'Dreamgirls' led Academy Awards contenders

By Joanna Weiss
Globe Staff / January 23, 2007
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The much-heralded musical "Dreamgirls" garnered the most Academy Award nominations this morning, but was snubbed in the "Best Picture" and "Best Director" contests, a move that sent tongues wagging in Hollywood and suggested an Oscar bias toward more serious fare.

The box-office smash "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan," a sometimes-crass Swiftian comedy, was also shut out of most major awards, garnering only one nomination: for best adapted screenplay.

The best picture nominees are "Babel," "Little Miss Sunshine," "The Queen," "The Departed," and "Letters from Iwo Jima" -- the latter two setting up a possible showdown between Hollywood heavyweights Martin Scorsese and Clint Eastwood.

Scorsese and Eastwood also got best-director nods, along with "Babel" director Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu, "The Queen" director Stephen Frears, and "United 93" director Paul Greengrass.

"Dreamgirls" did win eight nominations, including three for best song, a best-supporting-actor nod for Eddie Murphy, and a best-supporting actress nomination for "American Idol" veteran Jennifer Hudson.

The awards will be presented on Sunday, Feb. 25 in Hollywood.

In all, the Academy nominated a record-tying five black actors for its top awards. In the "Best Actor" category, Will Smith got nod for his role as a homeless father in "The Pursuit of Happyness," and Forrest Whitaker was nominated for his portrayal of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in "The Last King of Scotland." Djimon Hounsou got a best-supporting actor nomination for "Blood Diamond."

Also nominated for best actor were Leonardo DiCaprio for "Blood Diamond," Ryan Gosling for "Half Nelson," and Peter O'Toole for "Venus." The best actress nominees were Penelope Cruz for "Volver," Judi Dench for "Notes on a Scandal," Helen Mirren for "The Queen," Meryl Streep for "The Devil Wears Prada," and Kate Winslet for "Little Children."

"Babel," the ensemble language-barrier epic that recently won a Golden Globe for best drama, won seven nominations Tuesday, including two best-supporting actress nods for Adriana Barraza and Rinko Kikuchi.

Boston-based writer Tom Perrotta, along with Todd Field, won a best-adapted screenplay nomination for "Little Children," the film version of Perrotta's novel. Boston native William Monahan was nominated in the same category for his screenplay for the Boston-based crime drama "The Departed."

Whitaker is expected to come away with best actor, though sentiment is high for O'Toole, who has been nominated seven times, losing each. An eighth loss for O'Toole, who nearly turned down an honorary Oscar three years ago because he hoped to earn one outright, would put him in the record books as the actor with the most nominations without winning.

This finally may be the year for another perennial loser, Scorsese, who's tied with four other directors for the Oscar-futility record of five nominations and five losses.

"The Departed" marks Scorsese's return to the cops-and-mobsters genre he mastered in decades past and is considered his best shot to finally win an Oscar, though a sixth defeat would put him alone in the record book as the losingest director ever.

Prim Oscar voters maintained their track record of ignoring over-the-top comic performances, snubbing Sacha Baron Cohen for his Golden Globe-winning role in the raucous "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan." Cohen shared an adapted screenplay nomination for the largely improvised "Borat," though.

The comedy front did bring supporting nominations for Alan Arkin as a foul-mouthed grandfather and Abigail Breslin as a girl obsessed with beauty pageants in "Little Miss Sunshine," though the film's three key performers, Greg Kinnear, Toni Collette and Steve Carell, were overlooked.

Ten-year-old Breslin became the fourth-youngest actress ever nominated, behind supporting-actress winner Tatum O'Neal ("Paper Moon") and supporting-actress nominees Mary Badham ("To Kill a Mockingbird") and Quinn Cummings ("The Goodbye Girl"). All three were 10 when nominated, a few months younger than Breslin.

While Cruz's "Volver," from Spanish director and past Oscar darling Pedro Almodovar, was shut out for foreign-language picture, another Hispanic film scored well. Mexican director Guillermo del Toro's "Pan's Labyrinth" had six nominations, including foreign-language film, screenplay, cinematography and score.

"Dreamgirls" looked as though it might follow 2002's "Chicago" as a rare musical to win best-picture, but like last year's music-themed "Walk the Line" it was a startling omission from the Oscar's top category. Two-time best-picture and director winner Eastwood's "Letters from Iwo Jima" had been considered a longshot and clearly was the film that denied "Dreamgirls" its chance at the top trophy.

While Murphy and Hudson made it into the supporting categories, lead players Foxx and Beyonce Knowles and director Bill Condon were left out.

Eastwood continued his late-career surge and Oscar magic with four nominations for the Japanese-language "Letters" including original screenplay. His World War II companion film "Flags of Our Fathers" also had two technical nominations, including sound editing in which it will compete against "Letters."

The year's top-grossing movie, "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest," grabbed four nominations in technical categories, including visual effects.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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