Oscar hopefuls draw controversy

Movies based on true stories, such as Hidden Figures (2016, left), have been attacked for taking liberties with history.
Movies based on true stories, such as Hidden Figures (2016, left), have been attacked for taking liberties with history.PHOTO: TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX

LOS ANGELES • It is just September and likely Oscar contenders are already stirring up controversy.

First Man (2018), a Neil Armstrong biopic starring actor Ryan Gosling, was slammed by United States Senator Marco Rubio for not including a scene where the astronaut plants a flag on the moon.

That led Armstrong's sons, Rick and Mark, to put out a statement defending the film. They noted that there are several shots of the American flag on the moon, but the filmmakers "chose to focus on Neil looking back at the Earth".

The film, which will be released in the US by Universal Pictures next month, was just screened for the first time at the Venice Film Festival.

And it is unlikely to be the only Oscar hopeful to spur an outcry as the film industry's award season approaches.

This year's crop of movies includes several with political themes.

Already released is Spike Lee's BlacKkKlansman (2018), which includes last year's footage from the Charlottesville protests.

Barry Jenkins, director of last year's Best Picture winner Moonlight (2016), will debut If Beale Street Could Talk, based on the James Baldwin novel about racial injustice in America.

Michael Moore, who directed the documentary film Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004), returns with Fahrenheit 11/9, a documentary about the presidency of US President Donald Trump. And Boy Erased is about gay conversion therapy in a small American town.

Movies based on true stories can be especially contentious. In recent years, Selma (2014) and Hidden Figures (2016) were attacked for taking liberties with history.

With First Man, Armstrong's sons say the idea was to depict their father's personal journey.

"Although Neil didn't see himself that way, he was an American hero. He was also an engineer and a pilot, a father and a friend, a man who suffered privately through great tragedies with incredible grace," they said.

"We do not feel this movie is anti-American."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 06, 2018, with the headline 'Oscar hopefuls draw controversy'. Print Edition | Subscribe