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Emma Watson's feminist film career

Emma Watson has been making headlines since uttering the F-word — feminism — at the U.N. several days ago.

The 24-year-old actress and recently appointed U.N. Women Goodwill Ambassador gave a rousing 13-minute speech about gender equality at U.N. headquarters in New York on Saturday, in which she said, "We don't just want to talk about [equality], but make sure it is tangible." (Watch the speech, below.)

The speech is perhaps the most visible of Watson's advocacy efforts yet — she has also made humanitarian trips to Bangladesh, Zambia and Uruguay — but in a way the actress has been quietly making a case for gender equality much of her professional career, which has been marked by a fiercely independent streak and portrayals of complex female characters.

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Dinesh D'Souza sentenced for breaking campaign finance laws

Dinesh D'Souza, the conservative pundit and filmmaker behind the scathing documentary "2016: Obama's America," has been sentenced to five years of probation and ordered to pay a $30,000 fine for violating campaign finance laws.

D’Souza pleaded guilty in May the day his trial was set to begin. He admitted to illegally directing close associates in 2012 to make $20,000 in contributions to U.S. Senate candidate Wendy Long, a New York Republican, who ended up losing to Democratic incumbent Kirsten Gillibrand in last year's election.

In addition to the probation and fine, the filmmaker must spend eight months of his probation as a resident of a community confinement center, where he will be free to leave during the day but must check back in at night, and must do one day of community service per week for his entire five-year probation, according to Betsy Feuerstein, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office. 

D'Souza is a former policy advisor to President Reagan and author of the 2010...

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Director Damien Chazelle orbiting Neil Armstrong biopic 'First Man'

Damien Chazelle, the writer-director of the Sundance hit "Whiplash," could be charting a course for the moon.

The 29-year-old filmmaker is in talks to direct "First Man," a biopic about astronaut Neil Armstrong, for Universal Pictures, the Los Angeles Times has confirmed. The Hollywood Reporter first reported the news.

Josh Singer, who penned the WikiLeaks drama "The Fifth Estate," is also in talks to write the screenplay for "First Man."

Adapted from James R. Hansen's authorized biography "First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong," the drama is to chronicle Armstrong's journey from serving as a test pilot to becoming the first man to walk on the moon, while also enduring family tragedies and personal issues.

Marty Bowen and Wyck Godfrey are set to produce the movie through their Temple Hill Entertainment banner, and Hansen is attached to coproduce.

Chazelle's and Singer's potential involvement could lend new momentum to the long-gestating project, which had been set up at Warner Bros....

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With 'Maze Runner' director Wes Ball, the newbie boom continues

Untested directors have been the trend on big Hollywood movies for a while. They offer to producers and executives the appeal of “new blood” — and, not insignificantly, the lure of budget-friendliness and/or malleability. In an era when a movie’s brand is as important a selling point as any directorial flourish, who needs an expensive filmmaker with a greater propensity for pushback when a first-timer can get results?

And results are what they’ve gotten. Many of the neophytes’ movies have indeed turned into solid box-office performers. Over the weekend Wes Ball became the latest newbie to reach base. The first-time feature filmmaker guided the dystopian young-adult adventure "The Maze Runner" to the top of the box office, as the film took in an estimated $32.5 million.

This comes only a few years after Uruguayan filmmaker Fede Alvarez, known previously for just a (well-regarded) short, took the reins of the Sam Raimi-produced "Evil Dead" remake. Josh Trank made the jump from a short...

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Armistead Maupin, Hilary Swank honored by Outfest

Novelist Armistead Maupin, Oscar-winning actress Hilary Swank and Levi Strauss & Co. are this year's recipients of the Outfest Legacy Awards.

The announcement was made Tuesday by Outfest, the Los Angeles nonprofit organization that promotes equality by "creating, sharing and protecting" LGBT stories on the screen.

The awards will take place Nov. 12 at Vibiana in downtown Los Angeles.

Maupin, whose latest book "The Days of Anna Madrigal" is the final installment in his saga of LGBT life "Tales of the City," will receive the Visionary Award. This year also marks the 20th anniversary of the award-winning TV adaptation of "Tales of the City."

Swank is earning the Trailblazer Award in recognition of her first Oscar-winning performance, in the 1999 drama "Boys Don't Cry," and Levi Strauss is the recipient of the Guardian Award for its long history of supporting equality, civil rights and social justice.

"Armistead Maupin's diverse, interconnected community of San Francisco bohemians -- which...

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What was L.A. Feline Film Festival like? Let Lil Bub show you

"My cat’s on Instagram" is a phrase you don't hear all that often, unless you happened to be at Sunday’s premiere of the L.A. Feline Film Festival at Exposition Park. It was everything magical that a cat lover dreams of: Web favorite Lil Bub and other celebrity cats, an 80-foot outdoor screen playing the Web’s best cat videos, and a safe space for humans to dress as cats in public.

The festival was organized by Organikat, an eco-friendly maker of cat products, and it drew an estimated 7,000 feline fans. The global 39-city tour began as an initiative by the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. A percentage of Sunday’s ticket sales went to cat rescue and adoption groups, such as No-Kill Los Angeles Pet Adoption Center and Kitty Bungalow.

Super fans paid $100 to meet wide-eyed, Internet-famous Lil Bub, the host of a popular Web series and a published author. Owner Mike Bridavsky, who has two tattoos (cat-toos?) of Bub’s likeness, says events like the Feline Film Festival help boost awareness...

