Oscars news: Michael Keaton caps career with ‘Birdman,’ ‘true African heroes’ of ‘Virunga’

Anne Thompson observes, “At 63, Michael Keaton is enjoying the attention that comes with hitting a challenging role out of the park. Look closely at his career, and you see a man who always paid attention to the details and pushed for more than the ordinary as he built his characters, no matter what the movie. During his long SBIFF Modern Master chat with Leonard Maltin, Keaton ranged from running around naked as a kid performing for his seven siblings, early standup at Catch a Rising Star and The Improv, which allowed him to ‘write little plays and perform, not asking permission,’ and comedies like ‘Night Shift,’ ‘Mr. Mom’ and ‘Johnny Dangerously’ to Shakespeare’s ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ (he’d love to take it to the stage) and drama ‘Clean and Sober.'” Thompson on Hollywood

UPDATED: Experts’ Oscars predictions in 24 categories

A trio of talent from some of biggest hits of the year are slated to present at this year’s Oscars: Josh Hutcherson (“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1,” Scarlett Johansson (“Lucy“) and Zoe Saldana (“Guardians of the Galaxy“). Also confirmed to attend by producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron is 2011 Supporting Actress champ Octavia Spencer (“The Help”) Oscars

Janet Kinosian reports, “When filmmaker Orlando von Einsiedel first arrived in eastern Congo to film what ultimately became the Oscar-nominated documentary ‘Virunga,’ he’d hoped to showcase an inspiring story of about 500 lionhearted park rangers who risk their lives to protect UNESCO World Heritage Site Virunga National Park — one of the world’s most iconic and bio-diverse spots — and the threatened mountain gorillas that reside within. What he found appeared to be far more complicated — SOCO International, a British-based oil and gas exploration company, was in the Democratic Republic of Congo with a government concession for oil exploration beneath the park. The film was seen by Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton at a special screening last weekend and has already screened for the United Nations, British Parliament, the European Parliament, on Capitol Hill and for many of SOCO’s investors; ‘Virunga’ illuminates “true African heroes,” says Von Einsiedel. Los Angeles Times

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Pete Hammond notes: “even though Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (‘Birdman‘) took the all-important and Oscar-predictive DGA prize Saturday, an argument for ‘Boyhood’’s BAFTA directorial winner Richard Linklater is entirely plausible. The races for Best Actor, Original and Adapted Screenplay and several below-the-line categories also are up for grabs. These all could be decided by a relatively few number of votes. so the messaging, final Q&As, TV appearances and ad blitz is all-important as I am detecting a large number of voters might be waiting right upBoyhood until the last minute. There is still a lot to see, and the Academy only just a week ago mailed their nicely designed package featuring DVDs of all the nominees for Documentary Feature, Foreign Language Film, Live Action, Docu and Animated shorts.” Deadline

Tim Gray reflects, “On Sunday, Alexandre Desplat won a BAFTA Award and a Grammy, both for ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel.’ Next up: the Feb. 22 Oscars, where he is nominated in the musical score category for ‘Budapest Hotel’ and ‘The Imitation Game.’ According to conventional wisdom, this is his year — he’s earned six noms in the past eight years, but no wins yet. On the other hand, conventional wisdom says that he could cancel himself out. Clearly, conventional wisdom is wrong in one of those cases. Asked which of the two scores is his favorite, Desplat deadpans, “‘The Grand Imitation Hotel.'” The composer, reached in Paris, quickly adds that he loves both films, and each presented special challenges and rewards.” Variety

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