The uplifting musical La La Land danced off with 14 Oscar nominations, tying the records of All About Eve and Titanic, thanks in part to two former Harvard roommates, Justin Hurwitz, 31, and Damien Chazelle, 32.
Two noted performers were nominated in the best actress race, Jerusalem native Natalie Portman for her role as former First Lady Jackie Kennedy in Jackie, and veteran French star Isabelle Huppert in the French film Elle.
Huppert, who plays the role of a successful businesswoman who plots an elaborate revenge on the home intruder who raped her, is the daughter of a Jewish father and a Catholic mother. Her parents were married while France was under Nazi occupation, with the father hiding his Jewish roots.
In the best actor category, a nod went to British actor Andrew Garfield, whose paternal grandparents were Jewish emigrants from eastern Europe to London. He stars in Hacksaw Ridge, the story of the only conscientious objector ever awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Somewhat ironically, the movie also won a best director nomination for Mel Gibson, still living down his antisemitic outbursts of past years. However, actor and director got along well, with Garfield declaring in a TV interview, “I am proud to be Jewish.”
But the title of happiest nominees is likely to have gone to the young artists behind the phenomenal success of La La Land.
Hurwitz received nods for best musical score and best original song (with Benji Pasek’s lilting lyrics) and Chazelle in the best director and screenplay categories.
Chazelle told the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles last year that his parents, although Catholic, were dissatisfied with their son’s education at a church Sunday school and enrolled him in the Hebrew school of a Liberal synagogue.
Over the next four years, Chazelle recalled: “I had that period of my life where I was very, very into Hebrew and the Old Testament, and then I went with my class to Israel when we were in the sixth grade. I don’t think they even knew I wasn’t Jewish; I was, like, ‘passing.’”
The Danish movie Land of Mine won a best foreign-language film nomination. Set at the end of World War II in Europe, Land of Mine focuses on a group of teenage German prisoners of war who are assigned by the Danish military to clear the country’s beaches of land mines, frequently at the loss of their lives.