Arts & Entertainment News

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►  Forget the handmade wreaths – now Martha Stewart hangs with Snoop Dogg and makes weed jokes

Here are some of the things Martha Stewart has done on her new show with Snoop Dogg: She has worn a blinged-out cheese grater on a chain around her neck. She has drunk out of what can only be described as a pimp cup. She has taste-tested a stoner recipe for a pizza omelet. She has name-dropped Escoffier. She has not flinched when Rick Ross said to her audience, “I wanna make some noise for Martha because baby got back.“

When did Martha Stewart go from being America’s most earnest homemaker, ready at a moment’s notice to spray-paint silk flowers and shape them into elaborate wreaths, to being America’s coolest grandma, who makes weed jokes and hangs out with Wiz Khalifa?

After she went to prison, of course, but not right after. The cultivation of New Martha, of Hip-Hop Martha, of Martha the Queen of Dank Memes, took time. And it has culminated in “Martha and Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party,“ her cooking-show-meets-stoner-buddy-comedy that enters its second season Monday on VH1.

“I’m a very strait-laced person,“ Martha told The Washington Post. “I don’t smoke, I hardly drink. It’s kind of an odd combination right from the get-go.“

Respectfully: Is Martha all that strait-laced anymore?

It’s the perception that she is strait-laced that makes it funny just hearing her say the names of her guests, often hip-hop artists: “We had Lil Yachty. Do you know him?“ This is, after all, the same woman who wrote an extensive blog post about bathing her donkeys: Billie, Rufus and Clive. It’s the same woman who, in a roast of Justin Bieber, delivered a withering monologue calling comedian Natasha Leggero “the dirtiest used-up ho I have ever seen,“ and gave Bieber tips for when he “inevitably” goes to prison. If you ever slept on a set of Martha Stewart floral print sheets, you’d be surprised to hear her joke about them, which was: 1. unprintable, and 2. directed toward the rapper Ludacris.

Her show with Snoop is a very particular cultural exchange between two people of seemingly disparate backgrounds, which is a thing America could use more of these days, frankly. Martha tries on a grill, shotguns a beer and glugs out of a 40-ounce bottle of malt liquor this season. Snoop, meanwhile, has learned about lobster thermidor and croquembouche.

“She’s taught me how to ... have better food etiquette, how to be more professional in the kitchen,“ Snoop said. “I showed her a few things, the ghetto way of doing things,“ like his method for making bacon.

“I’ve learned a lot about music from Snoop and our guests,“ Martha said. “He’s extremely knowledgeable, he’s also very amusing. He’s really laid back,“ she said, quoting one of his songs. She genuinely likes rap: “Ever since I saw ‘8 Mile.‘ It started with Eminem ... I like that kind of poetry.“ And Rick Ross: “We’re email pals.“


Snoop is becoming Martha, and Martha is becoming Snoop, and it’s been happening for years, before our very eyes. He first appeared on her show in 2008, putting cognac in his mashed potatoes, teaching her the phrase “fo shizzle.“ A year later, they made brownies with green sprinkles and a wink and a nod, because those green sprinkles stood for an altogether different green substance. Then a Reddit Q&A in which Martha said Snoop was a person she would like to get to know better, and then the Bieber roast. After that, SallyAnn Salsano, who also produced “The Jersey Shore,“ realized that they would be the perfect odd couple for a cooking show.

“These guys are genuinely friends, and that’s why I think it works so well on screen,“ Salsano said. “Their relationship is real.“

Some of the show’s best comedy comes from how Snoop and Martha play off each other when she says something contrary to type or he eats something delicious. Snoop will look at her and say, “Martha,“ amused and awed. There is recipe instruction, but it’s not really about that. The format is basically: Snoop and Martha each make dishes according to a (usually stoner-friendly) theme, like tacos or grilled cheese, and invite celebrity guests over to hang out. This season will feature Laverne Cox, RuPaul, T-Pain, Ty Dolla $ign and P. Diddy, among others.

Snoop is, unsurprisingly, high for every episode.

“He comes onto the set pretty high, and leaves pretty high,“ said Martha, laughing, but he’s “not incompetent or incoherent at all. That’s the way he lives.“

“Sometimes I may smoke one blunt, sometimes I may smoke 100 blunts,“ Snoop said. “It depends on what’s necessary for me to do what I’m doing.“

And then he has some cocktails, because many episodes kick off with Martha demonstrating a drink recipe.

“Every episode I was drunk. Every one,“ Snoop said. “The lines become that much more easier, the flow becomes natural. It’s more relaxing. You’re not doing a job, you’re just having fun.“

Martha is having fun, too. She seems cannily aware of her role as the comedic straight man, the person who can send Jamie Foxx into peals of laughter by sucking on a helium balloon, as she does during season two’s “Birthday Party” episode, while misquoting Migos’s “Bad and Boujee”: “Rain drop. Drop top. Smoking on kush in hot box.“

Martha was once so earnest that her daughter, Alexis, hosted a show poking loving fun of her mother. Ana Gasteyer’s “Saturday Night Live” impressions of her were of a woman with a quiet rage within. People didn’t know Martha was funny - much less that she could go toe-to-toe with some of the filthiest comedians. It’s been in her all along, said Kim Miller-Olko, senior vice president of television and video for Sequential Brands Group, one of the show’s producers.

While “It’s not like she’s a truck driver,“ the Bieber roast “was who she is when you’re in the car with her. That sense of humor is very much her,“ she said.


