Monday, February 27, 2017

News Briefs

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  • Monday, Feb. 27, 2017
Oscars get 32.9 million viewers, lowest rating since 2008 
Tarell Alvin McCraney, left, and Barry Jenkins, winners of the award for best adapted screenplay for "Moonlight", pose in the press room at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

The 32.9 million viewers tuning into Sunday's Academy Awards represented a drop-off of more than a million from last year and Oscar's smallest audience since 2008.

The Nielsen company said Monday that viewership dipped notably from the 34.3 million who watched the ABC telecast in 2016.

In both 2014 and 2013, the awards show reached more than 40 million viewers, while 37.3 million were watching in 2015.

In 2008, just 32 million viewers tuned in.

The ceremony, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, maintained a political edge as many winners, presenters and Kimmel himself took digs at President Donald Trump.

But the most memorable twist was saved for the broadcast's final moments when presenter Faye Dunaway mistakenly declared "La La Land" as Oscar-winning best picture before the record was corrected to "Moonlight."

  • Monday, Feb. 27, 2017
Gaffe again: Oscars' "In Memoriam" includes living producer 
In this May 1, 2009, file photo, Australian producer Jan Chapman attends a press conference for the film 'Bright Star' during the 62nd International film festival in Cannes, southern France. Chapman tells Variety that she is "alive and well" despite her photo’s inclusion in the “In Memoriam” tribute at the Oscars on Feb. 26, 2017. (AP Photo/Francois Mori, File)

The best picture mix-up apparently wasn't the only gaffe at Sunday night's Academy Awards.

An Australian film producer says she's "alive and well" despite her photo's inclusion in the "In Memoriam" tribute at the Oscars.

Jan Chapman's photo was shown during the montage next to the name of Janet Patterson, an Australian costume designer who died in 2015.

Chapman tells Variety that prior to the awards, she urged Patterson's agency to "check any photograph which might be used." Chapman says she was told that "the Academy had it covered." She adds that it's "very disappointing that the error was not picked up."

Chapman and Patterson were both nominated for Oscars for their work on 1993's "The Piano."

The Academy didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

  • Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017
"Titanic" actor Bill Paxton has died at 61 
In this May 31, 2015, file photo, Bill Paxton arrives at the Critics' Choice Television Awards at the Beverly Hilton hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif. A family representative said prolific and charismatic actor Paxton, who played an astronaut in "Apollo 13" and a treasure hunter in "Titanic," died from complications due to surgery. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File)

Bill Paxton, the prolific and charismatic actor whose many memorable roles included an astronaut in "Apollo 13" and a treasure hunter in "Titanic," has died from complications due to surgery. He was 61.

A family representative issued a statement Sunday on the death but provided no further details.

Paxton, a Fort Worth, Texas, native, appeared in dozens of movies and television shows and seemed to be around when history was made both on and off screen.

As a boy, he was in the crowd that welcomed President John F. Kennedy in Texas on the morning of Nov. 22, 1963, hours before Kennedy was killed in Dallas. As a young man, he worked in the art department for "B'' movie king Roger Corman, who helped launch the careers of numerous actors and filmmakers.

Paxton's movie credits included some of the signature works of the past 40 years, from "Titanic" and "Apollo 13" to "The Terminator and "Aliens." He received three Golden Globe nominations for his role as a polygamist in the HBO series "Big Love."

"Big Love was a seminal series for HBO for many years due to Bill's extraordinary talent and grace," reads an HBO statement. "Off screen, he was as warm, smart and fun as one could be."

Paxton brought a reliably human dimension to big-budget action adventures and science fiction. He was, sci-fi fans like to point out, the only actor killed by a Predator, a Terminator and an Alien.

But Paxton, famously genial and well-liked throughout Hollywood, defined his career less by his marquee status than as a character actor whose regular Joes appeared across the likes of "One False Move," ''A Simple Plan" and "Nightcrawler."

One of the industry's busiest actors, Paxton once said the hardest part of his career wasn't the work itself, but the time in between.

"You know all the time I've been in this business which is a long, long time now, I go from having incredible days like shooting the part of Sam Houston and then all of a sudden I'm home and I'm out of work and it's two o'clock in the afternoon, I'm in my boxer shorts watching Turner Classic Movies," he told The Associated Press in 2015. "And all I can tell you is, thank God for Turner Classic Movies and Robert Osborn. "

AP Film Writer Jake Coyle, AP National Writer Hillel Italie and AP Television Writer Lynn Elber contributed to this report.

