Dreamgirls tops Oscar contenders; Babel, Departed vie for best picture

Babel, The Queen and The Departed were among the best picture nominees announced Tuesday for Hollywood's highest honour, the Academy Awards.

Dreamgirls led the Oscar race Tuesday morning with eight nominations, but the musical based on the Tony Award-winning Broadway show was shut out of best picture contention.

Dreamgirls won supporting actor and actress nods for Eddie Murphy and Jennifer Hudson, second from right. ((Paramount Pictures))

Babel, The Queen, The Departed, Letters from Iwo Jimaand, in a surprising twist, Little Miss Sunshine were thebest picture nominees.

The finalists for Hollywood's highest honour, the Academy Awards, were announced by Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences president Sid Ganis and actress Salma Hayek.

Martin Scorsese, director of mobster drama The Departed,has had a total of six Academy Award nominations and six losses. As one of Hollywood's most respected directors, he is considered overdue to win the award, either for best director or best picture.

The best picture and best director categories are considered tight races, with Scorsese up against Clint Eastwood for Letters from Iwo Jima, Stephen Frears for The Queen and Alejandro González Inarritu forBabel.

British director Stephen Frears and actress Helen Mirren were both nominated for their work on The Queen. ((Laurie Sparham/Miramax Films/Alliance Atlantis))

"If you get put in a list with those guys, you've done pretty well," Frears said in an interview with the BBC Tuesday after learning of his nomination.

Quirky independent filmLittle Miss Sunshine, nominated for best picture, did not get directing honours. Instead, the fifth contender for best director is Paul Greengrass, whose United 93, a movie about the Sept. 11 attacks, did not get the best picture nod.

The ensemble drama Babel, starring Brad Pitt as a man whose wife is hit by a bullet while travelling in Morocco, won seven nominations, including supporting actressnominations for unknowns Adriana Barraza and Rinko Kikuchi.

Selected 2007 Oscar Nominations
Best picture:

The Departed
Letters from Iwo Jima
Little Miss Sunshine
The Queen

Best director:

Clint Eastwood, Letters from Iwo Jima
Stephen Frears, The Queen
Paul Greengrass, United 93
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Babel
Martin Scorsese, The Departed

Best actor:

Leonardo DiCaprio, Blood Diamond
Ryan Gosling, Half Nelson
Peter O'Toole, Venus
Will Smith, The Pursuit of Happyness
Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland

Best actress:

Penelope Cruz, Volver
Judi Dench, Notes on a Scandal
Helen Mirren, The Queen
Meryl Streep, The Devil Wears Prada
Kate Winslet, Little Children

Best supporting actress:

Adriana Barraza, Babel
Cate Blanchett, Notes on a Scandal
Abigail Breslin, Little Miss Sunshine
Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls
Rinko Kikuchi, Babel

Best supporting actor:

Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine
Jackie Earle Haley, Little Children
Djimon Housou, Blood Diamond
Eddie Murphy, Dreamgirls
Mark Wahlberg, The Departed

Best foreign language film:

After the Wedding
Days of Glory
The Lives of Others
Pan's Labyrinth

Best documentary feature:

Deliver Us From Evil
An Inconvenient Truth
Iraq in Fragments
Jesus Camp
My Country, My Country

Best animated feature:

Happy Feet
Monster House

Best adapted screenplay:

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious NationofKazakhstan
Children of Men
The Departed
Little Children
Notes on a Scandal

Original screenplay:

Letters from Iwo Jima
Little Miss Sunshine
Pan's Labyrinth
The Queen

Best original song:

I Need to Wake Up, Melissa Etheridge (An Inconvenient Truth)
Listen, Henry Krieger and Scott Cutler, Anne Preven (Dreamgirls)
Love You I Do,
Henry Krieger and Siedah Garrett (Dreamgirls)
Patience, Henry Krieger and Willie Reale (Dreamgirls)
Our Town, Randy Newman (Cars)

Best original score:

The Good German
Notes on A Scandal
Pan's Labyrinth
The Queen

The movie weaves together stories in different parts of the world and already took the Golden Globe for best dramatic picture.

Canada's Paul Haggis, whose Crash was named best picture in 2006, has another nomination this year, for best original screenplay for Letters from Iwo Jima. He won theOscar for best screenwriting for Crash and was nominated for screenwriting for Million Dollar Baby.

Pan's Labyrinth and The Queen each earned six nominations while The Departed and Blood Diamond had five.

Letters from Iwo Jima, a war movie told from the point of view of the Japanese, earned four nominations, as did Little Miss Sunshine and Notes on a Scandal.

