The first black female garden designer in the 103-year history of the Chelsea Flower Show has won a gold medal.
Juliet Sargeant’s “Modern Slavery” garden — in the “Fresh Garden” category — was designed to raise awareness of the plight of people in Britain being held captive and forced to work. The brightly coloured doors and flowers look like those of a normal British street, but they surround a bleak centre.
An English oak tree honours politician William Wilberforce, who stood under such a tree when he dedicated his life to abolishing slavery in the 1800s.
Before her win, Sargeant criticised the dominance of white, middle-class people “with double-barrelled names” in the upper echelons and media representations of gardening. She called upon the Royal Horticultural Society to do more to promote diversity within the gardening community.
“People in the last few years have been asking why there aren’t more women garden designers and the same with young people, but to date nobody has really asked the question about ethnic minorities and different cultures,” she told The Telegraph.
“The horticultural industry is quite a traditional industry and it does seem to lag behind a bit.”
She said people of diverse cultures and communities enjoy gardening in modern Britain, but television shows and articles don’t represent these people.
Continue to read more about Juliet Sargeant on Mashable.
Former Empire actor and red carpet scientist Terrence Howard is currently visiting Uganda as part of a government effort to draw investors from the African diaspora to the nation. He is claiming he has what it needs to change the world.
According to Vice, Howard made a lofty presentation on Wednesday, July 13, addressing officials and claiming to have developed a “new hydrogen technology.”
Famously, Howard argued in Rolling Stone that one times one equals two, and now he says his new system, The Lynchpin, would be able to clean the ocean and defend Uganda from exploitation via cutting-edge drone technology. The proprietary technology he announced in a 2021 press release is said to hold 86 patents.
“I was able to identify the grand unified field equation they’ve been looking for and put it into geometry,” he shared in front of an audience of Ugandan dignitaries. “We’re talking about unlimited bonding, unlimited predictable structures, supersymmetry.”
“The Lynchpins are now able to behave as a swarm, as a colony, that can defend a nation, that can harvest food, that can remove plastics from the ocean, that can give the children of Uganda and the people of Uganda an opportunity to spread this and sell these products throughout the world,” he added.
Howard, who briefly quit acting in 2019 only to come out of retirement in 2020, has seemingly made rewriting history a personal side hustle. According to Vice, he made nebulous claims that rapidly went viral on social media, saying, “I’ve made some discoveries in my own personal life with the science that, y’know, Pythagoras was searching for. I was able to open up the flower of life properly and find the real wave conjugations we’ve been looking for 10,000 years.”
While his latest claims have yet to be clarified, Howard was invited to speak by Frank Tumwebaze, the minister of agriculture, animal industries, and fishery.
A rocket built by Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin carried its fifth group of passengers to the edge of space, including the first-ever Mexican-born woman to make such a journey.
The 60-foot-tall suborbital rocket took off from Blue Origin’s facilities in West Texas at 9:26am ET, vaulting a group of six people to more than 62 miles above the Earth’s surface — which is widely deemed to make the boundary of outer space — and giving them a few minutes of weightlessness before parachuting to landing.
Most of the passengers paid an undisclosed sum for their seats. But Katya Echazarreta, an engineer and science communicator from Guadalajara, Mexico, was selected by a nonprofit called Space for Humanity to join this mission from a pool of thousands of applicants. The organization’s goal is to send “exceptional leaders” to space and allow them to experience the overview effect, a phenomenon frequently reported by astronauts who say that viewing the Earth from space give them a profound shift in perspective.
Echazarreta told CNN Business that she experienced that overview effect “in my own way.”
“Looking down and seeing how everyone is down there, all of our past, all of our mistakes, all of our obstacles, everything — everything is there,” she said. “And the only thing I could think of when I came back down was that I need people to see this. I need Latinas to see this. And I think that it just completely reinforced my mission to continue getting primarily women and people of color up to space and doing whatever it is they want to do.”
