ABC is presenting the big megillah, the Oscars, this Sunday, February 28, at 7 p.m. Here are the verified Jewish nominees in all but the technical categories. (Jewish nominees’ names are capitalized the first time they show up in this column.)
Best picture — This Oscar goes to the film’s principal producers, but never more than three per film: “The Big Short,” JEREMY KLEINER, 39; “Bridge of Spies,” STEVEN SPIELBERG, 69, and MARC PLATT, 58; “The Martian,” SIMON KINBERG, 42; “The Revenant,” ARNON MILCHAN, 71, and STEVE GOLIN, 52; “Spotlight,” MICHAEL SUGAR, 51, NICOLE ROCKLIN, 36, and Golin.
Best supporting actress: JENNIFER JASON LEIGH, 54, “The Hateful Eight.” Best director: LENNY ABRAHAMSON, 49, “Room.” Best original screenplay: “Bridge of Spies,” JOEL COEN, 61, ETHAN COEN, 58, and Martin Charman; “Spotlight,” Tom McCarthy and JOSH SINGER, 43; “Straight Outta Compton,” JONATHAN HERMAN, 55, and ANDREA BELOFF, 34. Best animated film: “Anomalisa,” CHARLIE KAUFMAN, 57, Duke Johnson, and Rosa Tran. Best foreign-language film: “Son of Saul,” Hungary, LASZLO NEMES, 38. Best feature documentary: “The Look of Silence,” JOSHUA OPPENHEIMER, 41; “What Happened, Miss Simone?,” LIZ GARBUS, 45; and “Cartel Land,” MATTHEW HEINEMAN, 51, and TOM YELLIN, 63. Best short documentary: “Last Day of Freedom,” NOMI TALISMAN, 48, with Dee Hibbert Jones. Best original song: “Simple Song #3” from “Youth,” music and lyrics by DAVID LANG, 59; “Til It Happens to You” from “The Hunting Ground,” music and lyrics by DIANE WARREN, 59, and Lady Gaga. Best Cinematography: ED LACHMAN, 77, “Carol,” and EMMANUEL LUBEZKI, 51, “The Revenant.”
Fun and/or interesting facts about some nominees: Producer Marc Platt (“Bridge of Spies”) is the father of actor BEN PLATT, 22, a star of the “Pitch Perfect” movies. Acting nominee Jennifer Jason Leigh is still friends with actress PHOEBE CATES, 52; both had breakthrough roles in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” (1982). Cates came out of virtual retirement in 2001 to co-star in “The Anniversary Party,” a very good flick that Leigh co-directed and co-wrote. Leigh’s maternal grandparents helped many Jews fleeing Nazi Germany. Jonathan Herman and Andrea Beloff’s nominations for writing the hit film “Straight Outta Compton,” about African-American rap musicians, has garnered controversy — no African-American actors in the film were nominated and no black actors were Oscar-nominated for any 2015 film. Herman agrees it’s odd that he, a self-described gay white Jewish guy, co-wrote “Compton.” He explains that everyone thought the existing script was a mess and he simply did what he was asked to do — fix it. Liz Garbus (“Miss Simone” is her third documentary to be Oscar-nominated) is the daughter of Martin Garbus, 81, a nationally respected constitutional law attorney. Her acclaimed Jewish-themed documentaries include “Searching for Bobby Fischer” (2011). Diane Warren wins Grammys, but she has never won an Oscar for her songs, despite being nominated seven times before. Maybe this will be her year.
Interesting non-Jewish corner: Two documentary films about famous Jews are Oscar-nominated. Their nominated filmmakers aren’t Jewish. British Jewish singer AMY WINEHOUSE, who tragically died in 2011 at 27, is the subject of “Amy,” a best feature-length nominee directed by Asif Kapadia. CLAUDE LANZMANN, 90, the French documentary maker most famous for his Holocaust film “Shoah,” is the subject of a short-length documentary, “Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah,” made by Adam Benzine. Kate Winslet is the favorite to win the best supporting actress Oscar for playing JOANNA HOFFMAN, 60 , a real-life Apple executive in “Steve Jobs.” Charles Randolph and Adam McKay, co-nominees for their adapted screenplay for “The Big Short” both are married to Jewish women in showbiz (respectively, Israeli actress MILI AVITAL, 43, and director SHIRA PIVEN, 54, the sister of actor JEREMY PIVEN). Both showbiz couples are raising their children Jewish.
International tribe corner: Director Lenny Abrahamson (“Room”) is an Irish Jew; Laszlo Nemes (“Son of Saul”) is a Hungarian Jew who lives in France; producer Arnon Milchan (“Bridge of Spies”) is an Israeli; Emmanuel Lubezki (“The Revenant”) is a Mexican Jew who now lives in the States, and Nomi Talisman (“Last Day of Freedom”) is an Israeli who lives in San Francisco. My favorite Abrahamson quote: “I am an unusual Irishman. I’m probably Ireland’s third most famous Jewish son. First is Chaim Herzog, who grew up on the same street and played with my mother. Then there’s Leopold Bloom from “Ulysses,” and me. The Irish Jewish community is only about 1,500 to 2,000 people.” (Chaim Herzog, the son of the chief rabbi of Ireland, went on to be a top Israeli general and president of the state of Israel).
Milchan, a multibillionaire, was born in Israel. He made his first fortune as the head of an Israeli chemical company and has done very well in Hollywood, too. On the other side of the wealth spectrum there’s Laszlo Nemes, who couldn’t have made “Son of Saul,” about a concentration camp inmate trying to bury the body of a boy he believes is his son, without the help of a Hungarian government film fund. Nemes says about “Saul”: “I made this film to talk about this lost [Jewish] civilization and this lost world, and also because I’m angry that this happened, and Europe never really understood that.”
You might know Emmanuel Lubezki. He’s been Oscar-nominated eight times for his cinematography and won the last two years (“Gravity” and “Birdman”). His work on a 1992 Mexican film,” Like Water for Chocolate,” garnered some American attention. Still he struggled in America until BEN STILLER hired him to film the 1994 hit “Reality Bites.”
Just one more: I recognized the name of one technical category nominee, ARTHUR MAX, 69, from an old profile in a Jewish paper. If he wins, I’d feel bad about not noting him. Max, a production designer, is nominated for “The Martian.” This is his third nomination for production design. His first was for “Gladiator” (2000), which was filmed partially in Jerusalem. In 2005, he said about “Gladiator”: “People told me not to go almost everywhere [in Jerusalem because of the first intifada], but I went everywhere. Some of the Old City was closed off for security reasons, but I went to the Western Wall. And I stood on top of the Jaffa Gate and I looked out over what to me always had been a name, and suddenly I felt connected to my heritage, a close connection to all the Jewish history I had studied as a bar mitzvah.”