And The Nominees Are…

An Israeli film on the first Lebanon War and an American-German movie recalling World War II crimes entered the final lap of the Oscar race when the Academy Award nominations were announced Thursday morning.

“Waltz with Bashir” by Israeli director Ari Folman was picked among the five finalists for best foreign-language film, along with entries from Austria, France, Germany and Japan.

With a Golden Globe win and best picture of 2008 pick by the National Society of Film Critics already on its resume, “Waltz” is favored to take home Israel’s first-ever Oscar.

The edgy film combines state-of-the-art animation, an anti-war theme and a psychoanalytical approach in portraying the struggle of a traumatized Israeli soldier trying to recover the memories of his 1980s combat experiences in Lebanon.

The agonies of a different war dominate “The Reader,” which starts with a teenage boy’s affair with an older woman and ends with the latter convicted as an SS concentration camp guard during World War II.

Unexpectedly, “The Reader” garnered five nominations, indicating the continuing fascination by filmmakers (and their publics) with Holocaust-related themes. The nominations are in the prestige categories of best picture, director (Stephen Daldry) and actress (Kate Winslet), as well as cinematography and adapted screenplay.

One competitor to the Israeli entry in the foreign-language picture category is Germany’s “The Baader-Meinhof Complex.” The docudrama looks back to the 1960s and ‘70s, when the West German “Red Army Faction” went on a murderous rampage against some of its leading countrymen as alleged “tools of American and Israeli imperialists.”

Britain’s Mike Leigh was nominated in the best screenplay category for his film, Happy-go-Lucky, while Sam Mendes got a nod for costume design for his film Revolutionary Road.

Overall, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” topped the field with 13 nominations.

The Academy Award ceremonies will be held Feb. 22 at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood.