Requiem for 4,000 Fox Jobs Lost – Welcome to the New Hollywood

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

How do you take the measure of 4,000 jobs lost in an industry with the size and scope of Hollywood?

That’s the number of pink slips being handed by Disney to Fox employees now that the merged mega-studio won’t need them anymore. Four. Thousand. Jobs. It’s undoubtedly the largest layoff from a single entertainment company in a generation — maybe ever — a fact that has not been widely discussed in an industry that has no context for this kind of consolidation.

Myself I’ve been trying to think about what it means. I grew up in Ohio, where these were the kind of statistics you used to read when General Motors shut an automotive plant. Or when a tire manufacturer moved overseas and left Youngstown. The kind of thing when Boeing moved its headquarters from Seattle to Chicago. But not previously in an industry of movie and television creators.

Also Read: Fox Employees ‘Walking on Eggshells’ as Heavy Layoffs Continue Under Disney

These are, potentially, 4,000 mortgages. Tuition. Braces. Art classes. Elder care. For some very fortunate it may just be skipping spring break vacation in Hawaii with the kids. But for most of the people involved it’s serious stuff, the existential issue of surviving everyday life.

Many of those fired will not find new employment in the entertainment industry. The jobs are just not there to absorb these kinds of numbers. Even Netflix, as big as it has gotten, is not in a position to take on this much talent if it wanted. (Netflix has added nearly 4,000 full-time jobs in the last three years, going from 3,500 to 7,100 employees, according to Statista. But that is in an environment where traditional entertainment companies have been contracting, from shrinking Sony, Paramount and MGM to the disappearance of Relativity and The Weinstein Company.)

From folks who I’ve spoken to, this wasn’t a big surprise. Job losses were expected from the moment that Disney’s Bob Iger announced that Rupert Murdoch had given up on growing his empire and instead was cashing out at a $71 billion price tag. Some had been quietly departing for new gigs over the last few months. The rest, however, have been waiting in agony to find out their fates.

And from what I hear, few expected a number this large. “For the last 36 hours, I’ve been grieving,” one longtime Fox employee who was officially cut told me. “I’ve been reflecting on my growth as a human.”

This person added: “Nobody’s mad — go on, integrate it. We’re all relieved. We’re thrilled it’s over.”

Also Read: Disney Expected to Lay Off 4,000 Employees at Fox

Job losses are not a new thing to Hollywood. Studios have shut down before, especially art-house divisions like Warner Independent or independents like Trimark and the aforementioned Relativity. For a couple of decades producers have been packing their bags to chase the cheapest places to shoot rather than finding a space on the studio lot. And visual effects specialists have been globe-hopping for years, from Vancouver to London to New Zealand, in a quest to go where the jobs are but never seem to remain.

In an in-depth Fast Company piece last November titled “The Death of Hollywood’s Middle Class,” Nicole LaPorte looked at the decline of many of the elements that used to support the creative class — residuals and development deals.

“Much as with the rest of U.S. industry, Hollywood’s middle class has seen the stability that reigned from the 1940s to the 1980s slowly chipped away in pieces over the last several decades. In 1993, the so-called fin-syn laws, which prevented companies from owning a production studio and a network, were abolished, ushering in an era of consolidation that reduced competition. Around the same time, cable television exploded, which diverted eyeballs and advertisers from the Big Four networks, which had been the most reliable providers of job security and good pay. In addition, most original programming on cable networks was produced on the cheap. In 2007, a Writers Guild strike, just as the global economic collapse began, led to a contraction from which workers have not fully recovered. Networks slashed their budgets for lucrative overall development deals for writers who were in any way associated with hit shows, and salaries were slow to return to pre-downturn levels.”

But here’s what strikes me, and what makes it so different from the union jobs that went away as global industrialization killed manufacturing in America.

Also Read: Hollywood’s Big Fight Isn’t a Disney vs. Netflix Showdown – It’s a ‘Game of Thrones’

The people in the entertainment industry are generally already those who have sacrificed to get here. Those who grew up in Nebraska watching “Freaks and Geeks” and vowing to be a part of it. Those who memorized every word of the “Star Wars” canon and had no choice but to head West and do anything to get close to it all. Those who begged their parents to let them study film instead of accounting and scraped by at $15 an hour until they made it up into the ranks of a real job with benefits and vacation and could drive something other than a clunker that broke down on the 101.

So to have fought your way into the dream machine and made it, only to find that after years of quality work there is no job for you — that is one harsh blow.

Nobody meant it to be the case, but it’s true. The entertainment industry is getting smaller, following the pattern of all industries in the age of technology. Disney-Fox will go on and do great things, but many of these workers are now part of Hollywood history.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Fox Employees ‘Walking on Eggshells’ as Heavy Layoffs Continue Under Disney

Disney Keeps Key Leaders in Place After Day of Layoffs at Fox

How Disney Could Shake Up Fox Film Slate, Starting With Brad Pitt’s ‘Ad Astra’

Disney Layoffs Claim Top Fox Executives Including Chris Aronson, Andrew Cripps, Pam Levine and More

Hollywood Cynicism Finds a New Low in College Bribery Scandal

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

People from outside Hollywood keep asking me about the college bribery scandal. I live here, after all, and I have a bunch of college- and postcollege-age kids.

They want to know, of course, how common it is for people to bribe their way into elite universities. Even my kids want to know who else was doing it.

How do I know?

The fact that I had never heard the slightest suggestion that there was a bribery ring implicating a fake charity, a professional SAT test-taker, college sports administrators and desperate celebrity parents looking for the kind of guarantees life is not supposed to give you — none of that matters.

Also Read: Lori Loughlin’s YouTuber Daughter Olivia Jade Is Dropped by Sephora as College Admissions Bribe Case Unfolds

To everybody else, that’s what Hollywood represents. Two actresses and an owner of CAA (TPG’s Bill McGlashan, who exited the firm last week) may as well be the entire industry. A culture of privileged cheaters. (And of course Lori Loughlin’s daughter Olivia was on the yacht of USC chairman Rich Caruso in the Bahamas when the indictments came through).

Coming on the heels of an endless stream of disclosures of alleged sexual assault by famous actors and powerful executives, of sexual harassment, rape, casting couch extortion and — thank you, Michael Jackson — pedophilia, it’s pretty damn ugly.

My cynicism calculator has gone off the charts. It’s hard to fathom that Emmy and Golden Globe winner Felicity Huffman might face jail time after being charged with a felony she’s accused of committing on behalf of her daughter.

Meanwhile the international media is still feeding on the carcass of “Everybody in Hollywood knew about Harvey Weinstein.” (I just gave another interview on the matter last week to a major French TV network.)

And the Michael Jackson documentary “Leaving Neverland” is raising questions about the late pop star’s circle: Who knew what and when and why and how and what do we do now?

Also Read: ‘Generation Wealth’ Director on Why Kardashians, Trump Dominate Our Culture (Video)

Bennett Raglin for Own Network

I’m getting tired of making excuses for our crowd.

When I moved to Los Angeles just over 20 years ago, my biggest fear was raising my children in this culture. At the time, documentarian Lauren Greenfield had just published “Fast Forward: Growing Up in the Shadow of Hollywood,” a photography book chronicling the absurdly lavish lifestyles that wealthy and privileged children in L.A. enjoyed. I wrote an article about the book and emerged further terrified that my kids’ friends would have birthday parties in the penthouse suite of the Four Seasons Beverly Hills, that every bar mitzvah would be on the Sony lot and that by the end of high school they’d all end up in rehab.

That turned out to be an oversimplification. Not false necessarily, but not the whole story. And by comparison, I can’t say that our political leadership and the titans of tech measure up any better than Hollywood parents. (Full disclosure: two of my children went to or still attend USC — one of the universities implicated in the worst abuses — and one of them knows Olivia Loughlin, though not well.)

