Sir Elton John is hoping to set up a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss the country's controversial stance on gay rights during his upcoming trip there.
The openly gay star defied protests to perform two concerts in the country last year (13) amid a storm over the country's law which bans the promotion of homosexuality to minors.
Putin subsequently described the star as an" extraordinary person" adding that "millions of our people sincerely love him, regardless of his sexual orientation," but the singer hit back, urging the leader to change the anti-gay laws.
The Rocket Man hitmaker has now revealed he plans to return to the country in November (14) and he wants to set up a meeting with Putin.
He tells Sky News, "I am going to Russia in November and I will try and meet Putin and I will try and talk to him. I don't know what good it will do." The music veteran adds, "It's no good putting up a wall and saying I'm not talking to these people; the only way things get solved is by talking to people."
Mike Leigh, Pedro Almodovar and Wim Wenders are among the European filmmakers who are appealing to Russian leader Vladimir Putin for the release of jailed Ukrainian director Oleg Sentsov. The Gamer moviemaker was arrested last month (11May14) after Russian authorities accused him of organising terrorist activities.
It is believed Crimea native Sentsov is being held in a Moscow prison.
In a European Film Academy letter to President Putin, the moviemakers implore the Russian leader to set Sentsov free if there are no legitimate charges.
The note reads: "There has not been any official information about the charges brought up against him for almost three weeks. We, his undersigning European colleagues, are deeply worried and cannot stop wondering how he is and what his future will be."
The films have all premiered, the awards have been handed out, and the yachts are headed back home: the Cannes Film Festival has officially come to an end, which means even those of us lucky enough to spend two weeks on the French Riviera must now head for less-idyllic shores. But just because the festival has wrapped up, that doesn't mean there aren't a few films left to catch up on, and so we've rounded up the last of Cannes' biggest and buzziest films, including the winner of the Palme d'Or, a gang movie told entirely in Ukranian sign language and Kristen Stewart's best-reviewed film role yet.
Winter Sleep This year's Palme d'Or winner was also the longest film in competition, with a runtime of just over three hours. However, its epic length didn't deter judges from heaping praise on the film, which follows retired actor and hotel owner Mr. Aydin (Haluk Biginer) as he deals with the dissolution of his marriage to Nihal (Melisa Sozen). As the slow winter season arrives, the relationship between Aydin and Nihal becomes more and more fractured as she attempts to get him to face up to the issues that have made so many people turn against him. Winter Sleep is director Nuri Bilge Ceylan's fourth win at Cannes — he has won the second place award twice, in 2002 and 2011, and took home a directing award in 2008.
"Given that the title virtually encourages viewers to nap during the proceedings, Winter Sleep is no chore to sit through. Most of its characters are complex and compelling, and the actors’ faces, craggy or lustrous, reward fascinated study. The movie indulges one frustrating narrative trope in too many Cannes contenders: the unexplained disappearance of a major figure more than halfway through the story [...]. But as austere soap opera or probing character study, Winter Sleep validates the viewer’s attention, if not its nearly 200-min. running time — make that ambling time." - Richard Corliss, TIME
"That said, the performances are strong (bar a scene between Aydin and Nihal in which Bilginer suddenly plays Aydin as so one-note patronizing and condescending toward his young wife that we just wanted to punch him) and Ceylan’s and DP Gokhan Tiryaki's way with composition and cinematography is in evidence even in the interior scenes (which are most of them), lighting faces warmly and designing shots richly, which needs to happen when almost everything takes place in shot-reverse-shot, he-says-then-she-says format. But the unpleasantness of being constantly trapped in the middle of conversations of increasing resentment and bitterness starts to take its toll less than halfway through this marathon-length film as we start to realize that just as the characters all seem defined by the overweening desire to have the last word in every discussion [...], it’s a foible of Ceylan’s too." - Jessica Kiang, The Playlist
Mommy Helmed by 25-year-old Xavier Dolan, Mommy is set in the distant future, where parents are forced to either care for their unstable children or send them to detention centers. Diane (Anne Dorval), is a single mother who is struggling to raise her violent son, Steve (Antoine Olivier Pilon) on her own. Diane eventually begins to receive help from their mysterious new neighbor, Kyla (Suzanne Clement), and together, the three of them form their own dysfunctional family. Dolan was awarded the jury prize at the festival, an award that he (the youngest director in competition) shared with Jean-Luc Godard (the oldest), for his film Goodbye to Language 3D.
