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Last Updated: Sunday, 5 March 2006, 18:29 GMT
At a glance: Best picture nominees

Five films are in the running to be named best picture, the most prestigious prize at the Academy Awards.

What are they about, who stars in them and what are their chances of scooping the big one? Find out all you need to know.

BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN

What is it about?
Two young men meet and fall in love while working as sheep herders in Wyoming in 1963. At the end of the summer, the pair return to their respective homes, where they marry and have children. But as the years pass, they are unable to deny the depth of their feelings and a sporadic and tormented love affair is played out across two decades.

Who is in it?
Australian actor Heath Ledger is nominated for a best actor Oscar for his role as emotionally repressed ranch hand Ennis Del Mar. Jake Gyllenhaal, of Donnie Darko fame, plays his lover Jack Twist.

What is its Oscar form?
Rave reviews and a slew of awards have put Brokeback Mountain in pole position to win this year's best film Oscar. After picking up the prestigious Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival last year, it was named best picture at both the Golden Globes and the Bafta Awards.

How do the critics think it will fare?
"There's been a late surge for Crash but I hope Brokeback Mountain will hang on in there. It's pretty certain to win adapted screenplay, and Ang Lee is incredibly likely to win best director. Heath Ledger's performance is the one I've enjoyed most in a long time but I don't think he'll beat Philip Seymour Hoffman; similarly, Jake Gyllenhaal will be very lucky to win best supporting actor."
Charles Gant, Heat

"It's going to win best director for sure; it will probably win best picture too, though there's less certainty there. I think all three of its nominated actors have a very good chance; Heath Ledger has the best chance, but Jake Gyllenhaal's Bafta win boosts his chances in his category and supporting actress is always pretty open. I think it'll definitely win cinematography and adapted screenplay as well."
Matt Mueller, Total Film

What is it about?
George Clooney's second directorial outing is a hymn to the glory days of US television broadcasting. It centres on acclaimed broadcaster Edward R Murrow and chronicles his on-air conflict with Senator Joseph McCarthy, who spearheaded the communist 'witch-hunts' in 1950s America.

Who is in it?
Best actor nominee David Strathairn stars as Ed Murrow, leading an ensemble cast which includes George Clooney, Robert Downey Jr and Patricia Clarkson.

What is its Oscar form?
After an acclaimed debut at the Venice Film Festival, Good Night, and Good Luck was named best film by the National Board of Review earlier this month. But it did not win any Golden Globe or Bafta Awards despite a string of nominations.

How do the critics think it will fare?
"It's a beautifully made movie so it might win in one of the technical categories, but I think George Clooney will miss out; I'd like him to win best original screenplay but I don't think he will. It's a great movie that's been extremely well reviewed, and it has a fantastic political message. But I don't think it has the mass appeal that Brokeback Mountain has; it's more of a cerebral and intellectual film that appeals to the head, not the heart."
Dee Pilgrim, Now

"Good Night and Good Luck has lots of nominations at the Baftas and didn't win anything, and it's quite possible that story will be repeated at the Oscars. It's in very tight races in all its categories and it would be extremely unlikely to win best picture, director or screenplay. I wouldn't give it awards for anything, to be honest; it runs a close second in a lot of categories but doesn't quite deserve to win in any of them."
Charles Gant, Heat

What is it about?
Munich is a fictional retelling of events following the 1972 Olympics in Munich, which saw 11 Israeli athletes murdered by Palestinian militants. An Israeli patriot leads an undercover mission to kill 11 men believed to have had a hand in the botched hostage attempt in Munich. The action follows the five hitmen as they become increasingly unsettled by the death and havoc that their mission wreaks.

Who is in it?
Hulk star Eric Bana leads a cast including Geoffrey Rush, Bond star Daniel Craig, Mathieu Kassovitz and Ciaran Hinds. Steven Spielberg directs.

