Category Entertainment News

Martin Scorsese declares no-selfie Cannes open

Martin Scorsese declares no-selfie Cannes open

Director Martin Scorsese has reunited with Cate Blanchett, Oscar-winning star of his 2004 film The Aviator, to declare the Cannes Film Festival open.

“I’m very thrilled to be back again in Cannes,” said the US film-maker.

“We’re all here to celebrate the art of motion pictures and it’s a great honour to be asked to open the festival.”

The Raging Bull director then teamed up with Blanchett, chair of this year’s competition jury, to do exactly that – in somewhat halting French.

Before the ceremony, festival organisers made good on their pledge to stamp out red carpet selfies.

Guests carrying phones were asked to put them away, while security guards stepped in to prevent attendees taking pictures of themselves.

‘Joyous task’

In her own opening address, Blanchett said she was “extremely honoured” to be chairing the jury that will award the prestigious Palme d’Or.

“I’m extremely privileged to be in creative dialogue… with the cinematic offerings that we will see unfold,” she said.

“Our joyous task is to put our hearts and minds and agendas, our preconceptions and expectations at the door and be alive to the stories that are being told.

“I now invite you to enter into this extraordinary, remarkable festival in the same spirit.”

Tuesday’s opening ceremony preceded the premiere screening of Everybody Knows, an abduction drama starring Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz.

The husband and wife actors were on hand to walk the red carpet alongside their film’s Iranian director, Asghar Farhadi.

Other celebrities in attendance included Chloe Sevigny, Sir Mick Jagger’s daughter Georgia and Julianne Moore, who arrived in a striking crimson gown.

French star Anna Karina, who features on this year’s official festival poster, was also in the audience inside Cannes’ 2,000-seat Grand Theatre Lumiere.

Benicio Del Toro, meanwhile, posed with French actress Virginie Ledoyen and other members of the Un Certain Regard jury, of which he is president.

In a break with tradition, press screenings of the 21 contenders for the Palme d’Or award are no longer being held in advance of the official premiere.

The first press screening of Everyone Knows was held in an adjacent cinema at the same time the film unspooled at the Grand Theatre Lumiere.

Set in Spain, Farhadi’s film stars Cruz as a woman whose teenage daughter is kidnapped during a visit to her home town.

Bardem plays a former boyfriend of Cruz’s character who becomes involved in the attempts to get her back.

Mixed reviews

Reaction to the press screening was muted on Tuesday night, while one key plot development was greeted with derisive laughter.

Early reviews have been mixed. The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw said it was “intimately painful and powerfully acted“, while The Wrap called it the “strongest Cannes opener in years“.

Variety, in contrast, said it was “Farhadi’s weakest film” to date, while the Telegraph’s Robbie Collin found it “strangely sexless.”

The Cannes Film Festival continues until 19 May.

Katy Perry ends Taylor Swift beef with actual olive branch

Katy Perry ends Taylor Swift beef with actual olive branch

Katy Perry has sent Taylor Swift an actual olive branch, seemingly ending the beef between the two megastars.

Swifty, who is about to start her Reputation tour, shared a video of the package she received from Katy – which appeared to include a note with the words “miscommunications” and “deeply sorry” written on it.

The olive branch is a symbol of peace.

The pair reportedly fell out in a row over backing dancers, before writing songs about each other.

Taylor’s Bad Blood is thought to be about Katy, while Swish Swish is said to be about Taylor.

Taylor’s Instagram story shows a package containing an olive branch and a written note that opens: “Hey old friend”.

“I just got to my dressing room and found this actual olive branch,” Taylor said in the video.

“This means so much to me.”

Trying to figure out exactly what the note says is a bit of a tougher job though, as fans noted.

The two haven’t been friends since at least 2014, when rumours emerged before the release of Taylor Swift’s hit Bad Blood.

Taylor talked about falling out with a high-profile star in a Rolling Stone interview at the time, saying the person did something “so horrible” that made them “straight-up enemies.”

She got more specific: “She basically tried to sabotage an entire arena tour. She tried to hire a bunch of people out from under me.”

Straight after that article, Katy posted a cryptic tweet about Regina George – the villain of the 2004 comedy Mean Girls.

“Watch out for the Regina George in sheep’s clothing,” she tweeted.

