'Brokeback' rides high, triple play for Clooney

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This article was last updated on Feb. 7, 2006.

Racism, homophobia, terrorism, government prying and media glory-hogs — what’s not to like?

Voters of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences have nominated five small, sober dramas for best picture at the 78th annual Academy Awards, with Focus Features’ “Brokeback Mountain” leading the charge with eight bids.

In the picture race, “Brokeback” will compete with Lionsgate’s “Crash” and Warner Independent’s “Good Night, and Good Luck,” which drew six noms apiece; and UA/Sony Pictures Classics’ “Capote” and Universal and DreamWorks’ “Munich,” at five each.

The Acad spread the noms wide, with 10 films scoring four or more mentions, including Sony, DreamWorks and Spyglass’ “Memoirs of a Geisha” and Fox’s “Walk the Line,” with six and five, respectively.

A big surprise is the lack of surprises. Six weeks ago, Academy pundits were expressing amazement that there were so few shoo-ins and so many possible contenders. Since then, critics, guilds and other kudos orgs narrowed the field to just a handful of films and Acad voters stuck with those titles.

The other big surprise: One of the docu entries, Warner Independent’s “March of the Penguins,” has outgrossed all of the five best pic contenders, with $114 million worldwide.

The pic contenders also saw their directors cited — only the fourth time that’s happened in Oscar history: George Clooney (“Good Night”), Paul Haggis (“Crash”), Ang Lee (“Brokeback”), Bennett Miller (“Capote”) and Steven Spielberg (“Munich”). Lineup is the same picked by the Directors Guild of America, which is also a rarity.

All five films were nommed for screenplay, with three adapted (Larry McMurtry, Diana Ossana, “Brokeback”; Dan Futterman, “Capote”; and Tony Kushner, Eric Roth, “Munich”) and two originals (Paul Haggis, Bobby Moresco, “Crash”; and Clooney and Grant Heslov, “Good Night”).

Four of the five pic hopefuls are period films and three are fact-based: “Good Night,” “Capote” and “Munich.”

As for the producers, the Acad allows a maximum of three per film. Org adheres to the rulings of the Producers Guild as to who’s eligible. For the five, it’s Diana Ossana and James Schamus, “Brokeback”; Caroline Baron, William Vince and Michael Ohoven, “Capote”; Haggis and Cathy Schulman, “Crash”; Heslov, “Good Night”; and Kathleen Kennedy, Spielberg and Barry Mendel, “Munich.”

Asked how he felt, double nominee Spielberg quoted the film “White Heat” when he laughed, “Top of the world, Ma!”

The filmmaker said he was “surprised and ecstatic” at the noms and said Acad voters exhibited courage in voting for this lineup of films, which show “people using art to take a look at the world we’re in.”

It’s a year that sports a surprising number of contenders new to their field.

Two nominees are making their first bigscreen credits as producer, Ossana and Heslov, while Haggis is a second-time producer.

Likewise, five people are cited for their first bigscreen script: Ossana, Futterman, Kushner, Clooney and Heslov. Marking his second bigscreen script is Moresco (“Crash”).

And “Capote” director Miller is making his feature helming bow, after one docu; Clooney and Haggis are marking their sec-ond bigscreen directing efforts.

“Good Night” producer-cowriter Heslov said the Oscar trend of small, personal films “is reflective of the times. Films are usually a year or two behind the times; it takes time for them to catch up. But it’s a reflection of what’s going on politically in the world. And there were some really great films this year.”

There is also a newish set of nominated distribution companies.

Focus Features, with 16 nominations for “Brokeback,” “Pride & Prejudice” and “The Constant Gardener,” leads all domestic distribs in only its fourth Oscar race. (Focus had garnered major noms in its first year with “The Pianist” and did well in two subsequent races, with pics including “Lost in Translation” and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”).

Focus co-topper Schamus grinned, “This is the biggest day of our professional lives.”