Echazarreta is the first Mexican-born woman to travel to space and the second Mexican after Rodolfo Neri Vela, a scientist who joined one of NASA’s Space Shuttle missions in 1985.
She moved to the United States with her family at the age of seven, and she recalls being overwhelmed in a new place where she didn’t speak the language, and a teacher warned her she might have to be held back.
“It just really fueled me and I think ever since then, ever since the third grade, I kind of just went off and have not stopped,” Echazarreta recalled in an Instagram interview.
When she was 17 and 18, Echazarreta said she was also the main breadwinner for her family on a McDonald’s salary.
“I had sometimes up to four [jobs] at the same time, just to try to get through college because it was really important for me,” she said.
These days, Echazarreta is working on her master’s degree in engineering at Johns Hopkins University. She previously worked at NASA’s famed Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. She also boasts a following of more than 330,000 users on TikTok, hosts a science-focused YouTube series and is a presenter on the weekend CBS show “Mission Unstoppable.”
Space for Humanity — which was founded in 2017 by Dylan Taylor, a space investor who recently joined a Blue Origin flight himself — chose her for her impressive contributions. “We were looking for some like people who were leaders in their communities, who have a sphere of influence; people who are doing really great work in the world already, and people who are passionate about whatever that is,” Rachel Lyons, the nonprofit’s executive director, told CNN Business.
The film, which is scheduled to open on Nov. 23, will follow three generations of a family of explorers and take viewers “to a place of infinite mystery unlike anything you’ve ever seen,” according to a trailer released by the studio earlier this month.
Several Hollywood powerhouses have been confirmed as part of the voice cast, including Jake Gyllenhaal, Gabrielle Union, Lucy Liu, Dennis Quaid and Jaboukie Young-White.
On Friday, Disney screened three sequences from the film at the 2022 Annecy International Animation Film Festival, one of the world’s most important festivals for the film animation industry that takes place in the city of Annecy, in southeast France.
In one of them, Ethan (Young-White) flirts with a boy named Diazo in front of his friends, who tease him in a friendly way.
His father, Searcher Clade (Gyllenhaal), later joins in and embarrasses him in “an overeager show of acceptance,” as the scene is described by Variety.
Emmy Award-winning producer Matthieu Saghezchi, who also saw the sequence, wrote on Twitter that the scene is “very endearing” and it’s “treated as the most natural thing in the world.”
“The scene describes the son being very shy in front of his boy crush, and his dad comes in and says “so nice to meet you! my son talks about you all the time” and further embarrasses his son,” Saghezchi wrote. “Very cute.”
The refreshing nod to inclusivity comes as “Lightyear,” the much-anticipated “Toy Story” spinoff, was reportedly banned in 14 countries over a brief same-sex kiss.
The Disney-Pixar computer-animated adventure film starring Chris Evans as the voice of Buzz Lightyear features a kiss between Alisha, voiced by the actress Uzo Aduba, and her wife Kiko.
On Monday, the United Arab Emirates announced that the film would not be shown in the country “due to its violation of the country’s media standards.”
According to Reuters, at least 13 other countries in Asia and the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Indonesia, Malaysia and Lebanon, have also banned the film.
“Lightyear,” which opens in 4,200 North American theaters this weekend, is expected to make between $70 million and $80 million.
Click here to read the full article on Love B Scott.
When you think of futurism, you probably don’t think of the payroll company ADP—but that’s where Giselle Mota works as the company’s principal consultant on the “future of work.” Mota, who has given a Ted Talk(Opens in a new window) and has written(Opens in a new window) for Forbes, is committed to bringing more inclusion and access to the Web3 and metaverse spaces. She’s also been working on a side project called Unhidden, which will provide disabled people with accurate avatars, so they’ll have the option to remain themselves in the metaverse and across Web3.
