The film musical Dreamgirls led Academy Awards contenders with eight nominations, but was shut out in the best picture and best director categories after being considered a potential front-runner in both. The nominations were announced Jan. 23.
The ensemble drama Babel was close behind with seven nods, including best picture and acting honors for two newcomers to U.S. audiences, Adriana Barraza and Rinko Kikuchi. Other best-picture nominees were the crime saga The Departed, the World War II spectacle Letters From Iwo Jima, the comedy Little Miss Sunshine and The Queen.
Frontrunners in all four acting categories nabbed nominations: Helen Mirren for best actress as British monarch Elizabeth II in The Queen; Forest Whitaker for best actor as Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland; and Eddie Murphy and former American Idol finalist ( and Chicago native ) Jennifer Hudson as singers in Dreamgirls. All four preceded the Oscar nominations with wins at the Golden Globes.
Speaking of music, former rapper Mark Wahlberg received his first Oscar nod ever—a best supporting actor nomination for his role in Scorsese's The Departed. Will Smith, who still occasionally raps, got a Best Actor nomination for The Pursuit of Happyness.
The year's sleeper hit, Little Miss Sunshine, earned nominations for best picture, best supporting actor ( Alan Arkin ) , best supporting actress ( Abigail Breslin ) and best original screenplay.
The nominees for best picture are The Departed, Babel, Letters From Iwo Jima, Little Miss Sunshine and The Queen.
The nominees for best actor are Whitaker, Leonardo DiCaprio ( Blood Diamond ) , Ryan Gosling ( Half Nelson ) , Peter O'Toole ( Venus ) and Smith.
The nominees for best actress are Mirren, Judi Dench ( Notes on a Scandal ) , Penelope Cruz ( Volver ) , Meryl Streep ( The Devil Wears Prada ) and Kate Winslet ( Little Children ) . Streep's nomination is a record 14th; she has captured two Oscars—but her last prize came for 1982's Sophie's Choice.
ABC will broadcast the Oscars live Feb. 25 from Hollywood's Kodak Theatre. Lesbian talk-show host and comic Ellen DeGeneres is hosting the show.