Why is this man smiling?
Because The Artist -- in which John Goodman plays a big time movie producer -- was one of the big winners at this year's Oscar nominations, that's why. Michel Hazanavicius's homage to silent era Hollywood received a whopping ten nominations, including Picture, Actor, Director, Screenplay, Art Direction, Cinematography... basically, every category except for sound (obviously). But The Artist wasn't the film that received the most nominations this morning; that honor falls to another tribute to early cinema, Martin Scorsese's Hugo, which scored 11 nods, including Picture, Director and Screenplay and a host of technical categories, from cinematography, to editing, to visual effects. Other strong showings were made by Moneyball (6 nominations), War Horse (also six, albeit the bulk of those were for technical categories), The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (five nominations, although again, those were mostly for technical categories), The Help and Midnight in Paris (both four nominations). The biggest surprises? Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close overcoming a critical lambasting and commercial indifference to secure a Best Picture nomination and the snubbing of critics' darling Albert Brooks in the Supporting Actor category for his image-redefining turn in Drive. Here's our gut reaction to the nominations for the major categories:
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
Midnight in Paris
The Tree of Life
Nice to see Terrence Malick's magnum opus, The Tree of Life, make the final list of nine, even though it doesn't stand the slightest chance of winning. Same goes for surprise nominee Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close and the respected, but not beloved baseball drama, Moneyball. No, the race (if you can call it that, considering the way that a certain silent film is winning every award in sight) boils down to The Artist vs. The Descendants, with Hugo taking the dark (not war) horse slot. We like all three films quite a bit, but our vote would have to go to Hugo in that three-way race.
Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist)
Alexander Payne (The Descendants)
Martin Scorsese (Hugo)
Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris)
Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life)
The big missing names here are Steven Spielberg and David Fincher; while War Horse just squeaked into the Best Picture category, its legendary director was shut out. And although the DGA included Fincher amongst its nominees for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the Academy at large didn't agree. Their slots were most likely taken by respected veterans Woody Allen and Terrence Malick, neither of whom, if history serves, will bother to show up on Oscar night. While The Artist seems poised for an overall sweep, Scorsese could emerge victorious if the voters decide to spread the wealth around a little. Payne, meanwhile, will likely have to content himself with an Adapted Screenplay statue.
Actor in a Supporting role
Kenneth Branagh (My Week With Marilyn)
Jonah Hill (Moneyball)
Nick Nolte (Warrior)
Christopher Plummer (Beginners)
Max von Sydow (Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close)
As we mentioned up top, the lack of Albert Brooks in this category is, to borrow the title of another nominee's film, extremely sad and incredibly boneheaded. On the other hand, we're quite pleased that Nick Nolte was recognized for his soulful turn in the otherwise overlooked fight flick Warrior. And the fact that Jonah Hill now has an Oscar nomination to his name is funnier than anything in The Sitter. (Not that Hill is bad in Moneyball, mind you; it's just hard to believe that the dude that once starred in Grandma's Boy and Accepted is now an Oscar nominee.)
Actress in a Supporting Role
Bérénice Bejo (The Artist)
Jessica Chastain (The Help)
Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids)
Janet McTeer (Albert Nobbs)
Octavia Spencer (The Help)
Excuse us a moment while we squee with glee over Melissa McCarthy's well-deserved Oscar nod for her bold and hilarious performance in Bridesmaids. We've loved her since her days as the Dragonfly Inn's chef and it's a real thrill to see her emerging as a legit movie star. Even better, she has a real shot at winning -- while the leading actor statues generally go to dramatic performances, the supporting categories are more generous to comic turns; witness past wins by Marisa Tomei (My Cousin Vinny), Mira Sorvino (Mighty Aphrodite) and Kevin Kline (A Fish Called Wanda) among others. But McCarthy has a formidable opponent in Octavia Spencer, the breakout star of The Help, which is just as big a hit as Bridesmaids.
Actor in a Leading Role
Demián Bichir (A Better Life)
George Clooney (The Descendants)
Jean Dujardin (The Artist)
Gary Oldman (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy)
Brad Pitt (Moneyball)
Largely ignored this awards season, the low-key spy thriller Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy roared back (in its typically quiet way) with a nomination for its star, Gary Oldman. The illegal immigration drama A Better Life proved to be the other little movie that could, picking up a nomination for leading man Demián Bichir. Though it always seemed like a long shot, we were hoping that Michael Shannon would make the cut for his extraordinary work in Take Shelter. Instead, we'll just prepare to be charmed by likely winner Jean Dujardin's acceptance speech.
Actress in a Leading Role
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)
No surprises here at all. The only question now is, which celebrity impersonation will the voters choose to reward: Meryl Streep's Margaret Thatcher or Michelle Williams's Marilyn Monroe? Or could The Help's box office grosses power the widely loved Viola Davis to victory, just like The Blind Side's commercial success helped pave the way for Sandra Bullock's win two years ago?
Writing (Original Screenplay)
Midnight in Paris
Don't laugh, but Bridesmaids could rack up a win here if the Supporting Actress category goes to Octavia Spencer. Or if voters are feeling particularly political, Margin Call could seize on the Occupy Wall Street sentiment. In a perfect world, the brilliant Iranian drama A Separation would go home with the Oscar, but we're thrilled that it's at least in the running.
Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
The Ides of March
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Apart from Best Picture, this is the only category where The Descendants seems to have the best shot at winning. But don't count out Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy just yet, especially if literary titan John le Carré starts making the interview rounds praising the movie version of his seminal novel.
Animated Feature Film
A Cat in Paris
Chico & Rita
Kung Fu Panda 2
Puss in Boots
Steven Spielberg gets shafted again as his first foray into mo-cap animation, The Adventures of Tintin, is snubbed in favor of two cartoons (A Cat in Paris and Chico & Rita) that almost nobody has seen. The mighty animation house Pixar also gets shut out, though that's understandable considering the general crappiness of Cars 2. But yay for Rango, the movie that should -- and hopefully will -- win.
Foreign Language Film
Oh, just give it to A Separation already and be done with it. You know you want to.
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