SAG Awards 2015: ‘Birdman,’ Eddie Redmayne, Julianne Moore win top honors

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“Birdman” soared this weekend, with the cast of the dark comedy taking home the 21st Screen Actors Guild Awards’ top prize Sunday evening.

The film starring Michael Keaton as a washed-up movie superhero seeking redempting had been picking up honors throughout the awards season, though it has been overshadowed at times by critics darling “Boyhood.” But it gained the edge this weekend as it won the Producers Guild Award on Saturday night, followed by Sunday’s victory.

FULL COVERAGE: SAG Awards 2015

The momentum gives a lift to “Birdman” heading into the final stretch of the awards season, which culimates at the Academy Awards next month.

In fact, Sunday’s ceremony felt like an Oscars warm-up.

Over the past two decades, the SAG Awards have become a predictor of Oscar gold. If that holds true, then Eddie Redmayne, Julianne Moore, J.K. Simmons and Patricia Arquette should have their acceptance speeches ready for the Academy Awards on Feb. 22.

PHOTOS: SAG Awards 2015 top nominees and winners | Red carpet | Presenters | Show highlights | Quotes

Redmayne took the honor Sunday for male actor in a leading role for channeling theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking and his battle with ALS in “The Theory of Everything.” Redmayne dedicated his award “to those who have lost their lives to this brutal disease.” Moore received the guild’s top acting honor for playing a professor with early-onset Alzheimer’s in “Still Alice.”

Simmons earned supporting honors as a ruthless music teacher in “Whiplash.” Arquette won a supporting award for playing a single mother raising two kids in “Boyhood,” which was shot over a 12-year period. All four actors also won two weeks ago at the Golden Globes.

The star-studded audience gave a rousing standing ovation for actress Debbie Reynolds as she received the guild’s life achievement award.

SAG AWARDS 2015: Top Nominees | Full coverage | Red carpet photos | Presenters | Red carpet blog | List | Live updates | Show highlights | Quotes

Reynolds, 82, who earned her first film contract after she won Miss Burbank honors at age 16, has starred in Hollywood classics such as 1952’s “Singin’ in the Rain.” “I had a good time in that picture wearing myself out,” she told the appreciative crowd. 

The actress, who rambled a bit, noted that her favorite role was in the 1964 musical “The Unsinkable Molly Brown.” Reynolds said one of the songs she performs in the film, “I Ain’t Down Yet,” has served her as a motto.

“Well, I ain’t,” she quipped with the crack comedic timing that has made her a star for over six decades.

FULL COVERAGE: SAG AWARDS 2015

On the TV side, the drama “Downton Abbey” and newcomer comedy “Orange Is the New Black” were the big winners, taking home the ensemble awards.

“Orange Is the New Black” also earned a trophy for female actor in a comedy series for Uzo Aduba, who plays the eccentric inmate Crazy Eyes and was at a loss for words as she took the stage to accept. William H. Macy nabbed actor in a comedy series for “Shameless.”

Viola Davis won female actor in a drama series for “How To Get Away With Murder” and said the win was a victory for defying stereotypes.

SAG AWARDS 2015: Complete list | Nominee reactions | Presenters | Video: Hollywood sessions 

Davis praised the show’s creators and producers for casting a 49-year-old African American woman “who looks like me” to play the role of a “sexualized, messy, mysterious” legal powerhouse in the freshman hit drama on ABC.

Oscars 2015: How are best picture nominees faring at the box office?

With the Oscars less than a month away, here’s a look at how the best picture nominations are doing at the domestic box office. 

“American Sniper”

The war drama is setting box office records, pulling in an estimated $200.1 million in the U.S. and Canada since its limited release on Christmas Day.

Clint Eastwood’s film, which cost Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow about $58 million to make, is adapted from the Chris Kyle autobiography of the same name. It follows the story of Kyle (Bradley Cooper), a Navy SEAL known as the most lethal sniper in American history. 

“Birdman”

The Fox Searchlight film added 362 theaters (to 833 total) and upped its weekend ticket sales 24% from last weekend. It pulled in $1.9 million in its 15th weekend in release, raising its total domestic gross to $30.9 million. Director Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s film follows Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton), a washed-up actor hoping to make a comeback in theater. 

