This year’s Oscar nominations held few surprises yet again, begging the question: Will there ever again be any suspense in the Oscar race? Anyone paying close attention to the race this year could have predicted who would be nominated, for the most part. Ang Lee’s masterpiece, Brokeback Mountain, was sure to make a big impression the Academy, which it did, leading with eight nominations, including all of the top categories. George Clooney’s Good Night and Good Luck also seemed unstoppable, and newcomer Bennett Miller’s directorial debut, Capote, did better than expected. Crash built up buzz long after it opened and that buzz led to multiple Oscar nominations.But it was Munich that, strangely enough, would provide the only really unpredictable turn in the race. When it was still being finished in post-production, Oscar bloggers (full disclosure, I am one) were already proclaiming it the forgone winner of this year’s Oscar race. There wasn’t anyone willing to say that Spielberg would turn in a turkey. Yet once the film started screening it became apparent that it was just that. And if it wasn’t a turkey, it was a complicated film full of greatness but one that just never quite had the intended impact. It was a bit like Francis Ford Coppola’s Godfather III – the worst of the trilogy and one that very nearly sullied the memory of Coppola until the Academy, out of respect, momentarily redeemed him.While no one has declared Munich as god-awful as Godfather III, it is clearly a film that will be forgotten (unless Spielberg gets his hands on it and finally takes his time with the last act) most people are in agreement that the film falls flat. So then why the big Oscar noms? How could it have knocked the popular Walk the Line out of competition? It’s the director, stupid.The Oscar race also revealed the dead lacking contenders in the Best Actress category. They could just barely squeeze out five winning performances and in the end, Keira Knightley for Pride & Prejudice inched out Ziyi Zhang for Memoirs of a Geisha. While Knightley was a lovely Elizabeth it wasn’t exactly challenging work. Reese Witherspoon, the frontrunner, got awful lucky in that there are no other actresses strong enough to take her down. Felicity Huffman is the only one who may for her work in the badly reviewed Transamerica. The Supporting Actress race is somewhat more promising because of Rachel Weisz (The Constant Gardener) and Michelle Williams (Brokeback Mountain). But there were no wonderful surprises like Sophie Okonedo or Marcia Gay Harden appearing out of nowhere. It was mostly a by-the-numbers rundown of who has been winning in the precursor awards, like the Screen Actors Guild, the Producers Guild and the Directors Guild. One thing that’s generating some talk (although frankly, there doesn’t appear to be a lot of mainstream interest in the Oscars this year) is the proliferation of gay and transgender roles in the major films like Brokeback Mountain, Capote, and Transamerica. Whether or not the flyover states will watch the Oscar telecast this year because of that is another story altogether. What is most remarkable about this year, though, is how little the major studios had to do with the Oscar race and how their Oscar ads failed to land their films any major attention by the Academy. All of the early films that were thought to be big – Memoirs of a Geisha, Walk the Line, Jarhead, Cinderella Man even King Kong failed to resonate. In a year when box office was notably lacking, perhaps this is the Academy’s way of repairing the vehicle so that it can run better. If films get better, more people will go see them. They can’t just be for tweeners – adults have to figure in there somewhere. All five Best Pic nominees, even Munich, are intelligent, adult movies for thinking people. You could do a lot worse than sitting down and watching any of them. The Oscars will be televised on March 5. Here are the Oscar Nominations for the 78th Academy Awards:Nominations for the 78th Academy Awards Performance by an actor in a leading rolePhilip Seymour Hoffman in Capote (UA/Sony Pictures Classics)Terrence Howard in Hustle & Flow (Paramount Classics, MTV Films and New Deal Entertainment)Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain (Focus Features)Joaquin Phoenix in Walk the Line (20th Century Fox)David Strathairn in Good Night, and Good Luck. (Warner Independent Pictures) Performance by an actor in a supporting roleGeorge Clooney in “Syriana” (Warner Bros.)Matt Dillon in Crash (Lions Gate)Paul Giamatti in Cinderella Man (Universal and Miramax)Jake Gyllenhaal in Brokeback Mountain (Focus Features)William Hurt in A History of Violence (New Line)Performance by an actress in a leading role Judi Dench in Mrs. Henderson Presents (The Weinstein Company)Felicity Huffman in Transamerica (The Weinstein Company and IFC Films)Keira Knightley in Pride & Prejudice (Focus Features)Charlize Theron in North Country (Warner Bros.)Reese Witherspoon in Walk the Line (20th Century Fox)Performance by an actress in a supporting roleAmy Adams in Junebug (Sony Pictures Classics) Catherine Keener in Capote (UA/Sony Pictures Classics)Frances McDormand in North Country (Warner Bros.)Rachel Weisz in The Constant Gardener (Focus Features)Michelle Williams in Brokeback Mountain (Focus Features)Best animated feature film of the yearHowl’s Moving Castle (Buena Vista)Hayao MiyazakiTim Burton’s Corpse Bride (Warner Bros.)Tim Burton and Mike JohnsonWallace & Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit (DreamWorks Animation SKG) Nick Park and Steve BoxAchievement in art directionGood Night, and Good Luck. (Warner Independent Pictures)Art Direction: Jim BissellSet Decoration: Jan PascaleHarry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Warner Bros.)Art Direction: Stuart CraigSet Decoration: Stephenie McMillanKing Kong (Universal)Art Direction: Grant MajorSet Decoration: Dan Hennah and Simon BrightMemoirs of a Geisha (Sony Pictures Releasing)Art Direction: John MyhreSet Decoration: Gretchen RauPride & Prejudice (Focus Features)Art Direction: Sarah GreenwoodSet Decoration: Katie SpencerAchievement in cinematography Batman Begins (Warner Bros.) Wally PfisterBrokeback Mountain (Focus Features)Rodrigo PrietoGood Night, and Good Luck. (Warner Independent Pictures)Robert Elswit Memoirs of a Geisha (Sony Pictures Releasing)Dion Beebe The New World (New Line)Emmanuel LubezkiAchievement in costume designCharlie and the Chocolate Factory (Warner Bros.)Gabriella PescucciMemoirs of a Geisha (Sony Pictures Releasing)Colleen AtwoodMrs. Henderson Presents (The Weinstein Company)Sandy PowellPride & Prejudice (Focus Features)Jacqueline DurranWalk the Line (20th Century Fox) Arianne PhillipsAchievement in directingBrokeback Mountain (Focus Features)Ang LeeCapote (UA/Sony Pictures Classics)Bennett MillerCrash (Lions Gate) Paul HaggisGood Night, and Good Luck. (Warner Independent Pictures) George ClooneyMunich (Universal and DreamWorks)Steven SpielbergBest documentary featureDarwin’s Nightmare (International Film Circuit) A Mille et Une ProductionHubert SauperEnron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (Magnolia Pictures)An HDNet Films ProductionAlex Gibney and Jason Kliot March of the Penguins (Warner Independent Pictures) A Bonne Pioche ProductionLuc Jacquet and Yves DarondeauMurderball (THINKFilm)An Eat Films ProductionHenry-Alex Rubin and Dana Adam Shapiro Street FightA Marshall Curry ProductionMarshall Curry Best documentary short subjectThe Death of Kevin Carter: Casualty of the Bang Bang Club A Dan Krauss ProductionDan KraussGod Sleeps in Rwanda An Acquaro/Sherman ProductionKimberlee Acquaro and Stacy ShermanThe Mushroom Club A Farallon Films ProductionSteven OkazakiA Note of Triumph: The Golden Age of Norman Corwin” A NomaFilms ProductionCorinne Marrinan and Eric SimonsonAchievement in film editingCinderella Man (Universal and Miramax)Mike Hill and Dan HanleyThe Constant Gardener (Focus Features) Claire SimpsonCrash (Lions Gate) Hughes WinborneMunich (Universal and DreamWorks) Michael KahnWalk the Line (20th Century Fox)Michael McCuskerBest foreign language film of the yearDon’t Tell A Cattleya/Rai Cinema Production Italy Joyeux Noël A Nord-Ouest ProductionFranceParadise Now An Augustus Film ProductionPalestineSophie Scholl – The Final Days A Goldkind Filmproduktion and Broth Film ProductionGermanyTsotsi A Moviworld ProductionSouth AfricaAchievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score)Brokeback Mountain (Focus Features) Gustavo SantaolallaThe Constant Gardener (Focus Features) Alberto Iglesias Memoirs of a Geisha (Sony Pictures Releasing) John WilliamsMunich (Universal and DreamWorks) John WilliamsPride & Prejudice (Focus Features) Dario MarianelliBest motion picture of the yearBrokeback Mountain (Focus Features)A River Road Entertainment Production Diana Ossana and James Schamus, ProducersCapote (UA/Sony Pictures Classics)An A-Line Pictures/Cooper’s Town/ Infinity Media ProductionCaroline Baron, William Vince and Michael Ohoven, ProducersCrash (Lions Gate)A Bob Yari/DEJ/Blackfriar’s Bridge/ Harris Company/ApolloProscreen GmbH & Co./Bull’s Eye Entertainment ProductionPaul Haggis and Cathy Schulman, ProducersGood Night, and Good Luck (Warner Independent Pictures)A Good Night Good Luck LLC Production Grant Heslov, ProducerMunich (Universal and DreamWorks)A Universal Pictures/DreamWorks Pictures ProductionKathleen Kennedy, Steven Spielberg and Barry Mendel, Producers Best live action short filmAusreisser (The Runaway) A Hamburg Media School, Filmwerkstatt ProductionUlrike GroteCashback (The British Film Institute)A Left Turn Films ProductionSean Ellis and Lene BausagerThe Last Farm A Zik Zak Filmworks ProductionRúnar Rúnarsson and Thor S. SigurjónssonOur Time Is UpA Station B ProductionRob Pearlstein and Pia Clemente Six Shooter (Sundance Film Channel)A Missing in Action Films and Funny Farm Films ProductionMartin McDonaghAchievement in sound editingKing Kong (Universal) Mike Hopkins and Ethan Van der RynMemoirs of a Geisha (Sony Pictures Releasing) Wylie Stateman War of the Worlds (Paramount and DreamWorks) Richard KingAdapted screenplayBrokeback Mountain (Focus Features)Screenplay by Larry McMurtry & Diana Ossana Capote (UA/Sony Pictures Classics) Screenplay by Dan FuttermanThe Constant Gardener (Focus Features) Screenplay by Jeffrey CaineA History of Violence (New Line) Screenplay by Josh OlsonMunich (Universal and DreamWorks)Screenplay by Tony Kushner and Eric RothOriginal screenplayCrash (Lions Gate)Screenplay by Paul Haggis & Bobby MorescoStory by Paul Haggis Good Night, and Good Luck. (Warner Independent Pictures) Screenplay by George Clooney & Grant Heslov Match Point (DreamWorks) Written by Woody AllenThe Squid and the Whale (Samuel Goldwyn Films and Sony Pictures Releasing)Written by Noah Baumbach Syriana (Warner Bros.)Written by Stephen Gaghan
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