Martha wouldn’t describe her sense of humor as dirty.

“My business partners wouldn’t like that description of me. I like humor, I like all kinds of humor, I don’t watch horror movies, though, and I don’t watch porn. I don’t watch any bad stuff.“

(If you’re surprised to hear prim, proper Martha Stewart even use the word “porn” in an interview, know this: Martha knows what sexting is, and she’s done it, she told Andy Cohen).

It’s all so funny that a cynical person might wonder if this is a calculated effort to expand her brand among millennials. After she published an essay about how much she loves drones, the Daily Dot wrote that Martha was “trolling the internet into oblivion.“

“The internet’s oblivion or my oblivion?“ asked Martha, when I read that line to her. “I can’t imagine what that means.

“Trolling means you’re fishing, it means you’re dragging a line ... so it doesn’t really make any sense, that statement, does it? Does it to you?“

I tried to explain that the internet has a different definition of trolling, and that in this context, the word meant being cheekily provocative. And I wondered: Was Martha trolling me?

“No, I’m doing a fun show,“ she said. “We’re having interesting guests, we’re doing all sorts of great, I would say funny things. We’re trying to give people a little bit of information and a lot of enjoyment.“

For all their odd couple dynamic, Martha and Snoop aren’t so different. They’re both lifestyle gurus - Snoop has a cannabis company with artful packaging, a digital media company and a series of apps. They’re both rich people who live in fancy homes, attended to by staff. When they appeared on “$100,000 Pyramid,“ Martha grilled Snoop on the intricacies of interior design: wainscoting, sconces, credenzas. He answered every question correctly.

At one point a meme went around, a picture of Snoop and Martha from the holiday brownie episode of her show, clad in a three-piece suit and a holiday sweater, respectively. The caption reads: “Be mindful of stereotypes! Only one of them is a convicted felon.“

Except it’s not true: Snoop, too, is a felon, having been convicted of drug possession and possession for sale in 1990.

But it’s the spirit behind that meme that is the force of the show: Anyone can find common ground over a good meal, even two people who seem so different.


Snoop is writing his own cookbook, one more thing he’ll have in common with Martha. It will feature recipes from the show.

“People were inquiring about those dishes, and how can we do it. I was like, you know, (expletive) it, I’m gonna do a cookbook.“

It’s going to be refined: “I didn’t put no baloney sandwiches in there. That might be in my second book. That might come with the hood recipes in there too,“ he said. “I wanted ... (people) to know that it was good and coming from a cooking perspective, and not just me just doing it to be doing it.“

And it won’t be about cooking with cannabis.

“I’m gonna be on cannabis while I’m cooking, but ain’t no need to put it in the food.“

Martha says she doesn’t consume cannabis, though she says she has gotten a contact high from being around Snoop. He has gifted her with marijuana seeds, and she hasn’t yet planted them, but is considering doing so at her Maine household (“I need to find out if I need a license.“).

Even though it would seem the ultimate culmination of both personal brands, Snoop and Martha have no plans to launch the most logical merchandising spinoff of their show: a line of gourmet cannabis edibles.

New Martha makes weed jokes. Old Martha wants to grow something else.

“I’d rather do a line of my own hydrangeas or my own tulip bulbs,“ she said.

►  A love letter fell out of an old Paris guidebook – and set a filmmaker on an obsessive quest

Henri loved Betty, and Henri loved Monet. The rest is a mystery.

Like all good mysteries, this one features an elusive woman, a love affair and a random stranger who gets swept up in the story. But there’s no ending - yet.

In November 2015, Doug Block was packing for a 30th-anniversary trip to Paris with his wife, Marjorie Silver. The New York filmmaker pulled a used tourist guide from his bookshelf and threw it in his luggage. On the last day of their trip, he grabbed the old copy of “Pariswalks,“ and out dropped a cream-colored envelope with “BETTY” slashed across the front.

He turned over the envelope and took out a card. The cover featured an impressionist painting of a woman sitting on the grass. He flipped the card open.

“My Sweet Love, began the inscription. Will you look for me at the Musee D’Orsay? I will be there in soul and spirit, though not in body. It is there that you will find my love of Monet. It is there, my love, that I hope you find me and find such peace and beauty in a city where I would like to be - with you.

“After the MusseeD’Orsay, go have a café au lait at the street café to the left.

“I love you more than words can tell, my sweet angel. You are the source of my greatest joy.

“Not going to Paris with you is so hard. It is meant for two. It is a city of love. Please keep me close to your heart, every step of the way.

“Enjoy, my love.

“Avec Amor,Henri.“

Who was Betty? Who was Henri? Block turned to his wife. “Where did we get this book?“ he asked.

And so an obsession was born.

Block, 64, is an award-winning independent documentary filmmaker who makes features about family, marriage and other human foibles. He was in the middle of a project about his fellow documentary filmmakers, but the love letter haunted him.

And so he decided to make a film about Henri and Betty. Or, to be exact, his search for Henri and Betty.

“It gave me a chance to play detective and solve a mystery that I felt perhaps is unsolvable,“ says Block. “But I sensed that playing detective, it would lead me down really interesting, intriguing paths.“

He began with the guidebook, thinking that it must have originally belonged to Henri or Betty. It was published in 1999 and had been sitting on his bookshelf for years. None of his friends could remember lending it to him. Maybe he’d picked it up at a used bookstore? The only thing he could know for sure was that it was purchased in 1999 or later.

