The Academy's big night is on the way


Published: Tuesday, January 25, 2005 at 12:26 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 25, 2005 at 12:26 p.m.

Academy Awards contenders demurely say it's nice just to be nominated. In this wide-open Oscar season, just about any nominee could end up winning.

Facts

Nominations list for the 77th Oscars

Picture: "The Aviator," "Finding Neverland," "Million Dollar Baby," "Ray," "Sideways."

Director: Martin Scorsese, "The Aviator"; Clint Eastwood, "Million Dollar Baby"; Taylor Hackford, "Ray"; Alexander Payne, "Sideways"; Mike Leigh, "Vera Drake."

Actor: Don Cheadle, "Hotel Rwanda"; Johnny Depp, "Finding Neverland"; Leonardo DiCaprio, "The Aviator"; Clint Eastwood, "Million Dollar Baby"; Jamie Foxx, "Ray."

Actress: Annette Bening, "Being Julia"; Catalina Sandino Moreno, "Maria Full of Grace"; Imelda Staunton, "Vera Drake"; Hilary Swank, "Million Dollar Baby"; Kate Winslet, "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind."

Supporting Actor: Alan Alda, "The Aviator"; Thomas Haden Church, "Sideways"; Jamie Foxx, "Collateral"; Morgan Freeman, "Million Dollar Baby"; Clive Owen, "Closer."

Supporting Actress: Cate Blanchett, "The Aviator"; Laura Linney, "Kinsey"; Virginia Madsen, "Sideways"; Sophie Okonedo, "Hotel Rwanda"; Natalie Portman, "Closer."

Writing (Adapted Screenplay): Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke and Kim Krizan, "Before Sunset"; David Magee, "Finding Neverland"; Paul Haggis, "Million Dollar Baby"; Jose Rivera, "The Motorcycle Diaries"; Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor, "Sideways."

Writing (Original Screenplay): John Logan, "The Aviator"; Charlie Kaufman, Michel Gondry and Pierre Bismuth, "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind"; Brad Bird, "The Incredibles"; Mike Leigh, "Vera Drake"; Keir Pearson and Terry George, "Hotel Rwanda."

Foreign Film: "As It Is In Heaven" (Sweden), "The Chorus (Les Choristes)" (France), "Downfall" (Germany), "The Sea Inside" (Spain), "Yesterday" (South Africa).

Animated Feature Film: "The Incredibles," "Shark Tale," "Shrek 2."

Animated Short Film: "Birthday Boy," "Gopher Broke," "Guard Dog," "Lorenzo," "Ryan."

Live Action Short Film: "Everything in This Country Must," "Little Terrorist," "7:35 in the Morning (7:35 de la Manana)," "Two Cars, One Night," and "Wasp."

Documentary: "Born Into Brothels," "The Story of the Weeping Camel," "Super Size Me," "Tupac: Resurrection," "Twist of Faith."

Documentary Short Subject: "Autism Is a World," "The Children of Leningradsky," "Hardwood," "Mighty Times: The Children's March," "Sister Rose's Passion."

Art Direction: "The Aviator," "Finding Neverland," "Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events," "The Phantom of the Opera," "A Very Long Engagement."

Cinematography: "The Aviator," "House of Flying Daggers," "The Passion of the Christ," "The Phantom of the Opera," "A Very Long Engagement."

Film Editing: "The Aviator," "Collateral," "Finding Neverland," "Million Dollar Baby," "Ray."

Costume Design: "The Aviator," "Finding Neverland," "Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events," "Ray," "Troy."

Makeup: "Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events," "The Passion of the Christ," "The Sea Inside."

Original Score: "Finding Neverland," "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban," "Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events," "The Passion of the Christ," "The Village."

Original Song: "Accidentally In Love" from "Shrek 2," "Al Otro Lado Del Rio" from "The Motorcycle Diaries," "Believe" from "The Polar Express," "Learn To Be Lonely" from "The Phantom of the Opera," "Look To Your Path (Vois Sur Ton Chemin)" from "The Chorus (Les Choristes)."

Sound Editing: "The Incredibles," "The Polar Express," "Spider-Man 2."

Sound Mixing: "The Aviator," "The Incredibles," "The Polar Express," "Ray," "Spider-Man 2."

Visual Effects: "Harry Potter and the Prince of Azkaban," "I, Robot," "Spider-Man 2."

Oscar winners previously announced this year:

Honorary Academy Award: Sidney Lumet.

The Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award: Roger Mayer.

Gordon E. Sawyer Award (technical achievement): Takuo Miyagishima.

Scientific and Technical Oscars: Horst Burbulla, Jean-Marie Lavalou, Alain Masseron and David Samuelson.

With its epic scope and dazzling re-creation of early Hollywood, Scorsese's "The Aviator" could claim the inside track as front-runner for best picture. The film won the Golden Globe for best dramatic picture.

Yet unlike last year, when "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" went in as the odds-on favorite and swept all 11 of its categories come Oscar night, the outcome is more uncertain this time.

The Howard Hughes epic "The Aviator" led Academy Awards contenders with 11 nominations Tuesday, including best picture, plus acting honors for Leonardo DiCaprio, Cate Blanchett and Alan Alda and a directing slot for Martin Scorsese.

The boxing saga "Million Dollar Baby" and the J.M. Barrie tale "Finding Neverland" followed with seven nominations each, among them best picture and acting nominations for Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman, Hilary Swank and Johnny Depp.

Eastwood also got a directing nomination for "Million Dollar Baby."

The other best-picture nominees were the Ray Charles portrait "Ray" and the buddy comedy "Sideways."

Along with Eastwood, Jamie Foxx also scored two nominations - as best actor for the title role in "Ray" and supporting actor as a taxi driver whose cab is hijacked by a hit man in "Collateral."

Foxx's dead-on emulation of Charles has made him the front-runner in the lead-actor category. His eerie emulation of Charles' movements, vocal cadences and understated slyness have established Foxx as the man to beat in this category.

It was the best year ever for black performers, who had five of the 20 acting nominations. Three times previously, black actors have earned three of the acting nominations, including the 2001 Oscars, when Denzel Washington of "Training Day" and Halle Berry of "Monster's Ball" won the lead-performer prizes.

Oscar analyst Tom O'Neil, author of the book "Movie Awards," said black actors have gradually gotten more opportunities to act in serious dramas.

"Morgan Freeman was amazing. Don Cheadle was amazing. Jamie Foxx had a breakout year with these two performances," O'Neil said. "It's not based on people saying, `Oh, we're overdue to acknowledge African-American artists.' These are really powerful, performance-driven surges we're seeing."

Starring as aviation trailblazer and Hollywood rebel Hughes, DiCaprio also was nominated for best actor. He and Foxx will compete against Depp as "Peter Pan" playwright Barrie in "Finding Neverland"; Eastwood as a cantankerous boxing trainer in "Million Dollar Baby"; and Don Cheadle for "Hotel Rwanda," starring as hotel manager Paul Rusesabagina, who sheltered refugees from the Rwandan genocide.

The best-actress category presents a rematch of the 1999 showdown, when underdog Swank won the Oscar for "Boys Don't Cry" over Annette Bening, who had been the front-runner for "American Beauty."

This time, Swank was nominated as a bullheaded boxing champ whose life takes a cruel twist in "Million Dollar Baby." Bening was chosen for "Being Julia," in which she plays an aging 1930s stage diva exacting wickedly comic revenge on the men in her life and a young rival.

Both actresses won Golden Globes for the roles, Swank for best dramatic actress, Bening for actress in a musical or comedy.

Also nominated for the best-actress Oscar: Catalina Sandino Moreno as a Colombian woman imperiled when she signs on to smuggle heroin in "Maria Full of Grace"; Imelda Staunton as a saintly housekeeper in 1950s Britain who performs illegal abortions on the side in "Vera Drake"; and Kate Winslet as a woman who has had memories of her ex-boyfriend erased in "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind."

Joining Eastwood and Scorsese among directing nominees were Taylor Hackford for "Ray"; Mike Leigh for "Vera Drake"; and Alexander Payne for "Sideways."

Scorsese, arguably the most prominent modern filmmaker who has never won an Oscar, also has never delivered a best-picture winner. Considered a nominal best-picture favorite, "The Aviator" offers him a shot to finally triumph on Oscar night, though Eastwood's "Million Dollar Baby" is a formidable competitor.

"Bringing `The Aviator' to the screen took years of effort by an extraordinary group of individuals, and I am thrilled that so many of the people who poured their heart into the film have been recognized by the academy," Scorsese said.

"It's been a weird practical joke that the man hasn't won," said Leonardo DiCaprio, who starred in Scorsese's "Gangs of New York," won the Golden Globe for dramatic actor as Hughes in "The Aviator" and is a likely best-actor nominee for the Oscars. "A cruel practical joke. It's like, you know, ridiculous. Enough said."

