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'Beauty' is a wonderful thing to Oscar

Film leads contenders with eight Academy nominations

"American Beauty," "The Sixth Sense" and "The Hurricane" (pictured clockwise from right) were among the top Academy picks announced Tuesday.  

February 15, 2000
Web posted at: 1:58 p.m. EST (1858 GMT)

(CNN) -- Who says beauty is only skin deep?

One particular type, "American Beauty," goes far past the surface into the depths of human experience, judging by the response it received Tuesday from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.

A dark comedy about suburban dysfunction, "American Beauty" earned the most Academy Award nominations this year -- eight. They included best picture, best director in Sam Mendes, best actor in Kevin Spacey and best actress in Annette Bening.

The Academy's response to "American Beauty" is a delightful surprise, Bening told CNN's Laurin Sydney after the nominations were announced.

"It's a thrill because the movie was made for love," Bening says, speaking for the cast and crew. "We did it because we thought it could be very special ... It's absolutely a thrill to be a part of something that has meant so much to so many people. We're all just thrilled that people like it."

Need a refresher on the year's best films? Watch the trailers and vote on your faves!
  • LIST: 72nd Academy Awards nominees
  • Message board: Talk about the nominations

    'A miracle elixir'

    Right behind "American Beauty" came "The Cider House Rules" and "The Insider," with seven nominations each. Both films accepted nods for best picture, a category which also included "The Green Mile" and "The Sixth Sense."

    Along with Spacey in the best actor category are Russell Crowe ("The Insider"), Richard Farnsworth ("The Straight Story"), Sean Penn ("Sweet and Lowdown") and Denzel Washington ("The Hurricane").

    Competing with Bening for best actress are Janet McTeer ("Tumbleweeds"), Julianne Moore ("The End of the Affair"), Meryl Streep ("Music of the Heart") and Hilary Swank ("Boys Don't Cry").

    Streep's nomination -- her 12th -- shocks Rolling Stone movie critic Peter Travers.

    "I think Meryl Streep has some kind of miracle elixir that makes the Academy nominate her every time she makes a movie," says Travers, who believes that "Music of the Heart" is far from Streep's best work.

    'Knocked out'

    Travers instead highlights Swank's nomination for her leading role in "Boys Don't Cry." The movie is based on the true story of Brandon Teena, a Nebraska woman who pretended she was a man and was murdered when her secret came out.

    "In a single scene, you can't help but be knocked out by her performance," says Travers.

    Chloe Sevigny, who played Teena's love interest in "Boys Don't Cry," was nominated for best supporting actress -- a development that could be good news for Swank and Sevigny.

    "The Academy likes to double up when they give awards away," says Travers.

    Carrey won a Golden Globe for his role as comic Andy Kaufman in "Man on the Moon," but Oscar failed to follow up  

    Joining Sevigny in the best supporting actress category are Toni Collette ("The Sixth Sense"), Angelina Jolie ("Girl, Interrupted"), Catherine Keener ("Being John Malkovich") and Samantha Morton ("Sweet and Lowdown").

    Best supporting actor nominations went to Michael Caine ("The Cider House Rules"), Tom Cruise ("Magnolia"), Jude Law ("The Talented Mr. Ripley"), Haley Joel Osment ("The Sixth Sense") and Michael Clarke Duncan ("The Green Mile").

    The 6-foot-5-inch, 315-pound Duncan, who once dug ditches for a living in his native Chicago, has made no secret of his Oscar hopes.

    "I've never slept with a man before in my life," he said in December during a promotion of the film, "but if I win an Oscar, me and Oscar are sleeping together that night."

    Best director

    In addition to Mendes, the best director category includes Spike Jonze ("Being John Malkovich"), Lasse Hallstrom ("The Cider House Rules"), Michael Mann ("The Insider") and M. Night Shyamalan ("The Sixth Sense").

    Best foreign film nominations were handed to "All About My Mother" (Spain), "Caravan" (Nepal), "East-West" (France), "Solomon and Gaenor" (United Kingdom") and "Under the Sun" (Sweden).

    Nominees for best screenplay based on material previously produced or published include John Irving ("The Cider House Rules"), Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor ("Election"), Frank Darabont ("The Green Mile"), Eric Roth and Mann ("The Insider") and Anthony Minghella ("The Talented Mr. Ripley").

    Best original screenplay nominations went to Alan Ball ("American Beauty"), Charlie Kaufman ("Being John Malkovich"), Paul Thomas Anderson ("Magnolia"), Shyamalan ("The Sixth Sense") and Mike Leigh ("Topsy-Turvy").

    Dustin Hoffman joined Academy president Robert Rehme in Beverly Hills to announce the nominees early Tuesday. Winners will be announced March 26 in Los Angeles. The 72nd Academy Awards will be hosted by actor-comedian Billy Crystal.

    Carrey's second snub

    One notable actor conspicuous in his absence in the nominations is Jim Carrey. The Academy has snubbed him for the second year.

    In 1999, he won a Golden Globe -- often a bellwether for Academy considerations -- for his performance in "The Truman Show," but failed to earn an Oscar nod. This year, he won another Golden Globe for his role as comic Andy Kaufman in "Man on the Moon," but Oscar failed to follow up.

    The Academy might have something against Carrey, Travers believes.

    "It used to be that his movies made too much money," Travers says. "But now he's made a movie that made almost no money at all. So this was a chance to reward him for his artistic endeavors. And still they said, 'No, it's not happening.'"

    Two movies that received a heavy dose of Oscar hype but failed to win best picture nominations are "The End of the Affair" and "The Talented Mr. Ripley."

    "Ripley" director Minghella's last effort, "The English Patient" in 1997, walked away with nine Oscars. He failed to earn a nomination for directing this time out, and his stars -- Matt Damon and Gwyneth Paltrow -- also weren't rewarded for their work in the film, which depicts Damon's Ripley as an identity-changing serial killer of ambiguous sexual tastes.

    Damon's role may have made the Academy uncomforable, Travers says. "This is just not how the Academy wants to see its 'golden boy,'" he says.

    The favorite

    "The Sixth Sense," meanwhile, continued its impressive run. The thriller about a boy (Osment) who "sees dead people" has transformed from sleeper hit of last summer to Oscar contender. It's up for six awards.

    Travers credits Osment for the film's Oscar momentum.

    "This child makes this movie," he says. "I really like this movie, but without him the movie is unimaginable."

    "American Beauty," however, is commanding most of the attention this day. Now that the nominations are official, the real hype can begin -- starting, Travers predicts, with flowery praise for the movie that takes its title from a rose.

    "We've been hearing this year how there are no Oscar favorites," says Travers. "Now, with 'American Beauty' receiving eight nominations ... it goes into the Oscars as the 'favorite.'"

    As Oscar nominations approach, 'nothing's certain'
    February 14, 2000
    Mr. Minghella's inspiration for 'Mr. Ripley'
    December 22, 1999
    'Green Mile's giant has taken massive strides
    December 10, 1999
    'Boys Don't Cry' filmmaker saw past violence to love
    October 22, 1999
    American Ball: 'Beauty' screenwriter mining his past
    October 8, 1999
    Tobey Maguire smokes a cigar
    September 16, 1999
    'Sixth Sense' star: 'I do believe'
    August 20, 1999

    The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

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