TIME movies

The Very Political History of Annie

Quvenzhane Wallis;Jamie Foxx
Barry Wetcher—Columbia Pictures/Sony

The new movie adaptation finds a new time

The new version of Annie — in theaters Friday — doesn’t exactly shy away from its New Deal origins. Mere minutes of the film have passed before the newest actress to step into the orphan’s shoes, Quvenzhané Wallis, is talking about Franklin Roosevelt and the Great Depression.

Except this time that history is, well, history. The musical that once contained songs with the actual titles “We’d Like to Thank You Herbert Hoover” and “A New Deal for Christmas” has been updated for modern times. And, though its Daddy Warbucks equivalent (Jamie Foxx as Benjamin Stacks, a New York gazillionaire with aspirations à la Michael Bloomberg) is still involved in politics, the story has left behind much of its erstwhile focus on the national political climate.

“The interesting thing about Annie is that it was started as a political cartoon and with pretty biting social and political commentary, and then it was turned into a musical, and people have forgotten that,” says Will Gluck, the writer-director behind the new adaptation. “They just think about ‘Tomorrow,’ the plucky kid and the dog.”

The content of that original social commentary may surprise some of today’s “Tomorrow” singers. In the ’20s, when the strip debuted, Little Orphan Annie was already “issuing a steady stream of far-right propaganda.” In 1935, one newspaper canceled the comic because “Annie has been made the vehicle for a studied, veiled, and alarmingly vindictive propaganda.” Cartoonist Harold Gray was a staunch believer in the way Daddy Warbucks got rich, which was “doing his job and not asking for help from anyone,” as he put it. “Gray agrees that Annie dabbles in dialectics, and he has no intention, of stopping her,” TIME commented in 1962. “To Artist Gray, Daddy and Annie are salesmen of the American dream, the “pioneer spirit” that without assistance, even from the State Department, can cope with Castro, neutralize the H-bomb, and eliminate the income tax.”

In the 1970s, however, when Annie went to Broadway, though TIME opined that her newspaper-comic twin was “still fight[ing] the Red Menace and bleeding-heart liberals,” the character’s priorities changed. In the musical version of Annie, the spunky orphan — who has already helped her war-profiteering rescuer realize that those who have less are worth taking care of — is brought along to a meeting with FDR, at which point her natural optimism helps inspire the President to institute the New Deal. The general take-away, besides the fact that the sun will come out tomorrow, is that New-Deal-style, progressive policies help everyone get the fair shake he or she deserves. Annie’s can-do pluck is still important, but she’s optimistic about the government’s ability to help all rather than individuals helping themselves.

Gluck says that, while updating the story for today’s audiences — Annie lives in a foster home rather than an orphanage, for example — he didn’t want to lose that part of the story’s background. “The one thing I wanted to keep is the socioeconomic divide of the Depression,” he says, “which sadly has even gotten bigger now and sadly is not going away.” That was why he made sure to have his Annie teach viewers a little lesson about the Great Depression when, she says, things were just like they are today except without the Internet.

Still, this iteration of Annie ends up bringing the political girl to a more centrist position.

By keeping things local and staying away from specific historical moments — no, new Annie does not inspire the President to believe that there really are plenty of shovel-ready stimulus projects out there — some of the specificity of Annie’s political message is lost too. Stacks thinks that in New York City, if you work hard enough, you can achieve anything you want, just like old-fashioned Daddy Warbucks did. Meanwhile, Annie recognizes that folks in her neighborhood are often ignored and left behind, even when they work hard, just like her theatrical predecessor did. They each come to see the other’s side a little better, but the audience doesn’t come away singing a song about Obamacare.

But, Gluck says, that’s a better fit for the audience anyway — though not because today’s political divides are so treacherous. Adults may see Annie as a rags-to-riches story, he says, but kids don’t really know what that means; the core message of Annie, about hope and optimism, works just as well now as it did in the ’70s or ’30s because it’s a universal story. “I don’t believe the end of the movie is that she got to live with a rich guy,” he says. “I believe that to her the end of the movie is that she got to find a family.”

