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Oscar surprises include ‘Walk the Line’ snub

Plus: Force is weak; John Williams vs. himself; pimp song
/ Source: The Associated Press

There weren’t many surprises among Tuesday’s Academy Award nominations, as the juggernaut that is “Brokeback Mountain” continues to gain momentum. But we found a few, as well as some other tidbits:

—WALK ON BY: Despite earning acting nominations for stars Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon, “Walk the Line” was snubbed in the best-picture and best-director categories. The crowd-pleasing, critically acclaimed story of Johnny Cash and his lifelong on- and offstage partner, June Carter, looked like a shoo-in among the top spots. Witherspoon, though, will likely end up in a two-woman race for the best-actress award with “Transamerica” star Felicity Huffman.

—ITS PLACE IN HISTORY: Taking the spot expected to go to “Walk the Line” among the best-picture nominees is “Munich,” about the aftermath of the killing of 11 Israeli athletes during the 1972 Olympics. The film earned five nominations, including best director for Steven Spielberg and best adapted screenplay. “Munich” had won no major awards leading up to Tuesday, and despite receiving solid reviews, it wasn’t considered a serious Oscar contender.

—MAN VS. HIMSELF: One of the nominations “Munich” received was for John Williams’ original score — but he’ll be competing against himself. Spielberg’s longtime musical collaborator also was nominated this year for his work on “Memoirs of a Geisha.” The veteran composer has found himself in this situation before, including 1978 when he was up for his iconic music from both “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and “Star Wars.” (He won for the latter.)

—THE FORCE IS WEAK: Speaking of “Star Wars,” seems that barely anyone was among Academy voters. “Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith,” the sixth and (hopefully) final installment in George Lucas’ epic galactic saga, failed to earn a nomination for best visual effects. All five previous movies either were recognized in the category or received a special achievement award for their high-tech visuals, the work of Lucas’ company Industrial Light & Magic. “Sith” did get a nomination for best makeup, though — and it made over $380 million at the box office.

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—WHERE IS THE LOVE?: Also receiving a surprising solitary nomination was “Match Point,” for Woody Allen’s original screenplay. The drama about a torrid affair between a social-climbing British tennis pro and an American actress had been hailed among film critics as a return to form for Allen, and it was the subject of a highbrow, high-profile awards campaign.

—THE INTRIGUE CONTINUES: Joining Allen among the original-screenplay nominees is writer-director Stephen Gaghan for “Syriana,” a complex international tale of oil, power and corruption. That his script was nominated comes as no surprise — it’s intricate, intelligent and extremely relevant. Where it was nominated is the unexpected part. “Syriana” has always been considered an adapted work, based on a memoir by former CIA officer Robert Baer, the basis for George Clooney’s character. It’s up for best adapted screenplay at this year’s Writers Guild awards. The motion picture academy, however, chose to place the film in the original screenplay category.

—HUSTLE & BLEEP: Perhaps the most surprising nomination of all, and the one we’re the most excited about, is in the original-song category: the insanely catchy “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp,” from the movie “Hustle & Flow” starring Terrence Howard as a Memphis pimp-turned-rapper. Since he performs the song in the movie, you know he’s got to do it live on stage during the awards ceremony, right? Just like Faith Hill or Celine Dion or anyone else with a nominated song? And since Howard is up for a best-actor Oscar, you know he’ll already be there. (Unfortunately, most of his graphic flow will be hustled away in the name of good taste.)