Month: July 2020

Video games seen becoming a new frontier in digital rights

Critical digital rights battles over privacy, free speech and anonymity are increasingly being fought in video games, a growing market that is becoming a “new political arena,” experts and insiders said on Thursday.

With the industry set to more than double annual revenues to $300 billion by 2025, questions about how video game operators, designers and governments handle sensitive issues take on added urgency, said participants at RightsCon, a virtual digital rights conference.

In recent months, a Hong Kong activist staged a protest against Beijing’s rule inside a popular social simulator game called Animal Crossing, and a member of the U.S. Congress, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, campaigned in the game as well.

The game Minecraft, meanwhile, has been used to circumvent censorship, with groups using it to create digital libraries and smuggle banned texts into repressive countries.

“Video games have become this new political arena,” said Micaela Mantegna, founder of GeekyLegal, an Argentinian group that focuses on tech policy.

Also, game designers have been tackling sensitive topics by creating games that involve issues such as refugees or mental illness.

“Video games are a powerful way to start talking about topics that are hard to engage in real life,” said Stephanie Zucarelli, a board member of Women in Games Argentina, a non-profit group.

User rights can be at risk, however, of being violated, said Kurt Opsah, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights group.

Law enforcement can ask game companies their users’ personal data, operating companies can censor game users and governments can pressure game operators and makers to remove content, he said.

He cited an example of the U.S. military deleting critical comments that had been posted on recruitment channels it hosted on Twitch, a popular streaming platform.

“They didn’t want people to have an anti-military view on their recruiting channel,” he said.

Governments can apply pressure on video game companies, he said, such as the case of Activision Blizzard Entertainment that last year suspended a player from a video game competition for making political comments about Hong Kong in an interview.

Blizzard is partly owned by Chinese gaming giant Tencent Holdings.

IVOX NEWS by Reuters #videogames #entertainment @ivoxnews #news :: www.ivoxnews.com

‘Hamilton’ goes from Broadway to America’s living rooms

Five years after taking Broadway by storm with its multi-racial, hip-hop take on America’s founding fathers, “Hamilton” arrives in millions of homes around the world on Friday as a film. Freddie Joyner has more.

Five years after taking Broadway by storm, the smash hit “Hamilton” – a multi-racial, hip-hop take on America’s founding fathers – arrives in the form of a film to millions of homes this weekend as Americans celebrate the July 4th holiday.

Shot over three days in 2016 the film features the original cast and will be available via the Disney+ streaming service.

With Broadway closed until 2021, the creator and star of “Hamilton,” Lin Manuel Miranda, says the film is a chance to connect with people at a time of global restrictions:

“…we know what it feels like for ‘Hamilton’ to happen in front of an audience – we were looking forward to that with the big sort of theatrical release. But at the same time, like, there’s no theater anywhere right now. So, the fact that we have this reminder of what live theater can feel like in the form of this movie that Tommy spent the past few years editing, it feels, it actually feels like great like that we have – the ability to sort of give this as a gift in this moment.”

The musical, which won 11 Tony Awards casts Black and Latino actors to play Alexander Hamilton, George Washington, Aaron Burr and other white historical figures as scrappy young revolutionaries seeking independence from Britain more than 200 years ago.

Actor Leslie Odom Jr. plays Hamilton’s nemesis, former Vice-President Burr:

“…this is the first real chance that I’ve been given to put some water back in that well (flash) And that’s just a deeply satisfying thing to give back and to feel like I’m giving back in that way.”

And when Miranda was asked to sum up his Hamilton experience, he used a word that might sound familiar to Hamilton fans.

“Legacy, because it’s both about that. Like it is about how you do not control how you are remembered. And how all you can do is sort of put what you want to put into the world, into the world, and the world will do what it wants with it. And also, I know it’s the first line of my obituary.”

Hamilton the movie begins streaming on Friday.

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Margot Robbie to star in female-centric ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’

The “Pirates of the Caribbean” are getting ready to set sail in a whole new direction, with Australian actress Margot Robbie starring in a new version of one of Disney’s biggest film franchises.

Robbie, the star of “Suicide Squad” and “I, Tonya,” is to head a female-driven “Pirates” movie which is in the early stages of development, a source with knowledge of the project said on Friday.

