Friday Mar 7, 2014
The actor will return to the role of Preston Burke for an episode airing this May, marking the departure of Cristina Yang, the surgeon played by Sandra Oh, ABC has announced.For "Grey's Anatomy" creator Shonda Rhimes, it was unthinkable that Cristina would leave the series without having another run-in with Dr. Preston Burke, the former Chief of Surgery in the cardiothoracic unit. Their love story was a major plot element during the show’s first three seasons (between 2004 and 2007), leading up to the episode in which Preston left Cristina at the altar. In reality, Isaiah Washington was fired from the medical drama after being accused of making homophobic remarks to his former colleague T.R. Knight, who played George O'Malley, the character who died at the end of the fifth season in 2009. Seven years after his precipitous departure, Isaiah Washington will once again walk the halls of the Seattle hospital, although Shonda Rhimes is keeping the circumstances under wraps. Slated to air in May, the episode in question is expected to coincide with the departure of Sandra Oh at the end of the show’s tenth season, which is currently airing on ABC. Copyright AFP Relaxnews, 2014.
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Astronomer Carl Sagan become Mr. Science for a generation after his 1980 series, "Cosmos," took audiences on a groundbreaking TV journey through the universe. Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, host of "Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey," the 21st-century edition debuting Sunday, has a head start with a Twitter following of 1.7 million that's just edged by the starry likes of Gwyneth Paltrow and Cee Lo Green. Tyson, a go-to expert for news reports on Earth-threatening asteroids and other science developments, said his public profile frees him from comparisons to Sagan. The educator and author with a gift for conveying the wonder of discovery died in 1996 at age 62. "If I didn't have a following, I think people would say, 'How is he going to fill Carl Sagan's shoes? How is he going to pronounce billion?'" said Tyson, referring to the "billions and billions of stars" phrase made famous by Sagan in "Cosmos" (although purists insist Sagan said "upon," not "and"). Sagan was the presenter for the first series, Tyson said, and he's the presenter for the second. He gamely accepts an analogy, one he's clearly heard before, to the string of actors who have starred in the "Doctor Who" title role. Each contributes something different, but "you're still with the franchise at the end of the day," he said. The new version begins its 13-episode run at 9 p.m. EDT Sunday on Fox and other Fox Networks Group channels including National Geographic, FX and Nat Geo Mundo. Viewers have a second chance to catch each episode at 10 p.m. Monday on National Geographic, with added behind-the-scenes and other bonus footage. It will air in other countries on Fox channels and National Geographic Channels International. Tyson, 55, brings to the program his distinguished credentials as director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in New York and an author whose works include "Space Chronicles" and "The Pluto Files." He's the perfect modern media scientist: tall and good-looking, with a deep voice that he uses to charismatic and authoritative effect. Proving he's a stickler for accuracy, Tyson took "Gravity" to task for scientific gaffes and prompted a flurry of coverage ranging from Hollywood trade papers to geek-favored websites. Among the more lighthearted of his "Mysteries of #Gravity" tweets: "Why Bullock's hair, in otherwise convincing zero-G scenes, did not float freely on her head." He is also one of the nation's most prominent African-American scientists, but says ethnicity isn't in the forefront of his perspective. "I've never divided my audience that way. My audience is, are you curious about the universe or not?" Tyson said. The father of two also rejects the idea of inspiring anyone to follow his career path because he is black. "I don't go around saying I'm going to be somebody's role model. In fact, I think the concept of 'role model' is overrated and should be rethought," he said. His argument: If it had taken a black astrophysicist to have been raised in Bronx, N.Y., as Tyson was, for him to become one, it wouldn't have happened. "Role models limit what it is you might want to be when you grow up, because you're only allowed to do what others have done who have come before you," Tyson said. "And no one should ever be limited in their imagination." His involvement in "Cosmos" brings him to a different and bigger stage. It gives him the chance to increase his profile with a new crowd, including the viewers who tune in to Fox for "Family Guy" laughs in the half-hour preceding "Cosmos" on Sunday and suddenly find themselves lost in space. It was Seth MacFarlane, the comic mind behind "Family Guy" and other projects including Fox's "American Dad!" and the movie "Ted," who got the network involved in the project. MacFarlane, a fan of the original "Cosmos," also turns out to be a Tyson admirer. The two met through a group that connects people in science and entertainment for the exchange of ideas. MacFarlane told reporters in January that he "wanted to sit down and ask him (Tyson) a whole bunch of nerd questions, and so I asked if he wanted to have lunch, and astonishingly he