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Entertainment

    Fox News Channel's Sean Hannity has emerged as an unexpected critic of the Minneapolis police for their actions in the Memorial Day death of George Floyd. Hannity spent more than 15 minutes on his Fox show Wednesday replaying video of a Minneapolis officer who knelt on the neck of the 46-year-old Floyd, who had been taken into custody on suspicion of passing a counterfeit bill “The tape, to me, is devastating,” Hannity said on his radio show Thursday. “I watch it, I get angrier every time.” His coverage stood out among Fox's prime-time opinion hosts, where colleagues Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham focused on violent protests that erupted in Minneapolis following Floyd's death. They were also unusual for Hannity, who describes himself as “a big supporter of law enforcement.” Hannity, for example, supported a New York grand jury that declined to indict a New York police officer in the 2014 chokehold death of Eric Garner who, like Floyd, was caught on video saying “I can't breathe.” He was a prominent defender of George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch captain who shot Florida teen Trayvon Martin in 2012. Yet Hannity, who says he trains in the martial arts, decried the “breathtaking” lack of training by the Minneapolis police officer who knelt on Floyd's neck and the lack of action to stop him by other officers. “We believe in the presumption of innocence,” Hannity said. “But I can also say, looking at the videotape, the videotape doesn't lie. And putting somebody's knee on somebody else's neck is extraordinarily hurtful and dangerous.” Two of Hannity's regular guests who comment on law enforcement matters, Dan Bongino and former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, were even stronger in their condemnation of the Minneapolis police. “This was an abuse of use and force,” Kerik said. “It was ... a killing of someone that should not have died.” The time spent on the story by Hannity, whose regular audience of three to four million people each night lean reliably right, was notable. Carlson, by contrast, didn't show the Floyd video but aired a report by Mike Tobin showing angry demonstrators. Carlson condemned CNN for calling people throwing rocks “protesters” instead of “rioters.” “Democracy cannot exist when people are rioting,” Carlson said. Ingraham showed a few seconds of the Floyd video on a corner of the screen before introducing another live report by Tobin. She noted that an auto parts store where a fire was set was part of the same chain set ablaze following demonstrations in Ferguson, Missouri. “We don't need any more chaos,” she said. “We need answers and we need justice.”
  • In Steven Clay Hunter’s 23 years as an animator at Pixar, he has drawn a seven-armed octopus, a Canadian daredevil and a wheezing toy penguin. But there were scenes he never expected to animate until he began working on his short, “Out.” Hunter wrote and directed the nine-minute Pixar film, which recently debuted on Disney+. It’s about a man named Greg who, while packing up to move, temporarily switches bodies with his dog, Jim. While frantically trying to hide evidence of his boyfriend, Manuel, Greg discovers the courage to reveal his sexual orientation to his parents. Greg, who’s loosely based on Hunter, is Pixar’s first LGBTQ protagonist. And while “Out” includes some more typically Pixar material (a pair of rainbow animals, a cameo from Wheezy of “Toy Story”), it features images never seen before in the 25 years of the studio, or in the longer history of Disney. Like when Greg and his boyfriend, Manuel, hug each other. “The first time I drew Greg and Manuel holding each other in the bedroom, I was bawling my face off,” says Hunter. “All this emotion came welling up because I realized I had been in animation for decades and I had never drawn that in my career. It just hit me.” “Out” is a small movie on a streaming service, not one of Pixar’s global blockbusters. But it has already had an outsized impact and been celebrated as a milestone for inclusion in family entertainment. GLAAD called it “a huge step forward for the Walt Disney Company.” “‘Out’ represents the best of Disney and Pixar’s legacy as a place for heartwarming stories about finding one’s own inner strength in the face of life’s challenges,” said Jeremy Blacklow, GLAAD’s director of entertainment media. From his home in Oakland, California, Hunter, a 51-year-old animator making his directorial debut, has humbly taken in the warm responses. He managed to meet his producer, Max Sachar, for a celebratory, socially distanced glass of rose last weekend. But he’s been reluctant to talk about such a personal film. “I felt like this was something I had to do,” said Hunter in one of his first interviews. “I didn’t come out until I was 27 and I’m 51 now, and I feel like I’m still dealing with it. You can’t hide who you are for half of your life and then not carry that baggage around. You’ve got to process it somehow. I got lucky enough to process it in the making of this movie.” It’s