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‘Money Heist’ creator Álex Pina: ‘The experience for the viewer is much better when things go bad’ | USA

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Triumph ahead of the final destruction. That is how you can sum up the discourse and the feelings conveyed by Álex Pina on his emotional return to “the scene of the crime.” He is speaking to EL PAÍS from the sets of Money Heist, located in the Madrid city of Tres Cantos, before they are destroyed forever once the fifth and final season of the global hit show is complete.

The production – famous for its thieves who wear Salvador Dalí masks, tout an anti-system spirit and are named after world cities – began its life over two seasons on Spanish network Antena 3, and sees the gang of criminals assault the Spanish mint. In a recut version, the show found a worldwide audience in 2017 thanks to Netflix, and the plot moved on in subsequent episodes to an assault on the Bank of Spain – with hostages included.

[Warning: Spoilers ahead]

Actors (l-r) Jaime Llorente, Belén Cuesta and Úrsula Corberó during a scene from the fifth season.
Actors (l-r) Jaime Llorente, Belén Cuesta and Úrsula Corberó during a scene from the fifth season.TAMARA ARRANZ/NETFLIX / EFE

“The show works better when it’s being consumed compulsively than when it’s broken up,” Pina explains, speaking back in July about how it can be binged now its on the popular streaming service. “Commercials and waiting from week to week take away that anxiety created by the time passing in the show, meaning that you don’t get so caught up in it. What’s more, Money Heist works in very short times. The experience for the viewer is much more intense when it’s consumed compulsively, and much more addictive of course.”

But there is something else there, something that they discovered bit by bit – a result, perhaps, of the power of Netflix all over the world. First, the actors in the show – called La Casa de Papel in its original version – noticed that their followers on social media shot up exponentially. Second, they were unable to film on location in cities (for this last part in Copenhagen) without attracting a crowd of admirers. Then came the Monte Carlo Television Festival, which saw the city plastered with imagery from the show, and later the appearance of protestors all over the world donning the distinctive red overalls and Dalí masks worn by the characters when at demonstrations.

The virtues and the excesses of the show are heightened even further in this fifth season, which is more violent than ever. Pina admits that he and his team opted for the war genre for the last episodes, which Netflix will be releasing in two batches of five episodes: one available from today, September 3, and the other in December. “We are a country with a major inferiority complex with fiction,” he argues. “Money Heist is crazy because these guys could never be locked inside the Bank of Spain because they would wipe them out, but you have to do something that has other components, with its own internal rules, which have to be coherent, and not with reality, which is contemptible from the point of view of fiction. And when you do it, they say to you, ‘Where are you going with this?’ Well, gentlemen, there we have Marvel, which has been the most-watched thing in cinemas for 10 years and just keeps on getting bigger.”

Set emulating the Bank of Spain after the final shoot for ‘Money Heist.‘
Set emulating the Bank of Spain after the final shoot for ‘Money Heist.‘Andrea Comas

The “lyrical vision” of violence seen in other seasons, with the Italian revolutionary song Bella Ciao as a theme, makes way for something that’s tougher this time around, a shift that Pina defends. “We try to sublimate the violence in esthetic terms because it seems to form part of the vision of the show to us,” he explains. “A show has an editorial line, like a newspaper does. There are things that you can and can’t do.”

TV fiction in the 21st century has gone through a revolution, as has the concept of what is and isn’t allowed. Pina, who was behind other Spanish TV hits such as Los Serrano, Periodistas and Los hombres de Paco, knows what he is talking about. Plots, for example. “Viewers have changed a great deal. When we worked in TV in the 1990s and the 2000s, there was a kind of guardian angel who protected the viewer, who knew that his protagonist was not going to get killed, and even if things got bad, it would all turn out alright in the end. But the experience for the viewer is much better when things go bad. We killed [character] Nairobi, and so now when someone has a gun pointed at their head, you say, ‘Jesus, they’re going to kill them!’”

What’s more, protagonists can be designed to be likeable, even if you can also hate them. “Ten years ago they would say to us, ‘The character has to be clean because if he’s a bastard no one will want them in their homes.’ But now the perversion of the villain is very attractive,” Pina confesses. He is mainly referring to Berlin (Pedro Alonso), the member of the gang who is homophobic, narcissistic, egocentric and cruel, but is also one of the favorite characters among the viewing public. He has disappeared from the plot now, but still returns explosively in some opportune flashbacks. “We’ve had a lot of fun with him,” Pina admits.

