‘Return of the King’ leads Oscar race

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BEVERLY HILLS, California (AP) — “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,” the final chapter in Peter Jackson’s majestic fantasy trilogy, led the Academy Awards race Tuesday with 11 nominations, including best picture and director.

The Napoleonic era naval adventure “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World” was right behind with 10 nominations, among them best picture and director.

Bill Murray, Diane Keaton, Sean Penn and Charlize Theron — all Golden Globe winners Sunday — were among the leading acting nominees. The most notable snub came for the Civil War saga “Cold Mountain,” which failed to get nominations for best picture, director Anthony Minghella or lead actress Nicole Kidman.

Other best-picture nominees for the 76th annual Oscars included “Lost in Translation,” about two lonely Americans in Tokyo; the brooding murder thriller “Mystic River”; and the horse-racing drama “Seabiscuit.”

Along with best picture and director, the nominations for “Return of the King” included original score and song, visual effects, film editing and adapted screenplay for the script based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy classic.

“Return of the King” led last weekend’s Golden Globes with four wins, including best dramatic picture and director, and its broad critical and fan support give the film the inside track at the Oscars.

Nominees for lead actress included a surprise pick, Keisha Castle-Hughes as a New Zealand girl who bucks tradition to become leader of her Maori tribe in “Whale Rider.” At 13, she’s the youngest person ever to be nominated for lead actress, the Academy said. The film’s distributor had been pushing her in the supporting category.

The youngest nominee ever was 8-year-old Justin Henry as supporting actor for 1979’s “Kramer vs. Kramer.” At 10, supporting-actress winner Tatum O’Neal was the youngest Oscar recipient.

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Besides Jackson and “Master and Commander” director Peter Weir, the directing nominees included Sofia Coppola for “Lost in Translation,” only the third woman ever nominated for best director. The previous nominees were Lina Wertmuller for 1976’s “Seven Beauties” and Jane Campion for 1993’s “The Piano.” Both lost.

Coppola, the daughter of Francis Ford Coppola, also earned an original-screenplay nomination for “Lost in Translation.”

The other directing nominees: Clint Eastwood for “Mystic River” and a surprise choice, Fernando Meirelles for the Brazilian film “City of God.”

“Cold Mountain” did get seven nominations — among them, best actor for Jude Law as a Confederate deserter making his way home to his sweetheart and supporting actress for Renee Zellweger for her role as a no-nonsense Confederate woman.

Along with Law, the actor nominees were Johnny Depp as a wily buccaneer in “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl”; Ben Kingsley as an Iranian immigrant fighting for possession of a home in “House of Sand and Fog”; Murray as a has-been actor shooting a commercial in Japan in “Lost in Translation”; and Penn as an ex-hoodlum out for revenge over his daughter’s death in “Mystic River.”

The other best actress nominees: Keaton as a down-on-love playwright unexpectedly romanced by two men in “Something’s Gotta Give”; Theron as real-life serial killer Aileen Wuornos in “Monster”; Samantha Morton as an Irish immigrant mother in “In America”; and Naomi Watts as a grieving wife and mother seeking vengeance in “21 Grams.”

Contenders for supporting actor were Alec Baldwin as a sleazy casino owner in “The Cooler”; Benicio Del Toro as an ex-con whose effort to go straight ends in tragedy in “21 Grams”; Djimon Hounsou as a standoffish artist dying of AIDS in “In America”; Tim Robbins as a man tormented by childhood abuse in “Mystic River”; and Ken Watanabe as a samurai battling Western influences among his countrymen in “The Last Samurai.”

Besides Zellweger, supporting actress nominees were Shohreh Aghdashloo as a compassionate Iranian immigrant in “House of Sand and Fog”; Patricia Clarkson as an acerbic mother coping with breast cancer in “Pieces of April”; Marcia Gay Harden as a suspicious wife in “Mystic River”; and Holly Hunter as a single mom trying to rein in her defiant daughter in “thirteen.”

Harden said the pressure was off this time, since she won the supporting-actor prize three years ago for “Pollock.” She had been a surprise nominee for that film and oddsmakers labeled her a longshot to take home the Oscar.

“If I listened to Las Vegas before, I was 12-1 not to win,” Harden said. “I think I’ll just enjoy the ride this time.”

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences nominated all six Golden Globe acting winners for Oscars. Penn and Theron won the Globes for dramatic lead roles, Murray and Keaton won for comedy leads and Robbins and Zellweger took the supporting-actor prizes.

Scarlett Johansson, who received Golden Globe nominations for “Lost in Translation” and “Girl With a Pearl Earring,” was bypassed. Among other snubs, there were no acting nominations among the “Rings” and “Master and Commander” casts.

The blockbuster “Finding Nemo” was nominated for animated feature film, along with “Brother Bear” and the French film “The Triplets of Belleville.”

Foreign-language nominees were the Canadian film “The Barbarian Invasion,” Sweden’s “Evil,” Japan’s “The Twilight Samurai,” the Netherlands’ “Twin Sisters” and the Czech Republic’s “Zelary.”

Joining “The Return of the King” in the adapted screenplay category were “American Splendor,” “City of God,” “Mystic River” and “Seabiscuit.”

Original screenplay nominees: “The Barbarian Invasions,” “Dirty Pretty Things,” “Finding Nemo,” “In America” and “Lost in Translation.”

Nominees in most categories are chosen by specific branches of the 5,700-member Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, such as actors, directors and writers.

All academy members are allowed to vote for best-picture nominees. The full academy also is eligible to vote in all categories for the awards themselves.

ABC will broadcast the Oscars on Feb. 29 live from Hollywood’s Kodak Theatre. Billy Crystal returns as host after a four-year absence, his eighth time as Oscar master of ceremonies.

Director Blake Edwards, whose films include “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” “Victor/Victoria,” “Days of Wine and Roses” and “The Pink Panther” movies, will receive an honorary Oscar for career achievement.

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On the Net:

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