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He added: “If there is a trend this year, it’s that there are no snobs and no reverse snobs. You can love a big movie or a little movie and you love them for the same reason: They’re good movies.”

In its second Oscar contest, Warner Independent scored eight. With the six for “Good Night” and bids for “March of the Penguins” and “Paradise Now,” company says it’s the first distrib to score pic, docu and foreign-language noms in one year.

Lionsgate, which has had noms in the past via such films as “Girl With a Pearl Earring,” established itself as a mega-indie with “Crash” and a nom for Italy’s foreign-language entry, “Don’t Tell.”

Tom Ortenberg of Lionsgate said his company’s goal is “to continue to make sure every Academy member sees (‘Crash’). We’re trying to give them every opportunity to see ‘Crash,’ because we’ve realized that the best spokesperson for ‘Crash’ is the movie itself.”

After only a few months in business, the Weinstein Co. earned four noms: two for “Transamerica” and another two for “Mrs. Henderson Presents.”

Former Oscar powerhouse Miramax, which redefined itself in 2005, is in its first Oscar race in its new incarnation, with four (three shared for “Cinderella Man,” one for “Tsotsi”).

A revived Paramount Classics scored with a nom for “Hustle & Flow.”

But it wasn’t all newcomers. A vet of Oscar wars, Sony Pictures Classics scored seven mentions, including five for “Capote” and one apiece for “Junebug” and “Joyeux Noel.” Co-topper Tom Bernard acknowledged the long road to Oscar recognition, pointing out that “Junebug,” for example, bowed a year ago at Sundance.

Company was the first to send out a screener, with “Junebug” shipping Sept. 28. “The Oscar game is to get people to see the movie,” he said. “Voters really do want to vote for what they think is the best. It’s not a popularity contest.”

The acting races are filled with portrayals of real-life folks, including Philip Seymour Hoffman, “Capote”; Joaquin Phoenix, “Walk the Line”; David Strathairn, “Good Night”; Judi Dench, “Mrs. Henderson”; Charlize Theron, Warner Bros.’ “North Country”; and Reese Witherspoon, “Walk the Line.” And, in the supporting category, Paul Giamatti, “Cinderella Man”; Catherine Keener, “Capote”; and Frances McDormand, “North Country” all portrayed real people.

Other actor nominees are: Terrence Howard, Par Classics’ “Hustle & Flow”; Heath Ledger, “Brokeback”; Felicity Huffman, Weinstein Co./IFC Films’ “Transamerica”; Keira Knightley, Focus’s “Pride & Prejudice.”

Supporting categories comprise Clooney, WB’s “Syriana”; Matt Dillon, Lionsgate’s “Crash”; Jake Gyllenhaal, “Brokeback”; William Hurt, New Line’s “A History of Violence”; Amy Adams, Sony Pictures Classics’ “Junebug”; Rachel Weisz, Focus’ “The Constant Gardener”; and Michelle Williams, “Brokeback.”

Also cited in the adapted screenplay race are Jeffrey Caine for “Constant Gardener” and Josh Olson, “A History of Violence.”

Original screenplay contenders are Woody Allen, DreamWorks’ “Match Point”; Noah Baumbach, Samuel Goldwyn/Sony’s “The Squid and the Whale”; and Stephen Gaghan, WB’s “Syriana.”

After several years of big epics (“Lord of the Rings,” etc.), this is the second consecutive year in which four of the five pics are budgeted under $35 million. This year’s crop, however, is even lower-budgeted than 2004′s.

Biggest budgeted is “Munich” ($68 million), with the others on the low end of the sca
le: “Brokeback” ($13.9 million) “Ca-pote” ($6.7 million), “Crash” ($6.5 million), “Good Night” ($7.5 million)

Who would ever guess that the Independent Spirit Awards would be such a reliable Oscar bellwether?

As usual, Academy voters disproved the sentiment that this is a popularity contest by generally overlooking the year’s big grossers. The Acad gave only 10 noms to the top 10 at the global box office for 2005, mostly in the tech/craft categories: “Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith,” “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” “War of the Worlds,” “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” “Wedding Crashers,” “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “Batman Begins,” “Mada-gascar,” “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” and “Hitch.”