“Boyhood”

Richard Linklater’s coming-of-age film, first released in July, added an estimated $197,000 this weekend. Its total gross is $24.9 million. The film, which co-stars Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette, is available on home video.

“The Grand Budapest Hotel”

Wes Anderson’s film has had a strong box office run since its March release. In its first week, it brought in $800,000 from four theaters for a  per-screen average of $200,000. After the Oscar nominations, Fox Searchlight re-opened the film in select theaters.

To date, it has made about $59.1 million in the U.S. and Canada, the highest total for any Anderson film. More recent box office figures, reflecting the limited re-opening, were not immediately available.

“The Imitation Game”

The World War II drama, which stars Benedict Cumberbatch as the genius mathematician Alan Turing, came in sixth this weekend with $7.1 million. With the addition of 414 theaters (to a total of more than 2,000 theaters), the Weinstein Co. film was up 5% from last weekend’s box office total. To date, it has made $60.6 million.

“Selma”

The film, released by Paramount Pictures, came in at eight place this weekend with $5.5 million, raising its total haul to about $39.2 million.

The Ava DuVernay-directed drama follows the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. (David Oyelowo) in 1965 as he organizes and leads a march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala.

“The Theory of Everything”

The Focus Features film was up 34% at the box office this weekend after adding 349 locations (to 858 total). To date, it’s made about $29.1 million in the U.S. and Canada.

The film is based on Jane Hawking’s memoir, “Travelling to Infinity: My Life With Stephen.” It stars Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking and Felicity Jones as Hawking’s wife, Jane.

“Whiplash”

Sony Classics’ film was up a whopping 116% this weekend after expanding to 378 more theaters (567 in all).

The film has made about $7.6 million in the U.S. and Canada. It follows a domineering teacher (J.K. Simmons) as he drives aspiring jazz drummer (Miles Teller) to the edge of sanity.

Haven’t seen the nominated films? Here’s a rundown of where you can see the contenders on the big screen before the Feb. 22 Academy Awards.

For more news on the entertainment industry, follow me @saba_h

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times

Producers Guild Awards: Last stand for ‘Boyhood’s’ competitors?

Producers Guild of America members broke bread (mostly Danish, to be precise) Saturday morning at a breakfast honoring the teams behind the 10 movies nominated this year for the guild’s best picture award.

At a panel discussion immediately afterward, PGA national executive director Vance Van Petten touted the group’s diversity, noting the presence of four women (all blonds though … where are the brunets?), one Mexican-born producer (“Birdman’s” Alejandro G. Iñarritu) and “one from the AARP.”

That would be Clint Eastwood, the senior member of the producers panel that convened onstage at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills. Eastwood (“American Sniper”), Iñarritu and “Boyhood” filmmaker Richard Linklater told the best stories from the stage, with Iñarritu revealing that he had once pestered Eastwood over dinner about the latter’s ability to quickly shoot movies. (“Actors come to work warm and ready,” was the reply. “You don’t need to wait for a seventh take for them to get it right.”)

Eastwood also held forth on “Sniper” star Bradley Cooper’s 8,000-calorie daily training diet (“I saw him on Broadway for ‘The Elephant Man,’ and I said, ‘Are you sick or something? You’re wasting away’ “), while Linklater jokingly compared the selection of “Boyhood” star Ellar Coltrane to “finding the new Dalai Lama.”

Saturday night the PGA will hand out its awards at a ceremony at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza Hotel. The guild presents honors to documentary and animated features as well as television shows in five categories.

But the prize everyone pays attention to is the best picture award. That’s because when the Academy Awards expanded their best picture category and moved to a preferential balloting system in 2009, the PGA followed suit. And every year since that shift, the PGA winner has gone on to take the best picture Oscar.

