Canada versus Iran at the Oscars
For the second year in a row, a Quebec movie based on an immigrant-themed play scored an Oscar nod for Best Foreign Language Film. Last year it was Incendies; this year it’s Philippe Falardeau’s Monsieur Lazhar, about an Algerian refugee who takes over a Montreal classroom from a teacher who has committed suicide. Falardeau is competing with the Holocaust drama In Darkness, a Canadian co-production by Poland’s Agnieszka Holland. But Falardeau realizes Iran’s A Separation is the overwhelming favourite. He says he saw it, “hoping to find flaws,” but didn’t see any.
For Queen and country
British PM David Cameron is rattling sabres over the Falkland Islands, that troublesome bit of rock down Argentina way, just as Margaret Thatcher did 30 years ago. Cameron vowed to protect the 2,900 residents of the British-owned islands, promising to react “quickly and flexibly” to any incursion by Argentina. Its president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, wants to wrest the Falklands from Britain, “a crude colonial power in decline” in her view. Thatcher, of course, went to war, in a conflict that cost 900 lives on both sides. Notably, Prince William, an RAF flight lieutenant, is to be posted to the remote outcrop as a search and rescue helicopter pilot for six weeks in February and March.
She’ll always have Paris It was, perhaps, inevitable, but Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani said Iranian authorities have told her she can’t go home again. Her sin was posing in the French magazine Madame Le Figaro wearing as much clothing as one of the women on the cover of a recent Maclean’s. Which is to say, wearing nothing at all. The nude, though not terribly revealing photo, was a symbolic protest against the treatment of Iranian women. Farahani, who co-starred with Leonardo DiCaprio in Body of Lies, moved to Paris last year, frustrated by the ultra-conservative strictures of Iranian cinema under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The hacked hack back
Even for embattled media mogul Rupert Murdoch, £10 million is rather more than petty cash. That is the estimated amount that News Corporation, publisher of the now-defunct News of the World, will eventually pay out to some 800 victims of the phone hacking scandal at the tabloid. Adding to Murdoch’s humiliation were the grovelling apologies issued in court last week to 17 of the aggrieved. Among the early settlements in advance of a looming civil trial for those whose phone messages were hacked: actor Jude Law, £130,000; Guy Pelly, a friend of Prince Harry, £40,000; John Prescott, former British deputy prime minister, £40,000. “Lives have been severely affected by this cavalier approach to private information and the law,” said Tamsin Allen, a lawyer representing eight of the victims.
You only die twice, maybe
After 14 years, Priceline, the Internet travel discounter, is killing off the semi-indestructible William Shatner. The 80-year-old Montreal-born actor and “Priceline Negotiator” dies a heroic death in a new 30-second TV spot, as he rescues vacationers from a teetering bus. “Save yourselves—some money,” he exhorts, before handing off his cellphone as he and the bus plunge off a bridge to a fiery demise. Shatner is a victim of Priceline’s changing strategy: an emphasis on fixed discount prices rather than customer-negotiated deals, CEO Christopher Soder told the Associated Press. Shatner seemed unfazed by his death. “It’s not the first time I’ve had an iconic character die off,” he said, referring to the late James T. Kirk of the Star Trek series. In mid-February, Shatner rises from the ashes to star on Broadway in a one-man autobiographical show, Shatner’s World: We Just Live In It.
Baby Doc’s missed house calls
During his ruthless reign, former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier treated the country as his fiefdom. So it’s no surprise he defines “house arrest” in very loose terms. Since his surprise return to Haiti last January after 25 years in France, he isn’t authorized to leave Port-au-Prince while under investigation for such crimes as torture, kidnapping and murder. Yet he’s often spotted cruising in an SUV, or basking at the beach. Last month, in a move both illegal and ironic, he travelled into the countryside to deliver a law school commencement speech. An angry Judge Carves Jean warned he’ll “be going straight to the national penitentiary” if he wanders again, the Associated Press reported. Haitian authorities will decide within a month if Duvalier will finally face trial, or if charges will be dropped.
