24 January 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

The multilingual Babel clearly spoke Oscar's language Tuesday morning, when nominations for the 79th Annual Academy Awards were announced. The musical Dreamgirls might have earned the most nominations, eight, but it was shut out of the best picture race.

Instead, it earned the unenviable distinction of becoming the first movie in Oscar history to fail to earn a best picture nomination while collecting the most noms.

"Looking at the whole awards season, there is no clear front-runner," Miramax Films president Daniel Battsek said as he celebrated six noms for The Queen and one for Peter O'Toole's autumnal performance in Venus.

For best picture honors, Babel, with seven noms, will compete against the crime drama The Departed, the Japanese-language war film Letters From Iwo Jima, the quirky comedy Little Miss Sunshine and Queen, a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II under siege from the modern media.

So far, though, a definite front-runner hasn't emerged during an awards season in which Babel earned the title of best drama at the Golden Globes but Little Miss Sunshine took the Producers Guild of America's film prize last weekend.

Babel might tell a globe-hopping story of cultural misunderstandings, but the 5,830 voting members of the Academy seemed to be in a particularly international mood. In the acting categories, they nominated two actresses who deliver foreign-language performances: Penelope Cruz, who stars as a ghost-haunted widow in the Spanish-language Volver, and Rinko Kikuchi, who plays a deaf student speaking Japanese and also signing in Babel. Kikuchi's castmate Adriana Barraza, appearing in a role that combines English and Spanish dialogue, also was rewarded with a nomination.

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Guillermo Del Toro and Alfonso Cuaron, the trio of Mexican-born directors dubbed the Three Amigos, all figured prominently. Gonzalez Inarritu's Babel picked up seven noms, Del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth was close behind with six -- including a best foreign-language film nomination -- and Cuaron's Children of Men took three, including best adapted screenplay.

Commenting on the multiculturalism of this year's crop of nominees, Forest Whitaker, nominated as best actor for The Last King of Scotland, said: "We're finally recognizing that we're all here on the planet together."

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