All over the map  

'Babel' hones int'l flavor; 8 noms but no best pic for 'Dreamgirls'

The multilingual "Babel" clearly spoke Oscar's language Tuesday morning, when nominations for the 79th Annual Academy Awards were announced. The musical "Dreamgirls" might have earned the most nominations, eight, but it was shut out of the best picture race.

Instead, it earned the unenviable distinction of becoming the first movie in Oscar history to fail to earn a best picture nomination while collecting the most noms.

"Looking at the whole awards season, there is no clear front-runner," Miramax Films president Daniel Battsek said as he celebrated six noms for "The Queen" and one for Peter O'Toole's autumnal performance in "Venus."

For best picture honors, "Babel," with seven noms, will compete against the crime drama "The Departed," the Japanese-language war film "Letters From Iwo Jima," the quirky comedy "Little Miss Sunshine" and "Queen," a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II under siege from the modern media.

So far, though, a definite front-runner hasn't emerged during an awards season in which "Babel" earned the title of best drama at the Golden Globes but "Little Miss Sunshine" took the Producers Guild of America's film prize last weekend.

"Babel" might tell a globe-hopping story of cultural misunderstandings, but the 5,830 voting members of the Academy seemed to be in a particularly international mood. In the acting categories, they nominated two actresses who deliver foreign-language performances: Penelope Cruz, who stars as a ghost-haunted widow in the Spanish-language "Volver," and Rinko Kikuchi, who plays a deaf student speaking Japanese and also signing in "Babel." Kikuchi's castmate Adriana Barraza, appearing in a role that combines English and Spanish dialogue, also was rewarded with a nomination.

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Guillermo del Toro and Alfonso Cuaron, the trio of Mexican-born directors dubbed the Three Amigos, all figured prominently as well. Gonzalez Inarritu's "Babel" picked up seven noms, del Toro's "Pan's Labyrinth" was close behind with six ? including a best foreign-language film nomination ? and Cuaron's "Children of Men" took three, including best adapted screenplay.

Commenting on the multiculturalism of this year's crop of nominees, Forest Whitaker, nominated as best actor for "The Last King of Scotland," said: "We're finally recognizing that we're all here on the planet together. We all have lives and stories that connect each other. It's amazing, really."

"If you look at a lot of nominated films and filmmakers, from Alfonso Cuaron to 'Babel' to 'Pan's Labyrinth,' you see that filmmaking is now a global world, and both Hollywood and audiences aren't intimidated by subtitles anymore," said IFC Entertainment president Jonathan Sehring, whose company was behind two of the foreign-language film nominees, Denmark's "After the Wedding" and Algeria's "Days of Glory."

With several co-productions among rival studios showing up in this year's nominations, victory had many fathers. Under new chairman Brad Grey, Paramount Pictures staged a resurgence. After it picked up just three noms last year, it laid claim to 19 this time: eight for "Dreamgirls," which it co-produced with DreamWorks, now a division of Paramount, and then released; two from "Flags of Our Fathers," which Paramount co-produced with Warner Bros. Pictures; and another nine on behalf of its specialty division Paramount Vantage, which distributed both "Babel" and the documentary "An Inconvenient Truth."

Warners tallied 18 noms, with "Departed" and "Blood Diamond" leading the pack with five each, while "Iwo Jima," which it co-produced with DreamWorks, received four. As for DreamWorks, it had a role in producing three films that accounted for 14 noms.

The Walt Disney Co.'s Buena Vista distribution arm picked up just 11 noms from the films that it released, but Disney claimed a chart-topping 21 noms by counting the seven belonging to its specialty division, Miramax, and two for animated shorts.

Among the specialty film divisions, Fox Searchlight ? with 10 nominations for films ranging from "Sunshine" to "Notes on a Scandal" ? was the dominant player, followed closely by Paramount Vantage with nine and Miramax with seven.