Besides, he still remembers the first time he saw the original Annie, and the questions he had for his parents when it was over: Who is Herbert Hoover and who is that guy in the wheelchair? When he took his own kids to see Annie on Broadway recently, they had the same exact questions. His movie’s young viewers, however, won’t be left scratching their heads. “You don’t need to study for this essay question,” he says.

Read our original review of the musical Annie, here in the TIME Vault: No Waif Need Apply

TIME celebrities

Minecraft Creator Outbids Beyonce For Beverly Hills Mansion

Tommy Lee, fiancee Sofia Toufa and Markus "Notch" Persson party at XS nightclub in Las Vegas
Skrillex and Markus Persson, right, at XS nightclub in Las Vegas on Sept. 19, 2014. Danny Mahoney—Splash/Corbis

The Swedish billionaire is now the owner of a fully-furnished 23,000 square-foot mansion

Markus Persson, the creator of Minecraft, has won a bidding war for what’s been described as the most expensive home ever in Beverly Hills. For the price of $70 million, Persson outbid superstars like Jay-Z and Beyonce, reports Mashable.

The 23,000 square-foot mansion includes an infinity pool with iPad-controlled fountains, 15 bathrooms, an 18-seat movie theater, three high-definition televisions that can screen panoramic views of Los Angeles from the roof, vodka and tequila bars, a replica of James Dean’s motorcycle, cases of Dom Perignon and two dozen Roberto Cavalli place settings.

The sale was handled by the John Aaroe Group and on the real estate firm’s blog, realtor Katia De Los Reyes writes, “Marcus fell in love with the house, its sleek contemporary design and its spectacular panoramic views that sweep from downtown LA to the Pacific Ocean. The fact that the house also was completely furnished in such great style was another major selling point for him.”

Persson sold his company Mojang — which launched the extremely popular Minecraft in 2009 — to Microsoft for $2.5 billion earlier this year. On Thursday he tweeted a snap of himself enjoying his new pad:

[Mashable]

TIME Music

Sam Smith Is The First Singer To Sell a Million Albums on Both Sides of the Atlantic This Year

Z100's Jingle Ball 2014 Presented By Goldfish Puffs - Show
Sam Smith performs onstage during iHeartRadio Jingle Ball 2014 at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 12, 2014 in New York City. Mike Coppola—Getty Images

The British singer's debut was the first album to hit the milestone in both the U.S. and the U.K.

British crooner Sam Smith’s album, In The Lonely Hour, passed the one million sales mark in the U.K. this week, which makes the debut the first album to sell a million copies in both the U.K. and the U.S. in 2014.

Upon hearing the news from the Official Charts Company (OCC), 22-year-old Smith said, “Thank you so much to every single person who has purchased my album.”

Other acts that have hit the one million sales mark include Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift, though neither act hit the milestone on both sides of the Atlantic.

The Guardian notes that 2014 was a year that initially saw sluggish music sales, but with “almost 35% of all albums are sold in the Christmas rush,” the last few weeks have seen a few artists — such as Smith — to thrive.

[Guardian]

TIME Music

Chris Martin Jokes That Angelina Jolie Told Him to ‘Write Me a Song, or Else’

Chris Martin performs with U2 during a surprise concert in support of World AIDS Day in Times Square in New York City on Dec. 1, 2014 Carlo Allegri—Reuters

"There was also a guy holding a knife to my throat"

Chris Martin was forced into composing the song “Miracles” for Angelina Jolie’s movie Unbroken. At least if we believe the Coldplay singer’s own jocular account.

“I got a message that said: ‘Meet in this undisclosed location,’” Martin explained when Vulture asked him about the song’s backstory at a recent Hollywood luncheon. The message apparently continued: “You’ll be blindfolded and picked up by seven ex-Navy SEALs.”

Martin adds: “So they kidnapped me, hit me over the head, and sprayed me with mace. When I woke up, I was in an office, and Brad Pitt was doing push-ups as Angelina Jolie was just sitting there with her crown on. There was also a guy holding a knife to my throat, and she said, ‘Write me a song, or else.’ And Brad Pitt said, ‘Yeah. What she said.'”

Then followed, according to Martin, an American Idol–esque tryout.

“We wrote a song and then she said, ‘It’s through to the final eight,’ and then we had live eliminations at her house,” Martin continued. “We came in second, but the main guy chickened out.”

