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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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The Return of the King’ leads Oscar race with 11 nominations

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – Middle-earth crowned its monarch. Now, Academy Awards voters seem ready to crown ”The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” as the first fantasy to win best picture.
The final chapter of Peter Jackson’s trilogy, based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic set in an imaginary world of hobbits, wizards and elves, took a leading 11 Oscar nominations Tuesday, among them best picture and director.
Key acting nominees included Golden Globe winners Bill Murray as a washed-up actor in ”Lost in Translation,” Diane Keaton as a down-on-love playwright in ”Something’s Gotta Give,” Charlize Theron as serial killer Aileen Wuornos in ”Monster” and Sean Penn as a vengeful father in ”Mystic River.”
The Napoleonic era naval adventure ”Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World” received 10 nominations, including best picture and director for Peter Weir.
The other best-picture nominees were the quirky Tokyo tale ”Lost in Translation,” the somber vengeance story ”Mystic River” and the uplifting horse-racing drama ”Seabiscuit.”
The most notable snubs were for the Civil War saga ”Cold Mountain,” which failed to get nominations for best picture, director Anthony
Minghella or lead actress Nicole Kidman, last year’s best-actress winner for ”The Hours.” The film had scored well in earlier movie honors.
The biggest surprise was 13-year-old Keisha Castle-Hughes. For her performance as a Maori girl bucking tribal tradition in ”Whale Rider,” she became the youngest person ever to be nominated for lead actress.
Another surprise pick was director Fernando Meirelles for the Brazilian film ”City of God.”
”Lost in Translation” earned nominations for directing and original screenplay for Sofia Coppola. She was only the third woman ever nominated for director, after Lina Wertmuller for 1976’s ”Seven Beauties” and Jane Campion for 1993’s ”The Piano.”
”It’s pretty unbelievable. I’m happy to be in good company,” said Coppola, the daughter of Francis Ford Coppola and the first American woman nominated for director.
A win for Coppola would make her kin the second family of three-generation winners, joining Walter, John and Anjelica Huston. Coppola’s father is a five-time winner and her grandfather, Carmine Coppola, won for musical score on ”The Godfather Part II.”
Besides best picture and director, nominations for ”Return of the King” included original score and song, visual effects, film editing and adapted screenplay. The film was shut out in acting categories, though.
With their strange creatures and mythical settings, fantasy flicks have had a hard time gaining favor with Oscar voters. No such fantastical film has ever won the top Oscar, yet universal acclaim and success at previous awards have positioned ”Return of the King” to break that barrier.
”Obviously, we’ve got reason to hope that happens,” said Jackson, also considered the favorite for the directing Oscar. ”I think what’s helping us with ‘The Lord of the Rings’ is that people respond to the performances, to the reality of the situations on screen and the depth of it. It feels real to them.
”So it’s not really the fantasy that’s dominant in the film. It’s the human emotion. The design of a lot of fantasy films can alienate audiences. We’re trying to do the opposite and make people feel comfortable in that world as something they can recognize.”
The exclusion of ”Cold Mountain” from the top category ended distributor Miramax’s 11-year streak of fielding at least one best-picture contender, including last year’s winner ”Chicago.”
Miramax co-founder Harvey Weinstein, considered Hollywood’s scrappiest Oscar campaigner, said ”Cold Mountain” was hurt by a shorter awards season this year. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences moved the Oscars to Feb. 29, three weeks earlier than usual.
”Cold Mountain” did manage to pick up seven nominations, though, among them best actor for Jude Law as a Confederate deserter and supporting actress for Renee Zellweger as a salt-of-the-earth Southerner.
It was Zellweger’s third straight nomination.
Along with Law, Penn and Murray, best-actor nominees were Johnny Depp as a wily buccaneer in ”Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” and Ben Kingsley as an Iranian immigrant in ”House of Sand and Fog.”
Murray is the latest in a string of actors such as Tom Hanks and Robin Williams who earned hard-won respect after a career that began in broad comedy. Academy voters had snubbed Murray for one of 1998’s most acclaimed performances in ”Rushmore.”
Joining Keaton, Castle-Hughes and Theron in the best-actress category were Samantha Morton as an Irish mom in New York in ”In America,” and Naomi Watts as a grieving mother in ”21 Grams.”
It was the fourth nomination for Keaton, a best-actress winner for 1977’s ”Annie Hall.” Keaton plays an older woman who has closed the door on love, then finds herself pursued by two men in ”Something’s Gotta Give,” which has topped $100 million at the box office.
”It’s fantastic for actresses of my generation,” Keaton said. ”It means we can still be in romantic comedies, and if they’re well-written and directed and acted, it works and it makes money.”

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