Tough love for Oscar
Eight noms apiece for gritty co-productions from Miramax, Par VantageColor the carpet leading to the 80th Annual Academy Awards blood red.
"No Country for Old Men" and "There Will Be Blood," two violent dramas set in the American West, dominate the nominations announced Tuesday morning. The indie films — both co-productions between studio specialty film divisions Paramount Vantage and Miramax — earned eight nominations each.
This year's awards season has played out against a backdrop of labor unrest that could affect the Feb. 24 Oscar ceremony. Although question marks surround the scheduled ABC broadcast — the fear is a repeat of the Golden Globes nonshow — Academy president Sid Ganis vowed: "We are working on the show, and the show is going to have all kinds of variations. But now that we know who is nominated, it's full-steam ahead."
Still, judging by its film selections, Hollywood's mood appears dark.
"No Country" and "Blood" are contesting best picture honors with "Atonement," the British drama of betrayal and lost love, and the legal thriller "Michael Clayton." The only ray of sunshine in the pack is the comedy "Juno," about a wise-cracking, pregnant teen. With more than $87 million in its account, it's also the boxoffice leader of the group.
In the view of Daniel Battsek, president of Miramax — which is handling "No Country's" domestic release, while Par Vantage rolls out "Blood" domestically — the two front-runners attracted the attention of the 5,829 voters of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences because they are movies of "phenomenal quality, incredible ambition and extraordinary realization." Battsek took over Miramax in 2005, shortly before John Lesher arrived at Paramount, and their two re-energized specialty divisions overshadowed the bigger studios, with Miramax accounting for 21 noms and Par Vantage laying claim to 19.
The noms, announced by Ganis and Kathy Bates, who chairs the actors branch, at Academy headquarters in Beverly Hills, include a double kiss for Cate Blanchett, who earned a best actress nom for her regal bearing in "Elizabeth: The Golden Age" and a supporting actress mention for her manly portrayal of a Bob Dylanesque figure in "I'm Not There." Her performance as Queen Elizabeth is the role that keeps on giving: Blanchett earned her first Oscar recognition in 1999 when she was nominated as best actress for "Elizabeth."
The other best actress nominees are Golden Globe winners Julie Christie, who plays an Alzheimer's patient in "Away From Her," and Marion Cotillard, who embodies chanteuse Edith Piaf in "La Vie en Rose"; along with Laura Linney, as a sibling struggling with an ailing dad in "The Savages"; and Ellen Page, as a spunky high school girl in "Juno."
For best actor, the Academy singled out two more of this year's Golden Globe winners: Daniel Day-Lewis, who plays a ruthless oil baron in "Blood," and Johnny Depp, who plays an equally ruthless barber in "Sweeney Todd." The lineup also includes George Clooney, for his legal fixer in "Clayton"; Tommy Lee Jones, who appears as a father searching for his missing son in "In the Valley of Elah"; and Viggo Mortensen, who squares off against the Russian mob in "Eastern Promises."
The directing noms don't quite match up with the best picture contenders.
While "Atonement" earned seven nominations, its helmer Joe Wright didn't win the approval of the directors branch. Instead, they nominated Julian Schnabel for "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly," Jason Reitman for "Juno," Tony Gilroy for "Clayton," Joel and Ethan Coen for "No Country" and Paul Thomas Anderson for "Blood." With the exception of Joel Coen, who was nominated for 1996's "Fargo," all are first-time nominees in the category.
But even though Wright was shut out, Focus CEO James Schamus said: "Joe is in a celebratory mood. The acknowledgment for the picture is awesome. It's nice to be the underdog for a change, but from our point of view, 'Atonement' is in this to win."
In addition to Blanchett, the nominees for supporting actress range from newcomer Saoirse Ronan, who plays a young girl who makes a fateful accusation in "Atonement," to veteran Ruby Dee, who appears as the family matriarch in "American Gangster." Also nominated are Amy Ryan, as a drug-addled mom in "Gone Baby Gone," and Tilda Swinton, for her scheming corporate attorney in "Clayton."
In the supporting actor race, the competition encompasses Casey Affleck, for his callow outlaw in "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford"; Javier Bardem, who plays an implacable killer in "No Country"; Hal Holbrook, who appears as a philosophic retiree in "Into the Wild"; Philip Seymour Hoffman, who portrays a rogue CIA agent in "Charlie Wilson's War"; and Tom Wilkinson, who suffers a breakdown in "Clayton."
Writer-directors dominate the two screenwriting categories, taking six of the 10 slots.