  • Saturday, Feb. 25, 2017
"Hillary's America," "Batman v Superman" top Razzies 
This image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Ben Affleck, left, and Henry Cavill in a scene from, "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice." (Clay Enos/Warner Bros. Pictures via AP)

Neither Batman nor Dinesh D'Souza could finagle their way out of a Razzie.

The annual Golden Raspberry Awards bestowed a tying four "honors" to both D'Souza's documentary "Hillary's America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party" and the superhero blockbuster "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice."

D'Souza's film was named the worst picture of the year on Saturday, and the conservative author got both worst director (with co-director Bruce Schooley) and worst actor for playing himself. Worst actress went to Rebekah Turner who played Hillary Clinton.

"This is absolutely fantastic," said D'Souza in a video statement. "My audience loves the fact that you hate me. Thank you."

Not to be outdone, Zack Snyder's $250 million "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" also picked up four "wins" including worst remake, worst screenplay and worst screen combo for its dueling stars Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill. Jesse Eisenberg was also singled out as the worst supporting actor for his over-the-top portrayal of Superman baddie Lex Luthor.

Both films were widely panned by critics upon their release - D'Souza's film for being biased and sensationalist and Snyder's for its messiness. While D'Souza's outing is likely a one-time deal, there is more to come in the DC Comic Book Universe from Snyder whose "Justice League" hits theaters in Nov.

Another poorly received film, "Zoolander 2," got away with only one award, which went to Kristen Wiig for worst supporting actress.

The organization also bestowed the "redeemer" award to Mel Gibson, who was previously nominated for "The Expendables 3" and this year has climbed back up to the ranks to more prestigious awards. Gibson is nominated for a best director Oscar for his World War II film "Hacksaw Ridge."

The Razzie Awards are determined by around 1,000 voting Razzie members from 25 countries, while Worst Screen Combo was voted on by "thousands" through a Rotten Tomatoes partnership.

  • Saturday, Feb. 25, 2017
Academy revokes "13 Hours" sound mixer's Oscar nomination 
Toby Stephens plays Glen Doherty in "13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi" from Paramount Pictures and 3 Arts Entertainment / Bay Films (photo by Dion Beebe/courtesy of Paramount Pictures).

One day before the Oscars, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences has voted to rescind the sound mixing nomination for Greg P. Russell for his work on "13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi." The decision, announced Saturday, was due to Russell's violation of Academy campaign regulations.

The statement says Russell violated strict rules applied to telephone lobbying.

Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs said in a statement that they take "very seriously the Oscars voting process."

"13 Hours" is still eligible for the award, but only for mixers Gary Summers, Jeffrey J. Haboush and Mac Ruth. At the Oscars on Sunday, the "13 Hours" crew is competing against the sound mixing team from "Arrival," ''Hacksaw Ridge," ''La La Land" and "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story."

  • Friday, Feb. 24, 2017
Rae gets laughs, King draws tears at Essence pre-Oscar gala 
Issa Rae attends the 10th Annual Essence Black Women in Hollywood Awards ceremony on Thursday, Feb.23, 2017, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) -- 

Actresses Aja Naomi King and Yara Shahidi quoted James Baldwin. "Insecure" creator Issa Rae shared awkward memories of her first trip down a Hollywood red carpet. And singer-songwriter Janelle Monae, who makes her acting debut in two films best-picture nominated films at Sunday's Oscars, insisted black women "have a right to have our stories told."

Essence magazine recognized these four young entertainers Thursday at its 10th anniversary Black Women in Hollywood gala, which is set to air as a special on the Oprah Winfrey Network on March 5.

"Stories written, directed, produced and acted by black women are necessary," Common said as he and actor Kofi Siriboe opened the program at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel.

"This event is a reminder that we are here," host Gabrielle Union said. "Regardless of whether or not anyone sees us."

The need to be seen, heard and valued was a theme of the evening, as pioneering artists such as Debbie Allen and Viola Davis lauded the next generation of storytellers, who in turn thanked them for paving the way.

Allen described Rae as "an OBG: an original black girl." The 32-year-old writer, director and star of HBO's "Insecure" listed Allen among the many black women who inspired her. Rae said the choreographer, director and producer has "been goals since I was a child, then I realized I can't dance so I was satisfied just being a fan."

Tracee Ellis Ross said she and Shahidi, her TV daughter on "black-ish," are "kindred souls from different eras."

Shahidi said she sometimes wonders what she's doing "in beautiful designer clothes while the world is reeling backward."

