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Bryan Singer faces allegations of sexual assault with minors

Bryan Singer, the director of the Oscar-nominated "Bohemian Rhapsody," has been accused of sexually assaulting minors in an expose published by the Atlantic.

The Atlantic on Wednesday published a lengthy article based on a 12-month investigation. It details the stories of four alleged victims who said they were seduced and molested by the "Bohemian Rhapsody" director while underage. Three of the men spoke on the condition of anonymity. Victor Valdovinos said he was molested by Singer on the set of 1998's "Apt Pupil" when he was in the seventh grade.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office earlier investigated claims that male minors were pressured into stripping naked for a shower scene in "Apt Pupil" but declined to press charges. Lawsuits filed by families of the minors involved were settled out of court.

In a statement issued through his attorney, Singer denied the claims and called The Atlantic article a "homophobic smear piece that he said was "conveniently timed" to take advantage of the success of "Bohemian Rhapsody."

The Freddie Mercury biopic on Tuesday was nominated for five Oscars, including best picture. Singer was dismissed as the director of "Bohemian Rhapsody" during shooting after several absences from the London production. Singer remains the sole credited director on the film even though he was replaced by Dexter Fletcher.

Singer sharply criticized The Atlantic for publishing a story that Esquire magazine had been preparing before ultimately declining to publish.

"It's sad that The Atlantic would stoop to this low standard of journalistic integrity," said Singer. "Again, I am forced to reiterate that this story rehashes claims from bogus lawsuits filed by a disreputable cast of individuals willing to lie for money or attention."

The journalists, Maximillian Potter and Alex French, defended their reporting as rigorously fact-checked in a statement issued Wednesday. Potter and French said the story was originally vetted and approved for publication at the Hearst-owned Esquire, but was "killed by Hearst executives." A spokesperson for Hearst didn't immediately respond to messages Wednesday.

Shortly after Singer was fired from "Bohemian Rhapsody," Cesar Sanchez-Guzman filed a lawsuit in Seattle against Singer alleging the director raped him in 2003 when Sanchez-Guzman was 17. Singer's attorney Andrew Brettler at the time said Singer "categorically denies these allegations and will vehemently defend this lawsuit to the very end."

The case is still pending. Soon after it was filed, the University of Southern California's School of Cinematic Arts removed Singer's name from its cinema and media studies division. The school said Singer requested his name be removed until the allegations against him were resolved.

The Atlantic report alleges a pattern of predatory behavior on Singer's part, including sex with a 15-year-old at a Beverly Hills, Calif., mansion in 1997. Singer preemptively denied the report in October when he wrote on his Instagram account that the reporters were "attempting to tarnish a career I've spent 25 years to build."

Singer, the 53-year-old director of "The Usual Suspects" and "X-Men," last fall was hired to direct a remake of the fantasy adventure "Red Sonja" for Millennium Films. A spokesperson for Millennium didn't return requests for comment Wednesday.

Overtime games help NFL ratings beat last year

There's nothing like two overtime games in the NFL conference championships to keep television viewers glued to their recliners.

The New England Patriots' thrilling victory over the Kansas City Chiefs was seen by 53.92 million viewers on Sunday, the Nielsen company said. That's up 22 percent from the Patriots' victory over Jacksonville last year, and the most watched AFC championship since 2011.

Sunday's afternoon game, where the Los Angeles Rams beat the New Orleans Saints with the help of a referee's bad call, was seen by 44.2 million people, Nielsen said. That's up 4 percent over last year's contest between Philadelphia and Minnesota.

Frigid temperatures throughout most of the country in the middle of a holiday weekend no doubt helped television attendance.

The NFL says ratings for all of its playoff games are up 12 percent over last year's post-season. There's a strong chance Sunday night's game will be the year's second most-watched television event, after the Super Bowl in two weeks.

With the AFC championship on Sunday night, CBS cruised to a dominant weekly victory in the prime-time ratings, averaging 14.2 million viewers. NBC averaged 5 million viewers in prime-time, ABC had 4.1 million, Fox had 3.2 million, Univision had 1.4 million, ION Television had 1.3 million, Telemundo had 1.2 million and the CW had 1 million.

Fox News Channel was the week's most popular cable network, averaging 2.19 million viewers in prime-time. MSNBC had 2.01 million, Hallmark had 1.36 million, HGTV had 1.23 million and USA had 1.22 million.

ABC's "World News Tonight" topped the evening newscasts with an average of 9.8 million viewers. NBC's "Nightly News" was second with 8.9 million and the "CBS Evening News" had 6.9 million.

For the week of Jan. 14-20, the top 10 shows, their networks and viewerships: AFC Championship: New England vs. Kansas City, CBS, 53.92 million; "AFC Championship Post Game," CBS, 24.34 million; "The Big Bang Theory," CBS, 13.33 million; "NCIS," CBS, 12.22 million; "Young Sheldon," CBS, 11.46 million; "AGT Champions," NBC, 9.99 million; "FBI," CBS, 9.34 million; "Magnum, P.I.," CBS, 8.76 million. "Chicago Med," NBC, 8.51 million; "Mom," CBS, 8.46 million.

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ABC is owned by The Walt Disney Co. CBS is owned by CBS Corp. CW is a joint venture of Warner Bros. Entertainment and CBS Corp. Fox is owned by 21st Century Fox. NBC and Telemundo are owned by Comcast Corp. ION Television is owned by ION Media Networks.

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Online:

http://www.nielsen.com

Audra McDonald heading back to Broadway to star in romance

Six-time Tony Award-winner Audra McDonald is heading back to Broadway to be a waitress — but not in "Waitress."

McDonald, along with Michael Shannon, will star in a revival of the Terrence McNally romance "Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune," starting in May.