Unbroken will be in theaters on Christmas Day.

[Vulture]

TIME Television

David Fincher and James Ellroy Team Up for a Noir Drama on HBO

Director David Fincher speaks onstage at the 63rd Annual Directors Guild Of America Awards Feature Film Symposium held at the DGA on January 28, 2012 in Hollywood, California. Alberto E. Rodriguez—DGA/Getty

The series will be based on the life of a celebrated Hollywood private eye

Director David Fincher (Gone Girl, Se7en, Fight Club) has signed up for an HBO noir drama series together with L.A. Confidential writer James Ellroy.

Shakedown is set in the seedy underworld of 1950s Los Angeles and is inspired by the life of legendary Hollywood vice cop-turned-private eye Fred Otash, but is not an adaptation of Ellroy’s 2012 novella with the same name, Deadline Hollywood reports.

Fincher, who was last involved in television as the director and executive producer of House of Cards, is seemingly moving his energy away from the silver screen. He is currently developing another HBO drama, adapted from the British series Utopia. That project will be written by Gillian Flynn, who wrote the book on which Gone Girl was based.

The Oscar-nominated filmmaker is also going to direct the pilot episode of Living on Noise, the working title of a half-hour HBO project about the world of 1980s music videos, reports The Wrap. Fincher will be able to draw on his own experiences here, since he worked on music videos for both George Michael and Madonna in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

TIME Television

Review: The Colbert Report Is Dead. Long Live Stephen Colbert!

"If this is your first time tuning into The Colbert Report, I have some terrible news"

It’s a rare man who gets to attend his own funeral. It’s an even luckier man who gets to cheat his own death, dust his prints off the murder weapon, read his own eulogy, and rise to live again in another form.

That’s what Stephen Colbert did Thursday night with “Stephen Colbert,” in a show that sent his bloviating host character — one of the greatest sustained performances in pop culture, TV or otherwise — off into TV eternity. And his final Colbert Report was both a sweet ending and a perfect summation of the show’s spirit — smart and surreal, sly and sincere. The finale nodded to the massive creation that Colbert wrought over nine years, and — as he flew off with Santa, a unicorn Abraham Lincoln, and Alex Trebek — promised something different to come.

Colbert began his last Report by riffing on what pop-culture commentators have been riffing on all week, his show’s legacy, though tongue-in-cheek. “I did something much harder than change the world,” he said. “Folks, I samed the world. Another Bush governor is running for the White House. People on TV are defending torture. We are sending troops into Iraq.” When the Report began in 2005, he said, “I promised you a revolution, and I delivered. Because technically, one revolution is 360 degrees right back to where we were.”

But Colbert revolutionized much more than that in between. A quick rundown of some of his greatest stunts over the years — the Rally for Sanity and/or Fear, the SuperPAC — was the closest he got to breaking-character sentiment: “You, the Nation, did all that. I just got paid for it.”

Then, following a bizarre setup in which one last “Cheating Death With Dr. Stephen T. Colbert, DFA” ended with his killing Grimmy and becoming immortal, Colbert launched into a grand, punchy sing-along of “We’ll Meet Again,” with a celebrity cast of dozens that demands DVR rewinding but included, in part: Randy Newman, Willie Nelson, Bryan Cranston, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Tom Brokaw, Big Bird, Keith Olbermann, Katie Couric, Gloria Steinem, Samantha Power, Michael Stipe, James Franco, Charlie Rose, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Patrick Stewart, Christiane Amanpour, Arianna Huffington, Alan Alda, George Lucas, Henry Kissinger, Vince Gilligan (still chained in Colbert’s basement after the Breaking Bad finale), soldiers in Afghanistan, Esteban Colberto, Bill Clinton, an astronaut, JJ Abrams and Smaug.

Read more Why Stephen Colbert Is Signing Off at the Perfect Time

The all-star sendoff is a staple of talk-show finales, but this one seemed to say something here about the vast world that Colbert created with the Report. The show itself was not the sum total of the production that Colbert has put since 2005. It was just the flagship product of a larger performance that extended to the Internet, to public rallies, to political campaigns, and even to space.

