A small army of media reps and publicists, only mildly nervous following a government warning of possible terrorist attacks, patiently filed through metal detectors in the wee hours of Feb. 12 for the announcements of the 74th Annual Academy Awards nominations. And while the anticipatory buzz was a bit more subdued than usual, Oscar rewarded with a not-exactly-predictable crop of nominees, spreading the wealth among a wide-ranging group of films.
Last year's Best Supporting Actress winner Marcia Gay Harden (Pollock) was looking fresh for the pre-dawn occasion in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences' Beverly Hills headquarters, wearing a smart black pantsuit. Moments before the announcements, Harden stood in the wings of the Academy's Samuel Goldwyn Theater making excited, pixie-ish faces at one of her handlers, who had the actress present herself for a last-minute check to ensure her dark ensemble was fully buttoned and lint-free. "I love it," Harden whispered gamely as she was inspected. "You've got to do it."
Harden then joined Academy president Frank Pierson to announce the top ten categories of the 24 different Oscar races, including the first ever animated feature film category. And while two expected powerhouse films, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (with 13 nominations) and A Beautiful Mind (with eight), dominated in several categories, many nods were given to films that had already been mentioned as possible Oscar contenders by the Golden Globes, the Directors Guild, the Screen Actors Guild, the Writers Guild and other award-bestowing organizations.
In the end, almost every major movie with early buzz came up with at least one nomination. But the real heavyweights landed in the Best Picture category, which features a highly competitive field comprised of A Beautiful Mind, The Lord of the Rings, In the Bedroom, Moulin Rouge and Gosford Park.
The 800-pound gorilla--or is that orc?--among the nominees was The Lord of the Rings, only the seventh film in history to snag a baker's dozen worth of nods (historically, only All About Eve and Titanic scored more with 14), but earned only one acting nod, a supporting nom for Ian McKellen as the wizard Gandalf. New Line, the studio behind the film, was so dedicated to getting older Academy members to screen the fantasy flick that one member told Hollywood.com he had a DVD of the film hand-delivered within hours when he told the studio he hadn't received a screening copy.
In contrast, the much smaller but equally well-marketed film (from Miramax, the grand champ of Oscar campaigns) In the Bedroom received five nominations, and while none were in technical categories and director Todd Field was bypassed, it snared three nominations in the prestigious acting categories, for Sissy Spacek, Tom Wilkinson and Marisa Tomei.
Still, it may be tough for either the fantastic visuals of Lord of the Rings or the measured angst of In the Bedroom to triumph over A Beautiful Mind, which seems to gather more momentum with each passing day. Not only did star Russell Crowe garner his third consecutive Oscar nomination as expected, supporting actress Jennifer Connelly scored her first nod, as did director Ron Howard. The film is also nominated for adapted screenplay, original score, film editing and makeup. If Crowe--who took home last year's trophy for Gladiator--wins, he'll join the elite ranks of Tom Hanks, Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy and Luise Rainer as a back-to-back Oscar winner.
Perhaps the biggest success story among the nominations was the strong performance of Moulin Rouge, a you-either-love-it-or-you-hate-it modern musical that, thanks to 20th Century Fox's aggressive Oscar campaign and almost a year of relentless stumping from director Baz Luhrmann, scored with Academy voters, tying A Beautiful Mind's eight nods--including Best Picture. But despite accolades for lead actress Nicole Kidman and nods in several technical categories, Luhrmann, star Ewan McGregor and the film's music were snubbed.
Gosford Park also performed admirably, garnering seven nominations, including two for supporting actress. But forgotten was Memento, considered a leading contender throughout most of the year but left behind with but two noms, for original screenplay and editing. Black Hawk Down, the military drama that has seen its popularity skyrocket since its Christmas release, was also downed as a best picture contender but soared with four nominations.
There were a few interesting wrinkles in the acting categories. Provoking the biggest response among the live audience was the nomination for Ali's Will Smith, a major movie star who saw his chances at Oscar gold rise when he was tapped for a Golden Globe nom, then get murkier when he was bypassed by the SAG Awards. Smith joined Denzel Washington (Training Day) among the Best Actor nominees, marking the first time two African American men have been named simultaneously in that category.
