IGN Fan Fest: Celebrate the Year in Games with IGN This December

Come ring in the year in games at IGN’s Fan Fest, presented by Kellogg’s Wild Berry Froot Loops, an event to celebrate gaming fandom with all of our fans! The industry’s biggest personalities will be there and we want you to join us on Friday, December 7 in Los Angeles, California. The party starts at 6pm at the Globe Theatre Los Angeles, and you can find more info on this event page.

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Goldenvoice Cancels FYF Fest

The 15th anniversary edition of FYF Fest, set to take place in Los Angeles in July, has been canceled, it was announced Sunday. The fest was set to feature Janet Jackson, Florence + the Machine, and Future, but a statement posted to the FYF Fest website said Goldenvoice and parent company AEG “felt unable to present […]

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Film Fest Moderator Booed For Asking Michelle Pfeiffer About Her Weight

The audience ripped apart a question about actress dropping pounds for her character at a “Scarface” reunion.
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Amateurs’ Tops the Goteborg Film Fest

GOTEBORG, Sweden — Vibrant festival opener “Amateurs” from Swedish helmer Gabriela Pichler came away a big winner at the 41st Goteborg Film Festival, scoring the generously endowed (approx. $ 126,000) Dragon Award for Best Nordic Film. The film also nabbed the Swedish Church’s Angelos Award, which includes an additional cash prize. Pichler’s sophomore feature is set […]

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Alfonso Cuarón on the Lumière Fest, ‘The Shape of Water,’ His Upcoming Film, and Mexico Earthquake Fundraising

For Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón, the Lumière Film Festival in Lyon is not only an event that celebrates cinema but also a relaxing opportunity to catch up with old friends without the stress of the film industry’s business aspects. “It’s beloved by filmmakers because it’s a cinephile festival,” Cuarón told Variety. “It’s not competitive. It’s […]

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‘Scary Mother’ Takes Top Nod at Egypt’s Inaugural El Gouna Fest Attended by Forest Whitaker

ROME — The first edition of Egypt’s ambitious El Gouna Film Festival wrapped on a positive note Friday with psychological thriller “Scary Mother,” by Georgian first-time director Ana Urushadze, taking its Golden Star, the top feature film competition prize, awarded by a jury headed by U.S. producer Sarah Johnson (“Birdman”). Oscar-winning actor-director Forest Whitaker was celebrated […]

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Sundance Next Fest to Include Conversations with Ava DuVernay, Larry Wilmore

Ava DuVernay and Larry Willmore have been added to the lineup of Sundance Next Fest, which runs Aug. 10-13 at Los Angeles’ Theatre at Ace Hotel. Conversations between talented filmmakers, music video world premieres and three female comedians as hosts are part of the slate. On Aug. 12, DuVernay will join “Gook” director Justin Chon in… Read more »

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Marrakech Fest Salutes Director Abdellah Masbahi, Comedian Abderrahim Tounsi

MARRAKECH, Morocco — The 16th Marrakech Festival paid tribute on Tuesday to the late director-producer Abdellah Masbahi, and 80-year old comedy actor Abderrahim Tounsi. Often known as Abderraouf, Tounsi created a Moroccan Chaplin-style character that was hugely popular in the 1970s and early 1980s, typically wearing a red hat as he represented the humble “fool”… Read more »

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They Are Wearing: Afropunk Fest in Brooklyn

The two-day Afropunk Festival — “a weekend of live music, vibrant art and good vibes” — has been known to bring out some of the most expressive and original street style in Brooklyn. The 11th annual festival, held this past Saturday and Sunday in Fort Greene’s Commodore Barry Park, was no exception, offering up plenty of eclectic, electric style. As Lenny Kravitz, Grace Jones, Lauryn Hill, Danny Brown, SZA and other artists performed, festivalgoers competed for sartorial attention with vibrantly hued head wraps and dashikis, bold eyewear, chunky jewelry and imaginatively colored hair. It was a celebration of both individuality and community — cool confidence on a hot summer weekend.

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Kanye West Brings Rihanna Onstage For Surprise Performance At FYF Fest

Kanye West just pulled a Taylor Swift. 

