Courageous field of Oscar picks this year
LOS ANGELES – The Academy Awards nominations confirm it: 2005 may have been an off year for the blockbuster crowd, but it was a great year for people who love quality cinema.Oscar voters last week overlooked big, amiable studio fare in favor of inquisitive films that present one of the most challenging best-picture lineups since the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences began handing out trophies in 1929.
Leading the flock is “Brokeback Mountain,” the Oscar front-runner about two sheepherders swept up in a gay love affair from the 1960s through 1980s.Also nominated: “Capote,” which probes the self-destructive depths to which a writer will descend for his art; “Crash,” an explosive culture-clash mosaic; “Good Night, and Good Luck,” the saga of fear-mongering in another era that holds great relevance for today; and “Munich,” which uses the massacre of Israelis at the 1972 Olympics and its aftermath to explore the Middle East’s cycle of hatred and violence.”We’re living in very fraught, complicated times, and I think that when we live in times like these, that people expect their entertainment, as well as their newspapers, to help them think their way through things,” said Tony Kushner, a screenwriting nominee for “Munich.”
Such Hollywood pictures as “Memoirs of a Geisha,” “King Kong” and “Walk the Line” – the Johnny Cash biography that was no slouch itself on big themes and deep thoughts – were passed over in the best-picture category.Ang Lee, the best-director favorite for “Brokeback Mountain,” thinks escapism is in eclipse, but just temporarily.”Sometimes, we want to escape; sometimes, we want to check into issues. Sometimes, you just want to have a great time at the movies. It swings from year to year,” said Lee, whose 2000 best-picture nominee – “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” – served as elegant escapism. “This year, I think we were seeing a lot of frustration come out. Two years ago, filmmakers felt that and started making these films maybe to deal with frustration and insecurity with the government, the world and Hollywood.
“Next year, the winds might blow this way or that way. That’s the way it should be. It should be a reflection of society.”The Oscars have a history of mixing things up between brooding stories such as “Unforgiven” and bonny charmers like “Shakespeare in Love,” both best-picture winners.Yet this time, the awards field looks positively dour compared to years when films such as the supernatural stories “Ghost” and “The Sixth Sense,” the romances “Chocolat” and “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” the manhunt thriller “The Fugitive” and the talking-pig tale “Babe” were among best picture nominees.
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