Just ten hours before the announcements, Jon Voight was rooting for his Ali co-star. "There'll be a lot of people having sleepless nights," said Voight, out on the town in Hollywood on the night before the nominations were revealed. "I sure hope he gets it." Voight--previously nominated for Midnight Cowboy, Runaway Train and a 1978 Oscar winner for Coming Home--was more sanguine about his chances for being feted for his nearly unrecognizable turn as sportscaster Howard Cosell, and his humility was rewarded with a Best Supporting Actor nod.
Conspicuously absent among the acting nominees was Voight's son-in-law, Billy Bob Thornton, who was widely praised for his roles in three 2001 films, The Man Who Wasn't There, Bandits and Monster's Ball--indeed, Thornton's multiplicity of good work may have divided his Oscar votes. His absence may have opened the field for Academy favorite Sean Penn, nominated for I Am Sam, which otherwise left voters unmoved.
Conversely, the year's most hyped actress, Kidman--like Smith, overlooked by SAG--managed to withstand her own toughest competition--herself in The Others--and pulled off a Best Actress nomination. She joined Spacek, Halle Berry (Monster's Ball), Renee Zellweger (Bridget Jones's Diary) and Judi Dench (Iris).
The oft-nominated Dench may have had an added lucky charm in the form of her co-star, Kate Winslet, who was nominated in the supporting actress field for playing writer Iris Murdoch, the same character as Dench. The only other time two actresses were nominated for playing the same character was in 1997, when Gloria Stuart and--you guessed it--Winslet were singled out for Titanic.
An actor whose surprise SAG nod may have helped his Oscar chances was Ethan Hawke, whose role as a rookie cop in Training Day landed him among the supporting actor nominees. He edged out the buzzed-about Steve Buscemi (Ghost World) to join Jim Broadbent, McKellen, Voight and Ben Kingsley, still on a roll for his blistering turn in Sexy Beast.
Two grand dames from Gosford Park's Brit Pack of distinguished thespians made the cut in the supporting actress category: Helen Mirren (in her second Oscar nomination) and Maggie Smith (in her sixth!) rounded out a roster that features former Academy Award winner Tomei, three-time nominee Winslet and first-timer Connelly.
Gosford Park's maverick director Robert Altman survived a DGA snub to take home his fifth nomination in the directing category (earlier noms came for M*A*S*H, Nashville, The Player and Short Cuts). And while In the Bedroom's Field and Moulin Rouge's Luhrmann join the ranks of directors whose films were nominated as best picture but who failed to be nominated themselves, Black Hawk Down's Ridley Scott and Mulholland Drive's David Lynch managed to nab slots, joined by Howard and Lord of the Rings' Peter Jackson.
In what may be a foreshadowing of things to come, each of the three nominees in the brand-spanking-new animated feature film category--Shrek, Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius and Monsters, Inc. --featured CGI animation over the more conventional ink and paint style. Shrek was frequently discussed as a best picture nominee, but while it didn't make the cut there it was recognized in the adapted screenplay field.
The whimsical and visually inventive French film Amélie was the standout among the foreign film nominees (joining Norway's Elling, India's Lagaan, Bosnia & Herzogovina's No Man's Land and Argentina's Son of the Bride). Amélie was also tapped in four other categories, including art direction and original screenplay.
Paul McCartney proved the old Beatle still has Wings, scoring an original song nomination for his end-title track to Vanilla Sky, the much-debated film's only nod. In the Oscar ranks, McCartney still has a long way to go to match composer John Williams, who is the single most nominated living person with 41 nominations, receiving not one but two this year for his original scores for A.I.: Artificial Intelligence and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Only Walt Disney (with 64) and composer Alfred Newman (with 45) have more.
Speaking of both Disney and Newman, the latter's nephew Randy continued his streak as one of the Academy's favorite composer-songwriters, garnering two nominations--for original score and original song--for his music from Disney's Monsters, Inc.