For those keeping score, that roll call includes “The Hurt Locker,” “The King’s Speech,” “The Artist” and “Argo.” Last year, the PGA ended in a freakish tie between “Gravity” and eventual Oscar winner “12 Years a Slave,” meaning that exactly the same number of the PGA’s more than 6,500 members preferred “Gravity” over “Slave” and “Slave” over “Gravity.” (Couldn’t they call Joe Biden to break the tie?)

But the rule stands: If you win the PGA, you win the Oscar. That means this year’s best picture front-runner, “Boyhood,” is the consensus favorite to emerge victorious Satuday night. If that happens, turn out the lights, the party’s over.

“Boyhood” has already won best picture prizes from groups that love to tout their ability to predict the Oscars (the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. and Broadcast Film Critics) and those who simply love film (the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. and the New York Film Critics Circle). The PGA would seal the deal.

However, if another film wins (and there are those picking “The Imitation Game” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel”), the best picture race will immediately become more interesting. There are still doubters who question whether a low-key, indie-to-its-bones movie like “Boyhood” feels like the kind of movie the academy would honor. And many respect and/or fear the ability of Harvey Weinstein to bend the academy to his will.

If PGA voters go for the “The Imitation Game,” a period drama possessing many elements — British accents, World War II, a social consciousness — that fill many academy members’ checklists, then we will wake up to a new world Sunday morning, one where this guy is jumping for joy.

Twitter: @GlennWhipp

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times

Sundance 2015: In ‘The Hunting Ground,’ Jameis Winston’s accuser goes public

When a group of Oregon football players chanted “No means no” after their Rose Bowl victory over Florida State, an unmistakable taunting reference to the rape accusations against Gators quarterback Jameis Winston, the moment demonstrated how sexual assault on campus is one of the hottest of contemporary issues. Yet it was just about the last issue that director Kirby Dick and his producing partner Amy Ziering wanted to tackle.

That’s because this team’s influential last film, “The Invisible War,” took on a similar subject: rape and sexual violence in the military. But it was precisely the success of that 2012 venture in raising consciousness that led them to make “The Hunting Ground,” a devastating indictment of the plague of rapes on campuses that had its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on Friday afternoon, and to break news about the Winston situation as well.

Though it is only a piece of an intricate mosaic of first-person testimony, commentary and cogent analysis, “The Hunting Ground” (to be aired on CNN and released in theaters by Radius) is the first time Winston’s accuser, Erica Kinsman, has gone public to tell her disturbing story, and to tell it in the context of a wider crisis.

It was visits to colleges for the earlier film that got Dick and Ziering involved in the campus rape issue in the first place.

“We were taking ‘The Invisible War’ around to schools, and we kept getting questions about sexual assault on campus,” says Dick, with Ziering adding: “We were intending to make another film, but we kept getting letters in our in-boxes, ‘Please make this film.’ It really got to us. We were moved.”

Moreover, the filmmakers soon became aware that there were significant differences between the two subjects, a key one being that, Ziering says, “this issue was already starting to get public traction; there was an emerging student movement we could follow and track in real time.”

So “Hunting Ground” spends considerable time with University of North Carolina students Annie Clark and Andrea Pino as they first file a Title IX anti-discrimination complaint against their school for how their rape allegations were handled, and then went on to found the nationwide organization End Rape on Campus.

Another difference, the filmmakers say, was that the fear around this issue was greater than in the military, with college faculty and administrators being especially reluctant to talk on camera as institutions circled the wagons to protect their reputations and their bottom lines.

“I was shocked at the reticence of the faculty and administrators to speak,” says Ziering. “Speaking out could hurt your career. Even if you moved to another institution, you could be branded as a troublemaker.”

One factor that was the same as in “The Invisible War” was the heartbreaking nature of the stories these women tell, and the tendency of colleges and universities to blame the victims when they choose to report alleged incidents.

Ziering, who did many of the interviews, was especially moved by talking to Tom Seeberg, whose daughter, Lizzy, committed suicide in the aftermath of her allegation of a sexual attack against Notre Dame football player Prince Shembo, who was never charged with a crime. “I began to cry, I had to pull myself together,” she remembers, tearing up again at the memory. “Another one who broke my heart was a girl from Berkeley who hadn’t told her parents yet. I was so upset, she gave me her teddy bear.”