During his performance at FYF Fest on Saturday in Los Angeles, the rapper (who filled in for Frank Ocean) surprised the audience when he brought Rihanna onstage with him. The resident bad gal also seemed surprised, as she was just taking in the show from the crowd.

But like the pro she is, RiRi took the mic when West handed it to her during his performance of “FourFiveSeconds,” which she’s featured on. She then turned to the crowd and said, “LA, make some noise for my n***a Kanye!” 

The rapper, who’s married to reality queen Kim Kardashian, also got the Barbadian performer up onstage to sing her part of “All of the Lights.” Naturally, the audience went nuts. 

You can check out some video highlights below:

West was a last-minute addition to the roster, stepping in for Ocean, who dropped out last week, Gossip Cop reported.

 ”We’re really sorry that due to a scheduling conflict beyond our control, Frank Ocean is not going to be able to appear at FYF Festival as planned,” Ocean’s reps said in a statement obtained by Entertainment Weekly.

They added that he “had really been looking forward to the performance and to seeing all of his fans.” But West paid homage to his fellow hip-hop artist by opening his set with the track “No Church in the Wild,” which features Ocean’s vocals. 

Kanye West to the rescue — all day, all day. 

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America’s Best Muslim Comedians To Star In First-Ever Muslim Funny Fest

What do Muslims in America have to laugh about?

Quite a lot, say the organizers of New York City’s — and possibly America’s — first-ever Muslim stand-up comedy festival.

The Muslim Funny Fest, slated to take place between July 21 and 23, will bring 14 Muslim entertainers together for a bit of comic relief. 

Dean Obeidallah and Maysoon Zayid, the two comedians co-producing the event, have been putting together the New York Arab American Comedy Festival for the past 11 years. But this year, they felt it was important to rally around the shared experience of growing up Muslim in America, and use comedy to process that experience.

“Even though all the comedians are Muslims, we all have very different experiences, whether it is the culture we grew up in or the extent to which we practice our faith,” Zayid told The Huffington Post. “The common link that, sadly, brings us together is the bigotry and hatred we are currently experiencing as American Muslims, and I am hoping that the Muslim Funny Fest will do something to dilute that hate.” 

American attitudes toward Muslims have taken a turn for the worse in recent years.

In 2010, close to half of Muslim-Americans said they’d experienced some form of personal racial or religious discrimination. And Muslims are viewed more coldly than any other major religious group in the country, according to a 2014 Pew Research Center poll.

“The United States is scared of two things: black people and Muslims,” comedian Preacher Moss says in a trailer for the fest. “I’ve got the best of both worlds.” 

The festival will feature stars like Negin Farsad, a producer, actor and social justice activist, “Mo” Amer, who was part of the comedy tour “Allah Made Me Funny,” and Azhar Usman, a former attorney who has performed stand-up on five continents.

Obeidallah said that one of his biggest hopes for the festival is that the audience is diverse and that it includes non-Muslims of many faiths and backgrounds. 

“We felt really strongly the need to show people that Muslims can be funny, that we have a sense of humor, and most importantly, that we can laugh at ourselves,” he said.  

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Bill Nye Announces the 2015 Fun Fun Fun Fest Lineup and Explains the Axis of Fun

Nothing validates a claim quite like hard facts from a scientist, which is why Fun Fun Fun Fest, Austin’s popular cross-genre Indie music festival, hand-picked Bill Nye to announce the 2015 lineup and provide evidence that this fest is, in fact, the most fun in all the land.

Fun Fun Fun X from funfunfunfestival on Vimeo.

Although The Science Guy clearly has the chops to crunch the numbers and appears to be all up in pop culture these days, how exactly did he end up as an ambassador for this fest?

“About 2 years ago, I wanted to find a better way of showing folks that FFF was different than other festivals, because I really believe that it is. It’s not a very credible thought coming from me though,” explains co-founder James Moody. “So we decided to work with a scientist to basically prove, through science, that FFF was special… and scientifically different from everything else out there. Thankfully Bill Nye agreed, likes tacos, and loves Wu-Tang, so here we are. Because science.”