She's not a little girl anymore: pop diva Britney Spears and boyfriend, 'N Sync lead singer Justin Timberlake, were seen steaming up the dance floor Sunday at the chic Cheetah nightclub in New York, according to The Post. The couple were celebrating singer Inaya Day's new release "Can't Stop Dancing" and stayed at the club well past 4 a.m. In related news, Spears' adult image is certainly popular with fans, as an X-rated T-shirt featuring her and fellow pop diva Christina Aguilera has become a top seller for 2001 at a leading retailer, Sky News reports.
Oscar-winning producer Julia Phillips, best known for such '70s hits as The Sting (1973), Taxi Driver (1976) and Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), died of cancer Monday in her Hollywood home. She was 57. Two children, Kate and Matthew, survive Phillips.
John Corbett, who plays the hunk Aidan on the hit HBO series Sex in the City, says he can't give away any secrets about next season, especially whether Aidan will end up marrying Carrie, played by Sarah Jessica Parker--not even to his family. Corbett told The Associated Press, "You have to watch it just like my mom."
Ron Howard's film A Beautiful Mind, based on a book by Sylvia Nassar about real-life Nobel Prize winner John Nash Jr., omitted one important fact: Nash's bisexuality. Russell Crowe commented to Entertainment Weekly, "It was relevant to his character, but we didn't want to imply that there was any possibility that schizophrenia and homosexuality are related."
Showtime's Queer as Folk, the cable channel highest-rated series, which details the lives of a group of gay men, has been renewed for a second season, beginning Jan. 6. Creators Ron Cowen and Daniel Lipman, who feared the conservative public would rail against their show, which involves sexual explicit scenes, have received mostly positive feedback from fans.
Funky R&B singer Macy Gray claims it's "impossible" to describe herself in one word. Gray told Rosie O'Donnell in Rosie magazine if she could change one thing about herself it would be her feet. "I wish [they] were smaller."
CBS has won the ratings race for the holiday week ending Dec. 31 with powerhouse episodes of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and Survivor: Africa. NBC won the 18-49 demographic with encore showings of It's a Wonderful Life and reruns of their hit series, including Friends and The West Wing.
Sony Corp will be paying over $70 million for nearly all of the international distribution rights to the third cyborg installment Terminator 3: The Rise of the Machines, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. The film, already the most expensive film to be greenlit for production at $170 million, begins shooting in April.
David Lynch's twisted Mulholland Drive and Christopher Nolan's quirky Memento tied for the Online Film Critics Society's best film of 2001. Other accolades went to Lynch as best director for Mulholland Drive and Billy Bob Thornton for best actor in The Man Who Wasn't There.
USA Network has given a 22-episode order to a new series The Dead Zone, based on Stephen King's novel of the same name and set to star Anthony Michael Hall. The cable channel will pay close to $1 million per episode, making it one of the richest series deal to date.
CNN's legal affairs analyst Greta Van Susteren will be jumping ship and heading to bitter rival Fox News Channel, a CNN spokesman confirmed Wednesday. Van Susteren's popular CNN show The Point will continue with CNN Capitol Hill correspondent Kate Snow replacing Van Susteren for the time being.
As anticipated, The West Wing was the big winner at Sunday
night's Emmy Awards.
What was not anticipated was the mostly upbeat
nature of the ceremonies themselves, a tone that many credited to host
Ellen DeGeneres, who got her biggest laughs when she referred to Muslim
fanatics: "They can't take away our creativity, our striving for
excellence, our joy. Only network executives can do that," she said,
smiling at CBS chief Les Moonves.
"I feel I'm in a unique position as
host," she added, "because think about it: what would bug a guy from the
Taliban more than seeing a gay woman in a suit surrounded by Jews?"
received a standing ovation at the end. Her performance was also
applauded by TV writers in today's press.
David Bianculli in
the New York Daily News called it "funny and winning."
in the Washington Post, "tasteful but entertaining."
New York Post, Adam Buckman wrote: "Much of the credit for the
show's breezy attitude has to go to Ellen DeGeneres, whose easy-going
style of comedy seemed tailor-made for an awards show that wanted to be
celebratory while simultaneously acknowledging the current crisis."
Several critics who had urged that the Emmy ceremonies be canceled
admitted that they had been wrong. Among them was Howard Rosenberg of
the Los Angeles Times, who wrote that the twice postponed show
"was like an 'all clear' after an air raid."