"Dorval gives a force-of-nature performance as Diane “Die” Despres, a glamorously trashy middle-aged widow whose teenage son Steve suffers from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, bouncing off the walls as he struggles to contain his explosively violent temper. Pilon is great casting for Steve, charismatic and manipulative, volatile but vulnerable. [...] Diane and Steve are both flawed characters, neither victims nor villains. Their conversations are combative and prickly, full of salty slang and occasional physical contact, with teasing hints of incestuous intimacy that the script never fully explores. Unlike Dolan's typical protagonists, these are not bourgeois bohemian hipsters but damaged blue-collar outsiders, struggling yet ever hopeful, bursting with a vitality and vulgarity that give the film its raw humor." - Stephen Dalton, The Hollywood Reporter
"It's a needlessly complicated introduction that makes the film to come sound somewhat like science fiction; Die and Steve's household, however, is believably exceptional enough to render the mitigating circumstances unnecessary. Their sparring is engrossingly abrasive, but the film risks wearing itself (not to mention its audience) out within a mere quarter-hour. Dorval and Pilon, both remarkable, are cranked up to 11 from the get-go, while Dolan's chosen aspect ratio forces cinematographer Andre Turpin into a claustrophobically repetitive routine of alternating, invasive close-ups. It's bravura filmmaking, all right, but the center cannot hold." - Guy Lodge, HitFix
The Clouds of Sils MariaOliver Assayas' bilingual Hollywood drama stars Juliette Binoche as Maria Enders, an actress entering the twilight of her career, who has signed on to star in a revival of the play that made her famous about an ambitious young girl who drives an older woman to suicide. As she spends more and more time with the Hollywood starlet (Chloe Grace Moretz) taking over her old role, Maria's life begins to crumble, and she comes to rely on her loyal assistant and only friend Valentine (Kristen Stewart). The role forces Maria to confront the person she is and used to be and reconcile with her past and the impending pressures of time.
"Maria and Val love each other and live together, but their friendship has never been on an equal footing. Passing a cigarette back and forth, they proceed to rehearse the old play to the point where it highlights and defines the running tensions between them. Val, we come to realise, is the real Sigrid in this movie. Assayas is a supple, playful and confident director whose eclectic body of work has embraced mercurial satire (Irma Vep), period drama (Sentimental Destinies) and terrorist thrills (Carlos). [...] It's a study of the artistic elite from a fully paid-up member, a story that proves a little too tolerant of the preening peacocks at the summit and too glibly dismissive of the bottom-feeders (hacks, paps and internet trolls) down below." - Xan Brooks, The Guardian
"Assayas’ screenplay deftly celebrates the act of creation and neatly demonstrates that works of art, like people, can be viewed from different angles, their true meaning unknowable. The French filmmaker also neatly dovetails the relationship of Sigrid and Helena with that of Maria and Valentine: the pair are close, at times bordering on getting too close, and their power dynamic squirms and coils as the film develops - a Maloja Snake of its own." - Matt Risley, Total Film
Leviathan A modern re-telling of the Book of Job, Leviathan tackles the corruption of Vladimir Putin's government, and deals with "some of the most important social issues of contemporary Russia." The film centers on a family who is currently locked in a bitter dispute with its corrupt mayor over the waterfront property on which its house is built. But when the patriarch of the family calls in an old friend — who is now a big-shot lawyer — to help him, he may end up making things even more difficult for himself. Written and directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev, Leviathan received rave reviews and took home the festival's prize for Best Screenplay.
"In “Leviathan,” which director Andrey Zvyagintsev has described as a loose retelling of the Book of Job, an ordinary man must wrestle with his faith not in God but in the Russian state — an epic struggle against a monster with many faces possessed of the capacity to bend the law to suit its own appetites. Resistance is futile, as they say, and yet this stunning satire’s embattled patriarch valiantly perseveres for the sake of his family, even as it crumbles around him. Debuting in competition at Cannes, this engrossing, arthouse-bound opus spans a meaty 142 minutes and unfolds with the heft of a 1,000-page novel." - Peter Debruge, Variety
"The film is really about contemporary Russia, the corruption of the current regime, exemplified by Vadim, who has a portrait of Putin on his wall [...] and of the increasingly insidious influence of the Russian Orthodox Church on the nation's leaders. Given Putin's feelings on dissent, and the partial-funding of the movie by a state body, it's a brave move, and an incredibly vital one, giving the movie a savage, fiery quality to it that continues to sear long after it's finished. And yet, it's not just political point-scoring either. There's a rich lyricism and poetry to the picture that promises more and more to unpack with every viewing." - Oliver Lyttelton, IndieWire
The Tribe Featuring a cast of deaf-mute actors, The Tribe is a teen-gang film told entirely in Ukranian sign language. The film doesn't feature any subtitles or translations, relying entirely on sign language and imagery in order to tell the story of a group of teenagers at a boarding school for the deaf who are average students by day and gangsters and prostitutes by night. Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy's ambitious project took home the top Critic's Prize awarded at the festival, as well as the France 4 Visionary Award.