To slam-dunk the case, Nye employs all the tools in his arsenal such as a Wu-Tang Periodic table, a mind-blowing fun equation and “Quantitative Bummer Observation” metrics to explain his conclusion. With the comedy lineup yet to be announced, it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see him show up on the Yellow stage come November but I don’t have the science to prove it yet.

Check out the video for this year’s lineup and the full demonstration.

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Wilco Lights Up New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Fest

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Wilco

The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival 2015 ended its first day with a bang. And a series of lightning flashes. Then torrential rain, but not before headliners from Wilco to Keith Urban to Jimmy Cliff worked in as much music as they could before the weather shut down their respective stages.

My first stop-in-your-tracks moment was the Kambuka African Dance & Drum Collective thanks to the kind of serendipity that Jazz Fest specializes in providing. You don’t know what’s just around the corner, but it’s always worth making the turn.

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Kambuka African Dance & Drum Collective

“I will rise again, through rain and flood and wind,” Sean Johnson & the Wild Lotus Band sang just before the heavy weather arrived. “The clouds will pass, the sun will shine and I will see again.” The band has a loyal following that ends the set with a sea of waving hands in an annual moment of Zen.

Transitioning from trance to dance, we caught Royal Teeth, newly signed to Electra Records. Guitarist / vocalist Gary Larsen says that after their third year performing at fest, “Each year gets better for us. There’s always a familiar connection we have with the crowd at Jazz Fest because they are our friends and our neighbors. The crowd is there for the dancing and the energy you can only find at a New Orleans festival, so we try to bring out all the stops each year. They welcome us with open arms. It’s an honor to be able to play such a great festival at home and feel the love from our city.” Exuding positivity during their set, Larson told the crowd: “You look beautiful, New Orleans!” Since I had eaten a beignet covered in powdered sugar while wearing black, I resembled a speckled trout but appreciated the sentiment.

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Royal Teeth

Next, we headed to the WWOZ Jazz Tent in case of rain and because New Orleans native son Nicholas Payton nearly blew the tent-top off with his Nicholas Payton Trio featuring Vicente Archer on bass and Bill Stewart on drums. Payton’s new album is titled Numbers, and #5 was a triumph. Payton refers to his genre as Black American Music (#BAM) rather than jazz. Since the state of jazz ends up hotly debated before, during and after Jazz Fest every year, what it is called may as well be part of that conversation.

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Nicholas Payton Trio

David Fricke, marking 30 years at Rolling Stone Magazine, is one of many writers whose festival interviews have given audiences a look behind the scenes over the years. After one of Wilco’s previous Jazz Fest appearances, he interviewed bassist John Stirratt and asked what new albums were inspiring him. Stirratt mentioned legendary songwriter Bobby Charles’ new release. When my husband told Dr. John about the shout out, he called Bobby to pass along the compliment. Their phone conversations were always long and legendary. At one point Dr. John clarified to Bobby: “Wilco … No, NOT a washing machine!! …” Once that was cleared up, Bobby was happy to know he was remembered and we got to tell Stirratt that Bobby Charles thought his band was an appliance. Bobby died later that year, so it was meaningful that he had the chance to hear the praise from a fellow Louisiana native.

Wilco remains as popular at Jazz Fest as they are in their hometown of Chicago, and after today the band has four Fest appearances under their belt. Jeff Tweedy told the crowd: “I don’t know how many times we’ve played here but this feels like the best.” He then gave a shout to an audience member whose sign read: “It could be worse” and said: “That’s our motto. Did you know that? On our guitar pics it says: “It could be worse. We wanted to send a message that hopeful, but not TOO hopeful.”

The band then launched into “Secrets of the Sea” while the crowd watched the clouds gather. It felt just hopeful enough.

Photos by Jeff Beninato

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In the New York Film Fest the Outsize Egos of Artists Rule

There’s sometimes a common theme or recurring character that threads through a film festival. This can be especially striking in a fest as tightly curated as the New York Film Festival. Such convergences usually happen by accident, according to Kent Jones, director of programming at the NYFF.

Often… what it has to do with is the time. Obviously, when people are all making movies at the same time, it’s inevitable that some of them are going to be responding to similar events, occurrences… what’s happening on the horizon… you get movies that talk to each other and that’s always great.