Katy spoke about the tension between the two stars in a Carpool Karaoke interview with James Corden.

“She started it, and it’s time for her to finish it,” Katy said.

Katy then apologised to Taylor during a 24-hour YouTube live stream ahead of her album Witness being released last year.

“I’m ready to let it go,” she said in an interview.

“Absolutely, 100%. I forgive her, and I’m sorry for anything I ever did, and I hope the same from her, and I think it’s actually – I think it’s time.”

And after what finally looks like a mended friendship, fans celebrated with some tongue-in-cheek tweets.

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Conchita Wurst: 'I want to be clear this is not a joke'

Conchita Wurst: 'I want to be clear this is not a joke'

Conchita Wurst is experiencing an unfamiliar feeling – contentment.

The 2014 Eurovision Song Contest winner is speaking the morning after performing a selection of her favourite diva songs, from Big Spender to Son Of A Preacher Man, accompanied by the 60-piece BBC Concert Orchestra at the London Palladium.

To her surprise, she pulled it off.

“Everything went so well, all over,” the 29-year-old says, overwhelmed by the memory.

“There was no huge fail. I’m still so excited and buzzing about it. That’s a really new feeling to me because normally, when I walk off stage, I’m never pleased with myself.

“I mean, I would really rip myself apart and destroy the whole vibe.”

How come?

“I feel I need to prove myself each and every time [because] I’m a drag act,” says the star.

“It’s easy to say, ‘This is just a joke.’ You know, the bearded lady? And I feel the need to smash it with every performance just because I want to be clear this is not a joke.”

You might think that winning Eurovision would help dispel people’s misconceptions.

Wurst has since proved herself to be more than a novelty act, building an international following as a gay icon, speaking at the UN, modelling for Jean Paul Gaultier and trolling Vladimir Putin (“He’s attractive, but I like less plastic surgery,” she told The Times).

The singer accepts the pressure to prove herself could be “just in my head” – but it’s the only thing she’s ever known.

Born Thomas Neuwirth and raised in the conservative Austrian village of Bad Mitterndorf, Wurst has had to stare down prejudice since she first turned up to kindergarten wearing a skirt.

“It’s the story of my life,” she says, “and the story of so many people in the LGBTIQ community.

“You always had to be a little bit better, a little bit nicer, a little bit funnier, just to be part of the game. I think this is something I still carry within me.”

Although Conchita was always present in some form, Tom’s first bid for stardom came under his real name, on the TV talent show Starmania. He was then briefly part of a boy band called Jetzt Anders! (Now Different!), which burned out after just eight months.

It was then that he started to flesh out the character of Conchita – a glamorous projection of his inner confidence, who conveniently suppressed Tom’s innate shyness and insecurity.

As Conchita’s reputation grew, she was chosen to represent Austria at Eurovision in 2014 – and spent months casting about for the perfect song.

“I had so many songs on the table, fully produced,” she recalls. “Then at the last minute, somebody sent me Rise Like A Phoenix and I said, ‘I’m so sorry, we have to start all over again’. We had four weeks to make it. It was insane.”

It was a wise choice. The soaring, would-be Bond theme won the contest easily, achieving the top score of “douze points” from 13 countries (including the UK) and finishing 52 points ahead of its nearest rival.

Conchita dedicated her victory “to everyone who believes in a future of peace and freedom”. She added: “You know who you are – we are unity and we are unstoppable.”

But there was still a backlash. Austrians created anti-Conchita Facebook groups, some Russians shaved off their beards in protest, encouraged by ultranationalist politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who declared her victory “the end of Europe”, while church leaders in Eastern Europe took turns to condemn her.

Unfazed, Wurst used her platform to advocate for gay marriage and adoption. So is she pleased that her home country recently legalised same-sex marriage?

“I have mixed feelings,” she sighs.

“Everybody’s so excited about it, and I’m excited too, but it’s like, ‘What took you so long? Who do you think you are to tell me how I’m able to marry or not? And why does it need a piece of paper to prove I’m allowed to do that? You’re not in a position to tell me who I’m allowed to love.’

“So I really have mixed emotions about it. I’m very happy that it’s official. On the other hand, it should be the most normal thing.”

The star gives the impression she won’t be dictated to by anyone – something she proves a month after our chat, when she neutralises a blackmailer by publicly acknowledging she’s HIV positive.

