There will be Jews at Oscar’s 80th


After some relatively lean years, Hollywood’s Jewish talent — as well as Israel’s — made a solid showing as nominations for the 80th Academy Awards were announced at 5:30 a.m. Tuesday.

The biggest winners were brothers Ethan and Joel Coen, whose thriller “No Country for Old Men” earned seven nominations, while Daniel Day-Lewis, son of British Jewish actress Jill Balcon, qualified in the best actor category.

Israel’s “Beaufort,” by Joseph Cedar, a gritty movie about the end of the first Lebanon War, was one of five international finalists as best foreign language film.

It is the first time since 1984 that an Israeli picture (“Beyond the Walls”) has made the final cut in the category, though the Oscar itself has eluded the country’s film industry so far.

Day-Lewis earned his nomination for his role as a tough oil prospector in “There Will Be Blood.” The picture itself topped the field with eight nominations.

The Coen brothers won four personal nominations for best film, director, adapted screenplay and editing (the last under the odd pseudonym Roderick Jaynes), out of a total of seven noms for “No Country for Old Men.” Scott Rudin shared in the producing credit.

Jewish creativity was especially noticeable in “Achievement in Directing.” Besides the two Coens, nominations went to the multitalented Julian Schnabel for “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” and to Jason Reitman for “Juno.”

Competing with “Beaufort” for the Oscar is Austria’s “The Counterfeiters,” about a group of Jews culled from concentration camps by the Nazis during World War II to swamp the British and American economies with counterfeit currency.

Also in contention are Poland’s “Katyn,” which dramatizes the massacre of some 20,000 Polish officers and intellectuals by the Soviets in 1940, as well as Kazakhstan’s “Mongol” and Russia’s “12.”

The songwriting team of Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz earned three out of the available five slots for their songs “So Close,” “That’s How You Know” and “Happy Working Song” for the Walt Disney film “Enchanted.”

British Jewish writer Ronald Harwood was nominated for his adapted screenplay for “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.”

Jewish names also popped up in a number of lesser categories.

Another Israeli film, “The Band’s Visit,” had been originally picked by the Israel Film Academy to represent the country for Oscar honors, but was disqualified by the American Academy because too much of the dialogue was in English.

The picture was subsequently entered by Sony Pictures, the distributor, in the general categories of best picture, director, screenplay, actor and actress, but predictably struck out.

The Academy Awards will be held Feb. 24, with producer Gil Cates and host Jon Stewart, both Jewish, at the helm.

However, due to the prolonged strike by the film and television writers, which Hollywood’s top actors are supporting, it is anybody’s guess whether the show will come off with the traditional glamour and razzle-dazzle.

Producer Josephson’s vision for a new fairy-tale princess stars in Disney’s ‘Enchanted’


One of Barry Josephson’s first forays into the world of fairy tales was in an elementary school production of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” Although the “Men in Black” producer doesn’t remember which dwarf he played, that glimmer of the land between “once upon a time” and “happily ever after,” started him on the path to creating Disney’s latest film, “Enchanted,” opening in theaters Nov. 21.

In the grand tradition of classic Disney fairy tales, this part-animated and part-live-action musical begins in the fictional land of Andalasia, where a young maiden named Giselle (“Junebug’s” Amy Adams), sings to her woodland friends, meets a prince (“Hairspray’s” James Marsden), encounters an evil queen (Academy Award-winner Susan Sarandon) and gets pushed into a well that transports her to modern-day Times Square, where she runs into a nearly engaged/cynical divorce lawyer/single father (“Grey’s Anatomy’s” Patrick Dempsey). Well, maybe that last part is new to the genre.

“Enchanted,” asks the question ‘what if,’ which is so intriguing,” Josephson said of the script that first came to his attention in the late 1990s.

But bringing a new fairy tale to life turned out to be about as daunting as slaying a dragon. There hasn’t been a new Disney princess since Jasmine in 1992’s “Aladdin.” Josephson said he read the Grimm brothers’ stories and Disney classics in order to give a backstory to Giselle, who believes that your soul mate is the person who can finish the line in your duet.

“What was thin in the original script was: What is Giselle’s story?” he said. “She thinks she understands the world, so [director] Kevin [Lima] wanted to start her dilemma in the animated world. Then she comes to our world, where there is even more put upon her.”

“Our world” was Josephson’s dream come true.

“This movie was a fantasy come true,” said the New Yorker. “I grew up on 90th [street, between] Park and Lexington. It was the greatest thrill on the planet to film there — I really wanted to see the city sparkle.”

And sparkle it does, thanks to composers and lyricists Alan Menken (“Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast”) and Stephen Schwartz (“Pocahontas,” “Wicked”), who third collaboration created a half-dozen new songs for the film: from the sweet opening, “True Love’s Kiss” to the Central Park grand production number, “That’s How You’ll Know” to the incredibly romantic ballad, “So Close” and the new Carrie Underwood song, “Ever, Ever After,” which is already being played on Radio Disney.

However, Josephson said his favorite tune is a nod back to his “dwarf” days.

“I really love ‘The Happy Working Song,'” he said of a number that takes place in live-action as Giselle tries to clean up Dempsey’s dirty apartment (think Snow White). We won’t spoil the surprise by mentioning which creatures show up to help.

And even though Josephson said he doesn’t plan to break into song while getting ready for Chanukah, he isn’t opposed to infusing his life with a little fairy dust: “If you make a movie like this, it makes you sort of joyous,” he said.