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Nate Silver, Microsoft Research Predict the Oscars

Soulskill posted about a year and a half ago | from the just-as-arbitrary-as-the-presidential-election dept.

Movies 67

Nerval's Lobster writes "Nate Silver, famous for applying rigorous statistical methods to U.S. political elections, has focused his predictive powers on a somewhat more lighthearted topic: this weekend's Academy Awards. As part of his predictive analysis, Silver rounded up the various awards that precede the Academy Awards, including those from the Directors Guild of America and the Screen Actors Guild; in his calculations, he gave additional weight to those awards with a higher historical success rate, and doubled the score 'for awards whose voting memberships overlap significantly with the academy.' But he isn't the only statistician predicting this year's Oscar winners: David Rothschild, a member of Microsoft's massive research division, has also developed a data-driven model. What does their number-crunching predict? That Argo will win Best Picture, and a bunch of people will win other things."

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67 comments

Okay... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42998565)

"That Argo will win Best Picture, and a bunch of people will win other things."

No shit!

Re: Okay... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42998629)

I know this is slashdot. But you are supposed to read the article before leaving a comment...

Re: Okay... (2)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about a year and a half ago | (#42998653)

No, to hell with posting. You're supposed to read TFA before submitting TFA.

no ballot is valid (4, Funny)

tloh (451585) | about a year and a half ago | (#42998919)

if you can't vote for CowboyNeal

Re:no ballot is valid (1)

stelawn (2823433) | about a year and a half ago | (#43000711)

if you can't vote for CowboyNeal

:D:D:D very funny

Is there money in this? (4, Insightful)

msauve (701917) | about a year and a half ago | (#42998619)

Because I could predict "a bunch of people will win other things."

Re:Is there money in this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42998645)

Speaking of. I wonder if Nate has been approached by the gambling establishment in Las Vegas yet.

Re:Is there money in this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42998651)

Underground betting rings run by the Mafia.

I predict (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42998641)

Argo is a steaming pile of Ben Afleck's opportunitic, small minded piddle.

Re:I predict (0)

Nerdfest (867930) | about a year and a half ago | (#42999031)

... and as a Canadian, inaccurate to the point of being offensive, I think.

Re:I predict (4, Insightful)

Gadget_Guy (627405) | about a year and a half ago | (#42999349)

... and as a Canadian, inaccurate to the point of being offensive, I think.

It is hardly unprecedented for a a movie to attribute credit to the US where it was not deserved. The movie U-571 substituted an American crew for the British who captured the Enigma machine. On the other hand, the British 2001 film Enigma, about the cracking of the device at Bletchley Park whitewashed Poland's earlier cracking efforts and how they advised the Brits on how to do it (although the British did take this effort much further).

So it is not just a US phenomenon to cast themselves in the starring role. The easiest way to deal with this is to assume that all war films are propaganda films, and will always skew the facts for reasons of patriotism.

Re:I predict (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43000865)

Films will almost always skew the facts. Those that are for making money will skew the facts for populist reasons. Those that aren't mainly for making money will skew the facts for the filmmaker's agenda/propaganda.

Even those doing nature documentaries often set up stuff or even fake things!

Re:I predict (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about a year and a half ago | (#43001047)

Even those doing nature documentaries often set up stuff or even fake things!

You're not kidding. [imageshack.us]

Re:I predict (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42999351)

It wasn't offensive, jeezus. It was a formula thriller 'inspired by' events. Meaning, the skeleton of the truth was kept, and everything else was invented to meet the needs of standard-issue plotting.

What kind of pissant little nation is offended by how it is represented in a Ben Afflec movie? Grow some snow-balls, my northern friend.

Re:I predict (1)

demonlapin (527802) | about a year and a half ago | (#43000313)

I don't know the accurate story, so perhaps I'm missing something here, but I did see the movie - and the Canadians (i.e., the ambassador and his wife) are depicted as caring, compassionate, and entirely willing to take significant personal risk in order to help out six random employees of their neighbor to the south when no other English-speaking nation would. That's offensive?

