Count New York filmmaker Benita Raphan as another critic of Ron Howard's A Beautiful Mind. Raphan, an expert about mathematician John Forbes Nash, showed her short film about Nash, called 2+2, five times at the Sundance Film Festival last week to sold-out audiences.
Raphan's film — made with Clayton Hemmert — shows the process by which Nash arrived at his Nobel prize-winning game theory. It also quotes a psychiatrist who analyzes the theory in what could be a metaphor for the movie: "If both parties remain silent it's better than if one confesses and one doesn't."
"We're a little disappointed with A Beautiful Mind," says Raphan who worked on her film for 14 months and is in steady e-mail contact with Nash. "He hasn't seen our film. He's in denial about his schizophrenia," Raphan told me yesterday.
Raphan says that even though she's a fan of Howard's Apollo 13, the director "sold out to Hollywood" in telling Nash's story.
"The stuff with the pens at the end is all made up," she says. "There is no tradition like that at Princeton. Plus he never gave that speech when he won the Nobel Prize. And the movie treats his wife like cheesecake. She has a Ph.D."
Raphan is also infuriated that Mind author Sylvia Nasar now says Nash was never gay (see below). "How can she say that he isn't gay? It was all over her book."
Raphan is now hoping to square off with Howard in a public debate being set up at the Walter Reade Theater by the Lincoln Center Film Society at which both films will be shown and discussed.
Nasar, the writer of the biography upon which A Beautiful Mind is based, refuses to discuss her book.
Yesterday I spoke with Nasar at her home in upstate New York. For a few minutes we engaged in very civil conversation concerning the controversy surrounding Howard's film adaptation of her highly praised biography.
Then the former New York Times journalist pulled a Hollywood on me and told me to set up an interview with her Simon & Schuster publicist. A half-hour later, the publicist called back and said Nasar would not be interviewed.
This is what Nasar did tell me about Nash: "He's not gay. Be careful what you say because he's not gay."
For some critics, the omission of Nash's sexuality has been a point of contention. Nash allegedly had relationships with men and was once arrested. He lost his job at the Rand Corporation because of the arrest.
The movie also omits his illegimate child and paints his relationship with wife Alicia as a love story when in fact she left him for several years. They were remarried in June 2001.
Nasar did tell me that she wasn't surprised by A.O. Scott's scathing review of the movie in the Times — even though she is affiliated with the Times.
"Surprised?" she said. "Why should I be? Because I worked at the Times? Critics have to stay very far from the world around them."
Scott called the movie "entirely counterfeit" when comparing it with the book.
I asked Nasar if there had been any mention by the studio or the producers not to criticize the movie publicly since her comments could affect the film's financial fortunes.
In the past, comments from writers such as Warren Adler (Random Hearts) and Anne Rice (Interview with the Vampire) have caused downturns at the box office. This last year, Harry Potter writer J.K. Rowling was carefully portrayed as a big fan of the multi-million dollar film version of her book.
Nasar, in the Los Angeles Times, said Nash never agreed to a formal interview for the book. Patrick Goldstein quoted Nasar as saying the film's detractors have "jumped to conclusions I [Nasar] didn't make. I wanted the biography to be as comprehensive as possible, so these emotionally intense relationships seemed relevant. But I never conclude whether he was homosexual or bisexual."
Nasar sounds like she's backing off her own work in favor of the film's vision of it. But she insisted she hasn't changed her tune at the studio's request.
"I've never heard of a writer being asked that," said Nasar. "I think it's a wonderful movie."
Despite all this debate about A Beautiful Mind, I think it's fairly obvious that it will still rank among the five finalists in Oscar voting for best picture. Ballots must be returned by 5 p.m. on Feb. 1.
Since this is the last weekend for nomination voting, I thought I'd review at least this column's choices for some of the categories.
Besides Mind, I would choose In the Bedroom, Memento, Amelie and Gosford Park for best picture.
I am omitting Lord of the Rings here simply because the Golden Globes stiffed it and support seems to be waning. It's still a terrific movie, and a huge money-maker. The gamble to make the trilogy indeed has been a success for New Line Cinema.
For best actor, I'm torn. While Tom Wilkinson is absolutely searing in In the Bedroom, I'd like to think that this could be Denzel Washington's year with Training Day. That said, Gene Hackman for Royal Tenenbaums, Guy Pearce in Memento and of course Russell Crowe for Mind are my choices.
For best actress, Sissy Spacek's performance is so good in In the Bedroom, it's hard to know how to top it. Judi Dench in Iris, Nicole Kidman in The Others, Tilda Swinton in The Deep End, and Halle Berry in Monster's Ball should round out the category.
If Audrey Tautou had come to the States and done some publicity, she might have been nominated for Amelie. But that won't be; Amelie is destined anyway for best foreign film. It will most likely be supplanted by Moulin Rouge in the regular best picture category.
For best supporting actor, I'd have to say that Tony Shalhoub in The Man Who Wasn't There; Joe Pantoliano in Memento; Jim Broadbent in Iris; Ben Kingsley in Sexy Beast; and Steve Buscemi in Ghost World are the strongest candidates. Broadbent has the inside track right now.
And for best supporting actress, I have nothing against Jennifer Connelly from A Beautiful Mind, but really, Maggie Smith steals the show in Gosford Park, as does Helen Mirren. Kate Winslet is excellent in Iris, and Marisa Tomei makes a startlingly good comeback in In the Bedroom. A surprise candidate, Cate Blanchett, might knock Mirren out with her great little turn in The Shipping News. You never know.