The play is about the love affair between a cook and a waitress who meet in a New York restaurant. Al Pacino and Michele Pfeiffer starred in a movie version.

McDonald won a Tony in 2014 playing Billie Holiday in "Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill." She also won Tonys for "Carousel," "'Master Class," "'Ragtime," "'A Raisin in the Sun," and "The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess." She was last on Broadway in "Shuffle Along" in 2016.

Carrie Underwood, Mike Fisher welcome baby boy, Jacob Bryan

Carrie Underwood says her heart is full after the arrival of her second son.

The country superstar posted photos of herself, her husband Mike Fisher and her son Isaiah with the newborn, who she said was born early Monday. Her post states "his mom, dad and big brother couldn't be happier for God to trust them with taking care of this little miracle."

The seven-time Grammy winner Underwood and Fisher, a former NHL player, named him Jacob Bryan Fisher. The former "American Idol" winner revealed last year that she had three miscarriages in about two years.

The 35-year-old singer is scheduled to go on tour this spring and last year released her latest album, "Cry Pretty," which debuted at the top of the Billboard 200 chart.

Weinstein picks Casey Anthony's lawyer for recast legal team

Harvey Weinstein's recast legal team includes the lawyer who won an acquittal for Casey Anthony on charges she killed her young daughter and a lawyer who helped basketball star Kobe Bryant avoid a rape prosecution.

Weinstein's spokesman on Wednesday said Jose Baez and Pamela Mackey were among four new lawyers hired by the disgraced movie producer in his sexual assault case.

Weinstein's other new lawyers are Harvard law professor Ronald Sullivan and former Manhattan prosecutor Duncan Levin.

They're replacing New York City defense attorney Benjamin Brafman. He and Weinstein said in a statement last week that they've "agreed to part ways."

Weinstein is charged with raping a woman in 2013 and performing a forcible sex act on a different woman in 2006. The 66-year-old denies all allegations of nonconsensual sex.

Valentino's dramatic Paris couture has Celine Dion weeping

Valentino took drama to its height at its Wednesday spring couture collection in Paris, where Celine Dion wept theatrically as a solemn Naomi Campbell swept past to close the house's show in a see-through black organza gown.

The VIP crowd that was surrounded by multicolored perfumed flowers whooped during a standing ovation as snow fell outside.

Here are some highlights of Wednesday's spring-summer 2019 couture collections:

VALENTINO'S FLOWER WOMEN

On couturier Pierpaolo Piccioli's request, Valentino's seamstresses named each and every couture dress after a flower or emotion.

This detail reveals the preciousness that the designer and his atelier bestowed on the 65 carefully constructed looks, in which each model was transformed into a silken bloom.

A surreal red rose hood opened the collection, enveloping the model's head. Later gowns were less unusual or daring, producing a display in which Piccioli offered a more classical interpretation of floral couture.

Wednesday's effort lacked some of the vigor of Piccioli's standout collection last season, but it was poetic, thoughtful and color-rich.

Aquarelle floral print on a draped pant look sported billowing sleeves that harkened to the Italy-based house's touchstone of the Renaissance.

A dramatic tiered pant-gown shimmered with floral lace encrustations and pearls. It took some 620 hours to make, according to the program notes.

RAMI MALEK LOVES PARIS

A smiling Rami Malek cut a dapper figure decked out in Valentino, inside the Hotel Salomon de Rothschild, with his girlfriend Lucy Boynton.

Malek says he's still riding a high following his Oscar best actor nomination for portraying Queen frontman Freddie Mercury in "Bohemian Rhapsody" and enjoying the fashion scene.

"I see this very much as high art. It's a really special occasion to see some couture — the cream of the crop," he said.

Malek, who was born and raised in Los Angeles to Egyptian immigrant parents, said he was also enjoying being in the city where some of his family lives.

"It's extraordinary to be here with my family on a magical snowy day in Paris," he said, adding that "the politics of Egypt in the 1970s is why my family is here."

GAULTIER'S ASIAN WATERS

It was a typically tongue-in-cheek affair for Gaultier.

This season, a particularly theatrical vision of Asia was served up in combination with a water theme.

Gaultier's signature maritime stripe opened the show on an Asian model with a cinched oriental waist. The Asian theme became more obvious as the collection progressed beginning with a look from Gaultier muse, model Anna Cleveland.

She rocked a diaphanous pleated organza gown with voluminous sleeves and a black crisscross "martial arts" lapel. It was topped with a huge, piled-up Oriental wig, an accessory featured throughout the show.

The program notes then listed a series of looks inspired by the sea such as "New Wave," featuring an undulating black-and-white striped organza front piece.

Then, a dark wool pant suit with jagged "fin" shoulders called "Stop Being a Shark" filed by, prompting chuckles from some seated guests.

GAULTIER'S DIVERSITY

Sports Illustrated cover model Irina Shayk heaped praise on Gaultier for championing diversity and creating collections that could speak to all kinds of men and women of different ages and style.

"That's what makes him so special in the fashion industry. He broke all the barriers," said Shayk, ahead of the summer show that featured Asian and black models and played on Asia-inspired styles.

"He doesn't have a standard beauty. You can see models of different shapes and personalities on the runway. It's not a typical fashion show," she added.

Since an early age, Gaultier, 66, has been inspired by models from different backgrounds. In 1979, he launched the career of one of his earliest muses, supermodel Farida Khelfa, who is of Algerian descent.

ELIE SAAB SWIMS

Elie Saab swam to the depths of the sea for inspiration and came back up with a sparkling bounty of summer couture.

A Caribbean island and underwater flora was the theme of the show inside Paris' Palais de Chaillot that was put on to the sound of an enchanting James Bond-style soundtrack.

Oversized shades resembling a sort of underwater-mask set the chic but playful tone.

