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Michele Norris talks with Bob Mondello about the newly announced Oscar nominations. Among the topics: the number of British actresses will be competing in the best actress and best supporting actress categories. This year, there is also a greater racial diversity of nominees across the board. And could this finally be director Martin Scorsese's year?

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

For some more now on this morning's announcements from Los Angeles, our resident film critic Bob Mondello is here. Hello Bob.

BOB MONDELLO: It's good to be here.

NORRIS: Now, there are a lot of familiar names in many of these categories, but also some names that might not be completely familiar to our audience. For instance, who is Rinko Kikuchi?

MONDELLO: Well, exactly, she's a young actress from Japan. She is a terrific actress, but she's made 13 films in Japan, most of which have not been released in this country. So nobody had really heard of her until she appeared in "Babel," and she's splendid in the picture. She plays a deaf girl. And she's really, really a knockout. But, yeah, you're right. Most people outside of Japan had never heard of her until this time.

NORRIS: And also in that Best Supporting Actress category, another actress from the same film.

MONDELLO: Yes, Adriana Barraza from Mexico. And that's an example of, you know, all the different names that you hear this year. There are a lot of foreign sounding names. I guess that starts with Scorsese. Doesn't it?

NORRIS: Yes. Yes.

MONDELLO: Who isn't particularly. And interestingly, in the category which is usually filled with foreign names, the foreign film category, foreign language film category, there's a very familiar American name. Clint Eastwood is the director of one those pictures. So it's sort of a more eclectic grouping of films than we've had in most years.

NORRIS: Overall, there's a good deal of diversity. You see that in the big categories, the Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, also in the director's category and screenwriting category.

MONDELLO: Well, that's true. If you take the acting categories, there are 20 slots. There are five black actors, two Hispanic actors and an Asian actor in that group alone. So that almost half of the performers are non-white, which is a real shock. Ordinarily in those categories, you get one person. It's a very diverse group, much more so than the usual.

NORRIS: Any big surprises for you?

MONDELLO: Well, there was one. Again, in the foreign film category, I was really expecting "Volver," the Pedro Almodovar picture, which is just wonderful. I mean, I would say it's the best foreign film this year. And it didn't get nominated at all. Penelope Cruz got nominated, but it didn't, so that's a very strange thing in my opinion.

NORRIS: Now, we mentioned Martin Scorsese, nominated yet again for Best Director. He's made so many memorable films but he hasn't bowed out on stage yet to pick up a golden statue.

MONDELLO: It is true. As a matter of fact, I think he's tied now with Alfred Hitchcock and Robert Altman, and a couple of other directors for the most nominations without winning. And if he loses again, he will be indisputably the person who has been nominated for the most directing nominations without winning.

NORRIS: No one wants that distinction. They sure -

MONDELLO: It's a terrible thing. No, exactly.

Well, you know, it's also true of Peter O'Toole. Right now, he's tied with Richard Burton. I think they both have seven nominations without winning. If he loses this one, he will have eight nominations without winning, which would be a sad thing because Peter O'Toole is really great. On the other hand, that's an amazing category.

NORRIS: Bob, we heard so much about "Dreamgirls" going into the nominations, and yet "Dreamgirls" is not included in the category for Best Film or Best Director. Bill Condon was left out of there also.

MONDELLO: Yeah, that's interesting.

NORRIS: What happened?

MONDELLO: Well, I think that we weren't the only ones who had heard an awful lot about "Dreamgirls" and who had maybe gotten a little tired of hearing about it. I think if you're in Hollywood, maybe it's possible to have overkill on a picture like this. I think it's clear that the Academy thought that "Dreamgirls" was a lovely film. It got nominated for eight Academy Awards, after all.

But other pictures have had that happen and not been nominated for Best Film, too. "Close Encounters" did it. And so did "They Shoot Horses, Don't they?" which got nine nominations and still did not get nominated for Best Picture. In this case, three of the nominations for "Dreamgirls" went for Best Song. And I think there's a real good possibility that they will knock each other out. In which case, one of the other songs, either the ones from "Cars," which is a bouncy little thing by Randy Newman, or conceivably the song from "An Inconvenient Truth," a documentary that is not about music, might conceivably win. It's by most average, it's possible.

NORRIS: Well, with those three nominations from "Dreamgirls," I guess we're going to see a lot of big flashy numbers -

MONDELLO: I should think they will be -

NORRIS: At the Oscars -

MONDELLO: - extremely (Unintelligible). And that will be great fun.

NORRIS: Thank you, Bob.

MONDELLO: Thank you.

NORRIS: NPR's Bob Mondedllo.

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'Dreamgirls,' 'Babel' Top Oscar Nominees

Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett in 'Babel'

hide captionBabel is nominated for best picture, but Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett are overlooked for acting honors.

Paramount Classics

Dreamgirls is nominated for eight Academy Awards, but not for Best Picture. Babel, which is among five nominees for the top film, earns seven nominations.

