Oscar season officially began three weeks ago with the announcement of this year’s nominees. This year’s contenders include a selection of films that range from political and insightful to tragic and moving. With no two films up for best picture that are similar, this year’s Academy Awards are sure to bring a wide range of audience and perspective.
The five diverse films nominated in the Best Picture category are “Brokeback Mountain,” “Capote,” “Crash,” “Good Night and Good Luck” and “Munich.” All received at least five nods each, with “Brokeback Mountain” topping the list with eight nominations.
Based on controversy, critical acclaim and receipt of awards such as the Golden Globe for best picture-drama, “Brokeback Mountain” is seemingly the frontrunner for best picture. The film has been released in all 50 states with positive feedback from unexpected places. Set initially in the 1960s and carrying on over twenty years in rural Wyoming and Texas, “Brokeback Mountain” is an anomalous love story captured by Ang Lee’s superlative Oscar-nominated direction and Rodrigo Prieto’s sweepingly simplistic cinematography. The film has been nominated for best original score, best adapted screenplay, as well as in three categories for acting. Jake Gyllenhaal and Michelle Williams landed nods for best performance in a supporting role while Heath Ledger nabbed the nomination as best actor in a leading role for his performance as Ennis Del Mar, the brooding and quietly restrained cowboy thrust into an unexpected relationship.
“Capote,” directed by Bennett Miller, is the stirring account of famed writer Truman Capote’s investigation into a family’s murder in order to create his masterpiece, “In Cold Blood.” The film centers Capote’s eccentric curiosity, delivered heartily by Philip Seymour Hoffman, whose magnetism carries the character and film to great heights. Hoffman, who is nominated for best actor in a leading role, has already received recognition by accepting the Screen Actors Guild Award and Golden Globe in the same category. Hoffman’s recognition is long overdue and much deserved. His body of work and notable performances have spanned a career of more than ten years. “Capote” is nominated in three other categories including best director, best supporting actress and best adapted screenplay.
First time director and co-writer of “Crash,” Paul Haggis, has been nominated for both categories. Set in present-day Los Angeles, “Crash” interconnects people of every corner of the San Fernando Valley by tying their touching, and often painful, lives together. Simply powerful, “Crash” is an emotionally-charged representation of racial stereotypes. The film received six nominations including best editing, best original song, best original screenplay by Haggis and Bobby Moresco, and Matt Dillon as best actor in a supporting role. Portraying a racist member of the Los Angeles Police Department, Dillon manages to convey the conflicting layers of a blatantly swinish pervert, a compassionate son and a hero.
“Good Night and Good Luck” earned George Clooney’s direction a nomination. The film recounts the events surrounding Edward R. Murrow and his involvement in the removal of Senator Joseph McCarthy in the early 1950s. Murrow, the daring and respected journalist, is captured on screen by David Strathairn who retains the unforgettable essence of Murrow, earning him a nomination for best actor in a leading role. While politically significant, this film stands out for its beauty and intelligent depiction of a legend in his most revered time. Robert Elswit also received a nomination for best cinematography for the artfully charming and deeply rich black and white imagery of the film. It is also nominated for best original screenplay and best art direction.
Steven Spielberg’s “Munich” is set during the 1972 Olympics. Eleven members of the Israeli team are murdered. The film proceeds to trail a man employed to avenge these wrongs over the course of the next several years raising questions of conscience and duty arise through the conflict. Spielberg is nominated for Best Director, and the film is also nominated for best editing, best original score and best adapted screenplay by veterans Tony Kushner and Eric Roth.
This year’s other notable films are those recognized in the writing categories. “The Constant Gardener” by Jeffrey Caine and “A History of Violence” by Josh Olson have been nominated for best adapted screenplay. Best original screenplay nominees include Woody Allen’s “Match Point,” Noah Baumbach’s “The Squid and the Whale” and Stephen Gaghan’s “Syriana.”
“Match Point” is a shift in the spirit of Woody Allen from his previous work. Some argue the film was overlooked in the category of Best Picture. This incredibly original and extremely engrossing film maintains strong potential of clenching the Oscar.
“The Squid and the Whale” is the story of a family undergoing parental separation. It evaluates the effect of this shift on the individual members, and the relationships they experience, in and out of the family circle. The story screams originality, and while other aspects of the film are as equally impressive, the script is darkly comic and painfully real.
There’s no telling the outcome of the most famous award given out in the film industry. Upsets are common, and shoe-ins are never guaranteed. While those who deserve it are not always awarded the honor due to the shows politics, it is still an exciting event than has the ability to make careers, or fail to recognize people like Paul Giamatti for a third time.
The 78th annual Academy Awards will air on Sunday, March 5, at 5 p.m. on ABC.
Kourtney Sonntag may be reached at email@example.com.