Best Actor Demian Bichir – A Better Life George Clooney – The Descendants Jean Dujardin – The Artist Gary Oldman – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy Brad Pitt – Moneyball
SURPRISES: Only one, but it’s a big one: Bichir, the star of the low-grossing (under $2 million), mostly-forgotten A Better Life. The low-key drama from director Chris Weitz (About a Boy, New Moon) should see a healthy surge in DVD rentals, thanks to this little boost.
SNUBS: Michael Fassbender was widely assumed to be a lock for his nuanced and heart-wrenching turn as a sex addict in Shame (and as a kind of achievement award for his very busy year), but he’s absent from the list, his graphic, NC-17-rated film possibly a victim of the preferences of the Academy’s notoriously aged voting bloc. One could offer the same explanation for the absence of a nod for Ryan Gosling in Drive; that hyper-violent picture only nabbed one nomination (for Sound Editing, natch). Michael Shannon’s tough performance in Take Shelter had many critics talking Oscar, but the film never really caught fire off the Coasts. Some are surprised that DiCaprio wasn’t nominated for J. Edgar, but not me; buzz for that performance peaked early when the film itself underwhelmed.
Best Actress 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
SURPRISES: It was a very good year for female actors, so this certainly a tough one to pin down in advance. Mara’s nomination is a surprise, but a welcome one; the movie’s dark subject matter could have shut it out altogether, but hers was too powerful a turn to ignore. Close’s nod for her passion project Albert Nobbs was discussed but far from a sure thing — the film opened quietly to respectful but less-than-passionate reviews, but the voters love Close and love serious drag turns.
SNUBS: So many. This writer’s biggest bummer of the morning is the lack of props for the best performance of the year: Elizabeth Olsen’s stunning turn in Martha Marcy May Marlene. (“She’s young,” is presumably the logic, “she’ll have plenty of chances.”) And while Young Adult’s shut-out in the other major categories unfortunate and undeserved but not unexpected, the snub of Charlize Theron is — that was a difficult, brilliant piece of work, as Oscar-worthy as any of these. Ditto Kirsten Dunst in Melancholia and Tilda Swinton in We Need to Talk About Kevin.
Best Supporting Actor Kenneth Branagh – My Week with Marilyn Jonah Hill – Moneyball Nick Nolte – Warrior Christopher Plummer – Beginners Max von Sydow – Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
SURPRISES: I hadn’t heard Branagh’s name mentioned in a single “Oscar predictions” piece — this is one peculiar nomination, nearly as unexpected (and arguably undeserved) as von Sydow’s work in Extremely Loud. Hill and Nolte were both names that had been tossed around, but were by no means sure things — in fact, the only one here that was is the likely winner, Plummer.
SNUBS: The Drive Shut-Out of 2012 claims its most unfortunate victim here, as Albert Brooks — selected and nominated by countless precursor awards — gets bupkus for his electrifying work as Drive’s villain. Shame on you, Oscar. Many had also anticipated a nod for Patton Oswalt in Young Adult, but his fine work was ignored as well — apparently Jonah Hill filled the Academy’s only “comedian in a serious movie” slot.
Best Supporting Actress Bérénice Bejo – The Artist Jessica Chastain – The Help Melissa McCarthy – Bridesmaids Janet McTeer – Albert Nobbs Octavia Spencer – The Help
SURPRISES: None, really; these were all names that had been thrown around for a while, though the McCarthy nomination was not a sure thing (see above comment w/r/t diarrhea), and movie-decatholon-entrant Chastain was perhaps expected to get the nod for Tree of Life or Take Shelter rather than The Help.
SNUBS: Because of the crowded Best Actress field, Keira Knightley had been mentioned as a possibility for A Dangerous Method — which is kind of dopey, since that’s as much her film as Fassbender’s, but that’s a moot point now, since she didn’t get any love (and shame on that). Also ignored were Jodie Foster and Kate Winslet for Carnage, a bit of a surprise since they’re both such Academy favorites. And the Descendants glow didn’t extend to co-star Shailene Woodley, which is unfortunate; that’s one powerful piece of work.
Best Director The Artist – Michel Hazanavicius The Descendants – Alexander Payne Hugo – Martin Scorsese Midnight in Paris – Woody Allen The Tree of Life – Terrence Malick
SURPRISES: Not too many, really — if anything, the Best Director nominations helps narrow Best Picture field (nine titles this year, due to some sort of arcane voting rules that I’m not even going to pretend to understand), since the Best Picture Oscar so seldom goes to a film not also nominated for Best Director. Allen’s nomination is maybe a tiny bit of a surprise, and shows (along with his expected Screenplay nomination) that his little European comedy may be a more serious contender than you’d think.
SNUBS: The Academy loves Steven Spielberg (over the last couple of decades, anyway), so the fact that he didn’t pick one up for War Horse should dispel any concerns that it’ll take the big prize. The bigger shock is that his Adventures of Tintin was determined ineligible for Best Animated Film, which is too bad. And the lack of love for David Fincher probably means that Girl with the Dragon Tattoo may go away empty-handed as well.
The full list of nominees are on the Oscar website here; which ones surprised you? Who are you surprised was left off?