Like most of the readers of this post, I know that the Hollywood community is mainly made up of hard-working men and women with solid values, who chose to become the world’s storytellers because of their passion to share and communicate. And yeah, maybe to get rich and famous too.

But it seems that we live in a time that all our assumptions will be challenged, when our sacred idols will be left in ruins, and that the values we believed in as a democratic society — equal opportunity, social justice — will need to be restated and reaffirmed in a way that does not lead to hilarious parody Lori Loughlin clips on Twitter.

But for now, prepare for a not-short period of a caricature of Hollywood and what we are all about.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Top Crisis Managers to Felicity Huffman, Lori Loughlin: ‘Just Stay Quiet and Disappear’

Why Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin’s Mug Shots Probably Won’t Be Released

Felicity Huffman, Lori Loughlin Arrested in College Admissions Cheating Scam Case

After ‘Leaving Neverland,’ We Need to Reassess Michael Jackson

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

We must once again reassess Michael Jackson. The fans don’t want to hear it. The pop star died 10 years ago at age 50 and thus cannot face evidence or testimony in a court of law.

But the heartbreaking accusations of sexual abuse offered in unflinching detail by Wade Robson and James Safechuck in the new HBO documentary “Leaving Neverland” cannot be ignored. Their stories must be heard and considered in all their terribleness. And we must remember the star’s other past accusers, whose accounts line up with these latest ones.

Now grown men, Robson and Safechuck each accuse Michael Jackson of things we would prefer not to know, and would rather not believe. Grooming the boys and their families with gifts and attention. A gradual introduction to touching, then masturbation, then oral sex, then anal sex. Then porn. Every night. All with expressions of love by Jackson. And in both cases, the boys say they loved him back, deeply and devotedly.

Also Read: ‘Leaving Neverland’ Brings Explosive Michael Jackson Accusations to Light

Robson was 7 when he said Jackson first molested him. He said the “sexual stuff” continued until age 14.

Safechuck was 10, he said, and the abuse continued well into his teens.

The accusations play like classic pedophilia, except it’s not some seedy guy in a van with blacked-out windows. It’s Michael Jackson, the artist who loved children more than anything and wanted to heal the world. And who repeatedly denied ever molesting children during his lifetime.

Robson and Safechuck’s accounts were taken separately by filmmaker Dan Reed and unfold slowly in four hours of documentary. In a powerful interview with Oprah Winfrey on Monday after the documentary aired on HBO, Robson and Safechuck said they had not met during the filmmaking. But their experiences were markedly similar.

Also Read: 5 Most Devastating Accusations Against Michael Jackson From ‘Leaving Neverland’

Bennett Raglin for Own Network

And in both cases the implications for their emotional lives were deep. Robson, who went on to become a successful choreographer, hit a wall when he had a child himself. But for years, he said he buried what happened: “I didn’t feel it was abuse,” he said. “I didn’t feel I was hurt by it. That anything bad happened to me. At that point, I loved MIchael, Michael loved me — that happened between us. That’s it. I had no feeling that I was affected negatively.”

That was the case until he said he could no longer function, had a nervous breakdown, lied to a therapist like he’d lied to everyone else, including in court. Then he had another nervous breakdown, he said, and ultimately confessed to his therapist about what he says happened.

Safechuck is still actively struggling, and said so. He is confronted by deep feelings of self-hatred, which he doesn’t understand. He too has a child, and found the damage bubbling up as he confronted fatherhood. Because he loved Michael Jackson.

“It was two feelings together,” he said in the interview with Winfrey. “He does these things that are harmful but you still have love for him. I’m still grappling with that.”

Viewers must judge for themselves what is credible, because definitive proof is elusive. But if we have come to a place in the #MeToo era where we choose to hear accusers out instead of dismiss them as fame-seeking, money-grubbing climbers, then Robson and Safechuck need to be taken seriously.

Also Read: ‘Leaving Neverland’ Premiere Is HBO’s Third Most-Watched Doc in a Decade

We must also consider them in the context of two allegations of the past, Jordy Chandler — who accepted a $25 million settlement in 1993 after filing a civil suit accusing the star of molestation — and Gavin Arvizo, who was the plaintiff in a 2005 case when Jackson was acquitted of lewd acts on a minor.

As a reporter who covered Michael Jackson for years The Washington Post and then The New York Times, I found the accusations against Jackson discomfiting and weird, fascinating and bizarre.

It seemed possible that Jackson, as an artist who projected a permanent childlike state, was not sexual at all. He seemed more like a man trapped in childhood than a predator. He seemed neither gay nor straight. We all heard rumors that a sperm donor from his vast network of medical fixers parented his three children. We knew he slept in the same bed as young boys.

Maybe he really was Peter Pan?

Also Read: ‘A Bargain’: Trump Ally Seeks $31 Million for Neverland as Michael Jackson Doc Drops

These ideas wither in the wake of these new accounts. And it means we must reassess not only Michael Jackson but ourselves and how we treat celebrity and transgression. What is the role of the media in enabling this behavior, of parents in turning a blind eye to abuse? And is there collateral damage when we seek to protect our cultural idols from accusations of wrongdoing?

It is possible to love Michael Jackson’s music and to consider the evidence that he was a rank pedophile.

In fact, there is an imperative to do just that.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Michael Jackson Songs Still Streaming on Spotify, Apple Music – Unlike Post-Accusation Ban on R Kelly

Corey Feldman Defends Michael Jackson After ‘Leaving Neverland,’ Says Singer ‘Never Touched Me Inappropriately’

‘A Bargain’: Trump Ally Seeks $31 Million for Neverland as Michael Jackson Doc Drops

5 Most Devastating Accusations Against Michael Jackson From ‘Leaving Neverland’

Why the ‘Green Book’ Oscar Victory Has Divided Hollywood

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Inside the Governors Ball on Sunday, where the Oscar-shaped smoked salmon canapes were passed in abundance, it didn’t take long for Spike Lee’s tantrum over “Green Book” winning Best Picture to make the rounds.

Oscar-goers and winners were aghast that Spike turned his back in the theater when “Green Book” was announced for the final award, and then made his displeasure even more clear in the press room when he said, “The ref made a bad call.”

But more than gossip about Spike’s bad manners, the question was why did “Green Book” seem to rub some people — including a leading director of color — the wrong way? Especially on a night when an historic number of nonwhite talent won gold statues?

Also Read: Spike Lee Gets ‘Driving Miss Daisy’ Deja Vu From ‘Green Book’ Win: ‘Ref Made a Bad Call’

“It was great to see Spike Lee hold an Oscar,” actor David Oyelowo said at the Governor’s Ball, echoing the sentiments of many, and emphasizing the positive.

But the backstage drama suggested a clash between Hollywood’s old and new waves, as when Ava DuVernay showed up, queenlike, at the much-dissed Vanity Fair post-Oscar party in support of the new-generation editor Radhika Jones.

En route to that party that some folks wonder might lose its luster! LOL. @VanityFair#OSCARS pic.twitter.com/Zb9c43klf1

— Ava DuVernay (@ava) February 25, 2019

Also Read: Oscars Make History With Record 7 Black Winners

This year’s Oscars seemed suspended between what the Academy aspires to be — progressive, inclusive and actually diverse — and where it traditionally has been, which is politically progressive as seen through the eyes of privileged white folks, almost exclusively men.

“Green Book” fell squarely in the latter category, the latest iteration of well-intentioned storytelling about American race relations told by white people who continue to hold most of the power. Spike Lee, ever the barn-burner, seemed to rebel against that convention even when the Academy chose to honor him with his first-ever competitive Oscar for his own dark comedy about…. that’s right, race.

Understandably, the makers of “Green Book” found no comfort in the backlash. Producer Jim Burke seemed wounded when asked at the Governors Ball about Lee’s criticism. “It’s a Spike issue,” he said, adding, “It’s never been made clear” what specific issues the “BlackKklansman” director has with the movie.