said 'yes.'" They became collaborators on "Cosmos," with MacFarlane an executive producer. The project has the look of a costly sci-fi film, reflecting what Tyson called a budget "commensurate" with its scope as well as the participation of top entertainment industry talent such as Bill Pope, director of photography on "Matrix" and "Spider-Man" movies. Patrick Stewart, Richard Gere, Kirsten Dunst and other actors give voice to the scientists whose achievements are part of "Cosmos." Adding to its pedigree: Sagan's widow, Ann Druyan, who wrote the original series with Sagan and Steven Soter and who joined again with Soter to craft the second. She's also an executive producer on the series, which she said avoids duplicating its predecessor aside from a few elements, such as the Ship of the Imagination and the Cosmic Calendar, and the audacity of its vision. "Yes, it's the same in that intersection of emotion and solid science and fabulous facts and animation and drama and history," she told a news conference. "But it's completely new." For Tyson, the series is a means to connect viewers to the "awe and wonder" of the universe and the role of science in helping them "become a better shepherd of this world." "We have huge issues confronting us in civilization today, in energy and transportation and health and asteroid risks and viruses, and all of these require scientific insights to address," he said. ___ Lynn Elber is a national television columnist for The Associated Press. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @lynnelber. ___ Online: http://www.fox.com http://www.channel.nationalgeographic.com Copyright (2014) Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
The former "Weeds" star will have a role in "Feed Me," a comedy pilot ordered by NBC for the coming season.The comedy will focus on a somewhat dysfunctional family, whose members are bound as much by love as by the restaurant they manage together. When daughter Emma's husband is caught having an affair, her family members go on the defensive and do everything in their power to protect her. Within this family, Mary-Louise Parker will play Ellen, a slightly OCD accountant and mother of two. The character's inability to adapt creates complicated situations for those around her, namely her husband. From 2005 to 2012, Mary-Louise Parker played Nancy Botwin, a widow who begins selling marijuana to pay the bills and raise her two sons, in the Showtime series "Weeds." The actress is also known for her role in the films "Red" and "Red 2," in which she shared the screen with Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren and John Malkovich. Copyright AFP Relaxnews, 2014.
David Simon will take on this project for HBO and producer Oprah Winfrey, Deadline.com reports.HBO and Oprah Winfrey have been trying to develop a miniseries on the life of Martin Luther King Jr. since 2010, but the project finally appears to be picking up speed following the arrival of the creator behind "The Wire" and the recently ended series "Treme." David Simon will write at least one of the six episodes and will provide the story behind the following five. The screenwriter will base the miniseries on the work of Taylor Branch, whose three-volume history "America in the King Years" chronicles the civil rights movement from 1954 to 1968, the year in which the activist preacher was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. Oprah Winfrey will produce the miniseries alongside a related project, Ava DeVernay's "Selma," a feature on the Selma to Montgomery marches led by Martin Luther King Jr. Copyright AFP Relaxnews, 2014.
LOS ANGELES (AP) — ABC says Isaiah Washington will return to "Grey's Anatomy" for a guest appearance in May, seven years after he was fired from the medical drama. Washington exited the series in 2007 after an on-set clash the year before, in which an anti-gay epithet was directed at another cast member at the time, T.R. Knight. Washington's return as Dr. Preston Burke coincides with the announced departure of series star Sandra Oh at the season's end in May. Her character, Dr. Cristina Yang, was engaged to Washington's Burke at one point in the long-running drama. The date of Washington's episode was not announced. During the controversy involving him, Washington also used the epithet backstage at the 2007 Golden Globe awards. He publicly apologized and tried to make amends by meeting with gay-rights organizations. Copyright (2014) Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Dimension Films has uploaded the first trailer for the highly anticipated sequel to "Sin City," from Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller.Just under 1min30s, the trailer for "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For" reprises the film noir esthetic seen in the first "Sin City," released in 2005, and reunites audiences with some of the same characters, including Marv and Nancy, played by Mickey Rourke and Jessica Alba. There are also a few newcomers to the franchise, including Joseph Gordon Levitt, Ray Liotta, Josh Brolin and Eva Green. The French actress is in the title role as the vicious Ava Lord. Inspired by the comics of Frank Miller, "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For" will arrive in US theaters August 22. Watch the trailer for "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For": youtu.be/RIFqHn_Ul0M Copyright AFP Relaxnews, 2014.
