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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 January 2007, 11:08 GMT
Globes confirm Oscar favourites
By Neil Smith
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

There were few surprises at the Golden Globe awards as the Hollywood Foreign Press Association fulfilled its familiar role in identifying this year's likely Oscar recipients.

Forest Whitaker
Whitaker plays Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland

Dame Helen Mirren was such a certainty for best actress that fellow dame Judi Dench, nominated in the same category, did not even attend.

An Oscar nomination is beyond doubt next week, and her eventual triumph at Hollywood's top award ceremony must now be regarded as a mere formality.

Forest Whitaker also confirmed his status as best actor-in-waiting with his prize for The Last King of Scotland.

Babel's victory in the best film drama category has undoubtedly boosted its chances of being named best picture at the Oscars.

With its multi-national cast, epic sweep and weighty themes, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's film - out in the UK this week - is much admired in Hollywood circles.

Traditionally it is the winner of this prize that goes on to Academy Awards glory, rather than its musical or comedy equivalent.

It is worth remembering, however, that last year's best drama, Ang Lee's western Brokeback Mountain, ultimately lost out to dark horse Crash at the Oscars.

Pole position

There is still a chance Dreamgirls - named best musical or comedy at the Globes - could pull off an upset.

However, while Bill Condon's adaptation of the US stage show based loosely on the career of The Supremes can expect to be shortlisted for best picture, its best chances lie with cast members Jennifer Hudson and Eddie Murphy.

Eddie Murphy and Jennifer Hudson
Murphy and Hudson won supporting actor awards for Dreamgirls
Their victory in the Globes' best supporting actor categories could help them to Oscar success, with many pundits already considering former American Idol finalist Hudson a certainty.

Veteran film-maker Martin Scorsese looks likely to pull off a similar double, his best director Globe for The Departed putting him in pole position to finally win the Academy Award that has thus far eluded him.

His main competition at the Oscars will come from Mexican director Inarritu and Hollywood stalwart Clint Eastwood, who beat Scorsese the last time they went head to head two years ago.

It would be harsh indeed, however, if seven-time nominee Scorsese is overlooked again for a fast-paced crime thriller that has been hailed as a significant return to form.

Eastwood seemed pleased as punch to win best foreign language film for his Japanese war drama Letters from Iwo Jima at the Globes.

Prevailing wind

It seems, however, that the decision to bring the movie's release date forward in order to qualify it for Oscar contention has not had the desired effect.

Eastwood received two best director nominations at the Globes, but neither Iwo Jima nor its English-language companion piece Flags of Our Fathers made the best drama category.

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (centre) with Babel stars Adriana Barraza and Rinko Kikuchi
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's Babel was up for seven Globes
Given the prevailing wind, it is unlikely either will be up for best picture at the Oscars, the most likely nominees - besides Babel and The Departed - being Dame Helen's The Queen, The Departed and comedy Little Miss Sunshine.

Where this leaves Britain's other Oscar hopefuls is open to debate.

Peter Morgan's best screenplay Globe for The Queen may well be repeated, though given Dame Helen's likely victory the Academy may plump for Babel instead.

And while British stars Kate Winslet, Judi Dench and Emily Blunt will likely be nominated - for Little Children, Notes on a Scandal and The Devil Wears Prada respectively - they can expect to go home empty-handed.

With six weeks to go before Hollywood's big night there is still a chance the runners and riders may change.

More so than in previous years, though, this year's Oscar race looks pretty much done and dusted.

Dame Helen Mirren's acceptance speech

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