Screen star Billy Crystal returns as host of the annual awards, marking his eighth stint as Oscar emcee. Hairspray Tony Award winner Marc Shaiman will serve as musical director and conductor for Crystal. Shaiman received an Emmy Award for his last outing with Crystal, when he co-wrote the actor's "Oscar Medleys," which opened the 72nd Academy Awards.
As of press time, the evening's presenters are scheduled to include Nicole Kidman, Catherine Zeta Jones, Jennifer Garner, Tom Hanks, Colin Farrell, Oprah Winfrey, Steven Spielberg, Will Smith, Jack Black, Will Ferrell, Jude Law, Charlize Theron, Jim Carrey, Robin Williams, Julianne Moore, Renee Zellweger, Tom Cruise, Julia Roberts, Tim Robbins, Sandra Bullock, John Travolta, Susan Sarandon, Naomi Watts, Uma Thurman, Sofia Coppola, Angelina Jolie, Adrien Brody, Pierce Brosnan, Scarlett Johansson, Ian McKellan, Jada Pinkett Smith, Ben Stiller, Liv Tyler, Owen Wilson, Alec Baldwin, Nicolas Cage, Sean Connery, Chris Cooper, Francis Ford Coppola, Jamie Lee Curtis, John Cusack, Diane Lane, Queen Latifah and Tobey Maguire.
Performers will include Annie Lennox, singing "Into the West" from "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King"; Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara, who will duet on "A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow" from "A Mighty Wind"; and Sting and Alison Krauss, who will offer "You Will Be My Ain True Love" from "Cold Mountain." Krauss will do double-duty, also performing "The Scarlet Tide" from "Cold Mountain"; she will be accompanied by Elvis Costello and T Bone Burnett on the latter.
Actress Sigourney Weaver and Academy President Frank Pierson announced the 76th Annual Academy Award nominations Jan. 27. As expected, the epic film "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" led 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." "Master and Commander" 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 can now be seen in the revival of Twentieth Century at the American Airlines Theatre, was nominated in the supporting actor category for "The Cooler."
For a complete list of this year's Academy Award nominations, visit www.oscars.com.