By transforming himself into a character, and taking his performance far beyond the thirty minutes of the show, Colbert was engineering a way to satirize a subject — the media and political culture — that had moved almost beyond satire. It started with one big idea: that in American discourse, gut feeling and team affiliation had replaced reason (indeed, had labeled reason itself a kind of contemptible bad faith). The Report debuted just after a Bush adviser speaking to reporter Ron Suskind dismissed, in pre-satirized terms, the “reality-based community.”

So Colbert created not just a show but a massive work of performance art set in the reality-liberated community. It opened with not just a hilarious routine, but what felt like a summary of the era, in which Colbert introduced the concept of “truthiness.” The nation, he said, was divided between “those who think with their head and those who know with their heart.”

It was funny, it was perceptive, and you might expect that to fuel a show for, what, half a year? That Colbert was able to be “Stephen Colbert” at such a high level for some nine years was the 56-game-hitting-streak of American comedy, a feat we may not see equalled again. He kept it up in part by taking the show on the road. He brought his act to the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner, got Doritos to sponsor his favorite-son run in the 2008 South Carolina primary, and — in what was probably his high-water mark — in 2011 went through the process of founding a real SuperPAC. It was simultaneously an epic work of performance-art satire and genuine public-service education.

Read more 5 Times Stephen Colbert Changed the World

Before the finale, Colbert was already in the process of letting go of “himself”; on Wednesday’s show, he held a yard sale of Report memorabilia, unloading a copy of his correspondents’ dinner speech to a crying baby, selling a bottle of “Ass Juice” to a lucky bargain hunter. He seemed at peace, and why shouldn’t he be? He’s going on to something new, taking over for David Letterman at CBS. And while that’s generated much interest in what Colbert will do as himself, I’m not too concerned.

Because truth be told, one of the undersung aspects of the Report was how he infused his satire with his actual character, from his geeky enthusiasm for Tolkien to his sincere passion for ideas and ideals. If you expected him to give us a taste of what we’ll see from him on CBS, though, you’ll have to wait until later next year. Except for a post-credits sequence of him cutting up with Jon Stewart during a 2010 taping, he maintained his rock-solid professional facade.

But the plaintive strains of “Holland, 1945″ by Neutral Milk Hotel — a favorite band of the honest-to-God Colbert — clued us in to the bittersweetness of this see-you-later. Right up to the end, Stephen Colbert did not break character. But the rest of us can be forgiven if we broke down a little, saying goodbye to America’s greatest, most genuine phony.

Read next: Stephen Colbert: A Great Talk-Show Host? No, the Greatest!

TIME movies

‘Team America’ Screenings Canceled After Sony Pulls ‘The Interview’

Team America: World Police
Team America: World Police Paramount

Theaters opted to show the film after Sony said it wouldn't screen the 'The Interview'

Following Wednesday’s news that Sony was canceling the Christmas release of The Interview, now another movie lampooning a North Korean dictator will not be seen in theaters: At least two theaters have said their upcoming screenings of Team America: World Police have been canceled by Paramount.

On Wednesday, the Dallas/Fort Worth Alamo Drafthouse explained on Twitter that it would have continued showing The Interview despite the fact that a number of theater chains had dropped screenings—but because Sony had now pulled The Interview from all theaters, the Drafthouse would show Team America, which features a villainous Kim Jong-il puppet, in its place. On Thursday, the Drafthouse tweeted the following:

Alamo Drafthouse said in a statement, “We can confirm that the screening of TEAM AMERICA was cancelled as the film was pulled from release. We are issuing refunds to those that purchased tickets.”

The Cleveland-based Capitol Theatre, tweeted earlier today that it was planning to show the movie from the team behind South Park in June, but then later reported: “. . . we just received word: Paramount has pulled all future screenings of Team America. Ours is canceled. :(.” The theater wrote:

Paramount did not immediately respond to EW‘s requests for comment. Intelligence officials have now linked the Sony hack to the North Korean government, The New York Times reported.

This article originally appeared on EntertainmentWeekly.com

TIME movies

9 Spooky Posters Inspired by Tim Burton’s Big Eyes

Artists took their inspiration from Margaret Keane's famous paintings

Tim Burton’s new movie Big Eyes is already generating Oscar buzz for leading lady Amy Adams as Margaret Keane, an artist known for painting faces with absolutely enormous eyes, whose husband (played by Christoph Waltz) took credit for her work and sold it under his own name.

