Oscar Nominations Announced

Steven Soderbergh became the first director in 63 years to earn two Best Director Oscar nominations, receiving nods for Traffic and Erin Brockovich as Hollywood prepared to honor the best of 2000.

Oscar nominations were handed down this morning in Beverly Hills. The 73rd Academy Awards ceremony will air March 25 on ABC-TV.

Soderbergh's two entries also garnered Best Picture nominations and will compete in that all-important category against Chocolat, Gladiator and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Gladiator, Hollywood's first Roman epic since the 1960s, led all contenders with 12 nominations, including nods for actor Russell Crowe and supporting actor Joaquin Phoenix.

The martial arts saga Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was close behind with 10 nominations, including one for director Ang Lee. The movie, which is in Mandarin, also became the third foreign-language film to score a Best Picture nomination.

The achievement comes as the Taiwanese film reaches another milestone — topping the list as the best-grossing foreign film. Variety reports Crouching Tiger hit $60.3 million at the domestic box office this past weekend, surpassing Oscar winner Life Is Beautiful's record $57.6 million. Tiger also broke Life Is Beautiful's record for the most Oscar nominations given to a foreign film.

Surprise Nomination for Harris

The last time a director received a double nomination was in 1938, when Michael Curtiz was nominated for Angels With Dirty Faces and Four Daughters. Neither film won.

Soderbergh and Lee will compete against Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliot) and Ridley Scott (Gladiator).

Crowe was nominated for Best Actor last year for The Insider, but lost to Kevin Spacey. This year he faces competition that is sure to challenge the Roman warrior. Two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks was nominated yet again for his performance as a man stranded on a Pacific Ocean island in Cast Away.

Some Oscar watchers were surprised by the nomination of Ed Harris, who plays abstract painter Jackson Pollock in the critically acclaimed Pollock. The film came out in December in New York and Los Angeles and remains in limited release.

Also nominated: Javier Bardem, who portrayed Cuban writer Reinaldo Arenas in Before Night Falls, and Geoffrey Rush, who plays the asylum-bound Marquis de Sade in Quills.

The Best Actress nominees are Joan Allen, who plays a scandal-plagued vice-presidential nominee in The Contender; Juliette Binoche as a love-conjuring confectioner in Chocolat; Ellen Burstyn in Requiem for a Dream; Laura Linney in You Can Count On Me; and Julia Roberts in Erin Brockovich.

Roberts' onscreen legal mentor, Albert Finney, received a Supporting Actor nomination. He'll face Phoenix, who plays the underhanded Roman Emperor Commodus in Gladiator.

Also in the running are Jeff Bridges, the Clintonesque president in The Contender; Benicio Del Toro, the Mexican narcotics officer in Traffic; and Willem Dafoe in Shadow of the Vampire.

Double Support for Almost Famous

Director Cameron Crowe's Golden Globe-winning Almost Famous failed to get a Best Picture nomination. But the film received two Best Supporting Actress nominations, for Frances McDormand and Kate Hudson.

McDormand plays a domineering mother who reluctantly lets her teenage son follow a hard-driving 1970s rock band around the country to pursue his dream of becoming a Rolling Stone journalist. Hudson portrays the groupie who becomes his companion.

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