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After Kirk Douglas produced and starred in Spartacus in 1960, which won four Oscars and was the biggest moneymaker of the year, he could probably get Hollywood to finance almost any film he wanted to make. Another epic, like Spartacus? An adventure, like 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea? A scorching star vehicle, like Lust for Life?

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And now it's time for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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There are nine nominees for best picture this year, and we've covered all of them on Pop Culture Happy Hour. We're cramming for Sunday night's awards, and we know some of you are too. We'll be tweeting and writing and recording on Sunday night, and we'll have our wrap-up on Monday morning, so until then, enjoy this look back at some of our favorites (and not-so-favorites) of 2019 that have risen to the top of this particular pack.

'1917' Is Not Your Dad's War Movie

It is written in the oldest legends that all are born in prison. This prison is all they know. Literature describes life in it. Religion hints at redemption from it. Having lived here all their lives, humans have ceased to see it as a prison.

Emily Ligawiec has to sign in visitors to the recovery program she attends in a grand Victorian house in Holyoke, Mass. She can't bring people to her room. She only recently earned phone and car privileges.

"We get 24, 48, 72-hour passes every weekend," she said.

But Ligawiec doesn't mind the restrictions. The 29-year-old is grateful she's alive to follow them, after a decade of addiction — first to prescription painkillers, then pills she bought in the street, then heroin.

"I had gone down a pretty dark path," she said.

When Bias Is Coded Into Our Technology

Feb 8, 2020

Facial recognition systems from large tech companies often incorrectly classify black women as male — including the likes of Michelle Obama, Serena Williams and Sojourner Truth. That's according to Joy Buolamwini, whose research caught wide attention in 2018 with "AI, Ain't I a Woman?" a spoken-word piece based on her findings at MIT Media Lab.

The National Portrait Gallery unveiled its official portraits of Michelle and Barack Obama nearly two years ago. Since then, the gallery reports that attendance has nearly doubled.

Next summer, the portraits will hit the road to reach an even wider audience.

In Washington, D.C., dozens of people line up behind velvet ropes every day to admire artist Kehinde Wiley's interpretation of the former president. It features Obama sitting at the edge of a wooden chair, surrounded by lush foliage. Pink and white flowers are dispersed across the canvas.

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Seven Democratic presidential candidates are debating in New Hampshire Friday night, days after a major issue left the first contest of 2020 too close to call.

A federal judge in Boston has handed down the stiffest penalty yet in the massive college admissions scandal. Douglas Hodge, the former CEO of the global investment giant PIMCO, has been sentenced to nine months in prison.

U.S. District Judge Nathaniel Gorton also sentenced Hodge, 61, to two years of supervised release and 500 hours of community service. He also must pay a fine of $750,000.

Antarctica experienced its hottest day on record Thursday.

At least, that's what scientists reported at Argentina's Esperanza research station, on the very northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. The finding, announced Thursday by Argentina's national meteorological service, placed the temperature at 18.3 degrees Celsius — or just about 65 degrees Fahrenheit.

Nevada Democrats are trying to figure out how to avoid the confusion and embarrassment that their fellow Democrats experienced in this week's Iowa caucuses.

Right after a new smartphone app failed miserably to transmit the Iowa results on Monday night, Nevada state Democratic Party Chair William McCurdy II issued a statement saying "confidently" that what happened in Iowa would not happen in Nevada on Feb. 22, the date of its party caucuses.

The Trump administration's attempt to block New Yorkers from enrolling in trusted traveler programs is heading for court.

On Friday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the New York Civil Liberties Union announced their intention to file lawsuits against the Department of Homeland Security. DHS said this week that it will no longer allow New York state residents to sign up for popular programs intended to speed up international travel because of a state law that blocks immigration authorities from accessing motor vehicle records.

Until now, all the pictures of the sun have been straight-on head shots. Soon, scientists will be getting a profile.

NASA and the European Space Agency are set to launch a joint mission on Sunday to provide the first-ever look at the sun's poles. Previous images have all been taken from approximately the same angle, roughly in line with the star's equator.

Scientists are hesitant to guess what the elusive poles of the star might look like. "I hate to speculate," says Holly Gilbert, the NASA project scientist for the mission.

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The new movie "Birds Of Prey: And The Fantabulous Emancipation Of One Harley Quinn" begins with a breakup.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BIRDS OF PREY: AND THE FANTABULOUS EMANCIPATION OF ONE HARLEY QUINN")

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In Hollywood, the bean counters always talk at this time of year about the "Oscar Bounce" — the boost films get at the box office from Academy Award nominations.

The bounce, which can amount to tens of millions of dollars, is much sought-after by film studios, but their calculus may be altered by recent changes in the industry — especially by the advent of streaming services.

Federal investigators say the helicopter that crashed in Southern California last month killing NBA basketball star Kobe Bryant, his daughter and seven other people did not have an engine failure. The investigative update from the National Transportation Safety Board has not determined the cause of the crash. But it did give several new details.

The Moth Spring Fundraiser 2020

Feb 7, 2020
Mark Arrigo

Nimisha Ladva comes to terms with what it means to be a "good Indian girl."

Tim FitzHigham is a record breaking adventurer who sets off to cross the English Channel in a bath.

Caroline Connolly describes her misadventures on a family road trip. 

Maxie Jones finds an unexpected relationship that changes his life forever.

Episode #2005

Feb 7, 2020

In the #MeToo era, actors who perform sex scenes on stage and in films are raising concerns about consent and safety.

To meet this new focus, the demand for intimacy directors or coordinators — professionals who work with actors and production staff to ensure safe sex scenes — is on the rise. HBO now requires the presence of an intimacy director in every new production that has intimate scenes.

U.S. Economy Adds 225,000 Jobs In January

Feb 7, 2020

The U.S. economy added 225,000 jobs in January.

Here & Now’s Peter O’Dowd speaks with Mike Regan (@Reganonymous), senior editor at Bloomberg News, about the Labor Department’s latest job report.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Updated at 1:39 p.m. ET on Feb. 10.

The U.S. Women's National Soccer Team is heading to the 2020 Olympics this summer with a chance to make history.

They'll try to become the first women's team to follow a World Cup victory with an Olympic gold medal. The Tokyo Games will mark the Americans' seventh-straight appearance at the Olympics.

Earlier this month, Mexican officials discovered the body of a second murdered activist who worked at the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve in the mountains of Michoacán.

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