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Your Oscar Cheat Sheet

Here’s what to root for

Marc Tracy
February 24, 2012
Woody Allen directing Owen Wilson on the set of Midnight in Paris.(IMDB)
Woody Allen directing Owen Wilson on the set of Midnight in Paris.(IMDB)

The Oscars air Sunday evening on ABC. Below: the five most Jewish movies in contention (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?

5: The Adventures of Tintin

What: Steven Spielberg adapts the classic Hergé comic book series with a rarely-seen-before hybrid of live action and animation, all in 3D, and the standard Indy Jones-style adventure script, complete with John Williams score.

Up for: Score. Seems kinda cheap to keep it out of Best Animated Film, particularly when Kung Fu Panda 2 is nominated.

Will win: Probably nothing. The Artist‘s score is nominated, and talk about music that had to do some heavy lifting!

Jew rating (out of 10, and adjusting for Hollywood): 3.5. Hergé’s collaborationist sentiments are balanced by his being European. And Spielberg is, literally, the alpha and the omega of Jewish filmmaking.

4: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

What: Adaptation of Jonathan Safran Foer novel written by Eric Roth and with a Dresden plotline (only a subplot, though!).

Up for: Picture; Supporting Actor (Max Von Sydow, as the Dresden survivor).

Will win: Good shot at Supporting Actor: Von Sydow is an icon (82 years old, and the star of Ingmar Bergman classics like The Seventh Seal), and he plays a mute guy, which you’d think requires less acting but is liable to impress voters. Plus, we know about the Holocaust and the Oscars, and Dresden is fairly close.

Jew rating (out of 10, and adjusting for Hollywood): 7. No extra points for producer Scott Rudin, because, remember, we are adjusting for Hollywood. But Safran Foer is a big name in the world of Jewish letters and broader culture. And again: Holocaust subplot!

3: The Artist

What: Black-and-white, almost exclusively silent movie that borrows liberally from Citizen Kane and Sunset Boulevard and borrows radically from Singin’ in the Rain. Writer/director Michel Hazanavicius is French-Jewish.

Up for: Picture; Lead Actor (Jean Dujardin); Supporting Actress (Bérénice Bejo); Director; Original Screenplay; Cinematography; Editing; Art Direction; Costume Design; Score.

Will win: I haven’t followed the race as closely this year, but I’m pretty sure The Artist is the clear frontrunner out of the nine nominees. It’s accessible art that celebrates Hollywood: exactly what Academy voters are suckers scrupulously look for. Feels like Dujardin has competition more likely to divide against each other than Bejo does. Cinematography would make sense; Editing, one guesses, will by contrast be The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo‘s consolation prize. And, of course, Score.

Jew rating (out of 10, and adjusting for Hollywood): 8. Jewish auteur. Moreover, the fact that it’s about Hollywood, complete with an early mogul named Zimmer played by John Goodman, transcends (and confirms) our standard adjustment for Hollywood.

2: **TIE** In Darkness and Footnote

What: Polish Holocaust movie; Israeli movie about Talmudic study. (Film critic Daphne Merkin reviewed In Darkness and interviewed Footnote director Joseph Cedar; Sara Ivry reflected on In Darkness.)

Up for: Foreign Language Film.

Will win: Well, 40 percent chance, right? Give the edge to In Darkness, which even Timothy Snyder praised as well, and whose director, Agnieszka Holland, has done much work in the English-language world, including for The Wire. Ironically, the one film that could beat Poland’s and Israel’s entries is A Separation: Iran’s.

Jew rating (out of 10, and adjusting for Hollywood): 8.5 (In Darkness), 9.5 (Footnote).

1: Midnight in Paris

What: On the one hand, light comedy that is incredibly romantic (as opposed to romantic comedy). On another hand, a giddily delightful vicarious thrill ride through A Moveable Feast. On yet another hand, the first Woody Allen movie nominated for Picture since 1985’s The Purple Rose of Cairo (yup, they forgot Hannah and Her Sisters, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Husbands and Wives, and Match Point).

Up for: Picture; Director; Original Screenplay; Art Direction.

Will win: I suspect its best chance is Original Screenplay, because, y’know, it’s about books and stuff, and Woody’s already won this category six times. Wouldn’t it be something, though, if it nabbed Picture and Woody’s producer, his sister Letty Aronson, got up on stage and said Woody says hi from the Upper East Side? Also, would you believe me if I told you that Manhattan was—wait for it—not even nominated for Best Picture?!?!

Jew rating (out of 10, and adjusting for Hollywood): 9.5. 10s are reserved for our Top Twenty. Adrien Brody steals the show in his three minutes as Salvador Dalí. An indelibly Jewish musing on nostalgia and its limits. Plus, what, I gotta spell this out for you?

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.