Saab's loose, full silk gowns gleamed with embroidered sequins and beading that referenced the sparkle of tropical fish, sea mollusks and mother-of-pearl.

Coral was the idea behind asymmetrical architectural gowns in vivid red that captured the randomly forming three-dimensional curves of the beautiful sea organisms.

Couture swimwear added a fun touch amid the aquatic musing alongside some figure-hugging mermaid cuts.

CELINE DION

After arriving in the city earlier in the week in a low-key hoodie, the 50-year-old Canadian singer garnered attention for a host of reasons.

She skipped many bigger collections on Tuesday and was instead photographed laughing, joking and even whooping in the front row of lesser-known designer Alexandre Vauthier.

Many guests found the superstar's down-to-earth behavior refreshing.

At Wednesday's Valentino show, she was over 30 minutes late and held up the start.

Once seated, she wept dramatically throughout and caused a small commotion in the middle as she requested tissues from helpers.

Seldom seen at Paris shows, Dion is beloved by the French and was here in 2016 shortly after the death of her husband and brother when she triggered media mayhem on arrival at Christian Dior's couture atelier show.

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Thomas Adamson can be followed at Twitter.com/ThomasAdamson_K

Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper among SAG Awards presenters

Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper and Rami Malek are among the first presenters announced for Sunday's Screen Actors Guild Awards.

Other presenters announced Wednesday by the actors union include Chadwick Boseman, Sam Elliott, Constance Wu, John David Washington, Adam Driver, and Michelle Yeoh.

Ken Jeong, Henry Golding, Angela Bassett, Ben Hardy, Gwilym Lee and Joe Mazzello round out the list of first presenters.

Megan Mullally will host the 25th SAG Awards airing on TNT and TBS.

Tom Hanks will present Alan Alda with the SAG Life Achievement Award. The award is given annually to an actor who fosters the "finest ideals of the acting profession."

Previous lifetime achievement award recipients include Morgan Freeman, Carol Burnett, Betty White, Elizabeth Taylor, Sidney Poitier and George Burns.

Meek Mill, Jay-Z and sports owners back justice reforms

A coalition of big names in sports and entertainment pledged their high-profile platforms and $50 million on Wednesday at the launch of an organization that will lobby for changes to state probation and parole laws.

Rapper Meek Mill, whose well-publicized prison sentence for minor probation violations became a lightning rod for the issue, was joined at a New York City news conference by fellow rapper Jay-Z and the owners of the Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets and the Super Bowl-bound New England Patriots to announce the formation of the Reform Alliance.

"I'm here to speak for all the people who don't have a voice," Mill said, who remains on probation until 2023, and actually had to get permission to attend the event to avoid getting another violation. He pointed out that his original arrest and conviction was over a decade ago.

Mill became a symbol for criminal justice reform activists after a judge in Pennsylvania sentenced him to 2-4 years in prison for minor violations of his probation conditions in that decade-old gun and drug possession case. He spent months in prison before a court ordered him released, with visitors like Robert Kraft, the Patriots owner and Michael Rubin, co-owner of the 76ers.

The current system "is not good for America," Kraft said. "We can make America better if we really cure this problem."

The Reform Alliance will be led by Van Jones, a CNN host and activist who at one point served as an adviser to former President Barack Obama.

About 2.2 million people in the U.S. are incarcerated, and about 4.5 million are on probation or parole, according to government statistics.

Jones said the Reform Alliance is taking aim at the cycle of probation and parole violations that leads people back to prison.

"That is the revolving door that keeps people back in and back in and back in," Jones said. "We're going to dismantle that revolving door."

He said the efforts would be toward educating the public and legislators about how people are impacted, how minor issues like missing an appointment can have huge repercussions, in an effort to swing momentum toward legislative policy change. He said the organization's efforts would start in Pennsylvania and New York.

Jay-Z said that he has seen this issue impact a lot of people and their families throughout his life.

"For us, this is how we grew up," he said. "We're all prisoners to this, until everyone's free, no one's free."

Jonas Mekas, 'godfather' of avant-garde, dies at 96

Jonas Mekas the Lithuanian-born director, critic, patron and poet widely regarded as the godfather of modern American avant-garde film and as an indispensable documenter of his adopted New York City, has died. He was 96.

Mekas, who survived a Nazi labor camp and years as a refugee, died Wednesday morning at his home, said the Anthology Film Archives. Mekas was artistic director of the New York-based nonprofit theater, a leading avant-garde cinema and center for film preservation.

Weighted by the scars of wartime Europe, energized by postwar America, he was at the center of an historic era for the avant-garde and befriended such celebrities as Jacqueline Kennedy, John Lennon and Andy Warhol. He published poetry and memoirs, made hundreds of films and videos, wrote an influential column for the Village Voice and opened the Anthology Film Archives, where a young Martin Scorsese was a frequent attendee.

"There isn't one word, or even a dozen, to characterize the breadth of Jonas Mekas's achievement," the critic J. Hoberman wrote in 2012.

Scorsese, John Waters and James Franco were among his admirers, and, although he never approached mainstream popularity, his friends and collaborators included some of the most important artists of his time and some of the most famous people in the world.

On Wednesday, filmmaker Jim Jarmusch called Mekas "one of the most inspiring artists I have ever encountered — the poets' version of the Kung Fu master."

Using film as a diary, never far from a 16mm Bolex camera, Mekas defied the rules of commercial movies while reaching back to the earliest days of moving images, when filmmakers simply recorded scenes of everyday life.

"The avant-garde is always the front line in any field," Mekas said in 2010. "That's where usually it's all very fragile, and on the front line is where usually most of the bullets hit you. Most of the attacks are directed against the front line. It's that area that I felt needed somebody who would defend it from all those critics and those attacks. So that was my function, to try to help those very fragile new developments."

