Snowden method: how to be invisible on the Internet

Complex instructions in simple words

Reading time 8 minutes

In June 2013, Edward Snowden shared classified information with The Washington Post and The Guardian. It said that the American secret services were doing total surveillance on people all over the world. «It is becoming more and more difficult to be anonymous» – hacker group Cicada 3301 declared this in 2012. But what if a person needs to hide, and he is not a computer geek? Read the step-by-step instructions in this article.

Anonymity and pseudonymity

Before diving into the technical part of the task, it is necessary to understand the purpose of hiding. Anonymity implies a single statement about any information, as in the case of Snowden: someone has told the world something and has «dissolved». To remain anonymous is simple: enough not to make mistakes, which will be listed below. Pseudonymity means creation of alter ego, to which the person plans to return a long period of time. «To keep a virtual» – this was called a pseudonymous activity – much more difficult, because the human factor every day increases the risks that the user will make a mistake somewhere.

Why are we not anonymous on the Internet

The digital footprint might be active and passive. Active one is a message or publication, for example, on a social network. A passive digital trace is created when information about the user is collected without his knowledge, for instance, during a visit to the site. The IP-address is a unique numerical identifier of a device in a computer network. It can be used to get approximate information about your location (country, city, zip code, ISP), restrict access to specific sites or servers, and run a DDoS attack. What should be done to completely anonymize activities on the Internet?

Invisibility Cloak

One of the most reliable ways is Whonix, which was used by Edward Snowden. Technically, a new operating system – Linux – appears on the computer, which exists separately from the main one and runs Whonix. Its system consists of two virtual machines connected via an isolated network. The first, Whonix-Gateway, runs exclusively through Tor and acts as a gateway or an artificial server. The second, Whonix-Workstation, is a workstation that connects to the Internet. Thus, all network connections are possible only through Tor: neither malware nor super-user rights can cause IP address and DNS leaks.

Installation

  1. First you need to download VirtualBox and unpack the package. Next, you should install Whonix. It is important not to open the system after downloading, as it has an extension .ova what is the format of the virtual machine file.

    VirtualBox's main window
    VirtualBox’s main window
  2. Starts VirtualBox and imports Whonix via the «Import» button.
    Whonix is installed. It is important to specify that a unique MAC or WIN address for network adapters is generated each time.

    Creating new MAC or WIN addresses is necessary to improve security. This setting forces Whonix to create a new network address for each site.
    Creating new MAC or WIN addresses is necessary to improve security. This setting forces Whonix to create a new network address for each site.
  3. The menu includes two machines: Whonix-Gateway and Whonix-Workstation. You cannot access the Internet through the server: the gateway isolates the workstation, but it works with open Internet traffic. You must run the server part first, and then the working part.

    Whonix system settings window. Here you can change the operating memory, graphics processor, audio input and output devices using by the virtual machine.
    Whonix system settings window. Here you can change the operating memory, graphics processor, audio input and output devices using by the virtual machine.

During the installation process, an error «Kernel driver not installed (rc= -1908)» may occur on MacOS computers. It is solved by admitting the «Oracle America, Inc» software in the system settings of security and safety. If you have any other problems, you should look at the detailed guide about installing Whonix.

To solve many VirtualBox errors on the macOS operating system, it is enough to open the emulator access to the system.
To solve many VirtualBox errors on the macOS, it is enough to open the emulator access to the system.

A window appeared on the computer with the system desktop. At this stage, Internet traffic is fully protected and isolated. Now you should pay attention to the factors that can compromise your security.

The Whonix desktop opens in a separate window as an application. The top right-hand tab has everything you need: an electronic cryptocurrency wallet and a Tor browser.
The Whonix desktop opens in a separate window as an application. The top right-hand tab has everything you need: an electronic cryptocurrency wallet and a Tor browser.

Basic mistakes

  • The phone collects personal information even in «brick» mode when the device is off. The device needs to be disposed of, and it is better to send a phone by courier to another city: it will help to confuse the tracks. Don’t turn on your new phone in places you’ve been before, especially at home.
  • You need to buy a corporate SIM card. Each smartphone has a unique IMEI-code, which is permanently registered in the database of the mobile operator after inserting the SIM card, so you need to use it only on a new device.
  • Do not set the password fingerprint or Face ID. In 2019, so unlocked the phone of the owner of the telegram channel «Prometheus». Biometric identification is much less effective than the password.
  • You can only use cash. Purchases made with bank cards give geolocation or just report online activity. If a person presents his documents anywhere, it will also compromise his location.

