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On Tuesday at about 3:30 p.m., Israel time, the nominations for this year's Oscars will be announced in Los Angeles. As always, the Oscars will be meaningless (except for providing a financial windfall for the movies that win and career boosts for the actors) and will not reward most of the year's best films. However, they will be fun and those of us who enjoy trying to second-guess the Academy voters should have an interesting year, because there are many movies that feature the mixture of seriousness, kitsch, trendiness and political correctness that Oscar voters can't resist.
Now, Cine File's fearless predictions for this year's Oscar nominations.
Best Picture: Brokeback Mountain; Crash; Good Night, and Good Luck; Munich; and Walk the Line.
Brokeback is a no-brainer. Known as the gay cowboy movie, it is both serious and entertaining, and has dominated the critics' awards. Crash will be this year's quasi-independent nominee (like Sideways last year), since it's a well-intentioned look at racial issues and has gotten great word of mouth. Munich will be there because of Spielberg, but the movie will not win and he will not get a Best Director nomination (virtually every year, the directing nominees do not match the Best Picture nominations). Good Night, and Good Luck is an earnest historical drama, directed by George Clooney, about the McCarthy era (the majority of Oscar voters are actors and love actors-turned-directors). Walk the Line is a serious music biopic, the story of Johnny Cash's life, and Oscar loves movies about real people, especially tormented, good-looking and musically talented ones.
The director who will get nominated in Spielberg's spot will be either Fernando Meirelles, the Brazilian who helmed the ultra-politically correct "The Constant Gardener," or veteran horror director David Cronenberg for his more-serious-than-usual A History of Violence.
The acting categories are fairly easy. Actors playing real people will dominate: Philip Seymour Hoffman as Truman Capote in Capote; Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash in Walk the Line; and David Strathairn as Edward Murrow in Good Night, and Good Luck. Heath Ledger will get a nod for Brokeback. Another actor from a serious Western, Tommy Lee Jones could get a nomination for his role in Three Burials of Meiquiades Estrada, which he also directed, and for which he won the Best Actor award at Cannes last year.
In the Best Actress category, there are three actresses playing real people: Judi Dench in Mrs. Henderson Presents, in which she portrays a crusty widow who presents a nude revue; Reese Witherspoon as June Carter Cash in Walk the Line; and Charlize Theron as a coal miner fighting sexual harassment in North Country. Then there's Felicity Desperate Housewives Huffman as a transsexual father in Transamerica. That's probably the ideal Best Actress character right now (what could be trendier?) and Huffman has already won a Golden Globe. Finally, one spot usually goes to an unknown and/or ethnic actress. This year, that will be Ziyi Zhang (not exactly unknown, but she's Chinese) for Memoirs of a Geisha.
The supporting categories are still wide open, since there are so many fine character actors, but here goes anyway. Best Supporting Actor: Matt Dillon in Crash; Paul Giamatti, Cinderella Man (a consolation prize for not getting a Best Actor nod for Sideways); William Hurt for his bizarre show-stopping performance in A History of Violence; veteran character actor Richard Jenkins for North Country; and George Clooney for Syriana (he'll also be nominated for Best Director).
My best guesses for Best Supporting Actress: Catherine Keener, for her performance as novelist Harper Lee in Capote ; Gong Li, Memoirs of a Geisha; Laura Linney, for the indie drama The Squid and the Whale (which will also get a screenplay nod); Uma Thurman, the one player to get good notices in The Producers; and Rachel Weisz, for what was basically a starring performance in The Constant Gardener.
It's very hard to predict the foreign film nominees, but it's a good bet that the Oscar voters are still a little too conservative to nominate a film such as Paradise Now, the suicide bomber movie from the Palestinian Authority that won the Golden Globe award. Israel's candidate for Foreign Language Film nominee, What A Wonderful Place, is weak. This won't be a big year for the Middle East in that category.
YOU STILL HAVE TWO DAYS to catch the end of the British film festival. If you've never seen it, head to the Jerusalem Cinematheque Saturday at 7 p.m. for Pygmalion (1938) - a wonderful filmed version of the George Bernard Shaw drama that became the basis for the musical, My Fair Lady. Directed by Anthony Asquith, Pygmalion stars Wendy Hiller and Leslie Howard.