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Oscar noms 2020: ‘And the loser is… diversity’

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John Cho and Issa Rae announced the nominees for the 92nd Academy Awards on Monday morning (Image via YouTube)

After 2019’s record year of inclusion for LGBTQ and LGBTQ-themed nominees, it looks like Oscars 2020 has taken a huge step backward.

Announced Monday morning from the David Geffen Auditorium at the new, yet-to-be-opened Academy Museum in Los Angeles, the list of nominations for the 92nd Academy Awards contained few surprises, aside from a few notable snubs, but is nevertheless noteworthy not only for a shortfall in LGBTQ inclusion, but also for a general lack of overall diversity.

Of the twenty acting nominees, none identify as LGBTQ, but Margot Robbie, nominated for Best Supporting Actress for “Bombshell,” and Antonio Banderas, who made the Best Actor category for his performance in “Pain and Glory,” both portray LGBTQ characters. Only one acting nominee – Cynthia Erivo, nominated for her starring role in the film “Harriet” – is a person of color (Banderas, who is of Spanish descent, is classified by US Census guidelines as “European”). No women were nominated in the Best Director category, and only one of the nine Best Picture nominees was directed by a woman – Greta Gerwig, for “Little Women.” In addition, the majority of the nine nominated films are dominated by male characters, with only “Little Women,” “Marriage Story,” and “Parasite” featuring women among its central cast. In the two screenplay categories, only two women received nods: Gerwig for “Little Women,” and Krysty Wilson-Cairns for co-writing “1917” with director Sam Mendes. “Pain and Glory,” directed by openly-LGBTQ filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar, scored a nomination as Best International Feature.

The lack of diversity in this year’s list of nominations is made even more glaring by several of its omissions:

  • Notably left out of the final cut were Latina actress Jennifer Lopez, who was widely expected to score a nod for her performance in “Hustlers.”
  • Recent Golden Globe winner Awkwafina, the Phillipina-American rapper-turned-actress who starred in Lulu Wang’s acclaimed mixed-language film, “The Farewell,” was shut out of the Best Actress category, and the movie itself failed to score a slot in the Best International Feature category.
  • Former Oscar-winner Lupita Nyong’o failed to garner a nomination for her strong performance in Jordan Peele’s “Us.”
  • Bong Joon-ho’s “Parasite,” which earned the rare distinction of being nominated as both Best Picture and Best International Feature, also failed to earn nods for any of its Korean cast, including Song Kang Ho, who was thought to be a likely contender for Best Supporting Actor.
  • Actor Jamie Foxx, another favorite for his supporting performance in “Just Mercy,” was snubbed in that category.
  • Besides the snub for Gerwig in the director category, strong female contenders Wang (“The Farewell”), Marielle Heller (“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”), Lorene Scafaria (“Hustlers”) and Alma Har’el (“Honey Boy”) were all shut out. To date, only five women have been nominated as Best Director – Kathryn Bigelow (“The Hurt Locker”), Lina Wertmüller (“Seven Beauties”), Jane Campion (“The Piano”), Sofia Coppola (“Lost in Translation”) and Gerwig (“Lady Bird”). Bigelow is the only woman to have won the award in the Academy’s 92 year history.
  • Even Beyoncé, considered a shoe-in for a Best Original Song nod with “Spirit” from Disney’s remake of “The Lion King,” was overlooked.
  • Also raising eyebrows was the omission of Eddie Murphy in any category for his well-received Netflix film, “My Name is Dolemite,” or former Oscar-winner Ruth Carter for its costume design. In addition, there was a surprising lack of recognition for the Elton John biopic “Rocketman” or its star, Taron Egerton, which failed to earn nominations for Best Picture or Best Actor despite both having been heavy favorites for inclusion in those categories. “Rocketman” did receive a nomination for John and longtime collaborator Bernie Taupin in the Best Original Song category, for “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again.”

There was an inescapable irony evident in the Academy’s choice of Asian-American actor John Cho and actress of color Issa Rae to announce the nominees at this morning’s event. After the pair read off the names in the Best Director category, Rae quipped, “Congratulations to all those men.”

The film with the most nominations was Todd Phillips’ “Joker,” which received 11 total nods. The first comic book film to lead the race in nominations, Phillips’ movie has been controversial for its portrayal of the iconic “Batman” villain, drawing criticism for glamorizing “incel” culture.

Following “Joker” in total nominations are “The Irishman,” “1917,” and “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood,” with eight each. “Jojo Rabbit,” “Little Women,” “Marriage Story,” and “Parasite” each received six. Each of the leading films are contenders for the Best Picture category.

