Like every year, there were plenty of surprises from this morning's announcement of the 2010 Oscar nominations. The one most folks will be talking about? The inclusion of the crowd favorite 'The Blind Side' in the Best Picture race, a clear indicator that the Academy's new strategy will indeed open the playing field to more mainstream competitors. What hasn't changed? Oscar's lack of love for comedy, as that other possible hit contender and Golden Globe winner, 'The Hangover,' was left off the short list. We look at the shockers -- some major (Maggie Gyllenhaal for 'Crazy Heart'), some minor (Jeremy Renner for 'The Hurt Locker').
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'The Blind Side'
It was obvious that Sandra Bullock would get a Best Actress nom for her Golden Globe-winning performance. But despite grossing over $200 million at the box office, 'The Blind Side' wasn't expected to come anywhere near the Best Picture field. Memo to Oscar predictors: Always remember to check your blind side.
True, everything about 'District 9' screamed Oscar dark horse. The social commentary, the seriousness of the state of the world -- it's just surprising it actually made it to the end. Cheers to this stellar sci-fi-as-metaphor film ... and to the expanded field, because we highly doubt 'District' would land here otherwise.
Ah, the good ole' role of supporting female who falls for the flawed lead actor. It's always a touching storyline, but let's face it: 'Crazy Heart' is all about Jeff Bridges and his commanding performance as Bad Blake. Maggie G. was certainly good (and adorable), but it wasn't one of those "wow" endeavors like Mo'Nique put forth in 'Precious' -- which, of course, is exactly why Mo'Nique will triumph in the Best Supporting Actress race.
By no means are we suggesting Mr. Renner doesn't deserve this nom. His ice-cold portrayal of a bomb disposer in Iraq had the perfect sense of tension, bravado and straight-up insanity. But it's still somewhat surprising to see him share the field with legends like Morgan Freeman, George Clooney and Jeff Bridges. Kudos, Jeremy. While your chances of a win are slim, here's to your bright and burgeoning career.
'The Secret of Kells'
The Secret of what? Perhaps the morning's single biggest surprise is the inclusion of this little-seen Irish flick in the Best Animated Feature category, which was expanded this year from three to five films. The makers of other potential noms like 'Ponyo' and 'Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs' probably wish this hand-drawn Celtic tale was in fact kept a secret.
Clint Eastwood's drama about the South African rugby team's surprising World Cup run and its power to bring the post-apartheid country's people together is the definitive piece of "Oscar bait": a prestige film based on real-life events driven by powerful performances by top-notch actors. Looks like it lost its Best Picture slot to that other inspirational sports drama, 'The Blind Side.'
Wasn't the whole allure of expanding the Best Picture field to 10 nominees so that a few hit films with some serious oomph could sneak in (a la 'Dark Knight' last year)? You figured with the new format, 'The Hangover' -- the highest grossing comedy of all time and the biggest surprise hit of the summer -- was probably a lock. Nope. Instead, the feel-good drama 'Blind Side' snuck in on Sandra Bullock's momentum. Somewhere, Zach Galifianakis is crying into his beard.
Rob Marshall's star-studded musical -- his first since the Oscar behemoth 'Chicago' -- seemed prime for a big awards run. That is, until the reviews came out (the film registered a paltry 37 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes) and the film flunked at the box office (total gross: $19 million). Still, the Golden Globes honored it, and Oscar loves song-and-dance fare, too, so 'Nine' could've claimed one of the 10 Best Picture nods.
Lately, Clint Eastwood has been a fixture in the Best Picture race, having been nominated a whopping three times in the last decade (for 'Mystic River,' 'Million Dollar Baby' and 'Letters From Iwo Jima.') 'Invictus' -- starring Morgan Freeman as a rugby-loving Nelson Mandela -- seemed like an easy choice, since voters tend to go for biopics. But with a snub here and in Best Picture, Academy members -- like the rest of America -- must not be all that into rugby.
While reviews and reactions to Nancy Meyers' latest adult rom-com 'It's Complicated' were mixed, the resurgent '30 Rock' star has been credited as reason numero uno to see the film, and earned a Golden Globe nom for his part. But alas, the Oscar co-host will be watching this one from the
Despite 'Nine's' plummeting awards stock since its release (see above), you can never count out this revered thesp, who seems to make a film every two or three years -- and gets nominated for roughly half of them (career stats: 11 leading roles, four Oscar nominations, two wins). Seems we'll have to wait until 2011 or 2012 for the next Day-Lewis awards romp.
An unmasked Maguire showed the world what he's really got in 'Brothers.' His tormented portrayal of a soldier returning home from Afghanistan and haunted by his time in combat showed us that Spidey has grown up significantly, both physically and emotionally, from his web-shooting days. Seems Oscar favored fellow onscreen combat vet Jeremy Renner for 'The Hurt Locker.'
Colin Firth will literally be 'A Single Man' on Oscar night, as voters passed on Julianne Moore's brief but effective performance in Tom Ford's directorial debut. The snub is especially surprising, given her solid reviews, Golden Globe nomination and history with the Academy (she's been nominated an impressive four times in the past).
We were hoping that this underrated British actor would finally get his due for playing Carey Mulligan's strict but lovably naive father in 'An Education,' one of the year's best films. The movie luckily made the cut in Best Picture and Best Actress (Mulligan). But after Molina's snub (in a weak field, no less) it's obvious that voters still have some learning to do.
Although Blunt's role was classic Oscar-bait (she played Queen Victoria of England), voters went for a different member of the British family instead: Dame Helen Mirren in 'The Last Station.' And while we're happy for Mirren (and the other Best Actress nominees, for that matter), we're still reeling over Blunt's 2006 snub for 'The Devil Wears Prada.' So, consider ourselves pissed, if we may be so blunt.
Japanese animation master Hayao Miyazaki is no stranger to the Oscars – his films 'Spirited Away' and 'Howl's Moving Castle' both won in the Best Animated Feature category. Miyazaki's latest, about a 5-year-old boy and a goldfish princess, drew expectedly glowing reviews, but was edged out by the frontrunner 'Up,' 'the classic 'Princess and the Frog,' the innovative 'Mr. Fox' and 'Coraline,' and the shocker 'Secret of the Kells.'