To See and Be Seen
The goal of Unhidden is to encourage tech companies to be more inclusive, particularly of people with disabilities. The project has launched and already has a partnership with the Wanderland(Opens in a new window) app, which will feature Unhidden avatars through its mixed-reality(Opens in a new window) platform at the VivaTech Conference in Paris and the DisabilityIN Conference in Dallas. The first 12 avatars will come out this summer with Mota, Dr. Tiffany Jana, Brandon Farstein, Tiffany Yu, and other global figures representing disability inclusion.
The above array of individuals is known as the NFTY Collective(Opens in a new window). Its members hail from countries including America, the UK, and Australia, and the collective represents a spectrum of disabilities, ranging from the invisible type, such as bipolar and other forms of neurodiversity, to the more visible, including hypoplasia and dwarfism.
Hypoplasia causes the underdevelopment of an organ or tissue. For Isaac Harvey, the disease manifested by leaving him with no arms and short legs. Harvey uses a wheelchair and is the president of Wheels for Wheelchairs, along with being a video editor. He got involved with Unhidden after being approached by its co-creator along with Mota, Victoria Jenkins, who is an inclusive fashion designer.
Mayim Bialik, best known as the current host of Jeopardy! and as Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler in the smash series The Big Bang Theory, is an honest-to-goodness Renaissance woman.
She’s a neuroscientist, a mother, an animal rights activist and mental health advocate.
An author, actor, game show host and, with the release this spring of As They Made Us, a movie director.
And she’s not done yet.
The Renaissance Woman
In the tradition of Renaissance women from all eras, Bialik is ever diversifying her ambitions, her skill-set, her scope. They’re grounded in science, technology, engineering, the arts and math. Bialik said she didn’t take to science until her teens, when a tutor helped her build a model of a cell out of Styrofoam.
“I could touch that Styrofoam cell,” she told ScienceNewsforStudents. “It was just amazing. It was amazing that it thrilled me the way looking at art thrilled me.”
Nowadays, she added, “I try to put a positive face on STEM and a female face in STEM.”
Bialik, 46, who is modern Orthodox Jewish and a strong supporter of Israel, earned a bachelor of science degree in neuroscience and a doctor of philosophy degree in neuroscience from UCLA. Her dissertation was titled, “Hypothalamic regulation in relation to maladaptive, obsessive-compulsive, affiliative and satiety behaviors in Prader–Willi syndrome.” We’ll break that down later.
She started her acting career as a teen, with roles in Pumpkinhead and Beaches, as well as guest appearances on The Facts of Life, Beauty and the Beast and Webster. In 1994, she earned a major role in Woody Allen’s comedy film, Don’t Drink the Water. She also played the title character of the NBC sitcom, Blossom.
She worked steadily in Hollywood for the next decade before landing her role on The Big Bang Theory, in which she played Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler. She was nominated for Emmy awards in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 and won the Critics’ Choice Television Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series in 2015 and 2017.
In 2021, it was announced that Bialik would host the primetime version of Jeopardy! After Mike Richards stepped down from hosting the syndicated version of the show, Bialik started hosting that version, too, sharing duties with Ken Jennings. Moving forward, it’s unclear how producers will handle the hosting situation, but Bialik said it’s a joy working on the show.
“One of my biggest challenges is I’m so impressed that people know the answers that they’ve asked me to tone down how excited I am when people get them right, which I think is a great note to get,” she told DailyBeast.
Advancing STEAM Through Activism
She also hosts a podcast, Mayim Bialik’sBreakdown, that focuses on debunking the misconceptions surrounding mental health and neurodivergence with the help of friends, guest experts and media personalities.
Bialik is a vegan and a founding member of the Shamayim V’Aretz Institute, a Jewish organization that advocates for the ethical treatment of animals.
Another cause close to her heart is increasing opportunities for girls and women to pursue STEAM educations and careers.