Also Read: Oscars: ‘Green Book’ Win Gives an Old-Fashioned Ending to a Diverse, Forward-Looking Show

But truth be told, Spike wasn’t the only one questioning the “Green Book” victory —  he was just the only one invited to the party who threw a stink bomb.

Twitter immediately was afire with critics who found the choice artistically offensive. Many noted that director Peter Farrelly’s acceptance speech omitted mention of Don Shirley, the African American concert pianist who was the subject of the film (played by Oscar winner Mahershala Ali).

Others, like past Oscar nominee James L. Brooks, detected an odd note in Ali’s acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actor. “The director earnestly thanked for never coming near the actors, ‘giving us space’ ..letting us work it out on our own,” he tweeted. “Must have been one edgy set.”

Literally still laughing at last night’s thank you speech 4 best supporting actor. The director earnestly thanked for never coming near the actors, “giving us space” ..letting us work it out on our own” and confining himself to an occasional “tweak”..Must have been one edgy set.

— james l. brooks (@canyonjim) February 25, 2019

Also Read: Oscars 2019: ‘Green Book’ Best Picture Speech Omits Don Shirley, But Carrie Fisher Gets a Shoutout

Almost immediately, the “Green Book” win divided people along political and cultural lines.

On the racial politics of telling another story about racism in the 1960s South through the point of view of a white man, Burke tried to explain: “It’s about the black-and-white experience. It’s about differences in race and class, but we are all, every one of us, very proud of this film. If you have a problem with that — it’s confusing.”

I asked whether he thought some of the criticism came from the fact that the film had a white director, white writers and five white male producers (although, to be fair, Octavia Spencer also co-produced).

“I can’t change the fact that I’m white. If the question is: Can white people have or not have a point of view on racial inequality?…” He trailed off, without an answer and finally just said: “It’s been a rough campaign season.”

Related stories from TheWrap:

Watch and Read Spike Lee’s Oscar Acceptance Speech That Trump Called ‘Racist’ (Video)

Oscars: ‘Green Book’ Win Gives an Old-Fashioned Ending to a Diverse, Forward-Looking Show

Oscars 2019: ‘Green Book’ Best Picture Speech Omits Don Shirley, But Carrie Fisher Gets a Shoutout

Top Critics Vent as ‘Green Book’ Tops Oscars; LA Times Critic Calls It Worst Best Picture Winner Since ‘Crash’

Time’s Up CEO Lisa Borders Resigned After Son’s Sexual Misconduct Allegation

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Lisa Borders, the CEO of Time’s Up, abruptly resigned her post this week after her son was accused of sexual misconduct and her position became untenable, the organization told TheWrap on Thursday.

Borders, who had been in the job just over three months, resigned this week citing “family concerns that require my singular focus.”

TheWrap has learned that Borders agreed to resign after her son Dijon Borders, a healer based in Los Angeles, was accused of sexual misconduct in a session with a woman who went to the police.

Also Read: Time’s Up President Lisa Borders Resigns After Three Months

In a statement, Time’s Up told TheWrap:

“On Friday, Lisa Borders informed members of TIME’S UP leadership that sexual assault allegations had been made against her son in a private forum. Within 24 hours, Lisa made the decision to resign as President and CEO of TIME’S UP and we agreed that it was the right decision for all parties involved. All of our actions were fully guided by our support for survivors.

We respect the rights of all survivors to own their own stories. We strongly encourage anyone who has experienced sexual harassment, assault or related retaliation in the workplace or in trying to advance their careers to contact the TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund for assistance.

We remain committed to our mission to create, safe and dignified for women of all kinds.”

Dijon Borders, 36, has a lifestyle and healing business where he offers services from photography to inspirational podcasting to sessions where he pleasures women.

On a recent podcast he described one such session: “I’ve been doing Shakti invocation sessions. I provide an experience for women to feel safe and open….Part of me stepping back from sexuality was to master my own sexual energy. When I show up in those sessions I’m not being guided by my own desire. I’m being guided by serving the opening of this woman…  Normally when I do it, I’m providing this experience for the woman, she’s having a good time.”

But a woman who apparently went through one such session, Celia Gellert, told the L.A. Times that she felt “violated” when, “she alleged, he touched her genitalia, kissed her neck and brushed his erect but clothed penis against her body during the session.”

Jussie Smollett Arrest Stuns Hollywood Into Silence and Sorrow

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Stunned silence would be one way to describe how Hollywood is processing the arrest of Jussie Smollett after authorities say he made up a racist and homophobic attack.

The normally active Twitter feeds of leading artist-activists such as Ava DuVernay, Judd Apatow and Matthew Cherry were quiet in the hours after Smollett’s Thursday arrest in Chicago on a felony charge of filing a false police report.

Don Lemon — the outspoken CNN anchor who like Smollett is both gay and African-American — grasped for words on his newscast on Wednesday night. “It’s … terrible,” he managed to say.

Also Read: Cops: ‘Empire’ Star Jussie Smollett Staged Attack Because He Was ‘Dissatisfied With His Salary’

There’s some cognitive dissonance going on: Smollett, that beautiful, sweet young man who comes from a warm, sprawling family with sibling actors, who started out in “The Mighty Ducks” in 1992 and rose to prominence on the edgy Fox show “Empire” — that Jussie is accused of mounting a racist, homophobic attack on himself?

Insiders with whom I’ve spoken were frustrated and saddened. One said that she had already had a difficult conversation with her children about the attack when it was first reported, and now wasn’t sure what to tell them.

The Chicago police chief said on Thursday that Smollett staged the attack because he wanted a pay raise — but that didn’t add up to observers in the business.

I will here pause to point out that we don’t know the truth at this point. Smollett has been charged and arrested, but maintains his innocence. Maybe he is. The evidence we’ve seen — like those two brothers buying a rope and other paraphernalia — doesn’t look good.

For weeks, Fox has been standing behind its star, vouching for his good character, hiring a PR specialist, denying rumors that he was going to be written out of the show. Within hours of his arrest, the studio pivoted from its previous blanket support for its star to say: “We are evaluating the situation and we are considering our options.”

Also Read: Fox Says It Is ‘Considering Our Options’ After Jussie Smollett Arrest

In the last few days, defenders like DuVernay insisted on reserving judgment even as the police said they were moving toward the conclusion that Smollett had written himself a threatening letter, hired two brothers to throw a noose around his neck and fling bleach at him and claim a MAGA connection.

The sight of a visibly indignant Chicago police chief, decrying a waste of precious public resources on the case, does not help matters for Smollett.

Update: According to Chicago police officials, Jussie Smollett wrote a fake letter and paid for the staged attack because he was “dissatisfied with his salary.” https://t.co/MyPbjMeUKh

— Twitter Moments (@TwitterMoments) February 21, 2019

It’s an awkward moment for Hollywood at a time when this liberal industry is busy decrying the divisive politics of our time both on public platforms like Twitter and in the films and TV shows — including Smollett’s own show “Empire,” which was created by Lee Daniels, another artist who happens to be gay and African American.

And it’s distracting on the eve of an Oscars ceremony that finally has recognized a critical mass of diverse talent and movie themes in its top categories, from “Roma” to “Black Panther” to “Black KKKlansmen” to “Green Book.”

Also Read: Oscars Endgame: What Are ‘Roma,’ ‘Black Panther’ and Other Campaign Ads Really Trying to Say?

It’s a setback for those who want to champion equality and diversity, which is pretty much everyone in Hollywood, let’s be honest. It hands a potent weapon to critics of “Hollywood liberals” that will be wielded for years.

Like the Tawana Brawley case of the 1980s which left a lasting stain on activists like Al Sharpton, it will haunt Smollett and those who chose to ardently defend him.

