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Box office clearly was not the standard for choosing this year's nine nominees for the Best Picture Oscar. Only one has topped $100 million in revenue. Are Academy members focused on quality or are they out of touch with the audience?  Also, protests against Koran burning continue in Afghanistan despite a US apology. On Reporter's Notebook, could A Separation -- nominated for best foreign picture – help change American perceptions of Iran?

Banner image: Producer Michael B. Seligman speaks onstage during the 84th Academy Awards announcement held at AMPAS' Samuel Goldwyn Theater on January 24, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Making News Koran-burning Protests Continue in Afghanistan despite US Apology 7 MIN, 36 SEC

Newt Gingrich has made the massive Afghan protest over the burning of the Koran an issue in his presidential campaign by attacking President Obama for expressing his "deep regret" to President Karzai. Referring to the shooting of two American soldiers by an Afghan soldier — apparently over the burnings, Gingrich insisted that "the Afghan government owes the families of those soldiers an apology." Meanwhile, Commanding General George Allen tried to restrain angry American soldiers, "These are the moments you gut through the pain and you gut through the anger and remember why we’re here." Dion Nissenbaum is correspondent in Kabul for the Wall Street Journal.

Dion Nissenbaum, Wall Street Journal (@DionNissenbaum)

Main Topic Those Old Time Oscars 34 MIN, 9 SEC

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is playing up nostalgia in its ads for Sunday's Oscar Awards, "celebrate the movies in all of us." Some call that an excuse for a weak field of pictures chosen by mostly aging white men, out of touch with contemporary audiences. The identity of the 5765 voting members of AMPAS has been a carefully guarded secret, but extensive research by the Los Angeles Times revealed that 94 percent are Caucasian; 77 percent are male; and the median age is 62. But films about the past — and the way movies used to be made — may also reflect real anxiety in a film industry besieged by technical change in the digital age. Can Billy Crystal jack up this year's TV ratings?  After all the preliminaries, are there any surprises left?

Arnold Schwartzman, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
Scott Timberg, freelance journalist (@TheMisreadCity)
Ava DuVernay, Sundance Award-winning filmmaker (@AVAETC)


Simon Reynolds

Reporter's Notebook Can 'A Separation' Help Close the US-Iran Divide? 9 MIN, 15 SEC

A Separation is nominated for Best Foreign Language Picture and for Best Screenplay, even though it was written in Farsi. The Iranian film is not about politics or war, but about two families working out problems common to people in all parts of the world. When the film won the Golden Globe as best foreign picture, director Asghar Farhadi offered a simple message. Rather than thanking his crew or family, he acknowledged his fellow Iranians, "I think they are a truly peace-loving people." Can a film do anything to change America’s longstanding animus toward its country of origin?


Philip Kennicott, Washington Post (@PhilipKennicott)
Azar Nafisi, Johns Hopkins University (@azarnafisi)

A Separation

Asghar Farhadi

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