O captain! My captain!
One of the rare defenders of wayward cruise captain Francesco Schettino is Domnica Cemortan, the ship-shapely dancer and “Moldovan mystery woman” who has the Italian media aflutter. By various conflicting reports she and the married Schettino wined and dined together before he piled the cruise liner Costa Concordia on the rocks off Italy’s Giglio Island, at the cost of many lives. Or she was on the bridge at impact. Or afterwards. It’s no mystery at all, says Cemortan. There was no dinner, or romance, says the 25-year-old cruise passenger representative. She was summoned to the bridge after the grounding to help with the evacuation, and because of her knowledge of Russian, she says. She called Schettino a “hero” who saved many lives—presumably before his unlucky fall into a lifeboat.
Keep on truckin’
Little information gets out of official Ottawa without approval of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office. Contrast that to Sweden, where authorities gave the keys to the kingdom, or at least to @sweden, the national Twitter account, to Hanna Farge. Farge, who describes herself as “just your average lesbian truck driver,” tweeted up an English-language storm last week. It’s part of “Curators of Sweden,” a campaign by the national tourism bureau. A weekly rotation of everyday Swedes will share their voice with the world. Farge used her week to showcase the country’s tolerant, freewheeling spirit. “I may be lucky,” she tweeted Friday, “but I haven’t really met any homophobia here in Sweden; people seem cool about it.”
Luke Strimbold, at 21, is the youngest mayor in B.C. history. Last week, the Burns Lake mayor cut short a trip to Vancouver to deal with an unprecedented tragedy: an explosion had ripped through a local sawmill, Burns Lake’s main employer, killing two, and injuring 19 others. “We have hope we can bridge the gap between now and a new mill,” said Strimbold—“and then also hope that there’s a future to our economy in Burns Lake.”
There is a fine line, the world was reminded last week, between genius and eccentricity. Internet millionaire Kim Dotcom, née Schmitz, was arrested by U.S. authorities in his secluded New Zealand mansion. The German-born hacker playboy didn’t make it easy for them. When Dotcom, accused of facilitating illegal downloads through Megaupload, the file-sharing site he created, saw police, he ran inside, activating a series of electronic locks, barricading himself in a safe room. Police seized $4.8 million in luxury cars, including a pink Cadillac, from Dotcom, currently ranked the world’s No. 1 Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 player.
Put a lid on it
In the world of pro hockey, taking pre-game warm-ups sans helmet is largely standard practice, a chance for players to feel the wind in their hair. For many, that changed in a hurry last week after a freak collision between Edmonton Oiler phenom Taylor Hall and teammate Corey Potter before the start of a game in Columbus. A slash from Potter’s skate left Hall with a blackened, swollen left eye and a Frankensteinian row of stitches snaking up his forehead. “I looked a lot better before, but what can you do?” he said. By the next game, all Oilers donned helmets for warm-up. Some teams, including the Colorado Avalanche, now mandate helmets; others, like the Vancouver Canucks, leave it to the players. Centre Ryan Kesler just missed having his head taken off by an errant puck last weekend, “so I decided it’s not that big a deal to throw a bucket on.”
Add lard, and a dash of cynicism
Celebrity chef Paula Deen is feeling the heat after admitting last week that she’s had type 2 diabetes for three years, while continuing to shovel fat and sugar into her Southern-style cooking on the Food Network. Hackles were raised when she announced she’s signed a lucrative deal to be the chubby face of diabetes drug-maker Novo Nordisk. When the knives started flying, she said a portion of the proceeds would go to the American Diabetes Association, though it was news to the organization. The news outraged chef Anthony Bourdain, who tweeted a needle-sharp response: “Thinking of getting into the leg-breaking business, so I can profitably sell crutches later.”
Simply the best
Not only did he capture his fifth Canadian title, but Patrick Chan also picked up figure skating’s highest-ever mark—302.14 points—last week. The 21-year-old credits a New Year’s Eve trip to Las Vegas for getting his skating back on track: “It marked the end of a rough season and the beginning of a new one.”