Well, the Oscar nominations are out. As there are in any year, there were a number of surprises and a few unexpected snubs. To begin…
9 Best Picture Nominees
After all the questioning and brouhaha when the voting rules were tweaked (in an effort to lessen the nominees from an arguably bloated 10), nothing much changed in the end. All the talk of whether there would be 7 or 8 or even merely 5 ended up being rather moot.
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close Up for Best Picture
If there was one shock that had the biggest impact, it was Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close being included in race for the night’s biggest prize. There is a laundry list of movies that have been nominated for myriad Best Picture trophies at other awards shows over the last two months, but EL&IC has only been up for two of them (only one of which was even a national organization). Nobody expected a movie that has a 46% aggregate score on both Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes, and that didn’t receive a single four-star review, to end vying for Best Picture. The Academy knew people would react that way, too, because it was notably left last of the names read.
Steven Spielberg Snubbed
Since prognosticators began predicting the nominees back in December, it’s been taken as given that Michel Hazanavicius, Alexander Payne, Martin Scorsese, and Steven Spielberg were all locks for Best Director nominations. All the talk has been revolving around who would occupy the fifth slot. The two strongest contenders were Terrence Malick and Woody Allen, but most people were giving Malick the edge. Few people expected both Malick and Allen would get recognition, at the expense of one of the “locks.” Spielberg, especially, seemed a sure thing, having been nominated for Best Director six times so far (and having won twice).
War Horse has been losing momentum since December, though. While a month ago, the three top contenders for Best Picture were The Artist, The Descendants, and War Horse, that’s no longer the case. In the weeks since the film’s wide release, affection for the movie has rapidly cooled. Hugo is now the third Top-3 contender for Picture, and without the love behind the movie itself, the support for Spielberg just wasn’t there, come voting time.
Demian Bichir Joins the Best Actor Race
Just like with the Director race, people had been presuming the Best Actor race had four locks, in the form of George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Jean Dujardin, and Michael Fassbender for his brave performance in Shame. While everyone was busy wondering whether the fifth slot would go to Leonardo DiCaprio (for his turn in J. Edgar) or Gary Oldman, Bichir rode a quiet wave of support for his strong performance in the little-seen drama. The casualty was Fassbender, who had an amazingly impressive year – starring Jane Eyre, X-Men: First Class, Shame, A Dangerous Method, and Haywire within a 12-month period – but walked away without so much as a nomination to show for it.
Tintin Snubbed for Best Animated Picture
There has been much debate recently about whether The Adventures of Tintin counts as animation or not. In theory, it’s the exact same process that was used for The Polar Express, which most would argue is, indeed, animated. Much has changed since 2004, however, especially computer technology. Ever since James Cameron practically perfected photorealistic motion-capture CGI with Avatar, the days of the “uncanny valley” are pretty much gone. Look no further for proof than the chimps in last summer’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which many people didn’t even realize were entirely portrayed by actors in motion-capture suits.
There’s no doubt Rise of the Planet of the Apes is live-action, though, because even though it utilized motion capture for some of the characters, the rest of the actors and movie were shown as filmed. As well, the motion-capture animation was used to photorealistic effect in every way. The Adventures of Tintin, however, was entirely motion-capture, without any filmed parts visible to the audience. In addition, while all the background characters were flawlessly photorealistic, the central 5 or 6 characters all looked artistically different from the exact proportions of human faces and bodies. (Think of the character design of the people in The Incredibles and you’ll understand what I mean.)
Because of those factors, there’s a massive divide between those who feel the movie is animated and those who don’t. The Academy, apparently, does not. This is why, despite it winning Best Animated Picture just last week at the Golden Globes, it didn’t even receive a nomination at the Oscars. It’s not alone, though…
Pixar Snubbed for First Time Ever
Ever since the Best Animated Picture category was introduced in 2001, every Pixar movie has been up for the award. Some of their movies didn’t win, but they were at least always nominated. Cars 2 is the first Pixar movie of the last decade to not even be in the running. While no one expected it to win, after being the first Pixar movie to bomb with both critics and audiences (over the age of ten, at least), no one expected it to be ignored completely, especially when it was announced a month or so ago that there would be five nominees in the category this year.
A Few Other Surprises
While they weren’t shocks, there were a few other moments of note in the nominations. Margin Call got great reviews and lots of raves for its screenplay, but its Best Original Screenplay nomination was unexpected, particularly in such a competitive year. Also unexpected was the moment when everyone realized there were only two nominees in the Best Song category. Lastly, in one of the more interesting all-around developments, Hugo walked away from the nominations standing tallest. While The Artist has been the critical and awards-show darling of the season, Hugo received the most nominations, at 11. (The Artist received 10.)
All the groundswell behind Hugo has now vaulted that movie to being one of the three major contenders this year, effectively usurping War Horse’s spot. It’s unlikely there’s enough time for Hugo to overtake The Artist or The Descendants before the Academy voters’ ballots are due, but it’s interesting to see the highest all-around nominations total go to a moving ode to silent cinema other than The Artist.