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Oscar Nominations 2011: The Year’s Biggest Snubs and Surprises

“So glad they finally announced the Oscars,” our friend Eugene Mirman tweeted this morning. “I was getting worried that no one would give any awards to films this year.” No worries, Eugene! Hollywood’s season of self-congratulation will crash to a conclusion on February 27th, when America’s Secret Boyfriend James Franco and Secret Girlfriend Anne Hathaway host the 83rd Academy Awards. After the jump, we’ll take a gander at the surprises and snubs in this year’s noms.

Best Motion Picture of the Year:
Black Swan
The Fighter
Inception
127 Hours
The Kids are All Right
The King’s Speech
The Social Network
Toy Story 3
True Grit
Winter’s Bone

SURPRISES: Many had pegged the low-budget, low-profile Winter’s Bone as their “dark horse” nominee, though some worried that it was too under the radar to muster up support. It presumably benefited from the expansion of the category from five titles to ten; the same could probably be said of Toy Story 3, which (like Up last year) was too damn good to be relegated to the Best Animated Film category.

SNUBS: Those who have seen Rabbit Hole are just rhapsodic about it, so maybe it’s just a case of not enough people seeing it? That film and Blue Valentine both scored their only nominations in the Best Actress category, though many (including some of us here) considered both to be among the year’s ten best. Mike Leigh’s Another Year also has its boosters; they’ll have to settle for an Original Screenplay nomination, aka “the consolation prize.” Some also predicted a nomination for The Town, but alas, it’s the kind of genre piece that is too often written off as “not serious enough” for Best Picture recognition.

Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role:
Annette Bening (The Kids are All Right)
Nicole Kidman (Rabbit Hole)
Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone)
Natalie Portman (Black Swan)
Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine)

SURPRISES: It doesn’t really qualify as a “surprise,” but anyone who’s seen True Grit knows good and well that Hailee Steinfeld is the leading actress; she’s in every single scene, and more than holds her own against her seasoned co-stars. But her studio campaigned her as a Supporting Actress nominee, presuming that category to be less competitive than this one, which will surely be a down-to-the-wire race between Portman and Bening. (The same argument could probably be made about Amy Adams in The Fighter; as it stands, she and Melissa Leo risk cancelling each other out in the Supporting Actress category.)

SNUBS: There was some talk of Lesley Manville picking up a nomination for Another Year; there are also a few of us who were quietly rooting for Greta Gerwig’s knockout turn in Greenberg to get some props. And Halle Berry was unable to propel her Golden Globe nomination for Frankie and Alice into an Oscar nomination (again, presumably because so few people have actually seen the movie); same with co-host Anne Hathaway, for Love and Other Drugs. But this was one of the more easily predictable categories, what with that whole “so few good roles for women” thing and all.


Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role:
Javier Bardem (Biutiful)
Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network)
Colin Firth (The King’s Speech)
James Franco (127 Hours)
Jeff Bridges (True Grit)

SURPRISES: Apparently all those “Why isn’t anyone talking about Javier Bardem” emails that we kept getting from Biutiful’s PR agency did some good; though he’s a previous winner, few were predicting Bardem would be recognized for his turn in Alejandro González Iñárritu’s downbeat Spanish-language drama (which is also up for Best Foreign Film).

SNUBS: These are all worthy nominees, but it seems kind of silly to nominate Michelle Williams for Blue Valentine and not her co-star Ryan Gosling, who turns in a masterful two-part performance in what is very much an extended, heart-wrenching piece of duet acting. (He was also terrific in All Good Things, but that’s another matter.) And how’s about a little love for Robert Duvall’s fabulous old-coot turn in the underrated Get Low?

Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role:
Christian Bale (The Fighter)
John Hawkes (Winter’s Bone)
Jeremy Renner (The Town)
Mark Ruffalo (The Kids are All Right)
Geoffrey Rush (The King’s Speech)

SURPRISES: Hollywood’s considerable crush on Jeremy Renner is evidenced by his inclusion here; he was awfully good, but it wasn’t a performance that was getting much ink in the run-up to the announcements. And the Academy’s affection for Winter’s Bone has resulted in a welcome nod for scrawny character actor John Hawkes, who you’ve seen in a hundred things even if you don’t know his name (he was Kenny Powers’s brother on East Bound and Down, Lennon on Lost, Sol Star on Deadwood, and the male lead in Me and You and Everyone We Know).

