This isn’t that big a surprise as “Cold Mountain” isn’t a very good movie. Is it better than “Mystic River”? Yes, but thats besides the point.

Directors Snub ‘Cold Mountain’ in Best Film Race
LOS ANGELES, (Reuters) – The race for Oscars gold took an unexpected turn on Tuesday when a major list of nominees for best film director snubbed Anthony Minghella and his widely-hailed Civil War epic “Cold Mountain” but gave a nod to Gary Ross’s horse racing saga, “Seabiscuit.”
The widely-respected Directors Guild of America, an association representing movie directors, put Peter Jackson and his smash box office hit “Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,” on the list of best film director nominees along with Peter Weir for his seafaring epic, “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World.”
Rounding out the list of five nominees were Clint Eastwood with crime thriller “Mystic River,” and Sofia Coppola for her Tokyo romance, “Lost in Translation.”
“Return of the King” now positions itself as an award front-runner, Oscar watchers said, as industry voters could reward Jackson for the combined trilogy that includes 2001’s “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” and last year’s “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. The nomination also marks Jackson’s third consecutive DGA nod, the first time that has ever happened.
Still it was Minghella’s absence and the inclusion of “Seabiscuit” that had Hollywood buzzing.
“It’s a bit of cliche, but it really does mean the most when (a nomination) comes from your peers,” Ross told Reuters.
The “Seabiscuit” nod follows Monday’s nomination for best film producing team for Ross and co-producers Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall from the Producers Guild of America.
The nomination was especially rewarding for “Seabiscuit,” about the come-from-behind, Depression-era champion because it has been a dark-horse this Oscar race owing to its summer debut outside the fall season that is filled with Academy Award hopefuls.
The loss of Minghella and his critically acclaimed “Cold Mountain” from the DGA race proved to be a “shocker” for Tom O’Neil, host of award Website and author of “Movie Awards.”
“We had presumed up to now that the race for best picture at both the Golden Globes and Oscars was between ‘Cold Mountain’ and ‘Lord of the Rings,”‘ said O’Neil. “The news today means a major step back for ‘Cold Mountain.”‘
“Cold Mountain” received a leading eight nominations for Golden Globe awards, which are given out by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and are perceived as instrumental in swaying Oscar voting. Globe winners will be named on Jan. 25.
Moreover, “Cold Mountain” is backed by Miramax Films and its chief Harvey Weinstein, who have waged widely successful campaigns in Oscar races since the 1990s, backing winners like Minghella’s “The English Patient” and last year’s “Chicago.”
Some Oscar watchers attributed Minghella’s absence to a timing issue as ballots for the DGA awards were mailed out on December 8, but “Cold Mountain” did not debut until Christmas day, Dec. 25, meaning ballots could have been returned early.
Only six times since 1949 has the winner of the DGA’s honor not won the best director Oscar, and 10 of the past 14 PGA winners have claimed the best film Oscar, which is the U.S. film industry’s top award given out by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Oscars will be awarded on Feb. 29.
Fading in the Oscar pack appear to be Tom Cruise movie “The Last Samurai,” director Tim Burton’s “Big Fish,” and low-budget film “In America,” from Irish director Jim Sheridan.
Coppola’s film appears to be the independent movie to beat this year. The director is the daughter of acclaimed filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola, himself a DGA winner for 1972’s “The Godfather” which earned the best picture Oscar that year but failed to win the best director Oscar.