January 23, 2008 / 12:02 AM / in 10 years

"Into the Wild" out in the cold at Oscars

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Harvey Weinstein can put away his shotgun. But Sean Penn might want to borrow it.

<p>Director and actor Sean Penn poses at the premiere of "Into the Wild" at Leicester Square during the London film festival October 25, 2007. Penn's latest directing turn, "Into the Wild," scored just two Oscar nominations -- for veteran 82-year-old actor Hal Halbrook's supporting role and for editing. REUTERS/Anthony Harvey</p>

The movie studio boss had promised to “shoot myself” if Cate Blanchett did not get an Oscar nomination for her supporting role as Bob Dylan in “I‘m Not There.”

As expected, the Australian actress made the cut when nominations were announced on Tuesday.

But Penn’s latest directing turn, “Into the Wild,” was a major casualty. The true-life adventure saga scored just two nominations -- for veteran 82-year-old actor Hal Halbrook’s supporting role and for editing.

Many pundits had expected it to receive a nod for best director and possibly also for best picture, actor (Emile Hirsch) and supporting actress (Catherine Keener). Pearl Jam singer Eddie Vedder’s haunting tunes were considered a shoo-in for best song, especially after he won a Golden Globe.

The film, based on the book by Jon Krakauer, follows the trek of Christopher McCandless, a college graduate who fled his materialistic life and ended up in Alaska to commune with nature. He died of starvation in the frozen wilderness.

Penn spent a decade persuading McCandless’ family to let him make the film. That sort of personal quest usually plays well with Academy voters, said Rolling Stone magazine movie critic Peter Travers.

“It’s the best movie he’s ever directed,” Travers added.

A publicist for Penn, who won an Oscar for “Mystic River,” said he was not making any comment.

LUMET LEFT OUT

While Holbrook’s nomination, his first, was welcomed by pundits, they said the Academy should have shown some love to another octogenarian, Sidney Lumet.

The director won acclaim last year for “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead,” a gritty crime thriller starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke and Marisa Tomei.

Lumet, 83, has been nominated five times, for such films as “Network” and “The Verdict,” but has never won. He still casts a shadow over this year’s event. Travers said seven-time nominee “Michael Clayton” borrows heavily from those films. And the Russian film “12,” a loose remake of Lumet’s 1957 film “12 Angry Men” was nominated for a foreign-language Oscar.

Of course, every studio hopes every film on its slate will pick up awards in every category. But some movies generate more awards buzz than others.

One was “American Gangster,” a crime drama starring Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe. Those Oscar winners were overshadowed by Ruby Dee, who picked up her first nomination for her supporting turn as Washington’s mother. Washington also failed in his bid for a nomination for “The Great Debaters.”

With an all-star cast of Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts and Philip Seymour Hoffman, director Mike Nichols’ political satire “Charlie Wilson’s War” scored just one nomination, for Hoffman’s supporting turn as a cynical CIA spook.

(Editing by Todd Eastham)

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