What is its Oscar form?
Critics in Washington DC and Kansas City both awarded Munich the best film award. Named as one of the American Film Institute's 10 outstanding films of the year, critics have called it Spielberg's most politically important work to date.

How do the critics think it will fare?
"It's one of Spielberg's biggest risks as a director, and on any other year he might be recognised for that; however, I don't really think it stands a chance. There was some concern over whether it would be nominated at all because it arrived so late; it didn't really show up in any awards before the Oscars. Like Good Night and Good Luck it will probably go home empty-handed - unless it wins best score, which would really be its consolation prize."
Olly Richards, Empire

"I don't rate it myself; it was far too long and not one of Steven Spielberg's best. It was beautifully acted but I just couldn't engage with it; I found it very cold. Steven's been the Academy's darling for a number of years now so maybe it's someone else's turn to shine. It might pick up awards for editing and music, but I don't think it will get any of the major prizes its up for."
Dee Pilgrim, Now

What is it about?
The film focuses on American author Truman Capote and his unorthodox relationship with convicted murderers Perry Smith and Dick Hickock whose crime was the subject of Capote's best-selling book In Cold Blood. A study of the mixed motives that drive modern-day journalism.

Who is in it?
Philip Seymour Hoffman stars as Truman Capote, in a role that has reaped awards. Also starring Catherine Keener and Chris Cooper.

What is its Oscar form?
Awarded the best film prize of 2005 by the National Society of Film Critics. But most of its awards - including a Bafta and a Golden Globe - have gone to Hoffman, who is favourite to win the Oscar for best actor.

How do the critics think it will fare?
"Philip Seymour Hoffman is favourite to win best actor; Heath Ledger is really his only competition and I'd quite like him to take it, but Hoffman was brilliant in the film and it certainly won't be a travesty if he wins. It's enough for Bennett Miller to be nominated as best director; it shows he's been accepted by the establishment as a talented film-maker. As for Catherine Keener, I think she was better in The 40-Year-Old Virgin."
Olly Richards, Empire

"Everyone's saying Philip Seymour Hoffman is a shoo-in but I don't think he is; it's a three-way race between him, Heath Ledger and Joaquin Phoenix and I wouldn't be surprised to see any one of those three win. He's definitely the frontrunner though; it's his to lose I guess. Catherine Keener's great in the film - she's kind of its heart and soul - but I don't think it's a big enough performance to challenge Rachel Weisz or Michelle Williams."
Matt Mueller, Total Film

CRASH

What is it about?
A group of disparate individuals living in Los Angeles are forced to recognise their essential similarities, in Paul Haggis' ensemble drama about racial intolerance in modern-day America. What follows is 48 hours in the big city amid public violence and bigotry, and private tragedy.

Who's in it?
The ensemble cast includes Thandie Newton and Don Cheadle, alongside Sandra Bullock, Ryan Phillippe and Oscar nominee Matt Dillon.

What is its Oscar form?
Crash has emerged as the most likely film to defeat Brokeback Mountain, with late support thought to have swung its way and bookmakers slashing their odds. It was named one of the year's 10 best films by the American Film Institute.

How do the critics think it will fare?
"I think it will get best original screenplay because they'll want to give it something; because it's been a commercial success and everyone likes it they'll be keen to give it some kind of recognition. People are saying it's an outside bet for best picture but I think that's very unlikely; it's very much second favourite to Brokeback Mountain. Matt Dillon's chances aren't bad as supporting actor though - he was the stand-out in a great ensemble cast."
Olly Richards, Empire

"I think Matt Dillon will win supporting actor: it's a very good performance and I think he deserves it. Crash is a difficult movie that shows Hollywood is maturing and growing up; that said, I don't think it will beat Brokeback Mountain to the best picture Oscar. Because of its edgy subject matter a lot of people won't see it for the good film it is; some people might just take total offence at it, which I think is a great shame as it's a very good film that has a lot of pertinent things to say."
Dee Pilgrim, Now




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