NYU alumni seek to win big at 2013 Academy Awards

January 28, 2013

NYU has an incredibly rich lineage of Academy Award winners, including – but certainly not limited to – Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese and Angelina Jolie. With the 85th Academy Awards coming up Feb. 24, this exclusive group of NYU alumni may welcome a few more into its ranks, with nominees Ang Lee, Lucy Alibar, Tony Kushner and Philip Seymour Hoffman, all graduates of Tisch School of the Arts.

“What is gratifying is that these extraordinary artists are such an integral part of the Tisch School community,” Tisch dean Mary Schmidt Campbell said.

Campbell noted that both Lee and Kushner screened their films, “Life of Pi” and “Lincoln,” respectively, for Tisch students, and that Hoffman often returns to teach.

“One thing I’ve always thought is that Tisch doesn’t just train actors or writers or directors, Tisch trains artists,” Tisch acting professor Laurence Maslon said. “Each of these folks is not just a leader in his [or] her respective fields, but an industry leader in terms of vision, commitment and bringing artistry forward into American culture.”

Lee has already won an Oscar for Best Director for “Brokeback Mountain” in 2006, but in “Life of Pi” Lee uses his understanding of humanity and human nature to craft a meticulous rendition of a story once deemed unfilmable. Because of his efforts, Lee has once again found himself in the Best Director and Best Picture categories.

Lucy Alibar and Tony Kushner compete against each other in the category for Best Adapted Screenplay. Alibar wrote “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” finding rare awards success with an independent film. Her words capture the life of young Hushpuppy and her Louisiana bayou home, the Bathtub. Kushner, meanwhile, tackles the tale of Abraham Lincoln in Steven Spielberg’s biopic “Lincoln.” Kushner’s dense, lushly detailed and historically prescient writing keeps the dialogue-dense film engaging.

Tisch’s only acting nomination this year is with Hoffman, who previously won Best Actor in 2006 for his role in “Capote.” Now nominated for Best Supporting Actor for “The Master,” Hoffman’s larger-than-life personality and intelligence blend into a likable but ultimately antagonistic character as the leader of The Cause, a group reminiscent of Scientology.

While it is impossible to know whether these alumni will take home the gold, there is perhaps one surefire winner. According to most entertainment pundits, Anne Hathaway is poised to win Best Supporting Actress for her performance in “Les Misérables” as the tragic single mother Fantine. Hathaway, however, hails not from Tisch but from the Gallatin School of Individualized Study.

In what may be one of the most unpredictable Academy Awards in recent memory, NYU students should take pride in having their alma mater so widely represented.

“Their work is the gold standard and inspires all of us,” Campbell said.

A version of this article appeared in the Jan. 28 print edition. Joseph Ehrman-Dupre is a  contributing writer. Email him at film@nyunews.com.

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