i>DREAMGIRLS: ALL BETS ARE OFF

Leaving many Oscar handicappers scratching their heads, Dreamgirls failed to win a nomination for best picture of the year despite garnering more nominations -- eight -- than any other film. Several film critics had suggested that the movie would be the frontrunner for this year's top Oscar. (The movie had won the Golden Globe award as best picture in the musical/comedy category last week.) Those that did win nods for the top film included Babel (which won the Golden Globe for best dramatic picture), The Departed, Letters From Iwo Jima, Little Miss Sunshine, and The Queen. Babel received six additional nominations, including one for best director for Alejandro González Iñárritu, who will compete against Martin Scorsese (The Departed), Clint Eastwood (Letters From Iwo Jima), Stephen Frears (The Queen), and Paul Greengrass (United 93). Best actor nominations went to Leonardo DiCaprio (Blood Diamond), Ryan Gosling (Half Nelson), Peter O'Toole (Venus), Will Smith (The Pursuit of Happyness), and Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland). Actress nominees are: Penélope Cruz (Volver), Judi Dench (Notes on a Scandal), Helen Mirren (The Queen), Meryl Streep (The Devil Wears Prada), and Kate Winslet (Little Children).

AND THE WORST FILMS ARE ...

Meanwhile, the Golden Raspberry Award Foundation, which nominates the worst films of the year the day before the movie academy nominates the best, selected Basic Instinct 2, BloodRayne, Lady in the Water, Little Man, and Wicker Man as its candidates for worst picture of the year. Tim Allen, Nicolas Cage, Larry the Cable Guy (Dan Whitney), Rob Schneider, and Marlon and Shawn Wayans were nominated for the worst actor Razzie. Hilary and Haylie Duff, Lindsay Lohan, Kristanna Loken, Jessica Simpson, and Sharon Stone had the dubious honor of being nominated in the worst actress category.

BOX OFFICE SLUMPS UNDER GLOBE WINNERS

Despite the addition of numerous critically praised films to the marquees of thousands of theaters, the overall box office plummeted 20 percent from the same week a year ago. Widening their releases were such Oscar hopefuls as Dreamgirls, Pan's Labyrinth, The Queen, Babel and The Last King of Scotland. But the winners were holdovers, including the urban musical Stomp the Yard, which placed first with $12.29 million, and the Ben Stiller comedy Night at the Museum, which placed second with $12.01 million. The latter film has now crossed the $200-million mark with a total of $204.85 million. The musical Dreamgirls moved up one notch to third place with $8.01 million.

The top ten films over the weekend, according to final figures compiled by Exhibitor Relations (figures in parentheses represent total gross to date):

1. Stomp the Yard, Sony/Screen Gems, $12,287,352, 2 Wks. ($40,550,946); 2. Night at the Museum, 20th Century Fox, $12,012,724, 4 Wks. ($204,852,656); 3. Dreamgirls, Paramount, $8,008,749, 5 Wks. ($77,415,704); 4. The Hitcher, Focus Features, $7,818,239, (New); 5. The Pursuit of Happyness, Sony, $6,310,133, 5 Wks. ($146,121,200); 6. Freedom Writers, Paramount, $5,207,062, 3 Wks. ($26,524,683); 7. Pan's Labyrinth, Picture House, $4,502,243, 4 Wks. ($9,932,414); 8. Children of Men, Universal, $3,710,945, 4 Wks. ($27,491,508); 9. The Queen, Miramax, $3,400,061, 17 Wks. ($35,557,521); 10. Arthur and the Invisibles, Mgm, $3,080,698, 3 Wks. ($9,272,106).

MPAA CHIEF WANTS MORE NC-17 FILMS

MPAA chief Dan Glickman is encouraging independent filmmakers to make more films that would earn them an NC-17 rating. According to Daily Variety, Glickman acknowledged that producers often face a stone wall erected by exhibitors to keep out NC-17 films. He said he plans to meet with theater owners to persuade them to drop the barrier. "It's one of our ratings, and I'd like to see it used more," he said.

BLUE FILM ON BLU-RAY

Despite reports that Sony was refusing to allowing its DVD manufacturing plants to produce porn films in its high-definition Blu-ray format, Vivid Entertainment has announced that it plans to release Debbie Does Dallas -- Again on Blu-ray on March 28. According to Video Business magazine the format will allow the producers to attempt something new -- show multiple angles of the same sex scene simultaneously. Vivid said that it will charge the same price, $39.95 for either the Blu-ray version or the conventional DVD.

ROMANO AND GARRETT TO REUNITE

Fox is trying to breathe new life into the Brad Garrett series 'Til Death, which has languished in the ratings all season and has taken a drubbing from TV critics. Not only is it switching the series to Wednesdays after American Idol beginning in March (it also gets the post-Idol slot on February 27 and 28) but, according to TV Guide, Garrett has persuaded Ray Romano to make a guest appearance on an upcoming episode. Earlier this month, syndicated gossip columnists Marilyn Beck and Stacy Jenel Smith reported that Garrett and Romano are also planning a concert tour that will conclude in April with performances in Las Vegas.

Brian B.