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The Boston Globe


academy awards

The blurry intersection of fact, fiction, and art

Six American embassy workers and their CIA handler flee revolutionary Iran in a white-knuckle airplane getaway as pursuing soldiers fire at them from the tarmac. Two Connecticut congressmen in 1865 Washington vote against passage of the 13th Amendment, outlawing slavery. A CIA black-ops team softens up a suspected terrorist with waterboarding, beatings, and sleep deprivation until he gives them a crucial lead to the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden.

What do these three scenes have in common? First, none of them happened. (In the case of the third item, the CIA has publicly challenged the film’s depiction of events, which you can take with or without a grain of salt depending on your trust of secretive government bureaus.) Second, each occurs in a film that may win tonight’s Oscar for best picture of 2012. Should there be a connection? Should a movie be rewarded — or, conversely, punished — for fudging the truth?

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