The 2015 Oscars battle has well and truly begun after The Imitation Game and Selma, both tipped for awards success, were lambasted over alleged historical inaccuracies in a pair of “hatchet-job” columns.
Oscar voting began on Monday and mudslinging, sometimes stirred up by rival contenders, over the veracity of films based on true stories, has become an annual feature.
The Imitation Game, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing, the British mathematics genius who cracked Nazi codes, was accused of taking liberties with the facts in a heavily critical New York Review of Books blog.
Turing had been reduced to “a caricature of the tortured genius”, wrote Christian Caryl, who argued that the film distorted the computer science pioneer’s real personality and misrepresented the work of the cryptanalysts who cracked the Enigma code.
The portrayal of Turing’s homosexuality was “monstrous hogwash”, transforming “the real Turing, vivacious and forceful, into just the sort of mythological gay man, whiney and weak, that homophobes love to hate.”
However Caryl doesn’t go so far as to suggest that “The movie should be ruled out this Christmas and during the ensuing awards season”, an injunction which an op-ed piece in The Washington Post recommends should be imposed against Selma, the US civil rights drama starring David Oyelowo as Dr Martin Luther King, Jr.
The film contends that President Lyndon B. Johnson was obstructive towards the civil rights movement and was reluctantly drawn into supporting the aims of Dr King’s epic 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery.
In his article Joseph A. Califano Jr, a former senior domestic aide to President Lyndon Johnson, said the films historical flaws were so grievous that Selma should be withdrawn from awards contention.
Oscar-tipped films for 2015
Oscar-tipped films for 2015
1/10 The Imitation Game
Keira Knightley, Matthew Beard, Matthew Goode, Benedict Cumberbatch and Allen Leech in The Imitation Game
2/10 The Theory of Everything
Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne in Stephen Hawking biopic The Theory of Everything
Working Title Films
Ella Coltrane in widely acclaimed coming of age drama Boyhood
Written by the Coen Brothers and directed by Angelina Jolie, Unbroken could be a major player that comes from a woman that already has an Oscar
Featuring Channing Tatum, Foxcatcher will be Steve Carell’s first ‘serious’ role and is directed by Oscar-nominated director of Moneyball, Bennett Miller
Directed by Christopher Nolan, the film features Oscar winners Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway
7/10 Gone Girl
Oscar winner Ben Affleck is back for the screen adaptation of Gillian Flynn's popular novel Gone Girl, directed by two-time best director nominee David Fincher ('The Social Network' and 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button')
The film follows a young musician who struggles to make it as a top jazz drummer and is already a strong contender starring JK Simmons
9/10 Suite Francaise
Based on the work of acclaimed novelist Irène Némirovsky, the film, starring Oscar-nominee Michelle Williams, comes fifty years after her death
Meryl Streep plays Emmeline Pankhurst in Sarah Gavron's new historical drama Suffragette, what is expected to be the Big Brit film of the year
The marches were actually “L.B.J.’s idea,” Califano Jr wrote, citing a transcript of a phone call two months before the campaign in which Johnson urged Dr King to generate white political support for a voting rights bill by travelling to the South’s most recalcitrant regions and getting images of racist brutality widely circulated in the news media.
Ava DuVernay, Selma director, hit back on Twitter, calling the idea that the marches were Johnson’s idea “jaw dropping and offensive'” to the “black citizens who made it so.”
“Bottom line is folks should interrogate history. Don’t take my word for it or LBJ rep’s word for it. Let it come alive for yourself,” she wrote, heightening anticipation for the film, which goes on general US release next week.
The bad-mouthing is all good, clean pre-Oscars fun, argued Variety. “It’s become a maxim of awards season that only those films that are serious contenders get smear campaigns, so perhaps these attacks are actually a good sign for the studios,” the film industry bible said.
“And there are sure to be more complaints to come, especially considering how many fact-based films are in the running this year, with a flurry typically just before the Feb. 6 start of Oscar final balloting.”
Complaints over factual inaccuracies had not harmed 12 Years a Slave, Captain Phillips and The Dallas Buyers Club last year. “It’s worth reminding Califano, Caryl and everyone else: A narrative film is not a documentary or a historical record. It’s a movie,” Variety said. “Dramatists have taken liberty with historical facts since Shakespeare.”
“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,” Variety said.
“Last year, the real Philomena Lee (whose 50-year search for her forcibly adopted son was dramatised in Stephen Frears’ Oscar-nominated film) put things into perspective. When asked about accuracy, she shrugged and smiled that Philomena strayed from facts, ‘but it’s a movie, so that’s all right.’”