Joaquin Phoenix, Walk the Line
Credit: Walk the Line: Suzanne Tenner

Oscars 2006: Early word on the Best Picture race

Several films at the top of Oscar watchers’ lists aren’t even completed yet: Munich, Steven Spielberg’s examination of the aftermath of the 1972 Olympics massacre, only finished shooting in September, while the ensemble drama Syriana, a tough look at the oil business, just wrapped in the edit suite. Although festival prizewinners Brokeback Mountain and Good Night, and Good Luck take place decades ago, their themes resonate especially strongly in today’s political climate, and the charged dramas Jarhead and The Constant Gardener are also sure to have voters talking…and disagreeing. Two visually oriented directors whose last films made the shortlist will try to accomplish that feat again: Rob Marshall (Chicago) brings the popular novel Memoirs of a Geisha to the screen, while Terrence Malick (The Thin Red Line) tackles the tale of Pocahontas in The New World. Meanwhile, festival darlings Walk the Line (pictured), Capote, A History of Violence, and The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada will try to ride their solid buzz through the winter. Rent and The Producers aim to become the first musical to land in this category since Chicago, while lighter fare like Pride & Prejudice and Mrs. Henderson Presents may appeal to voters looking for a break from all the seriousness. Woody Allen’s Match Point is said to be his return to form, while fantasies like King Kong and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe will hope to follow The Lord of the Rings‘ lead. And campaigners for the summer entries Crash and Cinderella Man will work overtime to remind voters that the films were in fact released in 2005.