Oscar 2006: Nominations Analysis

Are there any trends in this year's Oscar nominations There are plenty of surprises and disappointments in this year's Oscar news. A first look shows a more international perspective to the nominations. Severals foreign-language films have received nods in major categories.

Dreamgirls Shocking Omission

Perhaps the biggest Oscar news so far this year is in regards to Dream Girls. Though touted for months as Oscar frontrunner, Dreamgirls failed to receive the two most important nominations: Best Picture and Best Director, though the musical was the most-nominated film with eight bids. Academy officials could not remember when a film had led the nominations without a Best Picture bid.

Best Picture Nominees

None of the five Best picture contenders recived more than seven nominations a piece. Thus, Paramount Vantage's “Babel” lead the pack with seven nominations; Warner's “The Departed” with five; Warner's “Letters From Iwo Jima” with four; Fox Searchlight's “Little Miss Sunshine” also four; and Miramax-Pathe-Granada's “The Queen” with six.

Pan's Labyrinth's Triumph

Guillermo del Torro brilliant “Pan's Labyrinth” (My favorite picture of the year), released by Picturehouse, earned six nominations.
It's the official Mexican submission for the Best Foreign-Language Oscar.

Warner's old-fashioned action melodrama, “Blood Diamond” earned five nods, including Best Actor to Leonardo DiCaprio in the lead.

Acting Nominees

The nominees in the acting categories reflected new trends. The 20 nominated actors (in the four categories) include five blacks, two Latinas and one Japanese actress (including three foreign-language performances) in categories that were all-Caucasian (and all English-language) for decades.

Breaking Records

This year's lineup breaks the records of 2003 and 2004, when there were five non-Caucasians nominated.

Two of the Best Picture nominees break the English-only domination of the top race: “Babel,” in four languages (including English) and the Japanese-language “Letters from Iwo Jima.”

In the entire Academy's history, only seven foreign-language films had been nominated for the top prize, most recently the Italian “Life Is Beautiful,” so this is big Oscar news for 2006.

The Mexican Factor

The strong showing for Mexico's “Pan's Labyrinth” points up the Spanish-language triumphs. Guillermo del Toro, writer-helmer of the picture, was recognized for his script, while his fellow Mexican directors Alberto Gonzalez Inarritu and Alfonso Cuaron, also saw recognition for their films.

Inarritu was nominated as director for “Babel”, while Cuaron received a screenplay nom for “Children of Men,” which is up for three awards.

Volver

Sony Pictures Classics' “Volver” received its sole nod for Penelope Cruz's performance, and Buena Vista's Mayan-language “Apocalypto” scored three bids in technical categories.

Multi-Lingual and Cultural Diversity

Multi-lingual themes and cultural diversity are reflected out in the foreign-language race. Both “Pan's Labyrinth” and Canada's “Water” are from directors who've made films in two languages (including English): del Toro and Deepa Mehta, respectively.

The other contenders are “Days of Glory” (Algeria), “After the Wedding” (Denmark) and “The Lives of Others” (Germany).

The five picture contenders represent a diverse menu.

“The Departed” is a remake of a violent and stylized Hong Kong actioner, “Infernal Affairs.”

“Little Miss Sunshine” is genre film, combining a dark family comedy with a road picture.

“The Queen” is not exactlu a biopicture, but it presents an intimate fact-based drama about the monarchy in crisis, in the week following Princess Diana's death.

Eastwood's Letters from Iwo Jima” is a Japanese language WWII movie.

“Babel” is an ambitious multi-language zeitgeist drama about lack of communication that reflects the culture of terrorism we live in.

The eclectic mix is in sharp contrast with last year's five picture nominees, which were all serious, and even political dramas: “Brokeback Mountain,” “Capote,” “Crash,” “Good Night, and Good Luck” and “Munich.”

In 16 of the past 20 years, the film with the most nominations went on to win Best Picture. But the trend is reversing, with the top nominated movie winning only twice in the last five years.

Final ballots will be mailed Jan. 31 and are due Feb. 20. Oscars will be held at the Kodak Theater on Feb. 25.