He turned to the letter.

Block dismissed the idea that Betty was a relative or a friend - the words are too intimate, dripping with longing. He thinks that the two were lovers, and the guidebook was a gift to her, the card tucked inside as a surprise. This may have been Betty’s first trip to Paris, with Henri directing her to visit the Musée d’Orsay and go to a favorite cafe.

The filmmaker also believes that “Henri” was probably a lovestruck affectation of Henry, and that Henry was an American. Block points to the misspellings of “musée” in the second reference and “amour” in the closing - mistakes that a native French speaker would not have made. Based on his poetic language and striking penmanship, Henri was sophisticated, well-traveled and familiar with Paris.

A handwriting expert looked at the note and noticed the distinctive star-shaped “I” (which looks more like an “A”) and concluded that the author was brilliant but very careful about what he said and did. Betty was someone who allowed Henri to release a heretofore unexpressed passion. “It was like he opened his heart and this flowed out,“ the expert told Block.

Betty, on the other hand, is a total enigma. No clues to her age, her profession, her given name. Elizabeth? Roberta? Since “Betty” has fallen out of favor as a girl’s nickname, she was probably born no later than the 1960s.

Block consulted a detective, who said that too many people had handled the card and envelope (which was never sealed) to obtain usable fingerprints. The detective recommended a psychic who had assisted him on a few cases.

The psychic held the card and started tearing up before he even opened it. “ ‘This is really poignant,‘ “ Block says the psychic told him. “ ‘They really loved each other so much.‘ He thinks this letter was early on in their relationship and they so wanted to be together. But they couldn’t and had to go back to their marriages.“

An archival researcher scanned Henri’s handwriting and looked for matches on the Internet, to no avail.

A friend was convinced that Henri was a serious Grateful Dead fan. “I love you more than words can tell,“ he writes - a common enough phrase, but more often rendered as “I love you more than words can say.“

That last word makes all the difference: The former is a line from the Dead’s “Brokedown Palace,“ a lover’s farewell. Block’s friend looked at the willows in the picture (historically a symbol of mourning) and said: “Oh my God! He’s not only a Deadhead, he’s either sick or dying. That’s why he couldn’t go to Paris with her.“

Block thinks that this letter is a farewell, too, but maybe just the end of the romance. There’s no reference to the future or of being together again. “To me, this seems like they have already called it quits,“ he says.

Then he showed the card to a forensic analyst, who said that there’s no actual proof of anything. Henri and Betty could be lovers, or they could be husband and wife. Maybe Henri and Betty aren’t even their real names.

Everybody has an opinion, and no one has any facts. “But the whole fun of this is speculation,“ says Block.

There was one clue left: Henri selected a blank notecard with a Monet painting, “Woman Seated Under the Willows,“ on the cover. The back of the card identifies the painting as property of the National Gallery of Art, which is one reason Block was in Washington recently. Maybe if he knew more about the art, he could know more about Henri.

The curators allowed Block to film the painting, one of more than two dozen Monets in the gallery’s collection. It’s a beautiful landscape - shimmering, delicate, the colors more vibrant than any image on a card can capture - with a woman reading on the banks of the Seine.

“There’s a wonderful softness and curvaceous quality,“ says Kimberly Jones, curator of 19th-century French paintings. “Your eye kind of swoops and swirls as you go around the canvas.“

There’s a love story behind the painting, too. In 1877, Monet invited his longtime patron, Ernest Hoschedé, a department store magnate who went bankrupt, to live with him and his family in Vetheuil, 40 miles north of Paris. Hoschedé brought his wife, Alice, and their six children. It was all very cozy. Perhaps too cozy.

Monet’s wife died in 1879, and Hoschedé moved back to Paris to rebuild his business, but Alice and the children stayed with Monet. Monet and Alice eventually married, and experts think that Alice was the model for the woman under the willows, painted in 1880.

Originally, Block thought that Henri lived or worked in Washington, because the painting is part of the Chester Dale Collection and cannot travel or be exhibited outside the museum. He also guessed that Henri bought the notecard, printed in 1996, in the gallery gift shop.

But the dates don’t add up. The painting has not been on public view since 1993, and odds are that Henri didn’t buy the card at the museum at all.

Issued from 1996-2003, the image was part of a boxed set of 20 cards by Galison in New York, featuring four of Monet’s works from the National Gallery. According to Galison Chief Financial Officer Sam Minnitti, the firm sold more than 160,000 boxes in museums, bookstores, gift and stationery shops all over the country. Henri could have purchased the notecards anywhere.

And despite his professed love for Monet, maybe this particular card held no hidden meaning. Maybe he just liked the way it looked.

“I think it says he’s romantic,“ Jones told Block. “There’s a wonderful frisson of possibility and potential, which I think he may have been responding to. There’s this woman in this beautiful setting, and she’s waiting. She’s waiting for him.“

Block didn’t know any of this, of course, during his anniversary trip to Paris. On November 13, 2015, he and his wife spent the day at the Musée d’Orsay. A few hours later, terrorists attacked and killed 130 people at a soccer game, a concert and a sidewalk cafe.

On their last day, the couple decided to go for a long walk through the now-hushed streets of Paris. Block pulled out the guidebook, and out fell the envelope.

“Paris was in the same state New York was in after 9/11: The world will never be the same again,“ remembers Block. “It was always the city of love, now it was going to be associated with terrorism.“ And so, he decided he needed to make a film about love instead of hate.

