2004 Academy Awards®
Winners and History
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Academy Awards History (By Decade):
Introduction, 1927/8-39, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, 2010s
Academy Awards Summaries
Winners Charts:
"Best Picture" Oscar®, "Best Director" Oscar®, "Best Actor" Oscar®, "Best Supporting Actor" Oscar®,
"Best Actress" Oscar®, "Best Supporting Actress" Oscar®, "Best Screenplay/Writer" Oscar®

The winner is listed first, in CAPITAL letters.

Best Picture
The Aviator (2004)
Finding Neverland (2004)
Ray (2004)
Sideways (2004)

Best Animated Feature Film
Shark Tale (2004)
Shrek 2 (2004)

JAMIE FOXX in "Ray," Don Cheadle in "Hotel Rwanda," Johnny Depp in "Finding Neverland," Leonardo DiCaprio in "The Aviator," Clint Eastwood in "Million Dollar Baby"
HILARY SWANK in "Million Dollar Baby," Annette Bening in "Being Julia," Catalina Sandino Moreno in "Maria Full of Grace," Imelda Staunton in "Vera Drake," Kate Winslet in "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind"
Supporting Actor:
MORGAN FREEMAN in "Million Dollar Baby," Alan Alda in "The Aviator," Thomas Haden Church in "Sideways," Jamie Foxx in "Collateral," Clive Owen in "Closer"
Supporting Actress:
CATE BLANCHETT in "The Aviator," Laura Linney in "Kinsey," Virginia Madsen in "Sideways," Sophie Okonedo in "Hotel Rwanda," Natalie Portman in "Closer"
CLINT EASTWOOD for "Million Dollar Baby," Taylor Hackford for "Ray," Mike Leigh for "Vera Drake," Alexander Payne for "Sideways," Martin Scorsese for "The Aviator"

This year's Best Picture nominees had tearjerker themes, including obsessive-compulsive mental disorder, euthanasia, heroin addiction, and other similar downbeat themes. Three of the Best Picture nominees were biopics and based on real people: The Aviator (an epic about reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes), Finding Neverland (a whimsical tale about the creation of Peter Pan by Scottish playwright James M. Barrie), and Ray (a biography of blind musician Ray Charles).

The other two were intimate character studies: Million Dollar Baby (a tearjerking drama about an ex-boxer who reluctantly trains a waitress (Hilary Swank) to become a professional boxer), and Sideways (a light, ensemble comedy, quirky romance, and character study about the adventures of two middle-aged, emotionally-constricted buddies in California's wine country for a week of wine-tasting).

The final tally of nominations and wins for each Best Picture nominee came down to an almost-even split in Oscar wins for Million Dollar Baby and The Aviator, with the former taking the top honors, although The Aviator had more total Oscars:

  • Million Dollar Baby (with 7 nominations, with three of the nominations going to director/producer/star Eastwood, resulting in 4 wins including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor) - the two performance wins marked the second year in a row that an Eastwood picture won two of the four acting Oscars (Tim Robbins and Sean Penn won acting awards for Mystic River (2003)) - in six of the last ten years, the Best Picture winners had a central character who died at the end
  • The Aviator (with 11 nominations and 5 wins, including Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design, Best Supporting Actress, Best Film Editing, and Best Cinematography) - this marked only the third time in 21 years that the film with the most nominations did not win Best Picture
  • Ray (with 6 nominations and two wins for Best Actor and Best Sound Mixing)
  • Finding Neverland (with 7 nominations and only one win for Best Original Score)
  • Sideways (with 5 nominations and only one win for Best Adapted Screenplay - for director Alexander Payne and co-writer Jim Taylor, from a book by first-time novelist Rex Pickett)

Unlike recent years 2003, 1997, and 1996, no one film dominated the categories (as did The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003), Titanic (1997), and The English Patient (1996)), with the nominations more or less evenly spread out, and no clear favorites or front-runners among most of the nominations.

