Oscar frenzy starts with nominations today

Published: Tuesday, January 23, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 23, 2007 at 12:37 a.m.
Oscar pundits have complained that 2006 didn't produce the same level of contenders as 2005, when "Brokeback Mountain," "Capote" and winner "Crash" were nominated. I'm with you - that is, moviegoers who bought more tickets to films in 2006 than in 2005 - in saying, "What are they, nuts?"
"The Departed" is a great mob movie. "Dreamgirls" is a great musical adaptation. "The Queen" is a great political drama. "Babel" is a great globe-hopping thinking-person's thriller. And though they aren't getting the attention they deserve, Clint Eastwood's two WWII dramas - "Flags of Our Fathers" and "Letters From Iwo Jima" - are great war movies.
Throw in the road comedy "Little Miss Sunshine" and two near-perfect Spanish-language movies (Pedro Almodovar's "Volver" and Guillermo del Toro's "Pan's Labyrinth") and we're talking vintage Oscar season.
The nominations for the 79th Academy Awards will be announced today, and most, if not all, of the above named movies will appear on multiple ballots. I expect "Dreamgirls," "Babel" and "The Departed" to compete for the most nominations, but by Oscar night, Feb. 25, the best picture winner will still be in doubt.
The best animated feature category, established in 2001, has grown into a muscular contest in its own right. There were 14 Oscar-eligible animated features released last year, and voters must have had a time deciding on a third film after writing down "Happy Feet" and "Cars."
My predictions for today's major Oscar ballots:
  • Picture: "Babel," "Dreamgirls," "The Departed," "Little Miss Sunshine," "The Queen." In contention: "Little Children," "Letters From Iwo Jima," "Pan's Labyrinth."
  • Director: Bill Condon ("Dreamgirls"), Clint Eastwood ("Letters From Iwo Jima"), Stephen Frears ("The Queen"), Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu ("Babel"), Martin Scorsese ("The Departed"). In contention: Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris ("Little Miss Sunshine"), Guillermo del Toro ("Pan's Labyrinth").
  • Actress: Penelope Cruz ("Volver"), Judi Dench ("Notes on a Scandal"), Helen Mirren ("The Queen"), Meryl Streep ("The Devil Wears Prada"), Kate Winslet ("Little Children"). In contention: Beyonce ("Dreamgirls").
  • Actor: Sacha Baron Cohen ("Borat"), Leonardo DiCaprio ("The Departed"), Peter O'Toole ("Venus"), Will Smith ("The Pursuit of Happyness"), Forest Whitaker "The Last Kind of Scotland"). In contention: DiCaprio (again, for "Blood Diamond"), Ryan Gosling ("Half Nelson").
  • Supporting Actress: Adriana Barraza ("Babel"), Cate Blanchett ("Notes on a Scandal"), Abigail Breslin ("Little Miss Sunshine"), Rinko Kikuchi ("Babel"), Jennifer Hudson ("Dreamgirls"). In contention: Emily Blunt ("The Devil Wears Prada").
  • Supporting Actor: Alan Arkin ("Little Miss Sunshine"), Jackie Earle Haley ("Little Children"), Eddie Murphy ("Dreamgirls"), Jack Nicholson ("The Departed"), Brad Pitt ("Babel"). In contention: Djimon Hounsou ("Blood Diamond"), Mark Wahlberg ("The Departed").
  • Original screenplay: "Babel," "Little Miss Sunshine," "The Queen," "United 93," "Volver." In contention: "Pan's Labyrinth," "Bobby."
  • Adapted screenplay: "Casino Royale," "The Departed," "Dreamgirls," "Little Children," "Thank You for Smoking." In contention: "The Devil Wears Prada," "Children of Men," "Notes on a Scandal."
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