As often happens, the best director noms didn't exactly match up with the Academy's best picture choices. Nominated for their helmsmanship were Gonzalez Inarritu for "Babel," Martin Scorsese for "Departed," Clint Eastwood for "Iwo Jima" and Stephen Frears for "Queen." But instead of the "Sunshine" directing team of Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, the Academy nominated Paul Greengrass for the docudrama "United 93."

The actors branch, meanwhile, ignored a number of established performers ? including Brad Pitt in "Babel," Jack Nicholson in "Departed" and Ben Affleck in "Hollywoodland" ? in favor of newcomers like 10-year-old Abigail Breslin of "Sunshine" as well as comeback performers like Jackie Earle Haley in "Little Children."

In the best actress race, "Volver's" Cruz will face off against Judi Dench, who plays a manipulative schoolteacher in "Scandal"; Helen Mirren for "Queen"; Meryl Streep for her comedy turn as a fearsome magazine editor in "The Devil Wears Prada"; and Kate Winslet, who portrays an adulterous wife in "Little Children."

In the best actor category, the nominees are Leonardo DiCaprio, who plays a soldier of fortune in "Diamond"; Ryan Gosling, who appears as an addicted teacher in "Half Nelson"; Peter O'Toole, giving him his eighth nomination, for the aging actor in "Venus"; Will Smith, who plays a father determined to improve his lot in life in "The Pursuit of Happyness"; and Whitaker, who stars as the late Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in "Last King."

The best supporting actress category is dominated by first-time nominees: Jennifer Hudson for "Dreamgirls," along with "Babel's" Barraza and Kikuchi and "Sunshine's" Breslin. The fifth nominee is Cate Blanchett, the winner in the category for 2004's "The Aviator," nominated this year for "Scandal."

Competing for best supporting actor are Alan Arkin, who plays a bawdy granddad in "Sunshine"; Haley, who returns to the screen as a sex offender in "Little Children"; Djimon Hounsou, who plays an embattled father in the midst of Sierra Leone's civil war in "Diamond"; Eddie Murphy, who sings and dances as an R&B man in "Dreamgirls"; and Mark Wahlberg, one of the good cops in "Departed."

For adapted screenplay, the seemingly improvised "Borat" cracked the nominees circle. Its writing team of Sacha Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines, Peter Baynham, Dan Mazer and Todd Phillips were nominated, along with Cuaron, Timothy J. Sexton, David Arata, Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby for "Children of Men," William Monahan for "Departed," Todd Field and Tom Perrotta for "Little Children" and Patrick Marber for "Scandal."

For original screenplay, the nominees are Guillermo Arriaga for "Babel," Iris Yamashita and Paul Haggis for "Iwo Jima," Michael Arndt for "Sunshine," del Toro for "Labyrinth" and Peter Morgan for "Queen."

Pedro Almodovar's Spanish entry "Volver," though it earned Cruz an acting nomination, failed to score a best foreign-language film nomination. Those nominations went to Denmark's "After the Wedding," Algeria's "Days of Glory," Germany's "The Lives of Others," Mexico's "Labyrinth" and Canada's "Water."

For best animated feature, the Academy nominated Pixar's "Cars," Warner Bros. Pictures' "Happy Feet" and Sony Pictures' "Monster House."

If the animated films represented lighthearted escapism ? even if George Miller's "Happy Feet" introduced an environmental theme ? the documentaries chosen appeared intent on grappling with contemporary issues. "Iraq in Fragments" and "My Country, My Country" both take viewers inside Iraq. "Deliver Us From Evil" recounts the case of a pedophiliac Roman Catholic priest, and "Jesus Camp" looks at Christian evangelicals as they school their children in the faith. Rounding out the quintet is the most commercially successful of this year's docu nominees, director Davis Guggenheim's "Truth," in which Al Gore warns about global warming.

Although voters might have turned a deaf ear to "Dreamgirls" as a best picture nominee, the music branch was humming its tune. Because the film is an adaptation of the 1981 Broadway musical, most of its songs weren't eligible because they weren't original to the film. But Henry Krieger, working with several collaborators, wrote four new songs for the film, and three of them ? "Listen," "Love You I Do" and "Patience" ? earned nominations, dominating the original song category, which also includes Randy Newman's "Our Town" from "Cars" and Melissa Etheridge's "I Need to Wake Up" from "Truth." In fact, "Wake Up" was the first song from a docu nominated in the category since "Mondo Cane" introduced the pop tune "More" in 1963.

