Surprises! Shocks! Shutouts! It happens every year, and this year was no different. The Academy threw us some curveballs (and messed up my batting average) but the surprises were at least pleasant ones…
Well, some of them.
Let’s jump in:
Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
Michel Hanazavicius, The Artist
Alexander Payne, The Descendants
Martin Scorsese, Hugo
Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life
I got FOUR OUT OF FIVE here. Allen, Hanazavicius, Payne and Scorsese were a given, but that fifth spot was tricky. I went with David Fincher for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, based mainly on the fact that the Director’s Guild of America (DGA) nominated him and because Malick’s experimental film was polarizing. Turns out The Tree of Life had more lingering support than one thought.
And let’s face it, he got burned last year.
Berenice Bejo, The Artist
Jessica Chastain, The Help
Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids
Octavia Spencer, The Help
Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs
FOUR OUT OF FIVE. I get points for guessing all that noise about Bridesmaids being a surprise Oscar contender would manifest here with a nod for McCarthy. Shaileen Woodley is the latest ingenue to be shut out of this category, despite her strong work in The Descendants. Hence, McTeer’s in.
Kenneth Branaugh, My Week with Marilyn
Jonah Hill, Moneyball
Nick Nolte, Warrior
Christopher Plummer, Beginners
Max Von Sydow, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
FOUR OUT OF FIVE. Surprise! Despite widespread acclaim, Albert Brooks failed to score a nod for Drive. As expected, Plummer and Nolte scored for career-topping turns, joined by Von Sydow for his wordless performance in Extremely Loud, making a surprise appearance in several key categories.
Also, as expected, Andy Serkis was denied for his incredible character work in Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Whether it’s in costume, out of costume (Hello, Michael Fassbender), or from underneath digital makeup or physical makeup, acting is acting. And Serkis is one of the best character actors working today. His performance in Apes was a watershed moment in motion capture acting and one of the most stirring of the year.
Come on, Academy … Jonah Hill was good in Moneyball, but only when you compare him to other Jonah Hill “performances.”
Glenn Close, Albert Nobbs
Viola Davis, The Help
Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
Rooney Mara, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Michelle Williams, My Week with Marilyn
I’ve correctly predicted all five Best Actress nominees every year for the past decade, and for the first time, I got only FOUR OUR OF FIVE. I expected more love for Tilda Swinton’s horrified mom in We Need to Talk about Kevin, but am pleasantly surprised Mara made the cut.
Mara’s bold casting as iconic punk hacker Lisbeth Salander in Dragon Tattoo makes sense for a great many reasons: You’d have to go back to Scarlett O’Hara to find a female role with such built-in anticipation, and she nailed it. Also, Mara had to follow Noomi Rapace’s unbelievably great performance in the original Swedish versions. And she still nailed it.
Demián Bichir, A Better Life
George Clooney, The Descendants
Jean Dujardin, The Artist
Gary Oldman, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
Brad Pitt, Moneyball
FOUR OUR OF FIVE. I was correct in assuming Bichir would score a nod for his little-seen A Better Life, based on the movie’s fervent following. I was also correct in predicting that Oldman could sneak in if too many voters were frightened by Michael Fassbender’s penis, er, performance, in Shame. And it appears they were!
Believe it or not, Oldman had never been nominated before,.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Midnight in Paris
The Tree of Life
First, there were five nominees, then ten. Now, the number of nominees will depend on how many first-place-vote points each film amasses. The aforementioned Oscar pundits have all settled on seven as the probable magic number of Best Picture nominees, based on – well, who knows?
But we got nine instead, and the biggest surprise was the inclusion of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Even though he didn’t score a Best Director nod this time, Stephen Daldry has landed a fourth Best Picture nod for his fourth film, an Oscar rarity.
Also surprising: the inclusion of Malick’s Tree of Life, a movie that only seemed to divide as the year has worn on. Apparently, Tree’s list of supporters is longer than those batting for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which failed to land a Picture nod despite a Producers Guild nomination.
The official tally:
The Artist- 10
War Horse- 6
The Descendants- 5
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo- 5
The Help- 4
Albert Nobbs- 3
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2- 3
Midnight in Paris- 3
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy- 3
The Academy Awards will air February 24th.
— DENNIS WILLIS