As expected, the epic film "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" leads the pack with 11 nominations, including one for Best Picture. Its competitors in the Best Picture category include "Lost in Translation," "Mystic River," "Seabiscuit" and "Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World." The latter received ten nominations, the second most for any film this season.
Surprisingly, the third part of the "Rings" trilogy received no acting nominations. And, "Cold Mountain," an expected favorite, was shut out of the Best Picture category, although the Civil War drama did garner seven nominations in all, including a Best Actress in a Supporting Role nod for former "Chicago" star Renée Zellweger.
A bit of Oscar history was made in the Best Director category. Sofia Coppola, whose low-budget film "Lost in Translation" was a surprise hit of the season, is the third woman — and the first female American — to be nominated in the Best Director category.
In the lead acting categories, the nominees for Best Actress include Keisha Castle-Hughes ("Whale Rider"), Diane Keaton ("Something's Gotta Give"), Samantha Morton ("In America"), Charlize Theron ("Monster") and Naomi Watts ("21 Grams). The Best Actor nominees feature Johnny Depp ("Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Pearl"), Ben Kingsley ("House of Sang and Fog"), Jude Law ("Cold Mountain"), Bill Murray ("Lost in Translation") and Sean Penn ("Mystic River").
Of interest to theatregoers: Patricia Clarkson, a stage veteran who has appeared on Broadway in Eastern Standard and The House of Blue Leaves, was nominated for a supporting actress Academy Award for her performance in "Pieces of April"; Clarkson's competition includes Angels in America's Marcia Gay Harden, nominated for her work in "Mystic River." The aforementioned Ben Kingsley, whose Broadway credits include A Midsummer Night's Dream and Edmund Kean, was nominated for "House of Sand and Fog"; and Alec Baldwin, who will soon be seen in the revival of Twentieth Century at the American Airlines Theatre, was nominated in the supporting actor category for "The Cooler." ABC will broadcast the 76th Academy Awards Feb. 29 live from the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, CA. Billy Crystal will host.
For a complete list of this year's Academy Award nominations, visit www.oscars.com.