The animated feature race provided its own surprises, with not a single CGI entry. The hopefuls include two stop-motion ani-mation pics — Warner Bros.’ “Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride” and DreamWorks’ “Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit” — and a cel toon, Buena Vista’s “Howl’s Moving Castle.”

The foreign-language race includes Italy’s “Don’t Tell” (distribbed by Lionsgate); France’s “Joyeux Noel” (Sony Pictures Clas-sics); the Palestinian territories’ “Paradise Now” (Warner Independent); Germany’s “Sophie Scholl — The Final Days” (Zeitgeist); and South Africa’s “Tsotsi” (Miramax).

Michael Barker, whose Sony Pictures Classics is distributing “Joyeux Noel” (as well as “Capote” and “Junebug”), singled out the diversity in the noms for foreign-language films. The five “cover so many different serious issues. It’s not a group of sentimen-tal breezy films; these are films dealing with important issues.”

Aside from “Penguins,” docu contenders include “Darwin’s Nightmare” (Intl. Film Circuit), “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room” (Magnolia Pictures), “Murderball” (ThinkFilm) and “Street Fight” (Marshall Curry Prods.).

The days of easy distributor tallies are over, due to many factors. Studios share films domestically and internationally, or make them with production companies (such as Walden Media, Working Title and Spyglass), and there is debate over whether a major should include the tallies of its niche unit.

The film with the most noms has ended up winning the best picture prize in 17 of the last 20 years. However, those behind “Brokeback” should not be overconfident. Last year “The Aviator” soared with 11 noms, but runner-up “Million Dollar Baby,” with seven, wound up winning.

Most studio pundits agree that 2005 was a strange time for awards, with widespread confusion for much of the year, followed by a surprising degree of predictability only in the past month.

Pundits expected that the year-end biggies would, as usual, dominate. But small films held their own and by mid-December, the Oscar race seemed awash with too many contenders.

But as guilds and critics weighed in, there was surprising uniformity in their choices.

The big eyebrow-raisers were in the omissions. “Walk the Line” was considered a best-pic front-runner, and docu “Grizzly Man,” which won a DGA award last week, wasn’t even a semi-finalist. “A Love That Will Never Grow Old,” the Golden Globe-winning song from “Brokeback,” was also MIA.

The Academy declared 311 eligible films this year. Org consists of 5,798 voting members in 15 branches; in most cases, vot-ers select nominees for their branch, while everyone votes for the winners. The largest group is actors, with 1,260 voting thesps (21%).

Nominations were announced Tuesday by new Acad president Sid Ganis and former winner Mira Sorvino at 5:38 a.m. at Academy headquarters in BevHills.

Final ballots will be mailed Feb. 8, with polls closing Feb. 28.

Awards will be handed out on Sunday, March 5, in a ceremony produced by Gil Cates, hosted by Jon Stewart and airing on ABC live from the Kodak Theater in Hollywood.

And the nominees are…

PICTURE
“Brokeback Mountain” Diana Ossana, James Schamus, producers; a River Road Entertainment production (Focus)
“Capote” Caroline Baron, William Vince, Michael Ohoven, producers; an A-Line Pictures/Cooper’s Town/Infinity Media production (UA/Sony Pictures Classics)
“Crash” Paul Haggis, Cathy Schulman, producers; a Bob Yari/DEJ/Blackfriar’s Bridge/Harris Company/ApolloProscreen/Bull’s Eye Entertainment production (Lionsgate)
“Good Night, and Good Luck” Grant Heslov, producer; a Good Night Good Luck production; (Warner Independent)
“Munich” Kathleen Kennedy, Steven Spielberg, Barry Mendel, producers; a Universal/DreamWorks production (Universal and DreamWorks)