NEW YORK (AP) — A new Wes Anderson film arrives like a magician's latest illusion, greeted by questions of not just "How does he do it?" but "What is it, exactly?" Anderson, like few other directors, has perpetually kept critics and moviegoers off-balance with his idiosyncratic blend of orchestrated whimsy, deep-rooted melancholy and deadpan slapstick. When he privately screened his second film, "Rushmore," for Pauline Kael, the rarely uncertain critic responded, "I don't know what you've got here, Wes." Lacking a more sufficient barometer, his movies are typically first judged on a scale of how "Wes Anderson-y" it is. On that count, his latest registers about a 10. "The Grand Budapest Hotel," which opened Friday, is ultimately about a fastidious concierge named M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes) and the lobby boy, Zero (newcomer Tony Revolori), he takes on as a protege at an ornate alpine resort in the fictional Republic of Zubrowka. After a multilayered framing device guided across eras by characters played by Jude Law, Tom Wilkinson and F. Murray Abraham, the film presents a portrait of the Grand Budapest Hotel in the 1930s, just as the rise of fascism (the SS here is the ZZ) is bringing an end to a refined way of life. Gustave, who efficiently runs the hotel with old-world elegance but an unapologetic unscrupulousness (he has a habit of bedding old widows), is twice called in the film "a glimmer of civilization in the barbaric slaughterhouse we know as humanity." It's a caper, with a stolen painting, a murderous stalking scene (taken straight out of Hitchcock's "Torn Curtain"), an elaborate prison break and a gun fight. There are the old-fashioned hotel accoutrements of an elevator seat, a bathhouse, comically small servants' quarters and a funicular. It's an early 20th century playhouse for Anderson — a dream of a genteel Europe that never quite existed, imagined by someone steeped in movies (Ernst Lubitsch and '30s Hitchcock, in particular) and the stories of early 1900s Viennese author Stefan Zweig (a major inspiration on the film). Anderson's eighth film also may be for the 44-year-old director the definitive statement about his kind of movie reality. With miniatures (like the exterior of the hotel) mixed in and a ski chase scene filmed with figurines, its plainly artificial environs are crowded with realistically emotional characters. "When I see a James Bond movie, I see a great deal of artificiality," Anderson said in a recent interview. "It's a style of special effects that's just very familiar to us right now and we accept as a version of reality. "There's no layer of artiness about it," he says. "Not that I'm deeply opposed to it, but just for my own work, I'm not particularly drawn to that way of working. I like to see if we can experiment with old-fashioned techniques that I've always really liked. I love miniatures and different kinds of animations — things that are like magic tricks. I'm drawn to those. I feel like they have a certain charm. And I just sort of make an assumption that we all know that this is a kind of a concoction." Anderson doesn't just delight in antiquated film techniques. His films — his concoctions — are in many ways odes to analog worlds: the record player of "Moonrise Kingdom," the book jackets of "The Royal Tenenbaums," the portraits of "Rushmore." Many of his protagonists are quixotic champions of bygone worlds, dauntlessly trying to keep something old and beautiful alive, or at least some romantic idea of it. As Max pleads in "Rushmore," ''I saved Latin!" In "The Grand Budapest Hotel," a narrator says of Gustav: "His world had vanished long before he ever entered it, but he certainly sustained the illusion with a remarkable grace." The same, of course, could be said of Anderson, who has a serene but down-to-earth way about him, more self-deprecating than precious. The film depicts the slow decline of a once great hotel across the years, which he notes "feels a bit like tragedy." But the Texas-native, who currently lives in New York but spent recent years in Europe, says he's not pining away at life in some prior era. "My experience as a foreigner in Europe has always been much more being dazzled by: There's an old world that is still there," he says. Zweig, however, killed himself in 1942, leaving a note that lamented the self-destruction of "my spiritual home, Europe." ''We haven't been through these kind of things," says Anderson. "We would have to fake that level of cynicism." Anderson doesn't hold the past so dear that he doesn't revel in a line of comically antiquated language like "Gunther was slayed in the catacombs," or connect phrases like "Prussian grippe" and "candy ass." Fiennes, who drew from the debonair Austrian actor Anton Walbrook ("The Red Shoes") relished the dialogue, sped up like a '30s comedy. "Nothing prepared me for the musical brio and sort of sprightliness of the film," says Fiennes. "I relied upon Wes as a guide. He had written the screenplay, but he has quite an ear for speaking the delivery, the timing. He has a musically precise ear." "The Grand Budapest Hotel" was shot in Gorlitz, Germany, with a converted department store for the hotel interior. Production designer Adam