Despite that, she wants the focus to be on her music. The singer is full of enthusiasm as she talks about the two years it took to prepare her performance with the BBC Concert Orchestra.

“I really studied the material because I really wanted to nail it,” she says.

The biggest challenge was to perfect Barbara Streisand’s The Way We Were.

“Like many people, I know it just from singing along and thinking, ‘How beautiful’. Then when I started rehearsing I realised, ‘This is why she’s a legend!’

“Because the way she sings – the range and the volume and the technique – is just insane. So there was a lot of fine tuning that I had to do there.”

You can hear how Conchita tackles to Streisand when BBC Radio 2 broadcasts the concert this Friday – but that’s just the start of a big year for the star.

She’s currently working on two albums, one with the Vienna Symphony (“they never did a pop crossover before – never!”) and a more mainstream pop record, which she hopes will eclipse her self-titled debut.

“I’m not the biggest fan of my first album,” the singer says matter-of-factly. “It’s not really anybody to blame, it just happened to be like that.

“I had so many things to do after winning the Eurovision. I was constantly on the run and thinking, ‘Oh yes, that’s a good song, and that’s a good song,’ but I never really thought if I could pull it off.

“I think many of those songs could have been hits if I wasn’t the performer, because they didn’t really fit me authentically.”

The new record, she says, will be “authentic as authentic can be”.

“I’m sure my mum will prefer some of the lyrics not to be on there,” she laughs. “I’m talking about my love life and I’m talking about what fame does to somebody – or at least to me.”

In an echo of her Eurovision experience, she recorded dozens of songs with proven pop hitmakers like Fiona Bevan (Ed Sheeran, Stefflon Don, Steps) before ditching them for something close to her heart.

Starting from scratch with two trusted collaborators, she recorded the album in total privacy, refusing to play the songs even to her management.

“It’s good if they like it but if I’m honest, I couldn’t care less,” she laughs.

“It’s my music. If it’s not good enough, then that’s how it will be.”

Conchita’s episode of Friday Night Is Music Night will be broadcast on BBC Radio 2 at 20:00 GMT on 11 May. Her album with the Vienna Symphony is due out in October.

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Eurovision 2018: Ireland through to final

Eurovision 2018: Ireland through to final

Ireland will take part in the Eurovision Song Contest final after making it through the first semi-final in Lisbon.

Switzerland, Belgium and Finland – featuring former X Factor semi-finalist Sara Aalto – were among the 19 countries in the semi-final.

Ten acts progressed to Saturday’s final, with nine eliminated.

The fates of the semi-finalists were decided by a combination of votes from national juries and viewers.

The UK, represented by SuRie, automatically qualified for Saturday’s final as one of the “Big Five” countries.

The other four are Germany, Italy, Spain and France, while hosts Portugal also automatically qualified for the final.

The other acts making it through the semi-final were:

  • Albania
  • Austria
  • Bulgaria
  • Cyprus
  • Czech Republic
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • Israel
  • Lithuania

Israel’s Netta was among those competing in the first semi-final with her track Toy, which has a powerful message of female empowerment – and a quirky and memorable chicken dance.

Cyprus, another country widely-tipped as a favourite to win the grand final, were represented by pop star Eleni Foureira, who brought the tropical and catchy beats of her track Fuego.

Born in Albania, Eleni first established herself as one third of Greek group Mystique in 2007.

The Czech Republic’s Mikolas Josef has been touted as the nation’s answer to Justin Bieber. The 22-year-old’s rendition of Lie To Me – a bouncy, swaggering tale of young love – has clear mainstream appeal.

He had to go to hospital after sustaining a neck injury sustained during rehearsals.

Other notable acts included Finland’s Saara Aalto, who won over UK audiences during her time on the X Factor 2016, despite losing out in that contest to Matt Terry.

Ryan O’Shaughnessy represented Ireland, who have more Eurovision wins – seven – than any other country, but have not won the competition since 1996.

Azerbaijan have never failed to qualify from a Eurovision Song Contest semi-final.

A further 18 countries will take part in the second semi-final on Thursday ahead of the grand final at Lisbon’s Altice Arena on Saturday night.

The UK’s hopes this year rest on London-born singer SuRie, who will perform her ballad Storms during Saturday’s final.