“It’s an incredibly enlightening way to view the world once you’ve been trained in STEM,” Bialik has said. “It’s a smart career choice, and it’s a creative and exciting lifestyle to be a scientist.”
Bialik has written books — such as Girling Up: How to be Strong, Smart and Spectacular — geared toward empowering girls and women, partnered with toy companies to create STEAM-friendly toys for girls and teamed with DeVry University and the HerWorld Initiative to get high school girls excited about STEAM, among other ventures.
“I love encouraging young women to embrace the sciences,” she has said.
What’s her advice to parents and counselors?
“Educate ourselves by using the resources in libraries and online to find new ways to understand our world. Also, encouraging kids to see the hidden STEM opportunities all around them. When we cook or bake, it’s math and chemistry. When we observe weather patterns or even changes in our body, these are all wonders of the STEM awareness kids naturally have!”
Bucking the Stereotypes
Remember her dissertation? In case you scientists, or budding scientists, are wondering what “Hypothalamic regulation in relation to maladaptive, obsessive-compulsive, affiliative and satiety behaviors in Prader–Willi syndrome” means, here’s a breakdown: Abstract Prader–Willi Syndrome is a neurogenetic disorder that causes obesity. The hypothalamus regulates aspects of the nervous system. “Satiety” refers to satiated, or absence of hunger. So Bialik was intrigued by the links between the nervous system, consumption behaviors and obesity in those who deal with Prader–Willi Syndrome.
A mouthful, for sure. But interesting, yes?
Bialik, it seems, bucks easy, simplistic stereotypes, intersecting her social, emotional passions and strengths with the two roles she’s most famous for: actor and scientist.
Has the film she’s directed furthered that tendency? That’s up to viewers to decide, as is a thumbs-up-or-down.
The movie centers on a divorced mother juggling her family’s needs and her own quest for love. Dustin Hoffman, Candice Bergen and Simon Helberg star.
“It’s very vulnerable,” she told TV and radio host Ryan Seacrest. “It’s not an autobiography, but it’s totally things that are based on my life and some things did happen and other things didn’t and… here we go!”
Here’s a passage from film critic Christy Lemire’s review in RogerEbert.com: “As They Made Us is most effective in its gentle, intimate, everyday moments, and Bialik mercifully refrains from melodrama…”
Lemire continues, saying the film “is clearly a personal debut effort for Bialik, but she shows enough confidence behind the camera to make you curious about whatever other stories she has to tell.”
Which provokes, for Bialik fans, a pressing question: What’s her next chapter?
Just days after “Obi-Wan Kenobi” debuted on Disney+ May 27, star Moses Ingram has already received countless hateful social media messages.
Ingram plays a Jedi hunter Inquisitor named Reva, who actively tracks down Ewan McGregor’s Obi-Wan. While Lucasfilm and “Obi-Wan Kenobi” director Deborah Chow anticipated fan hate toward a Black female character, Ingram addressed the onslaught of DMs and comments she has received thus far.
“Long story short, there are hundreds of those. Hundreds,” Ingram said in an Instagram video after screenshotting messages that threatened her and called her racial slurs. “And I also see those of you out there who put on a cape for me and that really does mean the world to me because, you know, there’s nothing anybody can do about this. There’s nothing anybody can do to stop this hate. And so I question my purposes even being here in front of you saying that this is happening.”
Ingram continued, “I don’t really know. I don’t really know. But I think the thing that bothers me is that like, sort of this feeling that I’ve had inside of myself. This feeling that no one has told me, but like I just got to shut up and take it. I just got to bury it. And I’m not built like that. So I really just wanted to come on, I think, and say thank you to the people who show up for me in the comments and the places I’m not going to put myself. And to the rest of y’all, y’all weird.”
Ingram’s Instagram Stories included threats saying her days were “numbered” and slamming her for not being the first Black person in “Star Wars” history.
“You suck, loser. You’re a diversity hire and you won’t be loved or remembered for this acting role,” one message read.
