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Renee, Renee and more Renee

Arthur J Pais | February 20, 2004 17:04 IST

I see more and more print and television ads that trumpet Renee Zellweger in Cold Mountain.

In print, you see only her. Wonder how Jude Law, who has been nominated for his first Oscar, feels. He has been going around telling reporters that he is rooting for Sean Penn, who plays a small town hood devastated by his daughter's brutal murder in Mystic River.

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What would she be wearing on Oscar day, Marcia Gay Harden, Oscar winner (Pollack) was asked by a television interviewer the other day.

Harden, who plays the anguished wife who suspects her husband (Tim Robbins) of killing a young girl in Mystic River, is expecting twins.

She will wear something that will emphasise her bosom, she said with a broad grin, adding something like, pregnancy offers women some advantages and they should not hesitate to use them.

She also said something wise the other day: Never mind who wins the Oscars on February 29. Every nominee should feel as if she or he had won the award.

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Djimon Hounsou's name is not the only one that American movie journalists are getting used to. They are also figuring out, as talk show host Larry King recently did, how to pronounce Shohreh Aghadashloo.

Hounsou, born in Benin, West Africa, and Aghadashloo, born in Iran, are nominated in the Best Supporting Actor and Actress categories for their work in small arthouse hits, In America and House Of Sand And Fog respectively.

A discovery of Steven Spielberg in Amistad, Hounsou plays a mysterious and moody painter whose life is changed when he meets two angelic white girls in a rundown tenement in New York 40 years ago.

Having been cast in solid roles in such hits as Ridley Scott's Gladiator and such misfires as Shekhar Kapur's Four Feathers, Hounsou is better known in America than Aghadashloo.

Aghadashloo plays an immigrant Iranian wife whose husband (Ben Kingsley) has got the possession of a house that belonged to a troubled woman (Jennifer Connelly) because of bureaucratic bungling. The Iranian woman has to weigh her love for her husband against the pull of her own conscience as she gets to know what the house means to the American woman.

Aghadashloo, who is about 50, has appeared in several films of such distinguished Iranian directors as Abbas Kiarostami and Ali Hatami. She left the country because of the increasing pressure by Ayatollah Khomeini against the artistic community, especially women.

In England, where she pursued studies in international affairs, she kept alive her interest in the arts. She also saw a lot of theater. She recalls how, while watching a comedy starring Ben Kingsley, she started crying. Her companion was perplexed.

Soon Aghadashloo would tell her that she was so overwhelmed by Kinglsey's talent that she hoped she would act with him one day. She had to wait for over a decade for that dream to come true.
 
Her Oscar nomination followed quickly on the heels of the New York Film Critics and Los Angeles Film Critics Associations choosing her as the Best Supporting Actress of 2003.

Both nominees have tough competition. Hounsou's biggest rival is Tim Robbins, who plays the man suspected of killing his friend's daughter in Mystic River. And Aghadashloo's biggest challenge is Renee Zellwegger, who plays the woman befriending a heartbroken Nicole Kidman in Cold Mountain.

Compared to Mystic River, which has grossed $75 million in North America, the Hounsou starrer In America has grossed $13 million. It is on its last leg unless the film -- which has also garnered best actress nod for Samantha Morton and best screenplay for (director) Jim Sheridan and his two daughters -- wins an award or two.

Also an arthouse hit, House Of Sand And Fog has grossed just about $10 million in North America and is fast padding, while Cold Mountain, nominated for 7 Oscars, including one in the best actor category (Jude Law), is headed for a $100 million run.

But then remember that House Of Sand And Fog was made, like In America, for less than $20 million while Mystic River cost about $35 million and Cold Mountain, $80 million.



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