In original screenplay, helmers Gilroy ("Clayton"), Brad Bird ("Ratatouille") and Tamara Jenkins ("The Savages") wrote their own screenplays. The other two slots went to the original voices offered up by Diablo Cody ("Juno") and Nancy Oliver ("Lars and the Real Girl").
In adapted screenplay, Sarah Polley ("Away From Her"), the Coen brothers ("No Country") and Anderson ("Blood") penned the films they directed, while British scribes Christopher Hampton ("Atonement") and Ronald Harwood ("Diving Bell") round out the list.
In addition to picking up noms for producing, director and writing, the Coens, working under the pseudonym Roderick Janes, also carried off an editing nom. That puts them in the select group — its only other members are Warren Beatty and composer Alan Mencken — who have earned four nominations for a single film.
Inevitably, there also were omissions.
Sean Penn's "Into the Wild," the big winner when SAG noms were announced, eked out just two noms. "American Gangster," which appeared to have Academy cred when it was released, also had to settle for two noms. And "Sweeney Todd" carved out just three mentions, with Tim Burton, who has never won an Academy directing nom, retaining his status as odd man out.
In the animation race, "Surf's Up" and the French-language "Persepolis" will compete against Disney/Pixar's "Ratatouille," which also earned a nom for original screenplay. With five noms overall, "Ratatouille" has to be considered the prohibitive favorite, but Sony Pictures Classics, which released "Persepolis," has developed something of a mini-specialty in the area of foreign-language animation, having earned a similar nom for "The Triplets of Belleville" in 2004.
"For the Academy to acknowledge in animation a film that's in the old style of animation, that comes from France, that is against these huge, well-crafted studio animated pictures is a real triumph," SPC co-head Michael Barker said.
The Academy's foreign-language category already has been rocked by controversy this year: First, Israel's "The Band's Visit" was deemed ineligible because it contains too much English dialogue. Then, last week, the Romanian Palme d'Or winner in Cannes, "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days," failed to make the shortlist, triggering another outcry.
The list of films that finally emerged consists of Israel's "Beaufort," Austria's "The Counterfeiters," Poland's "Katyn," Russia's "12" and Kazakhstan's "Mongol." It is the first Academy nomination ever for Kazakhstan, providing some vindication for the country, which had to endure the jibes of Sacha Baron Cohen's Borat during last year's awards season.
Michael Moore, an Oscar winner in 2003 for "Bowling for Columbine," returns to the nominees circle in the documentary category with his health care expose "Sicko." It is surrounded by several films investigating various aspects of the wars in the Middle East — "No End in Sight," "Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience" and "Taxi to the Dark Side" — as well as "War/Dance," which looks at a Ugandan refugee camp.
On a much lighter note, Disney's self-referential comedy "Enchanted" danced off with three of the best song nominations. The team of composer Mencken and lyricist Stephen Schwartz scored a triple play for their tunes "Happy Working Song," "So Close" and "That's How You Know."
Whether the Oscars themselves can manage a light-hearted mood if the writers strike isn't resolved by showtime is an open question.
Predicted Ganis: "There are always surprises at the Oscars. It never fails. So what's another surprise?"
Borys Kit in Los Angeles and Randee Dawn in New York contributed to this report.
"Atonement" (Focus Features) A Working Title production; Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner and Paul Webster, producers
"Juno" (Fox Searchlight) A Dancing Elk Pictures production; Lianne Halfon, Mason Novick and Russell Smith, producers
"Michael Clayton" (Warner Bros.) A Clayton Prods. production; Sydney Pollack, Jennifer Fox and Kerry Orent, producers
"No Country for Old Men" (Miramax and Paramount Vantage) A Scott Rudin/Mike Zoss production; Scott Rudin, Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, producers
"There Will Be Blood" (Paramount Vantage and Miramax) A JoAnne Sellar/Ghoulardi Film Co. production; JoAnne Sellar, Paul Thomas Anderson and Daniel Lupi, producers
Julian Schnabel, "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" (Miramax/Pathe Renn)
Jason Reitman, "Juno" (Fox Searchlight)
Tony Gilroy, "Michael Clayton" (Warner Bros.)
Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, "No Country for Old Men" (Miramax and Paramount Vantage)
Paul Thomas Anderson, "There Will Be Blood" (Paramount Vantage and Miramax)
George Clooney in "Michael Clayton" (Warner Bros.)
Daniel Day-Lewis in "There Will Be Blood" (Paramount Vantage and Miramax)
Johnny Depp in "Sweeney Todd" (DreamWorks and Warner Bros.; DreamWorks/Paramount, distributors)
Tommy Lee Jones in "In the Valley of Elah" (Warner Independent)
Viggo Mortensen in "Eastern Promises" (Focus Features)
Casey Affleck in "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" (Warner Bros.)