The History of The “Lofi Girl”

How a continuous cult stream appeared on YouTube with an “eternal” student

Reading time 8 minutes

On March 18, 2015 a Paris student Dmitry created a YouTube channel called “Chilled Cow”. About two years later, on February 25, 2017 the channel launched its first live broadcast with music in the Lo-fi genre, the background being an excerpt from the anime “Whisper of the Heart” , in which the main character is studying. The channel was starting to gain popularity and with it came increasing copyright claims due to the use of an animated clip by Studio Ghibli. In 2018 the channel was blocked and with that, the stream stopped.

Fragment from the anime "Whisper of the Heart" used in the broadcast
Fragment from the anime “Whisper of the Heart” used in the broadcast

It seems to be a short history of an unremarkable channel. The live broadcast option appeared on YouTube in 2011 and by 2017 there were several dozen channels broadcasting music of different genres. The Chilled Cow is likely to be just one example of a media failure.

However, the key word here is indeed “seems”. Now the channel has more than 11 million subscribers and 1.3 billion views: its name is heard by almost all pupils and students. Let’s remember together how “Chilled Cow” turned into a cultural phenomenon called “Lofi Girl” and where the girl with endless homework came from.

In 2018, the channel was blocked for copyright infringement. Not wanting to give up the idea of ​​a musical line, channel creator Dmitry decided to create his own heroine in a similar classic anime style and began to look for an artist. In September 2018, Dmitry’s announcement to the Emil Kohl School of Animation was responded to by Colombian artist Juan Pablo Machado. He was in his senior year when he received an offer to draw a new character for a musical genre.

Among Machado’s many sketches, one is particularly notable. This is how Jade came about (yes, lo-fi student with a name). She sat at her desk, flipping through the pages of her notebook and occasionally glancing out the window as soft lo-fi music played in the background. Notably, the Jade room window overlooks the historic center of Lyon, the city in France where Juan Machado spent five years studying the art of animation. A small nod to Alma Mater, thanks in large part to the famous student appearing online. And every few hours, the broadcast changes the time of day, which creates a sense of immersion for channel viewers. Especially those who live in the European time zone.

Machado himself has more than once admitted that he did not expect the 80-second animated film to be so successful. In early 2020, he was even contacted by a representative of a museum in Seoul who wanted to make the illustration part of a permanent exhibition.

Not only the Korean museum recognizes the cultural significance of “Lofi Girl”. From a background character for music programs, Jade has become a virtual icon of the digital space. Several dozen channels with a similar musical orientation began to feature their own characters, and fans of the original heroine kept coming up with drawings with a rethink of Jade’s image. Thereby, for instance, in 2020 artists from all over the world decided to paint the eternal student in the reality of their country.

"Lofi Girl" from Brazil / credits: @LeticiaEfing
“Lofi Girl” from Brazil / credits: @LeticiaEfing
"Lofi Girl" from Greece / credits: @arjunks
“Lofi Girl” from Greece / credits: @arjunks

 

 

References to “Lofi Girl” can even be found in popular culture. In the Steven Universe animated series: Future, one of the heroines – Connie – is depicted sitting in the identical “Lofi Girl” pose. And the game’s official YouTube channel World of Warcraft published a Jade-themed parody as part of a campaign promoting the Shadowlands add-on.

The heroine of the cartoon "Steven Universe" - above, Jade - below
The heroine of the cartoon “Steven Universe” – above, Jade – below

Jade has become a loyal companion and role model for those who are drawn to the flow while working or studying. She is concentrated, undistracted and constantly immersed in her studies. The stream goes on around the clock and is uninterrupted, so that anyone can connect to the “study session” with a student who never looks up from her notes. Many users admitted that the virtual girl helped them a lot to survive lonely evenings spent studying textbooks and even motivated them to spend more time on homework.

On February 22, 2020, an unexpected and shocking event happened to Lofi Girl fans: YouTube moderators blocked the channel with the broadcast for “violating the rules of the service.” And although after a couple of hours the platform apologized and restored the channel, the broadcast had to be restarted. The abrupt end of the stream was recorded, creating the longest video in YouTube history at 13,165 hours, or 548 days of non-stop streaming. Users calculated that during all this time of continuous study, Jade would have already managed to get several higher educations and learn seven of the most difficult languages ​​​​of the world (on average, it takes 1750 hours to reach the level of fluent communication).

