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Canadians Paul Massey and Domee Shi win Oscars for ‘Bohemian Rhapsody,’ ‘Bao’

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Toronto-raised director Domee Shi pumped up her fellow “nerdy” artists on Sunday as she won her first-ever Oscar for the animated dumpling tale “Bao,” which marks Pixar’s first short film directed by a woman.

“To all of the nerdy girls out there who hide behind their sketchbooks — don’t be afraid to tell your stories to the world,” Shi said onstage in her acceptance speech at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.

“You’re going to freak people out but you’ll probably connect with them, too, and that’s an amazing feeling to have. Thank you to (executive producer) Pete Docter for believing in my weirdness and for giving me a voice at the studio.”

Shi, who shares the Oscar with producer Becky Neiman-Cobb, also thanked her parents and her partner for his support and for being her “human stressball.”

Shi wrote and directed the Pixar production, about a Chinese-Canadian woman with empty-nest syndrome who dotes on an adorable little dumpling that miraculously springs to life at the dinner table.

The eight-minute film is set in Toronto and features many of the city’s landmarks.

Shi was born in Chongqing, China and moved to Toronto with her family at age two. She used her upbringing and love of food as inspiration for “Bao,” which played in theatres with “Incredibles 2.”

“I’m an only child, so I’ve always been that overprotected little dumpling for my whole life,” she said in a recent interview with The Canadian Press.

“I just wanted to use this short to explore that relationship between an overprotective parent and a child, using this magical metaphor.”

Since “Bao”‘s release, two more women have directed animated shorts at Pixar: Rosana Sullivan with “Kitbull” and Kristen Lester with “Purl.”

“‘Bao’ blazed a trail, but … we are just happy to be one of many, many female directors to come,” Shi told reporters backstage after her win.

A graduate of the animation program at Ontario’s Sheridan College, Shi beat out two other films by Canadians for the Oscar — “Weekends” by Hamilton-born Trevor Jimenez and “Animal Behaviour” by Vancouver-based couple David Fine and Alison Snowden.

“Bao” was one of three short-film ideas she had presented to a panel of Pixar representatives as part of an open call for pitches at the studio in 2015.

Shi is now working on a feature film.

“I think one of the great things about being able to make ‘Bao’ is I got to do a lot more research and really dive into my heritage,” she said backstage. 

“I kind of took it for granted. Like, I took my mom making dumplings for granted when I was growing up. She would just pop them out so quickly.”

Canadian sound engineer Paul Massey also won his first Oscar for his work on “Bohemian Rhapsody.” He won the trophy alongside Tim Cavagin and John Casali in the best sound mixing category.

Massey thanked his kids, as well as the film’s producers, sound crew and members of rock band Queen, who are the subject of the film.

“A massive shout-out to Brian May and Roger Taylor,” Massey said. “Thank you so much for your music and for your collaboration and your support.”

He later told reporters it was a “project of a lifetime,” noting May and Taylor allowed the team “into their family.”

“They told us stories about Freddie (Mercury),” Massey said of the Queen frontman, who died in 1991. “The engineers that they worked with gave us full access to their archives of music, all their live material, all their studio material.”

The team “learned so much about Freddie that’s not in the film as well and some of their personal stories,” he added.

“It was just a joy to be part of that team. And actually, I think we all wished it hadn’t finished.”

It was the eighth Oscar nomination for Massey, who was born in England but early in his career lived in Toronto for 13 years before moving to Los Angeles.

His other nominations include the films “The Martian” by Ridley Scott, with whom he’s worked on several projects, “3:10 to Yuma,” “Walk the Line” and “Legends of the Fall.”

Massey won in a category that also included Canadian sound mixer Craig Henighan for “Roma.”

A few other Canadians were nominated but lost at the show, which didn’t have a host for the first time in 30 years.

Canadian set decorator Gordon Sim of St. Thomas, Ont., was nominated for “Mary Poppins Returns.”

And the live action short film category had two finalists from Montreal — Jeremy Comte for “Fauve” and Marianne Farley for “Marguerite.”

The show also featured two Toronto-raised presenters — Mike Myers and Stephan James.

Myers, who plays a record executive in “Bohemian Rhapsody,” did a “Wayne’s World” bit with Dana Carvey onstage as they presented the film as a best-picture nominee.

