'AMELIE' SCORES AT CESARS
"Amélie" received a record 13 nominations Monday when the Academy of Cinema Arts and Sciences announced the nominees for the 27th Cesar Awards -- the French equivalent of the Academy Awards.
Besides its best picture nomination, "Amélie" is up for Cesars for best director, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, and best actress, Audrey Tautou. It's also up for two supporting actor awards, and one each for supporting actress, screenplay, music, costumes, art direction, photography, sound and editing.
The rest of the best film nominees are "Sous le Sable" ("Under the Sand"); "Sur mes levres" ("Read my lips"); "La Chambre des Officiers" and "Chaos."
The story of a young woman who dedicates herself to the happiness of others, "Amélie" has become the top-grossing French film ever to play in the United States, and is widely regarded as a leading prospect for an Oscar for best foreign language film.
The nominees for the Cesar for best foreign film were "The Man Who Wasn't There"; "The Son's Room"; "Moulin Rouge"; "Mulholland Drive" and "Traffic."
The Cesars will be presented March 2 in Paris.
HONORS FOR 'THE OTHERS'
"The Others" -- a spooky story starring Nicole Kidman as the last word in overly protective mothers -- has won eight Goya awards, the Spanish equivalent of the Oscar.
Besides the top prize for best picture, "The Others" writer-director Alejandro Amenábar also won for best original screenplay and best director. "The Others" bagged Goyas for art direction, cinematography, editing, production design and sound.
Kidman was nominated for best actress but lost out to Pilar López de Ayala, star of the historical drama "Juana la Loca." Eduard Fernández of "Fausto 5.0" was named best lead actor.
"Amélie," the French movie about a young woman dedicated to bring happiness to others, was named best European film. "La fuga" was named best foreign film in Spanish language.
Juan Antonio Bardem was presented with the Goya de Honor in recognition of his lifetime achievement in the Spanish cinema. Bardem's nephew, Javier Bardem, was nominated for a best actor Oscar last year for "Before Night Falls."
The honors showered upon "The Others" were controversial, since the movie was filmed in English and partly financed with U.S. money.
Vicente Aranda -- who was up for best director for "Juana la Loca" -- was one of several nominees who refused to attend the ceremony. In a recent TV interview, Aranda said the honors accorded "The Others" are part of a troubling trend for Spanish cinema.
"You have embarked on a dangerous path," he said, "because American cinema, which has already taken control of our cinemas, also wants to take control of the prizes."
HONORS FOR ISMAIL MERCHANT
Veteran producer Ismail Merchant ("The Golden Bowl," "The Remains of the Day," "Howards End," A Room with a View") has received one of the highest honors accorded by his native India -- the title of Padma Bhushan, the equivalent of a British knighthood.
Merchant and his producing partner, director James Ivory, have collaborated on dozens of movies since "The Householder" in 1963. Their projects have earned 32 Academy Award nominations and six Oscars.
WHAT'S MONEY AMONG 'FRIENDS'?
According to a report in Daily Variety, representatives for the cast of "Friends" have opened contract talks with NBC and Warner Bros. -- which produces the show -- on a ninth season for the hit comedy.
Citing insiders familiar with the negotiations, the report said few details are known about the talks, but according to early indications Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox Arquette, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer are expected to ask for at least $1 million per episode. They're currently pulling down $750,000 per episode.
The cast is presenting a unified front, being represented collectively by some of the most high-powered lawyers in Hollywood.
The report also cites insiders who said there is a "50-50 chance" the "Friends" cast will decide they've had enough and leave the show after the current season.
'DOWN' STAYS UP AT BOX OFFICE
Three weeks after establishing a secure perimeter around the No. 1 spot at the U.S. box office, the military drama "Black Hawk Down" is holding its position against everything the enemy has to throw at it.
Director Ridley Scott's account of the U.S. military debacle in Somalia in 1993 beat the competition over Super Bowl weekend with $11.5 million -- running its overall gross to $75.5 million.
Cuba Gooding Jr.'s canine comedy "Snow Dogs" three-peated at No. 2, taking in $9.9 million for a three week total of $50 million.
"The Count of Monte Cristo" was No. 3 with $9.0 million. The teen romance "A Walk To Remember" was fourth with $8.8 million. No. 5, "A Beautiful Mind," went over the $100 million mark, taking in $8.5 million to run its 44 day total to $104.6 million.
"The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" took in $6.6 million, running its seven week take to $267.2 million and taking it past "Shrek" as the second biggest-grossing film released in 2001. The high-grosser for the year was "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone."
The college comedy "Slackers" slouched into 10th place, opening with $3.0 million in a tie with "Orange County." The new Nicole Kidman thriller "Birthday Girl" didn't get much of a party, grossing just $2.5 million in its opening weekend.
COCAINE FOUND IN DEMME'S SYSTEM
According to a report by the Los Angeles County Coroner's office, filmmaker Ted Demme had a small amount of cocaine in his system when he died on Jan. 13 -- which could have been a contributing factor to the heart attack that killed him.
The coroner also reported that the 38-year-old director's arteries were clogged. Demme was not quite six feet tall, but weighted well over 200 pounds.
He died shortly after collapsing while playing a celebrity basketball game to raise funds for the Crossroads School, a private school for arts and sciences in Santa Monica, Calif. His death has been ruled accidental.
The nephew of Oscar-winning director Jonathan Demme ("Silence of the Lambs," "Philadelphia") Ted Demme was the director of the feature films "The Ref," "Life" and "Beautiful Girls." He also co-directed the music video for Bruce Springsteen's "Streets of Philadelphia."
Demme's last picture was blow -- starring Johnny Depp as George Jung, the man widely credited with establishing the contemporary cocaine market in the United States.