According to box-office figures (of combined attendance) for this year compared to the last 20 years, this group of Best Picture nominees had an extremely low turn-out for viewing. By the time of the ceremony, none of the nominees were at blockbuster status (earning the benchmark figure of $100 million). Box-office results for the five top nominees were about 60% (or about 40% below) of the total gross for the Best Picture nominees in the last ten years. Most of the top nominees this year - all considered too risky and unprofitable by the giant Hollywood studios - resorted to using outside funding and non-studio financing, but were ultimately able to sign with the big studios:

  • Million Dollar Baby - funded by Lakeshore Entertainment's Tom Rosenberg, then Warner Bros.
  • Finding Neverland - followed the conventional studio development process, Miramax
  • Sideways - promised budget cuts made the film attractive for Fox Searchlight
  • The Aviator - funded by producer Graham King, then Miramax (co-produced with Warner Bros.)
  • Ray - funded by real estate and media baron Phil Anschutz, then Universal

To assure profits, Hollywood proved that it was more willing to fund sequels, remakes, comic-book related films, and recycled TV shows instead of smaller-scaled, more intimate dramas that were among this year's top picks. Typical Hollywood films -- feel-good, big-budget blockbusters -- were not well represented within the nominees. Big money-making hits, including Mel Gibson's most talked-about The Passion of the Christ (with three minor nominations and no wins), Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, the low-brow comedy Meet the Fockers, DreamWorks/PDI's animated Shrek 2 (with two nominations and no wins), and Spider-Man 2 (with three nominations and a sole win for Best Visual Effects) were mostly ignored by the Academy.

The group of five directorial nominees set up a strong match-up between Martin Scorsese and Clint Eastwood. Mike Leigh's nomination replaced Marc Forster for the Best Picture-nominated Finding Neverland. The Best Director winner was 74 year-old Clint Eastwood for Million Dollar Baby. [This was Eastwood's third directorial nomination and second Best Director win; he had previously won for his western Unforgiven (1992), and was also nominated for the previous year's Mystic River (2003). Eastwood has now directed three Best Picture nominees and won two of them. Eastwood's other career nominations were for his leading roles in Unforgiven (1992) and Million Dollar Baby.] Eastwood's win made him the oldest person ever to win and receive a directing Oscar, at age 74 and 272 days.

The other Best Director nominees were:

  • Taylor Hackford (first-time nominee) for Ray [Hackford had won an Oscar with his previous sole career nomination for his live-action short film Teenage Father (1978); he also edited and produced the award-winning Best Documentary Feature Film, When We Were Kings (1996), with Oscars presented to the film's director and executive producer]
  • Alexander Payne (first-time nominee) for Sideways [His sole previous, unsuccessful nomination was for his screenplay adaptation of Election (1999).] Payne was a double-nominee and Oscar-winner this year - he was also nominated (and won) for his adapted screenplay for Sideways
  • Martin Scorsese for The Aviator
    [The longtime overlooked and beloved director has yet to win an Academy Award. He had been nominated four other times as Best Director for Raging Bull (1980), The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), GoodFellas (1990), and Gangs of New York (2002) (a shut-out with ten nominations). He became one of only five directors in history to have earned five nominations in the category without a win. The other four were Robert Altman, Clarence Brown, Alfred Hitchcock, and King Vidor. Scorsese also has two other nominations, for his screenplays for GoodFellas (1990) and The Age of Innocence (1993). This defeat was the third time that Martin Scorsese lost the top directorial honor to an actor-turned-filmmaker - this also happened to him in 1980 (he lost to Robert Redford for Ordinary People) and in 1990 (he lost to Kevin Costner for Dances With Wolves).]
  • Mike Leigh for Vera Drake (with three nominations and no wins, including director Leigh's screenplay also), about a British woman who was arrested and put on trial for performing illegal abortions. [Leigh was previously nominated twice for writing and directing Secrets & Lies (1996), and for his screenplay for Topsy Turvy (1999).]

Nine of the 20 acting/performance nominations (almost half) were real-life portrayals. In this year's group of 20 nominees, Hilary Swank was the only nominee in any acting category who had ever won an Oscar. Eleven of the twenty acting nominations (or ten out of the 19 acting nominees if Foxx wasn't counted twice) were for first-timers. Four (or five, since Foxx was nominated twice) of the 20 acting nominees in 2004 were African-American nominees, besting the record of three nominated blacks that occurred in three different years: in 2001 (the year that both Halle Berry and Denzel Washington won Oscars), in 1985 when three were nominated for The Color Purple (1985), and in 1972 when Diana Ross was nominated for Lady Sings the Blues (1972) and Cicely Tyson and Paul Winfield were nominated for Sounder (1972).