Kinsman’s story of her experience with Winston is of a piece with the others, and her detailing of the specifics of the alleged event is chilling. (Winston has claimed the sex was consensual. No criminal charges were filed against him, and the school took no disciplinary action.)

‘We’ll Never Have Paris’ is a fun, quirky romantic comedy

The amusing “We’ll Never Have Paris” bills itself as “based on a true story … unfortunately.” That wryly catastrophic tone informs much of this hangdog romantic comedy set at a pivotal point in the longtime relationship of neurotic florist-pianist Quinn (Simon Helberg of TV’s “The Big Bang Theory”) and his professor girlfriend Devon (Melanie Lynskey).

Just as Quinn plans to pop the question to Devon, his model-beautiful co-worker, Kelsey (Maggie Grace), admits she has a major crush on him. Given that Kelsey’s significantly out of the nerdy-cute Quinn’s league — and that Devon is the only woman he’s slept with — Quinn puts the brakes on the marriage proposal and gives Kelsey a whirl. It proves a pretty disastrous choice all around, which ultimately leads Devon to rethink her life by way of a short-term move to Paris.

When a distraught Quinn inevitably follows his beloved to the City of Light, a few surprises result in some extremely funny, wistfully quirky bits. There’s also a nice use of such Paris locales as Père Lachaise Cemetery and Montmartre.

Helberg, who wrote and co-directed with his wife, Jocelyn Towne (their fractured courtship inspired the film), undeniably channels Woody Allen in his character’s persona and verbal delivery as well as the script’s anxiously droll observations and asides. Although Quinn may strike some viewers as more annoying narcissist than self-deprecating charmer, he’s a vivid creation.

Helberg receives enjoyable support from costars Lynskey and Grace, in addition to Zachary Quinto, Alfred Molina, Judith Light, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Dana Ivey, Fritz Weaver and Jason Ritter, who appear in small but distinctive roles. Fun French pop soundtrack to boot.

“We’ll Never Have Paris.”

MPAA rating: R for sexual content, language.

Running time: 1 hour, 32 minutes.

Playing: iPic, Westwood. Also on VOD.

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times

Sundance preview: Diverse lineup unspools in Park City

Imagine an enormous magnet nestled in the heart of Utah’s Wasatch Mountains. Every year its power increases, as does its ability to irresistibly attract everything in its path, from films to footwear companies. Congratulations, you’ve just imagined the Sundance Film Festival, opening for business Thursday night in plucky Park City.

Mostly, of course, it’s films that get attracted to Sundance, and though many are called, few are chosen. Exactly 4,105 features, more than half of them originating overseas, applied this time, and only 123 were selected, making the festival tougher than ever to get into.

Showing up along with the films are all manner of big-name brands, companies like Bang & Olufsen, Eddie Bauer, Whole Foods (part of something called EcoLuxe Lounge) and, yes, Merrell footwear, firms that hang out for only a few days in way-expensive Main Street rental space and hope for the best.

Given Park City’s proximity to Los Angeles, all kinds of local talent tries its best to get into the act as well. Top-notch KCRW radio hosts Jason Bentley and Anne Litt will “curate” some music programming, and the Sunset Strip Irish pub Rock & Reilly’s will offer a party venue. Even as prestigious a place as CalArts sent out a press release announcing that films by students and alumni make up no less than 43% of the animated shorts in Park City’s genial rival festival, Slamdance.

But finally it is all those Sundance films that hold our attention, and this year the dramatic and documentary offerings across all sections are notable for their diversity.

Most impressive on the dramatic side of the ledger are:

•”Brooklyn.” Taken from the Colm Tóibín novel, this persuasively emotional film features Saiorse Ronan as a young woman who faces romantic complications as she makes her way from Ireland to Brooklyn in the 1950s. Beautifully mounted, focused on character and a treat from beginning to end.

•”People, Places, Things.” A pleasantly odd romantic comedy with an offbeat sense of humor about a graphic novelist (“Flight of the Conchords’” Jemaine Clement) whipsawed by the emotional demands of single fatherhood.

