Most Americans have yet to watch any best-picture Oscar nominee

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - It may be one of the best years in recent memory for high-quality Hollywood film, but two-thirds of Americans have yet to see any of the movies nominated for the best picture Oscar, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Sunday.

Among other questions, the poll asked 1,433 Americans whether they had seen any of the nine best-picture nominees, plus two other films competing in other categories. The Academy Awards will be hosted by comedian Ellen DeGeneres on March 2.

Among those who responded to the online survey, Somali piracy thriller "Captain Phillips" was the most-watched film, at 15 percent. But 67 percent said they had yet to see any of the eleven films in the poll.

The outer-space drama "Gravity" was second with 14 percent, while crime caper "American Hustle" and "The Wolf of Wall Street," Martin Scorsese's portrait of 1990s greed and excess, each had been seen by 12 percent of those surveyed. The numbers include those surveyed who may have seen more than one of the nominees.

The survey found that 60 percent of respondents were unsure about which film should win best picture. Slavery drama "12 Years a Slave" had the most support at 9 percent.

"Gravity" and "Captain Phillips" drew 8 percent of the vote each and "The Wolf of Wall Street" took in 7 percent, according to the survey conducted from February 17-21.

Hollywood awards season watchers have tipped "12 Years a Slave" and "Gravity" as the favorites to take home the film world's highest honor.

Among those surveyed, previous best-actress Oscar winner Sandra Bullock is the favorite in that category again for her role as an astronaut in "Gravity," with 24 percent saying she will take home the prize. Amy Adams garnered 11 percent support for her portrayal of a 1970s con artist in "American Hustle."

Leonardo DiCaprio's depiction of disgraced stock trader Jordan Belfort in "The Wolf of Wall Street" should earn him his long-awaited best-actor Oscar in his third try for the prize, according to 17 percent of those surveyed. Some 11 percent favored "Dallas Buyers Club" star Matthew McConaughey to win the award.

Steve McQueen, the director of "12 Years a Slave," had the most support at 14 percent to win best director, and Scorsese finished second with 11 percent. If McQueen wins, he would be the first black director to do so.

Alfonso Cuaron, who has won nearly all of the directing awards this season for "Gravity" and is the pundits' favorite to win the Oscar, was third with 7 percent.

Fifty-two percent said they were unsure who should win the best actor and best actress awards.

DeGeneres, the ceremony's host, scored the approval of 60 percent of respondents. Of those who supported the choice, 34 percent said they strongly approved of the daytime talk show host leading the show for a second time.

Seventeen percent said DeGeneres was their top choice to host the Oscars. Frequent host Billy Crystal, Golden Globe co-host Tina Fey, and comedians Eddie Murphy and Jimmy Fallon all came in second with 8 percent.

Last year's host, "Family Guy" creator Seth MacFarlane, garnered 3 percent of support from respondents as their top choice.

The precision of Reuters/Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll has a credibility interval of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

(Reporting by Eric Kelsey; Editing by Mary Milliken)

FCC backs off newsroom study


The Federal Communications Commission will amend a proposed study of newsrooms in South Carolina after outcry over what some called "invasive questions," the commission's chairman said Friday.
The survey was meant to study how and if the media is meeting the public's “critical information needs” on subjects like public health, politics, transportation and the environment. Now, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said questions about news philosophy and editorial judgment will be removed from the survey and media owners and reporters will no longer be questioned.
The uproar caught on fire after one of the Republican commissioners, Ajit Pai, penned an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal last week blasting the survey and saying the government had no place in newsrooms. The FCC is required by law to conduct media studies.
"Any suggestion the Commission intends to regulate the speech of news media is false," FCC spokeswoman Shannon Gilson said Friday in a statement, adding that a revised study will be released within the next few weeks. Additionally, she said media owners and journalists will no longer be asked to participate in the pilot study.
"Any subsequent market studies conducted by the FCC, if determined necessary, will not seek participation from or include questions for media owners, news directors or reporters," she said. 