The Best Actor nominations were dominated (4/5) by actors playing real-life figures - all of the nominees had a single prior nomination - except for Don Cheadle. The category's favored pick was the ultimate winner, 37 year-old Jamie Foxx (with his second nomination in a supporting category also) as legendary blues singer and pianist Ray Charles in Ray. [Jamie Foxx also set a record for being the first black to debut as a nominee in two categories in the same year, lead and supporting, for Ray (2004) and Collateral (2004). He also became only the second actor in Oscar history to receive Oscar nominations for two different performances in the same year - the first was Al Pacino in 1992]. His win made him the third African-American actor to win the Best Actor Oscar in Academy history.

The other Best Actor nominees were:

  • 40 year-old Don Cheadle (with his first career nomination) for his performance as Paul Rusesabagina, a heroic Hutu hotel manager who saves the lives of over 1,000 Tutsi and Hutu Rwandan refugees from ethnic cleansing/genocide in 1994 in the politically-volatile Hotel Rwanda (with three nominations and no wins) [The film drew comparisons to Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List (1993) in its subject matter and theme.]
  • 41 year-old Johnny Depp (with his second career nomination) for his role as Sir James Matthew Barrie, playwright and author of the children's classic Peter Pan in Finding Neverland. [He was nominated in the previous year in a lead role for Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003).]
  • 30 year-old Leonardo DiCaprio (with his second career nomination) for his portrayal of twenty years in the life of eccentric, reclusive and iconoclastic billionaire and aviation legend Howard Hughes in The Aviator. [He was previously nominated in a supporting role eleven years earlier in What's Eating Gilbert Grape (1993).]
  • 74 year-old Clint Eastwood (with his second career acting nomination) as Frankie Dunn, a grizzled boxing trainer/ex-boxer who reluctantly trains and coaches a young waitress to be a professional boxer in Million Dollar Baby. [He was previously nominated as a lead in Unforgiven (1992).]

Considerable attention was paid to the fact that 46 year-old American Beauty (1999) nominee Annette Bening was again competing -- and lost a second time to 30 year-old Hilary Swank, who won as an underdog the last time around in their Best Actress match-up for Boys Don't Cry (1999). Hilary Swank (with her second career nomination and second win) won the Oscar for her role as headstrong Maggie Fitzgerald, a working-class waitress who aspires to be a professional women's boxer in Million Dollar Baby. Swank was only the fourth actress to win two Oscars for Best Actress by the age of 30 (the previous two were Luise Rainer (at age 28) and Jodie Foster (at age 29)) - Bette Davis also scored her second trophy at age 30 when she won Best Actress for Jezebel (1938).

The other Best Actress nominees were a mix of first-time nominees and veteran-nominees:

  • 46 year-old Annette Bening (with her third acting nomination, and her second lead, having been nominated for a supporting role in The Grifters (1990) and a lead role in American Beauty (1999)) as Julia Lambert, an actress-diva in 1930's London theater (based upon W. Somerset Maugham's 1937 novel Theatre) who falls for a younger man in Being Julia (the film's sole nomination)
  • 23 year-old Colombian-born actress Catalina Sandino Moreno (with her first career nomination) as Maria, a desperate, pregnant 17-year-old Colombian girl who agrees to transport heroin (in the shape of 62 latex-covered pellets) within her stomach to finance her unborn child's future in director Joshua Marston's Maria Full of Grace (the film's sole nomination) - this film was lauded at Sundance
  • 49 year-old British character actress Imelda Staunton (with her first career nomination) as title character Vera Drake, a cheerful, saintly, hard-working cleaning lady, housewife and mother in postwar 1950s England who is put on trial for secretly performing illegal abortions in Vera Drake
  • 29 year-old Kate Winslet (with her fourth nomination, twice in a supporting role for Sense and Sensibility (1995) and Iris (2001), and once in the lead for Titanic (1997)) as manic, hair-colored lover Clementine Kruczynski, a quirky woman who has her memories of her ex-boyfriend erased from her mind - and meets him again - in the original science-fiction comedy Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (with two nominations and one win for Best Original Screenplay) -- Winslet's fourth nomination set a record - it was the most Oscar nominations any actor had received before the age of 30!