I’m not sure how it’s related to the times, but the 52nd New York Film Fest abounds in characters who make art — on the page, in a concert hall, in movies and theater, or on a canvas. Why so many artists inhabit the fest lineup in this supremely materialistic age I’m not sure. Like most everything, it’s likely connected with the modern plague of economic inequity. Yes, the folks who increasingly own much of the planet can “buy” an artist. But no one can buy talent. Thus the artist’s become a sort of unlikely hero for our times.

Top ranked among these artist-centric films is the not-to-be-missed Mr. Turner by Mike Leigh. It resurrects JMW Turner, the English Romantic landscape painter (late 1700’s to the mid 1800s) known as “the painter of light,” along with a supporting cast of eccentrics to delight Dickens. Awarded Best Actor at Cannes, the superb Timothy Spall captures Turner in his last 25 years in all his curmudgeonly glory. The film departs from Leigh’s trademark loosey goosey accounts of Britain’s working and underclass, harking back to the meticulous period recreation of Topsy Turvy and Gilbert and Sullivan’s creation of The Mikado.

Some will find Turner plotless — but in fact, Turner offers a deep-in plot, as Leigh traces an artist’s inner journey to push his gift to its farthest limits. And going the distance means, for Turner, to hell with everyone else! Leigh’s portrait is unsparing in its revelations of Turner’s odious treatment of a cast-off wife and daughters, as well as a devoted woman servant he occasionally humps like a beast.

This sorry business is leavened by an interlude depicting Turner’s rather charming romance with his landlady at the seaside town of Margate, the inspirational site of much of his work. Leigh drenches the screen in images that arguably make Turner the most gorgeous film of the year. On display are not just the glorious landscapes — Leigh and his brilliant production designer and DP Dick Pope have bottled and put up on the screen nothing less than the palette and light of Turner’s paintings ; the viewer is literally bathed in them.

There are brief, throwaway images — Turner sitting in a boat on a shadowed pond amidst shafts of light, anyone? — that will make you sit up and gasp. Timothy Spall’s ingenious arsenal of grunts seems the perfect “language” to convey his unique style of courtship, dismissal of critics, struggle to surpass his own art — and the sheer difficulty of living.

Featuring Jason Schwartzman as a Philip Rothian-type novelist, Listen Up, Philip offers a way less illuminating portrait of the artist’s swollen ego. Much of Alex Ross Perry’s film tracks the interaction of the writer as self-centered shit with his live-in girlfriend Elizabeth Moss (miscast and misused). Jonathan Pryce, an older, once-eminent writer who has equally alienated most everyone, invites Philip to his upstate country house to write and regroup. This leads to a college teaching gig that gives Philip a fresh opportunity to play toxic boyfriend.

The film’s fearless display of metastatic ego and satire of things literary is, I suppose, good for a few hollow laughs. And a drunken bacchanal involving Schwartzman, Pryce, and two game women they’ve picked up at a singles event is shot in lurching, tipsy verite. But the treatment of the women as mere furniture in a male escapade — they literally get tossed out into the night — leaves a sour taste. And if I never see a woman tearing up over some asshole behaving badly, even if he is a literary genius, it won’t be too soon. Perry’s quirky, off-balance style offers a welcome antidote to canned studio fare. Even so, how did his minor effort make the fest’s main slate?

Musical artists take center stage in Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash. Anchored by Miles Teller and his awards-fodder turn as a jazz drummer, this may just be the feelgood film of the year. This despite the suffering the artist-musician undergoes in his drive for perfection. I have nothing to add to the glowing reviews, except: great screenplay, great acting, jazz to die for — what’s not to love? It’s in theaters. Go see it.

Then there’s the curious case of NYFF closer Birdman. A departure in style for gloom mongering Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, it’s an antic, literally high-flying account of a former iconic film star’s attempt to make a comeback by mounting a Broadway play. Given all the buzz and plaudits from the Venice Film Fest, I came with high expectations. Just think: Michael Keaton in a barn burning role that parallels his own Batmanic past as a movie franchise star; Edward Norton as a loose cannon of an actor intent on screwing up Keaton’s production of a play based on a story by Raymond Carver; and presiding over it all, the genius of D.P. Emmanuel Lubezki (Gravity, The Tree of Life).