Argo == bag of lies (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43000617)

Argo is offensive (to Canadians) because almost every plot point in the movie is utter fiction and the true story is a Canadian one, not CIA. Just for example, CIA Agent Mendez was in Iran for less than 36 hours. "Argo" wasn't his idea, it was a Canadian's. Research this all on the Internet for yourself. You'll see.
Argo should be offensive to all filmgoers because it's fiction being sold as truth. Affleck said the story was tweaked just a bit to maintain audience interest--and that's another lie on top of the lies.

Re:Argo == bag of lies (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about a year and a half ago | (#43001011)

Affleck said the story was tweaked just a bit to maintain audience interest--and that's another lie on top of the lies.

No, that bit's true. It was tweaked to maintain American audience interest.

Re:Argo == bag of lies (1)

Grizzley9 (1407005) | about a year and a half ago | (#43005363)

Argo is offensive (to Canadians) because almost every plot point in the movie is utter fiction and the true story is a Canadian one, not CIA. Just for example, CIA Agent Mendez was in Iran for less than 36 hours. "Argo" wasn't his idea, it was a Canadian's. Research this all on the Internet for yourself. You'll see. Argo should be offensive to all filmgoers because it's fiction being sold as truth. Affleck said the story was tweaked just a bit to maintain audience interest--and that's another lie on top of the lies.

Many movies that state "based upon a true story" are just that, not complete truth. Take for example the Oscar won with Charlize Theron's 2003 Monster about a prostitue that becomes a serial killer. Numerous reports at the time showed the events in the movie to not portray what really happened (ala Argo) yet she still won the Oscar due to her performance, not the accuracy of the story.

On a side note it really makes me wonder at how history will be influenced by the movies made as their inaccuracies get put into the public conscience in an effort to make a more interesting story for the medium.

Re:Argo == bag of lies (1)

Dahamma (304068) | about a year and a half ago | (#43021427)

The difference is that Argo massively played off of the current climate of patriotism, terrorism, CIA heriosm and Iranian diplomatic friction. You clearly have not watched any of the interviews, awards shows, etc that continuously thank Mendez for his devotion and work "in the real event" and often never even mention the real Canadian involvement.

That said, it was a good movie; but it would have been more tactful if at ANY point in the press/media/awards frenzy they had cleared up the misconceptions they have propagated about the real event (which they CLEARLY KNEW the majority who has never heard of the event or thought to research it would consider the truth).

Re:Argo == bag of lies (1)

girlinatrainingbra (2738457) | about a year ago | (#43039263)

re: On a side note it really makes me wonder at how history will be influenced by the movies made as their inaccuracies get put into the public conscience in an effort to make a more interesting story for the medium.
.
How is real life influenced by fiction? Look at the torture events in the Iraq war and the photographs of prisoner pyramids and their interrogation efforts. Quite a few of the soldiers said that they were inspired (almost taught) by the TV series 24 with keifer sutherland. So a fictional portrayal of torture and interrogation teaches the actual performers of interrogation to torture and act in certain ways, which can get recycled into more fictional stories and lessons for future soldiers and leaders. History influenced by fiction does indeed happen, sad as it may be.

Re:I predict (5, Informative)

blackest_k (761565) | about a year and a half ago | (#43001087)

Offensive? as in rewriting history and presenting it with an air of truthiness?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argo_(2012_film) [wikipedia.org]

In a CNN interview, President Carter addressed the controversy by stating: "90% of the contributions to the ideas and the consummation of the plan was Canadian. And the movie gives almost full credit to the American CIA. And with that exception, the movie is very good. But Ben Affleck's character in the film was... only in Tehran a day and a half. And the main hero, in my opinion, was Ken Taylor, who was the Canadian ambassador who orchestrated the entire process."