The nominations were announced at the Academy's Samuel Goldwyn Theatre in Beverly Hills by Academy president Sid Ganis and Salma Hayek, a best actress nominee for 2002's "Frida." Winners will be announced at the Oscar ceremony, hosted by Ellen DeGeneres, on Feb. 25 at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland.

Picture

"Babel" (Paramount/Paramount Vantage) An Anonymous Content/Zeta Film/Central Films production; Alejandro Gonzalez

Inarritu, Jon Kilik and Steve Golin, producers

"The Departed" (Warner Bros. Pictures)

A Warner Bros. Pictures production; nominees to be determined

"Letters From Iwo Jima" (Warner Bros. Pictures) A DreamWorks Pictures/Warner Bros. Pictures production; Clint Eastwood,

Steven Spielberg and Robert Lorenz,

producers

"Little Miss Sunshine" (Fox Searchlight) A Big Beach/Bona Fide production; nominees to be determined

"The Queen" (Miramax/Pathe/Granada)

A Granada production; Andy Harries,

Christine Langan and Tracey Seaward,

producers

Director

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, "Babel"

(Paramount/Paramount Vantage)

Martin Scorsese, "The Departed" (Warner Bros. Pictures)

Clint Eastwood, "Letters From Iwo Jima" (Warner Bros. Pictures)

Stephen Frears, "The Queen" (Miramax/Pathe/Granada)

Paul Greengrass, "United 93"

(Universal/StudioCanal)

actor

Leonardo DiCaprio in "Blood Diamond" (Warner Bros. Pictures)

Ryan Gosling in "Half Nelson" (ThinkFilm)

Peter O'Toole in "Venus" (Miramax/Filmfour/U.K. Council)

Will Smith in "The Pursuit of Happyness" (Sony Pictures Releasing)

Forest Whitaker in "The Last King of

Scotland" (Fox Searchlight)

supporting actor

Alan Arkin in "Little Miss Sunshine" (Fox Searchlight)

Jackie Earle Haley in "Little Children"

(New Line)

Djimon Hounsou in "Blood Diamond"

(Warner Bros. Pictures)

Eddie Murphy in "Dreamgirls" (DreamWorks/Paramount)

Mark Wahlberg in "The Departed" (Warner Bros. Pictures)

actress

Penelope Cruz in "Volver" (Sony Pictures Classics)

Judi Dench in "Notes on a Scandal" (Fox Searchlight)

Helen Mirren in "The Queen" (Miramax/Pathe/Granada)

Meryl Streep in "The Devil Wears Prada" (20th Century Fox)

Kate Winslet in "Little Children" (New Line)

supporting actress

Adriana Barraza in "Babel" (Paramount/Paramount Vantage)

Cate Blanchett in "Notes on a Scandal" (Fox Searchlight)

Abigail Breslin in "Little Miss Sunshine" (Fox Searchlight)

Jennifer Hudson in "Dreamgirls" (DreamWorks/Paramount)

Rinko Kikuchi in "Babel" (Paramount/Paramount Vantage)

animated feature

"Cars" (Buena Vista) John Lasseter

"Happy Feet" (Warner Bros. Pictures) George Miller

"Monster House" (Sony Pictures Releasing) Gil Kenan

foreign-language film

"After the Wedding" A Zentropa Entertainments 16 production (Denmark)

"Days of Glory" (Indigenes) A Tessalit production (Algeria)

"The Lives of Others" A Wiedemann & Berg production (Germany)

"Pan's Labyrinth" A Tequila Gang/Esperanto Filmoj/Estudios Picasso production (Mexico)

"Water" A Hamilton-Mehta production (Canada)

