In preparation for the Oscars this Sunday, a primer on all things Jewish about this year’s nominated films:
Nominated in eleven categories, including Best Picture, Best Directing, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Original Screenplay
Brilliant con man Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) and his partner Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) are forced to work for a wild FBI agent in the dangerous world of Jersey powerbrokers and mafia. The film is based on the notorious Abscam Operation of the late 1970s, in which the FBI employed Jewish con artist Melvin Weinberg to conduct the operation to investigate theft, forgery, and stolen art.
Dallas Buyers Club
Nominated in seven categories, including Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, Best Original Screenplay
H.I.V.-positive Rodeo cowboy Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey) crosses the border from Texas to Mexico, where he discovers alternative medical treatments which he begins smuggling into the United States. The film’s producers are Robbie Brenner and Rachel Winter, who say their Jewish backgrounds added an “extra layer or understanding” between them.
The Wolf of Wall Street
Nominated in six categories, including Best Picture, Best Directing, Best Actor, and Best Adapted Screenplay
A New York stockbroker refuses to cooperate in a large securities fraud case that involves mob infiltration into Wall Street and the corporate world of banking. The film is based on the story of Jordan Belfort, a nice Jewish boy turned naughty.
Inside Llewyn Davis
Nominated for Best Cinematography and Best Sound Mixing
The Coen Brothers are back in the game! A young folk singer named Llewyn Davis navigates the Greenwich Village folk scene in 1961. The struggling musician’s misadventures take him on a journey to audition for music magnate Bud Grossman.
Nominated for Best Original Screenplay, Best Actress, and Best Supporting Actress
Manhattan socialite Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) moves to San Francisco to live with her down-to-earth sister Ginger after she discovers that her millionaire husband Hal is actually a Bernie Madoff-esque conman. Emotional crisis ensues, followed by a personal (but fraudulent) reinvention, followed by a nervous breakdown. Blanchett’s performance is stellar—and she’s tipped by pretty much everyone to win Best Actress—but the reception of the film has been profoundly impacted by allegations of sexual abuse against director Woody Allen.
The Act of Killing
Nominated for Best Documentary Feature
Indonesian former death squad leaders are challenged to reenact their real-life mass-killings. Director Joshua Oppenheimer, the grandson of Jewish refugees of Nazi Germany, offers viewers an unsettling peek into the imaginations of the mass-murderers.
The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life
Nominated for Best Documentary Short
Alice Herz-Sommer shares the story of how her commitment to music helper her survive the Holocaust. Her story starts in Prague and continues on to Theresienstadt concentration camp in Czechoslovakia, then to Israel where she taught music for 40 years, and finally ends in London, where she died last week at the age of 110. Before her death, Alice Herz-Sommer was the oldest recorded Holocaust survivor.