Javier Bardem in "No Country for Old Men" (Miramax and Paramount Vantage)
Philip Seymour Hoffman in "Charlie Wilson's War" (Universal)
Hal Holbrook in "Into the Wild" (Paramount Vantage and River Road Entertainment)
Tom Wilkinson in "Michael Clayton" (Warner Bros.)
Cate Blanchett in "Elizabeth: The Golden Age" (Universal)
Julie Christie in "Away From Her" (Lionsgate)
Marion Cotillard in "La Vie en Rose" (Picturehouse)
Laura Linney in "The Savages" (Fox Searchlight)
Ellen Page in "Juno" (Fox Searchlight)
Cate Blanchett in "I'm Not There" (The Weinstein Co.)
Ruby Dee in "American Gangster" (Universal)
Saoirse Ronan in "Atonement" (Focus Features)
Amy Ryan in "Gone Baby Gone" (Miramax)
Tilda Swinton in "Michael Clayton" (Warner Bros.)
"Persepolis" (Sony Pictures Classics) Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud
"Ratatouille" (Walt Disney) Brad Bird
"Surf's Up" (Sony Pictures Releasing) Ash Brannon and Chris Buck
"Beaufort" A Metro Communications, Movie Plus production (Israel)
"The Counterfeiters" An Aichholzer Filmproduktion, Magnolia Filmproduktion production (Austria)
"Katyn" An Akson Studio production (Poland)
"Mongol" A Eurasia Film production (Kazakhstan)
"12" A Three T production (Russia)
"Juno" (Fox Searchlight) Written by Diablo Cody
"Lars and the Real Girl" (MGM) Written by Nancy Oliver
"Michael Clayton" (Warner Bros.) Written by Tony Gilroy
"Ratatouille" (Walt Disney) Screenplay by Brad Bird; story by Jan Pinkava, Jim Capobianco, Brad Bird
"The Savages" (Fox Searchlight) Written by Tamara Jenkins
"Atonement" (Focus Features) Screenplay by Christopher Hampton
"Away From Her" (Lionsgate) Written by Sarah Polley
"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" (Miramax/Pathe Renn) Screenplay by Ronald Harwood
"No Country for Old Men" (Miramax and Paramount Vantage) Written for the screen by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
"There Will Be Blood" (Paramount Vantage and Miramax) Written for the screen by Paul Thomas Anderson
"American Gangster" (Universal) Art direction: Arthur Max; Set decoration: Beth A. Rubino
"Atonement" (Focus Features) Art direction: Sarah Greenwood; Set decoration: Katie Spencer
"The Golden Compass" (New Line in association with Ingenious Film Partners) Art direction: Dennis Gassner; Set decoration: Anna Pinnock
"Sweeney Todd" (DreamWorks and Warner Bros.; DreamWorks/Paramount, distributors) Art direction: Dante Ferretti; Set decoration: Francesca Lo Schiavo
"There Will Be Blood" (Paramount Vantage and Miramax) Art direction: Jack Fisk; Set decoration: Jim Erickson
"The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" (Warner Bros.) Roger Deakins
"Atonement" (Focus Features) Seamus McGarvey
"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" (Miramax/Pathe Renn) Janusz Kaminski
"No Country for Old Men" (Miramax and Paramount Vantage) Roger Deakins
"There Will Be Blood" (Paramount Vantage and Miramax) Robert Elswit
"Across the Universe" (Sony Pictures Releasing) Albert Wolsky
"Atonement" (Focus Features) Jacqueline Durran
"Elizabeth: The Golden Age" (Universal) Alexandra Byrne
"La Vie en Rose" (Picturehouse) Marit Allen
"Sweeney Todd" (DreamWorks and Warner Bros.; DreamWorks/Paramount, distributors) Colleen Atwood
"No End in Sight" (Magnolia Pictures) A Representational Pictures production; Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs
"Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience" (The Documentary Group) A Documentary Group production; Richard E. Robbins
"Sicko" (Lionsgate and the Weinstein Co.) A Dog Eat Dog Films production; Michael Moore and Meghan O'Hara
"Taxi to the Dark Side" (ThinkFilm) An X-Ray production; Alex Gibney and Eva Orner
"War/Dance" (ThinkFilm) A Shine Global and Fine Films production; Andrea Nix Fine and Sean Fine
documentary short subject
"Freeheld" A Lieutenant Films production; Cynthia Wade and Vanessa Roth
"La Corona" (The Crown) A Runaway Films and Vega Films production; Amanda Micheli and Isabel Vega
