- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 16, 2000

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif.

''American Beauty," the dark comedy about family mayhem in suburbia, led a diverse slate of Oscar contenders with eight nominations today. "The Cider House Rules" and "The Insider" were right behind with seven each.

The three received nominations for best picture along with the supernatural death-row saga "The Green Mile" and the ghost story "The Sixth Sense."

A notable omission among the acting contenders: Jim Carrey, who gave a dead-on impersonation of the late comic Andy Kaufman in "Man on the Moon." Mr. Carrey received back-to-back Golden Globes for that role and 1998's "The Truman Show" but was not nominated for an Academy Award for either role.

"American Beauty" also earned best actor and actress nominations for Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening, director Sam Mendes, screenwriter Alan Ball for best original screenplay, as well as for cinematography, film editing and original score.

Miss Bening said the nominations were especially gratifying for a movie that deals with difficult personal issues, blending wild humor with horrific action.

"The movie has so many contradictions," Miss Bening said. "Its heart is really in some very difficult truths. To see it recognized this way really is a surprise."

Besides best picture, "The Cider House Rules," a story of coming of age in a New England orphanage, got nominations for supporting actor Michael Caine, director Lasse Hallstrom, adapted screenplay by John Irving, who wrote the novel, and for score, editing and art direction.

"The Insider," a portrait of a tobacco-industry whistleblower, also received nominations for lead actor Russell Crowe, director Michael Mann, adapted screenplay, cinematography, editing and best sound.

The ghost story "The Sixth Sense," last year's biggest box-office surprise with $278 million, received six nominations, including one for 11-year-old Haley Joel Osment for supporting actor, and two for M. Night Shyamalan for directing and original screenplay.

Besides Mr. Crowe and Mr. Spacey, the best-actor nominees were Richard Farnsworth in "The Straight Story," Sean Penn in "Sweet and Lowdown" and Denzel Washington in "The Hurricane."

At 79, Mr. Farnsworth was the oldest lead actor nominee ever. Mr. Farnsworth previously was nominated for "Comes a Horseman" in 1977.

The other lead-actress nominees were Janet McTeer in "Tumbleweeds," Julianne Moore in "The End of the Affair," Meryl Streep in "Music of the Heart" and Hilary Swank in "Boys Don't Cry." It was Miss Streep's 12th career nomination, putting her in a tie with Katharine Hepburn for the most acting nominations.

Other omissions included perennial Oscar favorite Tom Hanks for "The Green Mile," Emily Watson for "Angela's Ashes" and Stanley Kubrick's last movie, "Eyes Wide Shut."

Mr. Washington's acting nomination was the only one for "The Hurricane," which had been considered a leading contender for best picture.

"The Talented Mr. Ripley," which had been seen as a strong contender for best picture, best lead actor (Matt Damon) and best director (Anthony Minghella), was shut out of those categories. Besides Jude Law, nominated for best supporting actor, the movie got nominations for adapted screenplay, original score and two technical awards.

"Being John Malkovich," a favorite among critics, received only three nominations, while another critics' favorite, "Topsy-Turvy," got four bids, including original screenplay by director Mike Leigh.

The year's biggest blockbuster, "Star Wars: Episode I, The Phantom Menace," received three nominations for sound, sound-effects editing and visual effects.

The Oscars will be presented March 26 from the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles and broadcast on ABC.

Billy Crystal, who has been master of ceremonies for six Oscar shows, will return as host after turning the job over to Whoopi Goldberg last year.

Actor-director-producer Warren Beatty will receive the Irving G. Thalberg award, which is presented to producers whose work represents a "consistently high quality of motion picture production."

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