This article was updated at 9:34 p.m.
“King” has zing, which is no surprise — but otherwise, nominations for the 76th annual Academy Awards were full of shockers.
New Line’s “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” led the charge with 11 noms, followed closely by Fox’s “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World,” with 10.
Those two are best pic contenders, along with Universal-DreamWorks-Spyglass’ “Seabiscuit,” Warner Bros.’ “Mystic River” and Focus Features’ “Lost in Translation.” Those pics earned seven, six and four noms, respectively.
Earning seven bids was Miramax’s “Cold Mountain,” although it missed out on the big race. Buena Vista’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” scored five, including actor contender Johnny Depp.
Nabbing four apiece were Miramax’s “City of God” (including director Fernando Meirelles), BV’s “Finding Nemo,” WB’s “The Last Samurai” and “Translation.”
The surprises add spice to an already wacky awards season, in which kudos from critics, voting groups (like the Golden Globes) and the guilds have been all over the place.
Tuesday’s announcement of noms at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’ BevHills headquarters drew repeated gasps from the 400 journalists and publicists assembled. Nearly every category offered jolts.
Film folk were offering various theories on the effect of the Screener Wars and the earlier schedule. Acad voters sometimes overlooked big studio pics in favor of smaller films such as “Dirty Pretty Things” and “Whale Rider,” indicating screeners may have been a factor.
As for the effect of the timetable, it’s impossible to quantify but it’s interesting to note that December openers such as “Cold Mountain,” “The Last Samurai,” “Big Fish,” “House of Sand and Fog” and “Something’s Gotta Give” did not receive as much Oscar attention as their studios had hoped. That’s in sharp contrast to last year, when the Oscar race was dominated by five pics that opened in the last two weeks of December.
This year’s best picture contenders have a more spread-out timespan, ranging from July 25 opener “Seabiscuit” to Nov. 14 for “Master” and the lone year-end opener, “King.”
The top five also run the gamut in terms of budgets, box office and subject matter, from the $4 million “Translation” to mega-budgeted “King” and “Master.” There are two period pics and two modern-day works, and two were filmed in the U.S. (“Mystic” and “Seabiscuit”) vs. three lensed outside the country.
Fox’s Tom Rothman pointed out that most of the best-film contenders “are actually feel-good movies,” films with heartfelt emotion, which is a notable trend in a year full of grim dramas. “Master,” he said, “is about leadership, friendship and inspiration — those are very relevant themes.”
The Academy clearly is becoming more international. Foreign-lingo films “The Barbarian Invasions,” “City of God” and “The Triplets of Belleville” appeared in races as varied as screenplay, directing and song.
And after a long string of all-Caucasian contenders (reflecting the lack of ethnic opportunities on the bigscreen), Oscar voters offered notable diversity via such contenders as Shohreh Aghdashloo, Keisha Castle-Hughes, Benicio Del Toro, Djimon Hounsou, Fernando Meirelles and Ken Watanabe.
It’s a hopeful sign when added to apparent breakthroughs in the number of noms and wins for blacks (Halle Berry, Denzel Washington, etc.) and Hispanics (Salma Hayek, Pedro Almodovar) in the last few years.
As expected, Buena Vista’s “Finding Nemo” and Sony Pictures Classics’ “Triplets of Belleville” are competing for animated feature; the third slot was taken by BV’s “Brother Bear.” “Nemo” is the only computer-animated pic of the three.
“King” and “Master” earned no acting recognition. Thus “King” enters Oscar record books as the film with the most noms for any film without acting bids.
Four of the five best-pic contenders were repped in the directors race: “King’s” Peter Jackson, “Translation’s” Sofia Coppola — who makes Acad history as the first American woman nommed as director — “Master’s” Peter Weir and “Mystic’s” Clint Eastwood.
“Seabiscuit’s” Gary Ross, who is a Directors Guild contender, was replaced in the Oscar race by Meirelles.
Ross shouldn’t feel bad, though. Over the decades, there have been only three five-for-five correlations of best pic and director, and the last time was 1981. The five nominees for Oscar and the DGA are also rarely identical.
“King” (written by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens & Peter Jackson) “Mystic” (Brian Helgeland) and “Seabiscuit” (penned by Ross) were cited in the adapted screenplay race; all are from books, with “Seabiscuit” a nonfiction tome. They will compete with HBO/Fine Line’s “American Splendor” (Robert Pulcini & Shari Springer Berman) and “City of God” (Braulio Mantovani).
“Translation” is contending for original screenplay against Miramax’s “The Barbarian Invasions” (written by Denys Arcand), Miramax’s “Dirty Pretty Things” (Steven Knight), Buena Vista’s “Finding Nemo” (Andrew Stanton, Bob Peterson & David Reynolds, only the third toon nommed for script) and Fox Searchlight’s “In America” (Jim Sheridan, Naomi Sheridan, Kirsten Sheridan).