ACTOR
Philip Seymour Hoffman, “Capote”
Terrence Howard, “Hustle & Flow” (Paramount Classics, MTV Films, New Deal Entertainment)
Heath Ledger, “Brokeback Mountain”
Joaquin Phoenix, “Walk the Line” (Fox)
David Strathairn, “Good Night, and Good Luck”

ACTRESS
Judi Dench, “Mrs. Henderson Presents” (Weinstein Co.)
Felicity Huffman, “Transamerica” (Weinstein Co.)
Keira Knightley, “Pride & Prejudice” (Focus)
Charlize Theron, “North Country” (Warner Bros.)
Reese Witherspoon, “Walk the Line”

SUPPORTING ACTOR
George Clooney, “Syriana” (Warner Bros.)
Matt Dillon, “Crash”
Paul Giamatti, “Cinderella Man” (Universal, Miramax)
Jake Gyllenhaal, “Brokeback Mountain”
William Hurt, “A History of Violence” (New Line)

SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Amy Adams, “Junebug” (Sony Pictures Classics)
Catherine Keener, “Capote”
Frances McDormand, “North Country”
Rachel Weisz, “The Constant Gardener” (Focus)
Michelle Williams, “Brokeback Mountain”

DIRECTOR
George Clooney, “Good Night, and Good Luck”
Paul Haggis, “Crash”
Ang Lee, “Brokeback Mountain”
Bennett Miller, “Capote”
Steven Spielberg, “Munich”

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
“Crash” — screenplay by Paul Haggis, Bobby Moresco; story by Paul Haggis
“Good Night, and Good Luck” — screenplay by George Clooney, Grant Heslov
“Match Point” — written by Woody Allen (DreamWorks)
“The Squid and the Whale” — written by Noah Baumbach (Samuel Goldwyn, Sony)
“Syriana” — written by Stephen Gaghan

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
“Brokeback Mountain” — screenplay by Larry McMurtry, Diana Ossana
“Capote” — screenplay by Dan Futterman
“The Constant Gardener” — screenplay by Jeffrey Caine
“A History of Violence” — screenplay by Josh Olson
“Munich” — screenplay by Tony Kushner, Eric Roth

ANIMATED FEATURE
“Howl’s Moving Castle” Hayao Miyazaki (Buena Vista)
“Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride” Tim Burton, Mike Johnson (Warner Bros.)
“Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit” Nick Park, Steve Box (DreamWorks Animation)

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
“Don’t Tell” a Cattleya/Rai Cinema production (Italy)
“Joyeux Noël” a Nord-Ouest production (France)
“Paradise Now” an Augustus Film production (Palestine)
“Sophie Scholl – The Final Days” a
Goldkind Filmproduktion and Broth Film production (Germany)
“Tsotsi” a Moviworld production (South Africa)

CINEMATOGRAPHY
“Batman Begins” Wally Pfister (Warner Bros.)
“Brokeback Mountain” Rodrigo Prieto
“Good Night, and Good Luck” Robert Elswit
“Memoirs of a Geisha” Dion Beebe (Sony)
“The New World” Emmanuel Lubezki (New Line)

FILM EDITING
“Cinderella Man” Mike Hill and Dan Hanley
“The Constant Gardener” Claire Simpson
“Crash” Hughes Winborne
“Munich” Michael Kahn
“Walk the Line” Michael McCusker

ORIGINAL SCORE
“Brokeback Mountain” Gustavo Santaolalla
“The Constant Gardener” Alberto Iglesias
“Memoirs of a Geisha” John Williams
“Munich” John Williams
“Pride & Prejudice” Dario Marianelli

ORIGINAL SONG
“In the Deep” from “Crash,” music by Kathleen (Bird) York, Michael Becker; lyric by York
“It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp” from “Hustle & Flow,” music and lyric by Jordan Houston, Cedric Coleman, Paul Beauregard
“Travelin’ Thru” from “Transamerica,” music and lyric by Dolly Parton

