'Brokeback Mountain' Leads Oscar Nominations

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The cowboy love story Brokeback Mountain leads the Oscar pack with a total of eight nominations, including Best Picture and Best Actor for Heath Ledger. Madeleine Brand talks with Claude Brodesser, host of the public radio program The Business, about the Academy Award nominees announced Tuesday morning. The awards ceremony will be held March 5 in Los Angeles.

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

This is Day to Day, I'm Madeleine Brand.

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

And I'm Alex Chadwick. Coming up, hundreds of thousands of people are on their way to Detroit for the Super Bowl, and they will leave behind there tons of trash. The environmental impact of the big game, just ahead.

BRAND: But first, the biggest game in Hollywood has just begun, predicting who will win the academy awards. The Oscar nominations were announced this morning, and a little cowboy movie swept nearly ever major category.

Mr. SID GANIS (President, Motion Picture Academy): Michelle Williams in Brokeback Mountain.

Ms. MIRA SORVINO (Actress): Jack Gyllenhaal in Brokeback Mountain.

Mr. GANIS: We have Ang Lee, Brokeback Mountain.

Ms. SORVINO: Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain.

Mr. GANIS: Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana for Brokeback Mountain.

Ms. SORVINO: Brokeback Mountain, Diana Ossana and James Seamus, producers.

BRAND: That's actress Mira Sorvino, who along with Sid Ganis, president of the Motion Picture Academy, announced the nominees. The film Brokeback Mountain received eight nominations, and jack-of-all-trades George Clooney is nominated in three separate categories as supporting actor for Syriana, as director for Good Night and Good Luck and for co-writer for that film as well.

And here to discuss the nominations in Claude Brodesser. He's a former reporter for Variety, now the host of the weekly public radio program The Business. And welcome to our public radio program, DAY TO DAY.

Mr. CLAUDE BRODESSER (Host, The Business): Hi, Madeline.

BRAND: So, Claude, what immediately struck you about these nominations?

Mr. BRODESSER: Well, I think it's the rise of the dependees. There was a time where studios lived for this sort of day. People got up early, they had their danish, and they crowed madly that they had received Oscar nominations.

And the fact is that you, NPR listener, are to blame for the change that we see here, namely that specialized film, these sort of smaller studio-owned operations like Focus Features and Fox Searchlight and so on--these are all companies now that sort of responsible for doing the serious thinking because audiences that take these films seriously, that love cinema, need to be dynamited out of their homes to go to the movies, so the result of that is that these very well-heeled people who've used their homes as cash machines have outfitted home theaters, and they don't go to the movies.

The result is that these sort of serious movies need to be made for a price and we see that in the nominations today, that really of the five best picture nominees, there's really only one studio film there, which of course, is the Dreamworks' revenge, blood-soaked, funfest that is--the name escapes me now--oh, Munich. Thank you.

BRAND: Munich. But Munich is still a serious movie.

Mr. BRODESSER: Oh, they're all serious movies. They're all just very small budget movies. For instance, Crash is an independent, truly an independent from Lion's Gate. Brokeback Mountain, of course, which comes to us from Focus Features. These are films that are made for a price and for a very specific, specialized audience.

BRAND: But you say, to blame. Isn't this a good thing. These are supposedly the best films, the...

Mr. BRODESSER: Oh, there's, this is not an observation about aesthetics or quality. These are all excellent movies, and I'm not here - I'm not even a critic, so I would never even deign to offer criticism about the nature of the filmmaking, but what we do know is that they are made for less, and it certainly is the case that studios do not put a financial premium on the making of an Oscar movie anymore.

BRAND: Okay, let's go to the big winner in these nominations, Brokeback Mountain. Here is a movie that has swept every, almost every major category, except for nomination, of course, of best actress. Here's a little clip.

Unidentified Man #1: What if you and me had a little grass somewhere and a little cow and calf operation? It'd be a sweet life.

Unidentified Man #2: I told you, it ain't going to be that way.

BRAND: Now, Claude Brodesser, this film obviously beloved in the Academy, but what about in the greater world shall we say? How has it been received?

Mr. BRODESSER: You mean the red states, so to speak?

(Soundbite of laughter)

BRAND: I mean everywhere else.

Mr. BRODESSER: Well, it was an interesting campaign for this movie in terms of a marketing campaign early on. It looked sort of like any other movie. It was very mainstream. There was pictures of wives, and you would get the impression that this was about life on the range instead of the sort of fraught social topic that it is. So that's yielded dividends, but I think a good movie's a good movies is a good movie, and I think people are responding to that.

BRAND: All right. As you look over this list, any glaring omissions?

Mr. BRODESSER: Well, I don't know about glaring. I think if you're not on a list, everybody would say, it's a glaring omission. I'm not there. But I think a lot of people were surprised that Walk the Line, which was a fairly well received studio film, certainly fantastic performances from Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon, that James Mangold wasn't in some way nominated, either for directing or writing. He worked for years on this script. I think it turned out pretty spectacularly. He got great performances out of his actors, and he's nowhere to be seen. But by and large, sort of the usual suspects in some ways. It's just sort of--what's unusual is the omission of studio film from the list of suspects.

BRAND: Claude Brodesser is host of The Business. It's a weekly public radio program about the inside workings of Hollywood, and Claude Brodesser, thank you for joining us.

Mr. BRODESSER: My pleasure, Madeline.

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