A scene on The WB's teen-targeted drama Dawson's Creek will show two gay teens locked in an extended kiss Wednesday night, USA Today reported today Monday. "I timed it," Scott Seomin of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) told the newspaper. "It's like a 5 1/2-second mouth-to-mouth kiss. We haven't seen anything like this before on network TV." The episode is certain to arouse anger among numerous religious and pro-family activists. Heather Cirmo of the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C., told the newspaper that the episode will do a disservice to "impressionable teens who have questions about their sexuality by promoting a myth that homosexuality is something you're born with."
NBC FINALLY MAKES GOOD ON ITS PROMISE TO BUYERS
NBC finally scored a 4.5 rating Saturday night, the precise number that it guaranteed advertisers for its XFL football games. However, it pulled the number with a repeat of the James Bond movie Goldeneye.The movie peaked at 10:30 p.m. with a 5.4/10. Last week, the championship XFL contest averaged only a 2.5/5. The highest numbers for the night were scored by CBS's The District, which earned an 8.8/13 in the 10:00 p.m. hour and helped CBS win the night.
MURDOCH SEEN PULLING OFF DEAL TO BUY DIRECTV
Contrary to earlier reports, News Corp's proposal to take over Hughes Electronics' DirecTV will not be put to a vote of the General Motors board at its regular meeting Tuesday, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday. GM is the parent company of Hughes. Nevertheless, the newspaper said, top GM officials are continuing to meet with News Corp execs, including Chairman Rupert Murdoch, and are expected to recommend that the board approve Murdoch's latest proposal. Citing a "highly placed source," the Times said that a deal for DirecTV to be incorporated into Murdoch's Sky Global Network could come together in the next month.
BACARDI KNOCKING DOWN BARRIERS TO TV BOOZE ADS
Bacardi is expected to slice a large rip in the broadcast and cable industry's self-imposed ban on liquor advertising when it launches a sexy ad for its Disaronno Originale Amaretto liqueur on several cable outlets this week, the Wall Street Journal reported today Monday. The newspaper said that among the cable outlets carrying the spot will be Viacom's VHI, AOL Time Warner's TBC networks, and Comedy Central, jointly owned by Viacom and AOL Time Warner. In most instances, the ads, part of a $1.1-million cable marketing campaign, will run not on the networks themselves, the WSJ observed, but as local spots during station breaks in large markets, thereby circumventing anti-liquor policies by the nets.
BBC PLANS TO AIR LIVE INTERVIEWS WITH EXECUTION WITNESSES
As part of its plan to broadcast a documentary, The Oklahoma Bomber, in Britain on May 16, the day set for Timothy McVeigh's execution, the BBC will air live interviews with relatives of his victims after they have witnessed him being put to death, the London Independent on Sunday reported. The plans have sparked outrage by opponents of the death penalty in Britain. Frances Crook, director of the Howard League for Penal Reform, told the newspaper: "It disgusts me and I think it's a gross misuse of public funds. What makes it so shocking is that it's the BBC, which has a reputation for probity and ethical conduct." But David Belton, who was assigned to produce the live inserts for the documentary, replied, "We want to know if witnessing the execution has been a cathartic experience for the relatives, if it has helped them in the healing process. This is a legitimate question to ask, and it's in the public interest."
BRITISH MINISERIES LIKELY TO INFURIATE VIEWERS
Britain's commercial Channel 4 is bracing for a barrage of criticism when it airs the two-part miniseries Men Only on June 3 and 4, the London Sunday Times reported. The drama depicts upper middle-class men engaging in an assortment of amoral conduct and includes a graphic scene of a nurse being raped by three men, including a doctor, after being drugged with a horse tranquilizer. According to the Sunday Times, the men display little, if any, remorse afterwards. The drama, which was bought by Channel 4 two years ago, had originally been scheduled to air earlier this year, the newspaper said, and some executives of the network have questioned whether it should air at all. But Tessa Ross, head of drama programming for Channel 4, told the Sunday Times that she is "happy for Men Only to go out."