I will stipulate again that I don’t know what happened in this case. But it’s an important reminder that no one has a monopoly on idiocy, cynicism and egoism. And that we should pay close attention before we judge.

Jeff Bezos vs The National Enquirer: A Tale of Journalism and Blackmail

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

To those expressing shock at Jeff Bezos’ extraordinary accusation of extortion by the National Enquirer’s owner American Media Inc., I can only say — get a clue.

What’s shocking is that the Amazon billionaire had the guts to expose a well-worn practice of journalistic blackmail by a publication untethered by ethics.

And what’s even more shocking is that AMI would have the chutzpah to put all this in writing and stamp it with the imprimatur of editor Dylan Howard on one document and AMI lawyer Jon Fine on another while the company is under a binding agreement with federal authorities to keep their noses clean as cooperating witnesses in the Michael Cohen case.

Also Read: Read the Blackmail Email Jeff Bezos Says He Received From AMI

The fact that they did so anyway gives you some sense of how accustomed The National Enquirer is to this kind of “negotiation” — leveraging secrets to help allies, catch-and-killing salacious stories, paying for information and mixing business with journalism, a term I use in this case ironically.

These practices have been well documented as AMI’s stock in trade in its past dealings with Donald Trump, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Harvey Weinstein to name a few:

• AMI has admitted to federal prosecutors in New York that it participated in a “catch and kill” scheme with Trump’s alleged former mistress Karen McDougal, who (as Ronan Farrow detailed in the New Yorker last year) was paid to tell her story to the tabloid and instead given a spurious promotional deal to keep her from speaking out during the 2016 presidential election. (This is seen as a campaign finance violation, not a First Amendment issue.)

• In Schwarzenegger’s case, as deeply reported by Anne Louise Bardach, the secret deal to kill evidence of the then-gubernatorial candidate’s past sexual exploits resulted in the “Terminator” star appearing on the cover of an AMI-owned health magazine. Arnold won the election, you may recall.

• Harvey Weinstein exchanged emails with editor Howard in which the disgraced mogul asked for help to punish his enemies, a story of mutual back-scratching detailed in the New York Times. Weinstein struck business deals with AMI to develop television and movies as an inducement for the publication to be on his team.

Also Read: Federal Prosecutors Open Investigation Into National Enquirer Owner Over Jeff Bezos’ Accusations

An uncooperative billionaire, a power-drunk tabloid, the president and the independent counsel’s investigation — this is a complexification that Hollywood couldn’t make up.

Now the feds are investigating whether this violates AMI’s plea deal in the Cohen case — ratcheting up the pressure as another potential headache for the White House.

Two big questions linger:

• Why was AMI so intent on getting Bezos to assert that their reporting on his affair had no political agenda?

• Why is AMI chief David Pecker still protecting Donald Trump even though he’s in political jeopardy himself over the apparent McDougal cover-up?

Also Read: Jeff Bezos Would Still Be World’s 4th Richest Man Even If Divorce Claims Half His Net Worth

This does not even get into the speculative mess involving The Washington Post’s persistent reporting on the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which Bezos referenced in his Medium post on Thursday, and why AMI would want to help Saudi Arabia by embarrassing the Post’s owner.

Let’s get clear on a few things. Trading on information is a timeworn tool in reporting. And publications have the absolute right under the First Amendment to publish true information that is of interest to the public. (The limits when it comes to individual privacy were recently challenged by the Peter Thiel-funded Hulk Hogan case against Gawker, which bankrupted that digital tabloid.)

Here’s how this feels like extortion: I threaten to publish a damaging fact about you unless you tell me damaging facts about another person. Or, as that ethical line slips, other demands are made.

Today Bezos’ refusal to play the game — and to go public about it — has triggered a federal investigation, all because we have a president who dances with the tabloid devil.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Federal Prosecutors Open Investigation Into National Enquirer Owner Over Jeff Bezos’ Accusations

AMI Promises to ‘Promptly and Thoroughly Investigate’ Jeff Bezos Accusations

Read the Blackmail Email Jeff Bezos Says He Received From AMI

Jeff Bezos Would Still Be World’s 4th Richest Man Even If Divorce Claims Half His Net Worth

Sundance’s Haves and Have Nots: Can Traditional Indie Distributors Still Compete?

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Sundance 2019 brought into sharp focus the two-tiered reality that now dominates the world of independent content.

It’s a story of the haves and the have-nots.

The haves are those giant tech-based companies like Netflix, Amazon and Apple that can plunk down many millions of dollars on a movie they like without a second thought.

Also Read: Sundance 2019: Every Movie Sold So Far, From ‘Late Night’ to ‘The Farewell’ (Updating)

The have-nots are everybody else — scrappy distributors who still do the Old Math: adding up the P&A costs, the ancillary rights like TV and international and, um, airlines to figure out how to protect their downside and maybe make a profit.

But there’s no such old-style nonsense for the tech giants — and Amazon is the colossus of choice at this year’s Sundance, blithely buying multiple movies for $15 million without so much as entering a bidding war. Who does that? (Netflix, which wasn’t in the game this year.)

“Late Night,” the broad comedy by Mindy Kaling and co-starring Emma Thompson, went to Amazon for $13 million on Day One of the festival. “The Report,” a gripping drama about the Senate investigation into U.S. torture after 9/11, went to the streamer for $14 million.  And by week’s end Amazon went after a comedy titled “Brittany Runs a Marathon,” starring Jillian Bell, buying it for $14 million.

There isn’t math behind these sales that make any particular sense, despite the fact that the tech giants are supposedly driven by data, according to a number of individuals in the know. Amazon is looking for subscribers to its Prime service, and needs a credible lineup of entertainment to compete with the crushing volume of original content now coming from Netflix. (Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.)

Also Read: Sundance Shocker: Big-Money Acquisitions Take Indie Film Market by Surprise

Amazon chief Jeff Bezos is capable of spending anything he needs to compete in the entertainment space, having just reported yet another behemoth quarterly earnings triumph.

That leaves the second-tier of buyers to compete over the rest. The noble task of finding movies, buying them at a price and then marketing them to (hopefully) success is left to the likes of Sony Pictures Classics, which bought a David Crosby documentary by producer Cameron Crowe.

Or the taste-making indie distributor A24, which bought a Tilda Swinton starrer “The Souvenir.” Or The Orchard (now known as 1091 Media — but why? please change the name back), which bought Frédéric Tcheng’s documentary “Halston.”

IFC acquired U.S. rights to “The Nightingale,” the latest film from Jennifer Kent, the Australian director of “The Babadook.”

Scrappy Neon, which has shown distinctive taste in choosing movies in the last few years, was probably the most aggressive indie in the “have-not” space, punching above its weight to buy a number of films.

One agent I spoke to who sold a number of films disputed this thesis, saying that a couple of films went to traditional distributors over the streamers — including Netflix — who wanted to pay more.

“What the streamers can often offer is greater or more immediate reach to consumers, which sometimes make sense for that particular film,” said Rena Ronson, co-head of UTA’s  Independent Film Group. “So a lot has to do with knowing your film and making the right choice not just financially, but creatively and strategically.”

But many other distributors I talked to were coldly realistic about their chances to nab the buzziest movies premiering at the festival.

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“We’re buying what we can,” said the head of one art-house distribution company. Most of the second-tier sales did not announce the prices in their news releases, a sure sign that the figures were modest.

Notably absent from the buying activities (at least at time of publication) were more traditional art-house studios based at the majors like Focus Features and Fox Searchlight. (Weirdly, WarnerMedia’s New Line stepped up to by Gurinder Chadha’s ’80s-set teen movie “Blinded by the Light” for $15 million).

This makes for a strange dynamic in the indie space, especially since many of the tech giants have now hired veteran executives who are used to competing in the scrappier world.