"Salim Baba" A Ropa Vieja Films and Paradox Smoke production; Tim Sternberg and Francisco Bello
"Sari's Mother" (Cinema Guild) A Daylight Factory production; James Longley
"The Bourne Ultimatum" (Universal) Christopher Rouse
"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" (Miramax/Pathe Renn) Juliette Welfling
"Into the Wild" (Paramount Vantage and River Road Entertainment) Jay Cassidy
"No Country for Old Men" (Miramax and Paramount Vantage) Roderick Jaynes
"There Will Be Blood" (Paramount Vantage and Miramax) Dylan Tichenor
"La Vie en Rose" (Picturehouse) Didier Lavergne and Jan Archibald
"Norbit" (DreamWorks; Paramount, distributor) Rick Baker and Kazuhiro Tsuji
"Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" (Walt Disney) Ve Neill and Martin Samuel
music (Original score)
"Atonement" (Focus Features) Dario Marianelli
"The Kite Runner" (DreamWorks, Sidney Kimmel Entertainment and Participant Prods.; Paramount Classics, distributor) Alberto Iglesias
"Michael Clayton" (Warner Bros.) James Newton Howard
"Ratatouille" (Walt Disney) Michael Giacchino
"3:10 to Yuma" (Lionsgate) Marco Beltrami
Music (Original song)
"Falling Slowly" from "Once" (Fox Searchlight) Music and lyrics by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova
"Happy Working Song" from "Enchanted" (Walt Disney) Music by Alan Menken; Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz
"Raise It Up" from "August Rush" (Warner Bros.) Nominees to be determined
"So Close" from "Enchanted" (Walt Disney) Music by Alan Menken; Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz
"That's How You Know" from "Enchanted" (Walt Disney) Music by Alan Menken; Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz
animated short film
"I Met the Walrus" A Kids & Explosions production; Josh Raskin
"Madame Tutli-Putli" (National Film Board of Canada) A National Film Board of Canada production; Chris Lavis and Maciek Szczerbowski
"Meme les pigeons vont au paradis" (Even Pigeons Go to Heaven) (Premium Films) A BUF Compagnie production; Samuel Tourneux and Simon Vanesse
"My Love" (Moya Lyubov) (Channel One Russia) A Dago-Film Studio, Channel One Russia and Dentsu Tec production; Alexander Petrov
"Peter & the Wolf" (BreakThru Films) A BreakThru Films/Se-ma-for Studios production; Suzie Templeton and Hugh Welchman
live-action short film
"At Night" A Zentropa Entertainments 10 production; Christian E. Christiansen and Louise Vesth
"Il Supplente" (The Substitute) (Sky Cinema Italia) A Frame by Frame Italia production; Andrea Jublin
"Le Mozart des Pickpockets" (The Mozart of Pickpockets) (Premium Films) A Kare production; Philippe Pollet-Villard
"Tanghi Argentini" (Premium Films) An Another Dimension of an Idea production; Guido Thys and Anja Daelemans
"The Tonto Woman" A Knucklehead, Little Mo and Rose Hackney Barber production; Daniel Barber and Matthew Brown
"The Bourne Ultimatum" (Universal) Karen Baker Landers and Per Hallberg
"No Country for Old Men" (Miramax and Paramount Vantage) Skip Lievsay
"Ratatouille" (Walt Disney) Randy Thom and Michael Silvers
"There Will Be Blood" (Paramount Vantage and Miramax) Matthew Wood
"Transformers" (DreamWorks and Paramount in association with Hasbro) Ethan Van der Ryn and Mike Hopkins
"The Bourne Ultimatum" (Universal) Scott Millan, David Parker and Kirk Francis
"No Country for Old Men" (Miramax and Paramount Vantage) Skip Lievsay, Craig Berkey, Greg Orloff and Peter Kurland
"Ratatouille" (Walt Disney) Randy Thom, Michael Semanick and Doc Kane
"3:10 to Yuma" (Lionsgate) Paul Massey, David Giammarco and Jim Stuebe
"Transformers" (DreamWorks and Paramount in association with Hasbro) Kevin O'Connell, Greg P. Russell and Peter J. Devlin
"The Golden Compass" (New Line in association with Ingenious Film Partners) Michael Fink, Bill Westenhofer, Ben Morris and Trevor Wood
"Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" (Walt Disney) John Knoll, Hal Hickel, Charles Gibson and John Frazier
"Transformers" (DreamWorks and Paramount in association with Hasbro) Scott Farrar, Scott Benza, Russell Earl and John Frazier