"There have been countless films over the years about teenage gangs, their rites, rituals and violent codes of ethics, but Ukrainian-made and set The Tribe must surely be the first one featuring a cast entirely composed of deaf sign-language users. [...] However, the use of sign language, deafness and silence itself adds several heady new ingredients to the base material, alchemically creating something rich, strange and very original. Add in Valentyn Vasyanovych's silky smooth steadicam cinematography, sexually explicit imagery, strong critical support, and winning the top prize and two more besides in Cannes' Critics' Week sidebar (including one to assist distribution in France), and you've got a reasonably exportable item for the specialist market that doesn't even need subtitles." - Leslie Felperin, The Hollywood Reporter
Veteran U.S. newswoman Barbara Walters is set to donate her personal archives from her career to her alma mater following her retirement from daytime TV. The 84 year old's final episode as co-host of U.S. talk show The View aired earlier this month (16May14), and on Friday (23May14), she returned to Bronxville, New York to give a speech during Sarah Lawrence College's commencement ceremony.
During the speech, Walters recalled her impressive career and also announced that she will be giving her papers, photographs, and other mementos from her days as a television journalist to the school which helped give her the skills necessary to become a successful reporter.
According to local newspaper the Journal News, she recounted an interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin, a former KGB operative, in which she asked him if he had ever killed anyone.
"He said, 'No, that was not my department'. So later, several people said, 'Where did you get the nerve to ask a question like that?' And I said, 'It's easy. I went to a college where I was not afraid to ask questions.' And this is that college. That is my contribution to world peace."
Long considered a pioneer for women on television, Walters graduated from Sarah Lawrence in 1951 with a degree in English.
Angelina Jolie took time out of the festivities surrounding the London premiere of her new Disney film Maleficent to get serious about current affairs on Thursday night (08May14). The actress and her fiance Brad Pitt hit the red carpet for the high-profile event and she used the premiere to vent her frustrations about world crises in the Ukraine and Nigeria.
Clearly not done commenting about the kidnapping and enslaving of 200 Nigerian schoolgirls at the hands of Boko Haram Islamists, Jolie, who serves as a United Nations special envoy for refugees, told reporters it was "heart-warming" to be asked about the story.
She previously commented about the drama at a promotional event in Paris, France, on Monday (05May14), when she called the militants' actions "unthinkably cruel and evil".
At the premiere she added, "The important thing is to understand that this happens because these men think they can get away with this and they can do this. We have to start arresting people for this, we have to start bringing them to justice and we have to start making it an absolute crime that puts fear in these men, so that they think twice about this kind of action."
The Boko Haram Islamists, who have confessed to kidnapping the girls as part of a protest about their western education, have been condemned by celebrities and world leaders.
More than 270 students were kidnapped in Borno state, Nigeria last month by the militants, who stormed their school in the dead of night on 14 April (14) and drove the girls off to an undisclosed location.
More than 220 teens are still being held captive, according to Nigerian police.
Jolie also said she was increasingly concerned about the people of the Ukraine, where pro-Moscow separatists have ignored a public call by Russian President Vladimir Putin to postpone a referendum on self-rule, declaring they would go ahead with a vote this weekend (09-10May14) that could lead to war.
The actress said, "I can't imagine anybody from that region isn't just terrified that the worst is yet to come."
Pussy Riot stars Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alekhina have created a new account on Twitter.com so they can correspond with their English-speaking fans. The Russian rockers, who spent 18 months behind bars after they were arrested for staging a protest gig in a Moscow church, were freed from jail in December (13) and have been celebrating their freedom by tweeting in their native language.
But now Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina are catering to their other fans around the world by creating an account in which they will only write in English.
