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The Academy plays it safe with nominations

Movies | Controversial films 'The Passion of the Christ' and 'Farenheit 9/11' won't vie for top Oscar honors

Issue: "Johnny Carson: In memoriam," Feb. 5, 2005

Academy voters, it seems, took the easy way out. When Oscar nominations were announced last week, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences essentially snubbed both of the films that could have gotten it into political hot water.

The Passion of the Christ and Fahrenheit 9/11 each had fervent grassroots support-witness their People's Choice Awards wins as Favorite Movie Drama and Favorite Movie, respectively. However, neither film had much critical momentum leading up to the Oscars, so a key nomination for either one would have been seen as an industry endorsement.

But Fahrenheit was completely absent from the nominations list, while The Passion received three nominations but none in the major categories. Instead, the film was recognized for cinematography (a well-deserved nod for veteran Caleb Deschanel), makeup, and original score.

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Instead, for the most part, the Academy chose to recognize much "safer" films. In a continuation of an obvious trend, the vast majority of the nominations went to films released at the end of the year, suggesting that Academy voters have extraordinarily short-term memories.

Martin Scorsese's The Aviator led the pack with 11 nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Supporting Actor. Million Dollar Baby and Finding Neverland tied for second, with seven nominations each, including Best Picture. Rounding out the Best Picture nominations were Ray and Sideways.

Ray star Jamie Foxx received two nominations, as Best Actor in that film and as Best Supporting Actor in Collateral. The Incredibles picked up two nominations, as Best Animated Film and for Best Original Screenplay.

The Academy didn't shy away from films with political messages, though-it just avoided those that most of the country had seen. Director, Actress, and Original Screenplay nominee Vera Drake presents a positive portrayal of an amateur abortionist, while both Million Dollar Baby and Foreign Language Film nominee The Sea Inside focus on euthanasia.

The list is littered with similarly dark, depressing, and morally vacuous projects (major category nominees Kinsey, Sideways, and Closer also fit the bill). However, a few positive, uplifting films also stand out, including The Incredibles and Finding Neverland, as well as Best Actor (Don Cheadle), Supporting Actress (Sophie Okonedo), and Original Screenplay nominee Hotel Rwanda and Best Documentary nominee The Story of the Weeping Camel.

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