Oscar Breakdown: Surprises and Snubs

The 82nd Annual Academy Award nominations were announced this morning, and one would think the expansion of the Best Picture category to include ten films instead of five for the first time since 1944 would cut down on the talk of films getting snubbed, but that doesn’t seem to be the case so far. Morgan Freeman, nominated for Best Actor for his portrayal of Nelson Mandela in Invictus, was openly disappointed that they didn’t receive a Best Picture nomination. Oscar perennial Clint Eastwood didn’t even earn a Best Director shot, either, but Freeman seems to be the only one who expected Invictus to rack up the nominations – it was essentially just a traditional sports movie, after all. Freeman’s performance as such an important historical figure wasn’t a surprising nomination, but Matt Damon’s nod for Best Supporting Actor seems a bit surprising, considering Anthony Mackie’s absence for The Hurt Locker.

You know the media is going to make a huge deal about the fact that James Cameron and Kathryn Bigelow, the directors of Avatar and The Hurt Locker respectively – both tied for the most nominations with 9, are also former spouses, having been married from 1989 to 1991. That particular narrative will be helped by the dichotomy between their two films – Avatar being a monstrous fantasy adventure juggernaut of popularity and massive budget madness, and The Hurt Locker being a low-budget, unflinchingly realistic drama.

Perhaps the biggest surprise was the Coen brothers’ film A Serious Man making the Best Picture cut after it was counted out by nearly everybody. Hollywood Elsewhere’s Jeffrey Wells claimed it was “the only whoo-hoo!” among the announced contenders. “Even I, one of the film’s biggest supporters, had lost hope that it would be included among the ten because so few seemed to share my feelings. After a while you just give up. But good sense prevailed among enough Academy members — thank the Movie Godz and the better angels of their nature.”

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Yet he also rails against the exclusion of the similarly titled A Single Man as well. “Why didn’t A Single Man make the cut? It certainly should have, being a far more impassioned, thematically distinctive and exquisitely shaped drama than The Blind Side. Was it the charge that it seemed too fashion-spready? That was one of the reason it should have been nominated — it gave the film a sense of visual harmony and expressed the tasteful tidiness in Colin Firth’s character. Did some people have a problem with a preponderance of “Gay-O-Vision,” to borrow a term from David Poland?”

Speaking of The Hot Button’s Poland, he was surprised by District 9 making the cut, but also thought that Julianne Moore’s performance in A Single Man was snubbed, and is one of several people thinking Penelope Cruz being nominated over Marion Cotillard in Nine seems a bit off.

Other notable snubs include Emily Blunt being left out for The Young Victoria, James Gandolfini from In The Loop and Alfred Molina from An Education, not to mention almost everybody involved with Jane Campion’s Bright Star and, in my opinion, Robin Williams for World’s Greatest Dad.

The biggest surprise might be the little-seen festival film The Secret of Kells earning a Best Animated Feature nomination over Hayao Miyazaki’s Ponyo. The former is due to get a wider release in March, so maybe the rest of us can find out how that came to pass.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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