The nominations are determined by Academy members who vote in their own categories – with actors nominating actors, directors nominating directors, etc. – while the final winners in all categories are chosen by vote from the entire Academy membership. The Oscar presentation will take place on February 9, 2020, to be televised by ABC. For the second year in a row, the ceremony will not have a designated host, but will split hosting duties among individual presenters.

For a complete list of nominations, click here.

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Travel

July 4 travel woes in flight cancellations, record number Americans driving

A record number of Americans are expected to travel by car this upcoming July 4th holiday weekend, per the Triple A auto club

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Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES – As the 4th of July weekend approaches, Americans getting underway to travel are facing heavy delays and cancellations amid staffing strains, weather, among other issues with U.S. air carriers.

On Friday according to tracking website FlightAware.com as of 7PM Pacific there were 27,544 total delays, domestic flight cancellations were 2,975 and international flight cancellations within, into, or out of the United States were 571.

(See the MiseryMap for a live visualization of flight delays.)

CNBC reported that consumer complaints are piling up. In April, the latest available data, the Transportation Department received 3,105 from travelers about U.S. airlines, up nearly 300% from April 2021, and at nearly double the rate during the same period last year.

The unprecedented number of airline cancelations and delays is causing travelers to choose to drive and fly. Delta, American Airlines and United are all trimming their schedules even further to accommodate staffing shortages, despite passenger levels hitting post-pandemic highs.

Airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration have sparred over who’s to blame. Airlines chalk up the disruptions to bad weather, their staffing shortages and staffing problems at the government’s air traffic control.

Yesterday, the FAA’s acting Administrator Billy Nolen and other top agency officials held a call with airline executives to discuss weekend planning, including the agency’s use of overtime to staff its facilities, traffic and routing plans, according to a person familiar with the meeting. The call was in addition to regular planning meetings with airlines.

U. S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg speaks with reporters on Zoom call about flight cancellations and expected delays this July 4th holiday weekend.

U. S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg: “It is time for the airline industry to deliver.”

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told reporters Friday that, “passengers have high expectations from an industry that we have supported with tens of billions of dollars in taxpayer funding through the pandemic to keep it up and running so that it can serve passengers. Now we need them to deliver.”

Concerned about flight cancellation trends, Buttigieg said he has spoken directly with airlines.

“Something I’ve asked them to do so that if you’re selling a ticket, you know you can back that up, that you have the staffing to do it,” he added.

A record number of Americans are expected to travel by car this upcoming July 4th holiday weekend, per a new report from the Triple A auto club.

Screenshot/NBC News

Just in time for that Fourth of July travel, gas prices are continuing to drop from their record high points of two weeks ago as the Energy Information Administration reports that gasoline stockpiles across the country have increased, according to the Auto Club’s Weekend Gas Watch.

Since Monday, the national average for a gallon of regular gasoline has decreased by four cents to $4.85.

Despite the highest 4th of July gas prices on record, 42 million Americans are driving this holiday.

Travelers Driving This 4th of July Weekend To Avoid Airport Chaos:

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Sports

Welsh Olympic distance swimmer Dan Jervis comes Out

Jervis, who placed 5th in distance swimming at the Olympics in Tokyo said he was inspired by Blackpool FC soccer player Jake Daniels

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Dan Jervis (Screenshot via British Swimming Livestream-archive)

NEATH, Talbot County Borough, Wales – In a recent interview with BBC Radio Cornwall, 26-year-old British Olympian distance swimmer Dan Jervis revealed that he had given considerable thought before announcing to the world that he is gay.

Jervis told the BBC’s LGBT Sport Podcast; “I was adjusting to everything else, just trying to fit in — until I thought, Just be you.”

Jervis, who placed 5th in distance swimming for the British team at the Olympic games in Tokyo, Japan, told the BBC he was inspired by 17-year-old Blackpool FC forward Jake Daniels, the professional soccer player who made history as only the second person in the past 30 years to acknowledge their sexual orientation publicly in that sport in the United Kingdom.

The swimmer also told the BBC it was important to be seen as a role model as he readies to compete in the upcoming Commonwealth Games. Jervis has previously competed winning a 1500m freestyle silver and bronze at the 2014 and 2018 Games in Glasgow, Scotland and Australia’s Gold Coast respectively.

“It took me 24 years to be who I am,” he said and added, “You know, we’re just before the Commonwealth Games and there are going to be kids and adults watching who will know that I’m like them, and that I’m proud of who I am.”

The Olympian reflected on his decision to announce he was gay: “For so long, I hated who I was – and you see it all the time, people who are dying over this. They hate themselves so much that they’re ending their lives.

