Texas Church Shooting Survivor Ryland Ward Finally Goes Home

Ryland Ward, who was wounded during a Nov. 5 church shooting, rides in the front seat of a fire truck after his release from the hospital.

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The last hospitalized victim from the Sutherland Springs church massacre in November, 6-year-old Ryland Ward, was released from University Hospital in San Antonio and departed today in grand style: he rode home in a fire truck.

Ward was among the 20 people who survived the shooting attack by a gunman at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, 30 miles southeast of San Antonio. The attacker, who died from a self-inflicted gunshot, also killed more than a dozen others.

Ward has been recovering from five gunshot wounds he suffered in the attack.

His hospital discharge was announced in a statement by University Health System:

“Ryland and his family are happy to be going home. Many of us at University Health System who have been touched by the strength and spirit of Ryland and the other Sutherland Springs patients celebrate this milestone with them and their families.”

The hospital provided no details about Ward’s medical condition.

All of the others injured the shooting were previously discharged from University Health System and two other area hospitals.

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'Fast' Eddie Clarke, Guitarist Behind Classic Motörhead's Riffs, Dies At 67

Motörhead circa 1978. From left: Guitarist Eddie Clarke, drummer Phil Taylor and singer and bassist Lemmy Kilmister.

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“Fast” Eddie Clarke, guitarist for the original three-piece formation of Motörhead, died yesterday evening after a bout with pneumonia, the band’s manager Todd Singerman confirmed to NPR. He was 67.

“Fast Eddie was an integral part of the Motörhead family,” a statement from Springerman reads, “and I have to say I was shocked and saddened when word reached me last night that he had passed. Eddie was the last of the Three Amigos (as that classic line-up was called) still walking, but now the trio are reunited.”

Clarke joined Motörhead, already a known quantity in rock circles, in 1976 through his association with drummer Phil Taylor, who was working for Clarke as a laborer on the restoration of a houseboat on the Thames, in the Chelsea neighborhood of London. “What a f****** Hitler he was, let me tell you,” was the description Taylor gave of his time working for Clarke in the band documentary The Guts and the Glory. “He looked really mellow, but he was a mean son of a b****.”

Clarke was responsible for the punk chugs and cascading, peak-metal riffs within some of the band’s most enduring songs, including “Ace of Spades,” “Capricorn,” “Overkill” and “Fast and Loose.” As he said in a 2016 interview:

“Motörhead wasn’t Lemmy’s band; I wrote all the riffs, mate. He might have wrote a few words, but I’ll tell you, those riffs were good riffs. I love Phil, and it does annoy me a tad, but he didn’t write, or have a hand in that many of the tunes, but I always insisted that he had a third of it, so that we were all equal. I said to Lemmy at the time; ‘Look, if we do it all equal, we won’t have us going to work in a Rolls-Royce, and Phil coming on a push bike, because it will destroy the band.’ I only cared about the band. It wasn’t about money.”

The story of Clarke’s exit from the band in 1982 is a matter of some dispute. Clarke told interviewers in more recent years he was forced out by drummer Phil Taylor (“Phil was … the main instigator in my being excluded from the band,” he said in 2014), while the official line had been that he had resigned. While the details remain foggy, the underlying tensions don’t: Clarke had taken issue with a series of recording sessions for Iron Fist, Motörhead’s fifth album, in particular the band’s cover of the country song “Stand By Your Man,” which featured Lemmy in a duet with Wendy O. Williams of The Plasmatics.

Creating Motörhead’s follow-up album, recorded with new guitarist Brian Robertson, was “f****** torture,” Lemmy said in The Guts and the Glory. For his part, Clarke said of his final contribution that “the songs would’ve been better had we been working as a unit.”