Their first post reads: "Russia is not China or Iran YET, so since we can still use Twitter, we will give a shot at running it in English, so hi to everyone here!"
Other posts on the popular microblogging site have condemned Russian president Vladimir Putin, who was the target of the rocker's Moscow protest, and the financial moguls on America's Wall Street, but they also showed their sense of humour by posting a photo of themselves attending the recent Vanity Fair party following the 2014 White House Correspondents' Dinner, along with a caption that reads: "We have only one set of clothes and we wear it (sic) everywhere - even if we're at Vanity Fair party."
The two punk stars plan to use Twitter.com to raise awareness about women's rights issues around the world and promote their new Pussy Riot website.
"He's this cold-blooded... (guy) who, I think, has some delusions of what his legacy is going to be. I don't like what's happening in Ukraine. I don't buy it. He's sending 'peace keepers' in for humanitarian aid. It's armed guards blatantly land grabbing. I don't like it... It feels like a remote issue for us (in the U.S.), but it's not. At any moment one of these key players can make a move in this very dangerous game and it will change the world as we know it." Actress Vera Farmiga takes aim at Russian President Vladimir Putin over the crisis in her native Ukraine. Tensions in the Eastern European region were heightened last month (Mar14) when Putin sent soldiers into the Ukrainian territory of Crimea following a period of civil unrest.
Actress Hayden Panettiere has put her wedding plans on hold due to the civil unrest in her fiance Wladimir Klitschko's native Ukraine. The Nashville star announced her engagement to the Ukrainian boxer in October (13) and while the wedding is still on, the couple has yet to set a date due to the ongoing crisis in his homeland.
She tells Parade.com, "Everything that's happening in Ukraine definitely put a hold on things. But we have time."
Tensions in the Eastern European region were heightened last month (Mar14) when Russian President Vladimir Putin sent soldiers into the Ukrainian territory of Crimea following a period of civil unrest amid calls for political change.
Panettiere previously showed her support for citizens in Ukraine by joining protesters in the country last year (13).
Meanwhile, Klitschko's brother Vitali has announced plans to run for mayor of Kiev.
He previously entered into the race to replace ousted leader Viktor Yanukovych, but withdrew earlier this month (Apr14).
Music icon Madonna has sparked controversy yet again after using the word "gay" to describe Russian President Vladimir Putin and the leafy green vegetable kale.
The Vogue hitmaker played a word association game with editors at Buzzfeed.com, in which she was given a person or object and asked to describe it by writing down the first thing that came to her mind. In the results posted on the website on Tuesday (22Apr14), she was given the word "Putin" and she wrote down "gay", alluding to the leader's controversial stance on homosexuals and anti-gay legislation in Russia.
The singer was then presented with the word "kale", and she also wrote down "gay' in response. However, critics stormed the site with negative comments, calling Madonna out for using the term as a pejorative.
One user wrote, "Saying kale is 'gay' is meant to convey that she doesn't like it, so it is an insult. I am SO TIRED of people using 'gay' in a negative context." Another comment read, "I am surprised she is using the word 'gay' as an insult. I thought she was more sensitive than that", while a post from the owners of beauty website TheGloss.com reads, "Hey Madonna? 2008 called and it wants its gay slurs back." Madonna has yet to respond to the controversy.
Beyonce, Miley Cyrus, Matthew Mcconaughey and Pharrell Williams have been named among Time magazine's 100 Most Influential People in the World.
The Crazy in Love superstar graces the main cover of the publication's annual Time 100 edition, while other portraits feature Robert Redford and Brooklyn Nets star Jason Collins, the NBA's first openly-gay professional basketball player.
Praising Beyonce for juggling her hugely successful career with motherhood and her other business ventures, Facebook.com chief operating officer (COO) Sheryl Sandberg writes in the magazine, "She's the boss. Beyonce doesn't just sit at the table. She builds a better one... "Her secret: hard work, honesty and authenticity. And her answer to the question, 'What would you do if you weren't afraid?' appears to be 'Watch me. I'm about to do it.' Then she adds, 'You can, too.'" The singer is one of a record 41 women featured on the 2014 list, which also includes 21-year-old Cyrus, actresses Kerry Washington, Amy Adams and Robin Wright and country star Carrie Underwood.
Other celebrities to make the cut include Benedict Cumberbatch, Oscar-winning filmmaker Steve McQueen, Gravity director Alfonso Cuaron and soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo, while Pope Francis, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian leader Vladimir Putin have also been listed.