BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- Love is in the air this Hollywood awards season but it's of the dark and bittersweet variety, with a leading eight Golden Globe nominations going to "Cold Mountain," about a Civil War deserter whose journey to find his sweetheart is marked by heartbreak and death.
Nicole Kidman's role as a prim Southerner in "Cold Mountain" and Jude Law as the wayward soldier who longs for her each received lead drama performer nominations, and Anthony Minghella was among the best director contenders.
Meanwhile, the platonic May-December romance "Lost in Translation" got five bids, including best comedy film and lead comedy performance mentions for Bill Murray as an aging, has-been actor and Scarlett Johansson as a young, lonely wife who strike up a will-they-or-won't-they relationship in a Tokyo hotel.
"They very much both love one another, but you don't always need a big passionate love scene to feel that between two people." Johansson told The Associated Press on Thursday. "It's about when you feel like you are completely lost and for a moment make this human connection."
"Mystic River," about three adult friends whose lives are filled with tragedy and crime, also had five nominations, including best drama and best director for Clint Eastwood, who described the movie's theme as "the stealing of innocence."
"These are men who would rather be apart from each other, but it's the tragedy that links them," Eastwood said.
Besides "Mystic River" and "Cold Mountain," best dramatic film contenders were the seafaring epic "Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World," the true-life horse racing story "Seabiscuit" and the fantasy saga "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King."
"The Return of the King," the third film in a hugely successful trilogy, had four nominations including Peter Jackson for best director. The previous two films were mostly passed over for top filmmaking prizes, and this year is the best and last chance for the series to take home big honors.
"Big Fish," director Tim Burton's offbeat story of a charismatic father and his repressed son, also got four nominations including best musical or comedy.
It competes against the year's highest-grossing movie, the computer-animated "Finding Nemo," and three smaller films: "Lost in Translation," the soccer coming-of-age story "Bend It Like Beckham" and the British lonely hearts anthology "Love Actually."
Other nominated movies featuring love stories -- star-crossed and otherwise -- included the unlucky-in-love-and-everything-else drama "The Cooler," which had supporting acting bids for Alec Baldwin as a hard-nosed casino boss, and Maria Bello as a waitress who has an awkward love affair with the chronic loser played by William H. Macy.
"More than anything it's a real romance, not a Hollywood romance," Bello said Thursday. "They fall in love with each other and their own broken pieces in the process."
Macy had a supporting actor bid for playing a fictional, tongue-twisting horse race announcer in "Seabiscuit," but did not receive a mention for "The Cooler."
Another offbeat love-story was "American Splendor," a critically beloved biographical drama about grumpy comic book scribe Harvey Pekar and his bookish wife, Joyce Brabner, which received one nomination for supporting actress Hope Davis.
"In real life, when you meet Harvey and Joyce, whatever difficulties they suffer in their relationship -- and they do -- they couldn't get along without each other," Davis said.
The comedy "Something's Gotta Give," had dual lead comedy performer nominations for Jack Nicholson as an aging cad and Diane Keaton as an accomplished older woman who form a grudging affection for each other.
"My goal was to loosen it up and be friends," Keaton said of Nicholson, adding with a laugh: "He's a big jerk and just a lot of fun."
Among the dramatic actor nominees, Ben Kingsley's performance as a desperate Iranian immigrant in "House of Sand and Fog" joined with Russell Crowe's hardscrabble sea captain in "Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World" in the lead dramatic movie actor category. Other contenders were Tom Cruise for "The Last Samurai," Law for "Cold Mountain" and Sean Penn for "Mystic River."
Along with Kidman, lead dramatic movie actress nominees were Uma Thurman for "Kill Bill: Vol. 1," Charlize Theron for "Monster," 16-year-old Evan Rachel Wood for "thirteen," and Cate Blanchett for "Veronica Guerin."
The Globes, presented by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, mark the start of the annual Hollywood awards season and are regarded by some as indicators of potential Oscar nominees and winners.
The Golden Globes live telecast is scheduled for Jan. 25, while the Oscar ceremony is set for Feb. 29, about four weeks earlier than usual. Oscar nominations will be announced Jan. 27.
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