(washigtonpost) - The blogospheric fan reaction to this year's Oscar nominations included -- as always -- a flurry of what-ifs: concern for "Dreamgirls' " lack of a Best Picture nod, for the overlooking of Sacha Baron Cohen's acting, for the absence of "Volver" in the Best Foreign Language Film category. Oh, the agony, the nitpicking, the sighs.
But for the winners, the winners! From A-list to obscure, yesterday was for basking.
The musical "Dreamgirls" led the day with eight nominations, followed by the ensemble film "Babel" with seven.
There were the usual suspects -- Meryl Streep, Martin Scorsese, Clint Eastwood -- and the surprises, like Rinko Kikuchi and Adriana Barraza (both nominated in the supporting actress category for "Babel"). There were the documentary makers who heard via pilot announcement on a commercial flight. There was the wife-and-husband directorial team holding hands when their film's nominations were announced. And there was Jackie Earle Haley, a man whose more recent credits include titles such as "Maniac Cop 3," who wept when the honor sank in, reports Trend.
"Man, this is just a crazy, crazy, crazy day," said Haley, nominated for his creepy turn as Ronnie the pedophile in "Little Children."
"It started off with me pretending to sleep last night," he continued. "Then at 7:30 in the morning my wife came running into the room . . . screaming, 'You got it! You got it!' I sat up and I just hugged her and we cried for like five minutes. It was such an overwhelming torrent of emotion, it was unbelievable."
Overall, the academy dug international themes and locales, and diversity -- something it has taken a hit for in the past.
As for "Dreamgirls," it may have earned the most nominations, but it got snubbed for biggies -- Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay. (And let's be candid: The eight nominations include three in the same category, original song). The film did get nods in supporting actor and actress categories, for Eddie Murphy and Jennifer Hudson in roles that won them Golden Globes.
In addition to Forest Whitaker, Murphy and Hudson, Will Smith was nominated for Best Actor for "The Pursuit of Happyness" and Djimon Hounsou for his supporting role in "Blood Diamond," putting five black actors and actresses in top categories.
Commenting on the overall diversity in nominations, Deepa Mehta, director of Best Foreign Language Film nominee "Water," said, "It just shows that it's an international year, isn't it? I think it's wonderful, because I think what the academy has done is acknowledge that there's a whole world of films out there."
The front-runners in the Best Actor and Actress categories? Brit Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II in "The Queen" (also a Best Picture nominee) and Whitaker as Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in "The Last King of Scotland." Royalty, in other words, is big.
There was also some serious Americana -- in the form of "Little Miss Sunshine," which took four major nominations (including Best Picture) for an indie film about a dysfunctional family en route to one of those truly red-white-and-blue events: a little girls' beauty pageant.
"Extra-thick double-fudge icing" is how producer Peter Saraf referred to the film's Oscar success, which included nods for original screenplay and supporting actors Alan Arkin and Abigail Breslin.
Meanwhile, "Sunshine's" husband-and-wife directing team, Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, watched the announcements on TV, hands clasped together.
"This is a new one," Faris said. "We've never been through something like this together, but it's better than going through it alone."
Joining "Little Miss Sunshine," "Babel" and "The Queen" in the Best Picture category are "Letters From Iwo Jima," Clint Eastwood's World War II film told from the Japanese perspective, and "The Departed," Martin Scorsese's thriller -- the most mainstream of the big picks and the one with the highest domestic box office, at $121 million.
The directors? There's Scorsese, Eastwood, Stephen Frears ("The Queen"), Paul Greengrass ("United 93") and Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu ("Babel").
Fun bits from yesterday's announcements in Beverly Hills: Meryl Streep got her 14th Oscar nomination, this time for Best Actress as the witchy boss in "The Devil Wears Prada." Marky Mark -- okay, we should refer to him as Mark Wahlberg for this particular performance -- trumped Academy fave Jack Nicholson for a supporting nod in the star-studded cast of "The Departed." And "Little Miss Sunshine's" 10-year-old Breslin could tie Tatum O'Neal in "Paper Moon" for the youngest Oscar winner ever.
"Apocalypto," Mel Gibson's violent Mayan film, was nominated for Best Makeup, Sound Editing and Sound Mixing -- three categories that, for better or worse, mean Gibson does not go to the microphone.
Then there was the choice by the academy's screenwriters to nominate "Borat," a film that was all allegedly unscripted and improvised, for Best Adapted Screenplay (the film scribes are apparently very, very confident of their future job security).
Speaking of job security, studio heads should perhaps consider backing anything -- anything, even a finger-painting tutorial -- that involves a combination of Clint Eastwood and Kate Winslet. Eastwood is a 10-time nominee (this year both for producing and directing "Iwo Jima") and a four-time winner (Best Picture and director, for both "Million Dollar Baby" and "Unforgiven"). And Winslet, at 31, earned her fifth nomination (Best Actress for "Little Children.") Joining Winslet in that category are Penelope Cruz for Pedro Almodovar's "Volver," Judi Dench for "Notes on a Scandal," Streep and Mirren.
In the Best Actor category, Whitaker is up against Leonardo DiCaprio -- who was nominated for "Blood Diamond" but was just as often mentioned for his role in "The Departed" -- Peter O'Toole ("Venus"), Ryan Gosling ("Half Nelson") and Smith.
"I don't think anyone is more shocked than me," Gosling said yesterday, noting that "Half Nelson" was a smaller film -- "we didn't even expect to get distribution."
Arkin, 72, got the news that he was up for Best Supporting Actor for his role as the heroin-sniffing porn aficionado in "Little Miss Sunshine" while watching the sun rise over his home in New Mexico.
"I guess it was the role that did it," he said. "It was a brilliant script and a brilliant character, and the minute I read the script I knew I wanted to do it."
Barraza, who is originally from Mexico, was one of several nominees who admitted she didn't sleep the night before.
"I kept thinking yes, yes, yes, and then no, no, no, like a crazy person," she said.
Former vice president Al Gore's pic on global warming, "An Inconvenient Truth," was nominated for Best Documentary, which means there could be -- should be -- an intersection of politics and Hollywood on the red carpet come Oscar night, Feb. 25.
"I talked with Al this morning," said Davis Guggenheim, the film's director. "He was really happy. I asked him, 'So you're ready to go to the show?' And he said, 'I'll think about it.' "
But Guggenheim, son of the late Washington documentarian Charles Guggenheim, said sure, Gore will be there at the Oscars. "The thought of him going down the red carpet is really exciting," he said. " And a billion people will see him, and that means that more people will see the movie and wake up to this very inconvenient truth."
Also nominated in the documentary category were filmmakers Rachel Grady (daughter of Washingtonian James Grady, author of the novel that inspired "Three Days of the Condor") and Heidi Ewing for "Jesus Camp," a close-up look at summer camp for evangelical Christian kids.
The twosome were flying to Santa Barbara for a screening when they heard the news. A flight attendant had earlier given the pilot a heads-up, and the pilot contacted a United Airlines representative on the ground, who monitored the Internet for the news. An hour into the flight, the pilot announced that two Oscar nominees were on board.
"I'm only going to fly United from now on," Ewing said.