BEVERLY HILLS, California — The Golden Globe nominations were announced just Thursday morning (December 14), but Hollywood has wasted no time in reacting to the barrage of surprises emanating from the Beverly Hilton.
Leading the way was "Babel" with seven nominations (including Best Picture), the most for any film this year. This is particularly surprising because, by almost any definition, the film qualifies as "foreign," not least because it's told in seven languages. It was joined by major nominations for the foreign films "Volver" and "Letters From Iwo Jima" (see "Beyonce, 'Borat' And 'Babel' Lead Golden Globes Nominees").
"It's very interesting to see a lot of the European films getting nominated because we're getting out of ourselves more than usual," presenter Rosario Dawson remarked. "The only reason they could do half the things they did [in those films] is because [they] weren't made in America."
Whoops of laughter rose from the crowd of assembled media as Sacha Baron Cohen's name was read by presenter Jessica Biel (who twice had to bravely make her way through his film's full, intentionally ungrammatical title: "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan").
An unlikely nominee, considering his unique brand of attack humor, Baron Cohen has already won Dawson's personal Entertainer of the Year award. She lauded both the film's side-splitting antics and its intelligence.
"I think that's one of the most hilarious things I've ever seen in my life, watching that movie. It wasn't just sensationalism, it was like really watching someone and going, 'I can't believe I still find you cute when you've got your face up this dude's butt so long'!" Dawson laughed, referring to the infamous scene between Cohen and his fictional producer Azamat Bagatov (Ken Davitian). "But it's so intelligent, that's what's nice about it. It's not just potty humor. It's actually quite brilliant."
Continuing his assault on realism (and audience taboos), Baron Cohen joked that he hadn't been able to tell his fictional creation about the good news because Borat was otherwise occupied.
"I am extremely honored [and] very proud," Baron Cohen boasted. "I have been trying to let Borat know this great news, but for four hours both of Kazakhstan's telephones were engaged. Eventually, [Kazakh] Premier Nazarbayev answered and said he would pass on the message as soon as Borat returned from Iran, where he is guest of honor at the Holocaust Denial Conference."
Excitement filled the air during the announcements for Best Supporting Actor, each of which seemed a bigger long shot to take home the award than the last. After a series of flops for both actors, gasps and cheers were heard for Eddie Murphy ("Dreamgirls") and Ben Affleck ("Hollywoodland") as their names were announced.
"Dreamgirls" co-star Beyonce Knowles — herself a double nominee for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical and Best Original Song - Motion Picture — praised Murphy while reflecting on the film. "I am happy to share these nominations with fellow nominee Eddie Murphy," the singer said. "Being a part of 'Dreamgirls' was an opportunity of a lifetime for me."
On hearing the news of his nomination, Affleck, previously a Globes winner for the "Good Will Hunting" screenplay, remembered actor George Reeves, the real-life actor Affleck portrayed in "Hollywoodland."
"The Golden Globes are a great party, and my enthusiasm for going this year is tempered only by the knowledge of how much George would have loved to be there," he said. "I'm sorry he'll miss it."
The assembled media rumbled in approval after Mark Walhberg's name was read — his serious performance in "The Departed" one of the year's pleasant surprises.
"I am extremely grateful to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for acknowledging 'The Departed' — especially the great work of the actors," director Martin Scorsese said. He added of his own nomination for director: "And then, to have the added pleasure of a nomination for myself. It made waking up early well worthwhile."
Murphy's "Dreamgirls" co-star Jennifer Hudson was considered by industry insiders a shoo-in for nomination in the category of Best Supporting Actress. She's arrived — but that doesn't make her transformation from "American Idol" finalist to awards sweetheart any less surprising.
Hudson told MTV News she saw the announcement while preparing for an appearance on "Today."
"I was actually in the dressing room, waiting to hear who was nominated," she recalled. "I went from just being nervous to being overwhelmed — screaming, crying, trying to fight back the tears."
In a morning filled with surprises, perhaps the biggest (judging by the crowd's reaction) was hearing Clint Eastwood's name read twice in the category of Best Director. An awards darling, Eastwood's two films this year ("Flags of Our Fathers" and "Letters From Iwo Jima"), however, were seen by many to be disappointments.
Considerably less of a shock was Helen Mirren's nomination for Best Actress for her role in "The Queen." Mirren took the opportunity to make a subtle comment on current world leaders, presumably Prime Minister Tony Blair and President Bush.
"This has been an unprecedented year for me, and I am grateful to have had such well-written roles," Mirren remarked. "I am amazed by the timeliness of 'The Queen' — a story about a leader out of touch with the people — and how the film has struck such a chord with audiences around the world."
The 64th Annual Golden Globes will be awarded January 15.
"I think it's a great awards show — it's prestigious, it's lovely to be a part of," Biel commented. "It feels like a little less pressure than the Oscars. It seems just more relaxed and more fun, but just as prestigious."
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[This story was originally published at 12:31 p.m. ET on 12.14.2006]