Yesterday, the Academy unveiled its nominations for Oscars, and
not surprisingly, “The Return of the King,” the final
chapter in “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, garnered
11, more than any other film this year. Even more unexpected was
the lack of acting nominations for three of the films up for Best
Picture.

Laura Wong

“King” is vying for Best Picture along with
projected competition in “Mystic River” and “Lost
in Translation.” “Master and Commander: The Far Side of
the World” wasn’t a complete surprise, though its 10
nominations are far more than anticipated.
“Seabiscuit,” on the other hand, managed to gain a nod
in this competitive category over critical favorites such as
“Cold Mountain” and “American
Splendor.”

Peter Jackson (“LOTR”) is also the frontrunner in a
cutthroat Best Director category. Sofia Coppola receives her first
nomination with “Lost in Translation,” showing that the
talent in her family didn’t skip a generation. Peter Weir
(“Master and Commander”) and Clint Eastwood
(“Mystic River”) return to the fray, but a surprising
entrant is Brazilian filmmaker Fernando Mierelles for “City
of God.”

Bill Murray (“Lost in Translation”) and Sean Penn
(“Mystic River”) are the favorites in the Best Actor
field, joined by Ben Kingsley (“House of Sand and
Fog”), fan favorite Johnny Depp (“Pirates of the
Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl”) and Jude Law, showing
that “Cold Mountain” wasn’t completely snubbed.
Two high-profile stars in big pictures missing from the race are
Tom Cruise (“The Last Samurai”) and Russell Crowe
(“Master and Commander”).

Best Actress is a relatively narrow race, with Charlize
Theron’s acclaimed performance as a serial killer in
“Monster” standing as a clear favorite. Diane
Keaton’s comedic turn in “Something’s Gotta
Give” gives the actress nominations in the category for four
consecutive decades. Naomi Watts (“21 Grams”) gets her
second Oscar nod, while two surprises came out of Samantha Morton
for “In America” and Keisha Castle-Hughes (“Whale
Rider”), who at 13 is the youngest nominee ever up for the
award. Noticeably absent are Nicole Kidman (“Cold
Mountain”) and Scarlet Johansson (“Lost in
Translation”).

The big winners appear to be not only the expected leaders
“The Return of the King” and “Lost in
Translation,” but also “Seabiscuit” and
“Master and Commander” for receiving many more
nominations than expected in the major categories. “Cold
Mountain” missed out on Best Picture, Actress and Director,
leaving the folks at Miramax a little disheveled.

Some smaller films that managed to get major acting nominations
include “21 Grams,” “House of Sand and Fog”
and “In America.” Unfortunately all were overlooked for
Best Picture in place of “Seabiscuit,” and the
incredible “American Splendor” barely got noticed.

The Oscars will be televised on ABC on Feb. 29.

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