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New kind of diversity at Oscars

Associated PressVail, CO Colorado
AP PhotoActress Rinko Kikuchi is shown in a scene from "Babel." Kikuchi was nominated for best supporting actress for her role in "Babel," which was also nominated for best picture.
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BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – Led by the splashy black musical “Dreamgirls” and the multilingual “Babel,” diversity took on a deeper meaning at the Oscar nominations Tuesday, extending beyond ethnicity to age, gender and experience.”Dreamgirls” received a leading eight nominations, although it was surprisingly left out of the best-picture race. Co-stars Eddie Murphy and Jennifer Hudson, already Golden Globe winners for their roles as tormented R&B singers, are both favorites in the supporting-acting categories.”Babel,” which has seven nominations, takes place over three continents in four languages. Among its nominees are two first-timers: Adriana Barraza of Mexico and Rinko Kikuchi of Japan, who are competing against one another for best supporting actress.And “Babel” director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu one of the “big three” Mexican directors, if you will heard his name called along with those of longtime friends and colleagues Guillermo del Toro (for “Pan’s Labyrinth,” which has six nominations) and Alfonso Cuaron (up for best adapted screenplay for “Children of Men,” which he also directed).”These are films that, first of all, touch people’s hearts but at the same time I think it’s a celebration of the world film community,” Inarritu, who’s nominated for best picture and director, told The Associated Press. “I think it’s finally recognition and acknowledgment that there are other ways to tell stories, that it does not matter what language, which country you’re from, there are ways to cross borders and break prejudices.”Meanwhile, old lions Martin Scorsese and Clint Eastwood faced off once again in the best director category, with Scorsese seeking the first Oscar of his distinguished career, for “The Departed.”Veterans Helen Mirren (“The Queen”) and Forest Whitaker (“The Last King of Scotland”) were favored to win the lead acting awards, while on the other end of the spectrum 10-year-old Abigal Breslin and 26-year-old Ryan Gosling received surprise acting nominations.Barraza, who plays a housekeeper fighting desperately to protect the children in her charge, said the nominations set great precedents for filmmakers and actors alike.”My first thought is of happiness. It’s a joy,” Barraza said by phone from Miami. “American cinema is receiving people from all over the world this can open up doors for everybody.”Penelope Cruz, whose name has long been bandied about as a contender for her sexy, feisty turn in “Volver,” became the first Spanish woman to receive a best-actress nomination.”It’s a big thing for me,” Cruz told AP Television. “When I was growing up dreaming about becoming an actress, I never saw this as a part of it. I never saw it as a possibility.”Djimon Hounsou, a supporting-actor nominee for “Blood Diamond,” said it’s too early to determine whether Hollywood and U.S. audiences finally are developing broader tastes.”I hope so,” said Hounsou, who starred in Steven Spielberg’s 1997 slavery saga “Amistad,” a slave-ship story and box-office dud that may have been ahead of its time. “… Time will tell. Hollywood certainly is taking steps forward trying to tell those types of stories.”But the exciting range of nominees also includes a slew of first-timers sprinkled among the stalwarts. They’re both young and old in films large and small, and they come from a variety of artistic backgrounds.Inarritu is competing for the best-director prize with veterans Scorsese (up for the sixth time) and Eastwood (whose “Letters From Iwo Jima” is almost entirely in subtitled Japanese).Scorsese “has been overlooked too long,” said Leonardo DiCaprio, the star of Scorsese’s last three movies and up for best actor this year for “Blood Diamond.” “He’s deserved it many times before. … But I’m done trying to predict what I think he deserves. Ultimately, it’s beyond anybody’s control.”The youngster Breslin is an unexpected nominee as the spunky, aspiring pageant queen from the best-picture nominee “Little Miss Sunshine.” Among her competition is Oscar-winner Cate Blanchett from “Notes on a Scandal,” who won the category two years ago for “The Aviator.”Gosling, another first-timer and Sundance favorite, is up for best actor for his rich performance as a drug-addicted teacher in “Half Nelson.” His formidable competition includes Whitaker, who’s already won the Golden Globe for his fiery portrayal of Idi Amin in “The Last King of Scotland,” and 74-year-old Peter O’Toole, who received his eighth nomination as a randy British stage actor in “Venus.””If you fail the first time, try, try, try, try, try, try, try again,” O’Toole said in a statement.Al Gore’s global-warming warning “An Inconvenient Truth” was nominated as best documentary feature. Three of the other films in this category were by women: “Jesus Camp,” about evangelical children, from Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady; “My Country, My Country,” about the January 2005 elections in Iraq, from Laura Poitras; and “Deliver Us From Evil,” about the victims of a sexually abusive Catholic priest, from Amy Berg.”I think it makes a lot of sense,” Berg said. “When you think about documentary films _ no offense to any men out there I think sometimes it’s easier for people to talk to a woman.”


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