From "12 Years a Slave" to "Captain Phillips" to even fictional contenders like "Gravity," a number of Oscar hopefuls are being subjected to rigorous fact-checking in the blogosphere. The latest to go under examination is "Dallas Buyers Club." In an interesting piece, Slate writer Aisha Harris explains that the film is in an unusual position relative to other biopics, in that protagonist Ron Woodroof's life hadn't really been documented in other media; screenwriter Craig Borten, who began the project after interviewing Woodroof in 1992, is his own most informed source, and admits to taking some artistic license in a "pretty accurate" portrayal. Harris separates the film's facts from its fiction. [Slate]
Lots of talk about Gavin Hood's "Ender's Game" this week -- not all of it the kind a potential sci-fi franchise-starter might want. The controversial homophobic beliefs of Orson Scott Card, the film's producer and author of the popular source novels, have prompted a widespread campaign to boycott the film, regardless of its own merits. That's unfortunate since, as I wrote in my review, it's rather impressive: smart, idea-driven mainstream entertainment that doesn't patronize its young audience, and has a promising lead turn from star Asa Butterfield. But what do you think? The film's been out in other territories for a week, so a number of you might have caught it by now -- or are you joining the boycott? Share your thoughts in the comments, and vote in the poll below.
The more this year's Oscar-contending crowd thins out a bit, the better "Dallas Buyers Club" is looking for a last hurrah Best Picture bid for Focus Features. Sure, Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto are strong in their races, but the passion vote could really help this one. I'm a big fan, particularly of how much the story of Ron Woodroof resonates in interesting ways with the zeitgeist. We've talked to McConaughey, Leto and director Jean-Marc Vallée and given you all the angles, but now the film hits theaters and you get to decide. Is McConaughey worthy of the Best Actor buzz? Can the film land more than acting nominations? Tell us in the comments section and feel free to vote in the poll below.
Since the Academy created a casting directors' branch earlier this year, there's been a growing debate over whether or not a new Oscar category should be created for them. One person clearly in the "pro" camp is Woody Allen, who has written an open letter in praise of their work -- and, in particular, that of his longtime collaborator Juliet Taylor, whom he credits with introducing him to the work of such actors as Dianne Wiest, Jeff Daniels and Patricia Clarkson. (Wait, he worked with Clarkson in 2009 - bit slow on the uptake there, Woody!) "Because my films are not special effects films and are about human beings, proper casting is absolutely essential," he writes. "I owe a big part of the success of my films to this scrupulous casting process which I must say if left to my own devices would never have happened." [Hollywood Reporter]
Another week, another contender officially enters the fray for Best Picture. Last week, "Saving Mr. Banks" took its expected place among the top five contenders. This week, Martin Scorsese returns to the Oscar game for the fifth time this century with "The Wolf of Wall Street."
Think about that fact just one more time. Are we really surprised Marty's back in the game?
For the second year of "Best Production Design" (the category previously known as Best Art Direction), we have a slightly different system of choosing the nominees. That's because the costume designers have split off from the designers branch to form their own branch. It'll be interesting to see how this long overdue development affects the race in both categories.
The reactions to Jason Reitman's "Labor Day" ever since it dropped at Telluride have been interesting, stretching from adulation and tears to outright seething hatred. It's a very different film for the director, representing a mature departure from his prior work. "The edge that has defined Reitman's work has been set aside while a more refined, lived-in aesthetic has taken hold," I wrote out of the Colorado festival.
James Bond franchise producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson already got a nod of respect from the Producers' Guild of America last year, when "Skyfall" was one of the 10 films nominated for their top award. At the next PGA ceremony, on January 26, the duo will actually get to take something home: they've been named the winners of the PGA's David O. Selznick Achievement Award in Motion Pictures, a prize previously presented to such named as Steven Spielberg, Clint Eastwood, Billy Wilder and Roger Corman. In their statement, PGA chairs Michael DeLuca and Lori McCreary commended them for "[bringing] thrilling exploits and cinematic masterpieces to audiences worldwide." [PGA]
In June of 2005, during a firefight with Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan that would claim the lives of three of his fellow Navy SEALs, Petty Officer First Class Marcus Luttrell broke his back. He broke his pelvis. He tore out his shoulder, bit his tongue in half and crushed his hand. He sustained facial bone damage, he was shot "through and through" his quads and his calves, his body was riddled with shrapnel from his ankles to his eyes…and he lived to tell the tale.
That tale was captured on the page in his 2007 memoir "Lone Survivor" and it has now been captured on the big screen by director Peter Berg with Mark Wahlberg in the starring role as Luttrell. A riveting depiction of the mission, called Operation Red Wings, the film eschews traditional structure and launches its players into the heart of darkness quickly before tearing through a 33-minute recreation of the firefight itself that recalls such nail-biting sequences as those captured by Steven Spielberg in "Saving Private Ryan" or Ridley Scott in "Black Hawk Down."