“Wayne’s World” features a famous scene in which the duo’s rock-worshipping characters sing “Bohemian Rhapsody” in their car.

“‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ played a large part in the success of ‘Wayne’s World,'” said Myers, wearing his Order of Canada pin.

“We’re humbled to be associated with that brilliant song.”

Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press


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Gloria Vanderbilt, heiress, jeans queen, dies at 95

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NEW YORK — Gloria Vanderbilt, the intrepid heiress, artist and romantic who began her extraordinary life as the “poor little rich girl” of the Great Depression, survived family tragedy and multiple marriages and reigned during the 1970s and ’80s as a designer jeans pioneer, died Monday at the age of 95.

Vanderbilt was the great-great-granddaughter of financier Cornelius Vanderbilt and the mother of CNN newsman Anderson Cooper, who announced her death via a first-person obituary that aired on the network Monday morning.

Cooper said Vanderbilt died at home with friends and family at her side. She had been suffering from advanced stomach cancer, he noted.

“Gloria Vanderbilt was an extraordinary woman, who loved life, and lived it on her own terms,” Cooper said in a statement. “She was a painter, a writer, and designer but also a remarkable mother, wife, and friend. She was 95 years old, but ask anyone close to her, and they’d tell you, she was the youngest person they knew, the coolest, and most modern.”

Her life was chronicled in sensational headlines from her childhood through four marriages and three divorces. She married for the first time at 17, causing her aunt to disinherit her. Her husbands included Leopold Stokowski, the celebrated conductor, and Sidney Lumet, the award-winning movie and television director. In 1988, she witnessed the suicide of one of her four sons.

Tributes online came from celebrities and fans of her clothes alike. Alyssa Milano called her “an incredible woman,” Dana Delany said she treasures one of her paintings and one Twitter user mourned by remembering the canary Vanderbilt jeans she wore in junior high school.

Vanderbilt was a talented painter and collagist who also acted on the stage (“The Time of Your Life” on Broadway) and television (“Playhouse 90,” ”Studio One,” ”Kraft Theater,” ”U.S. Steel Hour”). She was a fabric designer who became an early enthusiast for designer denim. The dark-haired, tall and ultra-thin Vanderbilt partnered with Mohan Murjani, who introduced a $1 million advertising campaign in 1978 that turned the Gloria Vanderbilt brand with its signature white swan label into a sensation.

At its peak in 1980, it was generating over $200 million in sales. And decades later, famous-name designer jeans — dressed up or down — remain a woman’s wardrobe staple.

Vanderbilt wrote several books, including the 2004 chronicle of her love life: “It Seemed Important at the Time: A Romance Memoir,” which drops such names as Errol Flynn, whom she dated as a teenager; Frank Sinatra, for whom she left Stokowski; Marlon Brando and Howard Hughes.

She claimed her only happy marriage was to author Wyatt Cooper, which ended with his death in 1978 at age 50. Son Anderson Cooper called her memoir “a terrific book; it’s like an older ‘Sex and the City.'”

“I’ve had many, many loves,” Vanderbilt told The Associated Press in a 2004 interview. “I always feel that something wonderful is going to happen. And it always does.”

Noting her father’s death when she was a toddler, she said: “If you don’t have a father, you don’t miss it, because you don’t know what it is. It was really only when I married Wyatt Cooper that I understood what it was like to have a father, because he was just an extraordinary father.”

In 2016, Vanderbilt and Anderson Cooper appeared together in the HBO documentary “Nothing Left Unsaid.”

Gloria Laura Madeleine Sophie Vanderbilt was born in 1924, a century after her great-great-grandfather started the family fortune, first in steamships, later in railroads. He left around $100 million when he died in 1877 at age 82.

Her father, Reginald Claypoole Vanderbilt, was 43, a gambler and boozer dying of liver disease when he married Gloria Morgan, 19, in 1923. Their daughter was 1 when Vanderbilt died in 1925, having gone through $25 million in 14 years.

Beneficiary of a $5 million trust fund, Vanderbilt became the “poor little rich girl” in 1934 at age 10 as the object of a custody fight between her globe-trotting mother and matriarchal aunt.

The aunt, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, 59, who controlled $78 million and founded the Whitney Museum of American Art, won custody of her niece.

