Nominations were announced last week for the 76th annual Academy Awards and like every other year, there are front-runners, surprises and snubs. Here is an early look at the nominees and who will and should win each of the major categories.
Best Supporting Actress Category: Shohreh Aghdashloo (“House of Sand and Fog), Patricia Clarkson (“Pieces of April”), Marcia Gay Harden (“Mystic River”), Holly Hunter (“Thirteen”), Renee Zellweger (“Cold Mountain”).
Hunter and Clarkson have no chance since their movies have generated very little buzz and should just be happy with a nomination. Aghdashloo gave a breakthrough perfomance in “House of Sand And Fog” and it was a shock that the Academy nominated her but she was overshadowed in the film by cast mates Ben Kingsley and Jennifer Connelly.
Connelly was not nominated so that eliminates Aghdashloo from the running. That leaves Zellweger as the front runner and Harden, who was the major female presence in a movie centered on the lives of three men. Zellweger stood out in the overrated “Cold Mountain” and despite being nominated the last two years, she has yet to take home an award. Harden, however, is a past winner which should make this category an interesting one.
Best Supporting Actor Category: Alec Baldwin (“The Cooler”), Benicio Del Toro (“21 Grams”), Djimon Honsou (“In America”), Tim Robbins (“Mystic River”), Ken Watanabe (“The Last Samauri”).
All five have a legitimate shot at winning. Baldwin has taken many film critics’ awards but the movie has no big following which may hurt his chances. Watanabe’s “Samauri” was snubbed in other categories so his chances are slimmed because of that. Honsou has been a Hollywood favorite for years and is finally rewarded with his first nomination, while Del Toro’s Jesus-loving character in “21 Grams” garnered him noted praise. But this is Robbins’ to lose since he won the Golden Globe and “Mystic River” is one of the biggest movies of the year.
Best Actress Category: Keisha Castle-Hughes (“Whale Rider”), Diane Keaton (“Something’s Gotta Give”), Samantha Morton (“In America”), Charlize Theron (“Monster”), Naomi Watts (“21 Grams”).
This is a two person race between Keaton and Theron. Castle-Hughes, 12, is the youngest actress ever to be up for this award. The nomination alone is a win for her. Morton and Watts, although both having gained praise for their roles, will have to wait for another year to get their statues. Keaton is Hollywood’s darling this year and could steal the award from Theron, who transformed herself into serial killer Aileen Carol Wuornos for “Monster.” But since Keaton’s co-star Jack Nicholson was not nominated, that can hurt her chances.
Best Actor Category: Johnny Depp (“Pirates Of The Caribbean”), Ben Kingsley (“House Of Sand And Fog”), Jude Law (“Cold Mountain”), Bill Murray (“Lost In Translation”), Sean Penn (“Mystic River”).
Law, like Zellweger in the Best Actress category, suffers from the fact that his “Cold Mountain” was not very well received. The only difference, though, is that this is a much stronger category than hers is, so Law does not have a shot at walking home a winner. Depp’s “Pirates” was a blockbuster, which generally never win acting awards, so he should be honored with the nomination.
Kingsley’s performance was nothing short of brilliant but will most likely not get the votes since most voters will be split between Murray and Penn. Penn is the front runner in this category, but could lose because of his anti-war stance and the Academy may not want him making a political speech. Murray is a comedy legend in a serious role, similar to the acting role that helped Robin Williams win an Oscar for 1997’s “Good Will Hunting.” Murray’s recent Golden Globe win does not hurt his chances either.
Best Director Category: Sofia Coppola (“Lost In Translation”), Clint Eastwood (“Mystic River”), Peter Jackson (“Lord of the Rings: Return Of the King”), Fernando Meirelles (“City Of God”), Peter Weir (“Master and Commander”).
There is no contest in this category. Peter Jackson has this won for not only “The Return of The King” but for the entire trilogy. He lost in 2001 and was not nominated last year, so this is when the Academy recognizes the entire trilogy as a whole. The other Best Director nominees will have to wait another year.
Best Picture Category: “Lord of the Rings: Return of the King,” “Lost In Translation”, “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World,” “Mystic River,” “Seabiscuit.”
It’s “Lord of the Rings'” year. The movie with the most nominations wins Best Picture over 80 percent of the time and this year the entire trilogy will be honored. “Mystic River” and “Lost in Translation” have the best chances to be the party crasher but the bandwagon for LOTR is too strong. “Master and Commander” and “Seabiscuit” were thrown in there just because the Academy needed five nominations.
Movie buffs can tune in to see who takes home the coveted Oscar statuette at this year’s Academy Awards, airing Sunday, Feb. 29 at 8 p.m. on CBS.