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    The Sundance Film Festival, coming at the start of a new movie calendar, is an annual rite of renewal. New movies. New filmmakers. New voices. And that feels especially welcome this year. Sundance always rolls around just as the worst movies are being dumped in theaters ( see: “Dolittle” ) and Hollywood’s long-running awards season is petering out. This year, the run-up to the Oscars has been dispiritingly homogeneous, coalescing around a field of nominees lacking in diversity both behind and in front of the camera. With some notable exceptions, it feels like the same old. Sundance, though, is a different story. This year’s festival, in Park City, Utah, is not only its most inclusive edition yet — 44% of its 118 feature-length films were directed or co-directed by women, 34% were directed or co-directed by a person of color — but features a dynamic slate of proudly unconventional narrative and documentary films. “Zola,” from director Janicza Bravo and co-writer Jeremy O. Harris, is based on a viral 148-tweet thread from 2015. “Nine Days,” the feature directing debut of Edson Oda, is set in a surreal pre-life realm where an interviewer (Winston Duke) is selecting souls to be born. The documentary “Boys State,” by Jesse Moss and Amanda McBaine, is a story of American democracy in microcosm, told through an unusual experiment in which a thousand teenage boys build a government from the ground up. “We do think of it as the new year of culture where people have to sit up and take notice,” says John Cooper, the director of Sundance. “Audiences have changed, too. They’re more hungry for different. That’s not just from the Oscars. That’s from, let’s face it, the world we’re living in right now. It’s the urgency of thinking outside of old normalities.” Sundance, which kicks off Thursday and runs through Feb. 2, will bring plenty of established names. Taylor Swift will be there for the opening day premiere of Lana Wilson’s documentary on her, “Miss Americana.” The Hulu documentary series “Hillary” will bring Hillary Clinton to Park City. Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Will Ferrell will be attendance for the premiere of the “Force Majeure” remake “Downhill.” And Lin Manuel-Miranda will be there with several films, including “Siempre, Luis,” about his father Luis Miranda, and “We Are Freestyle Love Supreme,” about his pre-“Hamilton” improvising hip-hop group. But many go to Sundance looking for discoveries of filmmakers like Radha Blank, a New York playwright who stars in her black-and-white directorial debut, “The 40-Year-Old Version.” She plays a slightly fictionalized version of herself as a middle-aged woman who, after the death of her mother, rededicates herself to rapping. “My protagonist, her passion is speaking truth through hip hop. For me, my passion is filmmaking. It just took me a little bit longer to articulate that for myself,” says Blank. “I know that people have labeled me a late bloomer but I’ve been writing for years. I don’t think I’m the person who’s late.” Like many others premiering films this week in Park City, Blank has been through the lab programs of the Sundance Institute, the nonprofit founded by Robert Redford that also puts on the festival. “I’m a Sundance baby,” says Blank. “I started in the lab.” Those workshops have been a breeding ground for American filmmakers (Paul Thomas Anderson and Quentin Tarantino are among their many former participants), but the distribution landscape awaiting those filmmakers has often been fraught. Some in the industry are predicting less ravenous buying at Sundance this year after several of the high-priced acquisitions fizzled at the box office, including the Amazon titles “Late Night” and “The Report.” But streaming services have undoubtedly helped sales at Sundance, adding an influx of buyers looking to beef up their digital libraries. Disney Plus has a movie in this year’s children’s slate (Tom McCarthy’s “Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made”). Apple had one of the festival’s most anticipated movies’ in “On the Record,” about women who have accused music mogul Russell Simmons of sexual abuse, but backed out of the film after executive producer Oprah Winfrey departed it. WarnerMedia, which is preparing the launch of HBO Max, will for the first time have a presence at the festival. Kim Yutani, director of programming at Sundance, believes streaming services have been an unquestionable positive to the post-festival lives of Sundance films. “I remember reading the press coverage of Sundance back in the day, and I would think: How will I ever see these films?” says Yutani. “You would see a handful of them in theatrical distribution. The rest of them were almost impossible to see. So, it’s such an exciting time to release our program and know the majority of these films will get seen.” Netflix already has at least nine films at Sundance, including “Miss Americana,” another opening-day documentary in “Crip Camp,” about the disability rights movement, and Dee Rees’ “Mudbound” follow-up, “The Last Thing He Wanted,” a Joan Didion adaptation starring Anne Hathaway and Ben Affleck. Rees, who will also serve as a juror, has deep ties to Sundance, where she first attended workshops and later premiered both her debut, “Pariah,” and “Mudbound.” She says it was “a validating force” in her development as a filmmaker. But Rees would like to see the industry embrace more daring films. It’s not just about Netflix, she says. “The better question to ask is: What studios didn’t make this film? We took this film all over and no studio wanted to make it. Am I not supposed to make it because Netflix is the only one raising its hand?” says Rees. “I hope people will ask: Why didn’t Universal make this film? Or why didn’t Paramount make this film?” “Audiences are smart,” Rees adds. “People want interesting, complicated, not-happy-ending films, and I think it’s up to the industry to meet the audience’s taste. If we were doing ‘Dog Day Afternoon’ and ‘Panic in Needle Park,’ people would show up.” At Sundance, some of the most urgent movies may be more likely to be documentaries. Among those at this year’s festival are “The Dissident,” about the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi; “The Fight,” about the American Civil Liberties Union’s legal battles with the Trump administration; “Us Kids,” about the survivors of the Parkland, Florida, high-school massacre; and “Welcome to Chechnya,” about activists secretly saving LGBTQ Chechens from a government crackdown. Regardless, Sundance remains the pre-eminent launching pad of new talent in American cinema and a place where little-known dreamers become established filmmakers. Oda, the Brazilian-born “Nine Days” director, had a successful career in advertising before quitting his job to study film at the University of Southern California. “I don’t know how but I’m now making this movie and it’s at Sundance,” said Oda, chuckling. “This is surreal to me. All my favorite filmmakers screened at Sundance and still screen at Sundance. Sundance was the goal. That’s the top of the mountain. Of course, there’s no top of the mountain — my movie’s about that — but you still have that in your head.” ___ Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at:
