And the Oscar Goes to…

2015 Oscars

The winners of the category for “Best Original Screenplay”: Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr., Armando Bo (Birdman).

Sunday night marked the 87th Academy Awards – a night where Hollywood’s leading actors, directors, and other film industry insiders gathered to celebrate the roles and movies that shaped 2014. This year’s Academy Awards, also known as The Oscars, received a lot of criticism for the lack of diversity represented in the nominees, and reportedly had the lowest ratings in years. This won’t stop the Academy from giving out Oscars annually to the talented people working in film, but with any luck it will make members of the Academy think more critically about diversity in film moving forward.

Without further ado, here are the winners of the 2015 Academy Awards:

Best Picture

Birdman, Alejandro G. Iñárritu, John Lesher and James W. Skotchdopole

Best Director

Birdman, Alejandro G. Iñárritu

Best Actor

The Theory of Everything, Eddie Redmayne

Best Actress

Still Alice, Julianne Moore

Best Supporting Actor

Whiplash, J.K. Simmons

Best Supporting Actress

Boyhood, Patricia Arquette

Best Original Screenplay

Birdman, Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr., Armando Bo

Best Adapted Screenplay2015 Oscars

The Imitation Game, Graham Moore

Best Original Song

“Glory” from Selma, John Stephens and Lonnie Lynn

Best Original Score

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Best Cinematography

Birdman, Emmanuel Lubezki

Best Costume Design

The Grand Budapest Hotel, Milena Canonero

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

The Grand Budapest Hotel, Frances Hannon and Mark Coulier

Best Production Design

The Grand Budapest Hotel, Adam Stockhausen (Production Design); Anna Pinnock (Set Decoration)

Best Foreign Language Film

Ida, Poland; Directed by Pawel Pawlikowski

Best Documentary Feature

Citizenfour, Laura Poitras, Mathilde Bonnefoy and Dirk Wilutzky

Best Documentary Short

Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1, Ellen Goosenberg Kent and Dana Perry

Best Film Editing

Whiplash, Tom Cross

Best Animated Short Film

Feast, Patrick Osborne and Kristina Reed

Best Animated Feature Film

Big Hero 6, Don Hall, Chris Williams and Roy Conli2015 Oscars

Best Live-Action Short Film

The Phone Call, Mat Kirkby and James Lucas

Best Sound Editing

American Sniper, Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman

Best Sound Mixing

Whiplash, Craig Mann, Ben Wilkins and Thomas Curley

Best Visual Effects

Interstellar, Paul Franklin, Andrew Lockley, Ian Hunter and Scott Fisher

Images: via Instagram.

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Jeb Bush Fundraiser Raises $4 Million

Jeb Bush

Presidential hopeful Jeb Bush has been receiving significant financial support from donors. Image: via Instagram.

The Park Avenue apartment of Henry and Marie-Josée Kravis saw a series of star-studded visitors last week for an event to support Jeb Bush’s potential run for president.

Attendees included former Republican National Chairman Ken Mehlman; Kravis’s colleagues at KKR, including Zach Pack and Alex Navab; and other big names in business such as real estate developer Jerry Speyer and George Walker IV, chairman and chief executive of Neuberger Berman Group LLC. In total, more than 40 supporters attended, according to sources who were present.

The event raised more than $4 million for Bush’s PAC Right to Rise—far more than the anticipated $100,000.

The Kravises promised guests the opportunity to meet with Bush in an informal setting and get a solid idea of his political views. According to attendees, this promise was paid in full.

The Kravis event is one of a long line of fundraisers and meet-and-greets Bush has planned in an effort to develop his network and financial capacity in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. In addition to raising support, both financial and otherwise, the Bush campaign is making an effort to maintain transparency, even allowing reporters to attend a PAC fundraiser in Tallahassee earlier in the week. Bush also met with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, prompting many to believe he has Kissinger’s coveted seal of approval for a presidential run.

Given Bush’s series of high-profile events, there has been speculation that followers of Mitt Romney have been encouraged to move their support to Bush. However, the question of whether or not Romney confidant and investing partner Spencer Zwick has joined the Bush camp remains open.

Given the success of the KKR fundraiser, it’s likely that Bush’s efforts will raise a total of between $50 million and $100 million for his super PAC.

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‘Parks and Recreation’ Executive Producer Dies of Suspected Overdose

harris wittels

Parks and Recreation producer Harris Wittels was pronounced dead this week from a possible drug overdose. Image: via Facebook.

30-year-old comedian and Parks and Recreation executive producer Harris Wittels was pronounced dead of an apparent drug overdose around 1pm Thursday when his assistant found him on his couch in his home the Los Angeles Police Department said. Wittels was very open about his struggles with drug addiction. He even spoke about them on Mar Maron’s “WTF” podcast Comedy Bang Bang.