•”Experimenter.” Independent stalwart Michael Almereyda examines the life and controversial work of social psychologist Stanley Milgram (an expert Peter Sarsgaard) in a way that is both self-aware and unexpected.

Other noteworthy dramas include:

•”The Bronze.” An unapologetically raunchy black comedy that stars and is co-written by “The Big Bang Theory’s” Melissa Rauch about a small-town, former bronze-medal gymnast who has turned into a manipulative monster with a nasty temper.

‘American Sniper:’ What if both sides are missing Eastwood’s point?

Let’s start with this. “American Sniper” is a good movie. It’s not a great movie — compared to the epic humanity of “Boyhood” or the strategic subtleties of “Selma,” it pales — but it’s still very strong, better than the curdled-into-store-bought blandness of several of the other awards-ready contenders this year, and certainly better than most of the movies that studios make with big stars these days.

As you’ve no doubt heard, the returns for the Clint Eastwood-directed “Sniper” stunned over the weekend. Box office reporting is full of  “surprises” — overperformers that become that way by artful underestimation. But “Sniper,” in which Bradley Cooper plays the late SEAL Chris Kyle, was legitimately and humongously successful — its $120 million over the four days of Martin Luther King Jr. weekend helped earn it the biggest January opening ever. More to the point, made it a film whose opening-weekend numbers actually rival marketing-guns-blazing releases like “The Amazing Spider-Man 2″ and “X-Men: Days of Future Past.”

Because almost no Hollywood hit can go without a group claiming it as its own–and almost no Hollywood hit can go without someone wondering if this isn’t as positive a development as people imagine–the few days that it’s enjoyed blockbuster status have also come with division and argument.

On one side are such outspoken liberals as Seth Rogen and Michael Moore, who knock the movie and question whether a sniper like Kyle is the unassailable hero the movie makes him out to be. On the other are conservatives like Sarah Palin and Blake Shelton, who welcome the movie with open arms for telling a story about an unassailable hero.

“’American Sniper’ kind of reminds me of the movie that’s showing in the third act of ‘Inglorious Basterds,’” Rogen tweeted, referencing a propaganda film about a Nazi sniper. Moore added his own voice to the debate by saying that “snipers aren’t heroes.” (Both then–sort of–walked back their original comments.)

Palin replied to the initial Moore statement with a “You’re not fit to shine Chris Kyle’s combat boots” as she thanked Eastwood and star Bradley Cooper for “respecting the United States Military.” On Tuesday, Shelton weighed in, responding to the Rogen tweet, “Sickens me to see celebrities or anybody slam the very people who protect their right to talk…”

The two sides disagree ferociously with one another on the moral rightness of the film, and the noble qualities of the Kyle character. What they don’t disagree on, interestingly, is the message of the film. It’s clearly, they all seem to agree, making an argument in favor of the military—not in a general we-need-them sense (as nearly everyone on the planet believes) but in favor of the way this specific military carries out missions in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.

Palin and Shelton think a movie making such a case is a good thing. Rogen and Moore don’t. But there is little dispute about the film’s message. As the conservative film critic Kyle Smith summed up,  “American Sniper” “scintillates with clarity‎.”

But what if the film isn’t really doing that at all? What if, in arguing about the value of the film’s message, many of the debate’s most vocal participants are missing what the message really is?

Certainly “Sniper” has its share of moments in favor of how, and why, the U.S.’ 21st-century wars have been fought. Kyle is fueled by the anger-producing specter of terrorism on U.S. citizens abroad and at home, and he sets out to become a SEAL to protect the U.S. and its freedoms. Many of the people he kills—particularly, in an early notable scene, a child carrying a bomb—are carried out with pure intentions. He hopes he doesn’t have to kill a child—in a later scene, Kyle prays silently another Iraqi child doesn’t pick up a weapon so he doesn’t have to shoot the boy—but when there’s a threat, he seeks to vanquish it.

But that’s only part of the story. As Kyle racks up the kills, he is asked often—by his wife, by others in the military—if he ever feels guilty about killing for a living. The soldier’s response is pro forma, even robotic—he is doing his job and protecting his men, he says. No two ways about it.