Upon its wide release in October 2012, the film was criticized for its claim that the New Zealand and British diplomats had turned away the American refugees in Tehran. Diplomats from New Zealand had proved quite helpful; one drove the Americans to the airport. The British hosted the Americans initially, but the location was not safe and all considered the Canadian ambassador's residence to be the better location. British diplomats also assisted other Americans beyond the six. Bob Anders, the U.S. consular agent played in the film by Tate Donovan, said, "They put their lives on the line for us. We were all at risk. I hope no one in Britain will be offended by what's said in the film. The British were good to us and we're forever grateful."

In the film, the diplomats face suspicious glances from Iranians whenever they go out in public, and appear close to being caught at many steps along the way to their freedom: while pretending to scout for filming locations at a bazaar; while purchasing plane tickets to Zurich; while trying to board the plane; and finally before the plane takes off, when Iranian guards try to stop the plane in a dramatic chase sequence. In reality, the diplomats never appeared to be in imminent danger: the six never went to a bazaar, Taylor's wife bought three sets of plane tickets from three different airlines ahead of time, there was no confrontation with security officials at the departure gate, and there was no runway chase at the airport.

The film contains other historical inaccuracies:

        The climax of film is a chase down an airport runway, as gun-toting members of the Revolutionary Guard try to stop the plane bearing the American refugees from taking off. "Absolutely none of that happened," says Mark Leijek. "Fortunately for us, there were very few Revolutionary Guards about. It's why we turned up for a flight at 5.30 in the morning; even they weren't zealous enough to be there that early. The truth is the immigration officers barely looked at us and we were processed out in the regular way. We got on the flight to Zurich and then we were taken to the US ambassador's residence in Berne. It was that straightforward."[28]
        The part of the plot about the Revolutionary Guards discovering the diplomats' identities is fictional. They had left Iran with their fake identities with no hassle. So the scenes of trouble with the bearded guard at the last check point, the scene of the commander raiding the Canadian ambassador's residence, and the entire chasing scene at the airport and even on the runway are fictional.[29]
        The character of the guards commander, Ali Khalkhali is fictional.[30]
        There is a sequence in the film where the six go on a location scout in Tehran to create the impression they are movie people. According to Mark Lijek, the scene is total fiction.[31]
        "It's not true we could never go outside. John Sheardown's house had an interior courtyard with a garden and we could walk there freely," Mark Lijek says.[32]
        The screenplay has the escapees - Mark and Cora Lijek, Bob Anders, Lee Schatz and Joe and Kathy Stafford - settling down to enforced cohabitation at the residence of the Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor. In reality, after several nights - including one spent in the UK residential compound - the group was split between the Taylor house and the home of another Canadian official, John Sheardown.[33][34]
        The major role of producer Lester Siegel, played by Alan Arkin, is fictional.[35]
        The film depicts a dramatic last-minute cancellation of the mission by the Carter administration and a bureaucratic crisis in which Mendez declares he will proceed with the mission. Carter delayed authorization by only 30 minutes, and that was before Mendez had left Europe for Iran.[26]

Truth doesn't make for a great dramatic movie and some of the hollywood added value seems a bit worn, how many films have the good guys gotten away in a plane with the bad guys hot on their heels chasing them down the runway? Yes it could be seen as offensive to the people who actually risked their lives.

However the purpose of a film is to entertain and the box office stands at

"As of February 24, 2013, the film has earned an estimated $129,791,000 in the United States and Canada, and $76,100,000 in other countries, for a worldwide total of $206,891,000"

and that is what is important isn't it ?

Re: I predict (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43002085)

And as a Iranian-Canadian, I'm doubly short changed by the movie.

Re: I predict (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43021449)

No, just singly shortchanged. The fundamantalist Iranian students who stormed the embassy and kidnapped dozens of people were still rightfully portrayed as violent haters.

Perhaps ... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42998655)

He could use his powers of predicition to devine when the Azure SSL cert needs to be renewed.

or he could have used a... (1)

tuppe666 (904118) | about a year and a half ago | (#42998873)

He could use his powers of predicition to devine when the Azure SSL cert needs to be renewed.

sicky note. I would say outlook, but its not very good.

