Honor roll: Biography films

Each of these Biography films has received at least one award nomination. They are ranked by honors received.

Film:Born on the Fourth of July

Born on the Fourth of July

Oliver Stone

The second film in Oliver Stone’s Vietnam trilogy moves from the brutality of war in Platoon to its equally traumatic aftermath. Based on the memoir of combat veteran Ron Kovic, the film stars Tom Cruise as Kovic, whose gunshot wound in Vietnam left him paralyzed from the chest down. He is deeply embittered by neglect in a veteran’s hospital and by the shattering of his patriotic idealism because of the horror and futility of the Vietnam conflict. While painfully and awkwardly adjusting to his disability and a changing definition of masculinity, Kovic…

Film:Moneyball (2011)

Moneyball

Bennett Miller

Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) challenges the system and defies conventional wisdom when his is forced to rebuild his small-market team on a limited budget. Despite opposition from the old guard, the media, fans and their own field manager (Philip Seymour Hoffman), Beane—with the help of a young, number-crunching, Yale-educated economist (Jonah Hill)—develops a roster of misfits…and along the way, forever changes the way the game is played.

Film:The Fighter (2010)

The Fighter

David O. Russell

Dicky Ecklund (Christian Bale) is a former boxing hero that squandered his talents and threw away his shot at greatness.

Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg), his half brother, is the struggling journeyman boxer who spent his life living in his big brother’s shadow.

The Fighter is inspired by the true story of two brothers who, against all the odds, come together to train for a historic title bout that will unite their fractured family, redeem their pasts and, at last, give their hard-luck town what it’s been waiting for: pride. The story unfolds on the gritty, blue-collar streets of Lowell, Mass, where Dicky was once known as “The Pride of Lowell” having gone the distance with the world champion Sugar Ray Leonard. However, after losing that fight, like the town of Lowell, Dicky’s fallen on hard times. His boxing days are behind him and his life has become shattered by drug abuse.…[more]

Film:Capote (2005)

Capote

Bennett Miller

In November, 1959, the shocking murder of a smalltown Kansas family captures the imagination of Truman Capote (Philip Seymour Hoffman), famed author of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. With his childhood friend Harper Lee (Catherine Keener), writer of the soon-to-be published To Kill a Mockingbird, Capote sets out to investigate, winning over the locals despite his flamboyant appearance and style. When he forms a bond with the killers and their execution date nears, the writing of “In Cold Blood,” a book that will change the course of American literature, takes a drastic toll on Capote, changing him in ways he never imagined. Stellar performances from Hoffman and Keener, as well as Academy Award® winner Chris Cooper (Adaptation) are why critics are calling Capote a “must-see movie.”

Film:Ed Wood

Ed Wood

Tim Burton

Edward D. Wood Jr. was an actor writer-director-producer, occasionally in drag, who combined meager bursts of talent with an undying optimism to create some of the most bizarrely memorable “B” movies to ever come out of Tinseltown. Though Wood died in obscurity as an alcoholic in 1978, his films have been considered cult classics for years. He is consistently voted the worst director who ever lived. You would think this an odd subject, but director Tim Burton harnesses the undying hopefulness that made Wood such a character. Shot in black and white, just like…

Film:My Left Foot

My Left Foot

Jim Sheridan

Daniel Day-Lewis won a much-deserved Oscar for his wily, passionate performance as Irish artist and writer Christy Brown, whose cerebral palsy kept him confined to a wheelchair. Filmmaker Jim Sheridan (In the Name of the Father) adapts Brown’s own autobiography for this spirited piece, focusing on the sometimes-difficult fellow’s formative years in his large family and in love with sundry women. Day-Lewis is inspired, and Brenda Fricker (also a recipient of an Oscar for her part in this movie) is almost luminous as Christy’s dedicated mother. So, too, are…

Film:Cry Freedom

Cry Freedom

Richard Attenborough

Sir Richard Attenborough (Gandhi) directs this semi-successful drama about the relationship between South African black activist Steven Biko and a sympathetic newspaper editor (Kevin Kline). Attenborough’s typical sweep of the life and times of Biko is particularly rewarding in the first half of the film, but once the leader comes to his untimely end at the hands of white police, the story shifts entirely to Kline’s character and the latter’s efforts to escape the country with his family. That change is a tactical error in the script that robs the film of…

Film:Reds

Reds

Warren Beatty

Warren Beatty’s lengthy 1981 drama about American Communist John Reed and his relationships with both the Russian Revolution and a writer named Louise Bryant (Diane Keaton) is a compelling piece of little-known history told in a uniquely personal way. Beatty plays Reed as he did the title gangster in Bugsy and Senator in Bulworth, as a visionary likely to die before anyone fully recognizes the progressiveness of the vision, including those who are supposed to be on the same page. Jack Nicholson has an interesting part as fellow intellectual Eugene…

Film:Raging Bull

Raging Bull

Martin Scorsese

Martin Scorsese’s brutal black-and-white biography of self-destructive boxer Jake LaMotta was chosen as the best film of the 1980s in a major critics’ poll at the end of the decade, and it’s a knockout piece of filmmaking. Robert De Niro plays LaMotta (famously putting on 50 pounds for the later scenes), a man tormented by demons he doesn’t understand and prone to uncontrollably violent temper tantrums and fits of irrational jealousy. He marries a striking young blond (Cathy Moriarty), his sexual ideal, and then terrorizes her with never-ending accusations of…

Film:Man on Wire

Man on Wire

James Marsh

On August 7th 1974, a young Frenchman named Philippe Petit stepped out on a wire and illegally rigged between the New York’s twin towers. After nearly an hour dancing on the wire, he was arrested, taken for psychological evaluation, and brought to jail before he was finally released. This documentary complies Petit s footage to show the numerous extraordinary challenges he faced in completing the artistic crime of the century.

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