Another said, “How the f**k does an alien know eubonics?”
The “Queen’s Gambit” alum also included a soundbite from “The Read” podcast during which she said: “You know what’s really crazy, you would think sci-fi and fantasy would be the most welcoming, the most accepting genres because they are so often storylines that are ridiculous and made up of like, aliens and weird shit, comic book shit, and n***** having special powers and all that.”
The official “Star Wars” Twitter addressed the backlash to Ingram early Tuesday, posting, “We are proud to welcome Moses Ingram to the Star Wars family and excited for Reva’s story to unfold. If anyone intends to make her feel in any way unwelcome, we have only one thing to say: we resist.”
The “Star Wars” page continued, “There are more than 20 million sentient species in the Star Wars galaxy, don’t choose to be a racist.”
Ingram previously acknowledged that Lucasfilm “actually got in front” of the anticipated racism to her casting. “‘This is a thing that, unfortunately, likely will happen. But we are here to help you; you can let us know when it happens,’” Ingram said earlier this month. “Of course, there are always pockets of hate, but I have no problem with the block button.”
John Boyega and Kelly Marie Tran formerly received racist fan harassment following their respective roles in the recent Skywalker trilogy, leading to Boyega having a “very honest, a very transparent conversation” with Disney executives to not sideline Black and POC characters in the franchise.
Click here to read the full article on Indie Wire.
The month of May holds a special place in the hearts of Asian American and Pacific Islander Star Wars fans. For starters, May has been AAPI Heritage Month since 1990, though it originally began as “Asian Pacific Heritage Week” when it was proposed in Congress by Representatives Frank Horton and Norman Y. Mineta in 1977. That’s right, 1977. You know what else debuted in May 1977?
Before the last three Star Wars movies — Episodes VII and VIII, plus Rogue One — became staples of the Holiday Movie Season, every other film in the Saga was a May release. (This year, Lucasfilm finally returns to tradition when Solo: A Star Wars Story debuts in theaters on May 25). Also, “Star Wars Day” falls every May the Fourth, so naturally, May is Star Wars Month by default. So what better way to honor both AAPI Heritage Month and Star Wars then by going through the history of AAPI representation in the Galaxy Far, Far Away?
The Original Trilogy
It’s no secret that the filmography of Akira Kurosawa had a huge influence on George Lucas’ space opera. Kurosawa’s 1958 film The Hidden Fortress is perhaps the most obvious. Beyond the narrative echoes between the two stories, Lucas had intended to rhyme Star Wars and Hidden Fortress even more by casting the legendary Toshiro Mifune, one of Kurosawa’s frequent collaborators and the star of Hidden Fortress, as either Darth Vader or Obi-Wan Kenobi. Sadly, Mifune turned down the role, and it would be more than two decades before an Asian face would be seen in Star Wars — not counting Nien Nunb or Lieutenant Telsij (the first Asian actor to speak a line of dialogue in any Star Wars movie), of course.
Twenty years later, in the Special Edition of Return of the Jedi, Dalyn Chew became the first actor of Asian descent to have any significant screen time in a Star Wars movie. In an extended musical number inserted into Jedi, Chew plays Lyn Me, one of the backup dancers at Jabba’s Palace. Sure, she doesn’t really have any lines, but she did get more than four seconds of screen time and an action figure!
The Prequel Trilogy
When Lucas returned to the franchise in the late ’90s to tell the backstory of Darth Vader, he also forgot to cast AAPI actors in any significant roles. Aside from Dhruv Chanchani as Ani’s friend Kitster, the only other Asian-coded characters in The Phantom Menace are the Neimoidians and Queen Amidala’s wardrobe. Speaking of Padme’s fetish for Oriental wear, perhaps the filmmakers were trying to make amends for the original queen’s fashion by casting actual Asian and Pacific Islander actresses like Ayesha Dharker and Keisha Castle-Hughes for subsequent Queens of Naboo?