After leaving Motörhead, Clarke formed Fastway with bassist Pete Way of UFO, rehearsing with former Clash drummer Topper Headon and subsequently recruiting the Irish singer Dave King. (King would later form the Irish trad-incorporating, punk-rooted band Flogging Molly.) Fastway never reached the same heights as Motörhead, but Clarke’s guitar work for the band retained his signature, precise menace. His final album was Make My Day: Back to Blues, recorded with Gary Numan keyboardist Bill Sharpe.

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Why Was A Baltimore Patient Discharged At A Bus Stop In Just A Gown?

A Baltimore hospital has started an investigation over why a distressed and confused patient was left at a bus stop at night in cold temperatures and wearing just a hospital gown.

A passerby recorded a video Monday showing four security guards walking away from a bus stop next to University of Maryland Medical Center Midtown Campus. One is pushing an empty wheelchair. They appear to have just left the woman at the stop.

“We share the shock and disappointment of many who have viewed the video showing the discharge of a patient from the Emergency Department of UMMC Midtown the night of January 9,” the hospital said in a statement. “This unfortunate event is not representative of our patient-centered mission. For this, we are truly sorry.”

The hospital adds: “While there are many circumstances of this patient’s case that we cannot address publicly, in the end we clearly failed to fulfill our mission with this patient, no matter the circumstances of her case or the quality of the clinical care we provided in the hospital (which is not depicted in the video).” It says it may take “personnel action” as a result of the discharge.

“Wait, so you’re just going to leave this lady out here with no clothes on?” asks Imamu Baraka, a psychotherapist, the man who recorded the video. The guards walk away.

“That is not OK,” says Baraka. A guard turns around and offers a vague explanation: “Due to the circumstances of what it was.”

The men do not appear to respond when Baraka urges them to call the police. When asked, one of them identifies himself as a supervisor.

Baraka then walks back toward the bus stop where the woman was left, stressing how cold it is outside.

The woman is standing next to the bus stop in a thin yellow hospital gown and socks. She appears scared as she staggers and softly mutters. Several bags of what appear to be her belongings are sitting at the bus stop. The woman moans and cries and coughs, and her breath forms white clouds in the cold.

Baraka calls 911, and rescue workers arrive quickly. They take her back to the hospital where she was discharged just moments before.

It wasn’t clear what the circumstances were surrounding the woman’s discharge into the night, at temperatures of approximately 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

“University of Maryland Medical Center Midtown Campus (UMMC) … may I remind you of the importance of the VISION of your MEDICAL CENTER,” Baraka wrote in the video post. ” ‘UMMC will be known for providing high value and compassionate care, improving health in Maryland and beyond, educating future health care leaders and discovering innovative ways to advance medicine worldwide.’ You can do better. You must do better.”

The video has been widely shared, though NPR is not linking to it out of concern for the patient’s privacy.

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State Department Warns Americans Not To Travel To Five Mexican States

Mexican journalist Javier Valdez lies on the street after he was shot dead in Sinaloa, Mexico, on May 15, 2017. The U.S. State Department is telling Americans to completely avoid five Mexican states because of rising crime and violence.

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The U.S. State Department is warning Americans not to travel to five Mexican states, issuing a “do not travel” advisory.

“Violent crime, such as homicide, kidnapping, carjacking, and robbery, is widespread,” the State Department said in the notice Thursday.

As a result, the department says the frequency of the attacks by criminal organizations in the states of Sinaloa, Colima, Michoacan, Guerrero and Tamaulipas has “limited the U.S. government’s ability to provide emergency services to citizens in the states.” And, in many cases, not even Mexican officials can do much to protect or prevent the widespread scourge of lawlessness against American travelers.

Armed groups frequently maintain roadblocks in many areas of Guerrero. A number of Mexico’s most violent criminal organizations are based in and operate out of Sinaloa. The streets of Tamualipas are often the scene of gang-led gun battles, while armed criminal groups target public and private passenger buses, often taking passengers hostage and demanding ransom payments.

But not all parts of Mexico are covered under the warning. Sixteen of the country’s 32 states received a level-two “exercise caution” warning, the department’s second-lowest advisory. Citizens were told to “reconsider travel” to another 11 states.

