Wednesday, January 25, 2012

2012 Oscar Nominations Offer Usual Surprises and Snubs

By Josh Sewell
Researcher of Film and Television Trends

This year's Oscar nominations were announced on Jan. 24 and, as always, there were a few surprising snubs and inclusions. Here are the nominees in some of the top categories, along with my gut reactions.

Best Supporting Actor:

Kenneth Branagh, “My Week with Marilyn”

Jonah Hill, “Moneyball”

Nick Nolte, “Warrior”

Christopher Plummer, “Beginners”
Max Von Sydow, “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close”

The biggest surprise here is Von Sydow’s inclusion, which should’ve given pundits a big heads-up about the Best Picture shocker we’ll discuss later. I’m glad Nolte got a nod, since his work in the little-seen “Warrior” is the best part of a phenomenal movie. I think the winner here will be Plummer, who has already racked up some other awards for his terrific performance in an otherwise insufferable flick.

Best Supporting Actress:

Berenice Bejo, “The Artist”

Jessica Chastain, “The Help”

Melissa McCarthy, “Bridesmaids”
Janet McTeer, “Albert Nobbs”

Octavia Spencer, “The Help”

Snubs aren’t exactly stunning when the talent pool in this category is so vast. Still, I was surprised that Shailene Woodley wasn’t nominated for her strong work in “The Descendants.” It appears that McTeer got her spot, since everyone else was pretty much a lock. Chastain being nominated for “The Help” instead of “The Tree of Life” probably hurts hers and Spencer’s chances, since they’ll probably split the vote. If that happens, look for Bejo to take home the trophy for her adorable breakthrough performance. Although I’d be totally fine with a surprise win for the hilarious McCarthy.

Best Actor:

Demian Bechir, “A Better Life”

George Clooney, “The Descendants”
Juan Dujardin, “The Artist”
Gary Oldman, “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”

Brad Pitt, “Moneyball”

Bechir is the surprise nominee here, edging out a superb performance by Michael Fassbender in “Shame.” In hindsight, that flick was likely too extreme for Oscar’s more conservative voting bloc. The other big news is Oldman getting his first(!) nomination in a career worthy of many more. A win for him would be welcome, but it’s likely a toss-up between Clooney and Dujardin.

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”

Mara (deservedly) snuck into a crowded field, but I doubt she has a path to the win. This one has been a face off between Streep and Davis since the beginning. Honestly, it could go either way, but my gut tells me that Davis will come out on top because she has the better-reviewed movie.

Best Animated Feature:

"A Cat in Paris"

"Chico & Rita"

"Kung Fu Panda 2"

"Puss in Boots"


This marks the first time Pixar hasn’t had an entry in this category, thanks to the critically lambasted “Cars 2” (which I didn’t think it was that bad). I’ve never heard of “A Cat in Paris” or “Chico & Rita,” which seemed to be the general consensus after the nominations were announced. My first impression is that “Rango” will emerge victorious, though I wouldn’t mind a “Puss in Boots” surprise.

Best Director:

Woody Allen, “Midnight in Paris”

Michel Hazanavicius, “The Artist”
Terrence Malick, “The Tree of Life”

Alexander Payne, “The Descendants”

Martin Scorsese, “Hugo”

If you want to know the films with a real shot at Best Picture, just match these directors with their work. It’s not scientifically binding or anything, but it lets you know what probably would’ve made the cut if it the big prize remained a five-flick category. If we judge by current momentum, I’d say Hazanavicius gets the win because of all the love “The Artist” is getting. However, sometimes the Academy considers this a consolation prize; in that case, I’d give the edge to Scorsese, who tackles similar Hollywood-friendly material on a grander scale.

Best Picture:

"The Artist"

"The Descendants"

"Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close"

"The Help"


"Midnight in Paris"


"The Tree of Life"

"War Horse"

And we’ve come to the biggest shocker of this year’s nominations. Because of the new rules placed on the field by the Academy, most pundits were expecting six or seven films to be in contention for the top prize. Instead, Jan. 24’s announcement revealed nine nominees, including the completely unexpected recognition of Sept. 11 drama “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.” That says more about the campaigning skills of producer Scott Rudin and director Stephen Daldry than it does about the quality of the movie, which is passable but nowhere near the quality of its competitors. No matter, as “The Artist” has had this thing in the bag for months now. Pending any changing tides in the next few weeks (which is always possible), it’s your winner.

Be sure to watch ABC on Sunday, Feb. 26 at 8 p.m. to see the winners. Host Billy Crystal returns after a long absence, a safe choice after last year’s debacle with James Franco and Anne Hathaway.

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