Signs of violence on the set of ‘Money Heist.’
Signs of violence on the set of ‘Money Heist.’Andrea Comas

In the first two episodes of the fifth season – which EL PAÍS has been able to see ahead of their release – the jealousy, disagreements, egos, love and desire still exist between the gang members, all of which have been an essential part of the show’s success. “What people want is to be entertained, and we have added an idiosyncrasy of Latin affectivity to a genre such as the perfect heist, which used to be very cold and mathematic. We have created a hybrid that worked the world over, perhaps because there was a demand for emotions, something that ran hotter,” Pina continues.

“Checkmate, you son of a bitch […] Your conviction is our salvation,” utters police officer Alicia Sierra (Najwa Nimri) to the mastermind behind the heists, the Professor (Alvaro Morte), during the first minutes of the fifth season, when several of the characters are on the ropes.

There are few limits left for these characters, and that was noticeable among the team, Pina admits, which has clear red lines. “We were working on episode two in the midst of the pandemic, online, and I could see that we didn’t have the immediacy, that spark, and so we threw it all out to create an experimental episode, without fragmenting time, and where there is even a different protagonist. And we did it as if it were a season finale.” But it isn’t. There are eight more to go.

Fans of the genre know that the perfect heist, from classics such as The Killing or The Asphalt Jungle, to the more recent Heat, Heist or The Town, never goes completely to plan. The first ending planned by Pina and his team ended up in the trash. We will have to wait and see what happens to Lisbon, Tokyo, Denver, Bogotá and co. when these 100 hours of imperfect heists, which have already become a part of television’s recent history, finally come to an end.

English version by Simon Hunter.



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Census 2022 – what difference does it make?

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Next Sunday, April 3rd, is Census night. Millions of people in homes countrywide will fill in page after page of questions, some of which are deeply personal and many of which might be unfamiliar.

But what it is it all about?

At a basic level, Census 2022 will be used to inform planning of public policy and services in the years ahead, according to the Central Statistics Office.

The questions will cover a range of environmental, employment and lifestyle issues, including the use of renewable energy sources in homes.

The questions will help inform policy development in the areas of energy and climate action, and the prevalence of internet access, to understand the availability of and need for internet connections and range of devices used to access the internet.

Questions also focus on changes in work patterns and will include the trend of working from home and childcare issues, while questions are also asked about the times individuals usually leave work, education or childcare, to help identify and plan for transport pattern needs locally and nationally.

Other topics covered include volunteering and the type of organisations volunteers choose to support, tobacco usage and the prevalence of smoke alarms in the home.

And of course there is a time capsule – the chance to write something which will be sealed for the next 100 years.

In this episode of In The News, the head of census administration Eileen Murphy and statistician Kevin Cunningham about what it all means for us.

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Oscars 2022: Will Smith makes Oscar history after slapping Chris Rock over joke about wife Jada Pinkett Smith | Culture

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Will Smith took the Oscar for Best Actor at last night’s 94th Academy Awards, but he also became the protagonist of the ceremony for other reasons. The night was following the script, until Smith slapped comedian Chris Rock on the stage after the latter made a joke about the shaved head of the former’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. Rock had quipped that he was “looking forward to GI Jane 2,” in reference to her look. Pinkett Smith has revealed publicly that she has alopecia. It looked as if the moment had been planned, until Smith went back to his seat and shouted: “Get my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth.”

The moment, which immediately became Oscar history but for all the wrong reasons, left the attendees with frozen smiles, and asking themselves whether it was possible that a veteran such as Smith could have lost his cool in front of tens of millions of people. After taking the prize for Best Actor, the superstar actor made a tearful apology, saying that he hoped the Academy “will invite me back.” Later on, actor Anthony Hopkins called for “peace and love,” but it was already too late. The incident overshadowed the success of CODA, which took the Oscar for Best Picture. Just like the time when Warren Beatty mistakenly named La La Land as the big winner of the night, no one will speak about anything else from last night’s awards.

At first sight, Smith’s actions looked as if they were scripted. When he first heard Rock’s joke, he laughed. But his wife was seen on camera rolling her eyes, and it was then that the actor got up onto the stage and hit Rock. When he returned to his seat he raised his voice twice to shout “Get my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth,” sending a wave of unease and shock through the attending audience. The fact that he used the f-word, which is prohibited on US television, set alarm bells ringing that this was real and not a planned moment. In fact, the curse word was censored by the broadcaster, ABC, in the United States.

