Gangs of New York
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
No matter where you lived, Chicago was the place to be this year. This irresistible musical, despite its 1920s setting, was right in tune with the times as it told its brassy story of how crime, show business and publicity intersect. Director Rob Marshall and screenwriter Bill Condon solved the key problem to doing musicals for today's audiences: how to keep the narrative moving propulsively even as the songs are being sung. One came out of Chicago wanting to button-hole perfect strangers and urge them to see it. How often does that happen?
As for the other nominees, Gangs of New York is all over the place, The Hours is easier to admire than to love, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers is three boring hours of battles, and The Pianist is worthy but can't compete with Chicago's pizzazz.
Salma Hayek, Frida
Nicole Kidman, The Hours
Diane Lane, Unfaithful
Julianne Moore, Far from Heaven
Renée Zellweger, Chicago
In a great year for women's roles, Moore rates highest. As a 1950s housewife slowly coming to understand that her picture-perfect life has been based on false assumptions, she gave a finely calibrated, fully felt performance in which every shift of emotion radiated like a depth charge.
Adrien Brody, The Pianist
Nicolas Cage, Adaptation
Michael Caine, The Quiet American
Daniel Day-Lewis, Gangs of New York
Jack Nicholson, About Schmidt
We're not die-hard Nicholson fans who figure he should win every year, but his thoughtful, accomplished turn as a retired midwestern widower on a journey of self-discovery in the bittersweet About Schmidt moved us to both laughter and tears.
Best Supporting Actress
Kathy Bates, About Schmidt
Queen Latifah, Chicago
Julianne Moore, The Hours
Meryl Streep, Adaptation
Catherine Zeta-Jones, Chicago
The ferocious energy that Zeta-Jones poured into the role of nightclub chanteuse-turned-killer Velma Kelly, along with her sensational singing and dancing abilities (we Yanks had no idea), made for a sizzling performance. This first-time nominee is up against strong competition—all hail Streep's and Bates's ample comic gifts—but Zeta-Jones earns the golden statue.
Best Supporting Actor
Chris Cooper, Adaptation
Ed Harris, The Hours
Paul Newman, Road to Perdition
John C. Reilly, Chicago
Christopher Walken, Catch Me If You Can
Sure, it would be heartwarming if a deserving Newman were called up to the stage for a late career salute or Walken were honored for a most un-Walken-like sympathetic turn. But Cooper's jittery, orchid-stealing, Florida swamp rat was simply too colorful a performance to ignore. In a movie notable for its weirdness, he reigned as the weirdest.