“So if I can just be that someone people can look at and say, ‘yeah, they’re like me,’ then that’s good.”

Jervis then said he revealed his sexuality to a close friend when he was 24: “At that point, I’d never said the words out loud to myself.”

“I said to her: ‘I think I’m gay.’ I couldn’t even say: ‘I’m gay.’ I was basically punching the words out.

“She was quite shocked but great, and it was exactly the reaction I wanted. I’ve had all good reactions, and the way I’ve described it is I’m not going to change as a person.

“Everyone’s journey is different, but I think I’ve always known.

“It was something in the back of my mind, bugging me. I thought I was bisexual and had girlfriends that I loved – but it came to about three years ago where I knew I had to deal with this.

“It wasn’t affecting my swimming, but me as a human being. It sounds quite drastic, but I wasn’t enjoying my life. Yeah, I was smiling, but there was something missing to make me properly happy.

“I’m still the Dan you’ve always known. You just know something else about me now.”

The Commonwealth Games open in Birmingham, UK on July 28.

Listen: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p0chqfhn

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Online Culture

FCC asks Apple & Google to remove TikTok app from their stores

Its pattern of surreptitious data practices that are documented show TikTok is non-compliant with app store policies and practises

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Graphic by Molly Butler for Media Matters

WASHINGTON – In a series of tweets Tuesday, Federal Communications Commissioner Brendan Carr disclosed a letter sent to both Apple and Google’s parent company Alphabet asking the two tech giants to remove TikTok from their app stores over his concerns that user data from the wildly popular social media platform is disclosed and used by bad actors in China.

In his letter dated June 24 to Apple CEO Tim Cook and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai, Carr noted that because of its pattern of surreptitious data practices documented in reports and other sources, TikTok is non-compliant with the two companies’ app store policies and practises.

“TikTok is not what it appears to be on the surface. It is not just an app for sharing funny videos or meme. That’s the sheep’s clothing,” he said in the letter. “At its core, TikTok functions as a sophisticated surveillance tool that harvests extensive amounts of personal and sensitive data.”

Carr stated that if the companiest do not remove TikTok from their app stores, they should provide statements to him by July 8.

The statements should explain “the basis for your company’s conclusion that the surreptitious access of private and sensitive U.S. user data by persons located in Beijing, coupled with TikTok’s pattern of misleading representations and conduct, does not run afoul of any of your app store policies,” he said.

Carr was appointed by former President Trump in 2018 to a five-year term with the FCC.

In March of this year, California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced a nationwide investigation into TikTok for promoting its social media platform to children and young adults while its use is associated with physical and mental health harms to youth.

The investigation will look into the harms using TikTok can cause to young users and what TikTok knew about those harms. The investigation focuses, among other things, on the techniques utilized by TikTok to boost young user engagement, including strategies or efforts to increase the duration of time spent on the platform and frequency of engagement with the platform.

TikTok’s computer algorithms pushing video content to users can promote eating disorders and even self-harm and suicide to young viewers. Texas opened an investigation into TikTok’s alleged violations of children’s privacy and facilitation of human trafficking last month.

TikTok has said it focuses on age-appropriate experiences, noting that some features, such as direct messaging, are not available to younger users. The company says it has tools in place, such as screen-time management, to help young people and parents moderate how long children spend on the app and what they see, the Associated Press reported.

“We care deeply about building an experience that helps to protect and support the well-being of our community, and appreciate that the state attorneys general are focusing on the safety of younger users,” the company said. “We look forward to providing information on the many safety and privacy protections we have for teens.”

TikTok has also had a problematic relationship with the LGBTQ+ community. Recently The Washington Post confirmed that the ‘Libs of TikTok,’ an influential anti-LGBTQ account regularly targets LGBTQ individuals and their allies for harassment from its more than 640,000 Twitter followers while serving as a veritable wire service for Fox News and the rest of the right-wing media to push anti-LGBTQ smears.

Libs of TikTok regularly targets individual teachers and their workplaces – releasing their personal information that includes school and individual names as well as social media accounts, and leading its audience to harass the schools on social media.

A year ago, an investigation by Media Matters found that TikTok’s “For You” page recommendation algorithm circulated videos promoting hate and violence targeting the LGBTQ community during Pride Month, while the company celebrated the month with its #ForYourPride campaign. 

Numerous LGBTQ+ content creators have shared stories with the Blade about TikTok’s seemingly arbitrary algorithms that target otherwise benign content that is not listed outside of the platform’s polices and removed the content. In many cases restoring the posts after appeals or in the worst case scenarios banning the users.

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