CNN’s ‘Piers Morgan Live’ Ratings Sink To Second Lowest Ever


Piers Morgan’s rocky ratings just took another dive for CNN. On Tuesday, the Brit’s 9PM show had its second worst result ever in the all important adults 25-54 news demographic. With a total audience of 270,000 watching, Piers Morgan Live drew a mere 50,000 viewers in the demo. The only time the stumbling CNN show has fared that poorly since its January 17, 2011 launch was on May 15, 2012. Then the show, then known as Piers Morgan Tonight, pulled in a just 39,000 viewers in the demo. In terms of overall viewers, February 18 was the ninth worst Morgan’s talk show has done. The all-time viewership low for Piers Morgan Live was on February 7 this year when just 235,000 tuned in. Morgan’s cable news rivals The Kelly File on Fox News Channel and The Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC did far better last night. The 9PM shows got 354,000 and 227,000 in the demo respectively and 2.068 million and 906,000 total viewers – pretty close to what they both had last Tuesday with the FNC show even getting a tiny rise in the demo.
cnnlogo__130909223055-200x95__131028185652__131031215342__131104224558__131108225110__131209225955Tuesday’s results are a huge fall from February 11 when Morgan’s show got 111,000 viewers in the demo and 374,000 watching overall – which is a long way of say, Jeff Zucker can’t blame theOlympics cause they were on last week as well. Then again he might have bigger worries – CNN matched its sixth worst primetime result among the 25-54s on February 18. Between 8PM and 11PM, the cable news network had 64,000 watching in the demo. That’s a tie with December 28, 2010 and October 22, 1997′s demo results. The all-time worst CNN primetime demo viewership was the tiny 57,000 who tuned in on May 18,2000. In terms of total viewers on Tuesday, CNN had 274,000 watching  - its sixth worst result ever.

Ben Affleck to Testify Before Congress as an Africa Expert

With a vicious spate of mass killings plaguing the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a Senate panel is calling on experts to appear before U.S. lawmakers next week. One of them is Hollywood actor and serial activist Ben Affleck, The Cable has learned.

Affleck is slated to appear before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee next Wednesday to discuss the troubled central African country of 75 million people. The Argo director has shown a keen interest in Congo in recent years through his philanthropic organization, the Eastern Congo Initiative (ECI). But not everyone thinks Affleck's résumé qualifies him to testify on Capitol Hill. When the Seattle-based advisory firm working for Affleck, WilliamsWorks, tried to set up a similar event in the GOP-controlled House of Representatives, Republicans did not accept, according to a congressional aide familiar with the matter. "It was floated and turned down," said the aide.
It's unclear if Republicans declined due to scheduling issues or philosophical differences. One GOP aide at the House Foreign Affairs Committee said the meeting would be inappropriate given the wide offering of other experts available to speak on the issue. "People serious about resolving problems -- especially problems related to life and death -- want to have serious conversations with experts and leaders in the field, not celebrities," the aide said. Defending Affleck's presence, a separate aide said it doesn't have to be an "either-or decision," noting that experts could speak alongside the actor during a hearing. "I think there's value in having someone like Ben there," said the aide. "He's pretty invested in the issue."
Other experts who will be appearing before the Senate panel on Wednesday include Russell Feingold, the U.S. special envoy for the Great Lakes region and Congo; Roger Meece, former U.S. ambassador to Congo; and Raymond Gilpin, an academic dean at the National Defense University.*
Since 1996, the former Belgian colony has been beset with disease, violence, and malnourishment in a conflict involving ethnic rivalries and a battle for the region's resources of copper, gold, and diamonds. Just last week, the United Nations mission in Congo, MONUSCO, said more than 70 people had been hacked to death by armed groups in the resource-rich northeastern North Kivu province.
ECI, Affleck's philanthropic organization, emphasizes direct giving by connecting donors with Congolese nonprofits rather than channeling money into large international NGOs. Affleck also testified on Congo before the House Armed Services Committee in 2012. At the time, he called for the United States to play a greater role in influencing the United Nations' role in the country. "Without persistent, high-level leadership by the United States, the key players will not come to the table and do their part," he said. "They deserve better than this cycle of violence and upheaval."