Such a response, said so flatly and so often, is hardly an overwhelmingly persuasive response—it ignores, for instance, the need for him and his fellow soldiers to be in that position in the first place–and it’s not entirely clear from the film we’re supposed to believe him that things are so black and white. In fact, it’s not even entirely clear from the film that we’re supposed to believe that he believes things are so black and white.

“American Sniper” is filled with moral counterpoints like this. Toward the end of the film, the widow of a soldier killed in combat reads a letter in which her late husband confesses his misgivings about the war in Iraq. It’s a haunting and intriguing moment. And it may well be that Eastwood and screenwriter Jason Hall are giving voice to an entirely different message—that Kyle is trying to do the right thing in difficult circumstances, but that he shouldn’t be in these circumstances in the first place.

When Kyle’s wife, Taya, asks him about the letter afterward, he suggests that the soldier died precisely because he stopped believing in the mission—a self-serving rationalization (belief in a mission would seem to have little to do with whether one is hit by an Iraqi sniper’s bullet) that, even if Kyle believes it, is supposed to be porous, and then some, to the rest of us. These are moments that suggest that, for all the support-our-troops fervor, the film– in its own low-key, nonpolicy-oriented way–is also questioning why troops should be fighting there. It’s hardly as simple as Palin’s romanticizing read or Rogen’s villifying one.

In doing all of this, in other words, “Sniper” is neither the movie of Nazi propaganda nor a film of scintillating clarity. It’s a war picture of a much more interesting dimension: ambiguity.

Twitter: @ZeitchikLAT

 

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times

‘Red Army’ explores Russia’s soul through Olympic hockey, Slava Fetisov

Few moments in Cold War mythology were as thrilling as the U.S. hockey team’s 1980 Olympic defeat of a superior club of Soviet players who personified the skill and collective beauty the communist world held up as a buttress to the freedoms and capitalist temptations of the West.

The Americans won the gold medal in Lake Placid, N.Y., in a fairy tale known as the Miracle on Ice. Heroes were born, advertising contracts signed. But thousands of miles away behind the Iron Curtain, the Soviet players returned home to disbelief and shame. So entwined was hockey with patriotism that the defeat left a mark and exposed the deep strands of national pride prevalent today in the defiant politics of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The new documentary “Red Army,” directed by Gabe Polsky, is as much an intriguing glimpse at the Cold War as it is a reminder that the ill will between Moscow and Washington lives on in Putin’s deadly interference in Ukraine. Russia, as it was decades ago, is an unsettled giant reeling from falling gas prices, economic sanctions, an imploding ruble and a suspicion that outsiders are plotting its demise at a time when its grand narratives of redemption and destiny have been strained.

Polsky’s film, which opens Friday, touches on those dynamics, but his focus is on a band of men who trained like boxers and skated like ballerinas on what was considered the best hockey team in the world. The son of Ukrainian immigrants, Polsky, who grew up playing hockey in Chicago, said in an interview that he was fascinated by the power and precision of Soviet hockey and how much of its style emanated from the communist ideal of the collective over the individual.

“It was a creative revolution how they played as a team,” he said, comparing the punishing, aggressive manner of North American hockey to the exactness and fluidity of the Soviets. “It was so beautiful. When you do it so beautifully and so well, it becomes evident. It comes from this Russian soul, this sadness.”

The embodiment of that spirit was Slava Fetisov, who made the Red Army hockey squad, an affiliate of the Soviet military, when he was a youth. He went on to win two Olympic gold medals and two Stanley Cup championships. Fetisov is the film’s heart, an aging athlete with cranky flair who endured the fall of communism, played professional hockey in the U.S. and returned to Russia to later become Putin’s minister of sport. His odyssey drifts on anger, disillusionment, wealth, fame and nostalgia for his old teammates and the system that made them play as one.

Can computers beat critics at naming best movies? Study says maybe

Move over, critics: Computers are the new film experts in Hollywood.

According to a Northwestern University study released Monday, computer analysis has the potential to be as good or better at identifying significant films than human experts in the field.