Many users have grown and learned with the anime girl, the audience has changed with each other, and Jade has always remained the same, opening up more and more new notes. Maybe one day she’ll be able to relax, like all those chilled out on her cozy lo-fi playlist.

 

How does Netflix make money and why is it at a loss?

The financial strategy of the global leader in the streaming-on-demand entertainment business

Reading time 8 minutes

During the three-month period, the streaming giant laid off around 450 employees due to a loss of a raft of subscribers. According to the statistics provided by Macrotrends, from 2014 to 2019, the loss of Netflix has only increased, although the situation was rectified in 2020 and the coronavirus pandemic, which brought in a profit of almost two billion USD, 2021 again ended with negative indicators for the platform. Many experts attribute this situation in the market to the economic model in which the platform operates.

THE BIRTH OF STREAMING AND THE DEATH OF CABLE

In 1999, Netflix started as a DVD rental service, offering customers an unlimited monthly cassette subscription, as well as a personalized movie recommendation system. To create a large movie library, the company purchased the rights and licenses to a wide variety of content, part of an online cinema portfolio that still includes these acquisitions.

A decade later, Netflix pioneered the Internet streaming market, while other media giants offer cable TV subscriptions for $100, Netflix only requires its subscribers from 8 up to 15 dollars. In addition to the pricing policy, viewers are bribed by other factors: multiple people can use the same account from different devices, favorite shows can be viewed at any time, and the library constantly being replenished with hit shows that Netflix buys the rights to and content of its own production.

All this caused consumers to abandon cable subscriptions in favor of streaming, and movie and TV series creators not to release their products on TV, simply because Netflix and its similar companies offered more money than cable channels that were losing money. According to Bloomberg’s statistics in 2018, 6 people give up cable TV every minute, of which in return, many people subscribe to online services.

THE FLYWHEEL MODEL
Flywheel model for Netflix
Flywheel model for Netflix

Despite the removal of these competitors, Netflix is still operating at a loss. This is largely due to their economic policy, known as the “flywheel method”. It works like this: the service takes money from a user’s subscription and spends it on content creation, content distribution and creating a pleasant user experience, which forces the user to renew the subscription theirs and everything went back to the way it was. The problem is that Netflix spends more than $500 per user while it only brings the company about $10. This difference is covered by the new viewer’s subscription, i.e. your payment for one subscription offsets the cost spent by the user who purchased it before you and the amount the next subscriber will reimburse you.

The problems of this plan will become apparent once Netflix hits the subscription threshold – there will simply be no potential buyers left in the US and the world able to cover these losses with their own money. Analysts estimate that the maximum number of Netflix subscribers in the US is 60-90 million and around 200 million in the rest of the world, while in the first quarter of 2022 there were around 80 million people in North America and about 150 million people in the rest of the world.

Simultaneously, due to the peculiarities of the market, a subscriber outside the United States brings the company much less money than an American: for example, the cost of a subscription in India at the start was only $3 – three times less than in the company’s homeland.

By way of explanation, in order for the flywheel to continue working, Netflix is forced to look for new subscribers outside the United States, in the face of the fact that local markets cannot offer a profit comparable to the United States, as well as to raise prices in richer and more developed countries, which already leads to an outflow of subscribers.

COMPETITORS AND WOLVES OF WALL STREET

For Netflix, the situation is compounded by increased competition: almost every major corporation has already launched or is preparing to launch its streaming service. Coincidently, knowing the need for their competitor to raise prices, other streaming services deliberately underestimate the cost of a subscription: Disney+ asked for only $ 7 at the beginning, while providing exclusive and discussed content like the new parts of Star Wars and the Mandalorian series, as well as absorbing another online movie theater Hulu. In other words, purchasing Disney+ for a price half the price of a subscription to Netflix, the user received two streaming services at once.

Netflix official account tweet saying "Love is password sharing"
Netflix official account tweet saying “Love is password sharing”

Simultaneously, Netflix itself is also forced to take not very pleasant measures for users, along with the mentioned price increase, the company also wants to ban users from sharing passwords with loved ones, and about 1/4 numbers all subscribers do this, although the company previously considered this function as one of the important being.

This policy affects the number of people who unsubscribe. Users are also canceling subscriptions due to the lifting of quarantine restrictions in many countries: people work, study, travel, and less sit at home in front of computers and TVs. As a result, in the second quarter of 2022, one million people canceled their Netflix subscription, and a similar number of unsubscribes is expected before the end of the year.

