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Directors Guild announces nominees for film achievement

It was another sunny day Thursday for Damien Chazelle's Los Angeles musical "La La Land" and Barry Jenkins' coming-of-age tale "Moonlight" on the long journey to the Oscars.

After winning the top film awards at the Golden Globes, Chazelle and Jenkins both scored their first nomination for a Directors Guild Award, further enhancing the likelihood of an Oscar nod.

The guild's nominees for outstanding directorial achievement for a feature film also included "Manchester by the Sea" director Kenneth Lonergan, "Lion" director Garth Davis and Denis Villeneuve of "Arrival."

Davis is also nominated for best first feature along with Nate Parker for "Birth of a Nation." Publicity about a 17-year-old rape allegation against Parker had seemed to sink his chances for awards. Parker was acquitted.

Other first feature nominees include Dan Trachtenberg for "10 Cloverfield Lane," Tim Miller for "Deadpool" and Kelly Fremon Craig for "The Edge of Seventeen."

While the DGA nominees for feature film achievement rarely match up exactly with nods for the Academy Award, the guild choices can be a formidable predictor of the eventual Oscar winner.

With nearly 16,000 members, including television and commercial directors, the guild often selects a more populist lineup when compared with the selections of the nearly 400 members of the directors' branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Last year, Alejandro G. Inarritu picked up the feature film award for "The Revenant" before going on to win best director at the Oscars.

Voting for Oscar nominations closes Friday, and nominees will be announced on Jan. 24.

With nominations from the Producers Guild this week, "La La Land," ''Moonlight" and "Manchester by the Sea" appear to be the front runners.

Notably absent from the guild nominations were Martin Scorsese for "Silence," Denzel Washington for "Fences" and Mel Gibson for "Hacksaw Ridge," a film that left the Golden Globes empty-handed.

Winners of the 69th annual Directors Guild awards will be announced at a dinner in Los Angeles on Feb. 4.

Study: Just 7 percent of top films in 2016 directed by women

A new study finds that just 7 percent of the 250 highest-grossing films of 2016 were directed by women.

The Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University on Thursday issued the 19th annual edition of its report, titled "The Celluloid Ceiling," authored by the center's executive director, Martha M. Lauzen. The rate of female directors was down 2 percent from last year.

Despite widespread attention in recent years to gender inequality in the film industry, the study found not only that opportunities aren't improving, but are getting slightly worse. Nearly 20 years ago, in 1998, 9 percent of the top films were directed by women.

Researchers found the disparity across the board. In 2016, women comprised 17 percent of all directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors and cinematographers in the top 250 domestic-grossing films. That also is a decline of 2 percent from 2015.

In recent years, gender inequality in Hollywood has drawn increased scrutiny, including an ongoing investigation by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Numerous stars have also spoken out about pay disparity. Most recently, Natalie Portman, who last year released her directorial debut, "A Tale of Love and Darkness," told Marie Claire that she was paid three times less than co-star Ashton Kutcher in 2011's "No Strings Attached."

The center's study also showed the trickle-down effect of hiring female directors. In analyzing the top 500 films, researchers found that on films with female directors, women accounted for 64 percent of writers. On male-directed films, just 9 percent were women.

Legend, Grande to record 'Beauty and the Beast' theme

John Legend and Ariana Grande will record the theme to Disney's live-action "Beauty and the Beast" remake.

The pair will sing the duet first sung by Angela Lansbury in the 1991 animated film and then recorded for the movie's soundtrack by Celine Dion and Peabo Byson for the 1991 animated film. The song, penned by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, won an Oscar and a Grammy.

"Beauty and the Beast," starring Emma Watson and Dan Stevens, will be released March 17.

Jane Fonda says people should not be fooled by Trudeau

Actress Jane Fonda said Wednesday that people should not be fooled by "good-looking liberals" like Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who "disappointed" her by approving pipelines from the Alberta oil sands.

Fonda said after touring the oil sands area that environmentalists everywhere were impressed by Trudeau at the Paris climate conference in late 2015.

"We all thought, well, cool guy," Fonda said. "What a disappointment ...

"He talked so beautifully of needing to meet the requirements of the climate treaty and to respect and hold to the treaties with indigenous people. Such a heroic stance he took there, and yet he has betrayed every one of the things he committed to in Paris."

Fonda, on a trip organized by Greenpeace, is calling for a stop to pipelines and oil sands development.

"I guess the lesson is we shouldn't be fooled by good-looking liberals no matter how well-spoken they are," Fonda said.

