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81st Academy Awards Nominees Announced, Surprises Abound

Since he wasn't getting a nomination for Vantage Point this year, Oscar winner Forest Whitaker joined Academy president Sid Ganis this morning to help announce the nominees for this year's Academy Awards. And while there were a lot of familiar faces on the list, there were also a few nice surprises. Here's hoping they all show up.

Pleasant surprises in the Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor categories were Richard Jenkins (The Visitor) and Michael Shannon (Revolutionary Road). I'm a big fan of Richard Jenkins, especially his work with the Coen Brothers, so I'm hoping he somehow manages to beat out Brad Pitt and Sean Penn. (I kinda doubt it.) Michael Shannon has a crazy presence in everything he does (see Bug), so I'm glad he got a nod for his much-talked about performance in Road. And while I wish the Academy had separate categories for comedic performances and dramatic ones (comedians rarely get nominated, let alone win), I was pleased to see that at least one comedic performance, Robert Downey Jr.'s in Tropic Thunder, made it to the Best Supporting Actor nominee list. Sorry, In Bruges guys.

Kate Winslet won't be doing another two-fer on Oscar Night, as her Reader role was judged to be a Best Actress performance, instead of Best Supporting, and she was passed up for Road. But luckily, Benjamin Button's Taraji P. Henson scored a deserved Supporting Actress nod, and Melissa Leo snagged a Best Actress nom for Frozen River, which got cheers from the audience. I haven't seen it yet, but... "woo-hoo," I guess?

While the comedy/drama thing irks me, I'm infinitely grateful that the Academy distinguishes between Original Screenplays and Adapted Screenplays, because that meant Wall-E was able to sneak into the Best Original Screenplay category, despite being otherwise relegated to the ghetto that is Best Animated Motion Picture. Seriously, there are three nominees, and two are nowhere near as good as Wall-E. Just give it the damn cartoon award or nominate it for Best Picture, already.

Disappointingly, The Dark Knight didn't get a Best Picture nod -- I had hoped the Academy would have been more appreciative of the movie than the foreign press was. Heath Ledger still got his Best Supporting Actor nom -- I'm starting to feel bad for his still-living competition. The only difference between the Golden Globe Best Picture nominees and the Academy's was the substitution of Milk for Revolutionary Road. Good for Milk.

Best Motion Picture of the Year
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Frost/Nixon
Milk
The Reader
Slumdog Millionaire

Achievement in Directing
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, David Fincher
Frost/Nixon, Ron Howard
Milk, Gus Van Sant
The Reader, Stephen Daldry
Slumdog Millionaire, Danny Boyle

Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
Richard Jenkins in The Visitor
Frank Langella in Frost/Nixon
Sean Penn in Milk
Brad Pitt in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler

Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
Josh Brolin in Milk
Robert Downey Jr. in Tropic Thunder
Philip Seymour Hoffman in Doubt
Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight
Michael Shannon in Revolutionary Road

Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
Anne Hathaway in Rachel Getting Married
Angelina Jolie in Changeling
Melissa Leo in Frozen River
Meryl Streep in Doubt
Kate Winslet in The Reader

Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
Amy Adams in Doubt
Penélope Cruz in Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Viola Davis in Doubt
Taraji P. Henson in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Marisa Tomei in The Wrestler

Best Animated Feature Film of the Year
Bolt
Kung Fu Panda
WALL-E

Adapted Screenplay
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Screenplay by Eric Roth, Screen story by Eric Roth and Robin Swicord
Doubt, Written by John Patrick Shanley
Frost/Nixon, Screenplay by Peter Morgan
The Reader, Screenplay by David Hare
Slumdog Millionaire, Screenplay by Simon Beaufoy

Original Screenplay
Frozen River, Written by Courtney Hunt
Happy-Go-Lucky, Written by Mike Leigh
In Bruges, Written by Martin McDonagh
Milk, Written by Dustin Lance Black
WALL-E, Screenplay by Andrew Stanton, Jim Reardon, Original story by Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter

Achievement in Cinematography
Changeling, Tom Stern
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Claudio Miranda
The Dark Knight, Wally Pfister
The Reader, Chris Menges and Roger Deakins
Slumdog Millionaire, Anthony Dod Mantle

Achievement in Costume Design
Australia, Catherine Martin
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Jacqueline West
The Duchess, Michael O'Connor
Milk, Danny Glicker
Revolutionary Road, Albert Wolsky

Best Foreign Language Film of the Year
The Baader Meinhof Complex, Germany
The Class, France
Departures, Japan
Revanche, Austria
Waltz with Bashir, Israel

Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original score)
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,Alexandre Desplat
Defiance, James Newton Howard
Milk, Danny Elfman
Slumdog Millionaire, A.R. Rahman
WALL-E, Thomas Newman

Achievement in Visual Effects
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Eric Barba, Steve Preeg, Burt Dalton and Craig Barron
The Dark Knight, Nick Davis, Chris Corbould, Tim Webber and Paul Franklin
Iron Man, John Nelson, Ben Snow, Dan Sudick and Shane Mahan

To see the complete list of nominees, click here!

What do you think of the nominees? Let us know!

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