Ted Cruz to Address Hollywood's Secret Conservative Group Friends of Abe

by Paul Bond
The group rightly refused a request from the IRS to reveal the names of its members, says the Republican senator from Texas; "FOA should respond to the IRS as it would to any McCarthyite request for information."

Republican Sen. Ted Cruz will visit Hollywood's not-so-secret group of conservatives called Friends of Abe next month, and he tells The Hollywood Reporter he will address what he considers is a government effort to intimidate artists who criticize President Barack Obamaand his policies.

FOA, a group of about 2,000 entertainment industry workers, likes to remain under the radar. But The New York Times on Jan. 22 revealed the group's two-year-long effort to be recognized as a tax-free charity organization. One thing the IRS has wanted from FOA is its membership list, and Cruz says the group has been right to refuse such a request, which he says stems from "an abuse of power."

"FOA should respond to the IRS as it would to any McCarthyite request for information," Cruz says in an interview. "The U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled that Americans have freedom of association and that groups should not be forced to reveal the names of members, because that information could be abused for political gain. There has already been an incident where the IRS leaked that kind of information about a group."
Cruz says the IRS' treatment of FOA is part of a pattern that includes the arrests of Dinesh D’Souza, who made 2016: Obama’s America, and Nakoula Nakoula, whose video, Innocence of Muslims, was blamed for causing the riots in Benghazi, Libya, that left four Americans dead. After the Benghazi attack, Nakoula spent several months in prison on charges unrelated to the video. And D'Souza, who is expected to release his next film, America, on July 4, is accused of violating campaign finance laws by raising more money than he should have for a friend who sought a U.S. Senate seat in New York.
"It's a remarkably selective prosecution considering Obama raised millions of dollars under similar circumstances and donors merely faced civil fines while D'Souza is charged with felony violation of federal law," says Cruz. "There is a pattern of targeting filmmakers who speak out politically.
"Authorities have been remarkably selective in prosecuting D’Souza; the IRS' treatment of FOA is consistent with what this administration has done to Tea Party and conservative groups; and with Benghazi, which we now know was a terrorist attack, the administration's first instinct was to blame a filmmaker. This administration locked him up. That should be very troubling to the filmmaking community."
Cruz adds: "Imagine if George W. Bush had locked up Michael MooreSean Penn and Alec Baldwin. Hollywood would be outraged and rightly so. It's striking that when Nixon targeted his enemies it was rightly criticized as abuse of power, but when President Obama does it with far more success, the silence from Democrats, the media and from filmmakers is deafening."

FOA began as a loosely structured fellowship nine years ago when actors Gary Sinise and Kelsey Grammer and producer-writer Lionel Chetwynd would meet for private discussions about current events, popular culture and politics. The group quickly widened to include outspoken conservatives like the late Andrew Breitbart and actor Jon Voight, and eventually rank-and-file entertainment industry workers, many of whom feared retribution if word got out that they didn't share the liberal-leaning ideals prominent in the Hollywood community.

As FOA grew too large to be kept secret, media outlets like Fox News, the Washington Times and E! Entertainment began to pry into the organization, but members have been particularly on edge since it was revealed that the IRS also is interested in learning the names of those involved. FOA executive director Jeremy Boreing, though, says that while FOA itself is not a "secret society," its membership ranks will remain hidden from government officials and others who are seeking access to those details.
While Boreing says he does not think "there is any dark, industry-wide conspiracy to keep conservatives from working," there have been instances of bias alleged. Grammer, for example, toldTHR in 2008 that when he was on the TV show Cheers he was told his job would be jeopardized if he didn’t donate $10,000 to Democrats, including then-Rep. Barbara Boxer of California. In his bookPrimetime Propaganda, radio talk show host Ben Shapiro quotes producer Vin Di Bona, famous for TV shows like MacGyver and America's Funniest Home Videos, saying the notion of widespread anti-conservative bias in Hollywood is "probably accurate and I’m happy about it, actually."
More recently, Scott Eckern resigned as artistic director of the California Musical Theater after he was criticized for donating $1,000 in support of Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage. "I am disappointed that my personal convictions have cost me the opportunity to do what I love the most," Eckern said after resigning the position he had held for five years.

