Oscar Nominations 2006: Connecting the Dots

By Scott Smith in Arts & Entertainment on Jan 23, 2007 2:37PM

Oscar nominations are out, and for the second year in a row, there were few surprises save for one notable exception.

2007_01_oscars.jpgConfounding the experts and flying in the face of several critics’ awards, Dreamgirls did not pick up nominations for either best picture or best director. The film was a victim of an underdog victory by Clint Eastwood’s film Letters from Iwo Jima. It may also have been a pre-emptive strike on the kind of buyer’s remorse now afflicting those who elevated Chicago to vaunted status. Still, the film picked up eight nominations with Babel coming in at seven.

Also a surprise, Mark Wahlberg’s nomination for The Departed. It’s a forceful, vulgar performance full of the kind of realism that generally gets overlooked in the face of studied dramatic work. It’s truly deserving of the recognition, far moreso than Nicholson’s re-tread in the same film.

United 93’s best director nod isn’t a total surprise, as the film garnered more accolades for its direction than the finished product throughout the awards season (with the reverse being true for Little Miss Sunshine). Blame this on a lack of star power.

Leonardo DiCaprio snagged a Best Actor nomination for his work in Blood Diamond, which makes sense to us. Not because we think he necessarily deserved it, but because most figured he’d be nominated for either Diamond or Departed, though Matt Damon and Wahlberg did the heavy lifting in that film. And we’re just shaking our heads over Will Smith’s pick over Sacha Baren Cohen. Also, Eddie Murphy? Way to make a comeback. Good luck with the next one after this stinker comes out.

In the screenplay categories, Oscar continues to give consolation nominations to the year’s better films. Pan’s Labyrinth and Children of Men both picked up accolades there, though both were otherwise shut out of the major categories (Labyrinth got a best foreign film pick). This is a particular shame in the case of Children of Men, which features some of the best acting and directing in any film from the past year. But a poorly handled release – and subsequent campaign – meant it was left off most critics’ year-end lists and generated little last-minute attention.

Finally, this is obviously former South Sider Jennifer Hudson’s year and we’re all just living in it. She received a best supporting actress nomination for Dreamgirls, though we wonder if all the attendant hype will leave her with post-Oscar career fatigue.