Your Oscar Cheat Sheet

Here’s what to root for

By Marc Tracy|March 5, 2010 3:46 PM


The Oscars air Sunday evening on ABC, hosted by Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin. Below: the five most Jewish movies in contention [1] (in increasing order of Jewy-ness!), and which categories they’re nominated in. Because how else are you going to know when to cheer, and when to Tweet your grievances?

UPDATE: This list should have included An Education (see comments). Your guide follows:

An Education
• What: Nick Hornby adopted this film from a memoir about a young girl in early-’60s England who falls for an older Jewish man, played here by Peter Sarsgaard.

• Up for: Best Picture; Leading Actress (Carey Mulligan); Adapted Screenplay (Hornby).

• Will win: Its best chance is in Adapted Screenplay.

• Jew rating (out of 10, and adjusting for Hollywood): 5. While the older man’s Jewishness isn’t the film’s dominant theme, or even necessarily his dominant characteristic, it’s certainly in there.

And now, the list.

5: Up in the Air
• What: This flick, adopted from Walter Kirn’s novel, stars George Clooney as professional fire-er. Fans say it’s very now; detractors say it’s very mediocre [3].

• Up for: Picture; Director (Jason Reitman); Adapted Screenplay (Reitman and Sheldon Turner); Actor (George Clooney); Supporting Actress (Vera Farmiga); Supporting Acress (Anna Kendrick).

• Will win: Very long shot at Picture, Director, and Supporting Actress; slightly less long shot at Actor; favorite at Adapted Screenplay.

• Jew rating (out of 10, and adjusting for Hollywood): 2. Largely on the strength of Jewy (and kind of insufferable) director/co-writer Reitman.

4: The White Ribbon
• What: German auteur Michael Haneke’s extremely dark film about a village in Germany immediately before World War I.

• Up for: Foreign Language Film; Cinematography.

• Will win: It’s the Foreign Language Film prohibitive favorite.

•Jew rating (out of 10, and adjusting for Hollywood): 3. Not really explicitly Jewish, but it is dark and German. Plus a prominent Jewish writer called [4] it fantastic in a certain magazine of Jewish life and culture.

3: Inglourious Basterds
• What: Quentin Tarantino’s crazy, violent, hilarious, awesome World War II movie about a group of American Jews whose mission is to brutally kill as many Nazis as possible and then assassinate Hitler, as well as a French-Jewish movie theater owner who secretly plots, also, to assassinate Hitler. Spoiler alert: They succeed.

• Up for: Picture; Director (Tarantino); Original Screenplay (Tarantino); Supporting Actor (Christoph Waltz); Cinematography; Film Editing; Sound Editing; Sound Mixing.

• Will win: Waltz is all but a lock, and Tarantino is the Original Screenplay (though not Director) favorite. Also a threat in the technical categories.

•Jew rating (out of 10, and adjusting for Hollywood): 7. Except for Waltz’s SS agent and Brad Pitt’s commando leader, the major characters are Jews; the French-Jewish theater owner is even played by a young French-Jewish actress [5] named Mélanie Laurent. On the other hand, at its heart, the movie isn’t about Jews, Nazis, or really anything besides other World War II movies. Also, Liel hated [6] it (though Germans liked [7] it!).

2: Ajami
• What: Israel’s third consecutive Best Foreign Language nominee, and the first in Arabic, its gangster plot depicts Palestinian-Jewish relations in the titular Jaffa neighborhood.

• Up for: Foreign Language Film.

• Will win: It’s a long shot.

•Jew rating (out of 10, and adjusting for Hollywood): 8. I mean, it’s Israeli!

1: A Serious Man
• What: The Coen Brothers’s quiet, comic, and in the end deeply serious tale of Larry Gopnik, a Jewish physics professor in late-1960s Minnesota who wonders why his life has gone totally to hell.

• Up for: Picture; Original Screenplay.

• Will win: In a just world, both of them (and Michael Stuhlbarg would have an Actor nomination). In this world, probably nothing.

•Jew rating (out of 10): 10 [8]. If it were just that all the characters were Jews, and that the comic climax took place at a bar mitzvah, then it would be an 8, maybe a 9. But this movie wrestles with what it is to be Jewish on the most profound level; short of Yom Kippur services, nothing will make you reflect on your Jewishness like sitting through it. The day after A Serious Man gets no love, go see it, even if it’s your fifth time.

Nominations [1] [The Oscars]

Related: Painfully Good [4] [Tablet Magazine]
Inglorious Indeed [6] [Tablet Magazine]

Earlier: The Jews’ Oscar Nominee [8]

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