And this year, Maria Conchita Alonso quit a Spanish-language production of The Vagina Monologues because of backlash over her support of Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, a Tea Party favorite running for the Republican nomination for governor of California.

"It used to be Democrats could talk to Republicans without getting mad and screaming. We need to bring that back in America," she told THR. "That you have to create something like FOA so people can feel free to talk, there's something wrong with that, isn’t there?"
At issue with the IRS is whether FOA is engaging in overly partisan activities, which could preclude it from gaining status as a 501(c)(3) organization.
"FOA provided the IRS with access to the areas of our website necessary for them to establish with clarity what kind of organization we are," Boreing tells THR. "But we didn't provide them with access to the areas of our website that contain our membership information, which they were asking for at one point. Look, there’s a well-established tradition of not naming names in Hollywood. No individual or government agency has the right to expose people’s privately held beliefs."

When Cruz visits the group next month, he'll join a long list of well-known conservatives who have addressed FOA, like Rick SantorumHerman CainAnn Coulter, Rep. Paul Ryan and talk show host Mark Levin. The group, though, does not endorse candidates, and at one event a speaker, in fact, made the case that its members didn’t even share political affiliation as much as a desire to see America prosper. Sinise, the Oscar-winning actor from Forrest Gump and CSI: NY who is often cited as the group's founder, rarely speaks about politics when addressing FOA and prefers instead to stick to his passionate support for U.S. military personnel, according to insiders.
Since The New York Times story, several journalists and bloggers have noted FOA's similarity to the many liberal groups in Hollywood, notably People for the American Way, which was founded by TV producer Norman Lear and is dedicated a 501(c)(4), allowing it to participate in political campaigns. 
"In reality, we don't even have the activist agendas that those groups have," Boreing says. "FOA is not a political organization, and we have no agenda other than to provide education and fellowship opportunities to conservative-leaning entertainment industry professionals. We don't raise money for candidates. We don’t even pay speakers' fees. We're just a watering hole for conservatives in a town not especially known for its embrace of conservative views … we aren't looking for publicity, and we aren’t naming names."

He added: "FOA isn’t looking for any fights -- not with our liberal friends in the industry, not with the government and certainly not with the IRS."


U-Mary to premiere local documentary '6 Brothers'

February 18, 2014 1:57 pm  •  

A new local production from Prairie Public, 6 Brothers, explores the joys and challenges of life on the plains through the stories of the Stenberg brothers. Arnold, Casper, Christian, Henry, Raymond, and Selmer were the children of western North Dakota homesteaders, and they belonged to the generation that survived the Great Depression and experienced World War II.

A documentary about six North Dakota brothers will premiere at the University of Mary at 7 p.m. Thursday in Butler Hall of the Gary Tharaldson School of Business.

None of them grew up to be famous;
 none of them grew up to be felons;
 and some of them didn’t get a chance to grow up.
Though they have all since passed, their stories live on in others.

In this feature-length documentary, Daniel Stenberg dives deeply into his grandfather’s story. His grandfather was one of six brothers born to homesteaders in Western North Dakota. The family survived the Great Depression, became greatly involved in World War II, and experienced many other joys and challenges of living during one of America’s most intriguing time periods.

The six Stenberg brothers came of age in the Great Depression. One died during military service during World War II, another died at age nine due to appendicitis. The remaining brothers spent their years in, and around, McKenzie County with professions such as a brand inspector, a gas station owner, a farmer/rancher, and a handyman. This isn’t a story of “rags to riches” or “the rest of the story” of someone famous, but the story of the lives of many ordinary North Dakotan families who grew up at this time. As personal stories and scholarly facts are intertwined with family pictures, period pictures, informative statistics and background footage, the documentary is compelling, interesting and informative.

