Oscar season has officially begun. In a presentation hosted by actress Jennifer Lawrence and Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences president Tom Sherak, the 2012 Academy Award nominations were announced this morning. While most of the nominees fell right in line with previous speculation and expectations, a few surprises managed to sneak in.
Martin Scorsese’s ‘Hugo’ leads the pack with eleven nominations in all, but is likely to win only in some of the technical categories. ‘The Artist’ trails closely behind with ten nominations and a lot more buzz. In a reflection of the Academy’s new rule change, nine movies were nominated for Best Picture. Starting this year, that category may have anywhere from five to ten nominees. The exact number will depend on what percentage of the voting each film received.
Let’s take a look at the nominees in some of the major categories. Keep in mind that I am terrible at predicting winners. Of course, that won’t stop me from speculating anyway.
- ‘The Artist’
- ‘The Descendants’
- ‘Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close’
- ‘The Help’
- ‘Midnight in Paris’
- ‘The Tree of Life’
- ‘War Horse’
Surprises: Until it actually happened, ‘Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close’ seemed very unlikely to make this cut. The film received mostly mixed reviews without a great deal of enthusiasm. Although I wouldn’t say that a nomination for ‘The Tree of Life’ was unexpected, I also wouldn’t have been surprised had it not appeared here. That movie has proven incredibly divisive among both critics and fans. Those who love it absolutely adore it, but it seems like pretty much everyone else walked out in the middle of it.
Josh’s Prediction: I would guess that this race comes down to ‘The Artist’ and ‘The Descendants’, with ‘The Artist’ more likely to pull ahead. However, its chances may be hindered by poor box office performance (though that didn’t stop ‘The Hurt Locker’ from winning) and reports of viewers demanding refunds from theaters once they realized that it was a silent film. It’s also very possible that these two movies could split the vote between each other, which might lead the Oscar-friendly, audience-pandering ‘The Help’ to swoop in and claim victory.
- Woody Allen, ‘Midnight in Paris’
- Michel Hazanavicius, ‘The Artist’
- Terrence Malick, ‘The Tree of Life’
- Alexander Payne, ‘The Descendants’
- Martin Scorsese, ‘Hugo’
Surprises: Much to the disgust of his fans, David Fincher failed to score a nomination for directing ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’. Personally, I have to question how much of an achievement it really is to throw together a practically scene-for-scene remake of a movie that just came out a year ago.
Josh’s Prediction: I’m calling this one for Michel Hazanavicius, for the audacity of making a black & white silent film in 2011, if nothing else. I happen to love the film and feel that it’s much more than a simple gimmick. I believe that Hazanavicius genuinely deserves the award. However, this particular category has traditionally been closely tied to the Best Picture prize. If ‘The Descendants’ picks up steam for Best Picture, Alexander Payne could ride that to a directing trophy as well.
- Demián Bichir, ‘A Better Life’
- George Clooney, ‘The Descendants’
- Jean Dujardin, ‘The Artist’
- Gary Oldman, ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’
- Brad Pitt, ‘Moneyball’
Surprises: Who is the heck is Demián Bichir? I had to look up ‘A Better Life’ to remind myself what it even is. Chris Weitz’s illegal-immigrant drama vanished from theaters in a blip last year, and received mostly negative reviews. This is an extremely out-of-left-field nomination. Meanwhile, Michael Fassbender and Michael Shannon were both snubbed for their acclaimed performances in ‘Shame’ and ‘Take Shelter’ respectively.
Josh’s Prediction: Jean Dujardin is amazing in ‘The Artist’. He will almost certainly win this, though Clooney has gotten a lot of love for his performance in ‘The Descendants’ as well, and could sneak ahead. I expect that the fact that Clooney already has an Oscar will work against him.
- 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’
Surprises: Despite good notices for her role in ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’, Rooney Mara wasn’t expected to get a nomination in this category. No matter how good she is in the film, her performance will always be overshadowed by Noomi Rapace in the original Swedish movie. Many pundits are saying that Mara’s nomination knocked Tilda Swinton out of the running for ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin’.
Josh’s Prediction: Did you realize that Glenn Close doesn’t have an Oscar yet? She’s been nominated five times previously but never won. That kind of track record could make her a sentimental favorite for a career-achievement consolation prize. However, I think it’s more likely that Meryl Streep will pick up a third trophy. The Academy loves her, and they love it when actors put on a lot of makeup and mimic famous people.
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’
Surprises: Jonah Hill has an Oscar nomination? For the rest of his life, he’ll be able to refer to himself as “Oscar Nominee Jonah Hill”? Wow. Who ever saw that coming? Meanwhile, Albert Brooks was not only expected to get a nomination here, but to be the likely winner as well. I can’t say that I’m disappointed by his omission, given how much I hated the film, but it’s a shock nonetheless. I’m also surprised that Nick Nolte landed a nomination for ‘Warrior’. I’ve heard good things about the movie and about his performance, but the film’s terrible box office performance seemed to doom it to being completely forgotten.
Josh’s Prediction: Christopher Plummer will walk home with this one. There’s no question about that. In his entire career, Plummer has only been nominated for an Oscar once before (for ‘The Station Agent’). Everyone loves him and everyone loved his performance in this movie.
Best Supporting Actress
- Bérénice Bejo, ‘The Artist’
- Jessica Chastain, ‘The Help’
- Melissa McCarthy, ‘Bridesmaids’
- Janet McTeer, ‘Albert Nobbs’
- Octavia Spencer, ‘The Help’
Surprises: Supporting Actress is typically the category where the Academy likes to toss a curve ball or two. In that respect, I don’t find Melissa McCarthy’s nomination for ‘Bridemaids’ to be a surprise at all.
Josh’s Prediction: Mrs. Z insists that Octavia Spencer is a 100% lock for this prize, and I have no reason to doubt her. Hollywood’s new “It Girl” Jessica Chastain will almost certainly have more nominations in her future.
‘Cars 2’ failed to grab even a nomination for Best Animated Feature this year. While the sequel took a great deal of criticism and is clearly Pixar’s weakest effort to date, is this a first for the studio?
Steven Spielberg’s ‘The Adventures of Tintin’ was also overlooked in the Animated Feature category. Poor Spielberg didn’t fare too well in general this year. Although his ‘War Horse’ somehow landed a Best Picture nomination, he didn’t make the cut for Best Director.
Despite a groundswell of support recently, the Academy refused to consider Andy Serkis’ motion-capture performance in ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ for the Best Supporting Actor category. The film will have to settle for a Best Visual Effects nomination (and probably a win there too).
No Supporting Actor nomination for Uggie from ‘The Artist’? For shame, Academy!
The Academy had no love for Ryan Gosling in any of his three feature film roles this year either.
The year’s biggest box office hit, ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2’, only scored nominations in the technical categories of Art Direction, Makeup and Visual Effects, of which it seems unlikely to win any. Although the film had only an outside chance of a Best Picture nomination, there was some possibility that the Academy might reward it there as a franchise summation, much as it previously lavished victory on ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King’.
A couple of the year’s most acclaimed documentaries, ‘Project Nim’ and ‘Into the Abyss’, were ignored completely in the Best Documentary Feature category. That’s pretty typical for the Oscars, though. Documentaries that people have actually heard of and might have had a chance to see are almost never acknowledged by the Academy. The highest-profile title in the nominated batch is ‘Pina’, Wim Wenders’ 3D dance documentary that played on a grand total of ten screens in its widest release.
You can find the full list of nominees at Oscar.com.