Oscar Nominations Reaction (2012)

brent johnson dissects the Academy Award nominees announced this morning …

For an awards season some have called predictable, there were a slew of surprises this morning when the Academy Award nominations were announced. Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Original Screenplay, Best Adapted Screenplay — all of them had shockers and snubs.

Pop-Break co-founder and resident Oscar expert Brent Johnson looks at the major categories …

BEST PICTURE
The Artist
The Descendants
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
The Help
Hugo
Midnight In Paris
Moneyball
The Tree Of Life
War Horse

Major Snubs: Bridesmaids, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Quick Thoughts: This category was supposed to be a mystery. It turned out to be a bit baffling. The Academy changed its voting rules this year so that only films receiving five percent of first-place votes make the category. That meant anywhere from five to 10 films could have gotten in. Nine made the final cut. Not seven. Not 10. Nine. Really? And at least one of them was completely unexpected. Extremely Loud, a polarizing Sept. 11-themed film, had been snubbed by every pre-Oscar awards group — but somehow made the list here. War Horse also slipped in after it seemed to have faded this awards season. The Tree Of Life was not a total surprise — its love-it-or-hate-it reviews fit the new voting rules well. And Moneyball — a film that recognizes the beauty of baseball and manages to touch non-sports fans — more than belongs in this race. But nine nominees? You might as well have had 10. That way you could throw in a gripping choice like the very violent, very modern Dragon Tattoo. Or a solid, underappreciated drama like George Clooney’s The Ides Of March. Or a well-loved, box-office hit, like the smart and saucy Bridesmaids.

Early Prediction: The Artist is still the favorite. But Hugo picked up steam this morning, scoring the most nominations: 11 to The Artist‘s 10. And don’t count out the Golden Globes’ best drama winner The Descendants. As for The Help? There had been talking it could be a spoiler, but it failed to score directing and screenplay nods — which is not a good sign.

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BEST ACTOR
Demian Bichir (A Better Life)
George Clooney (The Descendants)
Jean Dujardin (The Artist)
Gary Oldman (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy)
Brad Pitt (Moneyball)

Major Snubs: Michael Fassbender (Shame), Leonardo DiCaprio (J. Edgar)

Quick Thoughts: Sid & Nancy. The Professional. The Contender. All roles that should have scored the great Gary Oldman Oscar noms over the years. Finally, he gets one. Thank God. It wasn’t a surprise to see Leo bumped out despite the gravitas he brought to playing J. Edgar Hoover. The bigger shock was Fassbender — a young star in the midst of a breakout year — missing the cut. Instead, the final slot went to Mexican actor Bichir. His inclusion here was similar to Javier Bardem’s nom for Buitiful last year — a praised performance from a little-seen film that manages to slip in.

Early Prediction: This could end up a race between two Hollywood megastars who turned in fantastic, nuanced performances: Clooney and Pitt. That is, if the charming Dujardin doesn’t steal it.

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BEST ACTRESS
Glenn Close (Albert Nobbs)
Viola Davis (The Help)
Rooney Mara (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo)
Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady)
Michelle Williams (My Week With Marilyn)

Major Snub: Tilda Swinton (We Need To Talk About Kevin)

Quick Thoughts: Some thought Mara’s daring portrayal might have been too much for the Academy. But she snatched the final slot from Swinton. Good for her — especially since her work in last year’s The Social Network deserved more attention, too.

Early Prediction: This category will come down to one question: Davis or Streep?

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BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Kenneth Branagh (My Week With Marilyn)
Jonah Hill (Moneyball)
Nick Nolte (Warrior)
Christopher Plummer (Beginners)
Max Von Sydow (Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close)

Major Snub: Albert Brooks (Drive)

Quick Thoughts: I love that you can now say the phrase ‘Oscar nominee Jonah Hill.’ He deserves that title for his subtle work in Moneyball. As for Brooks? His against-type turn was apparently muscled out by Von Sydow, who cashed in on the sudden love for Extremely Close.

Early Prediction: Plummer — a beloved veteran actor who has never won — is the one to beat here.

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BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Berenice Bejo (The Artist)
Jessica Chastain (The Help)
Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids)
Janet McTeer (Albert Nobbs)
Octavia Spencer (The Help)

Major Snub: Shailene Woodley (The Descendants)

Quick Thoughts: It’s a shame Woodley isn’t here. She was so powerful in The Descendants, going toe-to-toe with George Clooney at the height of his prowess. It’s also a tad surprising. The Academy often loves young actors — especially in the supporting categories. But the final slot went to this category’s only previous nominee: McTeer. As for McCarthy? Her nod isn’t a shocker, but it’s good to see the Academy didn’t ignore a true comedic performance.

Early Prediction: It’s Spencer’s race to lose.

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BEST DIRECTOR
Woody Allen (Midnight In Paris)
Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist)
Terrence Malick (The Tree Of Life)
Alexander Payne (The Descendants)
Martin Scorsese (Hugo)

Major Snubs: David Fincher (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo), Tate Taylor (The Help), Steven Spielberg (War Horse)

Quick Thoughts: It was a surprise but not a total shock for Malick to push out Fincher for the final spot. The Academy does go on love streaks with directors (think Woody Allen in the late ’70s), and Fincher has been on their shortlist the last few years by crafting some of the most edgy mainstream films around. But what does the Academy’s powerful directors’ branch love even more? Respected vets like Malick.

Early Prediction: This one’s is a toss-up. Hazanavicius, Payne or Scorsese are all possible.

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BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist)
Annie Mumolo, Kristen Wiig (Bridesmaids)
J.C. Chandor (Margin Call)
Woody Allen (Midnight In Paris)
Asghar Farhadi (A Separation)

Major Snubs: Will Reiser (50/50), Tom McCarthy, Joe Tiboni (Win Win), Diablo Cody (Young Adult)

Quick Thoughts: The screenplay categories often feature surprise entries. This year, it’s the timely Wall Street drama Margin Call and A Separation, the favorite to win Best Foreign Film.

Early Prediction: Expect Allen to win his fourth Oscar for his clever, beguiling ode to nostalgia. Unless, of course, an Artist sweep is in the works …
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BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, Jim Rash (The Descendants)
John Logan (Hugo)
George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Beau Willimon (The Ides Of March)
Steven Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin, Stan Chervin (Moneyball)
Bridget O’Connor, Peter Straughan (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy)

Major Snubs: Tate Taylor (The Help), Steven Zaillian (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo), Richard Curtis & Lee Hall (War Horse)

Quick Thoughts: Clooney’s political thriller went from Oscar frontrunner to also-ran this awards season. But his nom here is an unexpected consolation prize. But the bigger shock was Tinker Tailor‘s inclusion over Best Picture contender The Help.

Early Prediction: It’s a fight between the smart, touching and emotionally wrenching Descendants script vs. the smart, touching and quick-witted Moneyball script.

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FINAL NOTE: The Academy’s increasingly perplexing music branch picked only two nominees for Best Original Song: ‘Man Or Muppet’ from The Muppets and ‘Real In Rio’ from Rio. Really? This used to be a category filled with pop stars, wonderful tunes and exciting surprises — like Elliott Smith’s nod in 1997 for ‘Miss Misery’ from Good Will Hunting. But the last few years, they’ve snubbed Prince and Paul McCartney. This year, it was Elton John and Mary J. Blige. What the hell?