Kennedy allowed Mekas to film her and her family, a rare gesture by the private former first lady and the basis of the Mekas documentary "This Side of Paradise." He was an early supporter of Warhol and helped film Warhol's underground classic, "Empire," an 8-hour silent portrait of the Empire State Building. He shot some of the earliest known footage of rock's prototypical punk/avant-garde band, the Velvet Underground.

He was close to Allen Ginsberg and other Beat poets and his first full-length release, "Guns of the Trees," was a 1961 documentary that featured Ginsberg's narration. He knew Yoko Ono years before she met Lennon and later became friends with both, filming a Lennon birthday where guests included Ringo Starr and Miles Davis and helping Lennon and Ono settle into New York after they moved from London in the early 1970s.

"It was late at night and I was in bed, when I got a call from Yoko, who had just landed with John at JFK (airport)," Mekas told the Guardian in 2012. "She said, 'Jonas, John wants an espresso. Do you know a good place that is still open in New York?' It was a little crazy, but that was how it was back then."

He was among the most vital filmmakers never to receive an Academy Award, although his adaptation of a play about life in a military prison, "The Brig," did win the Grand Prize at the Venice Film Festival in 1963. Other notable works included "Walden," a 3-hour documentary about the New York art scene of the 1960s that features shots of Lennon and Ono, Norman Mailer and Timothy Leary; "Reminiscences of a Journey to Lithuania"; and "Lost, Lost, Lost," reflections on his early years in New York with footage of Ginsberg, poet Frank O'Hara and Amiri Baraka.

Many of his projects were collaborations with his brother and fellow refugee, Adolfas Mekas, who died in 2011. Some works were as intimate and dreamlike as a home movie, with abrupt cuts and disjointed sound. The technique often reinforced the story; the harsh lighting and blurred images of his Velvet Underground film seemed to capture the jarring, foggy ambiance of the music itself.

Mekas was also revered among fellow poets, especially for the cycles "Idylls of Semeniskiai," about his early years in rural Lithuania, and "Reminiscences," verse about his years after World War II.

It was a miracle that he lived past childhood. Mekas, born in a farming community in 1922, was repeatedly displaced and persecuted. The Soviet Union annexed Lithuania in 1939, only to have the Nazis seize the country two years and send Mekas and brother Adolfas, to labor camp. The brothers escaped, and lived as refugees in the years immediately following World War II, a time captured in his "Reminiscences" cycle:

So, slowly, we pushed on that summer, laying in

at every train stop, beside each bridge,

trudging down blackened knolls and

out along narrow fieldpaths,

spending the nights on burned-out platforms

and charred tracks.

After briefly thinking of emigrating to Israel, the Mekas brothers arrived in New York in October 1949.

"Yesterday, at about 10pm, the General Howze pulled into the Hudson River. We stood on the deck and we stared. 1,352 Displaced Persons stared at America," Jonas, who settled in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, wrote in his diary at the time. "All the wartime, post-war DP miseries, desperations and hopelessness, and then suddenly you are faced with a dream. You have to see New York at night, from the Hudson, like this, to see its incredible beauty."

Already fascinated by movies, he initially thought he could adapt avant-garde sensibilities to commercial films. But he decided within a few years that the mainstream was hopeless. In the early 1960s, he helped establish the New American Cinema Group, through which Mekas, Peter Bogdanovich, photographer-filmmaker Robert Frank and others called for an independent system of making and distributing movies.

"The official cinema all over the world is running out of breath. It is morally corrupt, esthetically obsolete, thematically superficial, temperamentally boring," the group announced in its founding manifesto.

Over the following decades, Mekas championed the avant-garde in every way possible — as a director, fundraiser, critic, publisher, programmer, distributor and agitator, even spending a night in jail in 1964 for exhibiting Jack Smith's explicit "Flaming Creatures." He was the Village Voice's original film reviewer, a job later held by Hoberman and Andrew Sarris among others, and his Film Culture magazine (which ended in the 1990s) included contributions from Sarris, Bogdanovich and Manny Farber.

He grew more prolific with age. In 2007, when he turned 85, he posted a new short film online for every day of the year. In his 90s, he was still regularly adding videos to his web site, www.jonasmekas.com , whether shots of rain falling in Brooklyn or a mealtime conversation with fellow documentary maker Agnes Varda. He was also writing about his early years in New York City. "We are bound together by life," he said of himself and the city in 2013.

In an interview with The New York Times published in January, Mekas calmly ruminated about death.

"It's a very normal transition," he said. "What's beyond that line, it's where the mystery begins, where it becomes interesting. There are glimpses in the messages that come from there, some of the old Scriptures. Indications are there, and I believe it all. I believe it much more than anything that's written since the 12th century."

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AP Film Writer Jake Coyle contributed to this report.

Gandolfini's son cast as young Tony for 'Sopranos' prequel

The son of James Gandolfini has been cast as the young Tony Soprano in the planned "Sopranos" prequel, "The Many Saints of Newark."

Michael Gandolfini will play a younger version of the iconic character his late father played on the HBO series. The 19-year-old actor has had a recurring role on HBO's "The Deuce."

Gandolfini said in a statement it's "a profound honor to continue my dad's legacy." James Gandolfini died of a heart attack at the age of 51 in 2013.

"Sopranos" creator David Chase is producer and screenwriter for the New Line production. Alan Taylor, who directed several episodes of "The Sopranos" and 2013's "Thor: The Dark World," is set to direct.

"The Sopranos" recently celebrated the 20th anniversary of its 1999 debut.

Zimbabwe and world music star Oliver Mtukudzi dies at 66

One of Zimbabwe and Africa's most iconic musicians, Oliver Mtukudzi, died on Wednesday at age 66 after decades of rollicking, captivating performances won him devoted fans worldwide.