part joke, part truth that “Out” is labeled “based on a true story.” The first shot is of a magical dog and cat jumping through a rainbow. Hunter has had a dog named Jim but, naturally, hasn’t experienced a canine “Freaky Friday.” But the central story is autobiographical. “The relationship of Manuel and Greg is something I went through,” he says. “I wasn’t out to my family and I was in a relationship but they didn’t know about him. It took a toll on our relationship and we ended up breaking up because of that. And that break-up led to me coming out to my family, over the phone in a conference room at Pixar.” Hunter first came up with the idea of a coming-out film five years ago. But it was the Pixar SparkShorts program, which is meant to discover new voices and experiment with different techniques, that presented Hunter with an opportunity. After working on the Spark short “Purl,” he pitched “Out.” It was greenlit and finished by December. “It was cool that he was telling this coming out story but he was doing so while coming out as a filmmaker,” says Sachar. “It was really wonderful for everyone to be a part of and witness.” LGBTQ characters have been increasingly appearing in Disney films but often do so fleetingly. Gaston’s sidekick LeFou (Josh Gad) was suggested to be gay in 2017’s live-action “Beauty and the Beast.” Pixar’s “Onward,” released earlier this year, featured what many consider Disney's first outwardly gay animated character: a police officer voiced by Lena Waithe who refers to her girlfriend. Some Middle East nations banned the film. “Out,” finally, is far more straightforward. It includes, for example, a tender kiss between Manuel and Greg. To animate it, Hunter approached Wendell Lee, the only other gay animator still at Pixar from Hunter’s early days with the company. “I just went to him and said, ‘You’ve got to animate this.’ And he was like, ‘Heck yeah,’” says Hunter. “I said: I want a kiss. I don’t want a peck.” Hunter recently watched “Out” with his family, who live in Canada, over Zoom. It was a moment of connection that he hopes plays out similarly for others during quarantine. For young and old, gay and straight, “Out” is about being proud of who you are, whoever you are. Reflecting on the film’s significance, Hunter on Thursday noted the passing of playwright and AIDS activist Larry Kramer. “Out,” not coincidentally, came out on Harvey Milk Day. “We’re just an extension of that. We’re moving toward more visibility. It doesn’t mean we’re taking over. We’re just trying to tell our stories like everyone else,” says Hunter. “And we’re not going anywhere. We’re here to stay.” ___ Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP
  • The author of “The Revenant,” the historical novel adapted into the Oscar-winning movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio, will be publishing his first new work of fiction in nearly 20 years. Henry Holt and Company announced Thursday that Michael Punke's “Ridgeline” will be released in June 2021. The book is set in the American West in the 1860s and “interweaves the perspectives of key U.S. Army officers, the family members they brought with them to settle the West, and the indigenous people who fought off the invasion of their land, including the legendary Crazy Horse,” according to Henry Holt. “The Revenant,' his previous novel, came out in 2002 and told the story of a frontiersman in the Missouri Territory in the 1820s. It was adapted into a 2015 film of the same name and brought DiCaprio an Academy Award for best actor. Punke is a former U.S. Ambassador to the World Trade Organization and is currently vice president of global public policy at Amazon Web Services. His other books include the nonfiction releases “Fire and Brimstone: The North Butte Mining Disaster of 1917” and “Last Stand.”
  • The casts of “Fresh Off the Boat” and “Kim's Convenience” are partnering for one night for charity. In honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, the ensembles of both TV comedies will do live online table reads of their respective pilot episodes on Saturday, according to Deadline. It will be a reunion for Randall Park, Constance Wu and the rest of the “Fresh Off the Boat” cast. The ABC series about a Taiwanese American family ended in February after six seasons. Canadian sitcom “Kim's Convenience,' which is available in the U.S. on Netflix, was recently renewed for a fifth and sixth season. It centers on a Korean family running a convenience store in Toronto. The show's stars include Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, Jean Yoon and Simu Liu — who is set to play the Marvel Cinematic Universe's first Asian superhero. Both trailblazing shows have been praised for their portrayals of Asian families on prime time TV. The table reads will be free to watch. But for a minimum donation of $10, access will be given to a joint Zoom Q&A afterward. Donations — either in U.S. or Canadian dollars — will benefit Asian arts organizations in both countries. The event is scheduled for 6 p.m. PDT/9 p.m. EDT on the Facebook and YouTube channels of organizer Seed&Spark.
  • Britain's Prince William has admitted he’s found being a parent overwhelming at times and that the “life-changing” experience of having children brought back the trauma he experienced following the death of his mother, Princess Diana. Speaking during a new BBC documentary airing Thursday, the second-in-line to the British throne told former professional soccer player Marvin Sordell that emotional events of the past — such as losing a parent — can resurface. “Having children is the biggest life-changing moment, it really is …’’ the father of three said. “I think when you’ve been through something traumatic in life ... your emotions come back in leaps and bounds because it’s a very different phase of life.’’ William was 15 and his brother Prince Harry 12 when Diana died in a Paris car accident in 1997. William has in the past described his grief as “pain like no other pain.'' The prince appeared in a program meant to start a discussion on mental health using soccer as the vehicle for discussion. The long-time campaigner on mental health issues offered brief moments of insight into how he deals with the pressure of being a working royal. In a conversation with a young athlete, William admitted to bouts of anxiety when speaking before groups but said that his poor eyesight allowed him to overcome his fears because the faces of the crowd were blurred. “My eyesight started to tail off a little bit as I got older, and I didn’t use to wear contacts when I was working, so when I gave speeches I couldn’t see anyone’s face,’’ he said. “And it helps, because it’s just a blur of faces and because you can’t see anyone looking at you.’’ Documentary makers followed William for the past year as he traveled the nation to promote the Heads Up initiative, which seeks to raise awareness about mental health in soccer and encourage the sport’s supporters to discuss their problems. During a visit to West Bromwich Albion Football Club, William spoke with players who had experienced someone close to them committing suicide. The prince said that for many families who have been bereaved by suicide, “it is one of the rawest forms of grief because you’re left with so many unanswered questions. “Could I have done more, should I have done more, why did they do it?” he said. William went on to say that men seem to have an issue with opening up and speaking about suicide. He hopes that will change. “If we can have a major impact on lowering suicide rates, that’s a success from this campaign,” he said.
  • The Grammys is putting together an event featuring Brad Pitt, Oprah Winfrey, Herbie Hancock and Harry Connick, Jr. to honor essential workers across America. The Recording Academy, which puts on the Grammy Awards annually, announced Thursday that the two-hour special, “United We Sing: A Grammy Salute to the Unsung Heroes,' will air June 21 on CBS. “United We Sing” will follow Connick Jr. — who is hosting — and his filmmaker-daughter Georgia Connick on a road trip celebrating and thanking essential workers during the coronavirus pandemic. Winfrey, Pitt, Sandra Bullock, Queen Latifah, Renée Zellweger and Drew Brees will also deliver special messages to workers. The event will also feature performances by Hancock, John Fogerty, Jamie Foxx, Cyndi Lauper, Dave Matthews, Branford Marsalis, Wynton Marsalis, Tim McGraw, Little Big Town, Andra Day, Irma Thomas, Trombone Shorty, Rockin Dopsie, Jon Batiste and Connick Jr.
  • The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers is going virtual with its annual awards shows this summer because of the coronavirus pandemic. The performing rights organization announced Thursday that it will hold three-day virtual events — that will stream on ASCAP's social media channels — for its four awards shows, which focus on pop, R&B/rap, Latin and film music. The ASCAP Pop Music Awards will be held June 17-19; the ASCAP Screen Music Awards on June 23-25; the ASCAP Latin Music Awards on July 7-9; and the ASCAP Rhythm & Soul Music Awards on July 15-17. “Even though we can’t be together ‘in real life’ this time, we are so excited to honor (artists) virtually so that we can all connect and share our collective love of music,” Paul Williams, ASCAP’s president and chairman of the board, said in a statement Thursday. “We invite music fans everywhere to join us in toasting their music and what their creative work adds to our lives.” Other awards shows are skipping a traditional ceremony this year because of the coronavirus, including the Daytime Emmy Awards and the BET Awards. ASCAP will honor some of today’s top songwriters and publishers at its ASCAP Virtual Awards; winners and guest participants will be announced later. Last year the organization gave awards to Billie Eilish and her brother-collaborator Finneas, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, Cardi B and Daddy Yankee.
