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'Rings' lords over Oscar with 13 nominations

Lord of the Rings
"The Lord of the Rings," starring Elijah Wood as Frodo Baggins, picked up 13 nominations to lead all films for the 74th Academy Awards.  

(CNN) -- "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring," a fantasy film that was one of the top box office hits of 2001, fulfilled a different kind of fantasy when it was nominated for 13 Academy Awards Tuesday morning, including a nod for best picture.

The number of nominations is the second-most in Oscar history, after the 14 earned by "All About Eve" (1950) and "Titanic" (1997). Though many of "Lord of the Rings'" nominations were in technical categories, the film also picked up nods for best director (Peter Jackson), best supporting actor (Ian McKellen), best cinematography and best adapted screenplay.

"Rings" was followed in the Oscar derby by "A Beautiful Mind," a drama about a Princeton mathematician afflicted with mental illness, and "Moulin Rouge," a musical set in 1899 Paris. Both films received eight nominations.

Like "Rings," both "Mind" and "Rouge" earned nominations for best picture. The other best picture nominees are "In the Bedroom," a domestic drama, and "Gosford Park," a drawing-room mystery about class distinctions set in 1930s England.

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"It is a real horse race all the way around," said Academy president Frank Pierson.

He said the films ranged from "real thoughtful" movies to big spectacles, and he saw no themes emerging from this year's motion pictures.

Brains and brawn

"Lord of the Rings" director Peter Jackson was up all night awaiting the Oscar nominations with colleagues in New Zealand, where he is working on the next installment of the J.R.R. Tolkien epic, "The Two Towers." They watched the nominations announcement on the BBC at 2:30 a.m. New Zealand time, he said.

"I feel like a proud father," Jackson told CNN. "It's wonderful that the people who have worked on this film have been honored in this way." Some have been working in "Rings" for more than four years, he added. Like the J.R.R. Tolkien work on which it's based, "Rings" will be a trilogy. Parts two and three are due out in late 2002 and 2003, respectively.

The characters portrayed by the best actor nominees run the gamut of occupation and intelligence. Russell Crowe picked up a nomination for his performance as John Nash, the mathematician in "A Beautiful Mind," and Sean Penn received a tap for his work as Sam, the developmentally disabled character at the heart of "I Am Sam."

Other nominations went to Will Smith for his performance as Muhammad Ali in "Ali"; Denzel Washington for his role as a rogue cop in "Training Day"; and Tom Wilkinson as a middle-class father whose life is torn apart by his son's murder in "In the Bedroom."

Nicole Kidman, who earned rave reviews for both "Moulin Rouge" and "The Others" in 2001, picked up a best actress Oscar nomination for the former -- her first ever Oscar nod. Kidman has already won a Golden Globe for her performance in the movie, in which she plays a consumptive performer at the famed French bohemian club.

Other nominees for best actress are Sissy Spacek as an anguished mother in "In the Bedroom," Halle Berry as a death-row inmate's widow in "Monster's Ball," Judi Dench as writer Iris Murdoch in "Iris," and Renee Zellweger as a London "singleton" in "Bridget Jones's Diary." Zellweger bucked the odds by getting nominated for a comedy; the Academy traditionally honors acting performances in dramatic works.

"I've always thought of myself as a dramatic actress, because that's where I started. Most of my work in the beginning was really in drama," Zellweger told The Associated Press. "I can't say it's harder to do one or the other. The challenges are just different in comedy and drama."

Recognition for Altman

Denzel Washington
Denzel Washington earned a nomination for his performance as a rogue cop in "Training Day."  

Best supporting actor nominations went to Ben Kingsley as a violent mobster in "Sexy Beast," Jim Broadbent as Murdoch's husband in "Iris," Jon Voight as sportscaster Howard Cosell in "Ali," Ethan Hawke as a young detective in "Training Day," and McKellen as Gandalf the wizard in "Rings."