Netflix's largest shareholder Bill Ackman
Netflix’s largest shareholder Bill Ackman

This situation in the market also affects the investment attractiveness of the company: in the past year, the value of shares has decreased by more than 60%, in such a crash, one of the company’s largest shareholders lost more than a billion dollars, and then sold his entire three million shares.

Despite the unfavorable economic situation and loss, Netflix is unlikely to stop, in a letter to shareholders the company assured that canceling family subscriptions will only lead to new users. Streaming and the loss of subscribers are also tied to macroeconomic factors: the consequences of the pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukrainian territory. In addition, the company will not reduce its content costs: in 2021, online cinemas have spent 17 billion dollars on it.

Lobster’s adventures

On the merger of the real and virtual worlds in the works of Philip Colbert

Reading time 3 minutes

Actual art is often perceived as the antithesis of the traditional, when the artist breaks with its old forms and patterns and creates something fundamentally new, and — most importantly — consistent with the interests of the modern public. The most unusual means of expression are used now. The more extravagant these methods are, the better: it’s more likely to surprise the viewer. Many art objects in galleries today are perceived by visitors as “divorced” from aesthetic samples of past years. Philip Colbert’s work (by the way, some find similarities between him and Andy Warhol) is another example. This British artist manages to saturate classic painting subjects (such as a hunting scene) with elements of modern reality, recreating their original meanings.

Like a bolt from the blue
Like a bolt from the blue

«I became an artist when I became Lobster», — said Philip Colbert in an interview. Exactly this fictional character in bright pajamas, placed in the center of most Colbert’s paintings, reflects the author’s alter ego. For him, Lobster became a kind of mediator between the real and virtual worlds, which, according to Colbert, today are often mixed and become difficult to distinguish. The influence of the consumer society and, as a consequence, mass culture (one of the main topics for this very artist), which for Lobster turned into a struggle for survival, is ironically played out in many works, which at first sight amaze in their own way with aesthetic randomness and wide color spectrum.

Find your alter ego!
Find your alter ego!

«I believe the duality in my work is expressed primarily in the use of very bright colors — festive, positive and cheerful, which convey positive energy, but with dark, gloomy subtext, scenes of violence, as well as a reflection of the modern cult of consumption and the negative effect that it is having on our planet», — explains the author.

The charming Lobster is at the center of events
The charming Lobster is at the center of events

Colbert boldly mixes time periods and styles, collecting his own cultural code from disparate fragments. It contains dozens of logos of popular brands, faces of recognizable artists of past eras, landscape elements, pop-ups of social networks, and even references to surrealism (for example, Salvador Dali’s elephants in the background of an artwork).

Everything we can imagine is real
Everything we can imagine is real

Lobster Land is a semi-fiictional/semi-real world. An alternative reality, overwhelmed by the possibilities of choosing a wide variety of goods and entertainment for any taste (though first you have to «obtain» it). However, perhaps the most difficult thing for someone who once appeared there, is not to lose his or her head and return to the earth in time!

Марвел покоряет мир телесериалов

Кинокомпания взяла курс на многосерийные проекты

Reading time 4 minutes

Марвел покоряет мир телесериалов
Кинокомпания взяла курс на многосерийные проекты

Marvel Studios известна по экранизации супергеройских комиксов и по таким блокбастерам, как «Железный человек», «Мстители» и «Тор». В 2021 году кинокомпания выпустила три многосерийных проекта на Disney+ с уже знакомыми зрителям героями: «ВандаВижн», «Сокол и Зимний солдат», «Локи». Эти сериалы положили начало Четвертой фазе кинематографической вселенной Марвел.
ВандаВижн
Минисериал рассказывает о событиях после «Мстители: Финал» – фильма, который заканчивает повествование о первой команде супергероев. В центре сюжета два бывших мстителя – Алая Ведьма, девушка со способностями к колдовству, и Вижн, робот-андроид в теле человека. В отличие от фильмов Marvel, сериал снят в жанрах ситкома и драмы: Ванда, не смирившись со смертью любимого, создает отдельный мир, где они оба счастливы. Со временем герои начинают подозревать, что их реальность ненастоящая.
Роль Ванды Максимофф исполнила Элизабет Олсен, а роль Вижна – Том Беттани. Режиссером выступил Мэтт Шекманн, известный по работе над «Игрой престолов» и «Доктором Хаусом». Ситком оценили критики: на IMDB рейтинг составил 8,1. Прямым продолжением сериала станет фильм «Доктор Стрэндж: В мультивселенной безумия», который выйдет в 2022 году.