  • CBS was the first major network to break away from President Donald Trump's impeachment trial in the Senate on Tuesday, allowing its viewers to watch their regular afternoon fare instead of a debate over a proposed amendment to subpoena White House documents. The decision illustrated the on-the-fly judgments television executives will face every day of the trial, juggling concerns over millions of dollars in advertising revenue, news purists cognizant of the weight of history and angry soap opera fans. Uncertainty over the Senate's schedule from hour to hour, much less day to day, complicates things even further. The decisions were easier when ABC, CBS and NBC dominated the landscape and were very cognizant of their public service responsibility. Now viewers have options — cable networks from CNN to C-SPAN and streaming services — if they want to follow the trial. While Tuesday's session was historic, opening the third impeachment trial ever in the United States, it will still a while before the meat of the case was examined. Yet it was noticed when CBS cut off the trial around 3:15 p.m. ET, while rivals ABC and NBC stuck with it. “Uncle Walter is crying,” tweeted New York Times reporter Jim Rutenberg, referencing the late, legendary CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite. Tweets of incredulity at CBS for abandoning history mixed with those from angry daytime TV fans. “Why do you have impeachment on all platforms?” tweeted one viewer, who was more interested in watching “The Young and the Restless” and “The Bold & The Beautiful.” A CBS representative noted that the network's news streaming service was continuing to carry the trial, and that network affiliates were given the choice to continue to show the Senate if that's what their executives preferred. Rivals at ABC and NBC privately noted that the fact that it was the trial's opening day played into decisions to stick with it longer. Fox's broadcast network, which doesn't have its own news division, infrequently breaks away from traditional programming. All of the the broadcast networks had contingency plans in place depending on what was being shown and the time of day. There was little interest in making public pronouncements of their plans given the fluidity of the situation. “These decisions are difficult and they're not always solely in the hands of the news divisions,” said Mark Lukasiewicz, a former NBC News executive and now dean of Hofstra University's School of Communication. Network entertainment and corporate executives also weigh in. Sticking with news coverage becomes more difficult for the networks in the prime-time hours of 8 to 11 p.m., because that means a more significant loss of advertising revenue, Lukasiewicz said. That's why network executives were keenly interested in Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's decision Tuesday that impeachment managers for the House and president would have three days instead of two to make their cases. It means fewer hours in prime time are likely to be chewed up. There were no such tough decisions at the cable networks CNN, Fox News Channel and MSNBC. Each carried virtually every minute of House hearings and votes on impeachment, and are expected to do the same with the trial. It's a winner for them financially; all cable news ratings soared during the House proceedings. On Tuesday, CNN was already using its programming choice in advertising. “Don't miss a moment,” CNN promised in a network ad. “Complete coverage.”
  • The ousted Grammys CEO fired back at the Recording Academy on Tuesday, alleging that she was removed after complaining about sexual harassment and pay disparities and for calling out conflicts of interest in the nomination process for music's most prestigious awards. Lawyers for Deborah Dugan, who was placed on administrative leave last week after six months in the job, filed the discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission just five days before the Grammy Awards. She alleged she was sexually harassed by the academy’s general counsel, Joel Katz, who late Tuesday denied her account. Dugan detailed the harassment and other issues in an email to an academy human resources executive on Dec. 22, according to the complaint. The complaint also stated that Dugan was paid less than former academy CEO Neil Portnow, who left the post last year, and that she was also subject to retaliation for refusing to hire Portnow as a consultant for nearly half his former salary. Portnow had been criticized for saying women need to “step up” when asked backstage at the 2018 show why only two female acts won awards during the live telecast. Portnow called his comments a “poor choice of words” and later said he chose not to seek an extension on his contract. A filing with the Internal Revenue Service shows that Portnow was paid $1.74 million in 2016. Dugan said she was pressured to hire him as a consultant for $750,000 annually. Dugan's Grammys compensation was not revealed in Tuesday's filing. She earned nearly $537,000 in 2016 in her previous job as CEO of Bono’s (RED) charity organization. Last week, the academy said Dugan was put on leave following an allegation of misconduct by a senior leader at the organization. On Tuesday, the academy said the issue was a complaint by a female employee that Dugan had been “abusive” and created a “toxic and intolerable' work environment. Dugan's attorneys called that accusation false, saying there was no mistreatment and identifying the employee as the executive assistant she inherited from Portnow. In her Dec. 22 email, Dugan called the academy “a boys' club.' While trying to resolve a lawsuit against the academy, Dugan said one of the claimants characterized the organization’s leadership as “a boys' club” that “put their financial interest above the mission.” “At the time, I didn’t want to believe it,” said Dugan. 'But now after 5 months of being exposed to the behavior and circumstances outlined here, I have come to suspect she is right.” The academy said in a statement that it “immediately launched independent investigations to review both Ms. Dugan’s potential misconduct and her subsequent allegations. Both of these investigations remain ongoing.' Dugan, according to the statement, was placed on administrative leave after offering to step down and demanding $22 million from the Academy, which is a not-for-profit organization. “Our loyalty will always be to the 21,000 members of the Recording Academy. We regret that music’s biggest night is being stolen from them by Ms. Dugan's actions, and we are working to resolve the matter as quickly as possible.” An email from Katz said the attorney was out sick. Katz's firm said it had not yet seen the complaint and could not comment on its allegations. In the complaint, Dugan alleged that in May 2019, when she had accepted the CEO position but had not begun her work, she had dinner with Katz, the academy's general counsel, alone at his request in Laguna Niguel, California, on the eve of a meeting of the academy board. There, Katz acted “extremely inappropriately,” according to the