The prequel Attack of the Clones in 2002 was also responsible for the most significant AAPI casting decision to date. In addition to several blink-and-you’ll-miss-them AAPI Jedis, veteran Maori actor Temuera Morrison was chosen to play Jango Fett. Not only was Jango the most heavily marketed character of the prequel sequel, casting Morrison had ripple effects in terms of representation throughout the Saga.
Because Jango was the source for all of the Clone Troopers, that meant beloved characters like Captain Rex from the animated Clone Wars were also coded as Pacific Islander. More significantly, Daniel Logan was cast as the pre-pubescent Boba Fett, meaning the man underneath that iconic helmet from the Original Trilogy was also Maori. A point made even more clearly when Lucas had Morrison redub all of Boba Fett’s lines for all future digital and blu-ray releases of the trilogies and allowed Logan to reprise the role on Clone Wars.
The Force Awakens & Rogue One
In 2012, the Walt Disney Company purchased Lucasfilm and the rights to Star Wars from George Lucas for just over $4 billion. This acquisition signaled a new era in the Star Wars franchise, promising a continuation of the Saga stories but also an interconnected universe of movies, television, comics, and everything in between. Production on the sequel trilogy — the long-promised Episodes VII through IX — began soon after when J.J. Abrams, the man who reinvigorated the moribund Star Trek movie franchise, was brought on to direct the first new Star Wars movie in a decade.
In the run-up to The Force Awakens, Abrams and the Lucasfilm brain trust were asked about Asian representation in the future of Star Wars during a Hall H panel at San Diego Comic-Con, to which the director famously responded, “Go Asians!”
When The Force Awakens finally premiered, the promise of more AAPI characters in Star Wars was realized… sort of. While TFA featured more AAPI actors than all previous six films combined, none of them could be considered major characters.
For instance, the buzz surrounding the announcement that stars from The Raid, the cult martial arts classic from Indonesia, was going to be in the film as the fearsome Kanjiklub was soon met with indifference once audiences figured out their screen time would be severely limited. Other actors like Ken Leung (as Admiral Statura) and Jessica Henwick (as Resistance pilot Jess Pava) wouldn’t fare much better since their scenes are also glorified cameos.
Click here to read the full article on The Nerds of Color.
Climate change has been a hot topic in our circles lately. We feel it very much in the Philippines, where hot summers in the months of April and May have quickly turned into a season of strong typhoons and dangerous floods. Recently, a major typhoon hit the province of Leyte, causing a tragic landslide.
Individuals can only do so much to “save” our planet (and humanity) from the drastic effects of climate change. But we can make a difference by doing little things. We can boycott single-use plastics if we’re in a position to do so, lower our energy consumption, and deal with waste appropriately through proper separation and recycling.
Of course, having a disability factors into the equation about how much one can do to help the earth. Many people with disabilities must resort to less eco-friendly practices in order to address health issues and to thrive, although that’s not to say disabled people can’t take steps to be eco-friendly.
For instance, my husband, Jared, infuses factor products to treat his hemophilia. This procedure involves single-use plastic tubes, metal needles, and glass bottles.
According to a 2019 National Geographic article, one expert estimated that 25% of the waste generated by U.S. healthcare facilities is plastic. This is because the equipment used to treat patients needs to be sterile, and plastic serves that need well.
When my mom was ill with cancer, she needed to drink from plastic straws due to the limitations she had. And by the time she was bedridden, she needed to use disposable adult diapers.
In Japan, a country with a rapidly aging population, adult diaper waste is a growing concern, as The New York Times reported last year. Used diapers are likely to end up in incinerators, like most of the country’s waste. Compared with other types of waste, diapers require more fuel to burn, leading to costly waste management bills and high carbon emissions.
