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The 2020 ACM Awards Didn’t Hide From the Pandemic — They Embraced It

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This year has been one long succession of bewildering events, so there was no way the 55th Academy of Country Music Awards weren’t going to feel oh-so-2020. Already rescheduled from its original April date due to Covid-19 and converted to a virtual, audience-free event in Nashville for the first-time ever, the ACMs leaned into the strange with another first: a tie between Thomas Rhett and Carrie Underwood for the night’s top prize, Entertainer of the Year.

“What is happening right now?” asked Thomas Rhett, which is a pretty darn good question, anyway you slice it. The night marked his first win in the Entertainer category and Underwood’s third, making her the only female artist to win Entertainer three times (she won before in 2008 and 2009).

With performances and presentations taking place at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium, Bluebird Cafe, and Grand Ole Opry House, the ACM Awards attempted to answer the question of how one stages a country awards show in the age of Covid? With two more country awards shows scheduled between now and early November (the CMT Awards and the CMA Awards), the rescheduled ACMs could have been the sacrificial pancake in the short stack. Instead, it succeeded, thanks to a willingness to accept our current normal.

While three of the guys in Old Dominion were the night’s top winners with three awards each, Luke Combs collected a couple of the big prizes, earning an Album of the Year trophy for What You See Is What You Get and one for Male Artist of the Year. He also sang “Better Together” and made some U.S. armed forces veterans very happy by presenting them with a truckload of guitars in a pre-taped segment. (As it turns out, much of the three-hour show was prerecorded.)

Combs was present for the show opening, which featured all five of the Entertainer of the Year nominees doing a medley of their hits. Luke Bryan sang “Rain Is a Good Thing,” Eric Church delivered a solo “Drink in My Hand,” Rhett performed “It Goes Like This” at the Ryman, Combs sang “When It Rains It Pours” at the Bluebird, and Underwood closed it out with “Before He Cheats.” It was a charge to see entertainers actually sing with a band again — until the weirdness of the year came screaming back anytime a propulsive performance ended with dead silence instead of applause.

The ascension of Combs coincided with the diminished presence of the most recent generation of male superstars. Jason Aldean was nowhere to be found, while Luke Bryan smiled his way through the charming-enough Kenny Chesney homage “One Margarita,” dreaming of a beach somewhere far away like the rest of us. Urban, though he did an admirable job hosting, had a seemingly pantomimed performance of “One Too Many” with Pink.

Old Dominion and Dan + Shay are the dominant vocal group and duo, respectively, in country music right now. The former performed a medley of their songs and accepted a couple of awards while very responsibly wearing their protective masks to give acceptance speeches, while the latter brought home another Vocal Duo of the Year honor and sang “I Should Probably Go to Bed.” Previous Vocal Duo of the Year winners Florida Georgia Line added to the year’s all-out bizarreness with their performance of “I Love My Country,” during which an injured Tyler Hubbard rolled around the stage on a knee scooter. This year sucks, so why try to hide it? Instead, FGL offered a fun alternative to screaming into one’s pillow.

As usual, women did much of the heavy lifting. Miranda Lambert, joined by her co-writers Luke Dick and Natalie Hemby, sang her hit “Bluebird” at the Bluebird Cafe. While it was a little on the nose, it’s one of those songs that taps into the extra reserves of resilience we all need to summon right now. It’s also yet another example of why Lambert is the all-time winningest artist in ACM history.

Luke Combs performed at the Bluebird Cafe and won two ACMs.

Underwood did a fabulous tribute to great women of the Grand Ole Opry, effortlessly sliding between Patsy Cline’s “Crazy,”  Loretta Lynn’s “You Ain’t Woman Enough (To Take My Man)”,  Barbara Mandrell’s “I Was Country (When Country Wasn’t Cool),” Reba McEntire’s “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia,” and Martina McBride’s “Broken Wing.” Side note: We’d listen to a whole-ass album of Underwood singing McBride songs, because she knows how to bring the fireworks.

Kelsea Ballerini did a rendition of “Hole in the Bottle” that blended some Floyd Cramer-style piano with nifty bluegrass picking. Gabby Barrett belted her way through the vengeful breakout hit “I Hope.” Maren Morris delivered a sublimely mellow version of “To Hell & Back,” from her album Girl, and later gave an acceptance speech for Female Artist of the Year in which she admitted she desperately needed to urinate and then urged everyone to vote.

