By Mike Collett-White
LONDON (Reuters) - The latest James Bond movie "Skyfall" won five Oscar nominations on Thursday, the highest tally for a 007 picture, but the major categories including best picture once again eluded the franchise that has just celebrated its 50th anniversary.
Hopes had been raised by bookmakers and some film critics that one of Britain's most lucrative and best-loved cultural exports would finally make his mark at the Academy Awards at the 23rd time of asking.
Skyfall, the first official Bond movie to make more than $1 billion at the box office, also won rave reviews from professionals and the public.
"Give Bond an Oscar!" was the headline of Daily Mail movie critic Chris Tookey's review of Skyfall when it hit theatres in October, reflecting a mood of optimism among the more patriotic sections of the British press.
There was a further boost last week when Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson were among the nominees for a Producers Guild Award alongside prestige films like "Lincoln" and "Zero Dark Thirty".
Reactions to the Oscar nominations summed up the sense of disappointment particularly in Britain, where there had been talk not only of a best picture nod but also recognition for cast members Judi Dench and Javier Bardem.
Dench, who plays Bond's boss 'M', said she was "very, very sorry" the film had not been nominated in any of the major categories.
"That's a great pity," she told BBC Radio. "I thought Sam Mendes directed it absolutely beautifully. It was a terrific film."
Bookmakers William Hill sent out a press release entitled: "Sky Falls In For Bond At Oscar Shortlist!" while the Independent newspaper wrote in its blog: "British hopes for the first best picture nomination for Skyfall have been dashed."
Vanity Fair magazine added via Twitter: "Sadly, James Bond was once again shut out of Oscar nominations."
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences might point out that Skyfall in fact fared relatively well, with five nominations including best song for Adele, best score, sound editing, sound mixing and cinematography.
And there will be a special tribute to the franchise at the awards ceremony on February 24.
But Bond has generally faired poorly at the Oscars, winning just two statuettes - sound effects for 1964 film "Goldfinger" and special visual effects for "Thunderball", released in 1965.
The Oscars have tended to overlook major movie franchises, a fact that irked the likes of Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe who criticied the Academy for not recognising the eight-part boy wizard series.
The British media tends to take a parochial approach to the Oscars, viewing them through a patriotic lens and borrowing repeatedly from screenwriter Colin Welland's acceptance speech more than 30 years ago when he won for "Chariots of Fire".
"I'd like to finish with a word of warning," he proclaimed. "You may have started something. The British are coming."
In 2009 and 2011 there were British "invasions", in the form of "Slumdog Millionaire" and "The King's Speech" respectively.
In 2013, the British focus will be on Daniel Day-Lewis, in the running for his third best actor statuette for his portrayal of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln in Steven Spielberg's biopic "Lincoln".
(Reporting by Mike Collett-White; Editing by Andrew Heavens)