To help alleviate this problem, the Japanese town of Houki converted one of the town’s incinerators into a diaper recycling plant, which in turn produces fuel for a public bathhouse, the Times reported. This, in turn, helps to lower natural gas costs. Japan is fortunate to have the resources to come up with this creative solution.
Since there are limitations to taking steps to protect the environment when accessing or providing healthcare by people with disabilities or those who work at treatment centers, I offer the following suggestions.
If you can afford to, avoid single-use plastics.
If using single-use plastics cannot be avoided, be mindful of how often you use them and how you dispose of them. Seek out alternatives to the plastic bags you use for shopping or carrying things. At home, stock up with multiple-use, high-quality storage containers.
Leave single-use plastic products to the ones who really need them to live. This includes people with disabilities, older people, and babies, for example.
Avoid fast fashion.
I am guilty of patronizing fast fashion — which refers to the mass production of high-fashion clothing trends — because I like dressing up. My clothing budget is quite low, hence the temptation for cheap clothes from chain retailers.
According to a 2019 article by Insider’s Morgan McFall-Johnsen, the fashion industry is responsible for producing 10% of humanity’s carbon emissions, is the second-largest consumer of the world’s water supply, and pollutes the oceans with microplastics.
What percentage of clothing in your closet do you actually wear? Think about it, and try not to buy more than you would actually use. Instead of shopping for new clothes, why not shop at secondhand stores or learn to rework old clothing into more modern styles?
Jared’s entire collection of clothes fits into just one drawer. This makes his wardrobe easier to organize. He wears a “uniform” of plain, minimalist T-shirts with classic denim jeans or shorts. When I first met him in college, he still wore clothes from as early as sixth grade! He only updated his wardrobe when he built up muscle as an adult and needed to switch to clothing a few sizes bigger.
Jared doesn’t go out as often as I do, and bleeding episodes occasionally force him to stay at home. He also considers himself more of an indoor type. So he doesn’t think he needs many clothes.
But even if one’s lifestyle is active or outgoing, we can find some perspective from people like Jared. After all, how many clothes do we really need? As my drawers are now filled to the brim with clothes, I actively try to avoid buying new ones. Furthermore, I now support a local seamstress instead of buying from retail chains. The sewing takes time, but the outcome is often top quality and looks great. It’s also more eco-friendly, and I get to support someone’s livelihood.
Click here to read the full article on Hemophilia News Today.
Epic Games, creators of the wildly popular video game Fortnite, just got a $2 billion investment from legacy entertainment giants Sony Group Corp. and Kirkbi, the family-owned company behind The Lego Group. Sony and Kirkbi will each invest $1 billion in Epic.
Headquartered in Cary, N.C., Epic Games was founded by CEO Tim Sweeney in 1991. In addition to Fortnite, Epic developed the 3D game engine Unreal Engine. Today the company has some 40 offices around the world.
“This investment will accelerate our work to build the metaverse and create spaces where players can have fun with friends, brands can build creative and immersive experiences and creators can build a community and thrive,” Sweeney says in a statement.
More simply put, the partnership of Lego and Epic will “build a fun place for kids to play in the metaverse!” as Epic tweeted when it announced a partnership with Lego a few days ago.
Jose Najarro, a contributing analyst at The Motley Fool who covers the tech and gaming industries, tells NPR the $2 billion investment “affirms that the metaverse has a future for the gaming community.” He adds that it could also further Epic’s game engine development: “Unreal Engine is a software tool to create and design video games, and could be an essential tool for creating the metaverse.”
For Sony the investment will advance its “development of new digital fan experiences in sports and our virtual production initiatives,” says Kenichiro Yoshida, Chairman, president and CEO of Sony Group Corp.
Najarro says Epic’s main competitors, Unity Software and Roblox, will face a competitor with more money and greater resources: “The partnership with Sony and Lego could provide Epic Games with other forms of assets (trademarks, digital products, physical products).”