Last year, Trudeau approved Kinder Morgan's plans to triple the capacity of the Trans Mountain pipeline from Alberta to the Pacific Coast, and he approved replacing Enbridge's Line 3 to Wisconsin.

But he also pushed ahead with a national carbon price and he rejected Enbridge's Northern Gateway project to northwest British Columbia, which would pass through the Great Bear Rainforest as his Liberal Party government tries to balance the oil industry's desire to tap new markets in Asia against the concerns of environmentalists.

Fonda, a 79-year-old political activist and two-time Oscar winner for best actress, is the latest celebrity to visit and express concerns about the Alberta oil sands. Actor Leonardo DiCaprio and Hollywood film director James Cameron have also visited.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said Fonda is using her celebrity to promote ill-informed generalizations.

Notley said Fonda should not lecture oil workers about getting jobs elsewhere and added that it was "super tone deaf" for the actress to visit Fort McMurray, Alberta, so soon after devastating wildfires that destroyed 2,400 homes and buildings.

Notley, who leads the left-leaning New Democratic party, also said Alberta has a plan that makes the province a climate leader in North America. Notley said provincial officials were to have met with Fonda to explain the government's plans but it didn't happen.

"Dining out on your celebrity is something that someone ought to pair with knowledge and research and she failed to do that," Notley said.

"It's very clear she didn't know what she was talking about."

A Trudeau spokeswoman referred comment to the office of Canada's Natural Resource Minister

"Our government believes that the environment and the economy go hand in hand. The oil sands are an important source of jobs and economic prosperity for Canadians," spokesman Alexandre Deslongchamps said in an email. "We believe we can only develop our natural resources when we can do so sustainably. That's why we are putting a price on carbon pollution, strengthening environmental and safety standards, and making real investments in clean technology."

Alberta, which has the world's third largest oil reserves, needs infrastructure in place to export its growing oil production. Approving Trans Mountain helps diversify Canada's oil exports to Asia. Ninety-seven percent of Canadian oil exports now go to the U.S.

Michael Keaton apologizes for 'Hidden Fences' flub at Globes

Michael Keaton says anyone who reads something discriminatory into his Golden Globes garble of "Hidden Fences" is "extraordinarily incorrect."

"I mean, almost like calling Al Gore a climate change denier," Keaton told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Keaton said he "made a mistake reading the teleprompter and the cue cards" when he conflated the titles of "Hidden Figures" and "Fences" at the awards ceremony Sunday. Both films have predominantly black casts.

Keaton said Wednesday that he is sorry for the error and feels especially bad for the makers of "Hidden Figures" for the flub that diminished the title's recognition at the show, where he introduced supporting actress nominee Octavia Spencer.

"The Founder" star said he's a longtime civil rights supporter who taught his son the importance of being socially conscious.

Review: In 'Patriots Day,' a community disarms terrorism

"Patriots Day," which recreates the 2013 Boston Marathon and the subsequent four-day manhunt, is the third in a string of docudramas for Berg, following the Navy SEAL drama "Lone Survivor" and the recent oil rig disaster film "Deepwater Horizon."

In tales of real-life American heroes, Berg has found a potent balance of fact and fiction, mixing expert big-budget filmmaking with realism. Following the all-around disappointment of "Battleship," he has made his muscular, masculine tales leaner and truer. In each, a skillfully visceral chronology culminates cathartically in moving codas of the real people from the movie.

"Patriots Day," coming just over three years after the bombing that killed three and maimed many, could easily seem like typical Hollywood exploitation of a tragedy, or, on the other side of the coin, simple-minded rah-rah patriotism.

That it's neither is due in part to the detail of Berg's many-peopled portrait of American life. Everyone here is an individual, a family member, someone doing their job. The film, from a screenplay by Berg, Matt Cook and Joshua Zetumer, weaves together a spectrum of characters from across the city — police detectives to victims to the bombers.

While Berg gravitates toward tough-guy realms like the battlefield and the gridiron, he's most at home in the home. His films are grounded in quotidian family life, of husbands kissing wives goodbye and parents making breakfast for their kids. (The tremendous home life of Berg's TV series, "Friday Night Lights," is the best example of this.) He has surely made a close study of John Ford Westerns and their tender lingering on the hearth.

Beginning in the hours before the pressure-cooker bombs explode, Berg visits the home or workplace of the characters he'll stitch together throughout the film: newlyweds planning to watch the race (Rachel Brosnahan and Christopher O'Shea), an MIT officer (Jake Picking) flirting with a student (Lana Condor), and others. The final stop is the Tsarnaev brothers home, which, aside from the jihadist video playing, isn't so different from the others.