All in the family
Clearly, writing is a family affair this year. Pulcini & Springer Berman are married; Walsh & Jackson are longtime partners. Jim Sheridan is the father of Naomi and Kirsten.
Among the notable achievements: triple noms as writer, director and producer for Jackson and Coppola. Walsh also scored a trio as a writer, producer and songwriter on “King.”
Among those earning double noms were Clint Eastwood and Peter Weir, as director and a producer on their respective “Mystic” and “Master”; Ross, scribe and a producer (with Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall) of “Seabiscuit”; and Andrew Stanton, as producer and co-scripter of “Finding Nemo.”
Also doubling up are Ngila Dickson, costumes for both “King” and “Last Samurai”; Richard Taylor, “King” costumes and makeup; Howard Shore, score and song of “King”; Christopher Boyes, sound mixing and sound editing on “Pirates”; and Andy Nelson & Anna Behlmer, sound mixing for “Samurai” and “Seabiscuit.”
Aside from Depp, actor contenders include Ben Kingsley, DreamWorks’ “House of Sand and Fog”; Jude Law, “Cold Mountain”; Bill Murray, “Translation” and Sean Penn, “Mystic.”
The actress race includes Keisha Castle-Hughes from Newmarket’s “Whale Rider”; Diane Keaton, Sony’s “Something’s Gotta Give”; Samantha Morton, Fox Searchlight’s “In America”; Charlize Theron, Newmarket’s “Monster”; and Naomi Watts, Focus Features’ “21 Grams.”
Morton was not a nominee in SAG voting or the Golden Globes. Neither were supporting actress contenders Aghdashloo or “Mystic River’s” Marcia Gay Harden.
Those two will compete with Patricia Clarkson, UA’s “Pieces of April”; Holly Hunter, Fox Searchlight’s “Thirteen” and Renee Zellweger, “Cold Mountain.” This marks Zellweger’s third consecutive nom, after two leading bids for “Bridget Jones’s Diary” and “Chicago.”
Supporting actor nominees are Alec Baldwin, Lions Gate’s “The Cooler”; Benicio Del Toro, “21 Grams”; Djimon Hounsou, “In America”; Tim Robbins,” “Mystic River”; and Ken Watanabe, Warner Bros.’ “The Last Samurai.”
Exactly half of the 20 nominated actors are first-time Oscar contenders. The Acad often is accused of ignoring comedy, but Depp, Murray and Keaton all gave comedic performances.
In terms of domestic distributors, Miramax had 15. Fox scored 11, plus four for Fox Searchlight. Aside from New Line’s 11 for “King,” there was one for Fine Line. WB had 11; Disney had 10. Universal earned seven and Focus got six. Sony Pictures Classics had four, with Sony itself getting two, and Lions Gate also earned four. DreamWorks received three; Newmarket scored twice.
As for global distribs, tallies are almost impossible, thanks to split-rights deals, co-productions and international distribution rights. Miramax and Universal also have a hand in “Master and Commander.”
Fox’s Rothman said Tuesday’s noms are “a major victory for ambition in filmmaking.” Fox’s “Master,” like “King,” proves, “It’s OK to be ambitious. In a very competitive year, the nominations in so many categories show that there’s a real appreciation for ambition and the thrilling way in which the film was made.”
Another group effort was the Universal-DreamWorks-Spyglass “Seabiscuit,” which kicked off talk about the Oscar race last July.
Producer Marshall, reached in Berlin, said the filmmakers received “a lot of pressure as an ‘important’ movie to come out in fall; but we knew it would be a popular movie, and that’s why we stuck to our original decision.”
Marshall laughed that the pic is similar to the title character: “Kind of a stretch runner, a little slow out of the gate, but ended up doing well.”
The pic maintained its awards momentum against a flurry of later-year entries. “It’s about hope, and people have an emotional reaction to the movie.” The Oscar attention is “really rewarding and a thrill.”
Focus’ James Schamus had a similar reaction with the company’s “Translation.”
“Sam Fuller said there are three essentials in a film: Emotion, emotion and emotion. It’s wonderful that the Academy is recognizing a so-called small film.”
This is only Focus’ second full year in existence and it has done extremely well in both Oscar races, with additional nods for “21 Grams.”
“Mystic River” opened to positive response at Cannes, but even WB execs were surprised at the rapturous reception when the pic bowed Stateside.
In a statement, Eastwood said, “I’d like to thank the Academy for the nominations given to ‘Mystic River’ and I look forward to the awards ceremony in February. This film was an ensemble effort from the very beginning and every member of the cast and crew deserves recognition for their efforts.”