Stockhausen, working with Anderson for the third time, said as detailed as Anderson is in his complicated shots, his process isn't "predetermined," but open to inspirations and ideas that come out of working on location. "What he does is very serious work telling stories. He happens to have a strong visual style," says Stockhausen. "That's just his vocabulary." ___ Follow AP Film Writer on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jake_coyle Copyright (2014) Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Animated films have seen their share of uptight dads — the most memorable being merman Triton and his strict rule over daughter Ariel in "The Little Mermaid" and the over-protective caveman Grug in the prehistoric journey "The Croods." Mr. Peabody the dog in the charming "Mr. Peabody & Sherman" is no different. As the aforementioned papas learned, this overbearing beagle must eventually loosen the leash he has on his adopted son, Sherman. But this is especially difficult for Mr. Peabody, since Sherman is not only a lively youngster, but a human one. Heartfelt and snappy, DreamWorks Animation's "Mr. Peabody & Sherman" follows the wild adventures that bond a dog and his boy. Within the first few moments, we discover Mr. Peabody (voiced by a tenacious and loveable Ty Burrell) is a pseudo-intellectual dog who attended Harvard. Meticulous and reserved, Mr. Peabody's success has earned him an impressive penthouse in New York City and the consent to adopt Sherman (voiced by child actor Max Charles of ABC's "The Neighbors"), who he found abandoned in a cardboard box as a baby. Like last year's wacky, yet underwhelming "Free Birds," this animated feature features time-travel. Luckily, "Peabody & Sherman" offers a tighter plot and adorably geeky dialogue, thanks to writer Craig Wright ("Six Feet Under"). Via a time-machine he's invented, papa Peabody has enriched Sherman's upbringing with visits to past eras and the benchmark events within them — like Vincent van Gogh's creation of "The Starry Night." Back in the 1950s and early 1960s, Mr. Peabody and Sherman first appeared in "Peabody's Improbable History," a segment within the animated television series "Rocky and His Friends" and later "The Bullwinkle Show." The latest film modernizes the duo's story, time-machine still included, into a 3-D jaunt. Now in elementary school, Sherman, a cute kid with wild red hair and huge glasses, is curious and frisky. On his first day of class, a brainy blonde named Penny (voiced by Ariel Winter of "Modern Family") starts a fight with Sherman when he challenges her knowledge of George Washington, who he's actually met in his time travels. Despite the aptitude of Mr. Peabody and Sherman, we never really get another glimpse of Penny's intelligence, even as she becomes a central character. Instead, she's mostly obnoxious and when Sherman takes her for a ride on the time machine, she leads him to be disobedient. But she also encourages him to be a risk-taker, fostering his individuality and that of the little ones watching. It's here that Mr. Peabody learns a thing or two about parenting. He must remain in control, while allowing Sherman to make mistakes. As Mr. Peabody and Sherman visit ancient Egypt, the French Revolution and the Trojan War, historical tidbits unfold in cunning ways. However, aspects of their adventures, like Leonardo da Vinci's weird robot baby invention, are often too loony. But the story, with additional voices by Stephen Colbert, Leslie Mann and Allison Janney, does have the ability to inspire kids' curiosity about historical benchmarks. And though a few corny jokes may go over their heads — "Perhaps I'm an old Giza," Mr. Peabody says after leaving Egypt — jabs at Spartacus and Bill Clinton will make adults giggle. Directed by Rob Minkoff ("The Lion King," ''Stuart Little") and with Jason Schleifer ("Megamind") as the head of character animation, the visuals are stylish and clean. But the 3-D effect is unnecessary. Danny Elfman, whose credits include "Big Fish" and 14 Tim Burton films, crafts a score that's sprightly and sentimental. The most touching moments come during montages of Mr. Peabody and Sherman playing sports. The kiddie film is a big wet kiss for dogs and dog lovers that champions loyalty and bravery as not only traits of canines, but as universal attributes. ___"Mr. Peabody & Sherman," a Fox release, is rated PG for "some mild action and brief rude humor." Running time: 92 minutes. Two and a half stars out of four. ___ Motion Picture Association of America rating definition for PG: Parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children. Copyright (2014) Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
