its library, but has been waiting nearly a century for the museum. 

The long wait is nearly over, said film historian Kerry Brougher during a tour of the site of the $388 million Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, which is under construction and scheduled to open in 2019 with Brougher as its director. The 27,000-square meter facility will be built around a historic department store that was built in 1939, and which, since 1994, has been used for exhibitions of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art next door. The expanded facility will include a glass-domed sphere with a view of the Hollywood Hills and a 1,000-seat theater.

​Brougher says the museum will open as Hollywood enters a new phase in creating entertainment, extending its reach beyond movie theaters. “Film is expanding,” he says. “It’s in the theaters still, but it’s also projected onto buildings, it’s also on your iPhone, it’s on your computer…It’s part of the art gallery world, with film installations.” And while films and multi-media projects are made worldwide, he says the heart of the industry is still in Hollywood.

​The museum will feature exhibits from the Academy’s collection of 12 million photographs and 80,000 screenplays, and which include props, costumes and set elements from such classic films as Casablanca, Psycho and The Ten Commandments.

Known as the Academy Museum, the venue will also feature Oscar statuettes donated by people who won them.

Brougher says visitors will have the feeling that they are in a movie in immersive exhibits. They will even get a chance to walk on a red carpet and accept their own Academy Award.

It will be “like a journey,” Brougher says. “You won’t necessarily know what’s coming next, what’s around the next corner. And you’ll be in environments sometimes that make you feel like you’ve gone back to the past, that you’re in the era that you’re actually exploring.”

​Visitors to Los Angeles have been able to tour movie studios and view the sidewalk plaques that honor movie stars or the footprints of them in the courtyard of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. They can visit the Dolby Theatre, where the Oscars are presented, but beyond that, they are often at a loss, says Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. “I think they wander around wondering where they can experience this great golden ticket…to the movies,” he says. “Now they’ll have a place.” That will include the hundreds of thousands of people who work in the movie business and who will finally be able to visit a site that celebrates LA’s iconic industry, Garcetti notes.

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NBC Fires Morning Show Host Over Harassment Allegations

The U.S. television network NBC has fired its leading morning news anchor, Matt Lauer, just days after receiving a complaint against him describing sexual misconduct. Hours later, U.S. lawmakers discussed how to handle harassment on Capitol Hill. Esha Sarai reports.

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AIDS Day: A Moment to Reflect on Progress Against a Deadly Scourge

Friday marks World AIDS Day, and the World Health Organization is promoting a campaign of universal health coverage to help the 36.7 million people around the world living with HIV/AIDS. Gabrielle Weiss reports for VOA on the efforts of a Washington, D.C., clinic, Whitman Walker Health.

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Photo Exhibit Recaptures Bhutanese-Nepali Lost History

As refugees resettle in a new country, their identities are often lost in the transition. A photo exhibit in the U.S. Midwestern city of Columbus, Ohio, offers a small window into one local refugee community. VOA’s June Soh explored the exhibit that sheds light on the refugees’ brave journeys from Bhutan through refugee camps in Nepal before finally settling in central Ohio.

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Marvel’s Biggest Cast Assemble for ‘Avengers: Infinity War’

The evil villain Thanos is preparing to take over the universe and Marvel has recruited all of its cinematic superheroes, from Iron Man and Thor to Doctor Strange and Spider-Man, to save the galaxy in Wednesday’s new trailer for “Avengers: Infinity War.”

The film, due in theaters in May 2018, will see the biggest gathering of Walt Disney Co.-owned Marvel’s fast-expanding cadre of cinematic superheroes, including Doctor Strange, Black Panther and the Guardians of the Galaxy.

“This is the culmination of 10 years of filmmaking and I think it’s unprecedented,” Joe Russo, who co-wrote and co-directed the film with his brother Anthony Russo, told Reuters in July, after early footage of the film was shown at Disney’s D23 fan exposition in Anaheim, California.

The trailer shows the Avengers coming together as they prepare to battle Thanos.

Tony Stark and Bruce Banner are seen with Dr. Stephen Strange and Wong, Peter Parker feels his Spider-Man senses tingling while on the school bus, Loki gets his hands on a powerful Infinity Stone and Black Panther teams up with Captain America, Black Widow and the Winter Soldier.

“When you combine them, you get something that you haven’t seen before,” Joe Russo said.

The Russo brothers said that “Infinity War” will close out a 10-year storyline that began with 2008’s “Iron Man,” and set the stage for a new iteration of Marvel’s on-screen superheroes.

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