Voters clearly weighed “King” as an individual achievement, instead of an extension of the past two films. Its 11 noms compare favorably with 13 for the first film and six for the second.
New Line’s Bob Shaye said, “We’re extremely proud and humbled by the recognition of our peers for New Line, Peter (Jackson) and all the people involved in the filmmaking is wonderful.”
‘It matters a lot’
The film has been embraced by audiences and it’s been a commercial success, “but this is a different kind of reward,” said Michael Lynne. “We’re thrilled. It matters a lot to us.”
Exec VP-chief operating officer of New Line Mark Ordesky, who was a key figure in production of the trilogy, said, “It’s a glorious culmination of seven years of film craft and artistry. It’s a great adrenaline rush.”
There was suspense up until the announcements Tuesday. In many years, pundits are pretty sure of four of the five best-pic possibilities; this year, the consensus was on only two sure bets. The film with the most noms has ended up winning the best picture prize in 18 of the last 20 years. However, those involved in “King” are well aware that the race is far from over. Two years ago, “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” scored 13 noms, but it lost the best pic race to “A Beautiful Mind,” which had eight.
The Academy consists of 15 voting branches totaling 5,803 voters. The largest branch is actors (1,298 voters), the smallest documentarians (128).
Nominations were announced Tuesday morning (5:38 a.m. PST, timed for the morning talkshows) by Sigourney Weaver and Acad prexy Frank Pierson.
Final ballots will be mailed Feb. 4 and are due back Feb. 24. Oscars will be presented Feb. 29 at the Kodak Theatre. Joe Roth is producing the Billy Crystal-hosted event, which will air live on ABC.
“The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” (New Line), Wingnut Films
“Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World” (Twentieth Century Fox/Miramax/Universal), Twentieth Century Fox/Universal Pictures/Miramax Films
“Mystic River” (WB/Village Roadshow), Warner Bros. Pictures
“Lost in Translation” (Focus), American Zoetrope/Elemental Films
“Seabiscuit” (Universal/DreamWorks/Spyglass), Larger Than Life/Kennedy-Marshall Prods.
Sofia Coppola, “Lost in Translation”
Clint Eastwood, “Mystic River”
Peter Jackson, “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King”
Fernando Meirelles, “City of God”
Peter Weir, “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World”
Keisha Castle-Hughes, “Whale Rider”
Samantha Morton, “In America”
Diane Keaton, “Something’s Gotta Give”
Charlize Theron, “Monster”
Naomi Watts, “21 Grams”
Johnny Depp, “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl”
Ben Kingsley, “House of Sand and Fog”
Bill Murray, “Lost in Translation”
Jude Law, “Cold Mountain”
Sean Penn, “Mystic River”
Shohreh Aghdashloo, “House of Sand and Fog”
Patricia Clarkson, “Pieces of April”
Marcia Gay Harden, “Mystic River”
Holly Hunter, “Thirteen”
Renee Zellweger, “Cold Mountain”
Alec Baldwin, “The Cooler”
Benecio Del Toro, “21 Grams”
Djimon Hounsou, “In America”
Tim Robbins, “Mystic River”
Ken Watanabe, “The Last Samurai”
Denys Arcand, “The Barbarian Invasions”
Steven Knight, “Dirty Pretty Things”
Andrew Stanton, Bob Peterson and David Reynolds, “Finding Nemo”
Jim Sheridan & Naomi Sheridan & Kirsten Sheridan, “In America”
Sofia Coppola, “Lost in Translation”
Robert Pulcini & Shari Springer Berman, “American Splendor”
Braulio Mantovani, “City of God”
Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens & Peter Jackson“The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King”
Brian Helgeland, “Mystic River”
Gary Ross, “Seabiscuit”
FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
“The Barbarian Invasions” (Canada), Cinemaginaire (Miramax)
“Evil” (Sweden), Moviola
“Twin Sisters” (The Netherlands), IdtV
“The Twilight Samurai” (Japan), Shochiku/Nippon Television Network/Sumitomo/Hakuhodo/Nippon Shuppan Hanbai/Eisei Gekijo
“Zelary” (Czech Republic), Total HelpArt T.H.A./Barrandov Studio
“Brother Bear” (Buena Vista)
“Finding Nemo” (Buena Vista)
“The Triplets of Belleville” (Sony Pictures Classics)
“Balseros” Seventh Art Releasing
“Capturing the Friedmans” Magnolia Pictures
“The Fog of War” Sony Pictures Classics
“My Architect” New Yorker
“The Weather Underground” Shadow Distribution
Cesar Charlone, “City of God”
John Seale, “Cold Mountain”
Eduardo Serra, “Girl with a Pearl Earring”
Russell Boyd, “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World”
John Schwartzman, “Seabiscuit”
Daniel Rezende, “City of God”
