Oscar news: Stephen Hawking praises Eddie Redmayne, star power of director Angelina Jolie

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Ryan Lattanzio reports: Stephen Hawking is a physicist, cosmologist, ALS survivor, author, all-around genius and, it turns out, savvy award season participant. Hawking took to Facebook to praise “The Theory of Everything,” the movie about his life starring Eddie Redmayne whose performance Hawking admires: “I thought Eddie Redmayne portrayed me very well in “The Theory of Everything.” He spent time with ALS sufferers so he could be authentic. At times, I thought he was me.” TOH

Sasha Stone considers the case of Angelina Jolie and her helming of “Unbroken” in terms of Oscar history: “The surprising thing about movie stars and Best Director is that they really can be like a supernova descending. Ben Affleck’s star power during “Argo” was a major force for the film’s success.  If you’ve ever stood in a room with an actor-turned-director you can feel their charisma from all the way across the room and it’s nearly impossible to resist it. Affleck’s charm offensive was notorious. No one was safe from it. Everyone fell immediately in love with him upon sight – men, women, forget it. But Affleck had a movie a lot of people thought was really good. They saw the movie and then they celebrated him. With this, they’re celebrating Angelina long before they even see the movie – and I’m wondering if anyone cares.” Awards Daily

Nicole Sperling says: “Thank goodness for Reese Witherspoon. Despite a recent surge in strong roles for women (e.g., Cate Blanchett in “Blue Jasmine,” Jennifer ­Lawrence in “Silver Linings Playbook”), Hollywood really dropped the ball when it came to showcasing interesting roles for actresses in 2014. If it weren’t for Witherspoon’s newfound strength as a producer, two of this year’s likely nominees wouldn’t exist and the Best Actress race would look even more dire than it currently does.” EW

Scott Feinberg chats with “The Imitation Game” director Morten Tyldum and stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley: “We talked in detail about the making and social significance of the $15 million Alan Turing biopic that has won 13 audience awards thus far (including those given at the Toronto and Hamptons film festivals) and individual prizes for all three of them at last Friday’s Hollywood Film Awards — and that looks like a slam dunk to land a number of major Oscar nominations come January.” THR

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

Kurt Anderson sits down with David Fincher for an in-depth conversation. As the radio host notes in his intro, “Gone Girl” is the director’s second adaptation of a massive bestseller, after “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” Withstanding pressure from the books’ fans is simple for Fincher, he avoids them. “I don’t live in a hermetically sealed world but I try.” Studio 360

Alex Needham has the news about what is next for “12 Years a Slave” helmer Steve McQueen: A film about the black American actor, singer and activist Paul Robeson. McQueen described the movie as his dream project. “His life and legacy was the film I wanted to make the second after ‘Hunger,’ but I didn’t have the power, I didn’t have the juice.” Robeson’s friend and peer Harry Belafonte is involved in McQueen’s forthcoming film. The pair met at the New York Film Critics awards. “We get on like a house on fire,” McQueen told the Guardian. “I never thought I’d make a new friend, and a man who is 87 years old but I’m very happy, he’s a beautiful man.” The Guardian

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

David Ng has a fascinating look back at the thirty-year history of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion playing host to the Oscars. As he notes: “The Oscars broadcast was a publicity bonanza for the Music Center, providing the performing-arts venue with international exposure. For the academy, the center’s photogenic Midcentury architecture lent an air of class and sophistication to the annual ritual.” Los Angeles Times

As Ramin Sedooteh observes: The Oscars are supposed to be Hollywood’s biggest night, but for the second year in a row, they could mirror the Independent Spirit Awards. So far, the early frontrunners in the best picture race — IFC’s “Boyhood,” the Weinstein Co.’s “The Imitation Game,” Focus Features’ “The Theory of Everything,” Fox Searchlight’s “Birdman” and Sony Pictures Classics’ “Foxcatcher” — are all modestly-budgeted films that opened in limited release. Variety

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