"It is difficult to accept, I have no words," said musician and poet Albert Nyathi, who joined several other mourners at the hospital in the capital, Harare, where the star passed away. "What is left is to celebrate his life."

Zimbabwe's state-run Herald newspaper reported that Mtukudzi had "succumbed to a long battle with diabetes."

With his distinctive husky voice, Mtukudzi had a career that stretched from white minority-ruled Rhodesia to majority-ruled Zimbabwe, producing a string of hits that spread his fame across Africa and eventually to an international audience.

Tuku, as he was widely known, avoided political controversy. The closest he came was with his 2001 song "Bvuma," which in the Shona language means "accept that you are old" and was taken as a message to longtime leader Robert Mugabe to retire.

Paul Mangwana, a senior official with Zimbabwe's ruling ZANU-PF party, praised Mtukudzi for remaining "apolitical," saying he supported calls for the singer to be buried at the national heroes' acre, a shrine that is a preserve of ruling party elites.

"He was a nation-builder. Where it was necessary to criticize he would, and where it was necessary to praise he would," Mangwana said at the hospital.

In a country where political tensions are high and party loyalties matter, Mtukudzi cut across the divide, singing at ruling party events but also performing at late opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai's wedding and funeral.

"Today we said goodbye to a true patriot. Oliver Mtukudzi, your voice has given us comfort during difficult times, and will remain with us for posterity," President Emmerson Mnangagwa said.

One of Mtukudzi's biggest hits was "Neria," a mournful song about the tribulations of a woman who was thrown into poverty when her husband died because customary law did not allow her to inherit his property. It was the title song of a movie of the same name.

In 1980, Mtukudzi celebrated Zimbabwe's independence by singing the country's new national anthem, "Ishe Komborera Africa" (God Bless Africa) with a reggae inflection.

He sang, played guitar and danced while directing a tight band of guitarists, keyboards, percussionists and dancers. He released more than 60 albums and made several successful international tours, performing in neighboring South Africa late last year.

He also was known for mentoring young Zimbabwean musicians. "He was like a father figure," said MacDonald Chidavaenzi, a songwriter and producer.

Mtukudzi's company in a statement called him a "national icon" as well as "a father, brother, grandfather, uncle, and above all a husband to his loving wife Daisy Mtukudzi."

Mtukudzi wrote songs in a style that were a mix of Zimbabwean and South African rhythms that became known at "Tuku music."

The ruling African National Congress in South Africa tweeted simply "Rest in peace."

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Meldrum reported from Johannesburg.

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Follow Africa news at https://twitter.com/AP_Africa

Cardi B is getting her 1st Las Vegas residency

Cardi B will have her first Las Vegas residency this spring.

Palms Casino Resort announced Wednesday the 26-year-old singer's appearance as part of its debut of KAOS, a dayclub and nightclub amphitheater-style complex that is set to open in April.

Above and Beyond, G-EAZY, Kaskade and Skrillex are among the other artists who will have exclusive residencies at the complex.

KAOS is part of the Palms' $690 million renovation that features state-of-the-art technology designed to enhance performances including a rotating 360-degree DJ booth.

Tickets for select dates are available.

Alec Baldwin taking anger class in parking dispute plea deal

Days after appearing as President Donald Trump in a "Deal or No Deal" parody on "Saturday Night Live," Alec Baldwin took a deal of his own Wednesday, agreeing to attend an anger management class to resolve a criminal case stemming from a skirmish over a parking spot.

Baldwin, who was accused of striking another driver in the face during the dispute last fall outside his New York City home, pleaded guilty to harassment and will have his case record sealed once he completes the one-day class. The charge is a violation, the lowest level of offense.

A misdemeanor attempted assault charge was dropped.

Prosecutors offered the compromise after reviewing video of the incident, looking at medical records and talking with the victim and witnesses, Assistant District Attorney Ryan Lipes said. The 60-year-old Baldwin, who's had various scrapes with the law over the years, has a clean criminal record, Lipes said.

Baldwin — in a sport coat, black top and black framed glasses — only spoke a few words during the brief court hearing, mostly answering short questions from the judge.

The Manhattan prosecutor's office declined comment.

Baldwin and his lawyer didn't comment outside court, but the actor wasn't shy on Twitter, where he criticized the media for staking out his courtroom when there were more serious cases elsewhere in the building and for misreporting the allegations against him.

"The press reported that I punched someone. That is untrue, and that is a serious charge. A man was punched in NY recently and died," Baldwin tweeted, along with a link to a news article about a fatal bar fight in Queens last November.

"Nothing that resembles justice ever enters or leaves any courtroom in this country," he added.

Baldwin was accused of trying to punch another driver during a Nov. 2 argument over a parking spot in front of his Manhattan apartment building.

Police said Baldwin claimed he had a family member holding the spot for him as he attempted to park his black Cadillac Escalade when a man driving a black Saab station wagon pulled up and took it.

Police said the men were arguing and pushed each other before Baldwin, got more aggressive. The driver of the station wagon told police that Baldwin hit him with his hand — but wasn't sure if it was a punch or a slap.

Baldwin told a police officer that the other driver "stole my spot," used a vulgarity to describe him, and acknowledged pushing him, prosecutors said in court papers.

Baldwin's lawyer, Alan Abramson, maintained that the former "30 Rock" actor would be vindicated by "incontrovertible video evidence."

Baldwin said on Twitter after Wednesday's hearing that there were three security cameras outside his building and that the punch "didn't happen."

No video was shown in court.

Baldwin, who got booted off a flight in 2011 for refusing to put his cellphone away, was playing with his phone while waiting for Wednesday's hearing to start — but he didn't argue when court officers announced that phones had to be turned off and out of sight.