Walter Murch, “Cold Mountain”
Jamie Selkirk, “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King”
Lee Smith, “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World”
William Goldenberg, “Seabiscuit”
Danny Elfman, “Big Fish”
James Horner, “House of Sand and Fog”
Thomas Newman, “Finding Nemo”
Howard Shore, “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King”
Gabriel Yared, “Cold Mountain”
“Into the West”, “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” – Music & Lyrics by Howard Shore, Fran Walsh, Annie Lennox
“A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow”, “A Mighty Wind” – Music & Lyrics by Michael McKean and Annette O’Toole
“Scarlet Tide”, “Cold Mountain” – Music & Lyrics by T Bone Burnett and Elvis Costello
“The Triplets of Belleville”, “The Triplets of Belleville” – Music by Benoit Charest, Lyrics by Sylvain Chomet
“You Will Be My Ain True Love”, “Cold Mountain” – Music & Lyrics by Sting
“The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” (New Line) – Jim Rygiel, Joe Letteri, Randall William Cook and Alex Funke
“Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World” (20th Century Fox) – Dan Sudick, Stefen Fangmeier, Nathan McGuinness and Robert Stromberg
“Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” (Buena Vista) – John Knoll, Hal Hickel, Charles Gibson and Terry Frazee
“Girl with a Pearl Earring” (Lions Gate) – Art Direction: Ben Van Os; Set Decoration: – Cecile Heideman
“The Last Samurai” (Warner Bros.) – Art Direction: Lilly Kilvert; Set Decoration: – Gretchen Rau
“The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” – Art Direction: Grant Major (New Line); Set Decoration: – Dan Hennah and Alan Lee
“Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World” – Art Direction: William Sandell (20th Century Fox); Set Decoration: Robert Gould
“Seabiscuit” (Universal/DreamWorks/Spyglass) – Art Direction: Jeannine Oppewall; Set Decoration: – Leslie Pope
“Girl with a Pearl Earring” (Lions Gate) – Dien van Straalen
“The Last Samurai” (Warner Bros.) – Ngila Dickson
“The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” (New Line) – Ngila Dickson and Richard Taylor
“Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World” (20th Century Fox) – Wendy Stites
“Seabiscuit” (Universal/DreamWorks/Spyglass) – Judianna Makovsky
“The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” (New Line) – Richard Taylor and Peter King
“Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World” (20th Century Fox) – Edouard Henriques III and Yolanda Toussieng
“Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” (Buena Vista) – Ve Neill and Martin Samuel
“Finding Nemo” (Buena Vista) – Gary Rydstrom and Michael Silvers
“Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World” (20th Century Fox) – Richard King
“Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” (Buena Vista) – Christopher Boyes and George Watters II
“The Last Samurai” (Warner Bros.) – Andy Nelson, Anna Behlmer and Jeff Wexler
“The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” (New Line) – Christopher Boyes, Michael Semanick, Michael Hedges and Hammond Peek
“Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World” (20th Century Fox) – Paul Massey, D.M. Hemphill and Arthur Rochester
“Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (Buena Vista) – Christopher Boyes, David Parker, David Campbell and Lee Orloff
“Seabiscuit” (Universal/DreamWorks/Spyglass) – Andy Nelson, Anna Behlmer and Tod A. Maitland
ANIMATED SHORT FILM
“Boundin’” A Pixar Animation Studios Production – Bud Luckey
“Destino” (Buena Vista) A Walt Disney Pictures Production – Dominique Monfery and Roy Edward Disney
“Gone Nutty” (20th Century Fox) A Blue Sky Studios Production – Carlos Saldanha and John C. Donkin
“Harvie Krumpet” A Melodrama Pictures Production – Adam Elliot
“Nibbles” An Acme Filmworks Production – Chris Hinton
LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM
“Die Rote Jacke (The Red Jacket)” A Hamburger Filmwerkstatt Production – Florian Baxmeyer
“Most (The Bridge)” An Eastwind Films Production – Bobby Garabedian and William Zabka
“Squash” A Tetramedia Production = Lionel Bailliu
“(A) Torzija [(A) Torsion]” A Studio Arkadena Production – Stefan Arsenijevic
“Two Soldiers” A Shoe Clerk Picture Company Production – Aaron Schneider and Andrew J. Sacks
DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT
“Asylum” A Constant Communication & Make-do Production – Sandy McLeod and Gini Reticker
“Chernobyl Heart” A Downtown TV Documentaries Production – Maryann DeLeo
“Ferry Tales” A Penelope Pictures Production – Katja Esson