Maybe Henri and Betty are still alive. Maybe someone will see the love letter and recognize Henri’s handwriting. Maybe someone knows the end of the story.

But if he never solves the puzzle, Block’s okay with that, too. His film is really about love - love found and love lost. It’s about why couples stay together, and why they part. It’s about the quest, not the destination.

“I’ve come to realize I’m not creating a literal depiction of Henri and Betty,“ he says. “I’m creating an impressionistic portrait. And everybody I’m talking to is creating the brushstrokes.“

►  France gave Harvey Weinstein its highest honor; Macron says he’s taking it back

As it continues to brew, the Weinstein scandal has now reached France.

In a lengthy televised interview Sunday night, President Emmanuel Macron announced that he has asked the relevant authorities to strip Harvey Weinstein of his highly coveted Légion d’Honneur award.

Macron, who has mostly avoided journalists to date, went on the air Sunday night with journalists from France’s TF1 station in a last-ditch attempt to discuss policy matters in the midst of his massive labor reforms as well as to bolster his badly damaged image. But social media quickly focused on just one thing the new president said in his first televised interview since taking office in mid-May.

“Yes, I have indeed taken steps to withdraw the Légion d’Honneur,“ Macron said. “I wish, as these acts lack the honor, that we take all the consequences.“

In France, the Légion d’Honneur is a great honor: established by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802, it represents, for French and foreign citizens alike, the highest order of merit for civil and military achievements in the service of France and of the ideals it upholds. The names enshrined in Paris’s famous Légion d’Honneur Palace - a favorite building of Thomas Jefferson - represent some of the greatest characters in modern history. Among the Americans who have won are former first lady and diplomat Eleanor Roosevelt (1951), the novelist Toni Morrison (2010) and the singer and songwriter Bob Dylan (2013).

In keeping with the French tradition of awarding the prize to international celebrities, Weinstein won the Légion d’Honneur in 2012 for his contributions to world cinema, at the behest of former president Nicolas Sarkozy. Although foreigners cannot be full members of the Légion, they are eligible to win the prize.

But the prize can indeed be revoked. According to the rules, “unbecoming behavior” can cause one’s award to be removed. For French members, such behavior can lead to an official reprimand, a suspension or an outright exclusion from the order. For foreign recipients, however, all it takes to lose the coveted prize is one strike - the so-called “withdrawal,“ which Macron has now requested in Weinstein’s case.

In 2012, the group stripped British fashion designer John Galliano of his prize after Galliano made anti-Semitic comments.

The Weinstein news came as authorities looked for connections in the scandal in another European capital: London. There, police are investigating new allegations of sexual assault against Weinstein from a woman who told them that the Hollywood producer assaulted her in 2010, 2011 and 2015. In response, the Metropolitan Police confirmed that its Child Abuse and Sexual Offenses Command unit is on the case.

Arts & Entertainment News

The Free Press WV

►  Prince tapes moved to California; 2 heirs angry

Two sisters and heirs of the late rock superstar Prince said Wednesday they’re angered that the contents of his vault, including master tapes of unreleased music, have been removed from his Paisley Park studio complex and shipped to California.

Sharon and Norrine Nelson, Prince’s half-sisters, told The Associated Press they are prepared to take legal action to bring the music back to Minnesota. The company running the estate, Comerica Bank & Trust, said the recordings are safe at a reputable storage company in Los Angeles.

“We want the music back home in Paisley Park where it belongs,” Sharon Nelson said.

Norrine Nelson called it “extraordinary and unconscionable.”

The recordings are regarded as among the most valuable pieces of an estate that court papers have suggested is worth around $200 million.

Sharon Nelson said she was told September 29 by a “Paisley Park representative,” whom she wouldn’t identify, that around four trucks pulled up to the studio-turned-museum in the Minneapolis suburb of Chanhassen in early September and removed the contents of the vault.

“It’s just as though Prince passed away again,” she said. “That’s how I felt. I was really devastated by that.”

Norrine Nelson said the music had been safe in Minnesota for more than 40 years and would be again if it’s returned.

The sisters said Comerica, which is serving as the personal representative, or executor, of Prince’s estate, hasn’t told them exactly where the music was taken or why. They said they believe Comerica was obligated to notify them and give them a say under orders earlier this year by Carver County District Judge Kevin Eide, who is overseeing the estate case.

Comerica defended its decision in a statement.

“In an effort to ensure the preservation of Prince’s audio and visual content, Comerica selected the premier entertainment storage and archive company, Iron Mountain Entertainment Services,” the statement said. “On four separate occasions, Comerica discussed the process with the heirs and any suggestion otherwise is not accurate.”

Prince left no will when he died in April 2016 of an accidental overdose of painkillers. The judge this May declared Prince’s six surviving siblings his heirs, but they’ve split into two camps during the legal wrangling. Sharon and Norrine Nelson and their brother, John R. Nelson, are on one side and Prince’s full sister, Tyka Nelson, and his half-brothers Omarr Baker and Alfred Jackson on the other. An attorney for Tyka Nelson and Baker did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Eide’s orders putting Comerica in charge give the company considerable authority over how to run the estate and exploit its assets to benefit the heirs, and don’t require it to notify or seek approval from them for routine matters. But one order does require Comerica to give them 14 business days of notice before entering into transactions worth more than $2 million to give them a chance to object. The sisters said they believe that language should apply to such a major step as moving the music out of Prince’s vault.

If the reason for moving the tapes was to put them closer to the recording industry to prepare for more releases of Prince music, the sisters said there was no need. They pointed out that Prince’s studios at Paisley Park remain state-of-the art.

But Comerica said the recordings are safer with Iron Mountain.

“After reviewing the storage conditions at Paisley Park and out of concern regarding the consequences of a fire or other loss at the facility, Comerica determined that it was necessary to transfer the audio and visual content to a secure location where all of the original content could be securely stored and digitized as a safeguard against the destruction or loss of any original content,” the company said.

►  Review: A family tale told artfully in ‘Meyerowitz Stories’

Your first response to “The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)” may very well be: Adam Sandler is good — REALLY good — in his sensitive, nuanced portrayal as Danny, the outsider son in the Meyerowitz brood.

The opening scene finds Danny in the driver’s seat beside Eliza, his teenage daughter (Grace Van Patten), as he tries to score a parking space in New York City. A devoted father who will soon lose Eliza to college, he is a tangle of tenderness, wistfulness and pent-up rage at the wheel in this fruitless search.

That’s just the beginning of a bittersweet, often very funny family portrait written and directed by Noah Baumbach (“Frances Ha,” ″The Squid and the Whale”). Available Friday on Netflix and in theaters, it’s brought to life by an all-star ensemble also including Ben Stiller, Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson, Elizabeth Marvel, Judd Hirsch and Candice BerGeneral

Hoffman plays Harold, the paterfamilias of the sprawling Meyerowitz clan. A willful, grandiose sculptor plagued by failed ambitions, he molded his three adult children in sharply different ways that each still keenly suffers from.

Danny, a disappointment to Harold who fell flat as a musician, continues his futile effort to court his father’s approval. Danny’s sister Jean (Marvel) nurses the wounds of Harold’s lifelong neglect. Meanwhile, their half brother Matthew (Stiller) has tried to flee Harold’s smothering attention by moving to Los Angeles, where he prospers as the opposite of an artist: a top-tier financial adviser.

Of course, the Meyerowitzes have more in common than they may want to accept.

“It’s hard to have a relationship and a child,” says Matthew, who has a checkered marital record, to his dad. “I imagine you felt that, too.”

“No, not really.”

“Dad, you’ve been married four times!”

“Three,” Harold fires back. “The first one was annulled.”

At that moment, Harold is married to Maureen (Emma Thompson), who, when she isn’t drinking, seems inherently a ditz.

“Where’s the gourmet hummus?” Harold asks her as he searches through the kitchen.

“Upstairs,” she replies, to which he responds reasonably, “Why?”

These “Stories” are divided into five titled sections beginning with, yes, “Danny Meyerowitz was trying to park.” But as the action stretches over several months, with many complications and cross-currents, an overarching question persists: Is it ever too late to stake out one’s own boundaries and nail down one’s identity?

That task is perhaps most difficult for Harold, who, now, in the autumn of his life and career, has more trouble than ever with the painful possibility that his achievements as a sculptor were no greater than the insufficient recognition he received for them.

His delusions of grandeur are put to a severe test when he encounters L.J. Shapiro (Judd Hirsch), a fellow artist and nominal friend who has enjoyed the level of success Harold still feels is his due.

But the notion that he might have always been second-tier continues to gnaw at his offspring.

“If he wasn’t a great artist,” one says to another, “he was just a prick.”

They may wonder what the truth is, and you may, too. But the film withholds any simple answers on the folly or nobility of chasing an artistic dream.

Yes, Harold may have been a high-toned hack. And he begat Danny, the once-promising pianist who was felled by fear of performing for an audience (“The reward wasn’t worth the self-hatred,” he says).

Danny’s daughter Eliza, off at college, carries the Meyerowitz gene as a would-be filmmaker. She is arguably the family’s most grounded, level-headed member, and though her student films may strike you as rather, um, odd, she seems joyously creative and fulfilled. Maybe that alone spells artistic success.

Meanwhile, the rest of the Meyerowitz family copes with immediate crises and long-smoldering conflicts. It’s not too much of a spoiler to say they make some headway. And despite the fact that the film, with a running time of nearly two hours, is a bit too leisurely in delivering insight to its characters, they reveal themselves, scene after scene, as people you are likely to be pleased spending time with.

As for the actors, they are uniformly splendid. If singling out Adam Sandler seems patronizing, so be it. Thanks to him in particular, “The Meyerowitz Stories” is a happy reminder that, when graced with a fine script and director, an actor can be just as surprising as the character he plays.

“The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected),” Netflix in association with IAC Films. Not rated. Running time: 112 minutes.


Three and a half stars out of four.

►  Trump threatens NBC but experts see no real risk to licenses

Donald Trump is threatening NBC’s broadcast licenses because he’s not happy with how its news division has covered him. But experts say his threats aren’t likely to lead to any action.

The network itself doesn’t need a license to operate, but individual stations do. NBC owns several stations in major cities. Stations owned by other companies such as Tribune and Cox carry NBC’s news shows and other programs elsewhere. Licenses come from the Federal Communications Commission, an independent government agency whose chairman is a Trump appointee.

Trump tweeted Wednesday, “With all of the Fake News coming out of NBC and the Networks, at what point is it appropriate to challenge their License? Bad for country!”

He returned to the topic Wednesday night, tweeting: “Network news has become so partisan, distorted and fake that licenses must be challenged and, if appropriate, revoked. Not fair to public!”

