Field competitive for Oscar nods

Industry-favorite “Brokeback Mountain” led the pack with eight nominations, including the top honors for best picture, best lead actor for Heath Ledger, and best director for Ang Lee, as the Academy Award nominations were announced Tuesday.

Films “Good Night, and Good Luck.” “Crash” and “Memoirs of a Geisha” received six nominations apiece, followed by “Capote,” “Munich” and “Walk the Line,” with five nominations each.

The eight nominations for “Brokeback Mountain” come as no surprise, as the film topped the critics’ lists across the board, despite the fact that on Sunday, the cast left the Screen Actors Guild Awards (SAG) ceremony empty-handed.

In the running for best picture against “Brokeback Mountain” are “Good Night, and Good Luck.” “Crash,” “Capote” and “Munich.” “Crash” was released much earlier than the other films nominated, which is usually a bad thing for building momentum. The cast of “Crash” however, took home the SAG award for best ensemble cast for a motion picture, the SAG equivalent of the Oscars’ best picture.

“Munich” is the only big-budget film receiving a nomination, and it tanked at the box office.

This is the first year since 1981 that the directing and best-picture nominations have honored the exact same five pictures.

Along with Lee in the directing category, George Clooney is nominated for “Good Night, and Good Luck.” Bennet Miller for “Capote,” Paul Haggis for “Crash,” and Steven Spielberg for “Munich.” This is Spielberg’s 11th Academy Award nomination overall, sixth in this category, and Haggis’ fourth nomination overall, but first in this category. This is Lee’s third overall nomination, and second in this category.

Other honors “Brokeback Mountain” is nominated for include best cinematography, original score, adapted screenplay, supporting actor for Jake Gyllenhaal, and supporting actress Michelle Williams. These are the first nominations for the young actors Gyllenhaal, Williams and Ledger.

Giving Ledger a run for his money are actors Terrence Howard for his portrayal of a struggling rapper in “Hustle & Flow;” David Strathairn as the journalist investigating the McCarthy “witch-hunts” in “Good Night, and Good Luck.” and Joaquin Phoenix as the music legend Johnny Cash in “Walk the Line.” But it seems as though the man to beat is Philip Seymour Hoffman for his role as the author of “In Cold Blood,” Truman Ca2006pote. Hoffman has already beat Ledger and his fellow actors in previous award ceremonies, winning the Golden Globe for best actor in a drama and the SAG award, giving him the heavier edge going into the awards.

Of the leading actors, Phoenix is the only one who has previously been nominated for an Oscar, having received a supporting-actor nomination for his role in the 2000 best picture “Gladiator.” In the leading-actress category, it may just be a two-woman race. Felicity Huffman won the Golden Globe for best actress in a drama for her role as a man preparing for a sex-change in “Transamerica,” and Reese Witherspoon won the Golden Globe for best actress in a musical or comedy, leaving it up in the air going into the SAG awards.

Witherspoon ended up taking the SAG award for best actress home, on Sunday, giving her the edge into the Oscars. This is the first nomination for both of them.

But not to be forgotten, Academy Award winners Charlize Theron and Dame Judi Dench also received nominations for best lead actress, as did Keira Knightley.

Theron is up for her role as a woman miner suing her company for harassment in “North Country;” Dench for her role as a woman who starts a nude revue in “Mrs. Henderson Presents;” and Knightley as the literary character Lizzie in “Pride and Prejudice.” For the supporting honors, Catherine Keener snagged her second Oscar nomination for her portrayal of “To Kill A Mockingbird” author Harper Lee in “Capote.” Frances McDormand received her fourth overall Oscar nomination for her role in “North Country,” Amy Adams received her first nod this year for her role in “Junebug,” and Williams for “Brokeback Mountain.” The heavy favorite in this category so far is Rachel Weisz for her role as the humanitarian in “The Constant Gardener.” Weisz has already won the Golden Globe and the SAG award.

For the supporting-actor category, facing off against Gyllenhaal is Paul Giamatti as the boxing coach in “Cinderella Man;” Matt Dillon as a racist cop in “Crash;” William Hurt for his small role as a Mafia boss in “A History of Violence;” and Clooney in the oil-industry flick “Syriana.” This award is up in the air, with Giamatti taking home the SAG and Clooney having won the Golden Globe in this category. Among these five men, Hurt is the only one who has an Academy Award under his belt.

Of all those nominated in an acting category, 14 of them are first-time nominees. Of the other six who have previously received nominations, four of them are past winners: Hurt won for “Kiss of the Spider Woman,” Dench for supporting role in “Shakespeare in Love,” Theron for her role in “Monster,” and McDormand for “Fargo.” Clooney, in his first year attending the Oscars, is nominated in three different categories, for directing, supporting actor, and for original screenplay for “Good Night, and Good Luck.” Among the heavily-publicized films left out of the top honors are “Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith;” “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe;” and “Memoirs of a Geisha.” All were nominated only for technical awards.

“Star Wars” was last year’s top-grossing film, but only received a nomination for achievement in makeup.

The six nominations for “Memoirs” are for art direction, cinematography, costume design, original score, sound editing, and sound mixing.

The 78th Annual Academy Awards will be broadcast on KITV channel 4 (ABC) on March 5, from the Kodak Theatre at the Hollywood & Highland in Los Angeles. “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart will host the awards.

For more information on nominations, visit www.oscars.

org or oscar.com.

Be sure to look for local predictions of who will take home the Oscars, in the Life & Style section of The Garden Island on March 3.

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