The Best Supporting Actor winner was 67 year-old Morgan Freeman (with his fourth nomination and first win) for his role as Eddie "Scrap Iron" Dupris - a weathered, worldly-wise ex-boxer and manager of the Hit Pit Gym (and film's narrator), who supports a young scrappy waitress' goal to be a professional boxer in Million Dollar Baby. [He was twice previously nominated in a lead role for Driving Miss Daisy (1989) and The Shawshank Redemption (1994), and once in a supporting role for Street Smart (1987).] His win, paired with Foxx's for Ray, made it only the second time blacks won two of the four acting prizes [the first time was in 2001 with Halle Berry and Denzel Washington. It was the first time that African-American actors won in both of their respective acting categories in the same year.] His win made him the fourth African-American actor to win the Best Supporting Actor Oscar in Academy history. Two footnotes: This was the second (consecutive) year in which the stars of The Shawshank Redemption (1994) have won Best Supporting Actor. Also, this was the second time in as many times that the Best Supporting Actor nominee from a Best Picture-winning Eastwood film won (Gene Hackman won for Unforgiven (1992).

The other Best Supporting Actor nominees were all first-time nominees:

  • 69 year-old former sitcom star (of M*A*S*H) Alan Alda as manipulated Senator Ralph Owen Brewster who battles Howard Hughes in The Aviator
  • 43 year-old former sitcom star (of Wings, and Ned and Stacey) Thomas Haden Church as Jack, an emotionally-blocked, sexually-hungry, bridegroom-to-be and failed actor who uses a trip to the California wine country to express his commitment-phobia and experience a final fling before getting married in Sideways
  • 37 year-old Jamie Foxx as Max, a veteran LA cab driver who is forcefully taken hostage (by psychotic assassin Tom Cruise) and coerced into becoming the accomplice and driver for the contract killer in Michael Mann's tense thriller Collateral (with two nominations and no wins)
  • 40 year-old Clive Owen as Larry, a vengeful, sexually-betrayed doctor married to a beautiful yet unfaithful photographer (Julia Roberts) in the sexual-themed drama Closer (with two nominations and no wins)

The Best Supporting Actress Oscar winner was 35 year-old Australian actress Cate Blanchett (with her second nomination and first Oscar win), as legendary, four-time Oscar winning actress Katharine Hepburn who has an affair with billionaire Howard Hughes in The Aviator. [She was previously nominated for her lead role in Elizabeth (1998)]. This marked the first time a performer won an Oscar for playing an Oscar-winning actress. A small footnote: Blanchett's win marked the first Scorsese-directed performance to win in this category after seven losses (from Diane Ladd's nomination for Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (1974) to Winona Ryder's nomination for The Age of Innocence (1993)).

The other Best Supporting Actress nominees were:

  • 43 year-old Virginia Madsen (with her first nomination) as Maya, a deceived, divorced, wine-loving, sad-eyed waitress who falls in love with depressed wine-soaked afficionado and wannabe novelist Miles (Paul Giamatti) in Sideways
  • 36 year-old Sophie Okonedo (with her first nomination) as Tatiana, the supportive, unflinching and empathetic wife of crusading hotel owner Paul Rusesabagina in Hotel Rwanda
  • 23 year-old Natalie Portman (in her first adult role and with her first nomination) as Alice, a bold, young American stripper in London in Closer
  • 40 year-old Laura Linney (with her second career nomination, previously nominated for her lead role in You Can Count on Me (2000)), as Clara "Mac" McMillian, the sexually-awakened wife of sexually-confused and controversial sex researcher Alfred Kinsey in Kinsey (the film's sole nominee)

