Few Academy Awards aficionados would think a movie about hobbits and wizards could take the Best Picture prize, but "Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring" nonetheless became the official frontrunner by earning 13 Oscar nominations.
"Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring" received nominations for best picture, director (Peter Jackson), supporting actor (Ian McKellen) and adapted screenplay (Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and Jackson) plus mentions in most of the technical categories. The critical/commercial smash adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkeins classic novel fell one nomination shy of the record 14 shared by "Titanic" (1997) and "All About Eve" (1950).
Both of those films won the Best Picture Oscar, as has every movie that led the nominations pack since "The Silence of the Lambs" upset "Bugsy" in 1991. On the flip side, a fantasy epic has never won the top prize.
"A Beautiful Mind" and "Moulin Rouge" were next in line with eight nominations each. The nods for "A Beautiful Mind" include best picture, director (Ron Howard with his first nomination after being bypassed for "Apollo 13"), actor (Russell Crowe), supporting actress (Jennifer Connelly) and adapted screenplay (Akiva Goldsman).
This uplifting, somewhat fictionalized portrait of schizophrenic Nobel Prize winner John Nash has been widely considered the favorite in many of those categories, and its relative lack of technical nominations isnt surprising. Then again, the best picture winner usually merits a cinematography nomination, which "A Beautiful Mind" didnt receive.
"Moulin Rouge" received nominations for best picture, actress (Nicole Kidman) and cinematography but not in one of the biggest surprises for director Baz Luhrmann, whose vision infuses every frame of this wildly colored, lavishly designed, frenetically paced musical. "Moulin Rouge" became the first live-action musical best picture nominee since "All That Jazz" (1979). (The animated "Beauty and the Beast" was nominated in 1991.)
The remaining two best picture nominees are "Gosford Park" (seven nominations) and "In the Bedroom"(five nominations). "Gosford Park," a seriocomic murder mystery set at an English country estate in the early 1930s, earned Robert Altman his fifth best director nomination as well as nods for best supporting actress (Helen Mirren and Maggie Smith) and original screenplay (Julian Fellowes).
The ensemble-based "Gosford Park" is considered a favorite by actors, who make up the largest branch of the 5,739-member Academy. In the nominations balloting, each branch votes in its own category, and everyone votes for best picture.
Actors also recognized "In the Bedroom," Todd Fields dark drama of grief and revenge, with nominations for actress Sissy Spacek (the presumed frontrunner), actor Tom Wilkinson and supporting actress Marisa Tomei (her first nomination since winning the supporting actress Oscar for 1992s "My Cousin Vinny"). The movie also received a best adapted screenplay nomination for Rob Festinger and Field.
"In the Bedroom" marks the 10th consecutive year that Miramax has scored at least one Best Picture nominee. The New York-based company demonstrated its Oscar acumen in other categories as well:
Jean-Pierre Jeunets French confection "Amelie" collected five nominations: best foreign-language film, original screenplay (Guillaume Laurant and Jeunet), cinematography, art direction and sound. "Iris," the biography of Alzheimers-stricken British novelist Iris Murdoch, was nominated for best actress (Judi Dench), supporting actor (Jim Broadbent) and supporting actress (Kate Winslet).
Plus, in a break from the Academys usually snubbing of comic performances, Renee Zellweger received her first Oscar nomination as the lead actress of Miramaxs "Bridget Jones's Diary."
Other established stars gaining their first Oscar recognition include Will Smith (best actor, "Ali" ) and Halle Berry (best actress, "Monster's Ball"). With Denzel Washington a best actor nominee for "Training Day," three black actors will contend for lead acting prizes for the first time since Paul Winfield and Cicely Tyson were nominated for "Sounder" and Diana Ross was up for "Lady Sings the Blues" in 1972.
Kidman and Wilkinson also are first-time nominees, as are Connelly, Broadbent and Ethan Hawke (best supporting actor, "Training Day"). Sean Penn received his third best actor nomination for his portrayal of a retarded father in "I Am Sam."
In the new best animated feature film category, the Academy came up with three nominees and two viable contenders: DreamWorks "Shrek" and Disney/Pixars "Monsters, Inc." (expect those studios fierce rivalry to heat up further) plus Paramount/Nickelodeons "Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius," which has no chance. All three are computer-animated.
Shut out were Disneys conventionally animated "Atlantis: The Lost Empire" and Richard Linklaters highly innovative, evocative "Waking Life," in which live action was digitally animated and hand-painted.
Who and what else got overlooked?
The timely war themes of "Black Hawk Down" made it a possible best picture contender, but voters wound up preferring stories in which they could tell the characters apart. Although Billy Bob Thornton had a terrific year, Academy members may have divided their votes among his performances in "Monster's Ball," "The Man Who Wasnt There" and "Bandits," leaving him empty-handed.