complaint, calling Dugan “baby” and making “an obvious and unwelcome attempt to ‘woo’ Ms. Dugan into a romantic relationship.” Dugan, the complaint said, made it clear she wasn’t interested and was in a relationship, but he still attempted to kiss her at the end of the night. She “quickly turned away, repulsed.” Katz continued the harassment in subsequent interactions, the complaint alleged. Katz “categorically and emphatically denies her version of that evening,” his attorney, Howard Weitzman, said in a statement. The statement said the dinner occured 2 1/2 months before Dugan started as CEO. “Mr. Katz believed they had a productive and professional meeting in a restaurant where a number of members of the board of trustees of the academy, and others, were dining,” Weitzman's statement read. Dugan also contends Katz and his firm were paid inappropriately by the academy, and that his role representing both the academy and artists who are up for Grammys was a conflict of interest. Katz's firm said the harassment allegations against the attorney were not known until Tuesday, but that the firm would cooperate with all investigations into the matter. Tuesday's academy statement alleged Dugan raised her concerns only after being accused of misconduct. Dugan's attorneys denied that, saying in a statement that she had spoken on those issues throughout her tenure. The complaint was also critical of the Grammys voting process, specifically its use of nomination committees to select the final list of nominees, which can range from five to eight depending on the category. “Rather than promoting a transparent nomination process, the Board has decided to shroud the process in secrecy and ultimately controls, in large part, who is nominated for Grammy Awards,” the complaint read. For the top four awards, committees select the final nominees from the top 20 contenders, based off ballots from its voting members. But the complaint said the committee members sometimes include artists who did not make it in the top 20 because of their personal or business relationships with those artists. “This year, 30 artists that were not selected by the membership were added to the possible nomination list,” the complaint read. The complaint also claimed that one of the song-of-the-year nominees — who placed 18th in the top 20 — sat on the committee deciding the song-of-the-year nominees and is represented by a member of the academy board. ___ Follow AP Entertainment Writer Andrew Dalton on Twitter:
  • Netflix is holding its ground in the streaming wars, passing its first big test since Apple and Disney launched rival services. The company added 8.8 million worldwide subscribers during its fourth quarter, surpassing expectations at a time when it faces heated competition. Netflix had said it expected to add 7.6 million subscribers, and analysts thought the service would fare even better. The increase pales slightly next to the 8.9 million subscribers the service added in the fourth quarter of 2018. The stock dropped about 2.5% immediately in after-hours trading, likely due to a cautious forecast for the first quarter. But shares rebounded and later traded up more than 2%. The company — a pioneer in producing streaming media and binge-worthy shows — now boasts more than 167 million subscribers worldwide, bolstered by a list of well-received movies and shows released late last year. That includes the fantasy show “The Witcher” and Oscar nominees “The Irishman” and “Marriage Story.” The boost helps reaffirm Netflix’s strong standing in the increasingly crowded world of video streaming. The fourth quarter was an important milestone for Netflix, as it was marked its first head-to-head competition with Apple’s $5-per-month streaming service and Disney’s instantly popular $7-a-month option. Still, it’s unlikely to be a smooth road for Netflix. NBC, HBO and startup Quibi are all planning to launch new streaming services soon. Two big questions loom: How much are consumers willing to pay for each video streaming option? And how many will they pay for before reaching subscription fatigue? Netflix CEO Reed Hastings acknowledged the increased competition in a call following earnings, but said he believes the services are mostly capturing new viewers who are transitioning from traditional TV watching. 'It takes away a little bit from us,” he said of the Disney Plus launch. “But again, most of the growth in the future is coming out of linear TV.” Netflix has one major advantage over competitors: it has been collecting data on the shows viewers crave for years. “Netflix's scale allows it to reach mass audiences, which makes it easier for them to create hits when compared to newcomers to the market,' EMarketer analyst Eric Haggstrom said. Netflix’s most popular plan costs $13 a month, far more than competitors from Disney, Apple and Quibi. But its price is comparable to HBO Now, and it boasts one of the largest libraries of TV shows and movies, not to mention regularly updated original shows. Hastings reiterated that Netflix isn't interested in introducing ads. Noting that the digital advertising market is dominated by companies such as Google, Amazon and Facebook, he said, “there's not easy money there.” It's also less controversial to avoid digital advertising and the scrutiny around companies making customers' personal information that comes with it, he said. In its quarterly letter to shareholders, Netflix included a chart of Google search trends that showed people searching more often for “The Witcher” than for competing shows including “The Mandalorian,” “The Morning Show” and “Jack Ryan,” from Disney, Apple and Amazon, respectively. In the U.S., Netflix added 420,000 subscribers, below its own estimates. Growth in its home country has been slowing in the last year, partly because most people in the U.S. who want Netflix already subscribe. The company reported profit of $587 million on revenue of $5.47 billion, exceeding expectations. Netflix said it expects to add 7 million subscribers during the first three months of this year, well below the 9.6 million subscribers it added in the first quarter last year. — Technology writer Michael Liedtke contribued to this report.
  • Taylor Swift has revealed in a new interview that her mother has a brain tumor. Swift, who has spoken about her mother's battle with cancer over the years, told Variety in an interview published Tuesday that while her mother was going through treatment, “they found a brain tumor.' “And the symptoms of what a person goes through when they have a brain tumor is nothing like what we’ve ever been through with her cancer before. So it’s just been a really hard time for us as a family,' Swift said. Though Taylor Swift is the celebrity, Andrea Swift has become a recognizable figure among the pop star's die-hard fans, with some of them even posting about her online. Andrea Swift is often seen smiling by her daughter's side at award shows and in public. “Everyone loves their mom; everyone’s got an important mom,” Swift, 30, told Variety. “But for me, she’s really the guiding force. Almost every decision I make, I talk to her about it first. So obviously it was a really big deal to ever speak about her illness.”