Three big-budget, top-grossing powerhouse CGI-animated films, among the biggest blockbusters of the year, were nominated for Best Animated Feature. This was the first time no traditionally cel-animated films were nominated since 2001. The winner in the category was Pixar/Disney's The Incredibles (with 4 nominations and two wins - also for Sound Editing), about a crimson-suited family with superheroic powers. The other nominees were:

  • DreamWorks/PDI's Shark Tale (its sole nomination), a hip, urban underwater retelling of Jack the Giant Killer
  • DreamWorks/PDI's Shrek 2 (with 2 nominations and no wins), the sequel to the 2001 winner, and the highest grossing animated film of all-time

The Best Documentary Feature once again opened itself to intense criticism by leaving empty-handed the highest-grossing documentary film of all-time, Michael Moore's controversial, emotionally gut-wrenching and politically-biased Fahrenheit 9/11, partially due to Moore's insistence on competing for Best Picture rather than Best Documentary Feature Film, and partially due to his controversial acceptance speech for Bowling For Columbine (2002). Moore's film had won the top prize, Palme D'Or, at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2004, making it the first US documentary to win the award. It was also the first non-fiction film to take the festival's top award since The Silent World (1956, Fr.), co-directed by Jacques Cousteau and Louis Malle. [Interestingly, Morgan Spurlock's similar-toned attack on mega-giant corporation McDonalds and fast-food expose Super Size Me was nominated.]

The winner in the Documentary Feature category was Born Into Brothels about Calcutta's red-light district brothels and the children of the concubines. [In keeping with the theme of children, the Best Short Subject Documentary went to Mighty Times: The Children's March, about the 1963 children's march on Birmingham to protest segregation.]

80-year old director Sidney Lumet was given an Honorary Academy Award. Throughout his career, he received four Oscar nominations for directing (for 12 Angry Men (1957), Dog Day Afternoon (1975), Network (1976), and The Verdict (1982)), and a fifth for writing the adapted screenplay for Prince of the City (1981), but never won the top prize. He also directed Long Day's Journey Into Night (1962), Fail-Safe (1964), The Pawnbroker (1964), Serpico (1973), Murder on the Orient Express (1974), Equus (1977), and Running on Empty (1988).

Oscar Snubs and Omissions:

Three high-profile directors were overlooked: Mike Nichols, Michael Moore and Mel Gibson. Aside from the stunning exclusion of Fahrenheit 9/11 from Best Documentary Feature, there were other films surprisingly overlooked. Mel Gibson's controversial, gory interpretation of Jesus Christ's crucifixion The Passion of the Christ (with three nominations - and no wins - for Original Score, Cinematography and Makeup) was overlooked for Best Picture, Best Director (Gibson) and Best Actor (James Caviezel as Jesus). Dogville, Lars von Triers' epic 177-minute modern day film noir was completely overlooked. So were Best Director nominations for: Mike Nichols for his drama Closer (with only two supporting performance nominations), writer/director Bill Condon for Kinsey, Terry George for Hotel Rwanda, Marc Forster for Finding Neverland, Michel Gondry for the unconventional Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (which should have been a Best Picture nominee), and Michael Mann for Collateral.

Films that were passed over for Best Picture included: Closer, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Hotel Rwanda, Kinsey, Maria Full of Grace, Collateral, Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera, and Vera Drake.

Zhang Jimou's dazzling martial arts film House of Flying Daggers (with one losing nomination for Cinematography) was puzzlingly overlooked for Best Foreign Film, much less Best Picture. Also, there was only a handful of minor nominations for these foreign-language entries: The Motorcycle Diaries (with an Oscar win for Best Original Song, Jorge Drexler's "Al Otro Lado Del Río", the first Spanish-language song ever nominated in Oscar history) and A Very Long Engagement (with two nominations). The biggest foreign language omission was Pedro Almodóvar's powerful, NC-17 rated Bad Education (compared to Citizen Kane (1941) by Roger Ebert and to Vertigo (1958) by many others). It was completely overlooked for Best Foreign Language Film, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay (Almodóvar), and Best Actor for leads Gael García Bernal and Fele Martínez.