Scorsese, the man responsible for such films as "Raging Bull" and "GoodFellas," has been nominated for best director four times and best screenplay twice, while three of his films have scored best-picture nominations. But he and his films have never won. His most recent contender, "Gangs of New York," had 10 nominations but was shut out in every category.

While "The Aviator" took the top dramatic prize at the Golden Globes, Scorsese lost the directing category to Clint Eastwood for the boxing saga "Million Dollar Baby." Yet Globe voters had just named Scorsese best director two years ago for "Gangs of New York," so they may have felt it was time for another nod to Eastwood, a previous Globe winner for "Unforgiven" and "Bird."

Eastwood and Scorsese both are nominated for the Directors Guild prize, which has a solid record at predicting what filmmaker will win the same honor come Oscar night. Only six times since 1949 has the guild winner failed to follow up with the best-director Oscar.

Along with Foxx in "Collateral," Alda was nominated for supporting actor as a senator tussling with Hughes in "The Aviator" while Freeman was picked as a worldly-wise ex-boxer in "Million Dollar Baby." The other nominees: Thomas Haden Church as a bridegroom out for a final fling in "Sideways" and Clive Owen as a coarse lover in the sex drama "Closer."

For supporting actress, academy voters picked Blanchett, who plays Katharine Hepburn in "The Aviator"; Laura Linney as the title character's sexually adventurous wife in "Kinsey"; Virginia Madsen as a deceived lover in "Sideways"; Sophie Okonedo as innkeeper Rusesabagina's wife in "Hotel Rwanda"; and Natalie Portman as a gutsy stripper in "Closer."

"This is, like, crazy. My mom called and said, `I'm so proud of you. I can't believe it,'" said Portman, who won the supporting-actress Golden Globe for "Closer." "I ask, how did I get so lucky to have an amazing experience - have a film I'm really proud of - and then also get recognized by our own community?"

"Sideways" star Paul Giamatti was overlooked for a nomination, a surprise given that he had been a contender for most previous film honors.

"Knowing Paul, he's probably relieved," said co-star Madsen, who earned her first Oscar nomination. "He really doesn't care about any of this. He's a working actor. He just wants to go home after work to his wife and son."

Liam Neeson, who had the title role in "Kinsey," also missed out, as did the movie, which had been considered a best-picture contender.

Mel Gibson's religious blockbuster "The Passion of the Christ" missed out on main categories, but did pick up nominations for cinematography, makeup and original score.

Michael Moore's gamble to hold his hit film "Fahrenheit 9/11" out of the documentary category - to boost its best-picture prospects - backfired. The movie was shut out across the board. Moore won the documentary prize two years ago for "Bowling for Columbine."

Morgan Spurlock's "Super Size Me," which hilariously chronicles his monthlong feeding frenzy on an all-McDonald's diet, was among the documentary nominees. Also nominated: "Born Into Brothels," "The Story of the Weeping Camel," "Tupac: Resurrection," and "Twist of Faith."

While ethnic diversity may be a healthy thing for the awards, the wide-open range of contenders is not necessarily a good thing for Oscar organizers, who have been troubled by a downward trend in the ceremony's TV ratings.

Recent history suggests that more people tune in to the Oscars when there is a box-office behemoth favored to win, such as with 1997's $600 million blockbuster "Titanic," the year the awards drew their biggest audience ever, 55.2 million viewers.

The Oscars reversed their ratings slide last year, when the $377 million smash "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" dominated. This time, all the likely best-picture nominees are well below the $100 million mark in domestic revenues.

"Yeah, I think we're a little concerned about it," said Bruce Davis, the academy's executive director. "I think that that `Titanic' year was a huge eye-opener for us. Before that, we always kind of assumed the best thing to have in terms of audience interest was a really close, hard-to-predict horse race.

"That year suggested very strongly that maybe a killer blockbuster everybody was pretty sure was going to win might not be the worst thing in the world to have."

Nominees in most categories are chosen by specific branches of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, such as directors, actors and writers. The full academy membership of about 5,800 is eligible to vote in all categories for the Oscars themselves.

ABC will broadcast the Oscars live Feb. 27 from Hollywood's Kodak Theatre. Chris Rock is the show's host, the first time since 1996 that either Billy Crystal, Whoopi Goldberg or Steve Martin has not been master of ceremonies.

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