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
“Darwin’s Nightmare” Hubert Sauper; a Mille et Une production (Intl. Film Circuit)
“Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room” Alex Gibney, Jason Kliot; an HDNet Films production (Magnolia)
“March of the Penguins” Luc Jacquet, Yves Darondeau; a Bonne Pioche production (Warner Independent)
“Murderball” Henry-Alex Rubin, Dana Adam Shapiro; an Eat Films production (ThinkFilm)
“Street Fight” Marshall Curry; a Marshall Curry production

ART DIRECTION
“Good Night, and Good Luck” Jim Bissell, art direction; Jan Pascale, set decoration
“Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” Stuart Craig, art direction; Stephenie McMillan, set decoration (Warner Bros.)
“King Kong” Grant Major, art direction; Dan Hennah and Simon Bright, set decoration (Universal)
“Memoirs of a Geisha” John Myhre, art direction; Gretchen Rau, set decoration
“Pride & Prejudice” Sarah Greenwood, art direction; Katie Spencer, set decoration

COSTUME DESIGN
“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” Gabriella Pescucci (Warner Bros.)
“Memoirs of a Geisha” Colleen Atwood
“Mrs. Henderson Presents” Sandy Powell
“Pride & Prejudice” Jacqueline Durran
“Walk the Line” Arianne Phillips

MAKEUP
“The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” Howard Berger, Tami Lane (Buena Vista)
“Cinderella Man” David Leroy Anderson, Lance Anderson
“Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith” Dave Elsey, Nikki Gooley (Fox)

SOUND EDITING
“King Kong” Mike Hopkins, Ethan Van der Ryn
“Memoirs of a Geisha” Wylie Stateman
“War of the Worlds” Richard King (Paramount, DreamWorks)

SOUND MIXING
“The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” Terry Porter, Dean A. Zupancic, Tony Johnson
“King Kong” Christopher Boyes, Michael Semanick, Michael Hedges, Hammond Peek
“Memoirs of a Geisha” Kevin O’Connell, Greg P. Russell, Rick Kline, John Pritchett
“Walk the Line” Paul Massey, D.M. Hemphill, Peter F. Kurland
“War of the Worlds” Andy Nelson, Anna Behlmer, Ronald Judkins

VISUAL EFFECTS
“The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” Dean Wright, Bill Westenhofer, Jim Berney, Scott Farrar
“King Kong” Joe Letteri, Brian Van’t Hul, Christian Rivers, Richard Taylor
“War of the Worlds” Dennis Muren, Pablo Helman, Randy Dutra, Daniel Sudick

ANIMATED SHORT FILM
“Badgered” Sharon Colman; a National Film and Television School production
“The Moon and the Son: An Imagined Conversation” John Canemaker, Peggy Stern; a John Canemaker production
“The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello” Anthony Lucas; a 3D Films production (Monster Distributes)
“9″ Shane Acker; a Shane Acker production
“One Man Band” Andrew Jimenez, Mark Andrews; a Pixar Animation Studios production

LIVE-ACTION SHORT FILM
“Ausreisser (The Runaway)” Ulrike Grote; a Hamburg Media School, Filmwerkstatt production
“Cashback” Sean Ellis, Lene Bausager; a Left Turn Films production (the British Film Institute)
“The Last Farm” Rúnar Rúnarsson, Thor S. Sigurjónsson; a Zik Zak Filmworks production
“Our Time Is Up” Rob Pearlstein, Pia Clemente; a Station B production
“Six Shooter” Martin McDonagh; a Missing in Action Films and Funny Farm Films production (Sundance Film Channel)

DOCUMENTARY SHORT
“The Death of Kevin Carter: Casualty of the Bang Bang Club” Dan Krauss; a Dan Krauss production
“God Sleeps in Rwanda” Kimberlee Acquaro, Stacy Sherman; an Acquaro/Sherman production
“The Mushroom Club” Steven Okazaki; a Farallon Films production
“A Note of Triumph: The Golden Age of Norman Corwin” Corinne Marrinan, Eric Simonson; a NomaFilms production

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