The biggest acting omission among the nominees was Liam Neeson's brilliant performance as Alfred Kinsey in Kinsey (with one nomination), the controversial and anguished sex researcher, as well as Peter Sarsgaard as Clyde Martin - one of Kinsey's test subjects and sleepy-eyed homosexual sex partners. Kevin Kline was also overlooked as closeted homosexual songwriter/singer Cole Porter, as well as Ashley Judd as his wife Linda in the musical biopic De-Lovely (with no nominations). Likewise, Kevin Spacey was kept out of the competition for his role as pop singer Bobby Darin in Beyond the Sea. Paul Giamatti, who was overlooked as Harvey Pekar in the previous year for American Splendor (2003), was snubbed for his lead role as failed and unfulfilled novelist, English teacher, snobbish wine connoisseur ("If anyone orders Merlot, I'm leaving') and sad-sack vacationer Miles Raymond in Sideways, as was Javier Bardem for his transformation into quadriplegic right-to-die advocate Ramon Sampedro in The Sea Inside (the Best Foreign Language Film winner, another film based on a real-life person!), and Peter Sarsgaard for his role as stoned gravedigger Mark in Garden State.

Jim Carrey was unnominated for two films: Eternal Sunshine on the Spotless Mind, as Winslet's love-sick ex-boyfriend Joel Barish who mutually erase their memories of their relationship, and for Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events (with four nominations and a sole win for Best Makeup), as, among other bit parts, the devilish Count Olaf. Not surprisingly, last year's Best Actor winner Sean Penn was not nominated for his work in The Assassination of Richard Nixon, and Kevin Bacon for his strong performance in The Woodsman. Four-time under-rated nominee Jeff Bridges was also bypassed for The Door in the Floor, as was Bruno Ganz for his portrayal of Adolf Hitler in the German historical drama Downfall (a 2005 Academy Award nominee for Best Foreign Language Film).

Perennial favorite (and 2000 winner) Julia Roberts was overlooked for her role as an alluring photographer in Closer, and Uma Thurman (as the Bride, an assassinatrix known as Beatrix Kiddo) and David Carradine (as Bill) were also bypassed for their work in Quentin Tarantino's epic revenge fantasy Kill Bill - Vol. 2. Talented young singer Emmy Rossum, a newcomer to films, was bypassed for her role as the Phantom's love Christine Daae in Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera (with three nominations and no wins). French-born actress Julie Delpy's role as Celine in Richard Linklater's sequel Before Sunset (with a single unsuccessful screenplay nomination) was also un-nominated.

Other omissions: Gena Rowland's performance as Alzheimer's victim Allie Calhoun in Nick Cassavetes' The Notebook, Cloris Leachman as half-drunk, sharp-tongued mother Evelyn in James L. Brooks' comedy Spanglish, Minnie Driver as narcissistic soprano Carlotta in The Phantom of the Opera, and Meryl Streep as the vicious Eleanor Shaw in Jonathan Demme's updated remake The Manchurian Candidate. Although nominated in the Best Actress category, Kate Winslet was not nominated for her supporting role as severely-ill and widowed mother Sylvia Llewelyn Davies in the Best Picture-nominated Finding Neverland.

Geoffrey Rush's amazingly uncanny portrayal of Peter Sellers in The Life and Death of Peter Sellers was ineligible for nomination since it aired on cable channel HBO. It opted for Emmy, Screen Actors Guild and Golden Globe award eligibility as a television movie in the United States. (The film had a theatrical release in the United Kingdom.)

Gérard Jugnot was overlooked for his charming lead role as Clément Mathieu, a simple music teacher who uses a chorus to help oppressed boarding school students, as was François Berléand as the abusive headmaster Rachin, in Christophe Barratier's The Chorus (with two nominations, including Best Foreign Language Film and Best Song.)

Trey Parker and Matt Stone's subversive and satirical comedy action/adventure film with super-hero puppets/marionettes - Team America: World Police, Robert Zemeckis' The Polar Express (with three nominations) and the anime sequel Ghost in the Shell 2 were all overlooked for Best Animated Feature, which only had three of a possible five nominees.

The phenomenally inventive Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, shot entirely against a blue screen with everything except the main characters computer-generated, was overlooked as a nominee for Best Visual Effects (the Oscar was won by Spider-Man 2, and the other nominees were Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban andI, Robot).

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