Сокол и Зимний солдат
Сериал о Соколе и Зимнем солдате хронологически располагается после заключительного фильма «Мстители: Финал». Сэм по настоянию Капитана Америки должен стать следующим символом надежды и принять щит. На фоне личной драмы героя разворачиваются другие события: появляется анархистская международная организация, Зимний солдат учится жить в современном мире, а государство создает нового Капитана Америку.
Съемки начались еще в 2019 в Америке и Чехии, но были приостановлены из-за пандемии коронавируса. Премьера минисериала состоялась 23 марта, эпизоды выходили в течение месяца. К ролям Баки Барнса и Сэма Уилсона вернулись Себастиан Стэн и Энтони Маки. Продолжением телешоу станет четвертый фильм из цикла картин про Капитана Америку.

Локи
«Локи» – американский сериал, созданный Майклом Уилдроном на основе комиксов Марвел. Несмотря на то, что вышло только три серии, проект получил высокую оценку на рейтинговом сервисе Rotten Tomatoes: критики дали шоу 93%, а аудитория – 88%. Кинокомпания также анонсировала выход второго сезона.

Локи не только бог обмана и лжи, но и знакомый зрителю персонаж в исполнении Тома Хиддлстона из «Тора». В первой части «Мстителей» (2012) он был главным антагонистом, который пытался разрушить Нью-Йорк. Действия шоу развиваются после сразу после нью-йоркского нападения: Локи сбегает от команды мстителей при помощи Камня бесконечности. Бог попадает в бюрократическую организацию «Управление временными изменениями», где ему предстоит ответить за совершенные преступления.

5 reasons to watch Patrick Melrose

Not recommended for the faint of heart, but still...

Reading time 6 minutes

In 2018, German filmmaker Edward Berger premiered the mini-series «Patrick Melrose», which tells the story of the eponymous hero’s attempts to deal with the traumas of his past and live a life of dignity. The project did not receive an unequivocally enthusiastic response from the audience but was nevertheless extraordinary. This article explains why it’s worth watching.

  1. An atypical role for Benedict Cumberbatch

One of the most in-demand actors, not only in the UK but worldwide, admitted in an interview:

«I think my strength is in my brain, not my muscles. But that doesn’t embarrass me. It is very easy to look clever. It is much harder to play smart. But, because I grew up in high society and went to one of the oldest schools in the world, I have to play asexual sociopathic intellectuals for the rest of my life…»

Benedict Cumberbatch as Melrose Jr.
Benedict Cumberbatch as Melrose Jr.

So Patrick’s eccentric role is an entirely different one. The protagonist claims to be a self-destructive leader in every possible way: alcohol, drugs, promiscuity – the list does not end there. Not every film gives you the opportunity to watch an almost completely demoralized Benedict dancing in a drunken stupor.

  1. Visuals.

«Patrick Melrose» is full of its own aesthetic: in places bright and juicy, like the fruit on the trees that grows outside the luxurious Melrose villa, in places depressing and gloomy, highlighting the spiritual poverty of the individual characters (no spoilers).

Benedict Cumberbatch as Melrose Jr.
Benedict Cumberbatch as Melrose Jr.

The detailed interiors complement the style of the recreated time. The same applies to the choice of locations (the French countryside alone) and the costumes of the characters: together, they create a harmonious picture that is particularly pleasant to look at in natural, warm light.

sun was shining. What else was it supposed to do? - Patrick Melrose
The sun was shining. What else was it supposed to do? – Patrick Melrose
  1. The sound of music

The musical accompaniment to this story also leaves no one indifferent. The retro atmosphere here is not just in the picture, but also in the soundtracks. The pilot episode, for example, is accompanied by the Cat Stevens song «Wild world», as if preparing the viewer for a mental transport to a couple of decades ago. Except that as one gradually delves into Patrick’s childhood and learns details of his interactions with his parents, it becomes difficult to call the nostalgic mood evoked by the music a restful one.

A person can lose their mind because they are experiencing an emotion that they have to suppress. - Patrick Melrose
A person can lose their mind because they are experiencing an emotion that they have to suppress. – Patrick Melrose

The series also has a place for original soundtracks, with emotional responses ranging from anxious and disturbing to melancholy and alienating.

