Right rhetoric: 'Debaters' tops Image Awards noms

Washington up for actor, director

The Weinstein Co.'s "The Great Debaters" moved to the top of the class for the 39th NAACP Image Awards, nabbing eight nominations, including two for Denzel Washington.

Washington's nominations, announced Tuesday during a news conference at the Beverly Hilton, were for actor in a motion picture and directing in a motion picture, theatrical or TV.

The film, loosely based on the true story of Wiley College debate coach Melvin Tolson, who inspires his students to form the school's first debate team, also received nominations in the categories of motion picture, actress in a motion picture (Jurnee Smollett) and writing in a motion picture, theatrical or television (Robert Eisele). The film's Denzel Whitaker, Forest Whitaker and Nate Parker were nominated in the supporting actor category.

Other nominees in the actor in a motion picture category include Columbus Short ("Stomp the Yard"), Don Cheadle ("Talk to Me"), Terrence Howard ("Pride") and Will Smith ("I Am Legend").

Angelina Jolie was nominated for her role as widow Mariane Pearl in "A Mighty Heart" for actress in a motion picture along with Halle Berry for "Things We Lost in the Fire," Jill Scott for "Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married?" and Taraji P. Henson for "Talk To Me."

Other films named in the motion picture category include "American Gangster," "I Am Legend," "Talk to Me" and "Why Did I Get Married?"

On the television side, "30 Rock," "Everybody Hates Chris," "Girlfriends," "House of Payne" and "Ugly Betty" garnered nominations for comedy.

"Grey's Anatomy," "House," "K-Ville," "Lincoln Heights" and "The Unit" were named in the drama series category.

The NAACP Image Awards honor projects and individuals that promote diversity in the arts in motion pictures, television, recording and literature.

Special tribute will be paid to Stevie Wonder at this year's ceremony when the NAACP presents him with its Hall of Fame award.

The Los Angeles event will be broadcast Feb. 14 live on Fox.