Oh, hey, Taylor Swift was also in the house, making a return to the ACMs after seven years away. Accompanied by only a harmonica player, Swift’s performance of “Betty” from 2020’s surprise album Folklore had all the poise of her infamous ACM performance of “Tim McGraw” sung directly to its namesake. She sounded beautiful, and even made a clever little TV-friendly switch of the song’s lyrical F-bomb to the more FCC-friendly “straight to hell.”

As for really addressing the scourges of systemic racism or misogyny or the pandemic or climate change, it was a mixed bag. Urban started the show by noting that we were dealing with “two pandemics: Covid-19 and social injustice. Far too many lives have been lost by both.” Which, while technically correct, is a less scary way to say “racism” when you’re worried about how people might react. Elsewhere, Kane Brown sang “Worldwide Beautiful” with help from a line of backup singers in the Opry House’s balcony to hard-sell the idea of harmony and togetherness. And Church played guitar along to the entirety of Johnny Cash’s “Ragged Ol’ Flag” recitation before ripping into “Stick That in Your Country Song,” which was blustery but felt more like a message about the importance of having a message.

Mickey Guyton, ACM Awards

Mickey Guyton performed “What Are You Gonna Tell Her?” on the 55th ACM Awards.

CBS

In the end, it was Mickey Guyton’s performance of “What Are You Gonna Tell Her?” that cut through the noise. It was Guyton’s first time performing on the ACMs, so her song about being a woman and having your dreams crushed came suffused with heavy emotion, particularly given that radio didn’t give it much attention. Guyton, for her part, absolutely knocked it out of the park, demonstrating that she’s got a world-class set of pipes as well as something important to say. It’s worth pointing out that Keith Urban served as Guyton’s accompanist on piano, but wisely stayed out of the spotlight for her big moment.

Interstitials throughout the event showed the stars getting camera-ready touch-ups from makeup artists in face shields, and presenters like Darius Rucker removing a fresh and clean microphone from a sanitized plastic bag. It was an acknowledgement of just how strange everything is, but also that it’s possible to stage a big televised event by taking the right precautions. In a city that has frequently stumbled in its efforts to keep the virus risks contained, it was nice to see.

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Christian Bale would make a much better Dario Agger than Beta Ray Bill on ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’

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While he has not yet been confirmed for the film, the internet is all abuzz with the news that Christian Bale is in talks for ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’.

Rumors and discussions are already swirling in regards to which character he is likely to play, and many are excited at the idea of him finally bringing Beta Ray Bill to the silver screen.

As great as it would be to see the cosmic Korbonite brought to life, ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ doesn’t need a third hammer-wielder detraction from what should be Jane Foster’s (Natalie Portman) story. What Christian Bale would be perfect for, though, is the role of Darrio Agger, CEO of the most evil corporation in Marvel history.

Let’s get this out of the way. Beta Ray Bill is a great character, and it would be fantastic to see a version of him in the MCU. Introduced in 1983 in ‘The Mighty Thor’ #337, Beta Ray Bill was the first person outside of Asgard who was worthy enough to lift Mjolnir.

Hailing from a race known as the Korbonites, he proved to be such a worthy warrior that Odin had another hammer crafted for Bill. Bill wields Stormbreaker, giving him powers equal to Thor, and he fights for justice throughout the galaxy with his sentient ship ‘Skuttlebutt’ by his side.

He is powerful, bizarre, and fascinating. And while that seems right in Taika Waititi’s wheelhouse, giving him a smaller part would be a disservice to the character — and giving him a larger one would be a service to Jane Foster. 

‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ is being set up as a Jane Foster movie. The title itself implies that it will be rekindling the romance between Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Jane, who was noticeably absent from ‘Thor: Ragnorak.’

The movie’s announcement came with the news that Jane Foster would be following her comic book counterpart in wielding Thor’s legendary hammer and taking on Thor’s mantle herself. If that’s the movie Marvel’s going with, then Bill is a story that’s going to have to wait for another day.

Meanwhile, ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ still needs a villain, and there’s none better to ground Thor than CEO Dario Agger.

Introduced in Jason Aaron’s epic run on ‘Thor: God of Thunder’, the character presented a unique challenge to both Jane Foster and Thor Odison. Despite his ability to turn into a minotaur, what makes Dario Agger a threat is the power he wields as CEO of Roxxon, an unscrupulous international organization. Agger never threatens Thor directly, but instead goes after the town of Broxton, Oklahoma, through entirely legal (if unethical) means. With the Asgardians now living on earth, as shown in ‘Avengers: Endgame’, they’re vulnerable to the whims of the ultra-rich. 