Mexico reached record levels of deadly violence in 2017, making it the bloodiest year in the country’s modern history, notes The Guardian. The first 11 months of the year brought 23,101 murder investigations, surpassing the 22,409 registered in the whole of 2011, when the country was in the depths of rampant inter-cartel warfare, says Business Insider.

And as NPR’s Carrie Kahn reports, outside of global conflict zones, Mexico takes the No. 1 spot for journalists murdered in 2017. The Paris-based Reporters Without Borders says Mexico is the “Western Hemisphere’s deadliest country for the media.”

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Ranky Tanky's Self-Titled Debut Makes Traditional Gullah Songs New

Ranky Tanky’s self-titled debut is out now.

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The Gullah people of coastal Georgia and South Carolina trace their language and culture back to their West and Central African ancestors. Among the Gullah’s unique contributions to African-American culture is a deeply distilled repertoire of spirituals and work songs. On the self-titled debut by the quintet Ranky Tanky, Gullah songs are lively, soulful honey to the ears.

The four core members of the band started as a jazz combo, fresh out of college in Charleston, S.C. Three of them grew up in Gullah country, steeped in its creolized cuisine, lifestyle and arts. But the idea of creating a band dedicated to Gullah songs only came together when they recruited Quiana Parler, their lead vocalist. Parler is Gullah herself, and an alumnus of American Idol as well.

Some of the oldest known African-American spirituals come from the Gullah, and they reflect a life of faith under harsh circumstances. On “Turtle Dove,” Parler sings: “When I get to heaven I know the rules; kick ’em right down to the bathing pool.”

But even when the lyrics are sad or stern, Ranky Tanky brings playfulness and warmth to the material, blending in elements of blues, jazz and R&B. On “Sink ‘Em Low,” a simple but powerful rendition of a traditional work song, Parler infuses the solemn lyrics with funk and soul. “Sink ’em low, boy, sink ’em low,” she sings with joy. “Sink ’em low, boy, raise ’em high.”

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Everyone pulls their weight in this tight, efficient combo. But Quiana Parler’s vocal is in a league of its own. With her range, power and control of subtle ornamentation, she could bring down the house all by herself. Her voice is the primary instrument of “Been in The Storm,” backed by sparse, reverent drums.

Ranky Tanky brings freshness and uplift to overlooked Americana. In a pop music milieu ever hungry for newness, this group proves that the right musicians can make the past new all over again.

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'The Commuter': Punching On The Metro-North Express

Liam Neeson has a very particular set of train timetables in The Commuter.

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It’s been a nearly a decade since Liam Neeson, already in his mid-50s and with a long and varied resume of film roles to his credit, switched, like Academy Award winner Nicolas Cage before him, into high-impact, low-ambition action flicks. He’ll still show up for a Scorsese movie or a Lego Movie (and, one hopes, The LegoScorsese Movie) now and then, but he has played more alcoholic/widowed/divorced/guilt-hobbled ex-cops or ex-killers at this point than Denzel Washington and Bruce Willis and Melissa McCarthy combined.

The Commuter, his fourth thriller with Catalan director Jaume Collet-Serra, is not officially a sequel to the pair’s 2014 hit Non-Stop, though it may as well be: It replaces mayhem on a plane with mayhem on a train. In Non-Stop, Neeson was a New York cop turned alcoholic air marshal; this time, he’s a New York cop turned … desperate, debt-crippled insurance broker.

Death Wish of a Salesman, call it. Death of a Sales-Man on Fire. Except that 80 percent of the movie is set on the Metro-North Railroad’s Hudson Line, so … Scars on the Way to Scarsborough. Kills on the 6:04 to Peekskill. Neck-Breaks ‘Til Breakneck Ridge.