NBC spokeswoman Hilary Smith had no comment. The FCC did not respond to messages seeking comment.

These days, license renewals are fairly routine. A station could be deemed unfit and have its license stripped if it were telling lies and spreading fake news, as Trump claims. But Harold Feld of the consumer group Public Knowledge says that’s tough to prove.

“The reality is it is just about impossible to make that showing,” he said. “All this stuff is opinion.”

Feld said he can recall just two instances in the past 20 years when there has been a renewal challenge. One involved an owner of radio stations who was convicted of child molestation, and the other when someone died as part of a radio station’s contest. Both lost their licenses.

Although yanking a license is rare, just the threat could put pressure on NBC’s news coverage.

“The words ‘license renewal’ are ones which have had a chilling effect in the past on broadcasters,” said lawyer Floyd Abrams, an expert on the First Amendment, citing Richard Nixon’s attempts to sway news coverage as president. “The threat, however unlikely, is one that broadcasters will have to take seriously.”

The National Association of Broadcasters, a trade group, said it was contrary to First Amendment principles “for any government official to threaten the revocation of an FCC license simply because of a disagreement with the reporting of a journalist.”

Following his tweet, Trump told reporters in the Oval Office, “It’s frankly disgusting the way the press is able to write whatever they want to write and people should look into it.”

Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse, a Republican who has been occasionally critical of Trump, took him to task in a statement released Wednesday night. “Words spoken by the President of the United States matter,” Sasse said. “Are you tonight recanting of the oath you took on January 20th to preserve, protect, and defend the First Amendment?”

The president has long railed against mainstream media organizations, deriding them as “fake news.” He has also said he wanted to “open up” libel laws so he can more easily go after press outlets for stories he feels are inaccurate. That would require a constitutional amendment or reversal of Supreme Court precedent on the First Amendment.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is a Trump appointee, but experts say he can’t pull a license just because he feels like it. Renewals come up every eight years, and challenges are heard by an administrative law judge.

The judge’s decision can be overruled by political appointees at the FCC, however. And the agency could start a special proceeding to revoke a license, said Erwin Krasnow, former general counsel of NAB.

Even so, Krasnow said a challenge is unlikely because of the First Amendment and because the Communications Act governing the FCC doesn’t allow for censorship.

Pai’s past statements also suggest he wouldn’t use the agency’s powers to regulate news coverage. In a September speech, he noted that, while people want the FCC to take action against cable news channels like Fox News, MSNBC or CNN because they disagree with the coverage, “these demands are fundamentally at odds with our legal and cultural traditions.”

Feld, who is a frequent critic of Pai, said the chairman is a fan of deregulation and “the last person in the world who would want to revive the license challenge process.”

“NBC can sleep easy knowing Ajit Pai is chair,” Feld added.

Both Democratic FCC commissioners touted freedom of the press in opposition to Trump’s tweet.

“Revoking a #broadcast license on such grounds will only happen if we fail to abide by the First Amendment,” tweeted Mignon Clyburn. “Freedom of the press is a cornerstone of our democracy. Hope my @FCC colleagues can all be on the same page with respect to 1st Amendment,” wrote Jessica Rosenworcel.

Arts & Entertainment News_171004

The Free Press WV

►  Country artists could sway opinion on gun control

Country music aspires to tell the story of real life in America, but American life continues to feel unreal.

On Monday morning, our nation awoke to news that more than 50 country music fans were killed when a gunman opened fire at a concert in Las Vegas while Jason Aldean sang “When She Says Baby.“ It was the deadliest mass shooting in American history. For now. Time and again, we’ve seen our lawmakers respond to these exceedingly lethal events with thoughts, prayers and little action – which means right now would be a fine time for Nashville’s biggest stars to speak up on behalf of the American lives they’re singing about.

If you think that country music doesn’t have any influence over American gun culture, check out the website of NRA Country, an extension of the National Rifle Association that endeavors to strengthen the gun lobby through partnerships with the country music industry. The banner across the top of the site encourages visitors to “celebrate the lifestyle,“ and the initiative’s “featured artists” include Lee Brice, Craig Campbell, Luke Combs, Easton Corbin, Florida Georgia Line, LOCASH, Justin Moore, Jon Pardi, Thomas Rhett, Chase Rice, Granger Smith, Sunny Sweeney, Aaron Watson, Gretchen Wilson and others. In 2010, an NRA official said that the goal of NRA Country was to present the “softer side” of the gun lobby.

Many of the artists affiliated with NRA Country have vented their sadness over the Las Vegas shooting on social media, including Tyler Farr, who tweeted, “Didn’t expect to wake up to see this, this morning. Prayers out to everyone affected by this tragic event in Las Vegas.“

But what happens after the disbelief? Will he – or any of the other acts associated with NRA Country – detach themselves from an organization that aggressively lobbies to allow semiautomatic weapons to remain in the hands of the American public?

It’s hard to anticipate what happens next, considering most contemporary country musicians remain allergic to politics. Taking a stand on an issue comes with the risk of alienating a potential fan; so much so, that even the mainstream’s more socially outspoken artists – Tim McGraw, Sam Hunt – still seem to be walking on tiptoe whenever they raise their voices.