Bale would be perfect for the role, having performed in roles both sinister and unhinged. He would bring darkness to Dario Agger’s arrogant swagger that could make for a compelling villain that ties Thor even closer to Midgard, his adopted realm after Asgard’s destruction.

Co-creator Jason Aaron himself seems to agree with this idea, tweeting, “You know who’s got my vote. ‘Who Is Christian Bale Playing in THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER?'” He posted this with an image of Dario Agger.

There are, or course, a wealth of other characters from Marvel mythology for ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ to draw from, and ‘Thor: Ragnorak’ was full of surprises. Bale, if confirmed for a role, may be playing someone completely unexpected. In the meanwhile, we can only wait for more news on this story to unfold.

‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ releases in theaters on November 5, 2021.

If you have an entertainment scoop or a story for us, please reach out to us on (323) 421-7515

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World Breastfeeding Week: Hilary Duff pumped breast milk while getting hair and makeup done in her trailer

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Breastfeeding is considered an unequaled way of providing ideal nutrition to an infant for the first year of life. It is known to keep health complications in the mother and child at bay. Even though it is considered one of the best ways to raise a newborn, the conversation around breastfeeding continues to be one riddled with stigma. Thankfully, in recent times, celebrities, people in positions of power and influencers have taken it upon themselves to normalize the tone around breastfeeding by sharing photos and personal accounts of their experiences on social media. This has not only encouraged people around the globe to strengthen their voices but the shame and taboo around it has begun to fade. 

Hilary Duff, who welcomed her second baby, Banks Violet Bair, in 2018, shared a detailed account of breastfeeding and pumping breast milk. Like most mothers, she’s glad she could give Banks that crucial start to life but with time, her interest in feeding faded, which resulted in a drop in milk supply. This was not a very reassuring feeling for Hilary who said it felt like she was a complete “failure.” Breastfeeding can have that impact, especially when one goes from pumping milk at work for the first six months to needing a break from all of this. 

“Pumping at work sucks. I had zero down time and am usually pumping in a hair and make up trailer while four hands work to get me ready for the next scene with lots of other people around. Even if I had the luxury to be in my own room, it’s not even considered a “break” because you have to sit upright for the milk to flow into the bottles,” she wrote in her Instagram post and added that what added to the situation was the aggressive machine that would tug at her nipples while making an annoying sound. 

On the surface, it sounds like she was “complaining,” but the actress admitted to it being one of the most enjoyable moments of her life. “Felt so lucky to be so close to her and give her that start. I know many women are not able to and for that I am sympathetic and very grateful that I could. For six wonderful months,” Hilary elaborated and encouraged mothers to continue to feel like rockstars because that is what they are.

As the world celebrates Breastfeeding Week from August 1 to 7, let’s ensure that it is one of the pure moments that one can experience as a mother. And that is exactly why there needs to be an understanding the breastfeeding in public spaces or having a conversation about it at a coffee shop is perfectly normal. This campaign is to raise awareness about breastfeeding and how it can work wonders for the mother and the newborn.

If you have a news scoop or an interesting story for us, please reach out at (323) 421-7514

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Lily Collins has announced she is engaged to Charlie McDowell

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Lily Collins has announced she is engaged to film director Charlie McDowell.

The actress, 31, took to Instagram to share the happy news and posted shots of the proposal on Friday.

The Les Miserables star who is the daughter of Phil Collins and Jill Tavelman, has reportedly been dating director McDowell for a year.

Writing on Instagram she said: “I’ve been waiting my lifetime for you and I can’t wait to spend our lifetime together…”



Collins is best known for her work in films such as Mirror Mirror and Love, Rosie, while McDowell has directed films including The One I Love and The Discovery.

The couple have recently been documenting their road trips on Instagram.


Celebrating McDowell’s birthday in July during a camping trip in northern California, Collins wrote on Instagram: “Today it’s your birthday and yet I feel like I’m the lucky one. You’re a true gift of a human @charliemcdowell. An incredible boyfriend and the best dog dad to @redforddog.

“You’ve opened my eyes and deepened my heart. You constantly inspire me to dream big and go outside of my comfort zone.

“Every day is an adventure with you and I can’t wait to explore more of the world together (when we can). I love you so much…”

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