"Zero Dark Thirty" fails at Oscars amid political fallout

LOS ANGELES Mon Feb 25, 2013 1:32am EST

LOS ANGELES Feb 24 (Reuters) - "Zero Dark Thirty," about the decade-long U.S. hunt for Osama bin Laden, has received more attention in the U.S. Congress than it did at the Oscars on Sunday, amid political fallout over its depiction of torture and alleged intelligence leaks to the movie's makers.

The film, which has sparked outrage among both Democrats and Republicans in Washington over its depiction of torture, and allegations that the Obama administration leaked classified intelligence to help the making of the film, won no major Oscars on Sunday and only one award overall.

Just three months ago, the thriller, which culminates in Osama bin Laden's killing by U.S. Navy Seals, was a strong contender to pick up the biggest prize of Best Picture, as well as the Best Actress and Original Screenplay awards.

By the end of Sunday night, however, it had picked up just one award - a shared Oscar for Sound Editing, which was a tie.

In recent weeks, the movie has seen a fierce backlash over its implied message that torture helped crack the bin Laden case.

Early signs of trouble came in mid-December when leading U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Carl Levin, both Democrats, and John McCain, the Republicans' 2008 presidential candidate, sent a letter to movie studio Sony Pictures, castigating the film.

They called the film "grossly inaccurate and misleading" for suggesting torture helped the U.S. track the al Qaeda leader to a Pakistani compound, where he was killed in 2011.

Three weeks later, the film's director, Kathryn Bigelow, was omitted from the Oscar's Best Director shortlist, chosen by about 5,800 movie industry professionals who make up the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Bigelow was one of only four big directors to be snubbed while the film did receive five Oscar nominations.

In January, Los Angeles Times film critic Kenneth Turan pointed the finger at Washington, writing: "Chalk up this year's nominations as a victory for the bullying power of the United States Senate and an undeserved loss for Kathryn Bigelow."

Even on Oscar morning, the film woke to unwelcome headlines. The relatives of a flight attendant who died in the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks criticized the film for using a recording of her last call before her American Airlines plane struck the North Tower of the World Trade Center.

Harry Ong, the brother of the flight attendant, Betty Ann Ong, called the film "just outrageous."

Republicans in Washington have been particularly critical of the film, alleging that it was used to help the re-election prospects of U.S. President Barack Obama, and that it revealed national security secrets.

Other victims of the Sept. 11 attacks have voiced support for the film as did departing U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

Before Sunday's Oscars, Rotten Tomatoes editor-in-chief Matt Atchity said: "Controversial movies suffer with Academy voters. I think 'Zero Dark Thirty' will have a tough time winning Best Picture because I think the Academy is going to go with less controversial choices."

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California state worker Albert Jagow (L) goes over his retirement options with Calpers Retirement Program Specialist JeanAnn Kirkpatrick at the Calpers regional office in Sacramento, California October 21, 2009. Calpers, the largest U.S. public pension fund, manages retirement benefits for more than 1.6 million people, with assets comparable in value to the entire GDP of Israel. The Calpers investment portfolio had a historic drop in value, going from a peak of $250 billion in the fall of 2007 to $167 billion in March 2009, a loss of about a third during that period. It is now around $200 billion. REUTERS/Max Whittaker   (UNITED STATES) - RTXPWOZ

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