The characters are all based on real people except for one: Boston police Sergeant Tommy Saunders (Mark Wahlberg, who starred in Berg's last two). He's a composite invented to connect the movie's many parts, a movie-star MacGuffin who happens to be there for every plot turn.

His presence isn't jarring, though, in the superlative ensemble that includes Kevin Bacon (as the FBI team leader), John Goodman (as the Boston police commissioner), J.K. Simmons (as a Watertown sergeant) and, in one blistering scene, Khandi Alexander as a government interrogator. The Tsarnaev brothers are played by Themo Melikidze (as Tamerlan) and the especially good Alex Wolff (as Dzhokhar) who's presented here as a frivolous, foolhardy teenager most concerned with an iPod jack to play tunes in the carjacking of Chinese student Dun Meng (Jimmy O. Yang).

"Patriots Day" has too little curiosity for the motives of the bombers; its street-level perspective doesn't go beyond Boston. Berg's film isn't seeking answers; it's seeking solace. "Patriots Day" puts forth a vision of a multicultural society that rises up to reject the fear of terrorism. Its heroes are of all colors, immigrants and Southies, alike.

"Patriots Day," a CBS Films/Lionsgate release, is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for "violence, realistically graphic injury images, language throughout and some drug use." Running time: 133 minutes. Three stars out of four.

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Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP

Ben Affleck braces for 'entertaining' Trump presidency

Ben Affleck is an optimist. The Hollywood star thinks the next four years will at least be interesting after watching President-elect Donald Trump's first press conference.

"I didn't get to watch the entire news conference although what I did see of it, I was quite entertained by. I think it will be an entertaining four years," he said at the London premiere of his latest directorial effort "Live by Night" Wednesday.

Actor Chris Messina, who joined Affleck and co-star Sienna Miller on the red carpet, didn't seem as upbeat as Affleck.

"I think we're all a little scared and we're going to take deep breaths. Meryl Streep said it best the other night at the Golden Globes. I don't think anyone can be any more eloquent as her. Yeah, I was sad today. Obama said goodbye. We're going to miss him," Messina said.

Affleck was also somewhat miffed at Trump's Twitter reaction to Streep's Golden Globes speech. The actress made the Republican a big topic of her speech without naming him directly and Trump fired back calling her "one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood."

Affleck disagreed with the sentiment.

"If you think Meryl Streep is an overrated actress, you're probably the least qualified person to comment on acting. She's, if nothing else the world's greatest actor," he said.

"Live by Night" is Affleck's fourth feature as a director. He produced the film and also wrote the screenplay, based on a Dennis Lehane novel by the same name about a group of gangsters in Prohibition-era Boston. Affleck took on the lead role of Joe Coughlin, the son of a police captain, who forges his way into the world of crime.

Affleck said there was one difficult aspect to directing himself: Steamy bedroom scenes didn't quite work out as well as he'd hoped.

"I just try to make myself look as good as possible. I just think 'What's the most flattering sexual aspect of myself?' and I try to put that in the movie," he joked.

"And you know what? I had to cut it out, it was that depressing. I looked like a sick polar bear."

The film also stars Zoe Saldana, Elle Fanning, Chris Cooper and Brendan Gleeson.

10 (ish) films to look forward to in 2017

Hollywood might still be patting itself on the back for its 2016 films, but there's a lot to look forward to in film this year — in all genres. Here are 10-ish films to put on your radar for the year.

JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2 (Feb. 10), THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS (April 14)

Two franchises, both unlikely, both silly and both endlessly watchable get new installments this year. Keanu Reeves is back as the vengeful hit man John Wick in the sequel to the 2014 sleeper hit. And the Fast and Furious crew is joined by Charlize Theron and Helen Mirren in movie No. 8, directed by "Straight Outta Compton's" F. Gary Gray.

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (March 17)

"Harry Potter's" Emma Watson stars as the beautiful, bookish Belle in director Bill Condon's live-action, musical adaption of the fairy tale, which he promises will include nods to both Disney's animated feature as well Jean Cocteau's black and white classic. "Downton Abbey's" Dan Stevens plays the Beast opposite a strong supporting cast of Luke Evans, Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci, Emma Thompson and Gugu Mbatha-Raw.

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 (May 5 ), SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING (July 7), THOR: RAGNAROK (Nov. 3)

What superhero fatigue? The studios have assembled some formidable talent behind some of the year's most high profile sequels (and reboots). Taika Waititi will bring his comedic edge to the "Thor" world, while James Gunn tries to recreate that mixtape magic with "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2." One film that doesn't require any catch-up work is "Spider-Man: Homecoming," yet another reboot of the web-slinging teen, but a promising one — star Tom Holland upstaged even the likes of Robert Downey Jr. when introduced in "Captain America: Civil War." Director Jon Watts says his "Spider-Man" will be in the vein of classic high school films.

ALIEN: COVENANT (May 19), BLADE RUNNER 2049 (Oct. 6)

Ridley Scott is back to playing his old hits this year, with a twist. Scott directs the sixth installment in the "Alien" universe with "Alien: Covenant," about a crew traveling to a remote part of the galaxy in search of paradise, only to find something much more horrifying. Katherine Waterston stars with Michael Fassbender. As for "Blade Runner 2049," Scott's only producing — "Arrival" and "Sicario" director Denis Villeneuve is directing the longtime-coming sci-fi sequel, set 30 years after the original film. Ryan Gosling stars as a new LAPD officer who needs to find Harrison Ford's Rick Deckard.

WONDER WOMAN (June 2)

Gliding by the crazy fact that it's taken until 2017 for one of the most popular characters in comic book history to get her own feature film, this one also looks like it packs the potential to define this whole modern era of DC Comics adaptations ("Justice League," out Nov. 17, could too). "Wonder Woman" has the promising team of "Monster" director Patty Jenkins at the helm and Gal Gadot wielding the iconic lasso in this World War I-set origin story.

THE BEGUILED (June 23)

Sofia Coppola is making a Western, and not just any Western — a remake of Clint Eastwood's 1971 film (itself an adaptation of "A Painted Devil" by Thomas P. Cullinan) about an injured Union soldier in an all-girls Confederate boarding school whose presence causes rifts among the women. Kristen Dunst, Nicole Kidman, Colin Farrell and Elle Fanning star.

DUNKIRK (July 21)

Christopher Nolan is perhaps the only filmmaker working on this level whose movies are events in and of themselves. He doesn't need the stamp of Intellectual Property to make his a must-see (regardless of what you think of "Interstellar"). "Dunkirk" takes us to the beaches of France early in WWII when the Allied forces were surrounded and evacuated. Newcomer Fionn Whitehead leads the cast, which includes Kenneth Branagh, Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance and even Harry Styles (yes, that Harry Styles).

VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS (July 21)

Most Americans probably aren't familiar with the French comic source material Valerian and Laureline, but don't let that dissuade you from checking out Luc Besson's ("Lucy," ''The Fifth Element") wildly ambitious sci-fi epic starring Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne as a pair of space and time travelling agents.

BABY DRIVER (Aug. 11)

So Edgar Wright didn't get to do "Ant-Man." The maestro behind "Hot Fuzz" and "The World's End" has his own action pic up his sleeves, and an original one at that, about a getaway driver (Ansel Elgort), the girl he wants to leave it all behind for (Lily James) and the crime boss (Kevin Spacey) who might destroy it all.

STAR WARS: EPISODE VIII (Dec. 15)

At the rate of one new Star Wars film (spinoff or otherwise) a year for the foreseeable future, it's hard to imagine that The Force Awakens-level excitement can be sustained, but "Episode VIII" has its own credentials separate from the nostalgia of that galaxy far, far away. Simply: It's a Rian Johnson film, the mind behind "Looper" and "Brick," and he's setting the story for the final two films of the main trilogy (he's writing Episode IX but ceding directing responsibilities to Colin Trevorrow). There's also the bittersweet knowledge that it'll feature one of Carrie Fisher's final performances, fittingly in her most iconic role.

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Follow AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ldbahr

What's the story with Ben Affleck? 'Live by Night,' he hopes

When Ben Affleck's "Argo" won best picture four years ago, it was an unquestionable high point in a career that has seesawed with ups and downs. As he, clutching the Oscar, spoke emotionally of "getting back up" after being knocked down, Affleck seemed to be leaving the turbulence behind.

But the roller coaster soon enough started rolling again. Though many expected him to continue on the path of prestige filmmaker, he, with just a touch of fanfare, took on the high-pressure role of Batman, a bid to secure his place on the A-list and wow his four-year-old son. And after splitting with his wife, Jennifer Garner, Affleck again found himself a tabloid regular.

"This business tends to exaggerate highs and lows," Affleck said in an interview over coffee at a Manhattan restaurant overlooking Central Park. "I've had legitimate lows, movies I didn't like, and I'm very proud of the movies I directed and so on. But you become a cast member in a soap opera that you're not writing. You get the script every day and you find out what your role is that day."