Producer: Daniel Stenberg
Editor: Dave Geck
Executive Producer: Bob Dambach
Production funding provided by Basin Electric and an Operation Roundup grant from McKenzie Electric

- See more at:

Prairie Public Broadcasting CEO John Harris, North Dakota Humanities Council Executive Director Brenna Gerhardt and the film’s director Daniel Stenberg will speak at the event.
It will be shown on Priaire Public Television at 8 p.m. Feb. 26.

'Son of God': Church Leaders Buying Out Theaters For Screenings

by Hilary Lewis
Religious organizations are seeking to flood multiplexes with faithful audiences for the Fox-distributed film about Jesus Christ, based on the hit "Bible" miniseries.

Church groups are seeking to take over entire theaters for opening night screenings of Son of God, the upcoming movie about the life of Jesus Christ.
Various religious organizations throughout the country have been buying out screens and distributing tickets to groups of thousands of people for "Theater Take-Overs" on Thursday, Feb. 27, the night before the film's officially released, according to production company Lightworkers Media.
Crossroads Church in Cincinnati is bringing thousands of people to a Cinemark theater, where Son of God will be showing on 13 screens at the same time.
"Our church bought out every screen in the theater," Crossroads'Brian Wells said in a statement. If anyone comes to the theater to see another movie that night, they’ll be out of luck, unless we have a few extra tickets to give them!”
There are a few other theater buyouts for Son of God scheduled at Cinemark locations throughout the country, according to the theater chain's marketing and communications head James Meredith.
"It’s very interesting to see this level of excitement around the movie," Meredith said in a statement. "The interest level for meetings, events, screenings and buyouts seems to be on par with that of major blockbuster, tentpole or franchise movies."
Mega-church pastor Rick Warren is buying out screens in eight different theaters throughout Orange County.
"I’ve seen most of the films about Jesus produced in the past 50 years, and Son of God is the best,“ Warren said in a statement. “We’re excited Jesus is back on the big screen, and we’re going to fill the theaters. I want every other faith leader in America to do the same. Whether you can buy out a whole theater, or just one screen, now is the time to show up. This is a rare opportunity to bring the story of Christ into our mainstream culture. We want to see Jesus in movie theaters where sight and sound can open up our senses and let grace come in. The message of the Gospel deserves to be on the big screen – and this is our chance to see it there."
Other churches and organizations, ranging in size from 10,000 to 4 million, are distributing tickets for a "Theater Take-Over." Some pastors will also buy out screens showing the film in Spanish and Korean. There's even a Catholic "Theater Take-Over" planned for Miami.
Various business leaders throughout the country are also donating tickets to churches and non-profits.
Son of God is a version of the hit Bible miniseries, featuring new and used footage, focused just on the story of Jesus Christ. The Bible averaged 11.4 million viewers during its five-week run on the History channel and became the top-selling miniseries on DVD of all time.
The film was produced by The Bible's Mark Burnett and wife Roma Downey.
"We’re very excited that the community is mobilizing to support Son of God," Burnett and Downey said in a statement. "The grass roots support is so important and the faith community is amazing when it mobilizes. Our hope is that the story and message of Jesus Christ will reach tens of millions of people nationwide."
"We are going to spend around $10 million on commercials, and that is nothing. You may not even see a commercial for this. ... The only chance we've got is the church community spreading the word," Burnett said at the prayer breakfast, where 30 minutes of the film was shown to the audience. "We carried the backpack so far. We made it; we unbelievably got it in theaters everywhere. It's now a great time for people to bring groups and bring people with them who need this message, who need to know who Jesus is."
Burnett and Downey involved key Christian figures in the production of the film, including Warren and Hispanic Evangelical Alliance president Rev. Sam Rodriguez.
The film is just one of multiple Bible-based movies being released this year, including DarrenAronofsky's Noah, starring Russell Crowe, which Paramount is releasing March 28 and Ridley Scott's Exodus, starring Christian Bale as Moses, which Fox plans to release Dec. 12.