  • A Stanford institute is home to copies of the most significant correspondence, sermons, speeches, writings and manuscripts of Martin Luther King Jr. But the historian tasked with protecting the documents and other artifacts is anxious about what will become of them when he retires this year. Clayborne Carson, 75, was selected by Coretta Scott King in 1985 to edit and publish the papers of her late husband housed at the world-renowned Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute. Carson said the collection is at a nondescript 1960s-era structure designed by Joseph Eichler that was supposed to be a temporary home and is in a part of the campus that will be torn down as the university seeks to stay competitive in the fields of science, engineering and computing. Now, he is worried because the university lacks funding to support it, promote it, or find a more permanent place for it. “At this point, I’m relatively certain that Stanford does not view a permanent King Institute as a high priority,” Carson told the Mercury News. “I don’t anticipate that Stanford will guarantee a long-term future for the King Institute.” On the walls inside the unassuming building hang photos of sanitation workers striking in Memphis, a mourning Coretta King and King’s funeral procession. There’s a worn 1963 poster promoting the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Shelves are filled with videotapes, audio cassettes and Carson’s precious reference library. While King’s original papers are stored in vaults in Atlanta, “if this building ever burned down, it would take years to redo what’s here,” said Carson. “It might not be possible, ever.” The King Institute subsists on a $2 million endowment, which earns 5 percent interest and spins out $100,000 a year — just enough income for one salary, plus expenses, and hardly enough for a new structure. The university’s development office conducts all fundraising for the campus but it’s not raising funds for the institute. Without that help, about half of the institute’s support comes from a single gift from Hall of Fame football star Ronnie Lott, Carson said. “The development office is enormously successful. It raises billions of dollars. But they get direction from Stanford’s leadership about what is prioritized,” he said. “Then that becomes the strategy that guides the fundraising on campus.' Joy Leighton of the School of Humanities and Sciences confirmed that there are no plans to move the institute from its building and said the institute is located in a vibrant part of the campus. “Over the last several years, improvements have been made to the facility,” she said. “The building provides ample space for the important research conducted at the institute at a time when space can be difficult to find on campus.”
  • Four Florida passengers were in for a shock when actor Will Smith answered their Lyft call and gave them a ride around town. The actor was in Miami promoting his new movie, “Bad Boys for Life,” over the weekend. He picked up four riders in a 2020 Porsche Taycan, occasionally getting into the attitude of his movie character detective Mike Lowry and encouraging passengers to do their best Bad Boys imitation as his partner in crime. Smith made one of his passengers FaceTime with his girlfriend during the trip after the man said his girlfriend watched the original movie weekly. Smith had another passenger practice her scariest “Freeze. Police.' voice. Before dropping them off, the actor told each passenger they would receive free rides from the ride-sharing company for the next year.
  • Pamela Anderson has married movie producer Jon Peters. Anderson and Peters married Monday in a private ceremony in Malibu, California, a representative for Anderson said Tuesday. It's the fifth marriage for both the 52-year-old model-actress and the 74-year-old film producer, who recently reunited after first dating more than 30 years ago. Anderson's husbands have included rocker Tommy Lee and rapper Kid Rock. Peters' former wives include actress Lesley Ann Warren, and he was once in a long and high-profile relationship with Barbra Streisand. Peters was a producer on Streisand's 1976 version of “A Star Is Born” and the 2018 remake, along with dozens of other films including 1989's “Batman” and 1999's “Wild Wild West.” Anderson starred on television's “Baywatch” and in several films, and has made frequent appearances in Playboy.
  • The winners of last year’s acting Academy Awards will return to the Oscar stage next month to present the coveted statuettes. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced Tuesday that Olivia Colman, Rami Malek, Regina King and Mahershala Ali will present during the Feb. 9 ceremony. It is an Oscar tradition to have previous year’s acting recipients serve as presenters the following year. Last year’s winners were notably more diverse than this year’s field of acting nominees, which features just one performer of color: Cynthia Erivo of “Harriet.” The 92nd Academy Awards will be presented at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles and be broadcast live by ABC. For the second year in a row, the ceremony will be without a host. Colman won best actress last year for “The Favourite” and Malek took home the best actor award for his portrayal of Queen frontman Freddie Mercury in “Bohemian Rhapsody.” King won the supporting actress honor for “If Beale Street Could Talk,” while Ali's performance in “Green Book” earned him his second supporting actor Oscar.
  • Harvey Weinstein's lawyers want to use intimate emails from his accusers to try to convince jurors in his rape trial that any contact was consensual, the defense said Tuesday as an appeals court rejected an 11th-hour request to move the trial out of town. Opening statements are set for Wednesday in one of the most prominent cases of the #MeToo era, involving a once-celebrated movie producer now vilified as a predator by scores of women, including some well-known actresses who plan to testify or attend the trial. In a three-paragraph ruling Tuesday, a panel of state appeals judges declined to move the trial or delay it for further deliberation. The same court turned down a s imilar request three months ago from Weinstein's lawyers, who say it's impossible for him to get a fair trial in media-saturated New York City. Meanwhile, Weinstein's attorneys foreshadowed their strategy to defend him against charges that he raped a woman in a New York City hotel room in 2013 and forcibly performed a sex act on another woman at his apartment in 2006. If convicted, the 67-year-old could get life in prison. The defense has “dozens and dozens and dozens of loving emails to Mr. Weinstein” it wants to use to discredit witnesses, attorney Damon Cheronis told the Manhattan judge overseeing the trial. Some of the women who claim they were victimized by the disgraced Hollywood mogul “also bragged about being in a sexual relationship with him,” Cheronis said. Judge James Burke barred the defense from using the actual emails in a presentation planned for opening statements but permitted referring to the messages' “substance and content.” While the New York charges involve two women, scores of others also have accused the former studio boss behind such Oscar winners as “Pulp Fiction” and “Shakespeare in Love” of using his influence as a license to lure women to him and then sexually assault or harass them. The allegations became a jumping-off point for the #MeToo reckoning with sexual misconduct from the corridors of power to everyday offices, campuses and other settings. Weinstein has denied wrongdoing. His lawyers claimed fervent media coverage, loud protests and even the spectacle that surrounded supermodel Gigi Hadid’s brief appearance in the jury pool created a “carnival-like atmosphere” around the trial. The negative publicity 'is magnified tenfold by its dissemination in a city obsessed by news, politics and entertainment, the trifecta that is the Weinstein story,” defense attorney Arthur Aidala wrote in court papers last week. He asked that the trial be moved to largely suburban Suffolk County or to Albany, the state capital. Manhattan prosecutors said the defense claims didn’t add up. “The inhabitants of those jurisdictions have access to the same news sources and social media' as Manhattanites do, Assistant District Attorney Harriett Galvin wrote in a filing. She called the request to move the trial “a transparent attempt to delay the proceedings.” Galvin noted that the chosen jurors indicated they could be fair and impartial. A jury of seven men and five women was picked last week to decide Weinstein’s fate in a selection process marked by discord, including defense objections over the inclusion of a woman who wrote an upcoming novel involving young women dealing with predatory older men. The trial is expected to last at least six weeks. Later, Weinstein is to answer rape and sexual assault charges in Los Angeles. Those charges were filed this month as jury selection in his New York trial was getting underway.