Because the repercussions are real. Everyone remembers what happened to the Dixie Chicks after the group publicly expressed its disappointment in George W. Bush way, way back in 2003. The conservative backlash was noisy, then poof – silence. One of the most colossal acts in the business was instantly banned from the country airwaves. Instead of fostering a public discussion about the real-life goings-on of our democracy, the gatekeepers of country radio swiftly shut it down.

But what if this is something different? What if country singers – those empathetic keepers of human truth – finally admitted that the line that separates our politics from our everyday lives does not, in fact, exist?

What if, instead of partnering with the NRA, country artists assembled to speak out against it? What if Kelsea Ballerini, Luke Bryan, Charles Kelley, Maren Morris, Jake Owen, Brad Paisley, Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban and every other country star who expressed their sorrow and sickness over these lost lives decided to link arms? What if they chose to speak out against an organization that relentlessly campaigns to maintain the public’s access to deadly firepower.

These singers know how to soften hearts. Together, they could open minds. The radio couldn’t boycott them all.

►  Musicians and celebrities pay tribute to rocker Tom Petty

Reaction to the death of rock superstar Tom Petty, who died Monday after suffering cardiac arrest at his Malibu home:

— “Tommy’s passing feels like I’ve lost a little brother. Growing up together in Gainesville and seeing one of my students blossom as an incredibly gifted musician and songwriter has been one of my most fulfilling experiences in this life. It was obvious very early on in his career that his talent, magnetism and charisma were a very special gift that few souls in this world are given. He has given this world so many wonderful memories and touched millions with his magic. Gone far too soon. May he rest in peace knowing how much he is loved and appreciated by all of us that are left behind.” — former Eagles member Don Felder on Facebook.

— “I’m shocked and saddened by the news of Tom’s passing, he’s such a huge part of our musical history, there’ll never be another like him.” — Eric Clapton in a statement.

“I loved Tom Petty and I covered his songs because I wanted know what it felt like to fly.” — singer-songwriter John Mayer on Twitter.

— “Devastating news about #TomPetty A profound loss. Sad sad day today. RIP” — rocker Slash on Instagram.

— “RIP @tompetty you will be missed. A music legend #GoneButNeverForgotten” Aerosmith drummer Joey Kramer on Twitter.

— “Through his work with the Heartbreakers and The Traveling Wilburys he’s left us with an incredibly legacy to enjoy forever, it’s such a shame he has left us way before his time.” — Def Leppard singer Joe Elliot on Twitter.

— “It is so rare to find someone who commands such universal respect in the business. He was a rock n roll lifer with music in his blood. This man delivered a wealth of great songs to his fans and to the world and that is something to celebrate.” — rocker Alice Cooper, on Twitter.


— “I feel Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers is the best American rock band, ever. He is both a peer and an inspiration to me. I am heartbroken at his passing, and my deep sympathy goes out to his family and loved ones.” — REO Speedwagon’s Keith Cronin on Facebook.

— “Always felt good to know Tom Petty was out there in the world making up beautiful words and music. Sad today but grateful forever.” — singer Richard Marx on Twitter.

— “Safe passages to the summerlands, brother. You couldn’t have left more dreams here for us. Thank you. RIP” — rocker Ryan Adams on Twitter.

— “Tom Petty was a stud. Very few super cool dudes from the old school left. Actual talent. Rough to hear the news” — actor-comedian David Spade on Twitter.

— “Tom was a true rock and roll purist, both in his music and his defiant spirit. With the Heartbreakers, his infectious riffs, rebellious personality, and inventive songwriting brought a new urgency to rock traditions and fueled a now legendary career and some of the most memorable music of the last four decades.” — Recording Academy President/CEO Neil Portnow in a statement.

— “So sad about Tom Petty, he made some great music. Thoughts are with his family.” — Mick Jagger via Twitter.

►  Review: ‘Fire Road’ adds napalm girl’s voice to famous photo

“Fire Road” (Tyndale Momentum), by Kim Phuc Phan Thi

In many ways, Kim Phuc has never left Route 1 in Vietnam, the highway where Associated Press photographer Nick Ut captured her running on June 8, 1972.

It’s one of the most enduring images of the 20th century, highlighted again in Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s 18-hour series, “The Vietnam War,” that aired on PBS last month. Phuc runs naked toward Ut’s camera, her arms flung away from her body. The 9-year-old is screaming, “Too hot! Too hot!” because of the napalm searing her back and left arm.

For most of her life, Phuc writes in a new memoir, she tried to run away from that moment when she became the Napalm Girl. Throughout “Fire Road,” she explains how she came to see her life instead as a journey toward faith and peace.

Phuc’s survival and the errant bombing of civilians in her village outside Saigon by the South Vietnamese military have been comprehensively explored by journalists in the decades since the war, and in Denise Chong’s 1999 book, “The Girl in the Picture,” that detailed the war from the Vietnamese perspective.

“Fire Road,” written with Ashley Wiersma, completes the picture by adding Phuc’s own voice to the story.

The book makes a reader hungry with descriptions of the flavors of her childhood in Southeast Asia: her mother’s noodle soups, the guavas and bananas she plucked ripe off the trees outside her family’s home.

Equally rich are the details of how war appeared to a child: Sandal prints on the ground, where Viet Cong had crossed their property during the night. Bright purple-and-gold smoke that marked bombing targets. The deceptively soft whump-whump sound of napalm canisters hitting the ground.

Napalm sticks to its victims like jelly, burning through layers of skin and muscle. Phuc writes that the Vietnamese government’s use of her story for propaganda stuck as painfully to her, interrupting her studies and threatening to confine her until she defected to Canada.