Hollywood legend turned diplomat Shirley Temple dies at 85

Shirley Temple Black, who as a dimpled, ringlet-haired moppet starred in a series of winsome films that lifted the spirits of millions during the hard days of the Depression, then retired from the screen at 22 and eventually went on to a diplomatic career, died surrounded by family at her home in Woodside, Calif. She was 85.
Temple was the most famous child star of her time and arguably of all time, beginning her film career at age three and becoming the symbol of upbeat family entertainment during an era when many had little to smile about.
By six, she'd received a miniature Academy Award and left her hand and footprints in cement at Grauman's Chinese Theatre.
Her roles tended to follow a template: she was constantly cheerful, smiling, optimistic and pure hearted -- sometimes without one parent, sometimes an orphan, but always able to bring joy to the coldest-hearted characters and love to those who yearned for it.
Temple also was a merchandising goldmine: dolls, clothes, dishes, cutout books and numerous other items appeared in her likeness. There was even a non-alcoholic drink named after her: the Shirley Temple (ginger ale, orange juice and grenadine, topped with a maraschino cherry).
But her days as an internationally famous star effectively ended with her childhood and her life took a strikingly different path.
She married twice and gave birth to three children before venturing onto the political stage, serving as US ambassador to both Ghana and Czechoslovakia, a US representative to the United Nations and chief of protocol in the administration of President Gerald Ford.
A widow, Temple is survived by her three children, Linda, Charlie and Lori.
The little girl who tap danced her way into the heart of millions was born April 23, 1928 in Santa Monica, California to businessman George Temple and his wife, Gertrude.
She was sent at three to dance school, where she was seen by two producers for one-reel short films, who launched her career.
By the time she was six, Temple was under contract to Fox Films and her breakthrough came in 1934's "Stand Up and Cheer!" followed by "Little Miss Marker."
That same year, her trademark song, "On the Good Ship Lollipop" was introduced in "Bright Eyes."
Audiences struggling through the Depression couldn't get enough of her. Then- President Franklin Roosevelt said, "It is a splendid thing that for just 15 cents an American can go to a movie and look at the smiling face of a baby and forget his troubles."
More films followed, including "Curly Top," "The Littlest Rebel," "Dimples,", "Wee Willie Winkie," "Heidi" and "Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm."
She was "just absolutely marvelous, greatest in the world," director Allan Dwan told filmmaker-author Peter Bogdanovich in his book "Who the Devil Made It: Conversations With Legendary Film Directors." "With Shirley, you'd just tell her once and she'd remember the rest of her life," said Dwan, who directed "Heidi" and "Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm." "Whatever it was she was supposed to do -- she'd do it. ... And if one of the actors got stuck, she'd tell him what his line was -- she knew it better than he did."
One of her last was "The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer" with Cary Grant, in which she played a high school student.
But as she got older, her popularity waned and in December 1950, Temple announced her official retirement from films. In all, according to her website, she made 14 short films and 43 feature films.
By the time she bowed out, Temple had married Jack Agar, a soldier, at 17 and divorced him four years later after giving birth to daughter Linda.
In 1950 she married Charles Black, a former naval officer whom her website describes as her "true soulmate." They remained wed until his death in 2005 and were the parents of Charlie Jr. and Lori.
In 1958, Temple briefly returned to the performing world as host and narrator of "Shirley Temple's Storybook" on NBC. It was reworked and reappeared two years later as the "Shirley Temple Show" but neither lasted.
Politics beckoned next and Temple, a Republican, ran unsuccessfully for a seat in the US House of Representatives in 1967.
In 1972 she was diagnosed with breast cancer and became one of the first prominent women, followed by Betty Ford, to discuss it openly.
After serving as US representative to the United Nations in 1969, Temple was appointed US Ambassador to the African nation of Ghana in 1974, Chief of Protocol of the US in 1976 and US Ambassador to Czechoslovakia in 1989.
In later years, she lived in northern California and wrote a 1988 autobiography, "Child Star."
During a 1996 interview, she said she loved both politics and show business.
"It's certainly two different career tracks," she said, "both completely different but both very rewarding, personally."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.