Oscars news: ‘American Sniper’ controversy, Santa Barbara film festival honors directors

Sasha Stone reflects, “I suspect that with all of this heat surrounding ‘American Sniper,’ the Oscar voters will want to avoid all of that and will continue to do what they always have done in times of strife: put their head in the sand and wait for it to go away. That will make it easy for them to vote for the frontrunner, ‘Boyhood.’ I suspect that ‘Sniper’ is still a threat to win in some categories, like Best Actor or Screenplay. This was a tale of two movies both playing at the AFI fest, two very different directors, two different heroes, two different Americas.” Awards Daily

NEW: Experts’ Oscars predictions in 24 categories

The Santa Barbara International Film Festival will fete five Oscar-nominated helmers on Feb. 4, two days before voting commences. Three are up for Best Director — Richard Linklater (“Boyhood”), Bennett Miller (“Foxcatcher”) and Morten Tyldum (“The Imitation Game”) — while Damien Chazelle contends for his “Whiplash” script and Laura Poitras vies for Best Documentary Feature for “Citizenfour.” SBIFF

As Pete Hammond observes, “It certainly would be nice to have more women nominees among the screenwriters and directors for instance, but short of a crazy idea like imposing quotas, what can you do? These votes are not made by committee, but a disparate group of industry professionals using secret ballots. That’s very hard to control – or predict. The Academy has publicly been trying to make strides toward greater diversity with a membership that is in it for life. That’s a tough task. And it is the one group that actually gave ‘Selma,’ the film at the crux of the complaints of lack of diversity,  a prized Best Picture nomination, one of only eight films this year to make that list. None of the major guilds or BAFTA even gave ‘Selma’ a mention.” Deadline

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Ethan Alter notes, “the final two slots in the Best Animated Feature category — one of which might otherwise have gone to ‘The Lego Movie’ — are occupied by a pair of little-known international imports, ‘Song of the Sea‘ from Ireland and ‘The Tale of the Princess Kaguya‘ from Japan. Incredibly, both films also came from the same distributor, GKids, an upstart independent company that in recent years has brought some of the finest examples of world animation to American shores.” Yahoo! Movies

Gerard Kennedy chats with Oscar-nominated production designer Dennis Gassner who, “over the past three decades, has had a hand in creating many of Hollywood’s most memorable on-screen worlds, from classic period (‘Bugsy’) to surreal contemporary (‘The Truman Show’) to other-wordly fantasy (‘The Golden Compass’). This year, he’s back at it again with ‘Into the Woods,’ his first foray into the classic movie musical.” In Contention

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