Oscars news: Ava DuVernay responds to ‘Selma’ controversy, ‘The Imitation Game’ makes real money

Esther Zuckerman reports, “In the wake of criticisms of ‘Selma‘’s characterization of President Lyndon B. Johnson, director Ava DuVernay argued that people should ‘interrogate history.’ In a Dec. 26 opinion piece for The Washington Post, Joseph A. Califano Jr., who was Johnson’s top assistant for domestic affairs, wrote that Selma ‘falsely portrays President Lyndon B. Johnson as being at odds with Martin Luther King Jr. and even using the FBI to discredit him, as only reluctantly behind the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and as opposed to the Selma march itself.’ Califano argued that ‘Selma was LBJ’s idea’ and concluded that ‘the movie should be ruled out this Christmas and during the ensuing awards season.’ On Sunday, Selma director DuVernay took to Twitter to combat Califano’s claims. She wrote that the ‘notion that Selma was LBJ’s idea is jaw dropping and offensive to SNCC, SCLC and black citizens who made it so.’” EW

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Tim Gray observes, “By now, it’s become de rigueur for best-picture contenders to be badmouthed, but the media and Academy voters have caught on. They pretty much ignored the claims of inaccuracy about ’12 Years a Slave,’ ‘Captain Phillips,’ ‘The Dallas Buyers Club’ and others last year. The only attacks that seem to have had an impact were against ‘Zero Dark Thirty,’ and that’s partly because those claims, including accusations of security breaches, were so over-the-top and vicious that they veered toward character assassination. In the past, some victims have stated, off the record, that they have proof the mudslinging was started by a rival. If they do have proof, they should go on the record this year. The Academy keeps an eye on campaign irregularities and, in a get-tough action last year, disqualified a song nominee over that issue. So it would be great if the badmouthers were taken to task and their films were — in the immortal words of Califano — ‘ruled out’ of the Oscar race.” Variety

Kris Tapley notes, “‘The Imitation Game‘ (also taking fire for story and characterization) was still purring its engine at the box office leading into the holiday. It expanded from 34 screens and about a $3.6 million cume to over 700 screens on Christmas Day, taking in about $8 million on the weekend for a roughly $14 million domestic haul so far. For comparison’s sake, ‘The King’s Speech’ — which opened in limited release on Thanksgiving weekend in 2010, much as ‘Imitation’ did this year — went from 43 screens and $2.1 million on Dec. 17 to 700 screens and $8.3 million over the Christmas weekend that year.” In Contention

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Cara Buckley admits she “was especially amped to sit down and chat with Laura Dern – in schmancy Santa Monica, no less – because a) the Bagger has a minor obsession with David Lynch, who cast Ms. Dern in three of his films, and b) at 5-foot-10 or thereabouts, Ms. Dern is tall like the Bagger, who often looms over Hollywoodians, who tend to be quite small. Ms. Dern, meanwhile, is in ‘the conversation’ for a best supporting actress nod, playing the mother to Reese Witherspoon’s character in the film version of Cheryl Strayed’s ‘Wild.’ During the chats, she spoke about playing a parent and being one and about her own parents, the actors Diane Ladd and Bruce Dern, who was nominated for an Oscar last year for his turn in ‘Nebraska.'” New York Times

Glenn Whipp reflects, “From 2002 to 2005, the film academy gave its best picture prize to movies debuting in December. Starting with ‘A Beautiful Mind’ and continuing through ‘Chicago,’ ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King’ and ‘Million Dollar Baby,’ Oscar voters rewarded movies that broke late and were, presumably, fresh in their minds. In fact, Clint Eastwood‘s ‘Million Dollar Baby,’ shot in the summer of 2004, didn’t even land on Warner Bros.’ release calendar until the fall. ‘We caught everybody by surprise with that one,’ Eastwood told me recently. ‘I wish they could all be that way.’ Since then, though, only one December movie — ‘The King’s Speech’ — has won best picture.” Los Angeles Times

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