Meryl Streep made history this morning when the Oscar nominations were announced. With her best actress Oscar nod for “Music of the Heart,” Streep earned her 12th nomination — tying her with Katharine Hepburn’s 18-year record. There were also some surprises from the Academy, which favored “American Beauty” by giving it eight nominations (the most this year), including one for best picture. Three other best picture contenders were right behind it: “The Insider” and the dark-horse candidate “The Cider House Rules,” both with seven nominations, and the box office smash “The Sixth Sense,” with, appropriately, six. (The other picture nominee was “The Green Mile.”) Sean Penn, in Woody Allen’s “Sweet and Lowdown,” made the best actor race, in a slot that was generally thought to be going to either Tom Hanks (“The Green Mile”) or Jim Carrey (“Man on the Moon”). Except for “Green Mile” director Frank Darabont, the directors of the best picture nominees all received best director nods. (Darabont’s spot was filled by director nominee Spike Jonze, whose “Being John Malkovich” missed the best picture race.) Best actor contender Kevin Spacey told the “Today” show right after the big announcement, “I’m completely delighted that my friend Sean Penn is nominated in the same category. Now I can go have breakfast and feel good about it.”

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