It would be nice to think that the Miramax marketing machine has finally faltered, what with Cold Mountain not getting listed among this year's best picture nominees. On the other hand, how do we account for four nominations for City Of God , including director and screenplay, except by Harvey Weinstein 's commitment to the film, which crashed and burned in theatrical release. Either way you can't help but notice some out-of-nowhere choices. House Of Sand And Fog 's too depressing and nobody saw In America , but they both received major recognition. Don't be surprised Johnny Depp was nominated for best actor. His baroque, over-the-top scene-stealing and scenery-chewing genius was the only thing everyone who saw Pirates Of The Caribbean agreed on.
Over half the acting Oscar candidates are first-time nominees: Depp, Bill Murray , Charlize Theron , Naomi Watts , Keisha Castle-Hughes , Patricia Clarkson , Alec Baldwin , Djimon Hounsou , Tim Robbins (his first for acting - he was nominated for directing Dead Man Walking), Ken Watanabe , Shohreh Aghdashloo .
Note that Sofia Coppola is the third woman ever nominated as best director and the first American, the other two directors being the Italian Lina Wertmuller and Kiwi Jane Campion.
At 13, Whale Rider's Castle-Hughes is the youngest best actress nominee ever, the first one under 20.
Biggest surprise? The best documentary list reflects commercial reality - four of the five nominees have been released and seen. Given that the documentary nominating process has ignored films like Hoop Dreams in the past, this is a step forward.
Pleasantest surprise? A screenplay nomination for Dirty Pretty Things .
Tentative picks: Sean Penn over Murray for actor, Theron over Diane Keaton for actress, Renée Zellweger for supporting actress, Tim Robbins for supporting actor, The Lord Of The Rings for picture and director and everything that isn't nailed down.
Complete Oscar nominations at www.oscar.com/nominees/nomineelist.html.
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