On the day Neeson loses his job, a femme fatale played by Vera Farmiga accosts him on the train and offers him — hypothetically — $100,000 to figure out which of his fellow passengers is the droid she’s looking for. Of course, this would be a unthrilling, inactive action-thriller if the hypothetical she proposed turned out in actual fact to be hypothetical. Farmiga is quickly revealed to have godlike powers of observation and an Old Testament God’s taste for vengeance. And she commands an army of secret assassins-in-waiting, which makes it unlikely she would require the help of some long-in-the-tooth ex-cop at all. A decade after he walked away from The Job, his Very Particular Set of Skills appears to consist of persuading carefree, just-married millennials to lock in a low rate on a long-term-care policy. But when Farmiga makes the mistake of threatening his family to get him to play ball … I mean, when has that ever worked?

So what Collet-Serra and screenwriters Byron Willinger and Philip de Blasi have come up with is part Murder on the Orient Express, part… well, there are lot of other parts. As in Non-Stop, they take delight in making us ascribe dark intentions to each of Neeson’s unfamous fellow passengers in turn, and in convincing them that the one man who can save them all is in fact a violent lunatic.

Enough of what happens in the first hour sort of makes sense that one is inclined to forgive the fast-spinning, computer-animated ludicrousness of the second, especially since that second hour is considerate enough to last only 45 minutes. But the movie has a surreal, nightmarish quality that many dutifully coherent thrillers lack. So I’m putting a certain lack of concern for detail in the plus column. Even though the writers really invest in a few details, like the fact that Neeson’s character has spent the past few years reading the great books as a way of trying to inspire his academically shaky but now college-bound son to do the same. (The great character actor Jonathan Banks plays a fellow bookworm who shares the ride with Neeson each day. His contributions to the picture are brief.)

There’s something irreducibly inspired about setting an everyone’s-a-suspect suspense film on a commuter train, that 10-time-a-week crucible of familiarity and alienation. Because the harried family man at The Commuter‘s center is played by Neeson, you keep expecting to learn that the wife and son we meet in the first scene were in fact killed four years ago in a train derailment or a freak spin-class accident. But nope, they’re fine, and moreover, they’re counting on him to replenish the college fund that got wiped out in the 2007-2008 meltdown. For a star who increasingly seems to choose his roles on the advice of his financial planner, there’s a little bit of frisson here.

Collet-Serra remains a competent but not distinguished machinist, now confident to pay homage to more consequential pictures more openly: The Commuter has a big lift from Spartacus, and a little lift from Spielberg’s terrific 2005 War of the Worlds. It won’t have the kind of afterlife those movies have had, but it’s good enough for an in-flight diversion. After all, you really don’t want to watch Non-Stop on a plane.

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In The French Film 'Lover For A Day,' A Mai-Décembre Romance

Ariane (Louise Chevillotte) gazes winsomely out a window like the Parisian university student she is, in Lover for a Day.

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When you’re in love, “you just feel good, like you’re wrapped in a big coat,” says a character in Lover for a Day. Yet there are no big-coat moments in veteran director Philippe Garrel’s latest examination of French erotic discontent.

In the establishing scenes, one woman has stand-up sex in a grubby college bathroom while another weeps as she lugs a suitcase out of her now-ex-boyfriend’s apartment. Both are headed for the same spot in a black-and-white Paris that appears timeless and a bit shabby — a city of striving students, underpaid professors, and eternal youthfulness.

The outcome of the two prologues is a three-way relationship. University student Ariane (Louise Chevillotte) has recently moved in with Gilles (Eric Caravaca), the philosophy instructor with whom she dallied in the lavatory. Then the newly homeless Jeanne (Esther Garrel, the director’s daughter) claims a place on the sofa, as Gilles is her father. It’s a small apartment, but the most awkward thing about the arrangement is that both women are 20.

Ariane and Jeanne are pretty, vivacious, and authentic; they’re not glamorized into unbelievability as in a Hollywood movie. They bicker at first, but soon develop a sisterly rapport — sharing clothes, life stories, and potential paramours. Their bond is tightened by the way each keeps one of the other’s secrets from Gilles.