Here's a complete list of the 79th Annual Academy Award nominations announced Tuesday at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills, Calif., provided by Associated Press:

1. Best Picture: "Babel," "The Departed," "Letters From Iwo Jima," "Little Miss Sunshine," "The Queen."

2. Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio, "Blood Diamond"; Ryan Gosling, "Half Nelson"; Peter O'Toole, "Venus"; Will Smith, "The Pursuit of Happyness"; Forest Whitaker, "The Last King of Scotland."

3. Actress: Penelope Cruz, "Volver"; Judi Dench, "Notes on a Scandal"; Helen Mirren, "The Queen"; Meryl Streep, "The Devil Wears Prada"; Kate Winslet, "Little Children."

4. Supporting Actor: Alan Arkin, "Little Miss Sunshine"; Jackie Earle Haley, "Little Children"; Djimon Hounsou, "Blood Diamond"; Eddie Murphy, "Dreamgirls"; Mark Wahlberg, "The Departed."

5. Supporting Actress: Adriana Barraza, "Babel"; Cate Blanchett, "Notes on a Scandal"; Abigail Breslin, "Little Miss Sunshine"; Jennifer Hudson, "Dreamgirls"; Rinko Kikuchi, "Babel."

6. Directing: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, "Babel"; Martin Scorsese, "The Departed"; Clint Eastwood, "Letters From Iwo Jima"; Stephen Frears, "The Queen"; Paul Greengrass, "United 93."

7. Foreign Language Film: "After the Wedding," Denmark; "Days of Glory (Indigenes)," Algeria; "The Lives of Others," Germany; "Pan's Labyrinth," Mexico; "Water," Canada.

8. Adapted Screenplay: Sacha Baron Cohen and Anthony Hines and Peter Baynham and Dan Mazer and Todd Phillips, "Borat Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan"; Alfonso Cuaron and Timothy J. Sexton and David Arata and Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby, "Children of Men"; William Monahan, "The Departed"; Todd Field and Tom Perrotta, "Little Children"; Patrick Marber, "Notes on a Scandal."

9. Original Screenplay: Guillermo Arriaga, "Babel"; Iris Yamashita and Paul Haggis, "Letters From Iwo Jima"; Michael Arndt, "Little Miss Sunshine"; Guillermo del Toro, "Pan's Labyrinth"; Peter Morgan, "The Queen."

10. Animated Feature Film: "Cars," "Happy Feet," "Monster House."

11. Art Direction: "Dreamgirls," "The Good Shepherd," "Pan's Labyrinth," "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest," "The Prestige."

12. Cinematography: "The Black Dahlia," "Children of Men," "The Illusionist," "Pan's Labyrinth," "The Prestige."

13. Sound Mixing: "Apocalypto," "Blood Diamond," "Dreamgirls," "Flags of Our Fathers," "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest."

14. Sound Editing: "Apocalypto," "Blood Diamond," "Flags of Our Fathers," "Letters From Iwo Jima," "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest."

15. Original Score: "Babel," Gustavo Santaolalla; "The Good German," Thomas Newman; "Notes on a Scandal," Philip Glass; "Pan's Labyrinth," Javier Navarrete; "The Queen," Alexandre Desplat.

16. Original Song: "I Need to Wake Up" from "An Inconvenient Truth," Melissa Etheridge; "Listen" from "Dreamgirls," Henry Krieger, Scott Cutler and Anne Preven; "Love You I Do" from "Dreamgirls," Henry Krieger and Siedah Garrett; "Our Town" from "Cars," Randy Newman; "Patience" from "Dreamgirls," Henry Krieger and Willie Reale.

17. Costume: "Curse of the Golden Flower," "The Devil Wears Prada," "Dreamgirls," "Marie Antoinette," "The Queen."

18. Documentary Feature: "Deliver Us From Evil," "An Inconvenient Truth," "Iraq in Fragments," "Jesus Camp," "My Country, My Country."

19. Documentary (short subject): "The Blood of Yingzhou District," "Recycled Life," "Rehearsing a Dream," "Two Hands."

20. Film Editing: "Babel," "Blood Diamond," "Children of Men," "The Departed," "United 93."

21. Makeup: "Apocalypto," "Click," "Pan's Labyrinth."

22. Animated Short Film: "The Danish Poet," "Lifted," "The Little Matchgirl," "Maestro," "No Time for Nuts."

23. Live Action Short Film: "Binta and the Great Idea (Binta Y La Gran Idea)," "Eramos Pocos (One Too Many)," "Helmer & Son," "The Saviour," "West Bank Story."

24. Visual Effects: "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest," "Poseidon," "Superman Returns."

Academy Award winners previously announced this year:

HONORARY AWARD (Oscar statuette): Ennio Morricone

JEAN HERSHOLT HUMANITARIAN AWARD (Oscar statuette): Sherry Lansing

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