The seamless sweep of the camera tunneling through the backstage corridors and planing over the great old theaters of Broadway — not to mention Keaton taking to the sky, birdman style, in cunning CG segments — gives the illusion of a film created in a single take. But will the average moviegoer get that? I doubt it. They’ll get the adrenalin rush, but not the technical leger-de-main. Sometimes programmers paint themselves into a vacuum.

As Keaton’s strung-out daughter, Emma Stone uncorks an impassioned monologue about how the viral world has made old dad obsolete (a highlight, though her features are so harsh they belong on Mount Rushmore). Stone’s tirade echos and “talks to” a similar one by Kristen Stewart giving Juliette Binoche the news that she and her ilk are old school, over.

Less riveting is the ego battle between Keaton and Edward Norton, the latter scampering about in his skivvies, displaying a gut in need of gym time. Birdman unwittingly betrays a disgust with human bodies; Norton’s come-on line, “play with my balls,” stands in for witty repartee. The women revolving around the two alpha males, including an ex wife, abandoned gf, and hot-to-trot daughter, are too carelessly drawn to engage us. Given the many challenges of life in 21st century America, it’s no wonder that Birdman takes to the skies.
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Robert Plant, Big Freedia Rock: Good Day for Golden Gods and Goddesses at Jazz Fest

Robert Plant was in fine form closing out the stage at Saturday’s New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, with Phish jamming across the track for hours. From Led Zepplin classics to thoughtfully curated covers, he did not disappoint. AXS Review: Here.


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Robert Plant

***

Big Freedia, a force of nature if ever there was one, performed before Robin Thicke’s set but it won’t be long before the New Orleans native is closing out a Jazz Fest stage while bringing down the house. She bounced through a sizzling set in honor of her mother. AXS Review: Here.

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Big Freedia

***

New Orleans native Kermit Ruffins was full of Kermitude, advising fellow trumpet player Irvin Mayfield to “stay well away from my wife,” and joking that “he follows me everywhere. With a trumpet as smoking as Kermit’s, you can stay as unfiltered as you like. He shared with the audience that he was only half stoned on account of the Jazz Fest gig.

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Kermit Ruffins

***

Jazz Fest is saluting the music and culture of Brazil this year and, as ever, you never know who or what may be coming around the track. The samba beat goes on.

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Photos by Jeff Beninato
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Carlos Santana rocks New Orleans Jazz Fest Day 1

The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival day one wrapped with a combination of die-hard Carlos Santana fans one of which is festival Executive Producer Quint Davis who ended up playing maracas with the band; and The Avett Brother whose fans cleared a path as Seth Avett jumped from the stage to the crowd and jammed while strolling, in an interesting Mosesish maneuver.

Ticket prices are up to $ 70 at the gate this year, and some press coverage asked in advance how the crowds would bear up with the cost. They apparently bore up just fine. The first-day crowd that felt more like a Sunday to this local. The sandy racetrack was lined with kids making sandcastles, as always. Food lines snaked further out to the track as patrons lined up for their favorite seafood combo, as always. And THAT GUY, the one with hair that’s business in the front and party in the back as he rocks his unbuttoned vintage red bean Bayou Wear shirt and boogies through the artist entrance was there, as always.

I’ve been thinking of what it is that draw the crowds back to the festival year after year. The writer I was standing next to at the scorchingly wonderful Reubén Blades set has been coming to Jazz Fest for all its 45 years. There she was, stage-side, waving at Quint as he introduced the band. As always. And that’s what brings the crowds back. There’s not a lot of As Always to depend on these days.

Yes, there are more Coachella-styled teens with flower wreath headbands spinning along the track. Hippies may eventually give way to hipsters and it’s going to be fascinating to see where they go with Jazz Fest as it strides through middle age. But the music will still be there, no matter what turn the granddaddy of music festivals takes.

As always.

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Carlos Santana


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Leah Chase

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Shamarr Allen with his music students (guest John Popper sat in next)

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The Avett Brothers

All photos by Jeff Beninato
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