"What I am I doing to contribute to the world around me?" she said. "I'm fortunate because you all have taught me by example what the role of the arts is: to disrupt, to remold and to create."

Past Essence honorees Shonda Rhimes and Diahann Carroll were among the guests Thursday. Other past recipients include Davis, Allen, Ross and Union, along with Oprah Winfrey, Halle Berry, Cicely Tyson and Ava DuVernay, who appears on the cover of the magazine's March issue.

Pharrell Williams, who's up for an Oscar as a producer of "Hidden Figures," presented an award to Monae, a star of that film and "Moonlight." He described her as "the definition of a pluralist."

"It's on another level," Williams said. "Like, you're really talented, sis."

Monae spoke passionately about the autonomy and agency of black women.

"The world must continue to know that we are not your expectations," the 31-year-old entertainer said. "We have been the backbones of communities from the ghettos to Silicon Valley. We're not monolithic. We are multidimensional. And we have a right to have our stories told."

She noted that "Hidden Figures," which stars three black women, has brought it more than $140 million so far.

Davis introduced King, her co-star on "How to Get Away With Murder," by praising the honesty and openness she brings to her performances.

"That is the goal," Davis said. "That is the gift."

The 32-year-old actress responded with a poetic speech that moved several in the room, including Union, to tears. She talked about struggling to overcome an inner critic that tells her she's unworthy and doesn't belong.

"But in order for me to survive in this industry and in this world, in order for me to thrive, I have to stop believing that the root of my talent is a tree growing in someone else's yard, as if the fruit it bears doesn't belong to me," she said. "We are living in a world where we watch our culture being consumed and are left starving for ourselves, and I don't want to be hungry anymore."

  • Friday, Feb. 24, 2017
China's Recon buys $100M majority stake in Millennium Films 
In this Friday, May 20, 2016, file photo, Recon Group CEO Tony Xia Jiantong speaks during an interview about buying the British soccer club Aston Villa, in Beijing. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, File)

China's footprint in Hollywood is expanding following a wire and cable maker's purchase of a controlling stake in independent studio Millennium Films, which produced "Rambo" and "The Expendables."

Recon Holding said Thursday it is taking a 51 percent stake in Millennium for $100 million.

The company, based in Yixing near Shanghai, is controlled by Tony Xia, who was a little-known businessman until last year, when he bought struggling English soccer club Aston Villa with ambitious plans to turn it around.

The terms of the deal, which is expected to close in the second quarter, give Recon majority ownership of Millennium and its library of 300 films.

The studio is known for its action titles, which include 2008's "Rambo," the fourth installment of the Sylvester Stallone action franchise, "The Expendables" series, and "London Has Fallen."

Chinese investors and Hollywood studios have been in a frenzy of deal-making in recent years as both sides seek to expand in each other's movie industries.

Chinese companies are hoping to gain filmmaking expertise as well as beef up the country's global cultural influence, also known as "soft power." Hollywood, meanwhile, covets China's strong box office revenue growth as domestic earnings stagnate.

In the past year, Chinese companies have sealed deals with entertainment companies including Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures, Amblin Partners and Dick Cook Studios.

Xia owns Recon Holding through his conglomerate Recon Group. One of its companies, Lotus Health Group, is the world's second biggest maker of food additive monosodium glutamate. Another subsidiary makes digital hardware for urban infrastructure.

Xia's made a splash with his $87 million purchase of Aston Villa because the businessman, who studied at Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, had no soccer credentials.

  • Friday, Feb. 24, 2017
Matt Reeves steps in to direct "The Batman" 
This July 16, 2014 file photo shows US director Matt Reeves during the Spain premiere of the movie "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" in Madrid, Spain. (AP Photo/Abraham Caro Marin, File)

"Cloverfield" director Matt Reeves has stepped in to direct "The Batman" for Warner Bros. just a few weeks after star Ben Affleck left the post. Warner Bros. said Thursday that Reeves would also produce the stand-alone film.

Reeves, also known for directing "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes," said he's loved the Batman story since he was a child and is honored and excited to "bring an epic and emotional new take on the Caped Crusader to the big screen."

Affleck, who is also writing the screenplay, dropped out of directing the project in late January citing the focus required to play the superhero. He'll appear next as Batman in "Justice League" which comes out in November.

There is no release date set for "The Batman."

  • Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017
Oscars made strides, but Octavia Spencer wants more growth 
This feb. 6, 2017 file photo shows Octavia Spencer at the 89th Academy Awards Nominees Luncheon in Beverly Hills, Calif. Spencer is nominated for an Oscar for best supporting actress for her role in "Hidden Figures." (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File)

Even though Octavia Spencer is pleased with the record number of blacks nominated for acting Oscars this year, she's still disappointed by the lack of recognition for other people of color.

"Diversity doesn't mean just black," Spencer said in a recent phone interview to promote her new film, "The Shack," which comes out March 3. "I'm excited that more black people are being recognized. That's what I would like to see arrive for other people of color, because they are so valued and underserved. I think when we ask the public, the paying public, to support films that don't portray them on-screen, that's hypocrisy."

Spencer is one of six black actors up for an Academy Award at Sunday's ceremony. Dev Patel, who is of Asian descent, is nominated for best actor. Spencer is nominated for her role in "Hidden Figures," which is nominated for best picture.

The diverse slate is a far cry from the past two years, when all-white acting nominees led to the social media hashtag #OscarsSoWhite and a national conversation on race in Hollywood. It also compelled Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the president of The Academy, to implement a plan restructuring the organization's membership to try and make it more reflective of women and minorities.

These days, Spencer has her own production company and believes she could be one of Hollywood's "biggest producers" in the near future. Spencer wants to create a lane for women and people of color to share their untold stories in film, much like "Hidden Figures." She played the role of Dorothy Vaughan, a pioneering black mathematician who worked at NASA. When she won the Academy Award six years ago for best supporting actress, she played a maid in "The Help."

"We are multifaceted people," said Spencer. "Yes, women of color served in people's kitchens and cleaned people's houses. But there are African-American doctors, scientists and lawyers. ... Those are the types of stories that we also want to see presented in film."

Stories with a historical perspective resonate with her the most. She's developing a series about entrepreneur Madam C.J. Walker, one of the first female millionaires in the United States (she will also star in it), and co-producing a HBO series about the Jonestown Massacre in Guyana.

The actress said her production company won't be limited to telling black stories.

"If it's a white story that hasn't been told, it'll be told," she said. "If it's a story about a Latin American, Asian-American, (I'll) tend to tell it."

While Spencer prepares for the Oscars on Sunday, she also has the release of "The Shack" on the horizon. She plays God in the film adaptation of the novel by William P. Young; the book is about a father's renewed faith following his daughter's death.

The film caught some backlash from some white Christians angered by the depiction of God as a curvaceous black woman. But Spencer said it's based on the perception of main character Mack Phillips (Sam Worthington).

"This young boy was abused and so the relationship with this one male that should've protected him was fractured," said Spencer. "And then a man takes his daughter from him. The only woman to show him kindness was a woman who looked a lot like me. So that's why God manifested (in the flesh) and revealed himself to this young man was in a way he would actually receive it."

  • Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017
Judge blocks California law on posting actors' ages 
Assemblyman Ian Calderon, D-Whittier, Calif.

A California law that restricts a popular Hollywood website from posting actors' ages raises First Amendment concerns and does not appear likely to combat age discrimination in the entertainment industry in any meaningful way, a federal judge said Wednesday.

U.S. District Court Judge Vince Chhabria granted's request to block AB 1687 while the website's lawsuit challenging it winds through the courts.

Chhabria said the law prevented IMDb from publishing factual information on its public website, and the state had not shown it was necessary to combat age discrimination in Hollywood.

"It's not clear how preventing one mere website from publishing age information could meaningfully combat discrimination at all," the judge said.

The law — authored by Assemblyman Ian Calderon, D-Whittier — took effect in January and allows actors and other industry professionals to force IMDb to take down their ages.

IMDb said in court documents it shared the goal of preventing age discrimination, but the law wouldn't achieve that goal and would instead "chill free speech and undermine public access to factual information."

The state attorney general's office has said the Legislature had determined that existing anti-discrimination laws were not enough to eliminate age discrimination in Hollywood. It cited comments by Calderon that actors were concerned that they would be shut out from parts based on age bias.

The state attorney general's office did not immediately have comment on the ruling.

Calderon has said the bill was aimed at protecting lesser-known actors and actresses whose ages are not as readily available as bigger Hollywood stars.

The law was supported by the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, which said in a statement the ruling simply represented an early skirmish in the legal fight.

"SAG-AFTRA will continue to fight until we achieve for actors and other entertainment industry professionals the same rights to freedom from age discrimination in hiring enjoyed by other workers in other industries," said Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, the union's chief operating officer and general counsel.

Chhabria said there are likely "more direct, more effective, and less speech-restrictive ways" of fighting discrimination in Hollywood.