ALEX CHADWICK, host:
This is DAY TO DAY from NPR News. I'm Alex Chadwick.
MADELEINE BRAND, host:
And I'm Madeleine Brand with big news from Hollywood.
The Oscar nominations were announced this morning. "Dreamgirls," the film based on the musical, leads the pack with eight nominations, but it was shut out of the big categories. No nominations for Best Picture, Director, Actor or Actress.
Joining us to talk about all the Oscar news is Slate movie critic Dana Stevens. Hi, Dana.
Ms. DANA STEVENS (Slate.com): Hi, Madeleine.
BRAND: So what about "Dreamgirls?" It's nominated for all these Oscars and yet not for the big ones. Why?
Ms. STEVENS: If there's any surprise in this, not very surprising nominations, it might be the dissing of "Dreamgirls." If you want to look at it as a dissing, like you say, its got these very wildly distributed nominations. Just not in the sort of, you know, the big fish categories of Best Director and Best Picture. You know, people may want to say, well, look the only all black movie, you know, isn't getting any recognized in the big categories, but how black a movie is "Dreamgirls," really? Right.
It's based on the stage musical written by two white guys. It's directed by a white guy. Yes, it has an all black cast, but you know, it's not necessarily the case that black actors were not recognized in the awards overall. You've got Forest Whitaker and Eddie Murphy and Djimon Hounsou from "Blood Diamond."
BRAND: Well, let's talk about Best Actress. Because I found that quite interesting that three out of the five are, you know, so called silver foxes, older women. Judy Dench, Helen Mirren, Meryl Streep.
MS. STEVENS: The Oscar voters do like older actors. It's an older bunch that votes for the Academy Awards. And, you know, I think it's often the case that there's at least one veteran actor nominated in every acting category. But it is sort of an unusually old bunch for Best Actress this year.
BRAND: And we have a clip of tape from "Notes on a Scandal." Here's Judy Dench.
(Soundbite of movie, "Notes on a Scandal")
Ms. JUDY DENCH (Actor): (As Barbara Covett) Once he's had his fill, he'll discard you like an old rag. You're not endowed. I say this to help you. End it now.
BRAND: Dana Stevens, do you think that she'll win? That was quite a performance.
MS. STEVENS: She's fantastic in that movie, which I - for me it was not a successful movie overall, but has two wonderful performances from Judy Dench and Kate Blanchett. I don't think she has a chance in the world to win, frankly, because Helen Mirren seems like probably the strongest luck on Best Actress in many years for that role. Maybe the strongest luck since Meryl Streep won for "Sophie's Choice" or something. I mean she's due for the award. She's never won an Oscar and everyone loves "The Queen." It's one of those movies that it's impossible not to like. And I have a feeling in a way that "The Queen" may take a lot of awards just by it being so agreeable to everyone. You know, I mean if you don't like extreme violence in movies, you can still love "The Queen."
You know, whether you're an anglophile and a royal fan or not, you just, you love the portrait of that family and the job that she does playing the queen. So I wouldn't be surprised to see "The Queen" take not only Best Actress for Helen Mirren, but possibly Best Picture, Best Director for Stephen Frears. I wouldn't think it would sweep all three categories, but I think it will get a lot of recognition.
BRAND: Okay. Moving on to Best Actor. The nominees are Forest Whitaker for "The Last King of Scotland," Will Smith "The Pursuit of Happyness," Peter O'Toole for "Venus," Ryan Gosling for "Half Nelson" and Leonardo DiCaprio for "Blood Diamond," not for "The Departed," but for "Blood Diamond." And here's a clip of tape from that movie.
(Soundbite of movie, "Blood Diamond")
Mr. LEONARDO DICAPRIO (Actor): (As Danny Archer) Who do you think buys these stones that I bring out? Dreamy American girls who all want a storybook wedding and a big shiny rock, like the ones they see in the advertisements of your politically correct magazine. So please don't come here and make judgments on me. All right?
BRAND: Dana, I have to say I really liked him in that movie. And I think he mastered the accent superbly.
MS. STEVENS: Me, too. I'm glad you played that clip, Madeleine, because I really like Leonard DiCaprio in "Blood Diamond." And I've never been a big DiCaprio fan. I thought he was good in "The Departed" as well. But if there was a moment this year that I thought, wow, Leonard DiCaprio can really act, it was in that part in "Blood Diamond." And not being from Rodisha, Zimbabwe, Rodisha myself, I'm not sure how accurate his accent was, but I know it sounded utterly authentic. And he really inhabited that character.
That said, I don't think he'll be recognized as Best Actor for that role. It just seems like he and Ryan Gosling, who were both wonderful, are there a little bit to flesh out the category. And this one seems to me like it's either going to Forest Whitaker for "The Last King of Scotland" or maybe to Peter O'Toole for those reasons we discussed earlier that the Academy likes to recognize veteran actors. And you don't get much veteran than Peter O'Toole.
BRAND: That's for sure. Okay. So Best Picture - "Babel," "The Departed," "Letters from Iwo Jima," "The Queen," as we mentioned, and "Little Miss Sunshine." That's about a family road trip taking a little girl to a beauty pageant in California.
MS. STEVENS: Yeah. "Little Miss Sunshine." I mean, it's so nice to see that for me on the Best Picture nominees, because it's one of those movies that really came from behind this year. It was little indie that you look at it on paper before going to the screening thinking a family road trip movie about a dysfunctional quirky family. This is going to be so sappy and so formula. And I was just delighted by the movie and blown away. And I love to see it having the success that it's had.
BRAND: Slate.com's movie critic, Dana Stevens, thanks for joining us.
MS. STEVENS: Thank you, Madeleine.