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Real-life roles lead potential Oscar field

Associated Press

Beverley Hill, Calif — Howard Hughes, Ray Charles, J.M. Barrie, Alfred Kinsey and Katharine Hepburn were in the running for Academy Awards recognition as nominations come out Tuesday.

The Aviator, starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Hughes and Cate Blanchett as Hepburn, and Finding Neverland, with Johnny Depp as playwright Barrie, were among likely best-picture nominees for the 77th annual Oscars.

Jamie Foxx, who stars as singer Charles in Ray, is considered a lock for a best-actor nomination and widely regarded as the front-runner to win at the Oscar ceremony Feb. 27. Liam Neeson also is a best-actor candidate for the title role in Kinsey, about the pioneering sex researcher.

Other best-picture contenders include the boxing saga Million Dollar Baby, the road-trip romance Sideways, the genocide drama Hotel Rwanda and the sex tale Closer.

With its epic scope and dazzling re-creation of early Hollywood, Martin Scorsese's The Aviator could claim the inside track as front-runner for best picture. The film won the Golden Globe for best dramatic picture.

Yet unlike last year, when The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King went in as the odds-on favourite and swept all 11 of its categories come Oscar night, the outcome is more uncertain this time.

The Aviator could finally bring Scorsese the best-picture and directing wins that have eluded him during his distinguished career. But Clint Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby is a heavyweight opponent that could spoil Scorsese's chances.

Director Eastwood previously earned best-picture and directing Oscars with 1992's Unforgiven.

Other than Foxx, no rock-solid acting favourites have emerged. The best-actress race presents a rematch of the showdown in that category five years ago, when underdog Hilary Swank won for Boys Don't Cry over Annette Bening, who had been expected to win for American Beauty.

This time, Swank is in the running as a doggedly determined boxer whose life turns tragic in Million Dollar Baby, while Bening is competing with Being Julia, in which she plays a fading 1930s actress exacting comical revenge on her husband, a lover and a young rival.

Swank won the Golden Globe as best-dramatic actress for Million Dollar Baby, while Bening won as musical or comedy actress for Being Julia.

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.

The Oscars will be broadcast live Feb. 27 from Hollywood's Kodak Theatre. Chris Rock is the show's host, the first time since 1996 that either Billy Crystal, Whoopi Goldberg or Steve Martin has not been master of ceremonies.

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