The story’s fireworks spark not from their rivalry, but from Jeanne’s broken heart and Ariane’s penchant for extracurricular sex. She thinks she has tacit permission from Gilles for the occasional one-night stand, but he — like many of Garrel’s recent characters — is not so accepting of infidelity as his bohemian lifestyle might suggest.

This is the first time the director has given a leading role to his daughter (fresh from her thankless part as the third wheel on Call Me By Your Name‘s bicycle built for two). Yet the off-screen kinship doesn’t mean that Gilles is a stand-in Garrel.

Despite its neo-new-wave style, Lover for a Day is neither offhand nor autobiographical. Garrel sees it as the third in a trilogy (after Jealousy and In the Shadow of Women) about Freudian female psychology. The script was carefully constructed by the director and three collaborators: Caroline Deruas, Arlette Langmann, and the venerable Jean-Claude Carriere, who’s known for adapting such novels as The Tin Drum and The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

The movie’s most literary element is its sporadic narration, delivered impassively by Laetitia Spigarelli and restricted to just a few sentences each time. These economical cues allow Garrel to hop from one episode to another, condense months of activity into 76 minutes, and still have time for a musical number. (It features a song by Jean-Louis Aubert, a Garrel regular.)

The film’s visual style also offers contrasts. The format is widescreen, yet the images are far from epic. Many shots are closeups, and well-known Parisian backdrops are avoided. The characters travel entirely on foot, and never seem to stroll far from Gilles’ apartment. If not for Ariane’s lovers and the shadow of Jeanne’s mostly unseen ex, the three characters’ hometown would seem barely a village.

As in In the Shadow of Women, the use of cellphones is the main clue that Lover for a Day transpires recently, and not 50 years ago. Perhaps Ariane, Jeanne, and Gilles’ feelings are not exactly those of humans throughout history. But the trio’s tale might be easily be transplanted, as so many of Garrel’s movies could, to 1968.

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'Django': Life — And Music — During Wartime

Melody, Unchained: Reda Kateb plays Django Reinhardt — and the guitar — as the music legend attempts to escape German-occupied France in Django.

Under the Milky Way

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Under the Milky Way

A bar fight breaks out during a pivotal scene in Django, the musically crisp yet mournful new wartime drama by Étienne Comar. As the fracas unfolds, the band keeps playing, with a blithe bemusement that seems to say: This happens all the time. But these are far from normal times.

The leader of the band is Django Reinhardt, the incomparably gifted Romani jazz guitarist, soulfully embodied by the French-Algerian actor Reda Kateb. He’s biding his time in the French Alps during German occupation, hoping for stealth passage across Lake Geneva into Switzerland. One of the men throwing punches is a Nazi solider, which means the inevitable: a lineup, a lockup and the sternest of warnings. Reinhardt is no good, it would seem, at laying low.

Kateb studied the guitar for a year to prepare for this role, and his work is evident: There’s an unstudied naturalism to the flicker of his fingers across the fretboard, and the film perks up whenever music is playing. (The guitarist on the soundtrack is Stochelo Rosenberg, who was born in a Dutch Sinti camp, and named his own most recent album Djangologists.) Kateb is also an effective stoic, with a face that communicates through minimal effect.

Django isn’t really a biopic, despite the implication of its title: There are no misty flashbacks to Reinhardt’s childhood stealing chickens in the French countryside, and no scene depicting the caravan fire that badly damaged his left hand (though his two mangled fingers do come up for inspection). The film is more of a fraught character study, a portrait of the artist under pressure. Comar, best known as a writer and producer of the 2010 film Of Gods and Men, brings admirable restraint to his directorial debut, keeping the stakes high and the focus taut.

Reinhardt is a laconic and reluctant hero: “This isn’t my war,” he growls, citing allegiance not to a flag but to a Romani’s coldly pragmatic ambivalence. Django charts his awakening to the horrors of the war — notably for his people, whose mass extermination imbues the film with a self-righteous, lugubrious air. Comar is more effective with uneasy proximities and grim capitulations, showing how complicity can form through a series of slippages.

But the film’s story — loosely adapted from Alexis Salatko’s novel Folles de Django — manages to feel at once oversimplified, underfed and overburdened. Reinhardt’s personal evolution is clumsily tracked in dialogue with a former mistress who has suffered unnamed violations at the hands of the occupiers: “You’re the only person this war hasn’t changed,” she says bitterly to Reinhardt. (She later rescinds the charge.) A climactic set piece at a Nazi banquet feels pat.

It’s not inherently a problem that Comar does less with plot than he does with imagery: There’s vivid poignancy in his depiction of the mass evacuation, and in Reinhardt’s desperate flight through the snow. But by all accounts — the most authoritative being Michael Dregni’s excellent biography Django: The Life and Music of a Gypsy Legend — Reinhardt was even more conflicted during the occupation than this film makes him out to be.

His elegant ballad “Nuages,” for instance, was a rousing anthem for the French Resistance. The song appears early in the film, as if Comar were eager to get it out of the way. The Resistance itself is an amorphous presence — surely an intentional choice, though the reasons are unclear.

And what’s meant to be a wrenching coda — the post-armistice premiere of an organ mass called “Requiem for Gypsy Brothers” — is marred by the wan pathos of the music itself, composed by Warren Ellis. As the piece plays, Reinhardt stands dumbstruck, overcome. But if we’re supposed to believe this piece represents the peak of Reinhardt’s emotional expression, the point is discredited by earlier musical evidence. In a film that’s so often about taking sides, Django can feel at war with itself.

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In This 'Freak Show,' Conformity Is The Real Bully

“(Freak) Showtime!”: Billy Bloom (Alex Lawther) gets ready for his close-up in Freak Show.

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The funniest throwaway moment in Freak Show, an unsteady coming-of-age fantasy, finds Billy Bloom (Alex Lawther), a gay teenager with a penchant for sequins and feather boas, introducing himself to his new classmates at a private school somewhere in the Deep South. Oblivious to the camera phones and snickers that have already sent a hostile signal, Billy stands up in front of his biology class and announces that he’s transferring from Darien, Connecticut, “the hometown of Chloë Sevigny.” He fully expects they will know and appreciate the reference, and perhaps chat him up later about Sevigny’s eclectic career as a cult actress and fashion icon.

Adapted from James St. James’ YA novel, Freak Show treats Billy’s obliviousness as tragicomedy, as a kid who often delights in the fabulous, candy-colored world of his imagination but smarts from the cruelty of those outside of it. He has the jump on his peers because he’s knows who he is, but their own adolescent uncertainties and insecurities are weaponized against him. It’s never easy being “the other,” but it’s never worse than high school, where peer pressure can marshal entire swaths of the student body against you. The real question in the film is whether Billy will conform to the academy or the academy will conform to him. His odds in that fight aren’t as long as they seem.

Making her directorial debut after a career producing notable indie breakthroughs like Moon, A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Trudie Stylar isn’t interested in examining Billy’s cloistered perspective so much as seeing the world through it. That doesn’t entirely forgive the stereotypes and clichés that populate the film, but it does explain how a young man so estranged from other kids can flatten them out in his mind. There are times when Freak Show seems like a high school film repurposed from other high school films, rather than an authentic vision of life outside Chloë Sevigny’s hometown.

Unexamined wealth is a factor. In the omnipresent voiceover narration, Billy recalls a childhood where his glamorous, cocktail-sipping mother, played with a wink by Bette Midler, served as his ally and co-conspirator while his conservative, ultra-rich father William (Larry Pine) existed mainly to throw cold water on their fun. He’s discover the truth is more complicated, but until then, it’s his father’s money and his mother’s encouragement that allows him to flourish as the cross-dressing, Oscar Wilde-quoting, sports-averse wildflower he is. When he’s suddenly shipped South to live with his now-single father under mysterious circumstances, it’s the first time anyone forces him to question who he is.