Another Golden Globes favourite, Dreamgirls, the story of a black female singing trioin the 1960s based on a Broadway musical, earned supporting actor and actress nominations for Eddie Murphy and Jennifer Hudson.

It has three nominations for Listen, Love You I Do and Patience, dominating the best original song category. The other contenders are Our Town from the animated film Cars, and I Need to Wake Up from An Inconvenient Truth.

In the foreign-language film category, Toronto-based director Deepa Mehta earned a nomination for Water, her film about the plight of widows in India.

The other nominees are Denmark's After the Wedding, Algeria's Days of Glory, Germany's The Lives of Others and Mexico's Pan's Labyrinth.

Another Canadian, Ryan Gosling, has earned a best actor nomination for his role as a drug-addicted teacher in the movie Half Nelson.

Canadian actor Ryan Gosling won a best actor nomination for his portrayal of a drug-addicted high school teacher in Half Nelson. ((Think Film))

London, Ont.-born Gosling, 26, will be competing againstLeonardo DiCaprio in the thriller Blood Diamond, Peter O’Toole in the May-December romance Venus, Will Smith as a homeless dad inThe Pursuit of Happyness and Forest Whitaker in the biopic The Last King of Scotland.

Whitaker is considered a top contender for his chilling depiction of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin. "I'm going to keep thinking about it all day, and just reimagine it," he said after learning of his nomination.

But O’Toole is a sentimental favourite as he has been nominated seven times without winning.

The best actress category features three British actresses: veterans Judi Dench in Notes from a Scandal, Helen Mirren in The Queen and Kate Winslet in Little Children.

They are in the running with Meryl Streep, a two-time Oscar winner, for her comic turn in The Devil Wears Prada, and Penelope Cruz in Volver. It is the 14th Oscar nomination for Streep.

Mirren said she has been surprised by the impact of The Queen, which chronicles the relations between the royals and Prime Minister Tony Blair in the week after the death of Diana, Princess of Wales.

She has been highly acclaimed on both sides of the Atlantic for her role as the British monarch.

"It is one of the hardest roles to play not just a living person, but one who is part of our everyday lives in Britain," she said.

"Whilst her presence is with us from her image on the letters that come through our door and on the money we spend, we know so little of the woman behind the image.I hope that my performance has conveyed a sense of Elizabeth the woman as well as the Queen."

Abigail Breslin, the young would-be beauty queen of Little Miss Sunshine, earned a best supporting actress nomination.

Abigail Breslin earned a best supporting actress nomination for her role as a would-be beauty queen in Little Miss Sunshine. ((20th Century Fox/ AP))

She is competing against Australian Cate Blanchett for her role in Notes on a Scandal, and Barraza and Kikuchi for their roles in Babel. Also nominated isHudson, the singing sensation who lost out on American Idol to go on to stardom in Dreamgirls.

Alan Arkin has earned a best supporting actor nomination for his turn as the foul-mouthed grandfather in Little Miss Sunshine. Mark Wahlberg, in a small roleas a wise-cracking cop in The Departed, ended up with a nod ahead of his bigger-name co-stars.

"I wasn't expecting it at all. I can't believe it. I was sound asleep. My agent called and was screaming," he said.

The other nominees are Jackie Earle Haley in Little Children, Murphy in Dreamgirls and Djimon Hounsou in Blood Diamond. Murphy, a perennial funnyman who has never before been nominated, described it as "one of the highlights of [his] career."

Animated shorts have Canadian flavour

A National Film Board of Canada film, The Danish Poet by Torill Kove, has earned a nomination for best animated short. It will be competing against Walt Disney’s The Little Matchgirl and Pixar’s Lifted.

Another film in the animated shorts category, No Time for Nuts, was co-directed by Regina-born and raised Michael Thurmeier with Chris Renaud.

Borat: Cultural Learnings for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan also has a surprise nod for best adapted screenplay.

It is competing against Children of Men, The Departed, Little Children and Notes on a Scandal.

In the best screenplay category, Haggis and Iris Yamashita are nominated for Letters from Iwo Jima, along withGuillermo del Toro for Pan’s Labyrinth, Guillermo Arriaga for Babel, Michael Arndt for Little Miss Sunshine and Peter Morgan for The Queen

The U.S. Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will hand out awards in 24 categories at the live ceremony, which is broadcast to millions of viewers around the world.

The evening will also include the presentation of an honorary Oscar to prolific Italian composer and conductor Ennio Moriccone, and the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award to Hollywood executive Sherry Lansing.

Hosted by daytime talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, the 79th annual Academy Awards will take placeat Hollywood's Kodak Theatre on Feb. 25.

With files from the Associated Press