Apple made history by nabbing Hollywood’s most coveted honor, as “CODA” won the Oscar for best picture at Sunday’s Academy Awards. Apple Original Films’ “CODA,” which has a predominantly Deaf cast, marks the first time a streaming service has won the best picture Oscar — with Apple TV Plus beating rival Netflix to the punch. “CODA” took the top prize over Netflix’s “The Power of the Dog” from director Jane Campion, which was the other leading contender in the category.
In addition, “CODA” star Troy Kotsur won the supporting actor trophy — the first time a Deaf male actor has landed an acting Oscar, and the second Deaf actor ever to do so after “CODA” co-star Marlee Matlin won for “Children of a Lesser God” in 1986. In the film’s third win of the night, “CODA” director Siân Heder won in the adapted screenplay category.
The three Oscars for “CODA” were Apple’s first ever. “CODA” also made history as the first Sundance Film Festival movie to take home the Oscars best picture prize. And it’s the first film to win best picture without having been nominated in the directing and editing categories.
Apple is estimated to have spent more than $10 million on the Oscars campaign for “CODA” — more than the movie’s sub-$10 million production budget.
In the film, Ruby Rossi (Emilia Jones) is a child of Deaf adults, or CODA — the only hearing member of her family. After she discovers a passion and talent for singing, Ruby is torn between her obligations to the family fishing business and pursuing her musical dreams. Kotsur and Matlin play her parents, and Daniel Durant co-stars as her brother, Leo. “CODA” is based on 2014 French film “La Famille Belier,” in which most of the Deaf characters were played by hearing actors.
“This is a really big moment for the Deaf community. It’s a really big moment for the disability community,” Heder said in a backstage interview on ABC’s Thank You Cam, as an ASL interpreter translated her remarks. “Marlee Matlin won an Oscar 35 years ago, and not that much has changed in Hollywood, so I want to thank the Academy for making that change. And I want to say to everyone in the Deaf community and everyone in the disability community that there’s a place for you here, your stories are important, and we need to make room. And this is one story, and let this one be the first of many, many films to come out of this beautiful community.”
Apple’s best-picture win for “CODA” at the 94th Academy Awards is obviously a major feather in the Silicon Valley giant’s cap, although Will Smith’s shocking slap of Chris Rock live TV upstaged the feat. CEO Tim Cook has avidly touted and tallied up the awards hauls for originals on Apple TV Plus. The Oscars accolades may incrementally lift Apple TV Plus subscriber numbers, but a more significant halo effect for Apple is the added clout it can leverage in competing for deals with talent and production partners.
Overall, Netflix — which has spent millions of dollars heavily campaigning for its awards hopefuls — picked up just one Oscar: Campion’s win for directing “The Power of the Dog.” That was after Netflix led the field again with 27 nominations, including 12 for “Power of the Dog” and four for Adam McKay’s “Don’t Look Up” (both of which were in the running for best picture). Apple won the three trophies after six nominations total: three for “CODA” and three for Joel Coen’s “The Tragedy of Macbeth.”
Apple acquired the rights to “CODA” for $25 million after a bidding war following its premiere at Sundance last year. The film, produced by Vendôme Pictures and Pathé, premiered on Apple TV Plus in August. Philippe Rousselet, Fabrice Gianfermi and Patrick Wachsberger served as producers.
Cook has acknowledged that the tech company is prioritizing prestige over profits for its streaming originals. “We don’t make purely financial decisions about the content [on Apple TV Plus],” the Apple chief told analysts on the company’s Jan. 27 earnings call. “We try to find great content that has a reason for being.”
In a tweet Sunday, Cook wrote, “Team CODA created a profoundly beautiful movie, a story of hope and heart that celebrates our differences. Congratulations to the producers, @SianHeder, @TroyKotsur, @MarleeMatlin, @EmiliaJonesy, @DanielNDurant, @EugenioDerbez, and all involved in these historic wins! #CODAfilm.”