As it was, the second-floor courtroom was already noisy — with the beeping sound of inmate-transport buses backing up outside, providing a constant, if not annoying, soundtrack for his appearance.

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Follow Sisak at twitter.com/mikesisak

Mexico City neighborhood celebrates "Roma" nominations

News of Alfonso Cuaron's "Roma" being nominated for 10 Academy Awards Tuesday had residents of the director's childhood Mexico City neighborhood joyfully mining their own memories and anticipating showing their children the film someday.

Cuaron's personal film shot in black-and-white with dialogue in Spanish and Mixtec was an atypical hit. The film dedicated to a domestic worker in his childhood home was released on Netflix allowing an audience far beyond those likely to buy a ticket to an intimate art house-type film to catch a glimpse of the capital's middle class Roma Sur, or South Roma, neighborhood.

Gloria Silvia Monreal lives across the street from Cuaron's childhood home. On Tuesday, she promised to shower Cuaron with kisses if he wins.

"He lived there in front and my parents and his parents greeted each other like good neighbors," Monreal said. "My brothers say they played ball here in the street."

Cuaron recreated the original facade of his home on Monreal's house to shoot some scenes. She has already seen the movie four times.

"It was something sensational, lovely," she said. "For us it was an incredible experience."

Roma Sur has been undergoing a steady transformation in recent years and becoming one of the city's hipper neighborhoods. Original art deco-style homes now mix with six-story chic apartment buildings. Bare bones taco posts give way to cafes and craft beer bars.

Rocio Moreno, 58, has lived in the Roma for 40 years. She hopes the film's attention will more generally help the image of Mexico and Latinos, "above all to boost the perception of this type of movie."

The home featured in the film sits on a quiet narrow street. In "Roma" the home's address is conveniently visible making it an easy pilgrimage site for fans visiting the city. The movie's success has made the film home and Cuaron's real childhood house across the street something of a tourist destination.

On Tuesday, Alex Kitterman, a 49-year-old fire man from England was snapping photos of the street. He saw "Roma" recently on Netflix and decided to stop by during his vacation.

"It makes a nice change to what is there in the cinema generally at the moment, all those Marvel Comics movies, a lot of violence," he said. "This is a gentle movie so I think it's a nice contrast to what is there at the moment."

Eliana Olaizola, a native of Argentina, now lives with her family in Cuaron's childhood home.

The 45-year-old doctor said it was wonderful that Mexican cinema was getting such international exposure.

"I like that (the film) is going to be something that I'll be able to show my children when they're older and they're going to be able to see their childhood home," she said. "I loved the movie."

Russell Baker, author and NY Times columnist is dead at 93

Russell Baker, the genial, but sharp-witted writer who won Pulitzer Prizes for his humorous columns in The New York Times and a moving autobiography of his impoverished Baltimore childhood and later hosted television's "Masterpiece Theatre," has died. He was 93.

Allen Baker told The Associated Press that his father died on Monday from complications after a fall.

In his later years, Baker lived in Leesburg, Virginia, not far from the rural Loudoun County community where he was born. His family later moved to New Jersey and Baltimore.

Amiable and approachable, but also clear-eyed and street smart, Baker enjoyed a decades-long career as reporter, columnist, critic and on-air personality. He won Pulitzers in 1979 for the "Observer," the Times column he wrote for 35 years, and in 1983 for his autobiography "Growing Up."

The Great Depression and World War II shaped Baker's early life. He began his career as a reporter in 1947 and rose to become a national New York Times reporter in Washington, D.C., in 1954.

He covered Congress, the military and State Department during the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations before tiring, he would recall, of waiting for politicians to come out of meeting rooms and lie to him. He drew upon those experiences for his column, writing as a curious and wide-eyed outsider who could leave an adversary buried under the weight of common sense.

"On television we see President Reagan in a cave. It is the Mammoth Cave, one of America's great caves. The TV news reader says the President has come there to create 'a photo opportunity.' Here is President Reagan on television again. He is looking at a bald eagle. The President and the eagle are in the same room enjoying 'a photo opportunity,' according to the TV news voice," Baker wrote in 1984.

"His environmental policy has been characterized by a reluctance to do anything that would create difficulty for the business community. It is entirely possible to defend this position with persuasive argument. The President of the cave and the eagle, however, is not defending a sensibly thought-out policy; he is being used to deceive us into thinking that he is what he, in fact, is not."

Baker didn't ask to be called a humorist. During a 1994 speech in Hartford, Connecticut, he said his goal for the "Observer" was to render the federal government, politics and diplomacy accessible through plain, easy-to-read language. It was to be more widely appealing than the "High-Church, polysyllabic" writing common in The New York Times.

"Well, as I soon discovered, in those days if you wrote short sentences and plain English in the Times, everybody naturally assumed you were being funny," he said in the speech.

Baker's targets included his own profession. "Those who expected me to have something to say had obviously never heard the classic definition of a newspaper man: 'A man with nothing on his mind and the power to express it,'" he said during the Hartford speech.

He wrote a second autobiography, "The Good Times," to follow "Growing Up." The first focused on his childhood, the second on his early journalistic career. Baker would eventually write, edit or contribute to more than 15 other books, collections and assorted works — including a musical play and children's book.

Baker was born in 1925 to stonemason Benjamin Baker and schoolteacher Lucy Elizabeth Baker. He married Miriam Emily Nash in 1950 and had three children: Kathleen, Allen and Michael.

Benjamin Baker died of untreated diabetes when his son was 5. Lucy Baker struggled through the Great Depression as a single mother living in Baltimore.

Russell Baker remembered his mother as a key influence driving him to succeed.

"She would make me make something of myself whether I wanted to or not," he wrote in "Growing Up."