Best supporting actress nominees include Jennifer Connelly as Nash's wife in "A Beautiful Mind," Maggie Smith as an upper-class matron in "Gosford Park," Helen Mirren as a beleaguered housekeeper in "Gosford Park," Marisa Tomei as a single mother involved with a younger man in "In the Bedroom," and Kate Winslet as the young Iris Murdoch in "Iris."

The nomination for "Sexy Beast" was Kingsley's third. He won for 1982's "Gandhi" and was nominated for 1991's "Bugsy," a film in which he also played a mobster -- Meyer Lansky -- though a very different kind from his thuggish Don Logan in "Beast."

"I just have to thank my peers at the academy for being nominated for three very, very different performances," Kingsley told the AP. "Actors can be pushed into a corner in the types of roles they play. By those three nominations, I've been allowed to stay free and do work as a free man in my choices."

Nominees for best director include Ron Howard for "A Beautiful Mind," Peter Jackson for "The Lord of the Rings," Ridley Scott for "Black Hawk Down," David Lynch for "Mulholland Drive," and Robert Altman for "Gosford Park."

The nomination for Altman was sweet recognition for the 76-year-old helmsman, who was snubbed by the Directors Guild for that group's award. The Oscar nomination is Altman's fifth for best director. He's already been honored for "Gosford Park," having won the inaugural American Film Institute award in January.

"Memento," one of 2001's sleeper hits, picked up a nomination for best original screenplay. Also nominated in that category were the French film "Amelie" (which was also nominated for best foreign film), "Gosford Park," "Monster's Ball," and "The Royal Tenenbaums."

Besides "Rings," best adapted screenplay nominations went to "A Beautiful Mind," "Ghost World," "In the Bedroom," and "Shrek."

Nicole Kidman
Nicole Kidman picked up her first-ever Oscar nomination for "Moulin Rouge."  

"Shrek" was one of three nominees in a new category, best animated feature film. The other nominees were "Monsters, Inc." and "Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius."

Best foreign language film nods went to "Amelie" (France), "Elling" (Norway), "Lagaan" (India), "No Man's Land" (Bosnia), and "Son of the Bride" (Argentina).

Looking for trends

"Moulin Rouge" is the first live-action musical to land a best-picture nomination since "All That Jazz" in 1979. The animated musical "Beauty and the Beast" was nominated for best picture in 1991. The last musical to win the top Oscar was "Oliver!" in 1968.

The Academy nominated three African-Americans in lead acting categories -- Smith, Washington, and Berry -- the first time that has happened since 1972, when Paul Winfield and Cicely Tyson for "Sounder" and Diana Ross for "Lady Sings the Blues" were in the running.

Not all Oscar hopefuls did well. "The Royal Tenenbaums," considered a possibility to pick up nominations for actor Gene Hackman, its cinematography and its art direction, received just one major nod, for best original screenplay. "Vanilla Sky" also received one major-category nomination, for best original song. And Steven Spielberg's "A.I. Artificial Intelligence" earned only two major-category nominations, for best original score and visual effects.

"Moulin Rouge" director Baz Luhrmann also was snubbed in the Oscar bids, although he received a nomination from the Directors Guild of America. And Billy Bob Thornton, a double Golden Globe nominee for "The Man Who Wasn't There" and "Bandits" and who also received praise for "Monster's Ball," got no nominations.

"Shrek" was one of three nominees in a new category, best animated feature film.  

Last year's top-grossing film, "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," received just three nominations, for art direction, costume design and original score.

The nominees were announced by last year's Oscar winner for best supporting actress, Marcia Gay Harden, and Academy president Frank Pierson.

Nominees in most categories were chosen by specific branches of the 5,700-member Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, such as actors, directors and writers.

All academy members were allowed to submit nominations for best picture. The full academy also is eligible to vote in all categories for the awards themselves.

ABC will broadcast the Oscar ceremony on March 24 live from the show's new Hollywood home at the Kodak Theatre, just a block away from the Roosevelt Hotel, where the first Academy Awards were handed out in 1929. The show has not been held in Hollywood since 1960.

Whoopi Goldberg returns as host, her first time as master of ceremonies since 1998.

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