Hollywood Presents a Serious Side in Oscar Hopefuls

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Welcome to THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English. I'm Barbara Klein.

And I'm Steve Ember. Today, we tell about the seventy-eighth Academy Awards ceremony which takes place next Sunday in Los Angeles, California. For people who make movies and for people who love to watch them, it is the most exciting event of the year.


On March fifth, actors, directors, producers and other filmmakers will gather in Hollywood, the center of the American film industry. They will receive Academy Awards for the best acting, directing, writing, editing, music and other work on movies released last year.

The winners will receive an award called an Oscar. This statue is shaped like a man. It is made of several metals covered with gold. The Oscar is only about thirty-four centimeters tall. It weighs less than four kilograms. But the award can be priceless to the person who receives it.

Winning an Oscar can mean becoming much more famous. It can mean getting offers to work in the best movies. It also can mean earning much more money.

Five films are nominated for best motion picture. They are "Brokeback Mountain," "Good Night, and Good Luck,"  "Crash," "Capote" and "Munich."  The directors of these movies were also nominated for best director.

These five films are different from the ones that are often nominated for best picture. They are all realistic films for adults that deal with serious political or social issues. Four of the movies were mainly produced outside the major Hollywood movie studio system. They cost far less money to produce than most major Hollywood movies.

"Brokeback Mountain" received eight nominations, the most of any movie this year. They include best director for Ang Lee and nominations for two actors and one actress in the film.

"Brokeback Mountain" is the story of two young cowboys in the western state of Wyoming. They fall in love during the nineteen sixties. They marry young women and have children. But the two men continue their secret relationship for twenty years.

Two of the other films received six nominations each. "Good Night, and Good Luck" is about the television newsman Edward R. Murrow in the nineteen fifties. His broadcasts opposed the powerful Senator Joseph McCarthy.

George Clooney directed "Good Night, and Good Luck." He also wrote the screenplay with Grant Heslov. And Clooney acts in the movie. Clooney was also nominated as best actor in a supporting role in another movie, "Syriana."  He plays a secret United States government agent in the Middle East.

The film "Crash" also received six nominations. Paul Haggis wrote and directed the movie. "Crash" is about racial tensions among a group of people in Los Angeles. These strangers meet during thirty-six hours and are involved in car crashes and crimes.

Bennett Miller directed "Capote," another nominee for best picture. It is a true story about the writer Truman Capote. It tells about his relationship with two men sentenced to be executed for killing a family in a small town in Kansas. Capote wrote about the killings in his famous book, "In Cold Blood."

The last nominee for best picture is "Munich," directed by Steven Spielberg. It is also based on true events. "Munich" deals with the killing of eleven Israeli athletes and coaches by Palestinian terrorists. That happened at the Olympic Games in Munich, Germany, in nineteen seventy-two. The movie is about Israeli agents and their efforts to find and kill the men responsible for the deaths.


Five men were nominated for the best performance by an actor in a leading role.  Three of them play famous American men during the nineteen fifties and sixties. The three actors changed their appearances and voices to look and sound like the real people.

David Strathairn plays Edward R. Murrow in "Good Night, and Good Luck."  Philip Seymour Hoffman plays Truman Capote in "Capote."  And Joaquin Phoenix plays the famous country singer Johnny Cash in "Walk the Line."

Heath Ledger was nominated for his role as one of the gay cowboys in "Brokeback Mountain."

And Terrence Howard was nominated for his role in the movie "Hustle and Flow."  He plays a man who tries to become a rap music singer in Memphis, Tennessee.

Five women received nominations for best performance by an actress in a leading role. Judy Dench plays a women who owns a musical theater in London during World War Two. Her movie is called "Missus Henderson Presents."

Keira Knightley plays a young woman in a family of five sisters who seek husbands in nineteenth-century England. The movie is based on the book called "Pride and Prejudice."

Reese Witherspoon plays, and sings the songs of, the famous country music singer June Carter Cash in "Walk the Line."

Charlize Theron was nominated for the movie "North Country." She plays a woman who works in a mine. She takes legal action against the male workers who mistreat her.

And, in the most unusual role, Felicity Huffman was nominated for "Transamerica."  She plays a man about to have an operation to become a woman. The man discovers for the first time that he has a teenage son.


Five movies were nominated for best documentary, a movie showing real people and events. "Darwin's Nightmare" is about the difficult life for the poor people of Tanzania. The movie shows how valuable fish from the country's waters are sent to rich countries while the people of Tanzania are left hungry.

"March of the Penguins" is a French movie about the struggle for survival of emperor penguins in Antarctica. "Murderball" is about disabled American athletes who compete in specially designed wheelchairs in a sport called Quad Rugby.

Another nominee for best documentary is "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room." It is about the top officials of the formerly powerful energy-trading company. The failure of the company affected the lives of its employees and American business. Two of those Enron officials are currently on trial on charges of plotting to cheat investors.

"Street Fight" is the fifth nominee. It is about a recent election for mayor in Newark, New Jersey. The film raises hard questions about American politics, democracy and race.

More than twenty Academy Awards will be presented on Sunday. The people who designed the best costumes, makeup and special effects will receive awards. So will the people who wrote the best screenplays and did the best film and sound editing.

Songs from "Crash," "Hustle and Flow" and "Transamerica" are nominated as best original song. Musical scores from five other movies are nominated for best original score.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presents the Oscars each year. Almost six thousand people who work in the movie industry belong to the organization.

Members of the Academy begin the process of choosing award winners. These people work in thirteen different professions. They nominate candidates for Academy Awards.

The members choose among people doing the same kind of work. For example, actors nominate actors. Directors nominate directors. Designers nominate designers.

All Academy members vote to choose the final winners.

The awards are presented in the Kodak Theater in Hollywood. Important people in the movie industry attend the Academy Awards ceremony. Crowds of people wait outside the theater. They watch the famous movie stars as they arrive for the ceremony.

The women wear beautiful dresses and costly jewelry provided by famous designers. Camera lights flash. The actors and actresses smile for the photographers and television cameras.

During the Academy Awards ceremony, famous actors and actresses announce the names of the nominees and the winners. Then the winners go up onto the stage to receive their Oscars. Their big moment has arrived. They thank all the people who helped them win the award.

Hundreds of millions of people in the United States and around the world will watch the Academy Awards show on television Sunday night. The American film industry will honor the best movies, actors and technicians. These winners will go home with a golden Oscar.


Our program was written by Shelley Gollust. It was produced by Caty Weaver. I'm Barbara Klein. And I'm Steve Ember. Join us again next week for THIS IS AMERICA, in VOA Special English.