The musical Chicago, the epic Gangs of New York and art-house hit The Hours sprinted out of the gate as Oscar's front-runners when the nominations for the 75th annual Academy Awards were announced yesterday.
Julianne Moore received two nominations, for best actress in Far From Heaven and best supporting actress in The Hours.
"In such a year of such wonderful performances, I am incredibly honored to be among these nominees," Moore said. "Never in my career have I ever imagined I would have two nominations!"
The year after Hollywood's "breakthrough" in recognizing actors of color, only Queen Latifah, who played a singing prison matron in Chicago, and Mexican actress and Frida producer Salma Hayek earned nods yesterday. Latifah is up for supporting actress. Hayek, whose efforts ensured the biography of the late Mexican painter Frida Kahlo made it to the screen, was nominated for best actress.
However, the Academy went out of its way to recognize Spanish director Pedro Almodovar (Talk to Her) and the Mexican art-house hit Y Tu Mama Tambien. Neither film was selected by its nation of origin for the best foreign language Oscar competition. But Almodovar, the flamboyant creator of Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown and Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down, was nominated for best director and best original screenplay. Y Tu Mama was nominated for best original screenplay.
This year's best picture nominations went to The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Gangs of New York, The Pianist, The Hours and Chicago, which danced off with 13 Oscar nominations, including four for members of its cast.
Gangs received 10 nominations, including one for Martin Scorsese. The director of Taxi Driver and Raging Bull becomes the odds-on favorite to finally win a best-director Oscar.
"It was a difficult movie to make, one I have dreamed of for several decades, so this recognition means a great deal to me," Scorsese said.
Gangs' star, best-actor nominee Daniel Day-Lewis, managed to make even sunny California sound drab in his statement when he quipped, "It's very beautiful here in Ireland and this has made my day."
Day-Lewis, as ruthless 19th-century gang lord Bill "The Butcher," is up against Nicolas Cage, who played frazzled screenwriter Charlie Kaufman and Kaufman's imaginary twin Donald in Adaptation; Adrien Brody, as Holocaust survivor Wladyslaw Szpilman in The Pianist; Jack Nicholson's perplexed retiree in About Schmidt and sentimental favorite Michael Caine, playing a cynical but emotionally vulnerable journalist in The Quiet American.
The Hours, an adaptation of Michael Cunningham's time-twisting book about novelist Virginia Woolf and the themes of her book Mrs. Dalloway, grabbed nine nominations including Nicole Kidman's best-actress nod.
Moore, Kidman, Hayek, Renee Zellweger (Chicago) and Diane Lane (Unfaithful) are the best actress contenders. Lane was recognized for her moving turn as a conflicted, needy yuppie wife in the otherwise-ignored Adrian Lyne infidelity thriller.
Meryl Streep, a two-time Oscar winner, picked up a record 13th nomination, for supporting actress in Adaptation.
Paul Newman earned his ninth nomination for a dapper and aged 1930s crime boss in The Road to Perdition.
Scorsese and Almodovar's competition for best director includes fugitive filmmaker and four-time best-director nominee Roman Polanski. He directed The Pianist, which picked up seven Oscar nominations in all. Rob Marshall (Chicago) and Stephen Daldry (The Hours) are the other nominees for best director.
About Schmidt and Far From Heaven were odd men out of the best picture race. The two critically acclaimed films earned nominations for acting - besides Nicholson for best actor, a nod to Kathy Bates for supporting actress for Schmidt.
Notable for their absence, considering the critical and peer recognition that's come their way in recent months, were Richard Gere (Chicago), Tom Hanks (Road to Perdition), Hugh Grant (About a Boy) and Dennis Quaid (The Rookie, Far From Heaven).
The Oscars will be telecast on ABC on March 23.
Roger Moore writes for the Orlando Sentinel, a Tribune Publishing newspaper.