Oscar climbs the Mountain

To very few people’s shock or awe, Brokeback Mountain heads up the 78th Annual Academy Awards nominee pack with eight nominations. It’s joined in the Best Picture category by four other sober, soul-stirring dramas, proving that the members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’s are a bit moody and reflective this year. Brokeback goes up against Capote, Crash, Good Night, And Good Luck and Munich, the latter somewhat surprisingly nipping James Mangold’s hotly-tipped Johnny Cash biopic Walk The Line for the fifth and final Best Picture slot. Brokeback is indisputably the front-runner to walk off with Mr G Baldie on the night, but it’s not a dead cert. It’s an open race this year…

The acting categories clung to the form book, with a few surprises chucked in to keep us on our toes. In the Best Actor troupe, the only mild shock was Terrence Howard’s nomination for Hustle & Flow, while Eric Bana’s absence for his exceptional performance in Munich was probably due to the studio’s muddled, last-minute campaign for Spielberg’s Olympics-revenge drama. Philip Seymour Hoffman has the slight edge for making Truman Capote such a compelling if slightly loathsome presence in Capote, but he’ll face stiff competition from Heath Ledger for Brokeback Mountain, Joaquin Phoenix for Walk The Line and David Strathairn for Good Night, And Good Luck.

On to Best Actress, where a nod for Keira Knightley for Pride & Prejudice had been widely touted amongst industry pundits – but leaves Total Film scratching its scalp in bewilderment. Woo-hoo! and all that for the fact that Keira may chalk one up for us Brits at the main event, but dare we suggest her performance in Working Title’s corset drama is just a tad overrated? Still, Keira’s unlikely to get any closer to the awards podium than wherever they decide to seat her – this year’s Best Actress scrap is a two-horse contest between Reese Witherspoon’s warm-hearted performance in Walk The Line and Felicity Huffman’s husky-voiced role as a road-tripping transsexual in Transamerica.

In the supporting actor and actress cateogories, all the expected names made the cut – from George Clooney for Syriana and William Hurt for A History Of Violence to Catherine Keener for Capote and Rachel Weisz for The Constant Gardener. All 10 nominees are in with a shout, although you’d have to give the edge to Weisz and Paul Giamatti for Cinderella Man.

Defying the annual Academy tradition of nominating at least one person whose film doesn’t make the Best Picture cut, this year’s five Best Director candidates mirrored their movie’s success in the big category. Ang Lee, who’s way out in front of the rest of the pack to win the gong, grabbed the second Best Director nomination of his career (after Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) for Brokeback. He’s sharing space with first-timers George Clooney (Good Night, And Good Luck), Bennet Miller (Capote) and Paul Haggis (Crash), as well as two-time Best Director winner Steven Spielberg, who secured his seventh nomination for Munich.

Other highlights: Howl’s Moving Castle faces off against Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride and Wallace & Gromit In The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit for Best Animated Film; Woody Allen nabbed a surprise screenwriting nod for Match Point; and King Kong, The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe and Memoirs Of A Geisha were all blanked in the major categories. But the biggest shock of all is surely The 40-Year-Old Virgin’s failure to score a single nomination. What’s the world coming to?

The Total Film team are made up of the finest minds in all of film journalism. They are: Editor Jane Crowther, Deputy Editor Matt Maytum, Reviews Ed Matthew Leyland, News Editor Jordan Farley, and Online Editor Emily Murray. Expect exclusive news, reviews, features, and more from the team behind the smarter movie magazine.