Tragic cowboy love story Brokeback Mountain grabbed a leading eight nominations for the 78th annual Academy Awards, including best picture and honours for director Ang Lee and star Heath Ledger.
Announced Tuesday morning at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills, Calif., other nominations for best picture include:
* Capote, a film about celebrated author Truman Capote;
* Crash, a hard-hitting ensemble drama about race relations;
* Good Night, and Good Luck, a story about Edward R. Murrow; and
* Munich, which details the aftermath of the killings of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics.
Brokeback Mountain, potentially the first film with explicit gay themes to claim the Oscars' grand prize, also scored nominations for Jake Gyllenhaal as supporting actor and Michelle Williams as supporting actress. Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana received recognition for their screenplay adaptation Annie Proulx's short story.
The Taiwan-born Lee, who won the Directors Guild of America honour Saturday for Brokeback, is the clear favourite to win the best-director Oscar.
But there was great news nonetheless for London, Ont. native Paul Haggis, who was nominated as best director for Crash. The film won the coveted Screen Actors Guild Award on Sunday for overall cast performance.
Canadian auteur David Cronenberg's A History of Violence was also recognized -- with Josh Olson winning a best adapted screenplay nomination and veteran character actor William Hurt receiving a best supporting actor nod for a scene-stealing performance.
As far as individual performances go, it was a big day for George Clooney, who picked up nominations for directing and co-writing the original screenplay for Good Night, and Good Luck, as well as a supporting actor nod for his portrayal as a CIA agent in Syriana.
The Johnny Cash biography Walk the Line was shut out from getting a best picture nod, but its two stars Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon earned actor nominations.
Three films were tied with six nominations each: Memoirs of a Geisha, Crash, and Good Night, and Good Luck. Geisha, however, was shut out in the top categories.
Spielberg's Munich, despite a muted advertising campaign and a lukewarm reception, performed well with five nominations, including best director for Steven Spielberg.
Peter Jackson's epic King Kong, meanwhile, was ignored in the major categories, earning only technical nominations.
The awards will be handed out March 5 in Hollywood's Kodak Theatre and will be aired live on CTV. Jon Stewart of The Daily Show will host.
There were a mix of old and new faces in the acting categories.
Philip Seymour Hoffman's best-actor nomination came as no surprise. As the category's front-runner, Hoffman has already won a Golden Globe for his uncanny and illuminating portrayal of author Truman Capote in Capote.
Along with Hoffman, Ledger and Phoenix, the other best actor nominees were Terrence Howard as a small-time hood turned rap singer in Hustle & Flow and Strathairn as newsman Murrow in Good Night, and Good Luck.
Past best actress winners Judi Dench and Charlize Theron were joined by some notable first-timers.
Along with Witherspoon, Keira Knightley won her first best actress nomination as the romantic heroine of the Jane Austen adaptation Pride & Prejudice. Felicity Huffman, meanwhile, won recognition for her gender-bending role as a man about to undergo sex-change surgery in Transamerica.
Witherspoon beat Huffman on Sunday for the best-actress prize at the Screen Actors Guild Awards.
Joining Brokeback's Williams in the best supporting actress category was newcomer Amy Adams, for her hilarious and touching portrayal of a pregnant southern waif in Junebug.
Catherine Keener in Capote, Frances McDormand in North Country, and Rachel Weisz in The Constant Gardener also won best-supporting actress nominations.
Weisz is considered a favourite for that honour after winning the supporting-actress prize at both the Golden Globes and SAG awards.
Besides Gyllenhaal, Clooney and Hurt, nominees for supporting actor were: Matt Dillon as a racist cop in Crash and character actor Paul Giamatti as boxer Braddock's manager in Cinderella Man.
Hurt's nomination was a bit of surprise since he appears only briefly at the end of the film in his scene-stealing role.
In the best director category, Lee and Haggis are joined by Spielberg, Clooney, and Bennett Miller for Capote.
Oscar nominees in most categories are chosen by specific branches of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, such as directors, actors and writers. The full academy membership of about 5,800 is eligible to vote in all categories for the Oscars themselves.
*CTV.ca News Staff