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The real voices in 'Zero Dark Thirty': Families upset over usage in film

Just when Zero Dark Thirty thought its problems were over — the senate investigation was closed and everyone seemed to have lost interest in writing about whether or not the film was pro-torture — a new controversy has trickled out of the gates.

The bold opening sequence of the film is simple, striking, and powerful. It’s a black screen with just the voices of victims involved in the September 11th attacks. One of the voices included is of Bradley Fetchet, who worked on the 89th floor of the South Tower. He’d left a voicemail on his parents machine that day. This week, his mother, Mary Fetchet, told CBS News that the filmmakers hadn’t asked for her permission to use his voice and the recording.

Fetchet had used the recording in her testimony in the first public hearing of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, but raised objections to hearing it in the film. In her interview with CBS News, Fetchet said “I used it in situations where I wanted to convey Brad’s story. None of those situations were used for promotional or professional or commercial endeavors.”

So, what is at stake here?

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Senate committee shuts down 'Zero Dark Thirty' probe

*This story has been updated to reflect Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s statement.

A day after the Academy Awards failed to recognize Zero Dark Thirty with any major awards — and nearly seven weeks after snubbing director Kathryn Bigelow altogether — the U.S. Senate closed its investigation into “inappropriate” meetings and conversations that Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal may have had with members of the CIA to research their movie, which tells the story of the secret American effort to track and kill Osama bin Laden. Reuters cited an anonymous congressional aide who said the Senate Intelligence Committee, chaired by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), would not seek further action against the filmmakers, who came under fire in early 2012 when it was revealed they had close contact with several government agencies.

Zero Dark Thirty has been a lightning rod for controversy since even before it opened on Dec. 19. READ FULL STORY

Oscar winners explain why editing, sound editing, sound mixing, and cinematography AREN'T technical categories

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Leading up to the Oscars, we looked at four categories moviegoers may mistakenly think of as “technical.” The truth is, there were no technical categories in last night’s telecast: Every winner was honored for his or her creative contribution to the film. In case you missed those earlier pieces — which explain what editors, sound editors, sound mixers, and cinematographers actually do — here are excerpts from winners in those categories that prove the point:

Argo editor William Goldenberg:

“It sounds funny, but a lot of people tend to think it’s a purely technical job where you literally go in and cut slates off, and the director says, ‘Do that, do that, do that,'” said Goldenberg, who won his first Oscar for Argo, but was also nominated this year for editing Zero Dark Thirty with Dylan Tichenor and previously for The Insider and Seabiscuit.

The editor begins work when cameras start rolling, and does the first cut of scenes — and of the film — on his or her own. Goldenberg, who’d previously cut Gone Baby Gone for Ben Affleck, went to the Argo director’s home editing room every Sunday, even during production, to show him his week’s worth of work. “Even though I wasn’t getting specific notes from him, I was getting a feel for what he wanted. It was almost like by osmosis: just having all his conversations in my head gave me a feeling of like, Oh, I know Ben would hate this or I know this isn’t what he’s looking for.” Affleck turned over nearly 1 million feet of film, including a noteworthy amount of footage of a parrot being enticed to squawk for the tense airport finale. “It was really hilarious, because you couldn’t see Ben, but you could hear him off-camera. He’s just squawking and squawking and squawking, and then the bird would finally do it, and he would squawk over the bird or be talking over it,” Goldenberg says. “It was a lot of bird.”  READ FULL STORY

Oscar-nominated sound editors explain their key challenges (and the sounds you may not know they create)

Leading up to Sunday’s Oscars, EW.com will take a closer look at four categories that moviegoers may mistakenly think of as “technical.” After tackling Film Editing, we turn to Sound Editing, with insights from the nominated supervising sound editors of Argo (Erik Aadahl and Ethan Van der Ryn), Life of Pi (Eugene Gearty, who shares his nod with Philip Stockton), Django Unchained (Wylie Stateman), and Zero Dark Thirty (Paul N.J. Ottosson). Skyfall‘s Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers complete the category. (Update: Read our Sound Mixing and Cinematography pieces.)

Early in his career, Zero Dark Thirty‘s supervising sound editor Paul N.J. Ottosson, who won both the sound editing and sound mixing Oscars for The Hurt Locker, his first collaboration with Kathryn Bigelow, would create a sound for everything he saw on the screen. “I would make them as big and cool as you possibly could,” he says, laughing. “They’d bring me to the stage, and sometimes the director would take out things: “We don’t need this. You don’t need this.’ And you’re just thinking Why, I see that thing on the screen? But at some point, you become more of a storyteller and start to focus on the story itself, and it’s a revelation. You understand how much better your work becomes and how much more important it becomes to the movie itself.”

For Argo‘s Ethan Van der Ryn, a two-time Oscar winner for King Kong and The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, working on Saving Private Ryan was a turning point: “Steven Spielberg knew that he wanted to play the invasion of the Normandy beach with sound only, no music. So it was really an open slate to make it work with sound — to get to use the right, authentic sounds so you really feel like this experience is recreated for the viewer in an immersive way and you’re there, but also be able to do it in a way that becomes very emotional, that’s not just about getting all the details right. You have to have the right ingredients, but you need to weave them together in a way that works on an emotional, powerful sonic level.”

To understand the art of sound editing, we asked the nominees to talk us through some of their key challenges and scenes. But first, let’s start with the difference between sound editing and sound mixing, a separate Oscar category.