But then — why should the world of indie film be any different than the rest of the country?

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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Joins Sundance After All, by Webcast

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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez joined the Sundance Film Festival after all on Sunday, showing up via webcast to salute the premiere of “Knock Down the House,” a documentary about the women candidates driving a political revolution in 2018.

“We can do 2018 again better in 2020,” the newly-elected congresswoman from the Bronx told the cheering crowd, which gave the film and her a standing ovation. “So when someone tells you they’re gonna run for office, believe in them early, don’t dismiss them, and know that we all participate, and when we all know what we have to give and choose to give it, our nation will be better.”

The documentary by director Rachel Lears focuses on four first-time candidates, all of them running against the odds, all of them underdogs, all of them running out of rage and frustration at the lack of change for working class Americans.

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Of the four – Cori Bush in Missouri, Amy Vilela in Nevada, Paula Jean Swearengin in West Virginia and AOC, as Ocasio-Cortez is known, in New York – only the latter won her race, which pitted her against the Democratic political machine of longtime congressman Joe Crowley.

The audience was fired up and enthusiastic, breaking into cheers several times during the film.  At least one audience member sobbed aloud when Vilela lost her race in Nevada against the incumbent.

AOC was supposed to travel to Park City for the festival, but cancelled when the government shutdown ended. But she appeared via webcast along with her fellow candidates and listened carefully to the questions from the audience.

“I’m so glad that this moment for all four of us was captured and documented – not just for the personal meaning of it but for everyday people to see that yes, this is incredibly challenging, yes, the odds are long, but yes, that it’s worth it,” she said.

Bush and Swearengin both said they intended to run again, despite their defeat in 2018.

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“When we don’t step then we end up with what we have now,” said Bush, adding that there is a cost. “You don’t get to see how we’re sometimes terrorized, you don’t see the corruption, the really bad things that happen. After my first race I had a violent rape. But I got right back up.”

The film is a fascinating chronicle of the political uprising sparked by the election of Donald Trump in 2016, which led to a tidal wave of unconventional candidates backed by Democratic groups like Brand New Congress and Working Democrats. The documentary follows these four candidates in detail, and offers a gritty perspective on the shoe-leather work that goes into an upstart campaign.

And “Knock Down the House” left the audience with a real sense of what drove these four women, and what drives the movement of which they are a part. “If we really want a government that’s going to serve us,” said Swearingen near the end of the Q&A, “we need to take our government back.”

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CSNY Comeback? David Crosby Calls for Reunion With Stills, Nash and Young (Video)

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Rock legend David Crosby reached out to his estranged bandmates Stephen Stills, Graham Nash and Neil Young and said he’d love to make music with them again.

“I want to work with all four of us. That’s what I want to do,” the singer said Sunday during an interview at TheWrap studio following the Sundance premiere of the new documentary “David Crosby: Remember My Name.”

“I’ll take more blame than anybody for being a s—head to my friends in that group,” he added.

Also Read: ‘David Crosby: Remember My Name’ Film Review: An Affectionate, Moving Look at the Rocker

Asked what he would say to his longtime friend Nash if he had the chance to speak with him, Crosby, 77, said: “I’d probably tell him I love him. It’s the highest of the emotions I feel about them. It’s the best I’ve got.”

Crosby, Stills and Nash broke up in 2016 after old resentments and fresh wounds exploded in a final rupture, and they haven’t spoken since then.

Crosby went on: “If I had a chance to talk to him [Nash] I’d sit down and say: ‘I haven’t changed, I’m the same f—up you started with in the first place. Here I am. I’m trying to be a decent guy. And if you want to make some music, I’d love to.’”

But Crosby went on to say he would really like to see CSNY — the band including Neil Young — play together again. Young has not spoken to Crosby since he learned of a derogatory remark Crosby made about Daryl Hannah, who Young married last year.

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David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash appear in “David Crosby: Croz Was Here” by AJ Eaton, an official selection of the U.S. Documentary Competition at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance | photo by Henry Diltz

Crosby is in a confessional mood. In “David Crosby: Remember My Name,” a new documentary about his life produced by Cameron Crowe and directed by A.J. Eaton, the musician speaks candidly about his regrets, his drug addiction and the price paid by friends, fellow musicians and former girlfriends for his past choices.

The comments are all the more piercing because the interviews in the film are done by Crowe, the director who started his career as a teenage writer for Rolling Stone and has known Crosby since then.

In his interview at TheWrap studio at the festival, Crowe said that Crosby was at a stage of life when he seemed ready to be open about his past.

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“One of the things that really touches me in the movie is when Graham says, ‘I talked to him every day for that amount of time,’” Crowe said. “When he goes to an elemental place it’s not about other things, it’s about — every day he got to talk with you. And that feels like a hole. It’s a palpable thing every time I see the movie.”

Crosby responded: “We were not only good friends but brothers for a long time. That’s real. It’s clear in my head, I haven’t forgotten.”

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In ‘The Report,’ Government Heroes Expose America’s Torture After 9/11

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

‹We know that the bland, dark-suited people who run the government can sometimes be villains. But it’s easy to forget that people in government can also be heroic.

Making stories about those people can be challenging as entertainment, but Scott Burns’ “The Report” manages to do just that, dramatize in deliberate, thoughtful chapters the investigation into America’s shameful descent into torture after 9/11.

The film debuted on Saturday at the Sundance Film Festival.

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Senator Dianne Feinstein, played by Annette Bening, is the unlikely hero of this drama, as the veteran, centrist Democrat of California leads the Senate Intelligence Committee looking into allegations that the CIA tortured detainees.

Her staffer Dan Jones, played by Adam Driver, is even more worthy of note. He spends fully six years digging into mountains of evidence, seeking the truth of what the CIA did, and why. After writing a 7,000 page report and a 400-page summary that the CIA heavily redacts, he fights to see the report released to the public.

The film brings to life the antiseptic term “enhanced interrogation techniques,” colloquially known as torture, which we now know the Bush Administration made legal with a special memo after the 9/11 terrorist attack sent the country and government into panic mode.

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The threading of the legal needle is referred to frequently in the film as dependent on the result of the interrogation. If it works to get information that saves lives and if it does not confer “severe” and “permanent” physical damage, it is legal.

“It’s only legal if it works” is repeated several times in the film. And the problem was… it didn’t work.

The film depicts these acts: water-boarding, chaining detainees to the wall or the floor in “stress positions,” depriving them of sleep while blasting heavy metal music at impossible decibels.

Even when the person on the receiving end is the 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, it withers the soul.

It turns out we, our democracy, did this for four years and all along failed to extract meaningful intelligence through this process. George W. Bush, the film narrates, was informed of the EIT practices in 2006.

In seeking to understand how this all came to pass, Feinstein repeatedly confronts not only CIA director John Brennan, but Barack Obama’s chief of staff Denis McDonough (Jon Hamm).

KSM was water-boarded 183 times, according to the movie. In a moment of devastating understatement, Feinstein asks Brennan why that would have been necessary if the procedure worked.

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Burns along with the entire cast was present at the premiere, and so was Dan Jones himself. Driver was asked during the Q&A what he took away from playing Jones:

“Dan Jones is who you hope is in a basement somewhere, against the odds, being given responsibility,” he said. “Those are the people you fantasize are hidden in a basement in government, with moral conviction as their guiding force. It’s easy to lose faith in institutions. So I’m proud to be part of telling that story.”

The film is up for sale.

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‘Untouchable’ Film Review: Documentary Revisits Harvey Weinstein Horrors – Too Soon?

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Had enough of Harvey Weinstein? Not just yet.

There’s not a lot of new information in “Untouchable,” a creditable documentary about the scandal that upended Hollywood and unleashed  a #MeToo movement across the world, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on Friday night.

