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Gay faves Hudson,
Streep, Dench, and Mirren nab noms

Gay faves Hudson,
Streep, Dench, and Mirren nab noms


Dreamgirls led Academy Awards contenders Tuesday, with Golden Globe winner and Advocate cover girl Jennifer Hudson (pictured) honored for her turn as Effie. Babel and The Queen also nabbed multiple nods.

The musical Dreamgirls led Academy Awards contenders Tuesday with eight nominations but was shut out in the Best Picture category after being considered a potential front-runner. The sweeping ensemble drama Babel was close behind with seven, including Best Picture and acting honors for two newcomers to U.S. audiences, Adriana Barraza and Rinko Kikuchi.

Other Best Picture nominees were Martin Scorsese's bloody crime saga TheDeparted, Clint Eastwood's World War II spectacle Letters From IwoJima, the road-trip comedy Little MissSunshine, and the monarchy-in-crisis chronicle TheQueen.

Going into nominations day, the Best Picture competition looked unusually wide open, with no consensus on a favorite. With Golden Globe musical winner Dreamgirls out of the running, the race could come down to Golden Globe drama winner Babel and TheDeparted, though The Queen could be a dark-horse contender as well.

But front-runners in all four acting categories nabbed nominations and seem poised to come home with Oscars on February 25: Helen Mirren for Best Actress as British monarch Elizabeth II in TheQueen; Forest Whitaker for Best Actor as Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in The Last King ofScotland; and Eddie Murphy and former American Idol finalist Jennifer Hudson in the supporting categories as soulful singers in Dreamgirls.

Mirren said she had no idea The Queen would have such an impact.

''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,'' Mirren 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.''

Oscar attention is a new experience for Murphy, whose fast-talking persona has brought him devoted audiences but few awards in his 25-year career. For Hudson, the nomination caps a speedy rise to stardom with her first film role, just two years after making her name on AmericanIdol.

The Best Actress category featured a 14th nomination for two-time Oscar winner Meryl Streep, padding her record as the most-nominated actor ever, this time as a demonically demanding boss in The Devil WearsPrada.

Joining Mirren and Streep as Best Actress nominees were Penelope Cruz as a woman dealing with bizarre domestic crises in Volver, Judi Dench as a scheming teacher in Notes on aScandal, and Kate Winslet as a woman in an affair with a neighbor in LittleChildren.

Other Best Actor nominees were Leonardo DiCaprio as a mercenary hunting a rare gem in BloodDiamond, Ryan Gosling as a teacher with a drug addiction in Half Nelson, Peter O'Toole as a lecherous old actor in Venus, and Will Smith as a homeless dad in The Pursuit ofHappyness.

Whitaker is expected to come away with Best Actor, though sentiment is high for O'Toole, who has been nominated seven times, losing each. An eighth loss for O'Toole, who nearly turned down an honorary Oscar three years ago because he hoped to earn one outright, would put him in the record books as the actor with the most nominations without winning.

This finally may be the year for another perennial loser, Scorsese, who's tied with four other directors for the Oscar futility record of five nominations and five losses.

The Departed marks Scorsese's return to the cops-and-mobsters genre he mastered in decades past and is considered his best shot to finally win an Oscar, though a sixth loss would put him alone in the record book as the most-defeated director in Academy history.

Prim Oscar voters maintained their track record of ignoring over-the-top comic performances, snubbing Sacha Baron Cohen for his Golden Globe-winning role in the raucous Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation ofKazakhstan.

The comedy front did bring supporting nominations for Alan Arkin as a foul-mouthed grandfather and Abigail Breslin as a girl obsessed with beauty pageants in Little MissSunshine, though the film's three key performers, Greg Kinnear, Toni Collette, and Steve Carell, were overlooked.

Ten-year-old Abigail Breslin became the fourth-youngest actress ever nominated.

The supporting actor category also includes Mark Wahlberg as a caustic cop in TheDeparted, his scene-stealing performance outshining those of his higher-billed costars, including DiCaprio, Jack Nicholson, and Matt Damon.

The 20 acting nominees represent the most ethnically diverse lineup ever. After decades during which the Oscars were a virtual whites-only club, with minority actors only occasionally breaking into the field, the awards have featured a much broader mix of nominees in the last few years.

Black actors in particular have come into their own, with Oscar wins by Halle Berry, Denzel Washington, Jamie Foxx, and Morgan Freeman, and three of the four acting front-runners this year.

Asian and Hispanic actors still lag behind, though nominations for Cruz, Barraza, and Kikuchi are signs that Hollywood is making strides toward greater diversity.

While Cruz's Volver, from Spanish director and past Oscar darling Pedro Almodovar, was shut out for Best Foreign Language Picture, another Hispanic film scored well. Mexican director Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth received six nominations, including foreign-language film, screenplay, cinematography, and score.

''If each one of them got nominated on their own, that would be great, but the fact that they all did...that's just too much for one little girl this early in the morning,'' said Salma Hayek, an Oscar nominee for 2002's Frida, who helped announce the nominees Tuesday morning.

Mexican filmmaker Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu earned a Best Director nomination for Babel.

Inarritu and Scorsese were joined in the Best Director category by Eastwood for Letters From IwoJima, Stephen Frears for TheQueen, and Paul Greengrass for the September 11 docudrama United93.

Dreamgirls looked as though it might follow 2002's Chicago as a rare musical to win Best Picture, but like last year's music-themed Walk the Line it was a startling omission from the Oscar's top category.

While Murphy and Hudson made it into the supporting acting categories, lead players Foxx and Beyonce Knowles and director Bill Condon were left out.

Three of Dreamgirls' eight nominations came in a single category--Best Original Song.

Two-time Best Picture and Director winner Eastwood's Letters From Iwo Jima had been considered a long shot and clearly was the film that denied Dreamgirls its chance at the top trophy.

Eastwood continued his late-career surge and Oscar magic with four nominations for the Japanese-language Letters, including Best Original Screenplay. His World War II companion film Flags of Our Fathers had two technical nominations, including Best Sound Editing, in which it will compete against Letters.

Also in the sound editing category is Mel Gibson's violent tale of the ancient Mayan civilization, Apocalypto, which had three nominations.

The year's top-grossing movie, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man'sChest, grabbed four nominations in technical categories, including visual effects.

The Hindi-language movie Water is up for Best Foreign Language Film. Its nomination comes after a slew of accolades for its Toronto-based director and screenwriter, Deepa Mehta. (AP, David Germain)

Read our cover story interview with Jennifer Hudson.

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