Jennifer Hudson won an Academy Award for her supporting role in „Dreamgirls” and Alan Arkin was named best supporting actor for „Little Miss Sunshine.”
The awards were the first major categories handed out at the ceremony hosted by comedian Ellen DeGeneres at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles. Still to come are best actor and best actress in a leading role and best motion picture of the year. Studios use the Oscars to help market movies and sell DVDs.
As it did last year, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences favored low-budget films with serious themes in its nominations. The winners help set a standard for the industry, said Walt Disney Co. CEO Robert Iger. „In general, getting nominated for an Oscar or winning an Oscar is good for business,” Iger said in an interview before the ceremony. The awards focus studios on „making movies that will get that impact or get that award.”
Hudson beat Adriana Barraza and Rinko Kikuchi in „Babel;” Cate Blanchett in „Notes on a Scandal;” Abigail Breslin in „Little Miss Sunshine.” Arkin was competing for the best supporting actor award against Eddie Murphy, who won the Golden Globe in the same category, in „Dreamgirls;” Jackie Earle Haley for „Little Children;” Djimon Hounsou in „Blood Diamond” and Mark Wahlberg in „The Departed.” The awards are airing on Burbank, California-based Disney's ABC television network.
Of the 10 top-selling films worldwide in 2006, none was nominated in the major categories of best performance by an actor or actress in a leading or supporting role, best film or achievement in directing. Time Warner Inc.'s „Happy Feet” won best animated feature film of the year. „Dreamgirls,” based on the Broadway musical about a female singing group like the Supremes, led the nominations with eight, including Hudson, a former „American Idol” contestant, and Murphy.
The movie wasn't nominated for best motion picture, the most-coveted category. Of the films up for best picture, Martin Scorsese's „The Departed,” at $90 million, cost the most to make, according to Burbank, California-based Box Office Mojo LLC. „Little Miss Sunshine” cost $8 million; „Letters From Iwo Jima” had a production budget of about $15 million.
„Babel,” with a cast including Brad Pitt and Blanchett, cost $25 million to make, according to Internet Movie Data Base Inc., which also tracks movie sales. It didn't estimate costs for „The Queen.” „These movies clearly have much to gain from an Oscar nomination,” Dan Glickman, chief executive of the Motion Picture Association of America, a Hollywood lobbying group, said in an interview.
„It exposes people to films they may not have seen.” In „Little Miss Sunshine,” Arkin played a drug-addicted grandfather to 10-year-old Breslin, an aspiring beauty queen. The dark comedy, made by News Corp.'s Fox Searchlight, follows the family on a cross-country journey to a pageant in California. The film also earned a nomination for best motion picture of the year.
„An Inconvenient Truth,” Al Gore's documentary on the effects of global warming, won best documentary. „The Lives of Others” from Germany won best foreign language film. „Pan's Labyrinth” won awards for art direction, makeup and cinematography. Sherry Lansing received the Jean Hersholt award, introduced by actor Tom Cruise. Lansing and Cruise made films at Paramount Pictures together before both were pushed out by Sumner Redstone, the chairman of New York-based Viacom Inc., which owns the studio.
The nominated films also have an international flavor, a reflection of Hollywood's increasing dependence on non-US ticket sales for growth. International sales rose 20% to $1.07 billion in 2006, while the domestic box office increased 4.2% to $9.21 billion. In „Babel,” characters on three continents find their lives connected after an American woman is accidentally shot on vacation in Morocco. „Letters from Iwo Jima” retells the World War II battle from the Japanese perspective.
The film, shot in Japanese, has taken in $55.2 million since its December 20 release, with $43.1 million, or 78%, coming from outside North America. „Babel” received seven nominations including best motion picture and best director for Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. „Iwo Jima” garnered a best director nod for Clint Eastwood. They will vie for best director against Scorsese for „The Departed,” Stephen Frears for „The Queen” and Paul Greengrass for „United 93.” (Bloomberg)