The Man of Their Dreams

(Murray Close - AP)
By Jennifer Frey and William Booth
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, January 24, 2007

We was robbed?

The blogospheric fan reaction to this year's Oscar nominations included -- as always -- a flurry of what-ifs: concern for "Dreamgirls' " lack of a Best Picture nod, for the overlooking of Sacha Baron Cohen's acting, for the absence of "Volver" in the Best Foreign Language Film category. Oh, the agony, the nitpicking, the sighs.

But for the winners, the winners! From A-list to obscure, yesterday was for basking.

The musical "Dreamgirls" led the day with eight nominations, followed by the ensemble film "Babel" with seven.

There were the usual suspects -- Meryl Streep, Martin Scorsese, Clint Eastwood -- and the surprises, like Rinko Kikuchi and Adriana Barraza (both nominated in the supporting actress category for "Babel"). There were the documentary makers who heard via pilot announcement on a commercial flight. There was the wife-and-husband directorial team holding hands when their film's nominations were announced. And there was Jackie Earle Haley, a man whose more recent credits include titles such as "Maniac Cop 3," who wept when the honor sank in.

"Man, this is just a crazy, crazy, crazy day," said Haley, nominated for his creepy turn as Ronnie the pedophile in "Little Children."

"It started off with me pretending to sleep last night," he continued. "Then at 7:30 in the morning my wife came running into the room . . . screaming, 'You got it! You got it!' I sat up and I just hugged her and we cried for like five minutes. It was such an overwhelming torrent of emotion, it was unbelievable."

Overall, the academy dug international themes and locales, and diversity -- something it has taken a hit for in the past.

As for "Dreamgirls," it may have earned the most nominations, but it got snubbed for biggies -- Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay. (And let's be candid: The eight nominations include three in the same category, original song). The film did get nods in supporting actor and actress categories, for Eddie Murphy and Jennifer Hudson in roles that won them Golden Globes.

In addition to Forest Whitaker, Murphy and Hudson, Will Smith was nominated for Best Actor for "The Pursuit of Happyness" and Djimon Hounsou for his supporting role in "Blood Diamond," putting five black actors and actresses in top categories.

Commenting on the overall diversity in nominations, Deepa Mehta, director of Best Foreign Language Film nominee "Water," said, "It just shows that it's an international year, isn't it? I think it's wonderful, because I think what the academy has done is acknowledge that there's a whole world of films out there."

The front-runners in the Best Actor and Actress categories? Brit Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II in "The Queen" (also a Best Picture nominee) and Whitaker as Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in "The Last King of Scotland." Royalty, in other words, is big.

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