By Susan King, Times Staff Writer
January 23, 2007
Though shut out in this and other marquee categories, the lavish musical "Dreamgirls" led the 79th annual Oscar nominations with eight nods, including best supporting actress - for newcomer Jennifer Hudson - and best supporting actor for veteran funnyman Eddie Murphy.
The gritty international ensemble drama, "Babel," received seven nominations, including best director and two supporting actress nods. "The Queen" and "Pan's Labyrinth" earned six nominations apiece, followed by a surprisingly strong showing for "Blood Diamond" and "The Departed," which earned five each. "Letters from Iwo Jima," "Notes on a Scandal," and "Little Miss Sunshine" earned four nods apiece, mostly in the creative categories, and "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" also garnered four nominations, all in the technical categories.
Best actor nominees were Leonardo DiCaprio - not for "The Departed," as expected, but for his role as a South African mercenary in "Blood Diamond," Ryan Gosling as a troubled inner-city junior high teacher in "Half Nelson," Peter O'Toole as an aging actor who falls for a young free spirit in "Venus," Will Smith as a struggling single father in "The Pursuit of Happyness" and Forest Whitaker as the brutal Ugandan dictator, Idi Amin in "The Last King of Scotland."
"Venus" marks the eighth nomination for the veteran O'Toole, who has yet to win a competitive Oscar. (The academy has bestowed an honorary Oscar upon the film legend who starred in such classics as "Lawrence of Arabia," and "The Lion in Winter.") As a result, O'Toole, 74, could be considered the sentimental favorite in this category. Gosling, at 26, is the youngest of the bunch and if he were to receive the Oscar, he would be the youngest winner ever in this category.
Vying for best actress are Penelope Cruz as an earthy mother in the Spanish drama "Volver," Judi Dench as a sexually ambiguous spinster in "Notes on a Scandel," Helen Mirren as Elizabeth II in "The Queen," Meryl Streep as a demanding fashion editor in "The Devil Wears Prada" and Kate Winslet as an unhappy wife and mother in "Little Children." Save for Cruz, all of actresses have been previously nominated or have won Oscars for their work.
In the best director category, nominees are Alejandro Gonzalez Innariutu for "Babel," Martin Scorsese for his kinetic gangster thriller "The Departed," Clint Eastwood for his Japanese-language World War II drama, "Letters from Iwo Jima," Stephen Frears for his examination of the British monarchy in "The Queen" and Paul Greengrass take on the 9/11 tragedy in "United 93." Greengrass' nomination is somewhat of a surprise, because he was shut out from the Golden Globe nods and failed to win a Directors Guild of America nomination - generally considered a reliable barometer for the Oscar.
Also notably missing from this category list were Bill Condon for "Dreamgirls" and Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris for "Little Miss Sunshine." All are nominated for a DGA.
Eastwood has already won an Oscar for best director twice before, for 1992's "Unforgiven" and 2004's "Million Dollar Baby." Scorsese, who is considered one of the most influential filmmakers of the past 30 years, has been nominated five times previously in this category, but has yet to win an Academy Award.
Nominated for best supporting actor are: Alan Arkin as a heroin-snorting grandfather in "Little Miss Sunshine," Jackie Earle Haley as a sexual pervert in "Little Children," Djimon Hounsou as an African villager forced to work in the mines in "Blood Diamond," Murphy as an ill-fated R&B singer in "Dreamgirls" and Mark Wahlberg as a revenge-filled Boston detective in "The Departed." It's been 38 years between Oscar nominations for the veteren Arkin: He was nominated in the best actor category for 1968's "The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter." Ironically, O'Toole was one of his competitors that year, for "The Lion in Winter."
FOR THE RECORD: In an earlier version of this story, Alan Arkin's character in "Little Miss Sunshine" was referred to as a pot smoking grandfather. However, the character actually snorted heroin.
On the supporting actress front, nominees are Adriana Barraza as a Mexican nanny and Rinko Kikuchi as a troubled deaf mute, in "Babel," Cate Blanchett as a married teacher who has an affair with her teen-age student in "Notes on a Scandal," Abigail Breslin as a little girl determined to become a beauty queen in "Little Miss Sunshine," and Hudson as a lead singer for an R&B group who is forced to become the backup in "Dreamgirls."
At 10, Breslin isn't the youngest performer to be nominated - Justin Henry was eight when he was nominated for 1979's "Kramer Vs. Kramer" - but if she wins she'd be the second youngest Oscar winner ever. Tatum O'Neal still holds that record for 1973's "Paper Moon." (Also 10, O'Neal was just a few months younger than Breslin is now.)
The nominees for best original screenplay were Guillermo Arriaga for "Babel," Iris Yamashita and Paul Haggis for "Letters from Iwo Jima," Michael Arndt for the dark comedy about a dysfunctional family, "Little Miss Sunshine," Guillermo Del Toro for his gothic fairy tale, "Pan's Labyrinth," and Peter Morgan for "The Queen."
Vying for best adapted screenplay are Sacha Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines, Peter Baynhan, Dan Mazer and Todd Phillips for the ribald mockumentary "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan," Alfonso Cuaron, Timony J. Sexton, David Arata, Mark Fergus, and Hawk Ostby for the dark, futuristic thriller "Children of Men," William Monahan for "The Departed," Todd Field and Tom Perrotta for intimate suburban drama "Little Children" and Patrick Marber for "Notes on a Scandal."
"Cars," "Happy Feet" and "Monster House" were nominated for best animated movie.
In the foreign language category, the nominees were: Denmark's "After the Wedding," Algeria's "Days of Glory," Germany's "The Lives of Others," Mexico's "Pan's Labyrinth" and Canada's "Water." Noticably absent from the category was Spanish director Pedro Almodovar's "Volver."
The awards will be handed out in a live ceremony Feb. 25 from the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, which will be telecast on ABC. Ellen DeGeneres will make her debut as host.
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