It’s enough to make John Wayne come back and … wait a minute, Pilgrim. They’re only sheepherders, not cowboys. Keep your shirt on – please.

OK, so “Brokeback Mountain,” the Wyoming sheepherder epic filmed in politically correct Canada (a tad less so since the election), galloped away with – count ’em – eight Oscar nominations, including all the biggies.

Anyone acting even a bit surprised should get an Academy Award.

It wasn’t just “Brokeback.” Another film, “Capote,” about the late homosexual writer Truman Capote, garnered five major nominations – Best Picture, Director (Bennett Miller), Actor (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), Supporting Actress (Catherine Keener) and Adapted Screenplay.

“Transamerica,” the story of a man who thinks he’s a woman, managed to get one major nomination – Best Actress (Felicity Huffman of “Desperate Housewives” notability, who plays the guy in the dress), plus Original Song (“Travelin’ Thru”).

By contrast, “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” based on the C.S. Lewis classic, was shut out of the major categories.

All in all, with a few exceptions, including a Best Animated Feature nomination for “Wallace and Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit,” Hollywood continued its tradition of rewarding largely left-wing projects, actors and directors, particularly those with a lavender hue.

To be fair, the Johnny Cash biopic “Walk the Line,” which just crossed the $100 million mark at the box office, did well, snagging nominations for Best Actor (Joaquin Phoenix) Actress (Reese Witherspoon), Editing, Costume Design, and Sound Mixing. One wonders how the film would have fared had it not virtually ignored the immense role that Christianity played in Cash’s life-saving turnaround. But let’s not quibble. At least they didn’t make Cash out to be a fey hustler at some point in his life.

The hyper-hyped film of the year, “Brokeback” received nominations for Best Picture, Director (Ang Lee), Actor (Heath Ledger), Supporting Actor (Jake Gyllenhaal), Supporting Actress (Michelle Williams), Cinematography, Adapted Screenplay, and Music. What a rip-off. With all the buzz, it should have gotten at least 13 or 14.

“Brokeback” was billed in some newspaper ads as “a good old-fashioned love story,” which should have triggered an advertising fraud inquiry by the Federal Trade Commission.

Whatever its merits, this flick is not an “old-fashioned love story,” in which, as most people understand it, the guy meets the girl, sparks fly, he marries her and they live happily ever after. The hero in such a flick does not – and this apparently bears repeating – does not lust after his good buddy. Not even a sly glance. That would get him a rather rude response, not a slew of Oscar nominations.

Now let’s look at the rest of the field. “Narnia,” which has grossed $300 million, but was largely ignored by critics, was nominated in three technical categories: Visual Effects, Make-Up and Sound Editing.

“Crash,” which examines racism in Los Angeles, particularly among the cops, got six nominations, including Best Picture and Director, Best Supporting Actor (Matt Dillon), Best Editing and a couple of others. Maybe it’s actually good.

Based on synopses, nearly all the major films nominated could be roughly summed up this way: “I’m writing this screenplay because I hate my life, America, or my father. Or all three. Plus, I have some weird feelings. Life is ironic and complex, when it doesn’t outright stink.”

Steven Spielberg did pretty well with “Munich,” getting Best Picture, Best Director and Best Editing nominations, plus two others. I haven’t seen it, but I understand that by the end of the movie, you’re not sure whether the terrorists who killed innocent people at the ’72 Olympics really ought to get theirs. Perhaps a better spent evening would be to rent “Miracle” and watch the American boys whup the Ruskies in ice hockey.

But the real story this week is “Brokeback,” which has benefited from the most ridiculously outsized media push this side of “Desperate Housewives,” the show that 270 million Americans aren’t watching, but they act as if we all are.

According to the British Broadcasting Corporation, prominent bookmakers “have made “Brokeback Mountain” their hottest favorite in history to win Best Film, at odds of 1/8. Director Lee is virtually unbeatable with even shorter odds of 1/20.

“Lee said of his film on Tuesday: ‘I thought it was a small work of love. I never thought it would play like this,'” the BBC reported with a straight face.

“Good Night and Good Luck,” a politically correct tribute to the late CBS pioneer newsman Edward R. Murrow, was given a Best Director nomination (to George Clooney, who also was nominated for Best Screenplay for “Good Night” and Best Supporting Actor in the anti-big business thriller “Syriana”). We guess that Clooney, who has been apoplectic since Bush was re-elected, won’t be leaving the country until at least March 5, when the Oscars are presented. Wait. That was one of the Baldwins. Or one of the bald Winns. Or Ed Wynn. It doesn’t matter.

No wonder the monkeyplexes are increasingly empty. Who wants to pay nearly 10 bucks to see a guy work out his kinks on celluloid? Maybe for Shakespeare, yes. His worst neuroses are more interesting than all the brainstorms that George Clooney ever had or ever will have.

On the plus side, “Pride and Prejudice,” the remake of Jane Austen’s classic, garnered a Best Actress nomination for Keira Knightley, as well as Art Direction, Costume Design and Original Score.

Crowd-pleasers “Cinderella Man,” “Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith” (the largest- grossing film of the year), grabbed only four nominations between them. “Cinderella Man” got three – Supporting Actor Paul Giamatti, Editing and Makeup. Lead actor Russell Crowe took it on the chin. The lushly produced “Memoirs of a Geisha” managed six technical nominations, including Cinematography and Art Direction.

“Star Wars” got the nod only for Makeup. Yup. That’s it. Makeup. George Lucas is just going to have to be satisfied with his $400 million paycheck, again. He’s probably sitting right now in front of his Olympic-sized pool in Mendocino, California, surrounded by animatronic Ewoks, wondering how he got beat out for Best Costume Design, when even “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” got one (and this, despite the Oompa-Loompas’ fall from sartorial splendor from the original). Well, Lucas can take some solace knowing that “March of the Penguins,” nominated for Best Documentary, also failed in the Best Costume category, even though the penguins looked great.

“King Kong” got Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Visual Effects and Art Direction. Not bad, but Peter Jackson still must wish that he had instead built a giant, deranged Hobbit and unleashed him on Christchurch or some other New Zealand megalopolis.

“Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” another mega-hit, fared even worse than “Narnia” and about as well as “Star Wars,” getting only one nomination for Art Direction. You’d think Harry could conjure up something more than that. He’s promoting witchcraft, something that you’d think Hollywood would really sink its teeth into. I’m beginning to think the Wicca lobby is just not paying attention to what the Happy People are accomplishing in Tinseltown.

Well, on to the actual awards. Jon Stewart of Comedy Central’s left-leaning “The Daily Show” will be the emcee. As sharp-tongued as Stewart is, we don’t think Billy Crystal is losing any sleep over this. He’s probably taking bets as to how many direct and indirect Bush bashings the “actorvists” will sling this year.

Despite the ever- growing gap between Hollywood and the rest of us, they remain upbeat on Sunset Boulevard, and apparently clueless.

“The Academy basically reflects the mood of the country,” Gil Cates, producer of the Oscar show, was quoted on Bloomberg.com. “It really deals with what’s happening politically and what’s happening in personal relationships.”

Really? I don’t know about you, but apparently we’re all supposed to brush up on sheepherding. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.


Robert Knight is director of the Culture & Family Institute, an affiliate of Concerned Women for America.

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