i>BABEL RECEIVES SEVEN GOLDEN GLOBE NODS

Among numerous surprises, Babel, the drama by director Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu about the worldwide reverberations to families following a shooting in North Africa, dominated the Golden Globes nominations announced today. The film received seven nominations -- more than any other --including best drama, best director, and best actor (Brad Pitt). The nominations were announced by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which also nominated Bobby, The Departed, Little Children, and The Queen for best picture in the drama category. In another surprise, Sacha Baron Cohen's Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan was nominated for best musical or comedy film, while Cohen himself got a best-actor nod in the category. The other films nominated for best musical or comedy: The Devil Wears Prada, Dreamgirls, Little Miss Sunshine and Thank You for Smoking. Two films made by Americans received nominations in the foreign-language category, Mel Gibson's Apocalypto and Clint Eastwood's Letters from Iwo Jima. Leonardo DiCaprio, meanwhile, will by vying against himself after being nominated for best actor for performances in two different movies, The Departed and Blood Diamond. So will Clint Eastwood for best director -- for his bookend films Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima (neither of which, oddly, was nominated for best film).

PIRATES CAPTURES DVD BOOTY

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest -- already the top film at the box office in 2006 -- is likely to become the top seller of the year on DVD as well. According to Disney, 10.5 million copies of the movie were sold in its first week of release, slightly less than the 11 million copies for the original Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl sold during its first week three years ago. The original went on to sell 18 million DVD and VHS copies and is still going strong. With the release of Dead Man's Chest, Black Pearl returned to the Nielsen VideoScan First Alert sales chart in ninth position. The top-selling DVD movie of the year to date has been Disney's The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which has sold 14 million copies since its release in April. Meanwhile, Home Media Retailing magazine reported that the movie also generated $12.9 million in rentals during the first week in stores.

SACRAMENTO FIRM OFFERS "FASTEST INTERNET AROUND"

SureWest, a 90-year-old communications company operating in the Sacramento, CA area, said Wednesday that it will launch a "hyperspeed" Internet service next week that will offer speeds more than 50 times faster than typical broadband connections. Beginning Tuesday, Dec. 19, the company said, some 100,000 residential customers linked to its fiber-optic system will be able to sign up for what SureWest President and CEO Steve Oldham described in a statement as "the fastest Internet around" -- speeds of up to 50 megabits per second. (The typical DSL connection provides speeds of about .750-1.3 mbps.) The company said it was targeting "customers who download and upload large files such as music, images, videos and movies." All of which raises new concerns for content producers. Currently one of the chief deterrents to online piracy is the lengthy time that it takes to download such large files. Typically a person can drive to a local video rental store and pick up a movie in less time than it takes to download one over the Internet. SureWest's system would enable downloads to be completed in a few minutes. But it, too, has a built-in deterrent -- a monthly price of $259.95.

HOLLYWOOD TRIES TO HALT HOLLYWOOD FROM RELEASING FILM

Attorneys for accused killer Jesse James Hollywood say they plan to appeal a ruling by a federal judge Wednesday permitting Universal to open its movie Alpha Dog, based on Hollywood's case,as scheduled on Jan. 12. The attorneys have argued that the movie will pollute the jury pool. They have also criticized the close cooperation that prosecutors have had with the movie's producers and said it was the first instance of a movie based on an actual murder case being released ahead of a trial. However, in his ruling, U.S. District Judge Gary Klausner commented, "The Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized that government restriction of speech in the form of a prior restraint against the media constitutes the most serious and least tolerable infringement on First Amendment rights."

STONE CONFIRMS HE'S PLANNING FILM ABOUT AFGHANISTAN WAR

Oliver Stone, often criticized for bringing liberal conspiracy theories to the screen, has confirmed that he is considering a film about the war in Afghanistan and the hunt for Osama bin Laden. FoxNews.com's Roger Friedman, in an item headlined "Oliver Stone Still Looking for Conspiracies," reported Wednesday that at a private dinner Monday night for the DVD release of his World Trade Center Stone told him that the Afghanistan movie is one of five new projects he is mulling. "No one has ever told the real story," Stone reportedly remarked. Last October, Variety disclosed that Stone and Paramount had optioned rights to the book Jawbreaker about the Afghanistan conflict but had kept the deal quiet in order to prevent World Trade Center from being drawn into controversy.

Brian B.