Re:or he could have used a... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42999531)

MS can buy the result....

Muppet Labs, where the future is being made today (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42998693)

Microsoft research predicted with better than 98 percent accuracy of the results of the U.S. presidential election in 50 of 51 jurisdictions. And still, they released Windows 8? I suppose it might have been the 'best' of many even worse ideas, but you'd think they'd be better at predicting winning ideas with this kind of research.

Re:Muppet Labs, where the future is being made tod (1)

CncRobot (2849261) | about a year and a half ago | (#42998791)

When life gives you lemons, release Win8.

I feel slightly ashamed but... (0)

tuppe666 (904118) | about a year and a half ago | (#42998865)

And still, they released Windows 8?

Ironically Windows 8 could very well be the result of Predictions, on what is successful, when you have Android overtaking Windows as being the dominant OS, taking *the selling features* without looking at *consistency* is just the kind of mistake this kind of analysis can create.

Its not though, its simply a method of forcing its entrenched developers, to develop mobile Applications in Windows...and force monopoly on a Desktop into a sizeable mobile marketshare if you add them together with an ill thought out hybrid device that maybe will blossom into a half useful Android tablet with a keyboard [they call the whole misguided thing an ecosystem] after they lost early entry to market [laughably by not being able to respond to market trends...things forecasting and predictions are all about]

academy awards...ask your parents (1)

turkeydance (1266624) | about a year and a half ago | (#42998729)

hey! they admit it. newspapers and movies.

Not wanting to point out the obvious but... (-1, Offtopic)

tuppe666 (904118) | about a year and a half ago | (#42998795)

...Microsoft have had there behinds kicked around so badly, that when they describe new technology they describe the pack of 4 "Apple, Google, Microsoft and Amazon", you would have thought with all this analysis, they could done better with the internet[all of it], social media, smartphones, mp3 players, tablets...all their money still comes from Office/OS.

So colour me not so impressed

Re:Not wanting to point out the obvious but... (2)

sg_oneill (159032) | about a year and a half ago | (#42998987)

[quote]...Microsoft have had there behinds kicked around so badly, that when they describe new technology they describe the pack of 4 "Apple, Google, Microsoft and Amazon", you would have thought with all this analysis, they could done better with the internet[all of it], social media, smartphones, mp3 players, tablets...all their money still comes from Office/OS.[/quote]

How is any of this even remotely relevant to a story about statistics?

Re:Not wanting to point out the obvious but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42999049)

that's because their product success prediction mechanism has always been based on threats, lots of money and exaggerated advertising. It worked when those had value such as with Microsoft's monopoly position in desktop PC sectors. They have little correlation value outside of that area. Everyone at Microsoft probably knows that they guy behind the curtain throwing....the levers.... doesn't want anyone around who thinks differently from him so this is probably why these people are looking at the Oscars. ie they like Microsoft throwing money to them to keep them from doing anything of value for anyone else so they don't try to help Microsoft.

or not.

This just in! (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42998845)

Anonymous Coward, famous for anonymity and cowardice, doesn't care.

Re:This just in! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42999795)

i have to hear about the oscars on slashdot, wow

Re:This just in! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43000847)

I don't always appear in films, but when I do I'm credited as Alan Smithee [wikipedia.org] .

What a genius ! (4, Insightful)

mister2au (1707664) | about a year and a half ago | (#42998849)

So having a guess from our Microsoft Research expert's blog:
1. Grabs the odds from Intrade, Betfair and HSX
2. Sources data from 'user generated data' ie social networks
3. Does a little a maths
4. Claims to be a forecasting guru

And with no real detail on #3 beyond being heavily weighted towards the betting/prediction markets and effectively just picking the favourites in every market, this is kind of useless.

The only interesting aspect is that the certainty for high likelihood winners is higher than any individual predictor ...