Still, Phuc doesn’t dwell on the war, its aftermath or her efforts to physically distance herself from her government minders. Her focus in “Fire Road” is her conversion to Christianity, finding a savior with scars she could relate to, and her persistence in persuading her husband and family to join her religious journey.

Phuc writes in the same soothing tone she has when she speaks in public as a UNESCO goodwill ambassador. Even though well-intentioned journalists and doctors may not have helped her move on entirely from her wartime trauma, she has found a balm to ease her pains.

Arts & Entertainment News

The Free Press WV

►  Miley Cyrus packs out honky-tonk for release of new album

Pop star Miley Cyrus returned to her Tennessee roots, musically and geographically, for the release of her new album “Younger Now” with a hometown performance at Nashville honky-tonk.

Cyrus answered questions from her fans and chatted with her dad, country singer Billy Ray Cyrus, during Friday night’s welcome home party thrown by the streaming service Spotify. She then performed a short set of her new songs during the appearance at Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge.

As an artist who constantly reinvents her persona, Cyrus declares on the title track that, “No one stays the same.” On this new record, she’s more serene than shocking, with more twangy pop melodies than dance hits.

Fans camped outside the bar for hours hoping to see the singer, who grew up in Nashville before becoming a teen television star in the Disney Channel program “Hannah Montana.” Her career transition provided plenty of provoking moments as she embraced her sexuality and sought to ditch the wholesome teen act.

Now 24 years old with six studio albums, Cyrus told her fans that she was no longer running from her old music, but embracing the songs.

“Allowing them to mean something to me, even though I have grown past them in a way,” she said.

She told stories behind the songwriting and inspirations, such as wanting to normalize bisexuality on the song “She’s Not Him.” She also said that the song “Inspired,” was written about both her dad and Hillary Clinton.

“My dad inspired this record a lot,” she said.

She also talked about her duet “Rainbowland” with her godmother, country icon Dolly Parton, who Cyrus said is so old school that she still uses a typewriter.

“We seriously wrote that song via fax,” Cyrus said.

During a conversation with her father, the two joked and ribbed each other and offered up professional advice as singers and songwriters.

“You can learn from my mistakes,” Billy Ray Cyrus said. “Watch what I do and don’t do that.”

“Don’t grow a mullet basically,” Miley Cyrus said.

But her father said he was immensely proud of Cyrus and her willingness to be herself and stand up for issues that were important to her.

The two singers got the honky-tonk floor shaking with their performance of “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’” and Billy Ray’s mega hit from 1992 “Achy Breaky Heart.” Miley Cyrus ended the night with her multiplatinum hit, “Party in the U.S.A.”

►  Strait, Brooks among stars to play hurricane relief concert

An all-star lineup of country stars including George Strait, Garth Brooks, Carrie Underwood, Reba McEntire and more will play a benefit concert in Nashville to raise money for those affected by recent hurricanes.

The Country Rising concert on November 12 will also include performances by Jason Aldean, Dierks Bentley, Sam Hunt, Lady Antebellum, Little Big Town, Martina McBride and Chris Stapleton.

The concert will benefit the Country Rising Fund of the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee. It’s a fund established to help victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose and Maria, which have affected Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the Caribbean Islands.

Tickets for the concert at Bridgestone Arena will go on sale Friday, October 06.

►  Mona Lisa unveiled? Nude sketch may have link to masterpiece

There’s something vaguely familiar about this charcoal sketch of a woman’s face and nude torso — could it be an unclothed precursor to the Mona Lisa by the master himself?

French government art experts are trying to find out, analyzing the sketch in a laboratory beneath the Louvre, the museum where the Mona Lisa hangs, to see if Leonardo da Vinci drew it before painting his 16th century masterpiece.

The sketch, previously attributed to Leonardo’s students, is part of a collection at the Musee Conde du Domaine de Chantilly, north of Paris.

“This drawing is quite mysterious because we know it was made in Italy, maybe in the studio of Leonardo da Vinci or by the master himself,” said museum curator Mathieu Deldicque.

There are tempting clues that Leonardo’s hand could have been behind the sketch.

“For the moment we know that the paper on which this (sketch) is drawn was dated from the time of Leonardo da Vinci ... that is to say the beginning of the 16th century,” Deldicque said in an interview Friday with The Associated Press. “We know that this paper comes from Italy, between Venice and Florence, so it is similar.”

Imagery picked up other signs that may point to a sketch by Leonardo despite its “very worn elements,” he said, noting the “quality” of the face and arms, which recalls the master.

“The position of the arms is very important because it is literally (like) the position of the arms of the Louvre painting,” Deldicque said.

However, Deldicque has said there were differences, including the way the subject holds her chest and the hairstyle.

Art historians believe Leonardo drew or painted a nude version of the Mona Lisa. Deldicque acknowledged that the belief is feeding hopes that the Chantilly museum’s sketch was indeed made by Leonardo’s hand.

Among the array of clues under study is whether the artist of the sketch was left-handed.

“We know that Leonardo da Vinci was left-handed and now we are just looking for the left-handed features,” the curator said. But the task is difficult. “The drawing is very old, very fragile,” he said, making it uncertain firm evidence will be uncovered showing that the charcoal nude was sketched with a left hand.

The government-run Center for Research and Restoration of the Museums of France says the sketch will stay out of the public eye until the examination by experts is complete.

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