NEW YORK (AP) — Casting Jesus for the silver screen has always been tricky. Directors must balance the actor's ability to project a sense of both divinity and humanity. They also need to sell tickets, and thus have often cast handsome, leading-man types. In the new movie "Son of God," Jesus is played by Portuguese actor Diogo Morgado, whose appearance has been compared to Brad Pitt and a young Marlon Brando, and who has inspired a Twitter hashtag of "Hot Jesus." Box office is booming: "Son of God," which was made from footage shot for the History channel miniseries "The Bible," came in a close second last weekend to the latest Liam Neeson action blockbuster, and beat out the popular "Lego" movie. Here are some of the actors who have played Jesus over the decades: H.B. Warner, "The King of Kings," director Cecil B. DeMille, 1927. This famous silent movie was in black and white, but the final scene, the Resurrection, was in Technicolor. Claude Heater, "Ben-Hur," director William Wyler, 1959. Heater's face was not shown in the film; all we saw was the back of his head. Jeffrey Hunter, "King of Kings," director Nicholas Ray, 1961. This film was nicknamed "I was a Teenage Jesus" because of Hunter's youthful teen-idol looks, but actually he was in his 30s. Max von Sydow, "The Greatest Story Ever Told," director George Stevens, 1965. Director Stevens cast the admired Swedish actor as Jesus and surrounded him with Hollywood actors like John Wayne, who had one line: "Truly this man was the son of God." Ted Neeley, "Jesus Christ Superstar," director Norman Jewison, 1973. Neeley became the "rock star Jesus" as the star of Andrew Lloyd Webber's rock opera on both stage and screen. Victor Garber, "Godspell," director David Greene, 1973. A musical retelling of the New Testament's Gospel of Matthew with a score by Stephen Schwartz. Willem Dafoe, "The Last Temptation of Christ," director Martin Scorsese, 1988. The film was one of the few to present a Jesus conflicted about his identity and vulnerable to earthly temptations. Jim Caviezel, "The Passion of the Christ," director Mel Gibson, 2004. One of the most controversial movies ever made, due both to its graphic depiction of Jesus' crucifixion and to allegations of anti-Semitic content. Diogo Morgado, "Son of God," director Christopher Spencer, 2014. Copyright (2014) Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
NEW YORK (AP) — The 13th annual Tribeca Film Festival will premiere films starring Katie Holmes and Robin Williams, and feature Courteney Cox's directorial debut. The New York festival announced the second half of its slate of 87 feature films Thursday. Debuting at Tribeca will be the comedy "Just Before I Go," starring Seann William Scott, Cox's first feature as director. Also premiering is the drama "Boulevard," starring Williams, and the schoolteacher tale "Miss Meadows," with Holmes. A romance penned by Joss Whedon, "In Your Eyes," will come to Tribeca, as will "Every Secret Thing," a crime drama scripted by "Enough Said" director Nicole Holofcener. The documentary selections include profiles of the famous, including Alice Cooper ("Super Duper Alice Cooper"), Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead ("The Other One: The Long, Strange Trip of Bob Weir") and cyclist Greg LeMond ("Slaying the Badger"). Also playing is the Susan Sarandon-produced "Silenced," a documentary about the prosecution of alleged government information leakers. The festival will feature notable films from other festivals, including Roman Polanski's "Venus in Fur," Kelly Reichardt's "Night Moves," Paul Haggis' "Third Person" and Ira Sachs' "Love Is Strange." In its midnight section, Tribeca often gathers genre film oddities. This year, it will feature a "Sharknado"-like mash-up: the horror flick "Zombeavers," which (naturally) features a horde of rabid zombie beavers. Earlier this week, Tribeca announced the other half of its program. Noteworthy selections include the fashion documentary "Dior and I" and the confused-teenager drama "Gabriel," starring Rory Culkin. Each will kick off a festival section: "Gabriel" begins the world narrative competition, and "Dior and I" opens the world documentary category. The Tribeca Film Festival will open April 16 with the premiere of "Time Is Illmatic," a documentary about the rapper Nas and his debut album, "Illmatic." The festival runs through April 27. ___ Online: http://tribecafilm/festival Copyright (2014) Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
NEW YORK (AP) — Oscar winner "12 Years a Slave" will face off with blockbusters like "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" and "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" at the MTV Movie Awards. The network announced Thursday the nominees for its 24th annual Movie Awards. The other movie of the year nominees are "The Wolf of Wall Street" and "American Hustle." Most of the best male and female nominees reassemble recent Oscar contenders including Matthew McConaughey, Lupita Nyong'o and Leonardo DiCaprio. The awards' best kiss category will have a clear favorite: Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence's smooch in "American Hustle." For best shirtless performance, Jennifer Aniston from "We're the Millers" will vie with DiCaprio in "The Wolf of Wall Street." Conan O'Brien will host the show live April 13 from Los Angeles' Nokia Theatre. Copyright (2014) Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Conan O'Brien will be serving up buckets of golden popcorn. O'Brien announced Tuesday on his TBS talk show "Conan" that he's hosting this year's MTV Movie Awards. The annual movie celebration that honors winners with popcorn-shaped trophies is scheduled for April 13 at the Nokia Theatre in downtown Los Angeles. "After