Biopics reach for Oscar

Biopics reach for Oscar

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When they're done right, biographical movies, a.k.a. biopics, can be unforgettable. Like "GoodFellas," "Ray," and the most recent winner of the best picture Oscar, "12 Years a Slave," about a free man who was kidnapped and sold into slavery.

With the year's best biopics still to come, Fandango's Erik Davis examines what makes a true story a hit or miss on the big screen.

"People like stories about other people that they know or that think they know," Davis says. "Biopics are difficult because you have to have the right filmmaker, you have to have the right cast, and most importantly you have to tell a compelling story."

Many biopics miss the mark when they ambitiously attempt to span a subjects life rather than focusing on one meaningful season. Case and point the James Brown movie "Get On Up." But ultimately Chadwick Boseman's performance saved the day and could get him an Oscar nomination.

"I thought Chadwick Boseman was great in 'Get On Up,' I think he was phenomenal as James Brown," Davis says. "It could win, it could get nominated for an Oscar, but we don't know -- we have so many movies coming out this fall."

Like "Jimi: All Is by My Side," another musical biopic about Jimi Hendrix, early previews indicate OutKast front man André Benjamin fills the rocker's big shoes with ease. But can that movie truly sing without having the rights to Hendrix's songs?

Just in time for Christmas, "Big Eyes" (starring Amy Adams and directed by Tim Burton) is about the life of painter Margaret Keane. But all eyes are on "Unbroken," a film directed by Angelina Jolie about the incredible Louis Zamperini.

So why do we see so many biopics in the fall and winter? It's all a mad dash for Oscar.

Five out of last year's nine best picture Oscar nominees were biographical dramas or biopics. Well, six if you count "American Hustle." and yet so many fascinating biographies are still untold -- like Whitney Houston, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Muppets creator Jim Henson, to name a few.

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