Baker served in the U.S. Naval Reserve from 1943 to 1945 and was trained as a pilot during World War II. He graduated from Johns Hopkins University in 1947 and began his journalism career that year as a police reporter with The Baltimore Sun. He became the newspaper's London bureau chief in 1953.

Baker took over as "Masterpiece Theatre's" host in 1993, succeeding Alistair Cooke, and remained until 2004. Baker's on-air commentary for public television focused on providing critical perspectives on featured works along with historical context. He also provided insights into the original authors' approaches and detailed liberties taken to adapt the literature for television.

He wrote long-form reviews and other articles for The New York Review of Books during his years following the Times. He told a reporter for the Times Union, located in Albany, New York, in 2002 that the assignments were more rewarding during his retirement than the "hyped-up" work of column writing, when "you're sweating it out worrying if they'll read past the second paragraph."

His final column ran on Christmas Day, 1998. An Associated Press story at the time described it as a quiet adieu.

"He apologized for talking about himself," the story read, "remembered warmly a pope, a couple of presidents and his Uncle Allen, and concluded he had said enough for the time being."

'Black Panther' makes Oscar history with best picture nod

"Black Panther" broke through an Oscar category wall for superheroes.

The Marvel blockbuster hit became the first comic book-based film to earn a best picture nomination from the Academy Awards on Tuesday. It was a major step for comic book movies, which had previously been shunned from film's top honor.

The most notable snub was 2008's "The Dark Knight," prompting the academy to expand the best picture category from five to up to 10 nominees.

It took a decade, but "Black Panther" cracked the category after becoming a box-office hit domestically and a cultural phenomenon. The film earned $700 million domestically during its theatrical run.

Overall, "Black Panther" was rewarded a total of seven nominations including Hannah Beachler and Jay Hart's production design, Ruth E. Carter's costume design and Kendrick Lamar and SZA's song "All the Stars." The film was also nominated for best sound editing, sound mixing and original score.

Beachler became the first African-American nominee for production design.

"To break down a wall like that, to be your ancestors' wildest dreams, to show other young women of color and boys and girls that you can do whatever you want no matter what struggles you have in your life — all of that. That's what it means to me," said Beachler, talking by phone from the Cincinnati set of Todd Haynes' latest film.

Ludwig Goransson, who scored the film, gave a lot of credit to the film's overall success to director Ryan Coogler, who was shut out of the directing category.

"He's an exceptional leader," said Goransson of Coogler, who he's known since college. The Grammy-nominated producer said his rapport with the director put together "memorable music" for the film.

"We're not doing anything different than what we did 10 years ago," said Goransson, a longtime producer of Childish Gambino. "I just tried to make the best music as I could to serve Ryan's vision. When working with him, I try to make the best possible music as I can."

Carter said she feels proud to be a part of a film like "Black Panther."

"With this film, I felt like there was a paradigm shift," said Carter, who was previously nominated for her designs for Spike Lee's "Malcolm X" and Steven Spielberg's "Amistad." ''The nominations let me know that not only Marvel fans, people of Africa and African-Americans felt really happy about this film, and loved the costume designs."

Netflix joins MPAA lobbying group, its 1st streaming member

On the same day Netflix scored its first best picture nomination from the Oscars, the streaming company is also joining the lobbying group the Motion Picture Association of America.

The MPAA announced Tuesday that Netflix will join its ranks, becoming the first streaming service to do so. The only other members of the MPAA are the six major studios.

One of the MPAA's chief goals is to combat piracy, which is a concern for Netflix as it continues to expand its footprint overseas. Netflix, though, doesn't use the MPAA's ratings system to stamp its films PG-13 or R, for example.

The MPAA is largely uninvolved in theatrical window debates, an ongoing dispute that has put Netflix at odds with theater owners.

The trade group is set to lose one member this year when 20th Century Fox is acquired by the Walt Disney Co.

Netflix on Tuesday landed 15 Academy Awards nominations, including best picture for "Roma."

Unseen J.D. Salinger photos shot for 'Catcher' on display

The University of New Hampshire is celebrating J.D. Salinger's centennial year with an exhibit he likely would have loathed: a display of previously unseen photos of the famously reclusive author.

Salinger, who was born Jan. 1, 1919, and died in 2010, spent the last nearly six decades of his life far from the public eye in Cornish, New Hampshire. The photos unveiled Tuesday were taken by famed German photographer Lotte Jacobi for the book jacket of Salinger's 1951 novel "Catcher in the Rye," but he requested the picture be removed from the book after the first printing so he wouldn't be recognized.

The collection of 17 images essentially doubles the number of public photos of Salinger, said Thomas Payne, associate professor of English at the university.

Payne said that in today's society where "narcissism has gone viral," Salinger was ahead of his time in retreating to Cornish to "pull the wall down on human interaction."

"Today, if J.D. went to Cornish ... we'd know what he was fleeing," Payne said. "The emptiness of being known but not really seen."

Though he praised Salinger as someone with a "rare depth of soul," Payne also said viewing some of his work and his personal life through the lens of the current #MeToo movement is "very troubling."

At age 53, Salinger wrote to an 18-year-old college student, Joyce Maynard, and invited her to live with him after reading an essay she had published in The New York Times Magazine. Maynard dropped out of Yale and lived with him for a year before he sent her packing.

"That is obviously of deep concern," Payne said in an interview. "I had women writers in my life 10 years ago who, when I spoke of my love of Salinger, called me out. I didn't see what they saw enough. ... I deeply regret that I was obtuse, that I didn't see what they saw."

Maynard, also an author, said Tuesday that the photos show a very different man from the one she knew.

"This was a young man in possession of no small amount of ambition, publishing his first novel, and hoping very much to capture the attention of the public. The demands for privacy would come much later," she said in an email.

