Jewish story-lines at the Oscars: ‘Omar,’ Woody, ‘Her,’ hate docs and ‘Hustle’ vs. ‘Wolf’

For those looking for Jewish angles at tonight’s Academy Awards, here are a few:

* Two of the best picture nominees “American Hustle” and “The Wolf of Wall Street” feature Jewish scam artists as their protagonists. Both are played by non-Jewish actors — Christian Bale and Leonardo DiCaprio — facing off for Best Actor nods. “Wolf” also garnered a best supporting actor nod for shlubby Jewish former comic actor turned acclaimed dramatic actor Jonah Hill.

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* Best picture nominee “Her” (which should have been titled “Romancing the Phone” — a joke that National Review unfortunately beat me to) has a triumvirate of Jewish key players: director Spike Jonze and stars Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson.

http://www.nationalreview.com/article/368144/romancing-phone-thomas-hibbs

* Amid all the newly revived allegations of sexual abuse, Woody Allen would be a shoo-in for “Most Beleaguered New York Filmmaker” if there were such an award. Instead, he will have to settle for his nomination for best original screenplay for his depressing “Blue Jasmine” (which also got best actress and supporting actress nominations for, respectively, Cate Blanchett and Sally Hawkins).

* The best foreign picture category could make history if “Omar” wins. It would be the first Oscar statuette for a Palestinian film. “Omar” focuses on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as did the director, Hany Abu-Assad’s previous Oscar-nominated flick, “Paradise Now.” This time though, there was less controversy about the way in which the film’s country of origin would be officially described. The Oscars describes “Omar” as coming from Palestine.

* Finally, two documentary nominees — both focused on violence and hate — come from Jewish filmmakers.

“The Act of Killing,” which is nominated for best feature-length documentary, takes a novel approach to revisiting 1965 massacres  in Indonesia following a coup. Joshua Oppenheimer, who is nominated for the film with Signe Byrge Sørensen, spoke with the Forward about being descended from German Jews, the lessons of the Holocaust and his criticism of Israel’s founding.

“Facing Fear,” nominated for best short documentary, focuses on the reunion of a former skinhead and a gay man whom he once brutally beat in 1981. That film was made by Jason Cohen. The two later met at the Simone Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. San Francisco’s J. weekly had the back story.

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Daniel Treiman is a contributing writer to JTA.