After that initial blast of disdain leads to a daily gauntlet of spitballs and the more serious specter of violence, Billy does find a couple of allies in a cheerful gossip (AnnaSophia Robb) whose name he can never remember and in Flip (Ian Kelly), the school’s star quarterback, who harbors a secret passion for comic books and abstract expressionist painters. Flip advises Billy to “tone down” his look and behavior in order to protect himself and Billy obliges, mostly because he has a crush on Flip. His friendship with Flip buys him a certain period of acceptance, but he throws himself into controversy again when he decides to run for Homecoming Queen against Lynette (Abigail Breslin), a Bible-thumping mean girl who’s unwavering in her odious homophobia.

Though Flip’s trajectory is as predictable as everyone else’s in Freak Show —this is the type of film where the biggest bully is the obvious closet case — his character at least has a little dimension, because he has to negotiate between being the most popular guy in school and spending his social currency on its resident outcast. When he expresses admiration for the freedom Billy has to do whatever he pleases, the film’s message starts to surface: Freak Show isn’t just about the virtues of tolerance, but the importance of allowing everyone the space to be themselves. Teenagers have a tendency to enforce conformity on the outside while suppressing the inner desires that might get them shunned.

Stylar approaches the story with a bright, hyper-real style that’s seductive at times — Dante Spinotti, the veteran cinematographer of Heat and L.A. Confidential, drops the glitter bomb here — but too often exposes the thinness of the characters, who are as fussily arranged as Billy’s wardrobe closet. Stylar and her screenwriters, Beth Rigazio and Patrick J. Clifton, never suggest they have lives independent of Billy’s self-actualization, which undermines the point about everyone needing to celebrate their uniqueness. It winds up being an exclusive plea for inclusion.

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Ecuador Grants Citizenship To Julian Assange, Who Lives In London Embassy

Julian Assange speaks to the media from the balcony of the Embassy of Ecuador on May 19, 2017, in London.

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Ecuador says it has granted citizenship to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, as officials try to find a way for him to leave the Ecuadorean embassy in London without risking legal action.

Assange, who is Australian, first sought refuge at the embassy more than five years ago to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he faced an investigation over rape allegations. He was granted asylum, and has been holed up in the embassy ever since.

The original case against him has been dropped, but Assange remains inside the embassy. “He is still subject to arrest in Britain for jumping bail,” The Associated Press notes. “He also fears a possible U.S. extradition request based on his leaking of classified State Department documents.”

“Earlier this week, Ecuador said the situation was unsustainable and requested diplomatic status for Assange in hopes of springing him,” NPR’s Frank Langfitt reports from London. “A British government spokesman responded: ‘Ecuador knows that the way to resolve this issue is for Julian Assange to leave the embassy to face justice.’ ”

Reuters has more on Ecuadorean efforts to assist Assange, as described by officials on Thursday:

” ‘Ecuador is currently exploring other solutions in dialogue with the UK, like good offices of renowned authorities, other states, or international organizations that could facilitate a just, final and dignified solution for all parties,’ Ecuador’s foreign minister Maria Fernanda Espinosa told a press conference. …

” ‘There are well-founded fears we have about possible risks to his life and integrity, not necessarily by the UK but by third party states,’ Espinosa said.

“She did not give details on how granting Assange citizenship might help in avoiding his arrest by British police. …

“For some, Assange is a cyber hero for exposing government abuses of power and championing free speech but to others he is a criminal who has undermined the security of the West by exposing secrets.

pic.twitter.com/LB5jzQmJLb

— Julian Assange ⌛ (@JulianAssange) January 10, 2018

Earlier this week Assange “fueled speculation he’d received an Ecuadorean passport,” Frank notes, “by posting a photo on Twitter wearing a jersey of the Ecuadorean national soccer team.”

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