During a break, Smith’s PR manager approached him to speak. In the press room, which the actor skipped after collecting his prize, instructions were given to the journalists not to ask questions about the incident, Luis Pablo Beauregard reports. The next presenter, Sean “Diddy” Combs, tried to calm the situation. “Will and Chris, we’re going to solve this – but right now we’re moving on with love,” the rapper said.

When Smith took to the stage to collect his Best Actor award for his role as Richard Williams – the father of tennis stars Venus and Serena – in King Richard, he referred to the character as “a fierce defender of his family.” He continued: “I’m being called on in my life to love people and to protect people and to be a river to my people. I know to do what we do you’ve got to be able to take abuse, and have people talk crazy about you and have people disrespecting you and you’ve got to smile and pretend it’s OK.”

He explained that fellow actor Denzel Washington, who also spoke to Smith during a break, had told him: “At your highest moment, be careful, that’s when the devil comes for you.”

“I want to be a vessel for love,” Smith continued. “I want to be an ambassador of that kind of love and care and concern. I want to apologize to the Academy and all my fellow nominees. […] I look like the crazy father just like they said about Richard Williams, but love will make you do crazy things,” he said. He then joked about his mother, who had not wanted to come to the ceremony because she had a date with her crochet group.

The Los Angeles Police Department released a statement last night saying that Chris Rock would not be filing any charges for assault against Smith. “LAPD investigative entities are aware of an incident between two individuals during the Academy Awards program,” the statement read. “The incident involved one individual slapping another. The individual involved has declined to file a police report. If the involved party desires a police report at a later date, LAPD will be available to complete an investigative report.”

On December 28, Pinkett Smith spoke on social media about her problems with alopecia. She stated that she would be keeping her head shaved and would be dealing with the condition with humor. “Me and this alopecia are going to be friends… Period!” she wrote on Instagram.



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House-price inflation set to stay double digit for much of 2022

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House-price inflation is expected to remain at double-digit levels for much of 2022 as the mismatch between what is for sale and what buyers want continues.

Two new reports on the housing market paint a picture of a sector under strain due to a lack of supply and increased demand driven by Covid-related factors such as remote working.

The two quarterly reports, one each from rival property websites myhome.ie and daft.ie, suggest asking prices accelerated again in the first quarter of 2022 as the stock of homes available for sale slumped to a new record low.

Myhome, which is owned by The Irish Times, said annual asking-price inflation was now running at 12.3 per cent.

Price

This put the median or typical asking price for a home nationally at €295,000, and at €385,000 in Dublin.

MyHome said the number of available properties for sale on its website fell to a record low of 11,200 in March, down from a pre-pandemic level of 19,000. The squeeze on supply, it said, was most acute outside Dublin, with the number of properties listed for sale down almost 50 per cent compared with pre-pandemic levels.

It said impaired supply and robust demand meant double-digit inflation is likely until at least mid-2022.

“Housing market conditions have continued to tighten,” said author of the myhome report, Davy chief economist Conall Mac Coille.

“The broad picture of the market in early 2022 remains similar to last year: impaired supply coupled with robust demand due to Ireland’s strong labour market,” he said.

Soure: MyHome.ie

“One chink of light is that new instructions to sell of 7,500 in the first 11 weeks of 2022 are well up from 4,800 in 2021, albeit still below the 9,250 in 2019. The flow of new properties therefore remains impaired,” said Mr Mac Coille.

“Whatever new supply is emerging is being met by more than ample demand. Hence, transaction volumes in January and February were up 13 per cent on the year but pushed the market into ever tighter territory,” he said.

He said Davy was now predicting property-price inflation to average 7 per cent this year, up from a previous forecast of 4.5 per cent, buoyed strong employment growth.

Homes

Daft, meanwhile, said house asking prices indicated the average listed price nationwide in the first quarter of 2022 was €299,093, up 8.4 per cent on the same period in 2021 and and just 19 per cent below the Celtic Tiger peak, while noting increases remain smaller in urban areas, compared to rural.

Just 10,000 homes were listed for sale on its website as of March 1st, an all-time low. In Dublin, Cork and Galway cities, prices in the first quarter of 2022 were roughly 4 per cent higher on average than a year previously, while in Limerick and Waterford cities the increases were 7.6 per cent and 9.3 per cent respectively.

The report’s author, Trinity College Dublin economist Ronan Lyons, said: “Inflation in housing prices remains stubbornly high – with Covid-19 disturbing an equilibrium of sorts that had emerged, with prices largely stable in 2019 but increasing since.

“As has been the case consistently over the last decade, increasing prices – initially in Dublin and then elsewhere – reflect a combination of strong demand and very weak supply.”


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