A shocked judge had closed the trial when a maid accused the child’s mother of a lesbian affair with a member of the British royal family. The fight was chronicled in the bestselling 1980 book “Little Gloria … Happy at Last,” made into a TV miniseries in 1982 with Angela Lansbury playing Whitney.

The “poor little rich girl” nickname “bothered me enormously,” Vanderbilt told The Associated Press in 2016. “I didn’t see any of the press — the newspapers were kept from me. I didn’t know what it meant. I didn’t feel poor and I didn’t feel rich. It really did influence me enormously to make something of my life when I realized what it meant.”

After spending the next seven years on her aunt’s Long Island estate, Vanderbilt went to Hollywood. She dated celebrities and declared she would marry Hughes. Instead, the 17-year-old wed Hughes’ press agent, Pasquale di Cicco, prompting her aunt to cut Gloria out of her will.

Vanderbilt came into her own $5 million trust fund in 1945 at age 21. She also divorced Di Cicco, whom she said had beaten her often, and the next day married the 63-year-old Stokowski. The marriage to the conductor lasted 10 years and produced two sons, Stanislaus and Christopher.

After her marriage broke up, Vanderbilt found herself embroiled in another custody case, this time as the mother. During the closed hearings, Stokowski accused Vanderbilt of spending too much time at parties and too little with the boys. She accused him of tyrannizing his sons and said he really was 85, and not 72 as he claimed.

Justice Edgar Nathan Jr. gave Vanderbilt full-time custody. But he commented that the court had wasted a month on “the resolution of problems which mature, intelligent parents should be able to work out for themselves.”

Vanderbilt married Lumet in 1956 and lived with him and her children in a 10-room duplex penthouse on Gracie Square. She divorced Lumet and married Cooper in 1963.

Their elder son, Carter, a Princeton graduate and editor at American Heritage, killed himself in 1988 at age 23, leaping from his mother’s 14th floor apartment as she tried to stop him. Police said he had been treated for depression and friends said he was despondent over a break-up with a girlfriend. Vanderbilt says in “Nothing Left Unsaid” that she contemplated following him, but the thought of how it would devastate Anderson stopped her.

After her success in designer jeans, Vanderbilt branched out into other areas, including shoes, scarves, table and bed linens, and china, through her company, Gloria Concepts. In 1988 Vanderbilt joined the designer fragrance market with her signature “Glorious.”

By the late 1980s, Vanderbilt sold the name and licenses for the brand name “Gloria Vanderbilt” to Gitano, who transferred it to a group of private investors in 1993. More recently, her stretch jeans have been licensed through Jones Apparel Group Inc., which acquired Gloria Vanderbilt Apparel Corp. in 2002 for $138 million.

Vanderbilt became the target of a swindle in the late 1970s and early ’80s when she made her psychiatrist and a lawyer associates in her business affairs. A court held that the two had looted millions from Vanderbilt’s bank accounts.

Vanderbilt also made headlines in 1980 when she filed, but later dropped, a discrimination complaint against the posh River House apartments, which had rejected her bid to buy a $1.1 million duplex. She claimed the board was worried that black singer Bobby Short, who appeared with her on TV commercials, might marry her.

In 2009, the 85-year-old Vanderbilt penned a new novel, “Obsession: An Erotic Tale,” a graphic tale about an architect’s widow who discovers a cache of her husband’s letters that reveal his secret sex life.

In an interview with The New York Times, she said she wasn’t embarrassed about the explicitness of her new book, saying: “I don’t think age has anything to do with what you write about. The only thing that would embarrass me is bad writing, and the only thing that really concerned me was my children. You know how children can be about their parents. But mine are very intelligent and supportive.”

Ula Ilnytzky, The Associated Press




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Friends in high places: Garth Brooks adds show after Saskatchewan premier asks

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REGINA — Country music legend Garth Brooks will be in Saskatchewan a little longer this summer thanks to the premier.

A statement from Brooks says he has added a second August concert in Regina at the request of Scott Moe.

The singer’s Aug. 10 concert sold out in 59 minutes.

The added show is to take place on Aug. 9.

After the second show was announced, Moe said on Twitter: “Great News Saskatchewan!”

It will be the first time Brooks will headline a concert in Regina and the first time Mosaic Stadium is the venue for a country music concert.

The Canadian Press

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