Oscar belts out surprises

Some surprises among the Oscar nominations:

COLD SHOULDER: Despite heavy hype and seven nominations, ‘Cold Mountain’ was snubbed in the best picture category. Anthony Minghella was shut out for directing and for his adapted screenplay, as was Oscar favourite Nicole Kidman for best actress.

KEISHA CASTLE-HUGHES: This 13-year-old New Zealander, making her film debut, was nominated for best actress for the independent ‘Whale Rider’ — the youngest nominee ever in that category. She plays a Maori girl who challenges tradition to seek leadership of her tribe. Among her competition: Oscar winner Diane Keaton and Golden Globe winner Charlize Theron.

‘CITY OF GOD’: This violent, documentary-style look at drug gang wars in Rio de Janeiro’s slums received four nominations, including best director for Fernando Meirelles.

SCARLETT JOHANSSON: She received universal critical praise and two Golden Globe nominations for ‘Girl With a Pearl Earring’ and ‘Lost in Translation’ — but no Oscar nominations.

Then, the non-surprises:

ONE RING TO RULE THEM ALL: ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King’ leads all films with 11 nominations. Many are in technical categories, including art direction, film editing and visual effects.

GLOBE-TROTTING: All four Golden Globe winners in the leading acting categories were nominated for Oscars: Sean Penn for ‘Mystic River’, Charlize Theron for ‘Monster’, Bill Murray for ‘Lost in Translation’ and Diane Keaton for ‘Something’s Gotta Give’.

CLINT’S BACK: ‘Mystic River’, one of the best-reviewed films of the year, received six nominations, including best picture and best director for Clint Eastwood. The film is considered Eastwood’s best since ‘Unforgiven’ — which earned him best picture and best director Oscars in 1993.

FISH TALES: ‘Finding Nemo’, the top box-office draw of 2003, received four nominations, including best animated film and best original screenplay.

Associated Press