HOLLYWOOD - Sitting in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences building early Tuesday morning, it was immediately obvious which nominations were causing a stir and which were the house favourites -- at least for the mix of publicists and TV crews, photographers and journalists sitting in the room.
Chicago nominations got the most hearty applause, especially Catherine Zeta-Jones and Queen Latifah in the supporting actress category and Renee Zellweger for best actress.
No one was surprised by the best actor or best actress categories, although a few "ahs" were heard when Salma Hayek's and Diane Lane's names were read. For best director, when Pedro Almodovar's name was read the audience started clapping.
Clapping was also the reaction when The Pianist was named as one of the films competing in the best picture category. Its director, Roman Polanski, also was nominated, which had more than a few people wondering how he would collect his trophy if he wins. Polanski fled the country in 1978 after being charged with having sex with a minor.
Noticeably missing from the best directors list was Peter Jackson, whose The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers is nominated for best picture. Unlike last year's Fellowship of the Ring, Two Towers didn't receive any acting nods either. Along with best picture, it will compete for best art direction, film editing, sound, sound editing and visual effects.
Nia Vardalos's original screenplay nomination for My Big Fat Greek Wedding raised a few eyebrows, as did Carlos Cuaron and Alfonso Cuaron's nod for Y Tu Mama Tambien.
In the adapted screenplay category, a few observers laughed when Donald Kaufman was credited with Charlie Kaufman for Adaptation, while many seemed surprised by About a Boy's inclusion on the list, especially since The Lord of the Rings and About Schmidt were not included.
The directorial debuts of Denzel Washington (Antwone Fisher) and George Clooney (Confessions of a Dangerous Mind) were ignored by the academy, despite critical acclaim.
Other critically acclaimed films left in the cold include 25th Hour, Ararat, Auto Focus, The Banger Sisters, Lovely and Amazing, Narc, Tadpole, Punch-Drunk Love and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets."
Oscar favourite Steven Spielberg's films Catch Me If You Can and Minority Report received only three nods between them: Catch Me's Christopher Walken is up for best supporting actor and the film earned an original score nomination, while Report was nominated for sound editing.