eight years of intense negotiations, I am honored to announce I am hosting MTV's second most prestigious awards show," the comedian joked in a statement. It marks the first time O'Brien has hosted the MTV Movie Awards. He previously hosted the Primetime Emmy Awards in 2002 and 2006. Past hosts of the MTV Movie Awards have included Jimmy Fallon, Aziz Ansari, Russell Brand, Rebel Wilson and Sarah Silverman. ___ Online: http://www.movieawards.mtv.com Copyright (2014) Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Diversity was perhaps the biggest winner at the 86th annual Academy Awards. For the first time, a film directed by a black filmmaker — Steve McQueen of "12 Years a Slave" — won best picture and a Latino — Alfonso Cuaron of "Gravity" — took home best director in a ceremony presided over by a lesbian host and overseen by the academy's first black president. And only two of the top six awards went to Americans. McQueen's grimly historical drama "12 Years a Slave" took best picture, leading the usually sedate filmmaker to jump up and down in celebration after his acceptance speech. The British director dedicated his award to "all of the people who endured slavery and the 21 million people who still suffer slavery today." Cuaron's lost-in-space thriller "Gravity" led the Oscars with seven awards, including cinematography, editing, score, visual effects, sound mixing and sound editing. Some in his native Mexico have been critical that since the attention came for a Hollywood release and not a Mexican-themed film, his win didn't have the same kind of importance. "I'm Mexican so I hope some Mexicans were rooting for me," he told reporters backstage. The entire Oscar ceremony had the feel of a make-over for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences — an institution that has sometimes seemed stuck in the past. After a Los Angeles Times report revealed the academy was overwhelming older white men, new president Cheryl Boone Isaacs has pushed for a more varied membership. The movie industry that the Oscars reflect has also been reluctant to tell a wider range of stories. "Dallas Buyers Club," the best picture-nominated drama about AIDS in 1980s Texas, took two decades to get made after countless executives balked at financing such a tale. Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto, the two Americans in the top six awards, took best actor and best supporting actor titles for their roles in the film as a heterosexual rodeo rat (McConaughey) and a transgender drug addict (Leto) united by HIV. "Thirty-six million people who have lost the battle to AIDS and to those of you out there who have ever felt injustice because of who you are or who you love, tonight I stand here in front of the world with you and for you," said Leto in his acceptance speech. Cate Blanchett, the Australian best-actress winner for her bitter, ruined socialite in Woody Allen's "Blue Jasmine," used her acceptance speech to trumpet the need to make films with female leads — films like her own and like "Gravity," starring Sandra Bullock. A study by analyst Kevin B. Lee found that last year's lead actors averaged 100 minutes on screen, but lead actresses averaged only 49 minutes. "To the audiences who went to see the film and perhaps those of us in the industry who are still foolishly clinging to the idea that female films, with women at the center, are niche experiences, they are not," said Blanchett. "Audiences want to see them and, in fact, they earn money." "12 Years a Slave" also won awards in the writing and acting categories. John Ridley picked up the trophy for best adapted screenplay, which was based on the 1853 memoir by Solomon Northup. The screenwriter is only the second black writer (Geoffrey Fletcher won for "Precious" in 2009) to win in the category. Backstage, the "12 Years" team mentioned their efforts to include Solomon Northup's memoir as part of high school study. The National School Boards Association announced in February that the book is now mandatory reading. "It's important that we understand our history so we can understand who we were and who we are now and most importantly who we're going to be," said Brad Pitt, who produced "12 Years." ''We hope that this film remains a gentle reminder that we're all equal. We all want the same: Dignity and opportunity." Lupita Nyong'o was a first-time Oscar winner for her supporting role as field slave Patsey in "12 Years." ''I'm a little dazed," said Nyong'o backstage. "I can't believe this is real life." Nyong'o is the sixth black actress to win in the supporting actress category — and the first major Oscar win for Kenya (the president of Kenya congratulated her in a tweet) — following Hattie McDaniel ("Gone with the Wind"), Whoopi Goldberg ("Ghost"), Jennifer Hudson ("Dreamgirls"), Mo'Nique ("Precious") and Octavia Spencer ("The Help"). Foreign language film nominees included "The Missing Picture," the first-ever Oscar-nominated film from Cambodia. "The Act of Killing," a dark look into the mass killings of communists and ethnic Chinese in Indonesia in the 1960s, was nominated for best documentary feature. In her second time hosting, openly gay Ellen DeGeneres sought to make celebrities more like plain folk. She