By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated January 12, 2004 05:47 PM

The new and earlier Oscar date of Feb. 29 has certainly heightened awards fever this year, with new nominations and prizes being announced every day.

But the Baftas are especially antsy. Not content with just announcing nominees for its year-end honors, the British Film Academy on Monday announced nominees for its nominations. The group named 15 films that will be whittled down to five finalists for best film of the year when nominations are announced Jan. 19.

The 15 in the running for the British version of the Oscar are: “Big Fish,” “Calendar Girls,” “Cold Mountain,” “Finding Nemo,” “Girl With a Pearl Earring,” “Kill Bill — Vol. 1,” “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,” “Lost in Translation,” “Love Actually,” “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World,” “Mystic River,” “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl,” “Seabiscuit,” “The Station Agent” and “21 Grams.”

Notable among the omissions, reports the BBC, is “The Last Samurai,” though Tom Cruise is reportedly on the list of best actor potentials.

“Cold Mountain” has the opportunity to garner the most Bafta nominations, with 18 possible chances in 17 categories, including Jude Law and Nicole Kidman up for best actor and actress, and Philip Seymour Hoffman and Renee Zellweger for their supporting roles.

Scarlett Johansson, 19, also appears twice on the long list for best actress, for her roles in “Lost in Translation” and “Girl With a Pearl Earring.”

Meanwhile, Monday’s New York Times reports on Universal Studios’ campaign to win Oscars for what was perceived as a possible darkhorse: “Seabiscuit.” Traditionally, Oscar winners are released in the fall and around Christmas, but the historical horse drama came out last summer.

In something of an upset, the movie’s director, Gary Ross, already has been nominated for a Directors Guild of America award — taking the slot that many assumed would go to “Cold Mountain” director Anthony Minghella.