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Bryan Singer returning to direct 'X-Men: Apocalypse'

Bryan Singer is returning to the "X-Men" franchise to bring about the end of the world.

Singer has closed a deal with Fox to direct "X-Men: Apocalypse," the next installment of the blockbuster superhero series set for release May 27, 2016, The Times has confirmed. Deadline first reported the news.

The 49-year-old director of "X-Men: Days of Future Past" has been associated with "Apocalypse" for some time — he announced the title on Twitter in December and teased a page of the script on Instagram in June — so it's not hugely surprising that he and the studio have made things official.

With strong reviews and a worldwide gross of nearly $746 million, "Days of Future Past" proved to be a fruitful homecoming for Singer, who came back to the franchise after an absence of more than a decade (he made 2000's "X-Men" and 2002's "X2"). He seemingly regained his mojo after a semi-slump that included "Superman Returns" and "Jack the Giant Slayer."

That said, Singer's involvement with "Apocalypse"...

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Women scarce in films abroad, USC study finds

Meryl Streep won an Oscar for playing a steely yet faltering Margaret Thatcher in the 2011 British film “The Iron Lady.”

The role also warrants another distinction, according to a team of researchers at USC: Streep was the rare female to portray a high-profile politician in a popular film.

That’s according to a study USC released Monday that analyzed the role of women in front of and behind the camera in films from Australia, Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Japan, Russia, South Korea and Britain.

Among the findings, films from Britain (37.9%), Brazil (37.1%) and South Korea (35.9%) had the highest percentage of female characters, while Indian films (24.9%) lagged.

Chinese movies were more gender-balanced than American ones: Women made up 35% of characters in Chinese films, compared with 29.3% in American movies. And women directed 16.7% of Chinese films during the period studied --  January 2010 to May 1, 2013 -- as compared to none of the U.S. films.

"It is a critical time ......

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Joseph Gordon-Levitt in talks for Oliver Stone's Edward Snowden film

One of Hollywood's most versatile young actors could be teaming up with one of its most iconoclastic filmmakers to tell the story of National Security Agency document leaker Edward Snowden.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is in talks to play the lead role in Oliver Stone's upcoming narrative adaptation of Luke Harding's nonfiction book "The Snowden Files," The Times has confirmed. Deadline first reported the news.

The move ups the ante in the race to get a Snowden feature to the screen. Sony is developing a movie based on "No Place to Hide," the book by Glenn Greenwald, who helped bring Snowden's revelations to light. Stone aims to begin shooting later this year, backed by independent financing and revenue from foreign sales.

Snowden is of course a former NSA contractor who leaked thousands of classified documents about U.S. surveillance activities in June 2013. He is a polarizing figure who has been branded both a hero (by Stone and others) and a traitor (namely, by the U.S. government). He fled...

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'The Good Lie's' improbable Hollywood journey

For all of Hollywood’s commitment to social causes, there are few suggestions that stop an entertainment-industry conversation in its tracks faster than “Let's finance a movie about immigrants and a distant conflict."

Yet when “The Good Lie” — a story about the Lost Boys, the thousands of South Sudanese who survived war and famine  to come to the U.S. —  is released by Warner Bros. on more than 400 screens next week, it will show those conversations aren't always nonstarters. It can just take years of pluck, luck and some unexpected turns involving an adoptee of a Fed Ex mogul to get somewhere.

The backstory to “The Good Lie” demonstrates the axiom that just getting a movie made in Hollywood is its own triumph. That the film is a moving and well-told tale of resilient young men that many American filmgoers know little about is just a nice bonus.

About a decade ago, Margaret Nagle was an aspiring writer with a modest resume. She was transitioning from a humble career in acting, a realm...

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Polly Bergen, dead at 84, was strong women's rights activist

Emmy-winning actress Polly Bergen -- who passed away at 84 on Saturday -- is likely best known for her role in the original “Cape Fear,” a 1962 J. Lee Thompson-directed thriller starring Robert Mitchum as a vengeful ex-convict terrorizing a lawyer and his wife (Gregory Peck and Bergen).

But Bergen also played the first female President in Curtis Bernhardt’s 1964 “Kisses for My President” -- a role that’s far more in line with who the actress was in real life.

Bergen -- also an accomplished singer who recorded albums and performed in Broadway musicals -- was a dynamic businesswoman and strong women’s rights activist. She created and ran a successful cosmetics company that she sold to Faberge in 1973 and she was a staunch political supporter of Hillary Rodham Clinton.

“She always thought a woman president in real life was long overdue,” says her nearly career-long manager Jan McCormack. “She campaigned vigorously for Hillary when she ran against Obama; she went up to people’s doors and...

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John Green headed back to screen as Universal acquires 'Let It Snow'

When it rains, it pours — or in this case, when it snows. Universal has optioned the film rights to the young-adult short-story collection "Let It Snow," marking the latest John Green book to be snapped up for big-screen treatment.

Green is the bestselling author of "The Fault in Our Stars," which became a breakout film for Fox this summer to the tune of $300 million worldwide, and of "Paper Towns," which is being adapted into a movie starring Nat Wolff and Cara Delevingne (also at Fox).

Green co-wrote "Let It Snow" with Maureen Johnson (the "Shades of London" and "Suite Scarlett" series) and Lauren Myracle (the "Internet Girls" series). The book comprises three separate but intertwining romances set during a Christmastime blizzard.

Scott Stuber and Dylan Clark will produce the "Let It Be" adaptation under the Universal-based Bluegrass Films banner.

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