Oscar news: ‘American Sniper’ sneaks at AFI, spring hit ‘Grand Budapest Hotel’ returns

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Jeff Sneider reports: AFI Fest has revealed that Clint Eastwood‘s war movie “American Sniper” will be its Secret Screening on Tuesday night at 9 p.m. at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. The film, which stars Bradley Cooper as decorated sniper Chris Kyle, makes its world premiere at the festival. “Clint Eastwood is an American icon,” said Bob Gazzale, AFI President & CEO. “His are stories that stand the test of time, and we are proud and honored to unveil his latest masterpiece.” The Wrap

Ariana Bacle reports on a new review of “Interstellar” from a real rocket scientist: Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson posted a series of tweets that praised the use of science in the Christopher Nolan film. “In #Interstellar,” he began each tweet, “The producers knew exactly how, why, & when you’d achieve zero-G in space.” Although he tried to clarify some of the movie’s points, he pointed followers toward Kip Thorne, who was the film’s science advisor, for more information. EW

Anne Thompson cautions: Don’t count Wes Anderson‘s “The Grand Budapest Hotel” out of the awards game just yet! While the lively buzz around his spring 2014 smash has moved onto other, newer films, Fox Searchlight is prepping a late-season comeback bound for Oscar nominations. The lavishly mounted period comedy remains the best limited opener of the year, to the tune of $172 million at the end of its long and healthy run. TOH

Oscar experts: ‘Boyhood’ will win 5, ‘Interstellar’ 4, ‘Birdman’ 2

Sasha Stone hails Rory Kennedy‘s documentary “Last Days of Vietnam” as one of the best films of the year. She concludes her review thus: It ends up as a story about bravery more than anything else. In those last days the people who were willing to stick it out to help those left behind reveal the best humanity has to offer in war time. This is a film every American, as citizens of this empire, this democracy must see. Awards Daily 

Pete Hammond has a must-watch video review “Foxcatcher,” which he characterizes as: a gripping and true tale of an eccentric and wealthy benefactor (played by an unrecognizable but truly remarkable Steve Carell) for a team of Olympic-hopeful wrestlers, including brothers played by Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo. The dark drama is directed by the gifted Bennett Miller (“Moneyball,” “Capote”), from a script written by Dan Futterman (Oscar-nominated for writing “Capote” but also behind TV’s “Gracepoint” and an actor and producer) and E. Max Frye (Emmy-nominated for an episode of “Band Of Brothers”). Deadline

Kris Tapley writes: Rupert Wyatts “The Gambler,” which premiered at the 2014 AFI Fest Monday night, puts a stylish spin on Karel Reisz‘s 1974 James Caan drama of the same name. In adapting James Toback‘s original script, Oscar winner William Monahan (“The Departed”) has laced it with crackling dialogue and heady witticisms that land like cards of a rapid fire blackjack deal. Greig Fraser has captured it in cool digital hues with ’70s lenses that pay tribute to an era. And Mark Wahlberg, seemingly starved down to a 60-pounds-less frame, anchors it with a performance that is committed and interesting, a complete 180 from the popcorn blast of the summer’s “Transformers: Age of Extinction.” In Contention

Oscars flashback: How smart or stupid were Experts at this point last year? 

As Scott Feinberg observes: There are just 11 days remaining before the Academy’s documentary branch must vote to determine which of 134 documentary features will make it onto a shortlist of 15 from which this year’s five Oscar nominees will be chosen. The general consensus of the dozens of doc-branch members with whom I’ve spoken at various events over the last couple of weeks … is that this year’s doc race is as deep and competitive as any in memory. THR

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