It’s fitting that this film about artistic inspiration and envy might itself inspire a few artists. So the Weinstein Company invited artists to create their own posters for the film, reflecting the eerie look of Keane’s works. The first poster, by Anne Benjamin for Mondo, goes on sale Friday at MondoTees.com. The movie debuts Dec. 25.

TIME Television

Stephen Colbert: A Great Talk-Show Host? No, the Greatest!

Farewell to a magnificent comic actor who skewered the news, the media and his own blowhard character — and made it all incorrigibly, indelibly appealing

I’m blue. After nine years and two months, The Colbert Report is off the air. I’ve seen each of the 1446 episodes leading to tonight’s sign-off, and cherished almost all of them. The show’s conclusion will leave a void in my life and in my writing, since I’ve shoehorned Colbert references into reviews of Superbad, Prince of Persia, Pompeii, Jackass 3D, Nightcrawler and Julie Taymor’s The Tempest, and into essays about Richard Nixon, Ingmar Bergman, Derek Jeter, makeup artist Dick Smith and the 2012 Super Bowl. For my wife Mary Corliss and me, Colbert has been destination viewing. Even in the early years, we never took the show’s excellence for granted, agreeing that some day we’d look back on the double whammy of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report as the golden age of TV’s singeing singing satire.

That age ends now. Colbert is gone from TV until September, when he takes over David Letterman’s CBS 11:35 slot and, at 51, becomes the oldest man to debut as the host of a late-night network talk show. (Joan Rivers was 53 when she began The Late Show in 1986 on the upstart Fox network.) He’ll be off the air for nine months — a long time for admirers like me to go cold, or Colbert, turkey. And when he finally starts on CBS, he’ll just be Stephen Colbert. Not “Stephen Colbert,” the greatest fake newsman in TV history, and one of the richest fictional characters in any popular art form of the past decade.

I was around (as a toddler) for the late-night pioneers Steve Allen and Jack Paar, and for the 29-year reign of Johnny Carson. They established comedy as the tone de unit for post-prime time TV. And fealty forever to Jon Stewart, who took command of The Daily Show in 1999 and turned it into the prime exemplar of cogent, corrosive political comedy in any medium. The edge Colbert has on all these giants is that he is a magnificent comic actor, commenting cuttingly on his egotistical right-wing “Colbert” character even as he seems to live inside it. He made that Colbert both politically outrageous and personally appealing.

Without Stewart, of course, The Colbert Report would not have existed. Both shows skewer politicians, pop culture and that inexhaustible source of satire, the Fox News Channel. (It’s amazing that, with the same butts for their humor, the two shows rarely cracked the same jokes.) But the on-air Stewart was himself, not “Jon Stewart.” Colbert, who had been a Daily Show correspondent for two years before Stewart replaced Craig Kilborn as host, was already honing his pompous-ignoramus persona, which he described in 2006 as “a fool who has spent a lot of his life playing not the fool – one who is able to cover it at least well enough to deal with the subjects that he deals with.” In other words, the authoritative bluffer, the officious fraud, the idiot know-it-all.

He played another incarnation of this all-hat-no-cattle character on the Comedy Central sitcom Strangers With Candy (1999-2000), which he also wrote with costars Amy Sedaris and Paul Dinello. High-school history teacher Chuck Noblet was every bit as seemingly self-assured and wildly misinformed as the Colbert Colbert. He instructed his students that Gandhi “was devoured by his followers,” that the 1840s Opium War was between China and Mexico and that the tragedy of Martin Luther King’s life was that “all this footage is in black and white. Imagine how powerful it would have been in color.” Frequently mentioning his lovely wife, Chuck actually carried a man-crush for Dinello’s slightly-less-closeted art teacher. (Dinello, a Colbert Report executive producer, has made appearances as Tad the building manager. And Sedaris crashed the Dec. 3rd episodes as a “canceled” guest.)