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  • Brock Vandagriffhas made a new decision. It should certainly read like a family-first decision. The 5-star QB de-committed from Oklahoma on the first day of 2020. He found a new home less than three weeks later. The rising senior in the 2021 class is able to still call it home both before and after his new college choice. It is 13.7 miles away from where he currently plays high school football. That will be 13 fewer hours and 900 miles closer than the Oklahoma program he had been previously committed to. The 6-foot-3, 205-pound junior from Prince Avenue Christian (Bogard, Ga.) is going to be a Bulldog. He announced that decision via his social media. Oklahoma was a great fit given his skill set. Now toss in Lincoln Riley and his reputation for building up No. 1 draft choices-slash-Heisman winners at that position. It made a lot of sense. Except when Thanksgiving and Christmas rolled around this past year. Those family ties tugged at his heart. He couldn't sleep and found himself praying it. 'My Dad and I we talked and stuff,' Brock Vandagriff said. 'We are kind of sacrificing the best fit for me just for some other things that are priorities now.' Vandagriff becomes the third member of the 2021 class in Athens and should certainly be seen as the cornerstone recruit for the class. That's a given with quarterbacks. Not just 5-star recruits. The 5-star QB ranks as the nation's No. 1 pro-style passer and the No. 9 overall prospect for that cycle on the 247Sports Composite rankings. He's the first 5-star QB to commit to Georgia since current Ohio State star Justin Fields did so in October of 2017. Why was it Georgia? 'I trust the coaches there and I trust them in the direction they are going and I want to be able to compete for national championships,' Brock Vandagriff said. When he made the decision to back off his commitment to Lincoln Riley at Oklahoma, it was clear that two things would be forthcoming: 1) He was going to make a move to be much closer to home: 2) He wasn't going to take a long time to figure out his next choice. brock (@BrockVandagriff) January 1, 2020 The highly-competitive Prince Avenue Christian junior has never seemed to be the type that enjoyed the back-and-forth and courting of the recruiting process. When he opened his decision process back up, that just restarted all of those coaches reaching out once again. Vandagriff does plan to enroll early at Georgia in January of 2021. Brock Vandagriff: What he will now bring to UGA Let's tackle the biggest 'what this means' question first. Vandagriff will always be linked with Washington, D.C. area 5-star passer Caleb Williams in the 2021 cycle. Williams was heavy on Georgia over the last year, but LSU, Maryland, Oklahoma and Penn State are also strong contenders there for his eventual decision. The 6-foot-2, 207-pound junior is very much in the debate with Vandagriff for the nation's No. 1 overall QB prospect in 2021. He ranks as the nation's No.1 dual-threat passer and also the nation's No. 14 player at this time. This certainly appears to be an example of Georgia taking the commitment from a prospect who was ready to make his decision and dancing the jig around their facility in being fortunate to do so. He's rated as a pro-style QB, but his Hudl profile page lists a 4.65 time in the 40-yard dash. His 4.44 time in the pro agility drill should certainly be seen as a very good time for a quarterback prospect. Throw in his 37-inch vertical jump and he will certainly be an athlete for the Bulldogs at that position. Vandagriff's father, Greg, is the head football coach at Prince Avenue Christian in Bogart. That's about as close to UGA as any school can get. Especially one with his arm and the numbers he has put up playing Class A private football in Georgia. Toss in the fact that he is the son of a respected high school football coach in the state and it is clear that Vandagriff checks a lot of boxes in the ideal scouting makeup for a field leader. Vandagriff completed 151 of his 211 passes (72 percent) this past season for 2,471 yards in eight games. He tallied up a 31:3 touchdown-to-interception ratio. The junior also added 262 rushing yards and six touchdowns. Check out his junior highlight film below. He throws an easy ball that seems to carry downfield easily. Some of his best throws are made as he escapes the pocket on the run and delivers an accurate and powerful throw deep to receivers in stride. Brock Vandagriff: Getting to know Brock on DawgNation Brock Vandagriff breaks down his 'Junior Day' unofficial visit, plans quick return Vandagriff previews big UGA visit, opens up on his Oklahoma de-commitment Just how competitive is Brock Vandagriff? Check out this early DawgNation story The post BREAKING: 5-star junior QB Brock Vandagriff has a new college decision appeared first on DawgNation.
  • A teenager is arrested with a gun at North Hall High School. From the Hall County Sheriff’s Office… The Hall County Sheriff’s Office is investigating after a firearm was found in a 16-year-old male student’s vehicle at North Hall High School on Friday morning, Jan. 17.    At approximately 9 a.m., a school official noticed an improperly parked vehicle on campus. The School Resource Officer was notified after the official observed a handgun in the vehicle. The SRO responded and also saw the weapon in the car.    Deputies obtained a search warrant for the vehicle and located a rifle, a small quantity of marijuana, drug paraphernalia and a bottle of alcohol inside. The handgun initially spotted in the car turned out to be a BB pistol that looked like an actual firearm.    Sheriff’s Investigators obtained warrants for the arrest of the juvenile suspect on the charges of possession of a weapon at school, disrupting a public school and possession of marijuana. The 16year-old turned himself in to investigators early Friday evening and was transported to a youth detention center.    The case remains under investigation by the Hall County Sheriff’s Office.
  • The Georgia Bulldog basketball team, on the heels of a weekend loss at Mississippi State, will look for their first SEC road win of the season tonight in Lexington Kentucky. From Mike Mobley, UGA Sports Communications… Georgia will face Kentucky for the second time in two weeks on Tuesday. On Jan. 7 in a sold-out Stegeman Coliseum, the Bulldogs built a nine-point lead late in the first half and led for nearly 23 minutes of the game before the No. 14-ranked Wildcats rallied for a 78-69 victory.   Tuesday’s contest at Rupp Arena is the second half of a challenging back-to-back, Saturday-Tuesday road portion of the Bulldogs’ schedule. Georgia lost at Mississippi State on Saturday. Roughly 71 hours later, the Bulldogs will face the Wildcats, who were ranked No. 10 and No. 12 in the AP and coaches polls last week, respectively.    The outings versus MSU and UK are the fourth and fifth in Georgia’s grueling stretch to open SEC play. The Bulldogs will face six straight teams that earned NCAA Tournament bids last spring – Kentucky, Auburn, Tennessee, Mississippi State, Kentucky (again) and Ole Miss.   Georgia is 11-6 overall and 1-3 in SEC play. Last Wednesday, the Bulldogs matched their overall win total from a year ago with an impressive 80-63 victory over Tennessee.   Anthony Edwards, a pre- and mid-season All-American and leading National Freshman of the Year candidate, is the nation’s top-scoring freshman at 19.1 ppg. Edwards is the only freshman ranked among the top-50 scorers in the country at No. 47. Rayshaun Hammonds is the SEC’s fourth-leading rebounder (8.2 rpg) and also ranks No. 14 in scoring (13.8 ppg). 
  • Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost S. Jack Hu has appointed a 15-member committee to begin a national search for candidates for the position of vice provost for graduate education and dean of the Graduate School at the University of Georgia. The committee is chaired by Linda Kirk Fox, dean of the College of Family and Consumer Sciences, and it includes faculty, staff and student representation. The national search follows a review of the Graduate School conducted by Fox and several committee members. “Elevating the leadership of the Graduate School to the vice provost level at the University of Georgia signals the important role graduate and professional education plays in promoting research and innovation across all the disciplines,” Hu said. “I appreciate the dedication of the committee members and look forward to meeting with the finalists for this critical position.” Faculty, staff, students or community members who wish to nominate candidates for consideration are invited to contact Michael Luthi, director of the UGA Search Group, at In addition to Fox, the search committee members are: Michelle Ballif, professor and head of the department of English in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences Cheri Bliss, director of graduate admissions and student services in the Graduate School Beate Brunow, director of academic partnerships and initiatives in the Division of Student Affairs Amy Ellis, professor of mathematics education in the College of Education Noel Fallows, Distinguished Research Professor of Spanish and associate provost for global engagement Georgia Harrison Hall, associate professor in the College of Environment and Design and chair of the policy and planning committee of the Graduate Council Shelley Hooks, associate professor of pharmaceutical and biomedical sciences in the College of Pharmacy and associate vice president in the Office of Research Lawrence Hornak, professor of electrical and computer engineering in the College of Engineering and associate vice president for integrative team initiatives in the Office of Research Angela Hsiung, doctoral student in the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources Peter Jutras, professor and director of the Hugh Hodgson School of Music Erin Lipp, professor of environmental health science and associate dean for academic affairs in the College of Public Health Thomas Mote, Distinguished Research Professor of geography and associate dean in the Franklin College Mike Pfarrer, professor of management and associate dean for research and graduate programs in the Terry College of Business Franklin West, associate professor of animal and dairy science in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Ron Walcott, a professor of plant pathology in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences who has served as associate dean of the Graduate School since 2017, is currently serving as interim dean of the Graduate School. The former dean of the Graduate School, Suzanne Barbour, was named dean of the Graduate School at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
  • Grab your hats, scarves, gloves and layer up. It’s going to be another cold day across north Georgia. Severe Weather Team 2 Meteorologist Brian Monahan has been tracking a colder start to your Tuesday morning than it was yesterday. Here’s what to know as you head out the door: Temperatures are in the teens and 20s now. Temperatures will continue to drop in most spots as we head toward sunrise Light wind out there this morning compared to yesterday, but Monahan says only a little wind has a big impact.

Bulldog News

  • Georgia basketball simply couldn't keep up with Kentucky in Rupp Arena on Tuesday night. The No. 15-ranked Wildcats (14-4, 5-1 SEC) took down the Bulldogs (11-7, 1-4) by an 89-79 count. It was UK's 14th straight win in the series, and their second this season. Kentucky guard Ashton Hagans, from Cartersville, Ga., led the Wildcats with 23 points, nine assists and five rebounds. Georgia junior Rayshaun Hammonds scored 16 points and pulled down 8 rebounds, giving Coach Tom Crean the type of road effort that was missing in a loss at Mississippi State on Saturday. UGA freshman Anthony Edwards, meanwhile, scored 16 points on 7-of-13 shooting. But it was a case of too little, too late from Edwards, who had just one rebound and turned the ball over five times. Edwards was heldscoreless in the first half as Kentucky staked out to a 41-35 lead at intermission. The Bulldogs had their moments, using a 9-0 run to claim a 29-28 lead with 5:34 left in the first half. Donnell Gresham Jr. sparked the burst with a 3-pointer and also capped it with a jumper that triggered a John Calipari timeout. Kentucky responded with a 7-0 run of its own the first 78 seconds out of the timeout to reclaim control of the game. Georgia held a surprising 19-17 advantage on the glass in the first half, but the smaller Bulldogs could not sustain that advantage. UK out-rebounded Georgia 21-12 in the second half, even as Edwards awoke from his first half slumber. Edwards finally scored two minutes into the second half after missing his first five shots. Edwards hit his next three shots, too, pulling the Bulldogs to 57-54 with 12:38 left. It was as close as Georgia got the rest of the night. Kentucky came back at the Bulldogs with a 12-2 run, and Georgia couldn't get closer than seven points the rest of the night The Wildcats wonthe first meeting between the teams by a 78-69 count in Athens, coming back from nine points down in front of a sold-out Stegeman Coliseum crowd in both team's SEC opener on Jan. 7. Georgia returns to action at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday at Stegeman Coliseum against Ole Miss. The Bulldogs are 9-1 on their home court this season. The post Georgia basketball falls at Kentucky, too little, too late from Anthony Edwards appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS Kirby Smart is typically pretty transparent, but the Georgia fifth-year head coach didn't let on the sort of overhaul or the extremes he was prepared to go to in order to improve the offense. 'We'll look at it,' Smart said on Dec. 18, asked about the Bulldogs' offensive philosophy. 'But we want to score points.' RELATED: Kirby Smart's amazing offseason of change at Georgia A month later, Georgia had landed the highest-rated (PFF) grad-transfer QB on the market, the OC from the NFL's most prolific pass game in 2018 and a quarterbacks coach Smart knew first hand from his Valdosta State days The Bulldogs still have work to do, and the Feb. 5 National Signing Day will certainly be worth tuning into. Georgia went 12-2 last season with a 5-1 mark vs. Top 25 teams and a third-straight SEC East Division title. But Smart, who insists on setting the bar at a championship level each fall, has continued to reach higher and push for more on his coaching staff and within his team. Complacency, Smart said, is the enemy of the team's aspirations and played a role last season. : When you're not hungry, you become average, and some of that, I think, has affected us in the past,' Smart said after the 26-14 Sugar Bowl win over Baylor. 'And we've got to find a way in this program to not let that creep in and keep that same hunger you have as a young player because we've had it happen to several guys that were really hungry, and then they become full.' Nobody in Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall will be getting too comfortable anytime soon. Indeed, incoming freshman QB Carson Beck is probably just now growing comfortable with the competition ahead of him on campus, and UGA has already added a 5-star in the 2021 class. Brock Vandagriff, a 5-star prospect from nearby Bogart who ranks as the No. 1 -ranked Pro Style quarterback in the 2021 class, made his verbal pledge on Tuesday. Mike Griffith and Connor Riley discuss the repercussions of Smart's latest moves and additions on Tuesday's 'On The Beat' show, and what it means for the program. Georgia football On The Beat, 1-21-20 More from DawgNation UGA adds offseason excitement, stars endorse new OC Todd Monken WATCH: 2021 commit Brock Vandagriff shares story with DawgNation Podcast: Brandon Adams shares his take on Brock Vandagriff addition Kirby Smart has turned Georgia offense upside down Social media reacts to addition of 5-star QB Brock Vandagriff Why Buster Faukner a perfect complement to Todd Monken The post WATCH: Georgia football early offseason breakdown, Brock Vanagriff addition, appeared first on DawgNation.
  • Brock Vandagriff is the newest 5-star commitment for the Georgia Bulldogs. The nation's No. 8 overall prospect (247Sports Composite ratings) chose Georgia earlier today. He was once committed to Oklahoma. Bet a lot of folks knew that. Maybe they also knew that he ran for 1,001 yards at a rate of 7.3 yards per carry as a high school sophomore. But what about his kickoffs? Or his big-time leg at punter? How 'bout the fact that he caught 34 passes during his freshman season at Prince Avenue Christian in nearby Bogart? Or that he threw his first high school pass off a jet sweep from the receiver spot? It was, of course, a touchdown. That's just the beginning of the information superhighway when it comes to all things Vandagriff. Check out the featured video above or the embedded version below for a breakdown on all things Vandagriff, including His favorite route to throw? How did Georgia keep the recruiting channels open after he committed to Oklahoma? His description of some real adversity he deal with during his junior year What was the reason he chose Georgia? What sort of connection his first name has to the Florida Gators? Did he really finish out a game last season with a broken fibula? Why did he choose to de-commit from Oklahoma? What sort of changes does he see in store for the offense at UGA? Brock Vandagriff: Getting to know Brock on DawgNation Prince Avenue Christian 5-star QB Brock Vandagriff commits to UGA Social media reacts strongly to Brock Vandagriff choosing Georgia DawgNation Daily: Breaking down what Vandagriff means to the Bulldogs Brock Vandagriff breaks down his 'Junior Day' unofficial visit, plans quick return Vandagriff previews big UGA visit, opens up on his Oklahoma de-commitment Just how competitive is Brock Vandagriff? Check out this early DawgNation story The post Brock Vandagriff: Watch the new 5-star Georgia commitment share his story appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS It's hard to say exactly what Georgia football will look like next season, but what a difference 6 1/2 weeks has already made. It has been an amazing and bold offensive transformation by Kirby Smart, a coach who can't seem to turn the pressure up on himself and his program enough with slogans like 'Do More' on the heels of 13 and 11-win seasons. So it was 6 1/2 weeks ago, LSU was on top of the world and the Bulldogs were headed toward the ranks of also-rans. The SEC Championship Game scoreboard said 37-10 by the end of the night, and Georgia looked every bit that far removed from title contention. The Bayou Bengals have since claimed the big prize, beating Clemson, securing a place in history with a record-breaking 15-0 season. But now it's Georgia, with a championship defense returning and an offensive overhaul, that looks like the better bet to party in 2020. The LSU staff has fragmented, the defensive coordinator and offensive architect gone. The record-breaking QB is on to the NFL, nine players turned pro early and are among 14 starters who are moving on. There's nowhere to go but down for Tigers coach Ed Orgeron. But Georgia is still, somehow, a program on the rise. Smart's defense, which allowed the fewest points and rushing yards per game in the nation last season, is bought in. Nine of 11 starters are back. Juniors Richard LeCounte, Eric Stokes, Monty Rice and Malik Herring passed up millions of dollars to return and chase the big prize. Many will wonder: Can the offense get the job done? We're not talking about Jake Fromm here, for a change. And Fromm going pro two weeks ago? Man, that's old news. There's so much more to talk about with this overhauled Georgia offense, and we're not even sure where to begin. Smart, the man who says 'if it ain't broke, find a way to make it better,' is on a roll. All this, just 6 1/2 weeks after the championship window appeared to be closing on Georgia football. Remember? Dropped passes, missed tackles, an ailing star running back and a depleted receiving corps. There was noargument about College Football Playoff worthiness. The Bulldogs limped to the finish line. RELATED: Kirby Smart praises LSU, explains Jake Fromm's struggles in defeat And yet, it was a noble regular-season finish. UGA won six straight to win a third-straight SEC East Division crown. But even in victory, right before our eyes, the quarterback was losing his confidence, the coaches were losing control of players, and the program was losing its pride. Another ho-hum Sugar Bowl trip was ahead. A handful of players quit the team early to train for the NFL draft. Others failed substance tests or flunked classes. No wonder Smart dodged the press. There was nothing remotely good or promising to say in those dark days of December. As Smart likes to say, the Bulldogs prefer to talk with their helmets, and any other major changes in direction would require an infusion of impact players and new coaches. Few could have anticipated just how aggressive Smart would be, but the team's showing in New Orleans provided a hint. The Bulldogs weren't ready to roll over and die. Baylor's Bears probably still don't know what hit them, or who hit them, with so many new faces and names filling the shoes of the 12 former starters who were missing in New Orleans. RELATED: Kirby Smart and Bulldogs score sweet statement win in Sugar Bowl As beleaguered and hard to watch as the 2019 Georgia football team was, it finished 5-1 versus Top 25 teams and with a No. 4 ranking. That was good enough for the record books, but not good enough for Smart, who has gone to work: The addition of grad-transfer Jamie Newman, a dual-threat QB with a big arm was captivating. The addition of Florida State grad-transfer TE Tre' Mckitty coupled with incoming freshman 5-star phenom Darnell Washington is fascinating. And now, in the past few days, Smart has turned his offensive staff upside down, landing former NFL OC Todd Monken and Southern Miss OC Buster Faulkner. There will be collateral damage, it's just a matter of who and when. Fans are scurrying to check Twitter profiles and message boards by the hour. Meanwhile, Smart is plotting his next move and another finishing kick on the fast-approaching February National Signing Day. A lot has changed in the past 6 1/2 weeks, and knowing Smart and the sense of urgency he has brought to Georgia football, there's no telling what could be next. Georgia football offseason Buster Faulkner the latest hire for Georgia offensive staff Kirby Smart lands Air Raid guru Todd Monken Todd Monken steps out of messy Cleveland and into ideal spot LSU DC Dave Aranda reveals UGA offensive game plan Mark Richt gives scout on FSU grad-transfer Tre' Mckitty UGA provides status update on James Coley Numbers game: Comparing Jamie Newman to Jake Fromm . The post Kirby Smart orchestrates amazing reinvigoration of Georgia football appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS You won't hear of too many college basketball coaches relishing an opportunity to play Kentucky in Rupp Arena, much less a team coming off a 32-point loss. But that's exactly where Georgia coach Tom Crean and his Bulldogs are right now, eager to prove themselves and make amends after an embarrassing 91-59 loss at Mississippi State on Saturday. 'I'm glad we're going on the road again right now, I really am,' Crean said on Monday, standing outside his office in Stegeman Coliseum as fans strolled by en route to a gymnastics meet. 'We've got to go test ourselves.' Georgia (11-6, 1-3 SEC) tips off at No. 15 Kentucky (13-4, 4-1) at 7 p.m. on Tuesday (TV: ESPN) looking to get back their pride. It wasn't just that UGA lost to Mississippi State by such a lopsided margin, it was how they lost. Georgia was outrebounded 40-22, it was beat in transition and out-physicaled and out-toughed at each turn. It was the first time this year's edition of Georgia Bulldogs, featuring projected NBA lottery pick Anthony Edwards and a recharged Rayshaun Hammonds, looked like the sad sack group of a year ago. RELATED: Crean calls out Bulldogs for pitiful' effort Crean, as upset as he was about the Saturday night defeat, clearly believes in this year's team and loves their disposition. 'I'm glad we get to go test ourselves right now, because we've got to bounce back and bounce back quickly from it,' said Crean, who won two outright Big Ten championships while at Indiana. 'We practiced well, we practiced confidently we have very hard workers, we have guys that are diligent and want to be good. It wasn't like we didn't go do it a couple of weeks ago, and we have to remember that, as well.' Indeed, Georgia's 65-62 road win at then-No. 9 Memphis on Jan. 4 was a victory to build on. It was only the second time in UGA basketball history the program won a non-conference road game against a Top 25 team. Beating Tennessee 80-63 last Wednesday after the Vols beat the Bulldogs by 46 a year ago was another program win. While Georgia might not beat Kentucky on Tuesday the odds say it probably won't Crean sounds confident his players will compete. This, even though they were blown out at Auburn (82-60) and Mississippi State (91-59) in their first two SEC road games. 'We have to understand that whether we're at home or whether we're on the road, we have to play a physical style of game when it comes to getting into people blocking out,' Crean said. 'Or, going for 50-50 balls, getting back in transition defense, being more active with your hands, all of those kind of things.' Georgia's next home game is at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday against Ole Miss. Georgia coach Tom Crean DawgNation Georgia Basketball Mississippi State wins battle of Bulldogs in Starkville, decisively Anthony Edwards puts the squeeze on Tennessee in blowout win Georgia falls in first SEC road game of season at Auburn Anthony Edwards says UGA didn't play tough enough vs. Kentucky Georgia basketball delivers signature Top 10 win at Memphs Freshman Anthony Edwards discloses injury, status Sahvir Wheeler on clutch game-winner, 'been there a ton of times' Tom Izzo on Georgia: 'That was an incredible comeback' Anthony Edwards lights up Michigan State for 37 in 93-85 loss Rayshaun Hammonds wrecks Georgia Tech Anthony Edwards draws standing ovation in opener Georgia freshman already making basketball history The post WATCH: Georgia basketball coach Tom Crean relishes Rupp road trip, opportunity at Kentucky appeared first on DawgNation.