Readers share ratings, quibbles

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Jessica Chastain

Jessica Chastain stars in "Zero Dark Thirty." (February 28, 2013)

The awards season has run its course. It's always a relief to see it in the rearview mirror. Even the winners feel that way.

Many of the award-winners qualifying for very goodness and even greatness fed an ongoing debate about historical fiction on screen and how much documentary truth a fact-based narrative requires. Regarding the Feb. 17 Tribune A+E story on "Argo," "Lincoln" and "Zero Dark Thirty," which characterized the eventual best picture Oscar winner as "historical fiction relaying a version of events built on the lie of its fake movie," many emailed their own responses to this issue. Here's a sampling, plus reader feedback on everything from Charles Bronson to a certain Frenchy-type musicale:

"Thank you for your article," wrote Ellen Dreyer on the historical fiction question. "It seems that people this year are having a hard time understanding the difference between documentaries and narrative features, particularly with 'Zero Dark Thirty'(or at least this is what they pretend). … Also thanks to 'Zero Dark Thirty' screenwriter Mark Boal for holding his ground and principles."

From James E. Corbin: "Best picture, without question, should be 'Zero Dark Thirty.' 4 stars! Second place, if there were such a thing, to 'Silver Linings Playbook.' 3 1/2 stars! The 'not Oscar material' category goes to 'Argo.' 2 stars! And worst picture, the one that we were so looking forward to seeing: 'Les Miserables.' Too bad the title was prophetic. 1 star!"

Regarding "Zero Dark Thirty," Corbin continued: "We saw it in a fairly crowded theater but at the end of the movie there was only silence. No clapping or cheering or talking or even whispering. After what seemed like an unusual amount of time we heard the quiet rustle of people standing and putting coats on. But again, no talking as the crowd exited the theater. We were two of the last to leave and we were met with more silence in the hallway. People were quietly waiting for spouses/friends who were using the facilities. We had just witnessed the gratifying end to the most wanted man on our planet. But we all seemed to be numb. Never has a movie touched us so deeply and never have we witnessed what we believe had the same effect on everyone else."

From Osama Bin Laden to Chuck Bronson. This one came from Mark Pasquale, a curator at the Art Institute of Chicago: "I ... was so happy to see your article about 'Hard Times' (in the Feb. 1 Talking Pictures column). I was a college student when I saw the film upon its release. At the time, I was a fan of all the principal actors — James Coburn, Strother Martin, and especially Bronson for his steely performance in Robert Aldrich's 'The Dirty Dozen.' 'Hard Times' was so lean and to the point — so exemplary of a 1970s American film.

"Thanks for educating the public, which is being trained not to remember what films came out during the first six months of any year (based on the Oscar nominations), much less what happened during the greatest decade for American auteurs, ever."

We'll end with a three-auteur picture, director Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln," written by Tony Kushner and starring Daniel Day-Lewis. Wrote Michael P. Walsh: "I am in partial agreement with your position on Kushner's defense of his insulting the people of Connecticut in his 'Lincoln' screenplay. But I think the issue deserves a little more review. Certainly historical fiction is an honorable genre, and understandable. For example, the film shows conversations between Lincoln and his wife that were conducted in private; nobody knows what was said, so Kushner's inventions are acceptable, so long as they are generally respectful of what we do know about the real views of the people involved.

"What I have trouble with is a film that fetishizes historical veracity (i.e., recording the actual ticks of Lincoln's watch, for God's sake!) that then fabricates something we absolutely know to be false. Saying that some Connecticut representatives voted against the 13th Amendment when the record shows they all voted for it is a flat lie, not an interpretation. He might as well have said that the Germans attacked Pearl Harbor. Kushner's defense that 49 percent of Connecticut voters voted against Lincoln and were thus horrible racists is pretty lame. The four reps voted for the amendment. End of story."

mjphillips@tribune.com

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