But for those eager to hear more about this conundrum of a man – a tastemaker who made culture-defining movies for two decades but was allegedly also a monstrous, serial rapist who damaged the lives of dozens of women – this movie is for you.

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The Hollywood crowd in attendance was certainly riveted. It included everyone from former Ticketmaster CEO Fred Rosen to TV legend Norman Lear and his wife Lyn Lear to former MGM CEO Chris McGurk, among others who packed the Marc Theatre.

That’s no surprise, since in some sense Hollywood is still processing the tectonic changes brought on by the investigative bombshells published by The New Yorker and The New York Times. Men and women in the industry are still figuring out what just happened and sorting through what is or is not permitted in the current culture. TimesUp has been created, and meanwhile a dozen other powerful men – including the head of CBS – have been driven from the industry.

What director Ursula Macfarlane’s film does best is place the Weinstein scandal in context, revisiting the early years of Bob and Harvey, two brothers set on challenging the staid parameters of Hollywood filmmaking by making bold choices and supporting daring writer-directors.

In interviews with some longtime Miramax executives, they remind the viewer that before Harvey Weinstein was a monster he was a master movie marketer who picked “Sex, Lies and Videotape,” “Pulp Fiction,” “Cinema Paradiso,” “Shakespeare in Love” and created the model for a successful independent film company.

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They were so successful, so uniquely talented that they sold their company to Disney in 1993 and were given a shocking amount of freedom (and money) to continue making movies. And, as it turns out, to continue assaulting women.

The film goes on to interview a series of women, many of whom the viewer will know from the avalanche of media coverage in the past 15 months: former London assistant Zelda Perkins, actresses Paz de la Huerta and Rosanna Arquette, aspiring actress Erika Rosenbaum.

They tell their stories anew. One new voice comes from Hope d’Amore, an early alleged victim of Weinstein who met him when he was still a concert promoter in Buffalo. Her shame at giving in to his advances in a New York hotel room is still close to the surface despite being decades old.

“It’s the collateral damage – what it does to your friends, your relationships – and they don’t know why,” she says. “It steals something.”

We still cannot take the measure of what Harvey Weinstein has stolen from all these women. That will take more time than a documentary can do while the wounds are still so fresh.

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Theranos and the Rise and Fall of ‘The Inventor’ Elizabeth Holmes Is a Tale of Our Times

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The rise and fall of Elizabeth Holmes and her $9 billion medical tech start-up, Theranos, is the stuff of Greek tragedy: Hubris, ambition, deception and betrayal abound.

But it is also a stunning emblem of our delusional, self-aggrandizing, fake-it-till-you-make-it times, a cautionary tale of the tech era and the insidious culture it has created of would-be legends and short-lived genius.

Veteran documentarian Alex Gibney has all the raw ingredients of great drama in “The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley,” which screened on the opening night of the Sundance Film Festival.

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Holmes started her company Theranos as a 19-year-old Stanford drop-out, with the dream of revolutionizing the medical diagnostic industry with a simple idea: a few drops of blood could quickly diagnose anyone’s medical condition, rather than the traditional method of drawing lots of blood and running lots of tests.

She was blond and beautiful. She was a woman in a male Silicon Valley culture. She dressed like Steve Jobs – in a ubiquitous black turtleneck – and spoke in throaty, confident tones about her vision of the future.

The problem was she hadn’t figured out the technology. And while she raised hundreds of millions of dollars and convinced the likes of former Secretary of State George Schulz and former Pentagon commander James Mattis to join her board of directors, she found herself digging an ever-deeper hole of deception and lies.

By the time Wall Street Journal reporter John Carreyrou showed up and started asking persistent questions, Holmes was in too deep. And like most fabulists when cornered, she dug deeper into her delusions and lies.

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Gibney, who has made a career of hard-nosed documentaries on delusional fraudsters from Enron to Lance Armstrong to the Church of Scientology, does a great job of letting Holmes tell her own story, weaving footage of her rallying her employees with a grand vision, and constantly telling doubters that this is just part of what you get when Greatness challenges the status quo.

He also has revealing interviews with the whistleblowers who worked with Carreyrou and fed detailed  information to the reporter, such as the fact that most of the prick tests being submitted for federal approval, or investors, or Walgreen executives signing a massive contract, were actually being done on conventional blood-testing machines and not by the revolutionary and totally secret Theranos method. Which happened not to exist.

Carreyrou gets his due in the film, and plenty of public figures get their comeuppance. Super-lawyer David Boies, whose reputation has also suffered as a brass-knuckles Harvey Weinstein enforcer, is shown as a bully willing to defend Theranos’s false claims in order to intimidate Carreyrou.

The journalist who helped create the Holmes mythology by putting her on the cover of Forbes as a rising business star, Roger Parloff, comes close to tears as he grapples with his role – however unintentional – in a grand fraud.

It is stunning to see Holmes cross to the dark side in order to save herself, passing from half-truths and obfuscation to outright lies.  The truth, of course, eventually comes out. And whistleblowers like Schulz’s grandson Tyler, who worked at the company, and a lab researcher, Erika Chung, were present at the screening on Thursday.

“From Day One it was pretty clear,” said Schulz at the screening. “The inside joke among the scientists was that the science didn’t work.”

Theranos was dissolved in 2018 and Holmes and her one-time partner Sunny Balwani face criminal charges for their actions.

“She wasn’t planning to perpetrate a long con,” said  Carreyrou, who wrote a best-selling book about the subject, at the Q&A after the Sundance premiere. “She wanted to be a successful entrepreneur and she threw herself into it. ‘Fake it till you make it’ is embedded in Silicon Valley.

“And she might have gotten away with it in the realm of computers. She lost sight that her product was a medical device.”

BuzzFeed, HuffPost and Mic: Inside the Crisis in Digital News

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

The future of digital news is once again a topic of raging debate and concern after BuzzFeed and AOL-Yahoo and HuffPost announced severe staff cutbacks this week, once again putting hundreds of journalists out of work.

Can news survive in the digital age? What is the model?

“What if there is literally no profitable model for digital news?” MSNBC anchor Chris Hayes asked on Twitter on Thursday, setting off a long back and forth. “Or none that actually scales and endures without, say, the established readership base and brand of the [New York Times]. This seems…. Increasingly likely to me?”

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The word “crisis” is in the air, and understandably so. After a brutal year in the digital advertising space, after budgeting and strategic review and board meetings in January, BuzzFeed said it was cutting 15 percent of its staff (with pink slips to go to up to 400 people, according to one insider). Verizon said it was shedding 800 jobs in media — meaning AOL, Yahoo, Oath and HuffPost.

This follows other radical cuts by digital news organizations — the millennial news site Mic laid off its entire editorial staff last November before selling off its remaining assets, Refinery29 hacked 10 percent of its staff in October, and Billboard and The Hollywood Reporter trimmed 22 people this month as parent company Valence Media restructured its business operations.

The problem, as has been chronicled in this space with rising dismay, is that advertising dollars have been sucked away by the tech giants — Google and Facebook.

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Two decades ago, Craig’s List killed classified advertising, the cash float that helped so many local papers — and newspapers have never really recovered.

Digital media organizations that arose in the wake of that shift found a model that worked for a time. To make newspapers obsolete, they raced for massive scale, driving reader “clicks” to float digital advertising dollars that could match the higher prices of print and pursuing video to get premium ad dollars for that platform.

But the cost of producing video at mass scale did not pencil out to profit and pricey experiments like HuffPost Live faded away.

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By the second decade of this millennium, Google and Facebook made any achievement of “scale” — of hundreds of millions of unique users per month — obsolete. With a technological expertise that news organizations can’t match, they target the audience that advertisers want more efficiently and with more precision than even the largest of news sites.

The third tech entrant into media selling, Amazon, has similar gargantuan scale and technological chops.

