Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Academy Award nominations: Dreamgirls need not apply

For the second year in a row, a film many pop culture observers expected to contend for the Best Picture Academy Award was denied even the courtesy of a nomination.

Last year, the Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line was dealt a surprising shutout from Best Picture (as well as Best Director and Best Screenplay) consideration. Today, Dreamgirls, the hit musical based on the Broadway show suggested by the career of Diana Ross and the Supremes (say that three times fast), missed the top Oscar cut, despite being nominated for eight other awards (three of which are Best Original Song, and none of which are Best Actor, Best Actress, or Best Director). This despite Dreamgirls' Best Film, Comedy or Musical victory at the Golden Globes earlier this month.

Of the five nominated films, Babel, the Globes winner for Best Film, Drama, has to be considered the early favorite. Interestingly, Clint Eastwood's World War II drama, Letters From Iwo Jima, which won the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film (the dialogue is in Japanese), isn't nominated in the corresponding Oscar category (mostly because of different rules for choosing the category's nominees), though it did make the Best Picture field.

It's a remarkably diverse Oscar ballot this year, perhaps more so than in any other previous award season. The nominated performers include five black actors — Best Actor candidates Will Smith (The Pursuit of Happyness) and likely statuette awardee Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland); Supporting Actor nominees Eddie Murphy (Dreamgirls) and Djimon Hounsou (Blood Diamond); and Supporting Actress nominee Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls) — two Latina actors, Penélope Cruz (Best Actress nominee for Volver) and Adriana Barraza (Best Supporting Actress nominee for Babel); and an Asian actor, Babel's Rinko Kikuchi, nominated in the Best Supporting Actress category.

Add Best Director nominee Alejandro González Iñárritu (Babel) and Best Original Screenplay candidates Guillermo Arriaga (Babel), Guillermo del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth), and Iris Yamashita (Letters From Iwo Jima), and one could almost be fooled into thinking that the Academy is becoming color- and culture-blind in its dotage.

Good luck to all the nominees when the gold-plated naked guys are distributed on Sunday, February 25.

Okay, all the nominees except Sacha Baron Cohen and crew, whose Borat picked up an inexplicable nod in the Best Adapted Screenplay category. Diversity doesn't have to be quite that diverse.

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