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Last Updated: Friday, 26 January 2007, 15:20 GMT
Oscars panel: Scott Williams
Some intriguing statistics arise from this year's Oscars shortlist, which is as notable for its omissions as for its surprise inclusions.

For the first time, black actors make up 25% of all acting nominations.

Of these, Forest Whitaker, Eddie Murphy and Jennifer Hudson are widely tipped to win their respective categories.

This is a refreshing move towards diversity on the part of the staid Academy, though it may be lost on Matthew Knowles, who a fortnight ago blamed lingering Hollywood racism for the failure of his daughter Beyonce to win a Golden Globe.

MEET THE PANEL
Scott Williams
Name: Scott Williams
Age: 29
Occupation: Human resources
Nationality: Australian
Lives: Melbourne, Australia
Favourite film: Psycho (1960)

Her film, Dreamgirls, nabbed the most nominations overall - eight - but is jarringly absent from best picture (a first for a nominations tally leader).

Its spot went to Letters from Iwo Jima, which also landed Clint Eastwood his fourth nomination for best director.

The most delightful inclusion alongside Clint is Paul Greengrass, deservedly recognised for his singular achievements on United 93.

It is a true director's film, skilfully cutting between the chaos of the control room and the events unfolding mid-air with a palpable sense of dread.

Meanwhile, Hispanic film-making has never been better represented.

Two Spanish-language performances have been nominated (Penelope Cruz and Adriana Barraza), while Mexicans Alfonso Cuaron, Guillermo del Toro and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu were all honoured with writing or directing nominations.

In such a progressive year, the omission of Pedro Almodovar's Volver from best foreign film seems an egregious error.

Dame Helen Mirren in The Queen
Helen Mirren's win is now as inevitable as death

John Williams' sabbatical from film scoring meant the Academy had to think for themselves this year, instead of blindly nominating him in their usual Pavlov's dogs fashion (in two decades he has only three times been absent from the shortlist).

There is a nomination for Alexandre Desplat (The Queen), the exciting young composer whose brilliant work on Nicole Kidman's Birth was criminally ignored two years ago.

Lastly, since Helen Mirren's win is now as inevitable as death, all interest in the best actress race lies in the numbers.

This year will see Kate Winslet's fifth nomination and fifth loss - all by the age of 31.

Meryl Streep, who has notched up her 14th nomination (the most ever) and is headed towards her 10th consecutive loss, had one win from just two nominations at the same age.

While Winslet is sure to eventually win, the same is unlikely for Peter O'Toole, whose eighth nomination this year will almost certainly be his eighth loss.



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