Now, Affleck is hoping to flip the script again. He's releasing his directorial follow-up to "Argo," an adaption of Dennis Lehane's crime novel "Live By Night." It's the story of a Prohibition era gangster (Affleck) who decamps from Boston to Tampa's Ybor City to create a rum-running empire. It's his fourth film as a director and second adaptation of Lehane, whose "Gone Baby Gone" was his directorial debut in 2007.

"When I had the success of 'Argo,' I kind of got to leverage that," said Affleck, who was sent the book by Leonardo DiCaprio. "It was sort of pick what you want to do and this is what I wanted to do. I wanted to make a classic Warners picture."

It's easily Affleck's most ambitious film yet, one he grants he couldn't have tackled earlier. It has lavish period sets and costumes, a lengthy car chase and an epic sweep compelled by a clash of American ideals that resonates particularly post-election. He just hopes his side job in Warner Bros.' DC Comics universe doesn't overshadow it.

"They're saying you have to have x, y and z to make money in the movie business," Affleck said. "You've got to have somebody wearing a cape, for example. While I have nothing against movies with people with capes on -- I'm a big fan of capes -- I don't think we should be limited to that genre."

Affleck and his family were preparing to soon head to Montana to celebrate Christmas with his brother, Casey, and his family. It's been an especially busy year for both. Casey is enjoying the most acclaim of his career for "Manchester by the Sea," while Ben has run up more than $1.7 billion in box office, starring in "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice," making a cameo in "Suicide Squad" and top-lining the bean-counter thriller "The Accountant."

But concern that Affleck's caped duties might overshadow "Live By Night" was especially acute on a recent December afternoon. He had just conducted a wide-ranging Times Talk about his career, but the headline-grabbing takeaway was that he said wouldn't direct the planned stand-alone "Batman" film until the script was good enough.

"That generated 30 stories about 'Ben Affleck's taking his time with Batman.' Of course I am!" Affleck said incredulously. "You take your time with any movie. It's no different than anything else but because it's 'Batman' and it has that level of attention on the Internet. What could be less newsworthy than a person saying they want to have a good script for their movie? We're making the movie. We're going ahead with it. We're just working on the script to make it good. It's like the most famous unmade movie in history."

"We also want good actors. We want good stages," he said. "It boggles the mind."

After the critical lashing of "Batman v Superman" and "Suicide Squad," Affleck would have good reason to emphasize the script stage of his "Batman" film, which he calls an "exhilarating" challenge, "like jumping out of an airplane." He has written or co-written all his films except "Argo," and, of course, first won an Oscar for penning "Good Will Hunting" with Matt Damon.

Lehane, the celebrated crime noir novelist, said Affleck is orderly, "no-muss, no-fuss" in talking over the screenplays of "Gone Girl" and "Live by Night" — even if there were understandable delays.

"I think he thought, 'I'm just going to go direct this' (after 'Argo') and then he got the offer to do 'Gone Girl,'" Lehane said. "And then he was like, 'OK, now I'm ready to direct this.' And then he got the offer to do Batman. As he said to me at the time, in the grandest understatement, 'A guy's got to eat.'"

The reviews for "Live By Night" haven't been great , and it won't reach the Oscar heights of "Argo." But after the film's first, more traditional crime-thriller chapter, it becomes a timely collision between diverging visions of America: multiculturalism squares off with the KKK and religious zealotry.

"Some of those conflicts, it turns out, are still really relevant today," Affleck said. "In fact, I had no idea a story about immigrants and the Klu Klux Klan and morality would feel so current today."

Whether or not "Live by Night" succeeds, Affleck is at peace with the undulations of his Hollywood career.

"I do look at the careers of other directors, guys like John Huston, and see how they had big hits and big misses and lived big lives. That's OK with me as a model," Affleck said. "I don't mind the high stakes gambling nature of this profession. If it's a hit, you're a hit, and if it's a bomb, you're a bomb. That's just the way things go. There's something uniquely American about that."

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Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP

Scientists claim new gibbon species _ name it Skywalker

Researchers in China claim they have identified a new species of gibbon in the remote forests along its border with Burma — and have named it after Star Wars character Luke Skywalker.

Scientists studying hoolock gibbons on China's Mount Gaoligong concluded there were two, not one, species based on both the primate's distinctive brow and a genetic analysis. The study was published in the American Journal of Primatology.

The proposed new species is called the Skywalker hoolock gibbon or Gaoligong hoolock gibbon. The Chinese characters of its scientific name mean "Heaven's movement."

Outside experts are split on whether it's enough to justify new species status.

Actor Mark Hamill, who played Skywalker in the film, tweeted: "So proud of this! First the Pez dispenser, then the Underoos & U.S. postage stamp... now this!"

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