The Twitter debate on Thursday questioned whether news needs to be reframed less as a business proposition than as a public trust, funded by a federal tax, or whether seeking nonprofit status will be required to sustain journalism (particularly local journalism) in a modern democracy.

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Sewell Chan, the new deputy managing editor at the Los Angeles Times, wrote: “I joined @latimes to find such a model. America is too big, its communities too diverse for @nytimes, @washingtonpost and @WSJ (great as they are) to be the only legacy papers that survive this mass-extinction event.”

BuzzFeed founder Jonah Peretti recently floated the idea of a merger between BuzzFeed and another publisher, saying in the New York Times that players like Vice Media, Vox, Group Nine and Refinery29 could combine forces and potentially provide a big enough bulwark against Google and Facebook.

On Twitter, David Folkenflik of NPR raised the prospect of micropayments for news, which he said has not worked in places where it’s been tried. Another commenter said news sites should consolidate payment through one vendor to make it easier for consumers.

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Friends inside Oath and HuffPost tell me it is vastly demoralizing to know that Verizon has written down — or essentially written off — the value of their entire division despite the fact that it still produces hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue for the parent company.

Vice too is the midst of facing a similar reality. At TheWrap’s Power Women Summit in November, Vice’s new CEO Nancy Dubuc said she wasn’t sure about the media company’s valuation at that point — and Disney recently wrote down the value of its investment in Vice by $157 million.

How important is news? In the current era when news consumption and interest seem higher than ever, finding a way for digital news to survive is more urgent than ever.

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When We Need It Most – Martin Luther King Day

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

At times like these, with division and anger leading the national conversation, we can feel grateful that there is a day to honor someone who represents their polar opposite.

At times like these we may hang on to the words of Martin Luther King like a life raft as we swim, daily, in waters polluted by ALL CAPS tweeting, race-baiting, lies and childish insults from our commander in chief.

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Remember there was a time when words uplifted, not tore us down:

“Violence is not the way,” said King. “Hate is not the way. Bitterness is not the way. We must stand up with love in our hearts, with a lack of bitterness and yet a determination to protest courageously for justice and freedom in this land.”

King preached non-violence, but also freedom and justice and equality. These are the core values of our democracy at any time.

It’s so often hard to remember this.

In the age of Trump many of us — I do, at least — feel ashamed to see words giving comfort to white supremacists. And some of us feel helpless witnessing a brutal federal policy that separates families in our name.

Now in the age of Facebook Live, we have also been made painfully aware of the continued, systemic racism faced by people of color no matter who has been in the Oval Office —  including an African-American president.

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With that in mind let us recall the observation King made about the arc of history being long but bending toward justice.  Let us recall that he taught us how freedom for all is driven forward — by incremental effort.

“If you can’t fly, run; if you can’t run, walk; if you can’t walk, crawl; but by all means keep moving,” he urged us.

Here is something else worth remembering: A Republican president, Ronald Reagan, signed the legislation to create Martin Luther King Day in 1983. This was only the second national holiday created to commemorate and honor an American, after George Washington.

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So as we take comfort in that, just as we may take comfort in the advances our country has seen toward the values King espoused in the diversity of our new House of Representatives, and in the richness of our popular culture from Oprah to “Black Panther” to Beyonce.

Because of him, we have a national hero who is African-American and celebrated everywhere, officially, thanks to his sacrifices and those of his generation who marched and sat in and stood up for human dignity.

More than ever, we need his words and his legacy.

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

Amen.

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Patricia Arquette on Her Golden Globe for Playing an ‘Unlikable, Sexually Unapologetic’ 50-Year-Old

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

You don’t want to mess with Patricia Arquette anymore. For those of us who remember her as the wispy-voiced, quirky girl with the curves in “True Romance” and “Flirting With Disaster” (my personal favorite) a million years ago — that’s just not on the menu.

Most of us know she has become a champion for pay equality for women, and God bless her for that. But her new character on screen is a doughy, unattractive, ethically compromised prison guard on Showtime’s “Escape From Dannemora” who’s a different kind of breakthrough, as she told me last night.

“We got to see a different kind of person that we see in our life, that we see around us, but we really almost never see in Hollywood,” she said, walking out of the Golden Globes ballroom with her statue in hand for Best Performance by an Actress in a Limited Series or Motion Picture made for Television. “To be a 50-year-old of a certain body type who’s unapologetically sexual and actually feels OK about sex and being loved — that was really a gift.”

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Arquette plays the unsmiling Tilly, an employee at the Clinton correctional facility in the sleepy upstate New York town of Dannemora who becomes romantically entangled with one of the inmates (Benicio del Toro) to the point that she helps him and another inmate (Paul Dano) escape from the prison.

“It’s so liberating,” Arquette said of the role in the fact-based, seven-episode limited series, which Ben Stiller both directed and executive produced. Here’s my full conversation with Arquette as she took the measure of her win:

What about this character was important to you?

After 28 years in the business, I feel like the mantra that I’ve always heard over and over again — and I don’t know if it’s because I am a woman — I can do a great fighting scene and the feedback is, “That was great, but maybe a little too angry” or I do a great emotional scene and they say, “That’s great, but maybe it’s too painful, can you make her more likable?” Or, “She doesn’t look pretty when she cries.”

I never got that from Ben or the studio. They were like, “We don’t care if these characters are likable. We trust the audience. Let them see all these people with all these nuances. They can decide for themselves.” To be unsaddled from that need to be likable, to be pleasing in any kind of way I feel is more integral.

We got to see a different kind of person that we see in our life, that we see around us, but we really almost never see in Hollywood. To be a 50-year-old of a certain body top who’s unapologetically sexual and actually feels OK about sex and being loved. That was really a gift too. Sometimes people try to pretty it up or dumb it down. It’s so liberating. By Showtime and Ben Stiller. Both of them.

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Was that character what was on the page?

They were like: This is what she looks like. They were all fine with that. This is Tilly and this is fine. The writers thought she was complicated and different. They saw her point of view. They thought she was difficult. And the actors were really supportive.

And of course it’s still very much men in positions of power, other than our DP [director of photography], who was a woman. But in general, these men are super supportive of this really complicated and different voice of a woman.

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You aren’t playing the game anymore. 

I’m excited about right now. Hollywood is starting to realize… Unfortunately for them, it’s like, “Wow, it actually pays big dividends to have diversity. Who would have ever known we would make a lot of money?”

But also it makes better movies. We’re kind of just beginning to explore other human beings. We’ve been so trapped in this model and concept for so long that I’m so excited about the new voices of tomorrow.

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A Commitment Fulfilled: TheWrap Achieves Gender Equity Among Its Film Critics

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

In November at our inaugural Power Women Summit, TheWrap committed to bringing gender balance to our team of film critics.

At the time, I said that we wanted to make sure we walked the walk and set an example by our own actions. We all know that having different a diverse set of views among writers creates a smarter, richer context for the discussion around our popular culture. (More info on that event here.)

For that reason I’m pleased to announce that we have achieved that commitment, and that TheWrap now has an equal number of women as men critics.

Also Read: TheWrap Wins Best Entertainment Website and More First-Place Wins at National Entertainment Journalism Awards 2018

Sharon Waxman committing to gender equity at the Power Women Summit 2018 / Photo by Randy Shropshire

We have added to our esteemed group of writers Yolanda Machado, Candice Frederick and Monica Castillo, who join a wonderful group of independent-minded thinkers reviewing films for the site.

TheWrap’s reviews editor Alonso Duralde enthusiastically took on this commitment and it is thanks to his leadership that we can be proud to have a greater mix of perspectives on the films and shows we review.