For example, Spielberg for Best Director with Lincoln:
Intrade: 75%
HSX: 51%
Betfair: 76%
User-data: 81%
Forecast: 88%

That suggests either:
- historically these prediction markets have under-estimated the numbers for popular favourites, which is consistent with inefficient betting markets where people will back long-shots more than they should due to the perception of good odds
- his model concludes that if 4 data points to a win, then the likelihood is even stronger

Re:What a genius ! (1)

mister2au (1707664) | about a year and a half ago | (#42998899)

Actually, with a bit more analysis ... All our Microsoft expert is really doing is taking the betting markets and adjusting for historical biases:
- favourites are more likely to win than markets imply
- long-shots are less likely than implied

Perfectly normal in betting markets where people back sentimental long-shots and chase the odds

Message For Nate Silver (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42999123)

Just because I got laid last night doesn't necessarily mean I'm getting laid tomorrow night.

Re:Message For Nate Silver (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42999259)

I'm sure he'll take your expert lesson in probability to heart. That probably never occurred to him.

Argo isn't that great (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42999155)

It's OK, but the acting is so-so, the bit at the end on the runway is laughable, the token whiny guy is just annoying... I'm not quite sure why it gets such good press.

Re:Argo isn't that great (1)

jbengt (874751) | about a year and a half ago | (#42999619)

Agreed. I saw it and thought It was OK, but that I should have waited til it came to cable.

Re:Argo isn't that great (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43000327)

Because Lincoln was just too damned weird and Django Unchained said "nigger" every tenth word.

Re:Argo isn't that great (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43010363)

I agree with everything you've said, and yet...I still thought it should win. Granted I didn't see Amour or Beasts of the Southern Wild, but Argo was better than everything else that got nominated. The rest of the candidates ranged from overrated to downright bad.

So rather than everyone ripping Argo a new one, why aren't people suggesting what should have won instead?

I bet Nate is hoping (2)

NotSoHeavyD3 (1400425) | about a year and a half ago | (#42999491)

that his performance on this is closer to his political prognostication and not his NFL predicitions.(You know, where he said the Patriots would go on to win the superbowl.)

Re:I bet Nate is hoping (2)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | about a year and a half ago | (#43000017)

According to my statistical analysis, there is a 16% chance that he is hoping to be wrong.

Re:I bet Nate is hoping (1)

Miseph (979059) | about a year and a half ago | (#43000205)

Election outcomes are, generally speaking, easier to predict than professional sporting events, and the NFL is particularly resistant to accurate prediction.

Academy Award winners are somewhat closer in predictability to politics than sports, so it stands to reason his analysis will be somewhat more accurate.

Re:I bet Nate is hoping (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43000399)

I don't know. If that ref hadn't been paid-off on the holding call in the endzone, then the Patriots would have won...

-a mild Ravens fan who was glad they got that call wrong

#irc.trooltalk.com (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42999779)

He did fairly well (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43000289)

Predictions (movie, director, best actor, best actress, supporting actor, supporting actress - the ones he got right in bold):

Argo, Spielberg , Day-Lewis, Lawrence, Jones, Hathaway

He only missed Spielberg (Oscar went to Ang Lee). Theirs were the closests predictors (0.58 vs 0.56 - compare with the next closest, best actress, 1.49 and 1.22 for the first two places).

Re:He did fairly well (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43000461)

Looks like he got Jones/Waltz wrong as well then.

Re:He did fairly well (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43001383)

Oops. Nevermind then. His predictors were Tommy Lee Jones 1.10, Philip Seymour Hoffman 0.75, and Christoph Waltz 0.74.

I don't read Nate for predictions (1)

Pecisk (688001) | about a year and a half ago | (#43000597)

I read because he has that rare geek skill to actually explain how he gets there with his result - and he does it masterfully, entertaining me. Right or wrong, his prediction for Oscars made sense and almost all fell in place, except he did not see Christoph Waltz coming. Also he agrees that this is not similar to predicting politics or sports, because lot of unknown data involved.