  1. A witty tragicomedy

Patrick’s story is a coherent narrative not only and not so much about the ways in which he destroys his ‘normal’ life, but about the reasons that have made the latter unbearable (primarily mentally). Melrose was born into a well-to-do aristocratic family, but his background and wealth did not make him happy. His mother’s indifference and his father’s unreasonable, perverted cruelty turned little Patrick’s life upside down for many years to come. The relationship within the family is a central theme of Berger’s mini-series, and one which all of us can feel particularly strongly about.

Forgiveness is an important thing, especially when you are forgiven. - Patrick Melrose
Forgiveness is an important thing, especially when you are forgiven. – Patrick Melrose

With each series, the life of the protagonist grows more and more hopelessly detailed.  Nevertheless, his story is presented in an interesting, even amusing and satirical way so that we want to watch it through to the end (even if it is psychologically difficult).

  1. A chance to compare the series’ experience with the books

The plot of the series is based on the series of novels by Edward St. Aubyn, whose work is highly regarded by the performer of the title role. The series of books is called a modern classic, noting the author’s distinctive style with its inherent sincerity, impartiality and irony. It is important to note that the works about Patrick Melrose are largely autobiographical: their idea was inspired by real events in the life of St. Aubyn.

 

How Estella became Cruella

Disney has filmed the story of the antagonist from «101 Dalmatians»

Reading time 5 minutes

«Cruella» premiered in Los Angeles on 18 May. At the same time, on 28 May, the film became available for viewing in cinemas and on the Disney+ platform. The screening in Russian cinemas started on 3 June. The director was Craig Gillespie, known for his work on the drama «I, Tonya».

«Cruella» is a prequel to the Disney animated films «101 Dalmatians» and «102 Dalmatians». Work on the adaptation began back in 2011, when the studio saw the first script for the project, and after another five years the cast was joined by the lead actors. In 2019, Disney unveiled the «Cruella» announcement at D23Expo.

Half a century after the release of the cartoon series, Disney presents the personal story of the villain. In the film adaptation, the action takes place in ’70s London – a time of punk rock and flashy clothes. The plot tells the story of the antagonist’s childhood and her traumas, which turned young Estella into the villainous Cruella. The heroine is not just an evil and bloodthirsty millionaire who tortures dogs. She dreams of becoming a famous designer. To achieve this, Estella takes a job with Baroness von Hellman, the owner of a fashion house. A rivalry between the young fashion designer and her boss leads to unexpected consequences.

Still from the film, 2021 (source: YouTube)
Still from the film, 2021 (source: YouTube)

An important part of the film is the world of fashion. In the original, Cruella prefers a voluminous, red-lined coat and a black tailored dress. The color palette is retained in the film adaptation, but the outfits themselves have changed. «Cruella» follows the current trends of veganism and eco-consumerism: fur is replaced by artificial leather. Estella’s images are inspired by the punk aesthetic: rough boots, bright prints and army jackets. Cruella’s wardrobe is more feminine and extravagant. Costume designer and Oscar winner Jenny Bevan created the clothes for the film. A total of 47 full-length looks, inspired by the style of Vivienne Westwood, the punk grandmother, were made for the main character.

A still from the film, 2021 (source: Vogue)
A still from the film, 2021 (source: Vogue)

An Oscar-winning cast has been recruited to work on the film. Emma Stone, known for her roles in  «La La Land», «Spider-Man: No way home» and «The Favourite», plays the title role. The cast also includes Emma Thompson («Harry Potter» film series) and Mark Strong («Kingsman»). Little Estella was played by Tipper Seifert-Cleveland.

The audience met the fresh take on the children’s cartoon approvingly. The worldwide box office reached $84 million and «Cruella» was rated 7.4 on IMDB. Rotten Tomatoes editor-in-chief Joel Mears shared the positive sentiment on his Twitter: «If you’re wondering what a mix of «The Devil Wears Prada», «The Witcher» and «Death Becomes Her» would look like, then watch the film.».

Emma Stone with the makers of «Cruella» at the premiere, 2021 (source: Disney)
Emma Stone with the makers of «Cruella» at the premiere, 2021 (source: Disney)

 

«Winx» is saving the world again

Netflix has released a movie adaptation of the animated series about fairies

Reading time 4 minutes

The 6 episodes of the first season of «Fate: the Winx Saga» was released on the streaming platform Netflix on January 22. Directed by Brian Young, known for his work on «The Vampire Diaries», and Iginio Straffi, the creator of the original cartoon. Production was handled by Italy and the United Kingdom, and filming took place in Ireland.

