"Paradise Now," which had been considered the frontrunner, lost out to the South African entry "Tsotsi."
By TOM TUGENDMunich and Paradise Now, two films subjected to considerable controversy in the American Jewish community and Israel, came up empty-handed at Sunday evening's Academy Awards.
Non-controversial was the selection of Rachel Weisz as best supporting actress in The Constant Gardner, playing a passionate activist fighting an international pharmaceutical company.
Weisz was born in London, after her father and mother came to England as Jewish refugees in the 1930s, from Hungary and Austria respectively.
She is seven months pregnant, but in a backstage interview declined a suggestion that she and her fiance'e, director Darren Aronofsky, name the baby Oscar.
Host Jon Stewart left no doubt about his ethnic heritage in his opening monologue. After pointing to Steven Spielberg sitting in the audience, Stewart mentioned the director's films Schindler's List and Munich, and then cracked, "I speak for all Jews when I say I can't wait for what happens to us next," Munich, Spielberg's take on the Israeli hunt for the Palestinian killers of its athletes at the 1972 Olympics, struck out on all of its five nominations, including best picture and best director.
The film has been criticized, particularly in Israel, for allegedly drawing a "moral equivalence" between the terrorists and the pursuing Mossad agents, as well as for historical inaccuracy.
Paradise Now, the Palestinian entry in the foreign-language film category, has drawn even more heat from a small but vocal Jewish community segment, which charged that the film "humanized" two suicide bombers on a mission to blow up a Tel Aviv bus.
Last Friday, The Israel Project organization denounced "Paradise Now at a press conference and presented a petition with 36,000 signatures protesting the nomination to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Critics of the film had the added satisfaction of hearing Paradise Now introduced as coming from the "Palestinian Territories," rather than "Palestine," as initially listed.
Paradise Now, which had been considered the frontrunner, as well as the German entry "Sophie Scholl" about an anti-Hitler resistance fighter, lost out to the South African entry "Tsotsi." Violinist Itzhak Perlman made a surprise appearance, performing music from five movies nominated for their original scores.
Stewart inserted two more Jewish-themed gags, both somewhat obscure. After presenter Ben Stiller appeared on stage in a green head-to-toe unitard, Stewart congratulated the actor, saying, "It's nice to have proof he's really Jewish."
After Perlman's appearance, the host suggested that the violinist engage in a "dreydel-off." In the documentary short subject category, the Oscar went to "A Note of Triumph: The Golden Age of Norman Corwin," celebrating the radio dramas of the 95-year old Jewish writer noted for his inspiring radio dramas.
Winners ListActor in a Supporting Role
Actress in a Supporting Role
The Constant Gardener
Actor in a Leading Role
Philip Seymour Hoffman
Actress in a Leading Role
Walk the Line
Achievement in Directing
Best Motion Picture of the Year
Honorary Academy Award
Achievement in Visual Effects
Best Animated Feature Film
Wallace & Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit
Achievement in Costume Design
Memoirs of a Geisha
Achievement in Makeup
The Chronicles of Narnia
Best Documentary Feature
March of the Penguins
Best Foreign Language Film
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