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Academy Acquits <I>Chicago</I> With 13 Oscar Nominations

11 Feb, 2003 By: Gregg Kilday

The murderous musical Chicago was acquitted as nominations were announced Tuesday morning for the 75th anniversary Academy Awards. The Miramax Films adaptation of the 1975 musical, originally conceived by Bob Fosse, danced away with a commanding 13 nominations, including best picture.

In the top category, it will compete with another Miramax entry, the rough-and-tumble historical epic Gangs of New York; the literary adaptation about depression, loneliness and love, The Hours, from Paramount Pictures and Miramax; New Line Cinema's The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, the second installment in director Peter Jackson's adaptation of the J.R.R. Tolkein trilogy, and The Pianist, director Roman Polanski's account of one man's survival during the Holocaust, which Focus Features released in the United States.

While most of the expected pictures showed up in the top spots, the announcement was not without its surprises.

Meryl Streep could claim a milestone. She became the most-nominated performer in Academy history, winning her 13th nomination for her supporting role as a frazzled journalist in Adaptation. (She had previously been tied at 12 with Katharine Hepburn.) But she failed to win a best actress nomination for her work in The Hours. Instead, her co-star Nicole Kidman secured a berth in that category, along with Salma Hayek, who plays the painter Frida Kahlo in Frida, Diane Lane, who plays a wife who strays in Unfaithful, Julianne Moore, who portrays a woman whose perfect life is shattered in Far From Heaven, and Renee Zellweger, who plays a killer with showbiz aspirations in Chicago.

The Chicago bandwagon also earned nominations for its supporting players, Queen Latifah, Catherine Zeta-Jones and John C. Reilly. But Richard Gere, who won a Golden Globe as best actor in a comedy or musical, was shut out of Oscar's leading man race.

The academy's line-up of best actor nominees includes Adrien Brody, the relative newcomer of the group, who plays the title role in The Pianist; Nicolas Cage, who appears in a dual role of rival sibling writers in Adaptation; Michael Caine, for his portrait of a world-weary journalist in The Quiet American; Daniel Day-Lewis, who acts the brutal Bill the Butcher in Gangs of New York; and old reliable Jack Nicholson, who appears against type as a Midwestern accountant struggling through his retirement in About Schmidt. With his twelfth nomination, Nicholson became the most nominated male performer in Academy history.

In addition, to Latifah, Zeta-Jones and Streep, the best supporting actress competition includes Kathy Bates, who bares all as an iconoclastic free spirit in About Schmidt and Moore, who plays a depressed housewife in The Hours. In fact, Moore emerged as the lone double acting nominee of this year's class.

Along with Reilly, who plays Zellweger's nearly invisible husband in Chicago, the actors nominated in a supporting role are Chris Cooper, who plays a rascally orchid enthusiast in Adaptation; Ed Harris, a dying poet in The Hours, Paul Newman, a paternal crime boss in Road to Perdition, and Christopher Walken, a conniving father figure in Catch Me If You Can.

The suprise in the directing category was that despite earning a best picture nomination for The Two Towers, New Zealand director Jackson was not included among the chosen directors. Instead, his spot went to Spanish director Pedro Almodovar, nominated for his study of love and friendship in Talk to Her, a Sony Pictures Classics release. The other nominated directors are Rob Marshall, Chicago; Stephen Daldry, The Hours; Polanski, The Pianist, and Martin Scorsese, Gangs of New York.

Almodovar also earned an original screenplay nom for Talk to Her. Another foreign language entry, Y Tu Mama Tambien, written by Carlos Cuaron and his brother Alfonso Cuaron, was also nominated in that category, along with Todd Haynes' Far From Heaven; Gangs of New York, written by Jay Cocks, Steve Zaillian and Kenneth Longergan, and My Big Fat Greek Wedding, the popular indie hit, written by Nia Vardalos.

The nominees for adapted screenplay are: About a Boy, written by Peter Hedges, Chris Weitz and Paul Weitz; Adaptation, credited to Charlie Kaufman and Donald Kaufman; Chicago, written by Bill Condon; The Hours, written by David Hare, and The Pianist, written by Ronald Harwood. In the case of Adaptation, the Academy said that it will award just one Oscar statuette, even though the screenplay is credited to Kaufman and his fictional creation, Donald Kaufman.

Nominees for best foreign language film are: El Crimen del Padre Amaro, directed by Carlos Carrera; Zhang Yimou's Hero, from the People's Republic of China; Aki Kaurismaki's The Man Without a Past, from Finland; Caroline Link's Nowhere in Africa, from Germany; and Paula van der Oest's Zus & Zo, from the Netherlands.

The 2-year-old category of best animated feature film, includes three films released in the United States by the Walt Disney Co. -- Lilo & Stitch and Treasure Planet, which the company produced itself, and the Japanese feature, Hayao Miyazaki's Spirited Away, which Disney acquired for distribution. The other nominees are 20th Century Fox's Ice Age and DreamWorks' Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron.

While Chicago dominated with 13 nominations, its closest competitor was Gangs with 10, followed by The Hours with nine, The Pianist with seven, and three films that tied with six noms each -- Frida, The Two Towers and Road to Perdition.

For The Two Towers, however, this morning's nominations represented a comedown from last year when the first installment in the trilogy, The Fellowship of the Ring, earned 13 nominations.

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