SNUBS: Justin Timberlake was reportedly campaigning pretty hard to get nominated for The Social Network, but he could only hide from Yogi Bear for so long. Of that film’s talented supporting cast, the real shutout was future Spiderman Andrew Garfield, who lent the picture its fleeting sense of conscience. Oh, and Bill Murry for Get Low. (Did everybody just lose their screener DVDs?)


Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role:
Amy Adams (The Fighter)
Helena Bonham Carter (The King’s Speech)
Melissa Leo (The Fighter)
Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit)
Jacki Weaver (Animal Kingdom)

SURPRISES: Few performances this year were as complex and chilling as Jacki Weaver’s; sure, her work as the matriarch of an Australian crime family got a Golden Globe nomination (Hollywood Foreign Press, amIright?), but it’s still a welcome addition here.

SNUBS: We’re of the (admittedly minority) opinion that Melissa Leo’s performance in The Fighter is just a tad overcooked, so it’s a real shame that Mila Kunis’s underplayed turn in Black Swan was passed over for Leo’s scenery-chewing.

Best Animated Feature Film of the Year:
How to Train Your Dragon
The Illusionist
Toy Story 3

SURPRISES: The Illusionist was a low-key hand-drawn French/British co-production based on an unproduced Jacques Tati screenplay, so its inclusion among the top three animated features is a bit of a surprise, considering…

SNUBS: …that they didn’t show Disney’s Tangled any love. In all fairness, though, The Illusionist is reportedly quite lovely, and Tangled really isn’t very good at all.

Achievement in Directing:
Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan)
David O. Russell (The Fighter)
Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech)
David Fincher (The Social Network)
Joel and Ethan Coen (True Grit)

SURPRISES and SNUBS are sort of irrelevant here; now that Best Picture is ten movies, the Directing category (which usually lined up pretty directly with Best Picture in the five-nominee days) primarily serves as a tip into what the Best Picture nominees would have been, had there only been five of them. As such, this looks like a pretty typical list of Best Picture nominees; that said, Christopher Nolan sure had to direct the hell out of Inception, while David O. Russell’s primary jobs appear to have been a) point camera at actors, and b) don’t curse anybody out while the camera’s rolling.


Best Documentary Feature:
Exit Through the Gift Shop (Banksy, director)
Gasland (Josh Fox, director)
Inside Job (Charles Ferguson, director)
Restrepo (Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger, directors)
Waste Land (Lucy Walker, director)

SURPRISES: It was a very good year for documentaries, so about the only surprise here is Waste Land, a profile of contemporary artist Vik Muniz which had a small theatrical run, but garnered nowhere near the attention that its four fellow nominees did.

SNUBS: So Oscar winner Alex Gibney directs four movies this year (counting the omnibus Freakonomics) and not one of them gets nominated? Seriously? Many (including Roger Ebert) considered Waiting for “Superman” a sure thing; turns out, not so much. Also: good luck finding anyone who saw Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work and didn’t love it, but no nomination for that one either.

A FEW OTHER RANDOM NOTES:

* Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz, John J. McLaughlin. Those are the names of the three writers of Black Swan. It’s up to you to remember them, since (in an inexplicable repeat of the Golden Globes) they were not nominated for Best Original Screenplay.

* Due to the weirdly strict rules of the Academy’s music branch, two of the year’s best original scores (Clint Mansell’s scorching Black Swan music, and Carter Burwell’s moving True Grit score) aren’t nominated for Best Original Score. How to Train Your Dragon was, though, so… yay?

* More than one person has posed the question: What was Best Adapted Screenplay nominee Toy Story 3 adapted from? The answer: Toy Story 1 and Toy Story 2. (“Based on characters created by” blah blah blah.)

* Ebert again: “In the best Foreign Film Category, there is no justice if the nominees do not include I Am Love.” No justice, no peace!

* James Franco is both a nominee and co-host, which seems like it could be awkward, we guess? At any rate, according to the L.A. Times, this isn’t that odd phenomenon’s first occurrence; back in 1973, Michael Caine co-hosted while nominated for Sleuth, and in 1959, host David Niven won Best Actor for Separate Tables.

So, what do you think? Who got robbed this year — and who was duly rewarded?

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