AOL TIME WARNER SETS SIGHTS (AND SITES) ON EUROPE
Seeking to expand its cable and Internet broadband operations into Europe, AOL Time Warner is in talks about forming an alliance with the British cable operator NTL, published reports said Monday.
OPTIMISM RISES OVER POSSIBLE WGA-PRODUCERS DEAL
Film and TV producers spent the weekend at the negotiating table with negotiators for the Writers Guild of America hoping to avert a strike following the expiration of the current labor contract at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday. WGA officials have indicated that they are willing to agree to an extension of the current contract on a day-to-day basis if progress in the talks is being made. They have not yet taken a strike-authorization vote, which is required before a strike can begin. Monday's Los Angeles Times quoted labor and industry executives who have been in contact with the two sides as saying that they expect a deal this week.
REPORTER PUBLISHER SAYS NEWSMAN "LOST HIS OBJECTIVITY"
The publisher of the Hollywood Reporter has defended his decision to kill a story by his labor reporter that accused the trade paper's gossip columnist of accepting favors from two movie producers. Robert J. Dowling said in a statement on Friday that he spiked the story by reporter David Robb "because I felt that, over the course of time, he had lost his objectivity on this issue and was no longer adhering to The Hollywood Reporter's standards of journalistic, ethical and professional conduct." Robb subsequently resigned. Meanwhile, the trade paper reported Monday that the Screen Actors Guild has initiated an audit of gossip columnist George Christy's film credits as part of the guild's routine investigation of individuals who it believes might be defrauding its pension and health plan.
CLOONEY TO RETURN AS BATMAN?
George Clooney is expected to fulfill a deal with Warner Bros. to portray Batman a second time, Britain's Guardian newspaper reported today. The newspaper quoted Darren Aronofsky, who has been tapped to direct the upcoming Batman: Year One, as saying: "George Clooney is going to be back as Batman in the movie. There are no major casting changes." Clooney was critical of his own performance as Batman in 1997's Batman and Robin, joining many reviewers in rapping the movie, which fell far short of studio expectations at the box office.
WEALTHY SINGER TO INVEST IN SCOTTISH MOVIE STUDIO
Former Eurythmics member Dave Stewart has decided to make a substantial investment in an $8-million film studio in Inverness, Scotland, the London Sunday Times reported. The studio, which is due to have a fiber-optic link to Stewart's multimedia company, the Hospital, in London, is likely to become the first film studio in Scotland. It is also being backed by James Cosmo, who costarred in Braveheart with Mel Gibson. "It won't be Hollywood, but it will be a proper working studio," Cosmo told the Sunday Times. Named Highland Studios, the facility sill reportedly have two main sound stages, one 15,000 square feet; the other 8,000 square feet. Plans by a rival group including Sean Connery to build a studio near Edinburgh have stalled, the newspaper said.
Shock jock Howard Stern must be loving this one. Its seems he's not the only one who wants Kathie Lee Gifford gone.
Regis Philbin's former co-host on "Live With Regis and Kathie Lee" has been banned from the set of the morning show she left in July, The Associated Press reports. Execs for "Live With Regis" say that they just want to give the guest hosts who have been appearing on the show with Philbin the chance to do their job without being distracted by Gifford.
``We need to gain some physical and commercial separation from Kathie Lee during the search for her replacement,'' said Tom Kane, president and general manager of WABC-TV in New York, which produces the show.
A GAY DEBUT: John Goodman's new show might prove to have some staying power considering the numbers it pulled in its debut Wednesday night. "Normal, Ohio," Fox's gay-themed sitcom and the rest of its start-from-scratch Wednesday night, performed well, taking a close third in the coveted adults 18-49 demographic with a 5.0 rating and 13 share. Fox's lineup trailed NBC (5.4/14) and ABC (5.2/14). Fox also delivered its best Wednesday ratings among men 18-49 and 25-54 since May 1998.
THE DOCTORS ARE IN: ABC is doctoring up more nights of "Gideon's Crossing." The network has picked up six additional episodes of the medical drama, Daily Variety reports. The show performs especially strong in the adults 18-49 demographic. Recently, ABC also ordered a season's worth of episodes for one of its rookie sitcoms, "The Geena Davis Show."