Original screenplay

"Babel" (Paramount/Paramount Vantage) Written by Guillermo Arriaga

"Letters From Iwo Jima" (Warner Bros. Pictures) Screenplay by Iris Yamashita; story by Iris Yamashita & Paul Haggis

"Little Miss Sunshine" (Fox Searchlight) Written by Michael Arndt

"Pan's Labyrinth" (Picturehouse) Written by Guillermo del Toro

"The Queen" (Miramax/Pathe/Granada) Written by Peter Morgan

Adapted screenplay

"Borat" (20th Century Fox) Screenplay by Sacha Baron Cohen & Anthony Hines & Peter Baynham & Dan Mazer; story by Sacha Baron Cohen & Peter Baynham & Anthony Hines & Todd Phillips

"Children of Men" (Universal) Screenplay by Alfonso Cuaron & Timothy J. Sexton and David Arata and Mark Fergus & Hawk Ostby

"The Departed" (Warner Bros. Pictures) Screenplay by William Monahan

"Little Children" (New Line) Screenplay by Todd Field & Tom Perrotta

"Notes on a Scandal" (Fox Searchlight) Screenplay by Patrick Marber

art direction

"Dreamgirls" (DreamWorks/Paramount) Art direction: John Myhre; set decoration:

Nancy Haigh

"The Good Shepherd" (Universal) Art direction: Jeannine Oppewall; set decoration: Gretchen Rau and Leslie E. Rollins

"Pan's Labyrinth" (Picturehouse) Art direction: Eugenio Caballero; set decoration: Pilar Revuelta

"Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" (Buena Vista) Art direction: Rick

Heinrichs; set decoration: Cheryl A. Carasik

"The Prestige" (Buena Vista) Art direction: Nathan Crowley; set decoration: Julie Ochipinti

cinematography

"The Black Dahlia" (Universal) Vilmos Zsigmond

"Children of Men" (Universal) Emmanuel Lubezki

"The Illusionist" (Yari Film Group) Dick Pope

"Pan's Labyrinth" (Picturehouse) Guillermo Navarro

"The Prestige" (Buena Vista) Wally Pfister

costume design

"Curse of the Golden Flower" (Sony Pictures Classics) Yee Chung Man

"The Devil Wears Prada" (20th Century Fox) Patricia Field

"Dreamgirls" (DreamWorks/Paramount) Sharen Davis

"Marie Antoinette" (Sony Pictures Releasing) Milena Canonero

"The Queen" (Miramax/Pathe/Granada) Consolata Boyle

documentary feature

"Deliver Us From Evil" (Lionsgate)

A Disarming Films production; Amy Berg

and Frank Donner

"An Inconvenient Truth" (Paramount Classics/Participant Prods.) A Lawrence

Bender/Laurie David production; Davis Guggenheim

"Iraq in Fragments" (Typecast Releasing)

A Typecast Pictures/Daylight Factory

production; James Longley and

John Sinno

"Jesus Camp" (Magnolia Pictures)

A Loki Films production; Heidi Ewing

and Rachel Grady

"My Country, My Country" (Zeitgeist Films)

A Praxis Films production; Laura Poitras

and Jocelyn Glatzer

documentary short subject

"The Blood of Yingzhou District" A Thomas Lennon Films production; Ruby Yang and Thomas Lennon

"Recycled Life" An Iwerks/Glad production; Leslie Iwerks and Mike Glad

"Rehearsing a Dream" A Simon & Goodman Picture Co. production; Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon

"Two Hands" A Crazy Boat Pictures production; Nathaniel Kahn and Susan Rose Behr

film editing

"Babel" (Paramount/Paramount Vantage) Stephen Mirrione and Douglas Crise

"Blood Diamond" (Warner Bros. Pictures) Steven Rosenblum

"Children of Men" (Universal) Alex Rodriguez and Alfonso Cuaron

"The Departed" (Warner Bros. Pictures)

Thelma Schoonmaker

"United 93" (Universal/StudioCanal) Clare Douglas, Christopher Rouse and Richard Pearson

makeup

"Apocalypto" (Buena Vista) Aldo Signoretti and Vittorio Sodano

"Click" (Sony Pictures Releasing) Kazuhiro Tsuji and Bill Corso

"Pan's Labyrinth" (Picturehouse) David Marti and Montse Ribe

music (Original score)

