When Gladiator was released last May, few thought that the action-packed epic would stand a chance at the Oscars, but as 2000 waned, the revival of the long-dead sword-and-sandal genre suddenly looked like the leader of the pack.
Now, Gladiator commands the Oscar field with 12 nominations, including nods for Best Picture, Best Director (Ridley Scott), Best Actor (Russell Crowe), Best Supporting Actor (Joaquin Phoenix), best score (Hans Zimmer and Lisa Gerrard), and best original screenplay (David Franzoni, John Logan, and William Nicholson).
Tiger Breaks More Records Right behind the Roman epic is critical favorite Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, with 10 nominations. This weekend, the Ang Lee-directed Mandarin-language fable surpassed Life Is Beautiful as the biggest-earning foreign film of all time, and now it's the most nominated foreign-language film in Oscar history. It's also the third film to be nominated in both the Best Picture category and the Best Foreign Language Film category in the same year (After Z in 1969 and Life Is Beautiful in 1998, both of which won in the foreign language film category).
Competing against these two epics for Best Picture honors are Chocolat, Erin Brockovich, and Traffic, which all boast five nominations each.
Soderbergh Competes Against Himself Steven Soderbergh became only the second director to receive double nominations in one year. He is nominated for Erin Brockovich and Traffic, both of which received nods for Best Picture as well. The last director to earn double directorial nominations was Michael Curtiz, who pulled off that feat in 1938. Between 1950 and 1974, Academy rules prevented two directing nominations for one individual in the same year. In 1974, Francis Ford Coppola had two films up for Best Picture (The Godfather: Part II and The Conversation) but was nominated — and won — for Best Director for The Godfather: Part II only.
Contending with Soderbergh for Best Director are Crouching Tiger's Ang Lee (who won the Golden Globe in this category), Scott (Gladiator), and Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliot). Although Chocolat is up for Best Picture, director Lasse Hallström did not receive a directing nod, and Billy Elliot was overlooked in the Best Picture category.
Spanish Actor Wins Surprise Best Actor Nod Gasps of surprise and delight met the announcement of Spanish actor Javier Bardem's name in the Best Actor category for his role in the little-seen Before Night Falls. The nominees are read alphabetically by last name, so journalists were hard-pressed to hear the names that followed Bardem's in the ensuing hubbub.
Besides favorites Crowe (Gladiator) and Tom Hanks (Cast Away), the lead actor field was hard to call this year. Geoffrey Rush's performance as the Marquis de Sade in Quills made the cut, and Ed Harris, another dark-horse nominee, directed himself to an Oscar nomination for the title role in Pollock, his biopic of painter Jackson Pollock.
No Surprises in Best Actress Category The Best Actress nominees held no surprises, with Julia Roberts winning a nod for her turn in Erin Brockovich. Her competition includes past Oscar winners Juliette Binoche (Chocolat) and Ellen Burstyn (Requiem for a Dream), first-time nominee Laura Linney (You Can Count on Me), and Joan Allen (The Contender).
Golden Globe Winners Lead Supporting Categories Traffic's Benicio Del Toro was promoted to Best Actor in the Screen Actors Guild race, but he's in the running for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role as a Mexican cop in the drug-trade drama. He joins Robert De Niro as one of the few actors honored for an almost entirely foreign-language performance in an American film (De Niro won for The Godfather: Part II, in which he speaks mostly in Italian).
Del Toro, who also won a Best Supporting Actor Golden Globe for the role, competes with Joaquin Phoenix (Gladiator), Jeff Bridges (The Contender), Willem Dafoe (Shadow of the Vampire), and Albert Finney (Erin Brockovich).
Golden Globe winner Kate Hudson looked even more golden as she locked in her first Oscar nomination for her role as a groupie in Almost Famous. Hudson goes up against Frances McDormand (also from Almost Famous), Julie Walters (Billy Elliot), and Judi Dench (Chocolat) in the Best Supporting Actress category. Dark horse Marcia Gay Harden takes the last berth for her role as Lee Krasner in Pollock.
Foreign Film Nominees Contending with Crouching Tiger in the Best Foreign Language Film category is Amos Perros, from Mexico; Divided We Fall, from the Czech Republic; Everybody Famous, from Belgium; and The Taste of Others, from France.
Oscar Snubs Husband-and-wife team Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones were passed over for their work in Traffic, and Douglas also failed to receive a Best Actor nod for his acclaimed performance in Wonder Boys. Other relative shutouts include Billy Elliot, which received three nominations; Cast Away and The Contender, which received two nominations each; and Dancer in the Dark, which received one nomination, for Best Original Song.
The Academy Awards will be presented March 25 at the Los Angeles Shrine Auditorium and will be televised live on ABC. — Sharon Knolle
Click here for a complete list of the nominees.