Essentially, the sound editorial team is responsible for assembling every sound you hear in the movie except the score and the dialogue that was recorded on set. This includes atmospheric sounds like the wind and ocean; hard effects, which are sounds synched for things like cars, gunshots, and explosions; and nuance sounds such as footsteps and people touching things with their hands. Though it’s more fun to talk about those sounds they gather and create (which we’ll do), they also edit and clean up the production dialogue delivered to them for clarity — syllable by syllable if necessary for directors like Quentin Tarantino who want to use as little ADR (Automated Dialogue Replacement) as possible, notes Django Unchained’s Wylie Stateman, a six-time Oscar nominee who’s done all of Tarantino’s films since Kill Bill: Vol. 1.

It’s the production sound mixer’s job to capture that dialogue on set as cleanly as possible to preserve the actor’s original performance. Post-production, the sound mixing team takes all the prepared sound elements mentioned above (there could be tens of thousands), plus the score (there were roughly 96 music tracks in Skyfall, for example), and affixes them to the screen and positions them in the theater while also setting their volume levels relative to each other. So they, too, create that immersive, emotional experience.

NEXT: The art of building tension without music

'Zero Dark Thirty' banned -- unofficially -- in Pakistan

Zero Dark Thirty is set largely in Pakistan — but the citizens of that country largely aren’t able to see how their homeland is depicted in it, unless they can track down a pirated copy of the Oscar-nominated film.

EW has confirmed that Zero Dark Thirty has not been approved by Pakistan’s board of censors, and therefore has not been shown in any of the nation’s few movie theaters that play English-language films. But that’s not the whole story: according to the Associated Press, no distributor has even applied for permission to show Zero Dark Thirty in Pakistan. This means that while the movie hasn’t been officially censured by Pakistan’s government, it is unofficially unsanctioned there. DVDs of the film were being sold recently in the capital city of Islamabad — but the AP writes that rumors about a ban have driven at least two stores to stop carrying Zero Dark Thirty, while another has taken to selling it only under the counter.

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Oscar-nominated editors clear up the biggest misconception about their category (and explain the decisions you may not know they're making)

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Leading up to Sunday’s Oscars, EW.com will take a closer look at four categories that moviegoers may mistakenly think of as “technical.” First up: Film Editing, with insights from Life of Pi‘s Tim Squyres, Silver Linings Playbook‘s Jay Cassidy and Crispin Struthers, and Zero Dark Thirty‘s Dylan Tichenor and William Goldenberg, the latter of whom also cut Argo, making him one of only a handful of editors in Oscar history to compete with himself. Lincoln‘s Michael Kahn completes the category. (Update: Read our Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, and Cinematography pieces.)

Ask a film editor what the biggest misconception is about his or her role, and the answer is the same: “It sounds funny, but a lot of people tend to think it’s a purely technical job where you literally go in and cut slates off, and the director says, ‘Do that, do that, do that,'” says William Goldenberg, Oscar-nominated this year for both Argo and Zero Dark Thirty and previously for The Insider and Seabiscuit. What will surprise those moviegoers then is just how many decisions the editor actually makes — and when. Let’s start with an overview: READ FULL STORY

'Argo' and 'Zero Dark Thirty' claim Writers Guild awards

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prize_fighter1_bannerArgo continued its domination of award season by claiming one of the last of the pre-Oscar prizes — the Writers Guild Award, where screenwriter Chris Terrio won the honor for adapted screenplay. READ FULL STORY

Oscars 2013: The few, the proud, the redheaded

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If you want to stand out on the red carpet, red hair isn’t always the easiest accessory.

However misguided it may be, ginger locks are frequently regarded as somewhat of a hinderance. Terms like clashing and matching suddenly start getting thrown around — a sartorial burden that doesn’t regularly afflict ravens, brunettes, blondes, whites, or grays.

But this awards season proves that any “restrictions” on options for the scarlet-haired can be broken, with three striking redheads making their fashion presence felt.

And the most striking of all isn’t even a real person.

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Oscars 2013: See the Academy's special edition posters for the nine Best Picture nominees

The Best Picture nominees have gotten a pop art facelift. Not that the nine Oscar contenders needed a facelift of any kind, but the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences – along with Gallery1988 – still found a way to produce a fresh, eye-popping take on now-iconic images from these films.

The Academy recently released nine posters, one for each nominee, created by an international group of artists, many of whom have worked with Gallery1988 before.

Called “For Your Consideration,” the project is the first collaborative exhibition for Gallery1988 and the Academy. The Los Angeles gallery’s past entertainment-related poster collections include “Fringe Benefits,” which featured art inspired by fan-favorite episodes of Fringe, and The LOST Underground Art Show. READ FULL STORY

'Zero Dark Thirty' writer Mark Boal says U.S. torture was 'dead wrong'

prize_fighter1_banner“Disruptive filmmaking.”

That’s a new term coined by Zero Dark Thirty screenwriter Mark Boal, who gave a speech this week about the criticism the Osama bin Laden takedown drama has endured from both sides of the political divide in America.

Conservatives complained long before the film was seen by anyone that it was a propaganda designed to highlight the anti-terror accomplishments of President Barack Obama, while some liberals were rankled by what they perceived to be an endorsement of torture interrogations (erroneously, as Michael Moore points out in this essay debunking those accusations.)

Director Kathryn Bigelow has already said numerous times that “depiction is not endorsement,” and now Boal — who is nominated in the Original Screenplay category at the Oscars, and won for penning 2009’s The Hurt Locker — is speaking out about why he wanted Zero Dark Thirty to strike a nerve as a film, rather than as a piece of traditional reporting. READ FULL STORY

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