Same goes for Cate Blanchett, who appeared in four movies last year ("Charlotte Gray," "Bandits," "Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring," "The Shipping News"). Meanwhile, Gene Hackman of "The Royal Tenenbaums" and Naomi Watts of "Mulholland Drive" received pre-Oscars recognition in both the lead and supporting categories and may have fallen through the cracks here.
Tilda Swinton also was considered a best actress contender for "The Deep End," which may have been too "small" a movie and subtle a performance for the mainstream-minded Academy.
The nominations were announced Feb. 12 at the Academys Beverly Hills headquarters. ABC will telecast the awards on March 24.
The complete list of nominees:
Best picture: "A Beautiful Mind," "Gosford Park," "In the Bedroom," "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring," "Moulin Rouge."
Actor: Russell Crowe, "A Beautiful Mind"; Sean Penn, "I Am Sam"; Will Smith, "Ali"; Denzel Washington, "Training Day"; Tom Wilkinson, "In the Bedroom."
Actress: Halle Berry, "Monster's Ball"; Judi Dench, "Iris"; Nicole Kidman, "Moulin Rouge"; Sissy Spacek, "In the Bedroom"; Renee Zellweger, "Bridget Jones's Diary."
Supporting actress: Jennifer Connelly, "A Beautiful Mind"; Helen Mirren, "Gosford Park"; Maggie Smith, "Gosford Park"; Marisa Tomei, "In the Bedroom"; Kate Winslet, "Iris."
Director: Ron Howard, "A Beautiful Mind"; Ridley Scott, "Black Hawk Down"; Robert Altman, "Gosford Park"; Peter Jackson, "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring"; David Lynch, "Mulholland Drive."
Animated film: "Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius"; "Monsters, Inc."; "Shrek."
Foreign film: "Amelie," France; "Elling," Norway; "Lagaan," India; "No Man's Land," Bosnia and Herzegovina; "Son of the Bride," Argentina.
Screenplay (written based on material previously produced or published): Akiva Goldsman, "A Beautiful Mind"; Daniel Clowes and Terry Zwigoff, "Ghost World"; Rob Festinger and Todd Field, "In the Bedroom"; Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring"; Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio and Joe Stillman and Roger S.H. Schulman, "Shrek."
Screenplay (written directly for the screen): Guillaume Laurant and Jean-Pierre Jeunet, "Amelie"; Julian Fellowes, "Gosford Park"; Christopher Nolan and Jonathan Nolan, "Memento"; Milo Addica and Will Rokos, "Monster's Ball"; Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson, "The Royal Tenenbaums."
Art Direction: "Amelie," "Gosford Park," "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring," "Moulin Rouge."
Cinematography: "Amelie," "Black Hawk Down," "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring," "The Man Who Wasn't There," "Moulin Rouge."
Sound: "Amelie," "Black Hawk Down," "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring," "Moulin Rouge," "Pearl Harbor."
Sound editing: "Monsters, Inc.," "Pearl Harbor."
Original score: "A.I. Artificial Intelligence," John Williams; "A Beautiful Mind," James Horner; "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," John Williams; "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring," Howard Shore; "Monsters, Inc.," Randy Newman.
Original song: "If I Didn't Have You" from "Monsters, Inc.," Randy Newman; "May It Be" from "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring," Enya, Nicky Ryan and Roma Ryan; "There You'll Be" from "Pearl Harbor," Diane Warren; "Until" from "Kate & Leopold," Sting; "Vanilla Sky" from "Vanilla Sky," Paul McCartney.
Costume: "The Affair of the Necklace," "Gosford Park," "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring," "Moulin Rouge."
Documentary feature: "Children Underground," "LaLee's Kin: The Legacy of Cotton," "Murder on a Sunday Morning," "Promises," "War Photographer."
Documentary (short subject): "Artists and Orphans: A True Drama," "Sing!," "Thoth."
Film editing: "A Beautiful Mind," "Black Hawk Down," "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring," "Memento," "Moulin Rouge."
Makeup: "A Beautiful Mind," "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring," "Moulin Rouge."
Animated short film: "Fifty Percent Grey," "For the Birds," "Give Up Yer Aul Sins," "Strange Invaders," "Stubble Trouble."
Live action short film: "the accountant," "Copy Shop," "Gregor's Greatest Invention," "A Man Thing (Meska Sprawa)," "Speed for Thespians."
Visual effects: "A.I. Artificial Intelligence," "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring," "Pearl Harbor."
Academy Award winners previously announced this year: Gordon E. Sawyer Award (Oscar statuette): Edmund M. Di Giulio.
Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award (Oscar statuette): Arthur Hiller.