Though she waited 25 years before publishing a book about the year she spent with Salinger before he sent her packing, she was widely criticized for violating his privacy by telling her story and for later selling the letters Salinger wrote her. In 1999, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd called her a "predator."

"I do believe the response to this book would be very different, if it were published today," said Maynard, who is now resuming her sophomore year at Yale 46 years later.

Though she said Salinger's treatment of her and other behaviors call his character into question, Maynard said his books should stand apart from the writer.

"You can question Salinger as a human being and still view him as a great writer," she said. "But his brilliance in no way earned him the right to be exempt from the same kinds of standards of behavior as the rest of us."

Jacobi, who photographed Albert Einstein, Eleanor Roosevelt and other famous figures of the 20th century, also spent her final years in a small New Hampshire town. But unlike Salinger, who stopped publishing in 1965, she remained active well into her 80s and left nearly 50,000 negatives to the university when she died in 1990. The exhibit of her work will be on display at the University of New Hampshire library until March 29.

Spike Lee likes his Oscar odds with 'BlackKkKlansman'

Spike Lee watched the Oscar nominations Tuesday morning on television from his bed, with his wife, Tonya, his two grown children, Satchel and Jackson, and their dog, Ginger.

Screaming ensued .

Lee landed his first directing Academy Award nomination for "BlacKkKlansman," his comic and furious send-up of white supremacism. The film, about a black detective (John David Washington) who leads an undercover investigation of the Klu Klux Klan, won six nominations altogether, including best picture and best adapted screenplay, a nod Lee shared with Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz and Kevin Willmott.

But the most long-in-coming nomination was Lee's first nod for best director, something many thought should have happened numerous times before, starting with 1989's "Do the Right Thing." Lee was nominated then for best screenplay for that film, but the lack of more Oscar attention for "Do the Right Thing" was lamented even then by Oscar presenter Kim Basinger .

"Thirty years is a long time, ain't it?" Lee said Tuesday by phone from the Brooklyn office of his production company, 40 Acres and a Mule, before letting out a lengthy cackle.

In that time, the 61-year-old Lee hasn't escaped the notice of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. His "4 Little Girls" was nominated for best documentary in 1998 and he was given an honorary Oscar in 2016 when he rebuked Hollywood's diversity record, saying: "It's easier to be president of the United States as a black person than be head of a studio. Honest."

But that Lee, the filmmaker of "Malcolm X," ''25th Hour" and "When the Levees Broke," has never won a competitive Oscar strikes many as a plain injustice. Now, Lee may have the best shot of his career in "BlacKkKlansman."

He likes his odds.

"'BlacKkKlansman' is the dark horse — pun intended," said Lee with another laugh. "You know what? That's fitting. I've always been an underdog, from the very beginning, from film school. That narrative has not changed. And I like that position."

Lee regretted the oversight of his lead actor, John David Washington, whom he called on Tuesday to console. Lee told Washington, whose father Denzel has been a mainstay in Lee's films, that there are awards in his future. "Young blood, you'll be here," Lee vowed.

Adam Driver, who plays Washington's partner in the film, was nominated for best supporting actor. "BlacKkKlansman" composer Terence Blanchard was also nominated for best score, the jazz musician's first nomination after a career scoring most of Lee's films since 1991's "Jungle Fever."

Lee becomes the sixth black filmmaker nominated for best director. The last was Jordan Peele, who produced "BlacKkKlansman" and sent Lee the script, based on Ron Stallworth's 2014 memoir. Lee and Willmott then gave the tale a searing coda, connecting the 1970s-set film with last year's violent white supremacist protest in Charlottesville, Virginia.

No black filmmaker has ever won best director.

"One day, one of us has got to break through," said Lee.

Lee planned to celebrate with a get-together in Fort Lee, Brooklyn, Tuesday evening. But his thoughts were also on the timely subject of his film, one he traces directly to President Donald Trump. After the film's premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in May, Lee lambasted Trump for his response to Charlottesville. Lee released the film in August on the one-year anniversary of Charlottesville.

"This film speaks directly to the Looney Tunes world we live in. It speaks directly to why the government is shut down, why 800,000 people are in desperation not knowing where their next check is going to come from. It speaks to everything this guy has brought to the world since he's occupied the White House," said Lee. "People get it right away."

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Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP

The Latest: Chris Brown released from custody in Paris

The Latest on rape allegations against U.S. singer Chris Brown (all times local):

10:30 p.m.

The Paris prosecutor's office says that U.S. singer Chris Brown has been released from custody over rape allegations against him.

Brown and two other people were released on Tuesday evening in Paris after a woman filed a rape complaint. 

The Grammy-winning singer was detained Monday on potential charges of aggravated rape and drug infractions. The Paris prosecutor's office said the investigation is ongoing.

A post late Tuesday on Brown's Instagram page strongly denied the accusations.

"I WANNA MAKE IT PERFECTLY CLEAR...... THIS IS FALSE," the post said. "FOR MY DAUGHTER AND MY FAMILY THIS IS SO DISPRESPECTFUL AND IS AGAINST MY CHARACTER AND MORALS!!!!!"

___

12 p.m.

Two police officials say U.S. singer Chris Brown and two other people are in custody in Paris after a woman filed a rape complaint.

One police official said the complaint was filed with police in the 17th arrondissement of northwest Paris. The official said one of the others detained is Brown's bodyguard.

Both officials said Brown was detained Monday and is still in custody Tuesday while police study the complaint. Neither is authorized to be publicly named discussing the investigation.

Brown's publicists at Sony Music would not immediately comment.

Brown has been in repeated legal trouble since pleading guilty to the felony assault in 2009 of his then-girlfriend, Rihanna. He completed his probation in that case in 2015.

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