On unrelated note still lot of good cinema comes out every year, even in Hollywood - and not giving any movie clear victory this year is evidence of that. While I hate it for what I see as control obsession over their produce, I still loud artistic victory where I (subjectivelly of course) see one. And I celebrate all kind of good cinema.

Why do people watch these things? (4, Insightful)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about a year and a half ago | (#43001041)

It's not an awards show. It's an advertising campaign. Nothing but a big event various studios fund to slap a 'Go watch this!' stamp on their own products. The big awards have little if anything to do with the actual quality of the movie - it's all business.

As evidence of this claim, I just point out that Transformers won three oscars. Two of them for the sound.

Re:Why do people watch these things? (2)

qbel (1792064) | about a year and a half ago | (#43001437)

Obligatory MTV awards video where Jim Carrey says the same thing (towards the end.. but the entire thing is hilarious): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B7c4PDvBVoY [youtube.com]

Re:Why do people watch these things? (2)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about a year and a half ago | (#43001751)

Yes, the Oscars were created for the deliberate, stated reason of selling more tickets. It's not even a hidden secret.

Re:Why do people watch these things? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43002483)

Super Bowl, same thing.

It's a conspiracy, I tell you!

Re:Why do people watch these things? (1)

TheoMurpse (729043) | about a year and a half ago | (#43005167)

Because some of us don't mind being advertised to provided the advertisement is entertaining and useful. The nine Best Picture nominees are all excellent for different reasons, and the show itself was entertaining. I imagine Slashdot wants to hate Seth Macfarlane for Family Guy and other reasons, but he was a pretty funny host.

Re:Why do people watch these things? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43010377)

The nine Best Picture nominees are all excellent for different reasons

That's a bizarre spelling of overrated...an x??? Seriously???

0 + 0 = 0 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43001155)

Why the hell bother?

Nate Silver and /. ?=yes. Oscars+/. ?=Nooooo. NO. (1)

girlinatrainingbra (2738457) | about a year and a half ago | (#43001283)

So Nate Silver does politics, and slashdot is all over it, and the /. article about it gets many many responses [currently shows that it had 576 responses in all, with 144 scoring at or over 2, 79 at or over 3, 56 at or over 4, and 32 scoring 5
.
Now, Nate Silver predict-o'matics the Ocsar Awards and it become obvious that the slashdot crowd is definitely not the Oscar-watching, red-carpet fawning, entertainment-industry-drooling set of consumer-bots that Hollywood really wants to advertise to.
:>)
There ought to have been a /. poll asking about tonights Oscar Awards ceremony asking who was watching, who would be attending Oscar-watching parties, who even cared about who might win awards. The winning poll entry would probably be "crickets chirping", because since there are only 7 postings thus far that score over 2 points (and only 49 postings at all [!!!] at 2 a.m. PST the morning after), it's obvious that this is not the topic for /.

And ... he pretty much nailed it :) (1)

fygment (444210) | about a year and a half ago | (#43002047)

Only real miss: Best Supporting Actor (Swartz vice Tommy-Lee ... prediction was off by a good margin)
Other miss but too close to call: Best Director (Lee vs Afleck but they margin between the two in the prediction was so close as to be noise)

Good enough.

Re:And ... he pretty much nailed it :) (1)

cdrudge (68377) | about a year and a half ago | (#43002785)

So he really went out on a limb and predicted the odds on favorites [oddsshark.com] and got 2/3 right. Whoop-de-do.

I can do that (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43005345)

Here's my own advanced statistic model about who will win Best Picture:

1. Any movie that says Hollywood is very important wins

2013: Argo - Hollywood director saves hostages
2012: The Artist - Dramatic portrait of Hollywood in 1930

Shocked! (1)

Chelloveck (14643) | about a year and a half ago | (#43005665)

Wow, I'm shocked. You mean the movie about how the world was saved by movie makers was the favorite among people who make movies for a living? How did that happen?
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