When The Colbert Report premiered on Oct. 17, 2005, a lot of people predicted that the character would quickly grow stale. This blowhard pundit, modeled on Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly, was too meta; to play along, you had to get the joke that he was dispensing a right-wing take on the news from a left-wing perspective. (I sometimes wonder: Do all his viewers appreciate that?) One wondered how long he could sustain the role: take the audience’s cheers as he trotted over to the guest’s table, or denounce bears as “godless killing machines,” or deflect charges of race prejudices because he’s color-blind (“People tell me I’m white, and I believe them…”) or preen through repeated segments of “Who’s Honoring Me Now?”

The answer turned out to be: forever. For Colbert and his splendid writing team had created a ferociously funny Col-BEAR — or Col-BARE, if you think this character exposes aspects of the man whom impersonates him —as an alternative to the bright, quiet, modest fellow whose family pronounces its surname COLbert. Both Colberts are ardent Catholics, born and raised in South Carolina and married with three children. But the TV Colbert went to Dartmouth, humiliates his underpaid staff and has harbored an almost stalker-y obsession with his teen love Charlene. The real Colbert graduated from Northwestern; is by all accounts a kind, caring boss; is married to Evelyn McGee (who played his mother on one episode of Strangers With Candy); and for years taught Sunday school near his Montclair, N.J. home. Need we also say, the real Colbert is a liberal.

The last weeks of shows have put poignant ends to some enduring Colbert shtick. His continuing segment, “Formidable Opponent,” in which the more moderate Stephen (blue tie) would debate an issue with the more conservative Stephen (red tie), got a final segment this week in which the cross-cutting ended with a split screen of the two men; and as red-tie Stephen faded out, blue-tie Stephen said, “And you, Sir, have been a most formidable opponent.” (Verklempt!) And in a visit last week to George Washington University, he turned his familiar conundrum to political guests — “George W. Bush: great President, or the greatest President?” — by asking the current President of the United States, “Barack Obama: great President, or the greatest President?”

We’ll bet that the “real” Stephen was touched by that moment. We know that he did get pumped by his audience’s cheers at the top of the show and, in the early years, express pleasured surprise at his renown — for example that “my Wikipedia page is longer than the line for the Lutherans.” (Wikipedia’s Colbert pages now run more than 300,000 words, to about 15,300 for Lutheranism.) Colbert has intimated he thought that, after nine years, his character had run its course. But isn’t it possible that COL-bert will miss Col-BEAR as much as we do?

If so, Mr. Colbert, please come back, at least occasionally. Your replacement show, Larry Wilmore’s The Minority Report, will be on hiatus eight weeks between its debut in January and your September stint on CBS. You may have felt worn out by “Stephen Colbert,” but we need more of the Greatest TV Talk-Show Host.

Read next: Review: The Colbert Report Is Dead. Long Live Stephen Colbert!

TIME movies

This Is How Much It’s Costing Sony to Cancel The Interview

A poster for the movie "The Interview" is carried away by a worker after being pulled from a display case at a Carmike Cinemas movie theater on Dec. 17, 2014, in Atlanta.
A poster for the movie The Interview is carried away by a worker after being pulled from a display case at a Carmike Cinemas movie theater on Dec. 17, 2014, in Atlanta David Goldman—AP

The Interview reportedly cost around $44 million to make

Sony announced Wednesday it would cancel The Interview‘s Dec. 25 release after numerous theaters decided not to screen the film in the wake of terrorist threats.

The Interview reportedly cost around $44 million to make, according to Fusion, who cited documents leaked by the hackers targeting Sony Pictures. Meanwhile, Sony has already spent “tens of millions” on advertising and promotion, Variety reports. Remaining TV ad campaigns have been slashed, which should allow Sony to cut costs.

Still, this means Sony needs to find a way to pay off between $60 to $70 million in costs — even if the company saved a few million by nixing the ad campaigns, Deadline estimated on Wednesday. (The Wrap estimated a much higher figure — $90 million in total, accounting for the high cost of domestic and international marketing.)

Paying off those costs would have almost definitely been possible, as surveys tracking audience interest predicted The Interview would rake in $30 million in only its first four days, according to the New York Times. While $30 million is only about half of the estimated costs, if The Interview was like other successful comedy, that number would’ve risen in the successive months and years. Consider a similarly hyped film like 2009’s The Hangover: that film took in around $44 million during its opening weekend, a figure which has since risen to $277 million.

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser