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The latest buzz on the Oscar race

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Russell Crowe, A Beautiful Mind
A Beautiful Mind: Eli Reed

by Clarissa Cruz and Kelly Woo

A ‘BEAUTIFUL’ BACKLASH Despite winning four Golden Globes, Universal’s ”A Beautiful Mind” is fending off brickbats that the biopic of mathematician John Forbes Nash Jr. (played by Russell Crowe) omits details like his divorce and alleged gay leanings. The New York Post claimed flacks from Miramax (which released ”In the Bedroom”) tipped off reporters to inconsistencies in ”Mind.” Both studios deny the ruckus. How much does verisimilitude matter to Oscar voters? ”Inside Oscar” author Damien Bona says in 2000, ”The Hurricane” was sunk by charges of factual irregularities while ”The Insider” and ”Boys Don’t Cry” racked up noms though both played loose with history. ”As it stands now, I don’t think [‘Mind’] is being hurt,” says Bona.

WHO NEEDS CRITICS? Last year, Miramax boasted ”Chocolat” kisses from Rev. Jesse Jackson and Anti-Defamation League head Abraham H. Foxman — and got a surprise Best Picture nom. New year, same trick: ”In the Bedroom” ads feature a plug from Robert Redford (who was not involved in the production, though it bowed at Sundance). Plus, Miramax’s Brazilian film ”Behind the Sun” quotes Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel, and New Line’s ”I Am Sam” touts Special Olympics president Timothy Shriver’s endorsement. Peripheral praise can’t hurt, says ”Oscar Fever” author Emanuel Levy. ”There are two goals: One is to get immediate results — a nomination. But ultimately what counts is the bottom line.”

OGRE KILL On Jan. 25, DreamWorks spent an estimated $220,000 for three full-page ads in The New York Times for ”Shrek” — playing in one New York City theater. (The Los Angeles Times also ran three full-page ads — for shows in two venues.) While Fox’s ”Moulin Rouge” and Miramax’s ”The Others” were also rereleased and re-promoted on both coasts, ”Shrek”’s three shows that day at NYC’s AMC Empire drew just 15 patrons. Cost: $14,667 per viewer. Says a DreamWorks rep: ”You can’t put a price on allowing Academy members to see a film in the big-screen format.”

(Additional reporting by Terry Tang and Malcolm Venable)

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