"Babel" (Paramount/Paramount Vantage) Gustavo Santaolalla

"The Good German" (Warner Bros. Pictures) Thomas Newman

"Notes on a Scandal" (Fox Searchlight) Philip Glass

"Pan's Labyrinth" (Picturehouse) Javier Navarrete

"The Queen" (Miramax/Pathe/Granada) Alexandre Desplat

music (Original song)

"I Need to Wake Up" from "An Inconvenient Truth" (Paramount Classics/Participant Prods.) Music and lyrics by Melissa Etheridge

"Listen" from "Dreamgirls" (DreamWorks/Paramount) Music by Henry Krieger and Scott Cutler; lyrics by Anne

Preven

"Love You I Do" from "Dreamgirls" (DreamWorks/Paramount) Music by Henry Krieger; lyrics by Siedah Garrett

"Our Town" from "Cars" (Buena Vista) Music and lyrics by Randy Newman

"Patience" from "Dreamgirls" (DreamWorks/Paramount) Music by Henry Krieger; lyrics by Willie Reale

animated short film

"The Danish Poet" (National Film Board of Canada) A Mikrofilm and National Film Board of Canada production; Torill Kove

"Lifted" (Buena Vista) A Pixar Animation Studios production; Gary Rydstrom

"The Little Matchgirl" (Buena Vista) A Walt Disney Pictures production; Roger Allers and Don Hahn

"Maestro" (Szimplafilm) A Kedd production; Geza M. Toth

"No Time for Nuts" (20th Century Fox) A Blue Sky Studios production; Chris Renaud and Michael Thurmeier

live-action short film

"Binta and the Great Idea" (Binta y la

Gran Idea) A Peliculas pendelton and

Tus Ojos Production; Javier Fesser and

Luis Manso

"Eramos Pocos" (One Too Many) (Kimuak) An Altube Filmeak Production; Borja Cobeaga

"Helmer & Son" A Nordisk Film production; Soren Pilmark and Kim Magnusson

"The Saviour" (Australian Film Television

and Radio School) An Australian Film

Television and Radio School production; Peter Templeman and Stuart Parkyn

"West Bank Story" An Ari Sandel, Pascal Vaguelsy, Amy Kim, Ravi Malhotra and

Ashley Jordan production; Ari Sandel

sound editing

"Apocalypto" (Buena Vista) Sean

McCormack and Kami Asgar

"Blood Diamond" (Warner Bros. Pictures)

Lon Bender

"Flags of Our Fathers" (DreamWorks/Warner Bros. Pictures, distributed by Paramount) Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman

"Letters From Iwo Jima" (Warner Bros. Pictures) Alan Robert Murray

"Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" (Buena Vista) Christopher Boyes and George Watters II

sound mixing

"Apocalypto" (Buena Vista) Kevin

O'Connell, Greg P. Russell and

Fernando Camara

"Blood Diamond" (Warner Bros. Pictures) Andy Nelson, Anna Behlmer and Ivan

Sharrock

"Dreamgirls" (DreamWorks/Paramount) Michael Minkler, Bob Beemer and Willie

Burton

"Flags of Our Fathers" (DreamWorks/

Warner Bros. Pictures, distributed by

Paramount) John Reitz, Dave Campbell, Gregg Rudloff and Walt Martin

"Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" (Buena Vista) Paul Massey,

Christopher Boyes and Lee Orloff

visual effects

"Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" (Buena Vista) John Knoll, Hal Hickel, Charles Gibson and Allen Hall

"Poseidon" (Warner Bros. Pictures) Boyd Shermis, Kim Libreri, Chaz Jarrett and

John Frazier

"Superman Returns" (Warner Bros. Pictures) Mark Stetson, Neil Corbould, Richard R. Hoover and Jon Thum

Nicole Sperling in Los Angeles and Gregg Goldstein in Park City contributed to this report.
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