Parks and Recreation will air its final episode next Tuesday, in what will be the seventh season of the acclaimed comedy. Wittels appeared in the show in a small role as an animal control employee. The official cause of death is still to be determined by the County coroner but several industry publications have reported it may be because of an overdose. Wittels had gone to rehab twice for his struggles. In addition to Parks and Rec, Wittels had worked on Eastbound and Down, The Sarah Silverman Program and Secret Girlfriend. Wittels also popularized the phrase “humblebrag” when he turned the phenomenon into a book, “Humblebrag: The Art of False Modesty in 2013.”

Many have taken to twitter to express their condolences including cast members from Parks and Recreation, Sarah Silverman, Seth Meyers, Funny or Die, Comedy Central and Dane Cook. Wittels also performed standup comedy, played drums and provided backup vocals for musical group Don’t Stop or We’ll Die with fellow comedians Michael Cassady and Paul Rust. He spoke to a crowd Wednesday night before his death and his music trio was scheduled for a performance at the UCB Theater on February 28th. Mr. Wittels was a graduate of Emerson College and joined Parks and Recreation before its second season.

“You should know that Harris was brilliant beyond compare,” Sarah Silverman wrote. “That his imagination was without limit. That he loved comedy more than anything.”

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Lobbyists Move for Affordable Prenatal Care for Mothers

affordable prenatal care

Lobbyists move for affordable prenatal care for mothers. Image: TipsTimesAdmin via Flickr CC.

Before the Affordable Care Act, insurance policies rarely included maternity coverage. Nowadays, people can purchase that sort of coverage during open enrollment. For twenty women’s rights organizations, however, the situation requires more attention: What about unplanned pregnancies?

While ACA insurance policies cover what happens after childbirth, there’s little in place for women who are currently pregnant—particularly if they didn’t plan to be.

Currently, the ACA allows women to sign up for coverage during the open enrollment period. It also allows for “special enrollment periods” due to major life changes—losing a job, for example. Lobbyists are hoping to add pregnancy to that list so that more women are able to use the ACA to get the care they need.

“We’re not talking about women who are gaming the system and waiting to sign up for coverage until they need it,” said Christina Postolowski, health policy director for Young Invincibles. “We’re talking about women [who] might not be planning on becoming pregnant.”

Women who can’t afford prenatal care and have no insurance are likely to fall victim to issues that affect both the mother and the unborn child, such as diabetes and high blood pressure. The potential trade-off, of course, would be more costly premiums for the insured. If a woman could sign up for coverage right before a costly life change, those who already have coverage would likely have to pay more. It could also cause problems for the insurance companies.

“The reason why it’s critical to have defined open enrollment periods is so health plans can accurately develop their rates for the upcoming year,” said Clare Krusing, communications director for the industry trade group America’s Health Insurance Plans. If women could enroll at any time, it would be more difficult for insurance companies to determine rates.

If the change in policy does occur, it would only apply to plans purchased on States running their own insurance marketplaces would have to decide on an individual basis whether or not to offer the special enrollment on their policies.

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NY Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver Arrested for Federal Corruption

sheldon silver

New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was arrested last month on federal corruption charges. Image: via

Just one day after New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced his agenda for the coming year, New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was arrested for federal corruption charges. A Democrat, Silver is considered to be one of the most powerful members of the New York state government, where he has served since 1994.

According to court documents filed late last month, Silver is charged with five counts of fraud and conspiracy. The Washington Post reports that prosecutors allege he used his position to take millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks, which he masked as legitimate income earned as a lawyer over 15 years. “A pure, classic shakedown-extortion scheme is what is alleged here,” further explains Miami-based attorney Kendall Coffey on Newsmax, of the charges against him and how they came to be.

Because this year’s legislative session was just commencing, this political scandal has left the people of New York feeling very unsettled. “The arrest of Mr. Silver, 70, immediately upended the state government, throwing the capital into convulsions just as this year’s legislative session gets underway,” write William K. Rashbaum and Thomas Kaplan for The New York Times. Rashbaum and Kaplan also refer to Silver as “the most powerful Democrat in the Legislature.”

“Silver took advantage of the political pulpit to benefit from unlawful profits,” said FBI Special Agent-in-Charge Richard Frankel. Frankel, along with US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara, announced the arrest of Silver on January 22, 2015. Frankel also commented, “We hold our elected representatives to the highest standards and expect them to act in the best interest of their constituents. In good faith, we turst they will do so while defending the fundamental tenets of the legal system. But as we are reminded today, those who make the laws don’t have the right to break the laws.”

Learn more about the indictment of Sheldon Silver in this report of the incident from The New York Times.

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