James Cameron's "Titanic," the juggernaut that has proved all number of naysayers wrong by becoming one of the most successful films in history, sailed through the 70th Academy Award nominations yesterday, leaving a few small surprises in its wake.
As expected, "Titanic" led the day with 14 nominations, tying with the 1950 film "All About Eve" for the record. The film has made more than $600 million worldwide since it was released to critical and audience acclaim in December, rendering silent the pundits and industry insiders who just months earlier predicted that the $200 million deep-sea epic would wind up an expensive wet blanket.
Not only was "Titanic" nominated for best picture, but Cameron, Kate Winslet and Gloria Stuart were nominated for best director, best actress and best supporting actress. "Titanic" was also nominated in such technical categories as visual effects, editing and sound effects editing. In addition, the film received nominations for its art direction, cinematography, sound, musical score, original song, costumes and makeup.
As predicted, the comedy "As Good As It Gets," the neo-noir drama "L.A. Confidential" and the coming-of-age tale "Good Will Hunting" were nominated for best picture. And, also predicted, such veterans as Julie Christie, Judi Dench, Anthony Hopkins, Burt Reynolds, Robert Duvall, Peter Fonda and Jack Nicholson all received nominations. Nicholson, who was nominated for a best actor award for his portrayal of an obsessive - compulsive romance author in James Brooks' "As Good As It Gets," received his 11th nomination from the academy. He now holds a record number of best actor nominations, having previously tied with Sir Laurence Olivier with 10.
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But there were upsets. "Amistad," Steven Spielberg's film about an 1839 uprising on a slave ship, was virtually shut out, its place taken by the low-budget British comedy "The Full Monty," which emerged as the sleeper hit of the summer. "Amistad" was nominated in four categories, including Hopkins for best supporting actor. Brooks was not nominated for best director of "As Good As It Gets," even though he is up for best screenplay, three of his principals were nominated for acting awards, and the movie was nominated for best picture.
And there were a good number of surprises in the acting categories. Sigourney Weaver, who earned critical plaudits for her portrayal of a chilly suburban housewife in Ang Lee's "The Ice Storm," failed to receive a nomination for supporting actress. Debbi Morgan, who was lauded for her performance in the small but critically acclaimed "Eve's Bayou," was passed over as well.
Indeed, although 1997 produced a good share of films featuring stand-out performances by African-Americans - including Pam Grier in "Jackie Brown," Samuel L. Jackson in "Eve's Bayou" and "Jackie Brown," Don Cheadle in "Boogie Nights" and Dimon Hounsou in "Amistad" - none of them was nominated.
Neither Jodie Foster, who many thought would be recognized for her starring role as a passionate scientist in last summer's "Contact," nor Robin Wright, who turned in a surprisingly potent performance in Nick Cassavetes' "She's So Lovely," made the cut in a year that was considered thin in women's roles.
Kevin Spacey, who gave two highly regarded performances in "L.A. Confidential" and "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil," did not receive an expected nomination, but Robert Forster, whose quietly effective portrayal of a bail bondsman in Quentin Tarantino's "Jackie Brown" was overlooked by many critics, did.
In past years, Woody Allen has often elicited Oscar-winning performances from his stars. But no one starring in Allen's "Deconstructing Harry" was nominated. Instead, Allen was nominated for best original screenplay for his vulgar and mean-spirited portrait of a novelist who is willing to sacrifice family, friends and his own soul for his arts.
Still, the nominations, which were announced at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences in Los Angeles, held their share of pleasingly surreal juxtapositions. Who would have thought that Greg Kinnear and Anthony Hopkins would ever be mentioned in the same sentence? Or Burt Reynolds and Anthony Hopkins, for that matter? Gus Van Sant, nominated for best director for "Good Will Hunting" and known for his edgy, out-there sensibility, probably never foresaw sharing a bill with the bombastic, super-commercial James Cameron. What on earth could the micro-budget and small canvas of "The Full Monty" share with a grand-scale production like "Titanic" - except an uncommon appeal for audiences?