passed out slices of pizza to the front rows at the Dolby Theatre, then passed the hat to pay for it. She also tweeted a "selfie" with such stars as Meryl Streep, Julie Roberts, Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Pitt and Nyong'o. The shot "made history," DeGeneres told the audience later. It's since been retweeted more than 2 million times. ___ Follow AP Film Writer Jessica Herndon on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/SomeKind Copyright (2014) Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Perhaps atoning for past sins, Hollywood named the brutal, unshrinking historical drama "12 Years a Slave" best picture at the 86th annual Academy Awards. Steve McQueen's slavery odyssey, based on Solomon Northup's 1853 memoir, has been hailed as a landmark corrective to the movie industry's virtual blindness to slavery, instead creating whiter tales like 1940 best-picture winner "Gone With the Wind." ''12 Years a Slave" is the first best-picture winner directed by a black filmmaker. "Everyone deserves not just to survive, but to live," said McQueen, who dedicated the honor to those, past and present, who have endured slavery. "This is the most important legacy of Solomon Northup." The normally reserved McQueen promptly bounced up and down on stage, later matter-of-factly explaining his joy physically took over: "So, Van Halen. Jump." A year after celebrating Ben Affleck's "Argo" over Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln," the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences opted for stark realism over more the plainly entertaining candidates: the 3-D space marvel "Gravity" and the starry 1970s caper "American Hustle." Those two films came in as the leading nominee getters. David O. Russell's "American Hustle" went home empty-handed, but "Gravity" triumphed as the night's top award-winner. Cleaning up in technical categories like cinematography and visual effects, it earned seven Oscars including best director for Alfonso Cuaron. The Mexican filmmaker is the category's first Latino winner. "It was a transformative experience," said Cuaron, who spent some five years making the film and developing its visual effects. "For a lot of people, that transformation was wisdom. For me, it was the color of my hair." To his star Sandra Bullock, the sole person on screen for much of the lost-in-space drama, he said: "Sandra, you are 'Gravity.'" But history belonged to "12 Years a Slave," a modestly budgeted drama produced by Brad Pitt's production company, Plan B, that has made $50 million worldwide — a far cry from the more than $700 million "Gravity" has hauled in. Ellen DeGeneres, in a nimble second stint as host that seemed designed as an antidote to the crude humor of Seth MacFarlane last year, summarized the academy's options in her opening monologue: "Possibility number one: '12 Years a Slave' wins best picture. Possibility number two: You're all racists." DeGeneres presided over a smooth if safe ceremony, punctuated by politics, pizza and photo-bombing. Freely circulating in the crowd, she had pizza delivered, appealing to Harvey Weinstein to pitch in, and gathered stars to snap a selfie she hoped would be a record-setter on Twitter. (It was: Long before midnight, the photo had been retweeted more than 2 million times and momentarily crashed Twitter.) One participant, Meryl Streep, giddily exclaimed: "I've never tweeted before!" But in celebrating a movie year roundly considered an exceptionally deep one, the Oscars fittingly spread the awards around. The starved stars of the Texas AIDS drama "Dallas Buyers Club" were feted: Matthew McConaughey for best actor and Jared Leto for best supporting actor. McConaughey's award capped a startling career turnaround, a conscious redirection by the actor to tack away from the romantic comedies he regularly starred in, and move toward more challenging films. "It sort of feels like a culmination," he said backstage. Leto passed around his Oscar to members of the press backstage, urging them to "fondle" it. The long-haired actor, who has devoted himself in recent years to his rock band 30 Seconds to Mars, gravely vowed: "I will revel tonight." Cate Blanchett took best actress for her fallen socialite in Woody Allen's "Blue Jasmine," her second Oscar. Accepting the award, she challenged Hollywood not to think of films starring women as "niche experiences": "The world is round, people!" she declared to hearty applause. Draped in Nairobi blue, Lupita Nyong'o — the Cinderella of the awards season — won best supporting actress for her indelible impression as the tortured slave Patsey. It's the feature film debut for the 31-year-old actress. "It doesn't escape me for one moment that so much joy in my life is thanks to so much pain in someone else's, and so I want to salute the spirit of Patsy for her guidance," said Nyong'o. She also thanked director Steve McQueen: "I'm certain that the dead are standing about you and they are watching and they are grateful, and so am I." John Ridley won best adapted screenplay for "12 Years a Slave," shifting praise to Northup: "Those are his words. That is his life." Spike Jonze took best original screenplay for his futuristic romance "Her," the category