The Netflix project is based on the Italian animated series «Winx Club». The fantastic series has been released since 2004 and from that time has won the love of viewers. At the moment, 8 seasons, 3 feature films and several spin–offs have been released. In addition, the manufacturer produces merch: comics, clothing, stationery, toys and computer games. Straffi conceived the film adaptation back in 2011, but Netflix only started shooting in 2019.

Despite its popularity among children and teenagers, the animated series has been repeatedly criticized. The creators of «Winx» were accused of sexual objectification of the heroines — sixteen-year-old fairies have a perfect body and wear too open clothes.

A shot from the first season of «Winx» (source: Amino Apps)
A shot from the first season of «Winx» (source: Amino Apps)

The plot of the film series differs from the original one. Sixteen-year-old Bloom (Abigail Cowen) gets into «Alphea». «Alphea» is a school for fairies and specialists from the magical world. The girl lives in a hostel with other fairies, communicates only with Aisha (Precious Mustapha), and with Stella (Hannah van der Westhuysen) is at enmity. The heroine has a bad relationship with her parents. Headmistress Miss Dowling (Eve Best) knows the truth about Bloom, but keeps it a secret. The young fairy has yet to learn about herself and her origins.

The series received an age limit of «18+». According to Straffi’s idea, the show is designed for adult fans of the animated series: in the Netflix adaptation, there are a large number of bed scenes and obscene language.

From left to right: Muse, Terra, Bloom, Stella, Aisha (source: Twitter)
From left to right: Muse, Terra, Bloom, Stella, Aisha (source: Twitter)

The public met the news of the film adaptation with conflicting reviews. Even at the stage of creation, the project was discussed because of the cast: the Asian Muse was made a white American, Techna was removed from the number of Winx fairies, and instead of Flora, another character appeared — her cousin Terra. Another heroine — Beatrix-became a collective image of the evil trinity Trix. There is no Muse and Riven couple that is loved by many: Riven is an open bisexual who is in love with another person.

The first season received many positive reviews. On IMDB, users rated the series 7 points on a ten-point scale. On Kinopoisk slightly below-6,4. After the premiere, the network received information that Netflix has extended «Fate: The Winx Saga». There was no official confirmation of the second season.

 

All that is known about the 2021 Grammys

Nominees, scandals, date, and new records

Reading time 5 minutes

The Grammy is the most prestigious music award in the world. Each year the National Academy holds an award ceremony. A jury of producers, sound engineers and musicians award the artists by voting. Each musician dreams about gaining at least a Grammy nomination. Here’s what you need to know about the 63rd Awards.

When and where?

The awards ceremony will be on 31of January at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. It has been held there for 40 years, since the beginning of its broadcasting. It’s not yet clear what format the event will take: it all depends on whether the coronavirus situation in the U.S. worsens. «We will make a decision about the audience and the carpet closer to the date,» the Grammy website says. In addition, the names of the presenters and performing artists are unknown.

55th Grammy Awards, 2013

Beyoncé got the most nominations.

After the «Black is King» album released in July of this year the singer got 9 nominations. Now Beyonce has 79 nominations and 24 statuettes. If she wins 8 more, it will be the record-breaking quantity of Grammys. In addition to Beyonce Dua Lipa (5) and Billie Eilish (4) lead the way in the number of nominations.

A still from Beyoncé’s visual album «Black is King» 2020

BTS’s first serious nomination

BTS is a Korean boys band that continues to break records and conquer the West. The guys finally received Academy recognition and a nomination for «Best Pop Duo/Group Performance» for their song «Dynamite». Their hit topped the Billboard Hot 100 music chart for two weeks. BTS will compete for the statuette with other pop stars: Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift.
The band did not receive a nomination for «Best Album», although their release «Map of the Soul: 7» was recognized as the best-selling album in the first half of 2020.