It marks the latest bid by Hollywood to re-imagine classic movies by casting women in the lead roles, including the 2016 reboot of “Ghostbusters” starring Melissa McCarthy and 2018 comedy heist “Ocean’s 8” that starred Sandra Bullock and Cate Blanchett.

No plot details were available but the story is being written by Britain’s “Birds of Prey” screenwriter Christina Hodson and produced by longtime “Pirates” filmmaker Jerry Bruckheimer, the source said.

The Hollywood Reporter said the movie was a separate project from a new “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie that was announced as in development last year,

Based on a ride at the Disney’s theme parks, the five “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies, starring Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow, have taken some $4.5 billion at the global box office since 2003.

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Hollywood restarts movie production with ‘Jurassic World: Dominion’ and ‘Avatar’

Universal Studios said on Monday it expects to resume production in early July on “Jurassic World: Dominion” as Hollywood begins to emerge from a three-month coronavirus shutdown.

Universal said it plans to get shooting on the movie underway at Pinewood Studios in England on July 6 under stringent protocols for the cast and crew to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

It will be one of the first major movies to restart work after filming on James Cameron’s “Avatar” sequel for 20th Century Studios resumed in New Zealand on Monday. Producer Jon Landau and the cast and crew ended two weeks in quarantine after their return to the country, which has said it is now free of the virus.

Work on “Jurassic World: Dominion,” starring Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard, came to an abrupt halt in mid-March because of the coronavirus pandemic, which shut down movie and television sets around the world.

The protocols include a two-week quarantine for actors and crew flying into the UK and frequent coronavirus tests and antibody tests for all cast and crew, as well as daily temperature tests. Some 150 hand sanitizer stations will be installed and there will be a “green zone” with enhanced testing for actors, Universal said.

“Jurassic World: Dominion,” a spin-off from the 1993 “Jurassic Park” blockbuster about the return of dinosaurs, is scheduled to be released in movie theaters in June 2021.

Hollywood publication Deadline, which first reported the news, said that Universal was spending around $5 million on the safety measures.

Netflix has said it has resumed production in Iceland and South Korea on some of its movies and TV shows.

Movie studios got the green light last week to resume production in the Los Angeles area, where most Hollywood studios are based, but are expected to need several more weeks for a mass return to work.

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Films aiming to win Oscars will need to meet diversity criteria, Academy says

The organization that hands out the Academy Awards said Friday it would form a group to develop diversity and inclusion guidelines that filmmakers will have to meet in order for their work to be eligible for Oscars.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which has been criticized for honoring few movies and creators of color, said the move and other steps represented a new phase of a 5-year effort to promote diversity.

The group said in a statement it would work with the Producers Guild of America to convene a task force of industry leaders to develop “representation and inclusion standards” for Oscars eligibility by July 31 that will “encourage equitable hiring practices on and off screen.”

FILE PHOTO: Oscar statuettes are displayed at the “Meet the Oscars” exhibit in New York February 25, 2010. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton/File Photo

The rules will not apply to films vying for Oscars at the next ceremony in 2021.

Criticism of the movie academy intensified in 2015 with the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite, a backlash against an all-white field of acting contenders.

The academy responded in part by doubling the number of women and people color in its invitation-only ranks. Still, by 2019 just 32% of its roughly 8,000 members were women, and 16% were people of color. New members will be announced next month.

FILE PHOTO: A woman paints Oscar statues in preparation for the 83rd Academy Awards in 2011, at Hollywood in Los Angeles, California, October 15, 2010. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo

“We know there is much more work to be done in order to ensure equitable opportunities across the board,” Academy Chief Executive Dawn Hudson said. “The need to address this issue is urgent.”

Hollywood has been reckoning with a lack of diversity and portrayal of racism on screen amid protests over the death of George Floyd. Earlier this week, streaming service HBO Max said it was temporarily pulling Oscar-winning film “Gone with the Wind.”

FILE PHOTO: An Oscar statue stands covered with plastic during preparations leading up to the 87th Academy Awards in Hollywood, California February 21, 2015. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo

Among other new measures, the film academy will guarantee 10 best picture contenders annually, rather than a fluctuating number up to 10, to give more films a shot at the industry’s most prestigious prize.

IVOX NEWS by Reuters #oscars #film @ivoxmedia #news :: www.ivoxnews.com