  • Jonathan Karp, who has worked with authors ranging from Sen. Edward Kennedy to Susan Orlean, has been named the new CEO of Simon & Schuster. He replaces Carolyn Reidy, who died two weeks ago. Karp, who joined the company in 2010, most recently served as president and publisher of Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing. “Jon embodies the values that Carolyn instilled at Simon & Schuster, and he is well suited to guide the continued growth and evolution of this incredible global brand,” ViacomCBS President and CEO Bob Bakish said in a statement Thursday. The 56-year-old Karp has a long history of critical and commercial success at Random House, at Twelve and at Simon & Schuster. Notable books he has worked on include Kennedy's “True Compass,” Orlean's “The Library Book,” Bruce Springsteen's “Born to Run” and Laura Hillenbrand's “Seabiscuit.” Karp takes over Simon & Schuster at a time when the coronavirus pandemic has devastated the economy and when the publisher's future ownership is uncertain. In early March, Bakish told investors that Viacom was looking to sell Simon & Schuster, saying “It is not a core asset. It is not video-based. It does not have significant connection for our broader business.' In a telephone interview with The Associated Press, Karp confirmed the publisher was up for sale and said there was “significant interest” from potential buyers, although any changes were unlikely until the market had “stabilized.” He declined to offer specifics on how well Simon & Schuster was doing during the pandemic but said its financial position was “strong” and that there had been no coronavirus-related layoffs or other cutbacks. He expressed optimism about upcoming books from Bob Woodward, Jerry Seinfeld, Brian Stelter and other authors. In a companywide memo shared with the AP, Karp said he hoped to build upon the work and approach of Reidy, one of the industry's most widely liked and respected executives. She was credited with guiding Simon & Schuster through numerous changes and disruptions in the industry, from the rise of e-books to the economic crisis of a decade ago. 'Over the past ten years, Carolyn Reidy has shown me how an executive communicates and leads — candidly, firmly, warmly, attentively, and generously,' Karp wrote. “I owe Carolyn a debt I will never be able to repay to her, but I will do everything I can to pay it forward by sustaining her standards and humanity through my work with you. We will maintain our culture of straightforward and creative collaboration, in which anyone from every corner of our organization can suggest any idea.”
  • The National Museum in Prague has put on display the most visible symbol of the Czech Republic's response to the coronavirus - face masks. The Czech government made wearing masks in public mandatory in mid-March. Amid an initial shortage, many people started making their own masks. Some of the masks featured in the museum exhibition were made by leading fashion designers, while others are the handiwork of creative home crafters. One mask was made from a cloth on which a 15-year-old boy with autism painted a map of Prague’s public transportation network. A woman created another from a shirt her husband wore at their wedding. Also on exhibit is a model with a flap strategically placed with Velcro to allow for drinking and staying safe. “If we want to leave a legacy for future generations, this collection of face masks says only positive things about us,” National Museum spokeswoman Lenka Bouckova said Thursday. “That as a nation we are able to face a challenge in a positive way and we are able to stick together. The face masks are a clear expression of that.” The Czech Republic had a total of 9,103 confirmed virus cases and 317 deaths as of Thursday. The mandatory mask-wearing and other early virus-prevention measures are thought to have limited infections in the country compared to other parts of Europe. Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis trumpeted his government's mask policy to U.S. President Donald Trump. “Mr. President @realDonaldTrump, try tackling the virus Czech way,” Babis tweeted on March 29, adding that even “a simple cloth mask” significantly decreased the spread of the virus. The Nation Museum exhibition is set to expand with future donations when people no longer need to use masks.
  • Apple Music is launching its first radio show in Africa. The streaming platform announced Thursday that “Africa Now Radio with Cuppy” will debut Sunday and will feature a mix of contemporary and traditional popular African sounds, including genres like Afrobeat, rap, house, kuduro and more. Cuppy, the Nigerian-born DJ and music producer, will host the weekly one-hour show, which will be available at 9 a.m. EDT. “The show represents a journey from West to East and North to South, but importantly a narrative of Africa then to Africa now,” Cuppy in a statement. African music and artists have found success outside of the continent and onto the pop charts in both the U.S. and U.K. in recent years. Acts like Drake and Beyoncé have borrowed the sound for their own songs, while performers like South African DJ Black Coffee as well as Davido, Burna Boy, Tiwa Savage, Wizkid and Mr Eazi — all with roots in Nigeria — continue to gain attention and have become household names. Apple Music’s announcement comes the same week Universal Music Group said it was launching Def Jam Africa, a new division of the label focused on representing hip-hop, Afrobeat and trap talent in Africa. The label said it will be based in Johannesburg and Lagos but plans to sign talent from all over the continent.