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Michael Apted, British filmmaker and documentarian, dies at 79

Michael Apted, British filmmaker and documentarian, dies at 79

British filmmaker and documentarian Michael Apted died Thursday night in Los Angeles at the age of 79, the Directors Guild of America (DGA) announced in a statement Friday.

No details about his death were immediately available.

“Our hearts are heavy today as we mourn the passing of esteemed director, longtime DGA leader and my friend Michael Apted. His legacy will be forever woven into the fabric of cinema and our Guild,” Thomas Schlamme, the president of DGA, said.

“A fearless visionary as a director and unparalleled Guild leader, Michael saw the trajectory of things when others didn’t, and we were all the beneficiaries of his wisdom and lifelong dedication,” Schlamme said.

Born in 1941 in Aylesbury, England, Apted had a prolific body of work in television, film and documentaries.

He directed the 1980 movie “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” which won the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture in the musical and comedy category. Sissy Spacek won the Oscar for Best Actress for her role in the film.

Other notable works he directed include “Agatha,” “Gorky Park,” “Gorillas in the Mist,” “Nell,” and “Enough.”

Apted directed the 1999 film “The World is Not Enough,” part of the James Bond series, as well as the third installment of “The Chronicles of Narnia” film franchise.

Apted’s most famous documentary work was the long-running “Up” series. More than a dozen Britons’ lives were followed over the course of decades, beginning with 14 seven-year-old children in the film “Seven Up!”

Subsequent films were produced every seven years, revisiting how each of the children’s lives had changed as they entered adulthood, and later old age in the final production, “63 Up.”

In 2003, Apted was elected president of the DGA, serving until 2009. His six-year tenure was the longest for a DGA president since the 1960s.

Steven Soderbergh, director and co-founder of the Guild’s Independent Directors Committee with Apted, said, “I spent countless hours literally two feet from Michael and loved every minute of it. Apart from his own remarkable body of work, what he gave to the DGA can’t be measured; he put his entire BEING into the Guild, and inspired us all to follow his example. We were lucky to have him and to know him.”

In 2009, he was made a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George by Queen Elizabeth II for his work in the entertainment industries.

He is survived by his wife Paige and his three children.

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Sea shanties are your soundtrack of 2021. Seriously

It’s folly to examine why some things go viral on the internet, and by doing so one risks discounting the beauty of the simplest answer: They just do. Nothing makes sense. Roll with it.

Or at least, that’s the easiest thing to tell yourself when “The Wellerman,” a 19th Century whaling song, has been knocking around in your head for a week straight.

The jaunty tune about sugar and tea and rum is the center of a very cool, well-executed trend on TikTok started by Scottish musician Nathan Evans. His version of the song, which was previously brought into modern popularity by the group The Longest Johns, has garnered almost 5 million views on the video-sharing app TikTok.

“I think it’s because everyone is feeling alone and stuck at home during this pandemic and it gives everyone a sense of unity and friendship,” Evans, the 26-year-old singer from Airdrie, Scotland, told CNN.

“And shanties are great because they bring loads of people together and anyone can join in. You don’t even need to be able to sing to join in on a sea shanty!”

Since Evans posted his song on TikTok in late December, other musicians have used the app’s duet feature to add their own voices and instruments to the mix, resulting in a harmonic kaleidoscope of renditions that have gained their own popularity. Other sea shanties took off as well (there is some difference in the definition of these maritime songs, but we’ll just stick to shanties for now). Everyone was having a good time.

Then, things got weird. TikTok users started creating dubstep shanties. Smash Mouth’s 1999 “All Star,” already a god-tier meme in its own right, got the shanty treatment. Awareness of this new nautical trend migrated to Twitter and other social media platforms. “The Wellerman” rose up the Spotify charts.

For whatever reason, sea shanties hit a nerve. And yes, you could chalk it up as another internet oddity. But surely, there must be something more here, right? Why else would people say things like “2021 is the year of the sea shanty,” or post memes about how “The Wellerman” has become part of the soundtrack of our current state of acute global and political crisis?

“I can’t tell if the whole sea shanty thing is the perfect wholesome distraction from the horror of life in 2021, or the final nail in coffin of my psyche,” Blink-182 frontman Mark Hoppus said on Twitter.

It’s true the songs are pretty catchy, and that’s by design. Shanties are a type of work song, passed around by laborers, often underpaid and overworked, to alleviate the monotony of their toil.

Monotony and economic uncertainty? In our 2021? Maybe it’s not so much of a stretch after all.

This shanty moment is also another example of TikTok’s cultural range. The video-sharing app regularly catapults meme music into chart-topping bangers and transforms already-big hits like Cardi B’s “WAP” into major cultural moments. (And yes, there are now sea shanty versions of “WAP,” too.) This is where a fun joke about a “Ratatouille” musical, of all things, can become a real event, and where tunes from the past, whether it be Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” or a 19th century nautical ditty, can be remixed and reborn in an instant.

And all of this happens because one person sees what another has done, and decides to join in. In fact, Evans says that’s been his favorite part of watching the trend grow.

“So many people have joined in, and also the happiness and joy it has brung so many other people, it is absolutely incredible,” he says.

This type of exchange is literally the basis of folk traditions, and one of the reasons sea shanties and the music of everyday people is kept alive through history and across cultures.

Was this just the right moment in time, when, isolated and restless, craving release from political upheaval and existential worry, people chose to reach across oceans and engage in a little sea shanty obsession?

Maybe. Or maybe it shouldn’t make sense, and we should just roll with it.

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