Here is a list of our pool of critics, and our thanks go out to each of them for their strong work, which you can read here:

Robert Abele

Carlos Aguilar

William Bibbiani

Dan Callahan

Monica Castillo

Candice Frederick

Todd Gilchrist

Courtney Howard

Yolanda Machado

Tricia Olszewski

Elizabeth Weitzman

Dave White

April Wolfe

Also Read: TheWrap’s Top 100 Portraits of 2018, From Gal Gadot to Spike Lee (Photos)

In her recent review of “Bird Box” starring Sandra Bullock, Yolanda Machado wrote:

“For generations, the picture of motherhood has been that of a woman who connects with her child immediately, who is openly loving and soft. Motherhood today is not as simple. There are real dangers that our children face daily, simply by walking outside. There’s no new handbook to teach us how to prep our kids in case their school is taken over by a shooter, nor is there a guide on how to lead our children when we ourselves are uncertain of what the future holds. We’re all fumbling into this new parenthood blindly, hoping that we’re raising smart and strong kids while also allowing them to experience the joys of childhood, and it’s that innate understanding of parenthood that makes Bullock’s performance feel real. It’s equally fascinating and terrifying to watch.”

In her review of “Destroyer,” by director Karyn Kusama, April Wolfe wrote: 

“But despite the film’s needlessly fractured structure and a relentlessly grim story, Kidman and Kusama seem to be speaking the same language, in quieter moments illuminating not just the faults of the protagonist but also the faults of every tragic hard-boiled detective in cinematic history.”

And in her review of “Vice,” Candice Frederick recently wrote:

“If there’s one thing writer-director Adam McKay’s “Vice” does well, it’s highlight how white mediocrity has thrived in American politics and pop culture. But McKay also does this by way of making a mediocre movie about mediocre politician Dick Cheney played by a surprisingly mediocre Christian Bale. At some point, and at some level, you wish the white mediocrity could be reined in, but it never is.”

Also Read: 11 Best Movies of 2018, From ‘Paddington 2’ to ‘Eighth Grade’ (Photos)

The voices and views of TheWrap’s critics matter a great deal as we are among a handful of publications that see films at their very earliest screenings, and are the first reviews to be published.

As a company, we are already at gender equity as a whole, not such a surprise given that it was founded by a woman. But still, we love having all the smart men on our staff – along with the talented women.

We invite our colleagues in the industry — Variety, The Hollywood Reporter and others — to make gender equity a priority among their critics as well, and together we will have a chorus of diversity among those who set the tone for our discussion of film.

Related stories from TheWrap:

TheWrap’s Top 100 Portraits of 2018, From Gal Gadot to Spike Lee (Photos)

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TheWrap Wins Best Entertainment Website and More First-Place Wins at National Entertainment Journalism Awards 2018

Batten Down the Hatches for 2019 – A Media Storm Is Coming

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

There’s no one I know in media who isn’t scared of what the next 12 months will bring.

Here’s the general picture:

• Consolidation continues to chew up jobs and companies in the entertainment arena.

• We continue to navigate a world in which media and entertainment are both in flux, even as we see overall trends like the rise of streaming, the decline of cable, the explosion of television content, the squeezing of theatrical movies and the still-unstable business model around short-form video.

• Digital media hasn’t found a business model that guarantees stability or financial success: “Scale” doesn’t seem to work, “pivot to video” doesn’t work and God knows building your business plan around Facebook or Snap is a fool’s errand.

Also Read: 11 Media Winners of 2018, From Hope Hicks to Rachel Maddow (Photos)

Which means that a couple of decades into the digital revolution we find ourselves in a world where a couple of big winners dominate in each sector: Google and Facebook in media (by which I mean advertising), Netflix and Disney in entertainment, Amazon and Apple in tech.

The more time goes by, the more that dominance seems to be institutionalized — though the fate of Facebook strikes me as unclear.

In 2018, Netflix nabbed former ABC entertainment chief Channing Dungey

Meanwhile the broader context around all this is an uncertain economy with a stock market on a downward slide under the leadership of a possibly criminal president who is only likely to get more unstable as multiple investigations box him in.

This is why most people I know in media are in super-cautious mode.

“A lot of bad businesses will go away” in 2019, Rob Goldberg, the CEO of digital video producer Fresno, told me last week. “A lot of investors will lose money, and already have.”

Also Read: Fresno’s Rob Goldberg on 2019: ‘A Lot of Bad Businesses Will Go Away’

Other CEOs I’ve spoken to recently are focused on reinforcing their core businesses and hoping for not too much change. “It’s going to get rougher out there,” said one CEO, noting that raising capital is going to get harder in this climate.

Executives are honing their résumés as much of 21st Century Fox merges with Disney and AT&T makes its moves around the divisions of Warner Media.

Also contributing to the cautious mood is the broader cultural resonance of #MeToo. We’ve seen dozens of high-level male executives and creative talent publicly named, shamed and drummed out of the entertainment business. Harvey Weinstein, sure, but so many others — from Kevin Spacey to Matt Lauer to Louis C.K. to Charlie Rose.

Indeed, most of us thought that the wave of #MeToo accusations had passed when the New Yorker investigation into Les Moonves dropped last summer and led to what a year earlier would have been an unthinkable exit.

Also Read: Women of #MeToo Gather for Much-Needed Moment of Healing

You can be sure that many others are still cringing at their desks, hoping the fateful finger of “the reckoning” does not wander their way.

On the bright side: It’s been a good year for diversity. For starters, we’ve never seen a year like this for African-American filmmakers — not just the success of a blockbuster movie like “Black Panther,” but a veritable parade of critical and commercial wins (think “Creed II,” “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” and “The Hate U Give”). Female filmmakers are feeling the love as they start to score more significant directing and producing projects. And a big shout-out to the new Hawaiian-born superhero, “Aquaman” star Jason Momoa.

Similarly, we’ve seen huge checks being written to grab key diverse talent — $100 million for Ava DuVernay to work at Warner Bros. TV, and similar deals for Shonda Rhimes and Kenya Barris to take their ideas to Netflix.

Also Read: ‘Black-ish’ Creator Kenya Barris: I Left Disney for Netflix Over Shelved Anti-Trump Episode

While those are exciting moments for those individual talents, the question is whether those huge checks amount to an overall boon for the creative side of the entertainment industry. So many young screenwriters and directors have confided to me that they are worried that their project will get lost if they give it to Netflix. And more established writers worry that the residual-free universe of streaming means they will have to work longer and harder to earn less.

The big picture is undeniable: Fewer, bigger winners and fewer, bigger players across the entertainment landscape. Every year that passes suggests that this is increasingly the case. We have yet to see Amazon make a convincing play for dominance in the content space, and ditto for Apple and Facebook. All of those companies could decide to invest much more heavily in quality story-telling, though Ava and Kenya and Shonda (and Ryan Murphy) are already spoken for. So far it’s a Netflix game.

I feel for the hundreds of hard-working executives who are being displaced by consolidation as there is no guarantee that they will find a soft landing. I feel for the entrepreneurs who have poured their hearts into inventing new ways to understand consumers and build relevant content — only to find that Facebook has eaten their business.

Simple concepts like “make good movies” (or shows, or series) don’t bring great comfort in this  context.

So if you haven’t prepared for a coming storm — then you should start battening down the hatches.

Related stories from TheWrap:

11 Media Winners of 2018, From Hope Hicks to Rachel Maddow (Photos)

Fresno’s Rob Goldberg on 2019: ‘A Lot of Bad Businesses Will Go Away’

Facebook’s Slide Continues as Stock Price Hits 2018 Low

Facebook’s Faceplant Year: Is This the Beginning of the End for Social Media Giant?

Why Channing Dungey’s Leap to Netflix Is Making TV Folks ‘Queasy’

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Related stories from TheWrap:Former ABC Entertainment Chief Channing Dungey to Join Netflix’s Original Content TeamABC’s Channing Dungey Says Kenya Barris Was ‘Frustrated’ by Limitations of Broadcast TVNetflix Originals Thrive as Disney’s Content Leave…