Using data from Internet Movie Database, researchers at Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering created an analytical system that measured the influence a film has over its history. Influence was measured by the number of times a film was credited in citations or attributions as a reference for other movies on IMDb. Citations between 15,425 U.S.-produced films on IMDb were analyzed.

For comparison, researchers also looked at other approaches, including expert opinions and wisdom of the crowd. The researchers examined ratings from the late Roger Ebert “because of his long history as a renowned film critic.” They also looked at the aggregate critic review score reported by the website Metacritic because it “provides a simple and self-consistent way to incorporate the ratings of multiple critics.” They examined IMDb user ratings and the total number of user votes received on IMDb, and they considered statistics obtained from total citations and PageRank score.

They compared their findings with the 625 movies that the U.S. Library of Congress’ National Film Registry considers “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant” or “of enduring importance to American culture.”

The researchers’ ranking system suggested well-conceived automated methods “can perform as well as or better than aggregation of expert opinions at identifying significant films, even when we do not account for missing rating data.”

Their analysis of IMDb film connections revealed additional information “about how ideas and culture spread over time,” the researchers wrote in the study, to be published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 

Some films may not nab Oscar nods from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences or four stars from critics, but they can still have cultural significance. Likewise, “significant films from any given year will be definitively known once 25 years have passed, as those films will be the ones that continue to receive citations.”  

For example, “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” was considered a box office disappointment in 1971. However, researchers determined the film gained a “significant following a decade later” with home-video sales and airings on cable television. Today it’s “considered a top cult classic” even though it is not listed in the National Film Registry.

“A film’s significance should ultimately be judged on how its ideas influence filmmaking and culture in the long term,” the researchers wrote.

For more news on the entertainment industry, follow me @saba_h

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times

‘Selma’ cast marches in Alabama; free screenings for students planned

Setting aside the perceived snub of “Selma”  in the Oscars nominations last week, director Ava DuVernay and producer Oprah Winfrey joined their cast and crew to march alongside local residents of Selma, Ala., on Sunday in celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

“Selma” dramatizes the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. (played by David Oyelowo) in 1965 as he organizes and leads a march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala., and on Sunday cast members taking to the streets included Oyelowo and Winfrey, who tweeted, “Happy Super Soul Sunday every 1. We’re in Selma celebrating @SelmaMovie. How cool is that!”

Singer-songwriter John Legend, who won the Golden Globe for original song with Common for the “Selma” song “Glory,” also took to social media to promote the march. The artists performed the song with the Tuskegee University Gospel Choir on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma.

“In Selma, Alabama. Meet at City Hall at 4pm and March with us #Glory #MarchOn,” he posted with a photo of the bridge on Instagram.

Paramount Pictures, the film’s distributor, will host two free screenings of the film Monday for the general public at at the Selma Walton Theater.

Paramount also announced last week that 275,000 middle and high school students would receive free tickets to see the film in 25 locations across the U.S., including Los Angeles. 

“We are proud to be a part of this extraordinary effort to bring this poignant and timeless American story to the diverse students of Los Angeles,” said Debra Martin Chase, chief executive of Martin Chase Productions, and T. Warren Jackson, senior vice president and associate general counsel and chief ethics officer of DirecTV, which organized the efforts in Los Angeles.

The film, which cost about $20 million to make, has pulled in about $26 million since its limited release on Christmas Day. It earned an A-plus on CinemaScore and wide praise from critics. 

“It’s a really incredible movie, because it’s playing so well in so many diverse places and has all of these organic grass-roots energy around it,” Megan Colligan, president of domestic marketing and distribution, told The Times last week. “It’s big cities, it’s small cities — it’s touching people all over.”

Colligan said one passionate fan in Louisiana reached out to Paramount asking if she could screen “Selma” at the local gym because there was no theater within 50 miles of town.

“The historical drama is a tough nut to crack to make it entertaining and inspiring, and I think Ava DuVernay figured out how to do that,” Colligan said.

For more news on the entertainment industry, follow me @saba_h

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times