The Oscar hit list

Julie Christie has been here before. But not for a while. This week the 67-year-old British actor received an Oscar nomination for her performance as a woman with Alzheimer’s disease in Away From Her, 42 years after she won the statuette for best actress for her portrayal of a model at the heart of swinging London in John Schlesinger’s Darling.

This year’s Oscar nomination follows her triumph in the category at the Golden Globes and her nomination for a British Academy award (Bafta).

But while Christie, who was also nominated for best actress in 1971 and 1997, led the charge for the annual parade of Brits at the Oscars, there was less welcome news for some of the other expected front-runners.

Atonement, Joe Wright’s adaptation of Ian McEwan’s story, captured seven nominations. But despite dominating the Bafta nominations and winning the Golden Globe for best drama, the film’s heavily tipped stars, Keira Knightley and James McAvoy, were shut out of the Oscars. Scriptwriter Christopher Hampton received a nomination for his adaptation of Atonement for the screen.

There were nominations for two other British actors — Tilda Swinton and Tom Wilkinson in the best supporting actress and best supporting actor categories for their performances in the United States legal drama Michael Clayton.

British-born Daniel Day-Lewis, who took Irish citizenship in 1993, is the early favourite for best actor for his acclaimed performance in the oil epic There Will Be Blood. But another Irish actor, 13-year-old Saoirse Ronan, provided one of the biggest surprises, gaining a nomination for best supporting actress for her performance in Atonement as the young sibling whose interpretation of events propels the story.

The Coen brothers’ No Country for Old Men and Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood led the list with eight nominations each, including the key best picture, actor and director categories. Atonement is also vying for best picture. In that category it will face another film with seven nominations, Michael Clayton.

The list includes some of Hollywood’s biggest stars. Cate Blanchett received two nominations, best actress for Elizabeth: The Golden Age and best supporting actress for her cameo as Bob Dylan in I’m Not There. George Clooney received his first best actor nomination for his performance as a fixer in a legal firm in Michael Clayton, while Johnny Depp made the cut for his turn as Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

Among all the firepower of the Hollywood establishment, a small independent film snuck up on the awards, with nominations for best picture, director, actress and screenplay. Juno, the story of a young girl’s pregnancy, fills the role played by Little Miss Sunshine last year and Sideways in 2005. A critical favourite, the film’s bittersweet tale of love and sacrifice has won over audiences across the US.

Another first came for Joel and Ethan Coen, the first sibling team to be nominated for best director. The brothers were also nominated for best editing under the pseudonym Roderick Jaynes, while Spanish actor Javier Bardem got a nod for his role as the film’s resident psychopath.

While the Oscar nominations were announced with their customary glitz, concerns are high that the awards show on February 24 could be a non-starter. With the strike by the 12 000 members of the Writers’ Guild of America in its 13th week, there are few signs that the dispute that caused the cancellation of the Golden Globes ceremony this month is nearing a resolution. But the producers of the Oscar show have vowed to go on with the show even if there is a picket of the red carpet. —

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Dan Glaister
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