Russell had the best chance of winning. Though the ceremony lacked a big opening number, it had a steady musical beat to it. To a standing ovation, Bono and U2 played an acoustic version of "Ordinary Love," from "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom." Pharrell Williams had Streep and Leonardo DiCaprio dancing in the aisles with "Happy" from "Despicable Me 2." Pink was cheered for her rendition of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," part of a 75th anniversary tribute to "The Wizard of Oz." And Bette Midler sang — what else? — "Wind Beneath My Wing" for the in memoriam segment — an especially heartfelt one, considering the deaths of Philip Seymour Hoffman, Harold Ramis, James Gandolfini and others. Best documentary went to the crowd-pleasing backup singer ode "20 Feet From Stardom." One of its stars, Darlene Love, accepted the award singing the gospel tune "His Eye Is on the Sparrow": "I sing because I'm happy/ I sing because I'm free." Disney's global hit "Frozen" won best animated film, marking — somewhat remarkably — the studio's first win in the 14 years of the best animated feature category. (Pixar, which Disney owns, has regularly dominated.) The film's hit single, "Let It Go," won best original song. "We're all just trying to make films that touch people," said co-director Chris Buck backstage. "Once in a while, you get lucky." Though the Oscar ceremony is usually a glitzy bubble separate from real-world happenings, international events were immediately referenced. In his acceptance speech, Leto addressed people in Ukraine and Venezuela. "We are here and as you struggle to make your dreams happen, to live the impossible, we're thinking of you," said Leto. Russian state-owned broadcaster Channel One Russia said it would not broadcast the Oscars live because of the necessity for news coverage of Russia's invasion of Ukraine's Crimea peninsula. It will instead transmit the Oscars early Tuesday morning, local time. Venezuelan protesters, via social media, urged Oscar winners to bring attention to their plight. Anti-government protests have roiled the country in recent weeks. Italy's "The Great Beauty" won the Oscar for best foreign language film. In accepting the award for his rumination on life and Rome's decadence, director Paolo Sorrentino thanked his heroes, including Federico Fellini, Martin Scorsese and soccer star Diego Maradona. In her opening, DeGeneres gently mocked Hollywood's insularity, referring to the headlines that have swamped the Los Angeles area lately with a slightly less serious news event. "It has been raining," said DeGeneres. "We're fine. Thank you for your prayers." ABC, which aired the ceremony, hoped the drama of a razor-thin best-picture race would be enough to entice viewers. The show last year drew an audience of 40.3 million, up from 39.3 million the year before when the silent-film ode "The Artist" won best picture. There was a sense of deja vu Sunday. As she hit the red carpet, "American Hustle" star Jennifer Lawrence briefly collapsed in a heap of laughter, just as she tripped ascending the stairs last year to accept best actress for "Silver Linings Playbook." "If you win tonight," said DeGeneres, "I think we should bring you the Oscar." No delivery was needed, as the night belonged to "12 Years a Slave." ____ Associated Press writers Anthony McCartney, Lynn Elber, Ryan Nakashima, Andrew Dalton, Nekesa Mumbi Moody and E.J.Tamara contributed to this report. ____ Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jake_coyle Copyright (2014) Associated Press. All rights reserved. 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The 86th Academy Awards show kicked off Sunday, as Hollywood's finest gathered after one of the fiercest Oscars races in years, with no clear frontrunner for the coveted best picture prize.Harrowing historical drama "12 Years a Slave," 3D space thriller "Gravity" and 1970s crime caper "American Hustle" are hotly tipped to take the top prizes at the Oscars, the climax of Tinseltown's annual awards season. Host Ellen DeGeneres opened with a monologue making fun of the storms which hit California on the eve of the Oscars, threatening to rain on the pre-show red carpet parade. "It's been a tough couple of days for us here. It has been raining," she said, addressing the global audience. "We're fine. Thank you for your prayers," she dead-panned. She then made fun of Jennifer Lawrence, who famously fell while walking up to the stage last year to collect her best actress Oscar -- and stumbled again as she arrived for Sunday's show. "If you win tonight, I think we should bring you the Oscar," DeGeneres said. While the best picture winner is difficult to forecast, other categories could be easier to predict. Jared Leto fulfilled expectations by taking the first prize of the night, the best supporting actor Oscar for his heart-wrenching portrayal of a transgender woman suffering from AIDS in "Dallas Buyers Club." Cate Blanchett is favorite for best actress for her turn in Woody Allen's "Blue Jasmine," while Matthew McConaughey is widely fancied for best actor for his role as homophobic HIV-positive AIDS activist Ron Woodroof in "Dallas Buyers Club." Copyright AFP Relaxnews, 2014.