BTS on the carpet at the 62nd Grammy Awards, 2020

The Weeknd vs. the Grammys

This year’s announcement of nominees was not without scandal. The Weeknd did not receive any of the nominations and accused the Academy jury of corruption. There really is the reason for doubt: the album by Abel Tesfaye (The Weeknd’s real name) exploded all the charts and received critical acclaim. It’s all the more strange that the singer’s work has been ignored.
Abel shared his thoughts on his Instagram page. «The Grammys are still corrupt. You owe me, my fans and the industry in general», he wrote. Drake, Ariana Grande and Halsey supported the performer and agreed with his words

The Weeknd’s «After Hours» album cover, 2020

Russians in the West

Two musicians from Russia received nominations at once. Pianist Daniil Trifonov will compete for the award for «Best Solo Instrumental Classical Music Work» for his performance of Rachmaninov. The second, conductor Maxim Emelyanychev, was in the «Best Opera Recording» category. Leonid Agutin, who originally applied for five categories, received no nominations after the Academy vote.

Daniil Trifonov was nominated in the category «Best Classical Instrumental Solo Work»

Seven Lives of Sherlock Holmes

The most famous images of the detective in cinematography

Reading time 7 minutes

Sherlock is a character created by English writer Arthur Conan Doyle. Consulting detective lives in Victorian London on Baker Street and helps Scotland Yard police in solving crimes. Works about the adventures of Holmes and Dr. Watson have become classics of the detective genre, and screenings are still successful.

The first film adaptation is considered to be a thirty-second silent movie «Sherlock Holmes Baffled». The short sketch was premiered in May 1900. The names of the actors are unknown. The only copy was lost until it was restored by cards in 1968. «Baffled» is the first detective in the history of cinematography.

«Sherlock Holmes Baffled» // Frame from the restored film of 1900

The most popular screen adaptation among the Russian public is the Soviet series with Vasily Livanov and Vitaly Solomin in the lead roles. The series «The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson» was released in 1979-1986 and consisted of eleven episodes. The plot was based on stories «A Study in Pink», «The Final Problem», «The Hound of the Baskervilles».

The TV series was appreciated abroad: the film critic Alan Barnes in his book «Sherlock Holmes on the screen» (1999) wrote that the detective performed by Livanov is the best of all time.

Frame from the Soviet series «The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson»

In 1970 the American film «The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes» was released. Oscar-winning director Billy Wilder worked on the picture, and the main character was played by British Robert Stevenson. Holmes and Watson visit the ball of Russian ballerina and bathe in women’s attention. Unlike his3 friend, Sherlock is not glad about this arrangement. At the same time, a standard detective line develops: the detective investigates the case of the disappearance of the man. The search brings the heroes to Loch Ness Lake.

Frame from «The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes»

«Sherlock Holmes» by Guy Ritchie was released in 2009, two years later – a continuation under the title «Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows» . The characters of the detective and the doctor were performed by Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law. The friends save London from Moriarty’s plans and investigate terrorist attacks. Critics praised the screening, and the first film was nominated for an Oscar and a Golden Globe. The third part of the franchise will be released in 2021.

Frame from «Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows»

«Sherlock» (2010) by the BBC is probably the most unusual of all. The action takes place not in Victorian England, but in the modern one. John Watson (Martin Freeman) blogs about his friend instead of notes. The image of Holmes, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, turned out to be extraordinary. Sherlock calls himself a «highly active sociopath», fights against drug addiction and denies the existence of feelings and emotions. The main antipode of the detective is James Moriarty.

At the moment, 4 seasons and a special episode  «The Abominable Bride» have been released. It is not known whether there will be a continuation.

Poster for the fourth season of «Sherlock» by the British company BBC

In 2012, CBS offered to the producers of the British «Sherlock» with a proposal to make a remake. The BBC refused to sell the copyrights, so the company created a TV series from scratch. «Elementary» was released in September of the same year.

Holmes comes to New York for treatment in a rehabilitation center and remains to work as a police consultant. Joanne Watson – in this adaptation the doctor became a girl – supervises the detective.

«Elementary» // Sherlock (John Lee Miller) and Joan (Lucy Lew)

«Enola Holmes» is an online platform project created by Netflix, released in autumn. Producer and main actress – 16-year-old Millie Bobby Brown. The focus is not on Sherlock, but his teenage sister Enola. The image of the detective turned out to be interesting, though not canonical. In the story Mycroft, Sherlock and Enola are looking for their missing mother.

«Enola Holmes» // Enola (Millie) and Sherlock (Henry Cavill)
«Enola Holmes» // Enola (Millie) and Sherlock (Henry Cavill)

There was also a scandal: Doyle’s heirs sued on Netflix. In their opinion, the producers used stories that are not yet in the public domain.