Sony’s Amy Pascal defends ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ after Academy member’s attack

Sony Pictures chairwoman Amy Pascal appears to have had enough of the accusations that “Zero Dark Thirty” advocates torture. Likely prompted by Academy member David Clennon’s assertion “I will not be voting for Zero Dark Thirty – in any Academy Awards category” from a post on Truth-Out.org, Pascal released a statement with her opinion on the matter.

“‘Zero Dark Thirty’ does not advocate torture. To not include that part of history would have been irresponsible and inaccurate. We fully support Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal and stand behind this extraordinary movie. We are outraged that any responsible member of the Academy would use their voting status in AMPAS as a platform to advance their own political agenda. This film should be judged free of partisanship. To punish an Artist’s right of expression is abhorrent. This community, more than any other, should know how reprehensible that is. While we fully respect everyone’s right to express their opinion, this activity is really an affront to the Academy and artistic creative freedom. This attempt to censure one of the great films of our time should be opposed. As Kathryn Bigelow so appropriately said earlier this week, ‘depiction is not endorsement, and if it was, no artist could ever portray inhumane practices; no author could ever write about them; and no filmmaker could ever delve into the knotty subjects of our time.’ We believe members of the Academy will judge the film on its true merits and will tune out the wrongful and misdirected rhetoric.”

Clennon, who is best known for his work on  TV series’ “Thirtysomething,” “Almost Perfect” and “The Agency” won an Emmy for a guest spot for “Dream On” in 1993. A longtime political activist, his remarks caused something of a furor since Academy members are specifically encourage by AMPAS not to reveal who they are voting for (assuming they are even voting).  It’s unclear whether Clennon will be reprimanded for his revelation.

Overall, it’s been a very up and down week for the “Zero Dark Thirty” crew.  The critically acclaimed thriller – which won more critics’ groups awards than any other film this season – received five Oscar nominations on Thursday including best picture, best actress (Jessica Chastain), best editing, best original screenplay and best sound editing.  Shockingly however, Kathryn Bigelow wasn’t nominated in the best directing category. This after winning the same honor from the New York Film Critics Circle, the National Board of Review, the Boston Society of Film Critics and the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association, just to name a few. She also landed DGA, BAFTA and Golden Globe Awards nominations, but was passed over for “Silver Lining Playbook’s” David O. Russell. To say it was one of the biggest snubs in Oscar history is an understatement. Moreover, Sony Pictures and the studio have also been dealing with a controversy that the CIA mislead Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal regarding the use of torture in the hunt for Osama Bin Laden.  In something of a, um, silver lining, “Zero Dark Thirty” is expected to win the box office this weekend as it expands nationwide with a $22-25 million opening.

Pascal released her statement Friday because a one time contender to win best picture, “Zero Dark” is now fighting from its Oscar life after Bigelow’s snub and attacks from the political establishment. Whether “Zero Dark” can use this underdog status to make a best picture comeback remains to be seen.  The last film that won the top prize without a directing nomination was “Driving Miss Daisy” in 1990.  And with a little over six weeks until Oscar Sunday, this is one story that won’t be fading away any time soon.

Do you think “Zero Dark Thirty” still has a shot to win best picture? Share your thoughts below.