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Oscar shuffle: Hugo & The Artist get the nominations, Spielberg & Drive get snubbed

Oscar shuffle: Hugo & The Artist get the nominations, Spielberg & Drive get snubbed

One thing we now know for certain, lest we ever harbored any doubts: The voting members of the Academy for Motion Picture Arts and Sciences sure love them some movies.

Consider: When nominations for the 84th annual Academy Awards were announced Tuesday morning, the leaders of the pack were Hugo (11 nominations), Martin Scorsese’s exhilaratingly loving ode to the enduring allure of cinema, and The Artist (10 nominations), Michel Hazanavicius’ playfully clever comedy about a silent movie star’s bumpy transition to talkies.

Add the two acting nominations that went to My Week With Marilyn, Simon Curtis’ fanciful dramedy about Marilyn Monroe’s off-camera misadventures during the 1956 filming of The Princess and the Showgirl, and you can’t help suspecting that, this year, the voters were in a mood to celebrate their art and industry – and, yes, themselves.

There were, as always, some surprises, both pleasant and otherwise, across the board in this year’s list of Oscar nominees. Mexican-born actor Damien Bichir’s Best Actor nomination for his acclaimed portrayal of an undocumented worker in the critically lauded but relatively little-seen (by audiences, at least) A Better Life indicates that, yes, sometimes the Academy ignores the hype and gives one from the heart.

 It’s reasonably safe to assume at least one Hollywood heavyweight isn’t feeling much love today.

 On the other hand: The conspicuous absence of Steven Spielberg from the Best Director lineup (despite a Best Picture nod for his War Horse)  and the snub of his Adventures of Tintin in the Animated Feature category indicates…  Well, it may be rash to rush to judgment. (According to an old newsroom joke, the best definition for a trend: Two facts and a reporter on deadline.) But it’s reasonably safe to assume at least one Hollywood heavyweight isn’t feeling much love today.

Speaking subjectively, I’m very sorry to note the total and complete shut-outs of Win-Win, Young Adult and 50/50, three worthy 2011 releases that richly deserved recognition in a number of categories. (And before anyone says that Charlize Theron was overlooked for Best Actress because she played an unsympathetic character in Young Adult – well, d’uh, she won the Oscar for playing a freakin’ serial killer in Monster, remember?)  

On the other hand, I’m happy to see an Original Screenplay nod for Margin Call, and even happier to see Undefeated (a 2011 SXSW Film Festival premiere coming soon to a theater near you) crack the final five in the Best Documentary category.

And at the risk of enraging those fervent fans of Drive – and you know who you are, so don’t be coy about it – who boldly predicted Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor and, gee, I dunno, Best Catering nominations… Look, folks, it was a good movie. But it wasn’t that good. Honest.

Right now, the serious Oscar soothsayers and obsessively blogging handicappers are calling The Artist the front-runner in the Best Picture race. But from where I sit in the bleachers, The Descendants appears poised to score an upset, with Hugo trailing not so far behind. And if you doubt that an underdog could ever triumph over a designated sure thing in this category, go talk to the makers of Reds and On Golden Pond about the year that Chariots of Fire left them standing in the dust.

What follows is my overview of the top Oscar races. Take it with as many grains of salt as you care to sprinkle.



Damien Bichir, A Better Life; George Clooney, The Descendants;  Jean Dujardin, The Artist; Brad Pitt, Moneyball; Gary Oldman, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.

Likely Winner: George Clooney

Possible Upset: Jean Dujardin

Conspicuous by Absence:  Joseph Gordon-Levitt for 50/50



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.

Likely Winner:  Meryl Streep

Possible Upset: Viola Davis

Conspicuous by Absence:  Charlize Theron for Young Adult



Kenneth Branagh, My Week With Marilyn; Nick Nolte, Warrior; Christopher Plummer, Beginners; Max von Sydow, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close; Jonah Hill, Moneyball.

Likely Winner: Christopher Plummer

Possible Upset: Nick Nolte

Conspicuous by Absence: Albert Brooks for Drive and Ben Kingsley for Hugo



Berenice Bejo, The Artist; Jessica Chastain, The Help; Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids; Octavia Spencer, The Help; Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs.

Likely Winner: Octavia Spencer

Possible Upset: Melissa McCarthy

Conspicuous by Absence:  Shailene Woodley for The Descendants

 Right now, the serious Oscar soothsayers and obsessively blogging handicappers are calling The Artist the front-runner in the Best Picture race. But from where I sit in the bleachers, The Descendants appears poised to score an upset, with Hugo trailing not so far behind. 



Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist; Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig, Bridesmaids; J.C. Chandor, Margin Call; Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris; Asghar Farhadi, A Separation.

Likely Winner: Woody Allen

Possible Upset: Michel Hazanavicius

Conspicuous by Absence: Diablo Cody for Young Adult and Will Reiser for 50/50.



 Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, The Descendants; John Logan, Hugo; George Clooney, Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon, The Ides of March; Steven Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin and Stan Chervin, Moneyball; Bridget O'Connor and Peter Straughan, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.

Likely Winner: The Descendants

Possible Upset: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Conspicuous by Absence: War Horse



Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist; Alexander Payne, The Descendants; Martin Scorsese, Hugo; Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris; Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life.

Likely Winner: Martin Scorsese

Possible Upset: Michel Hazanavicius

Conspicuous by Absence:  Steven Spielberg for War Horse



The Artist, The Descendants, Hugo, The Help, Midnight in Paris, War Horse, Moneyball, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, The Tree of Life.

Likely Winner: The Artist

Possible Upset: The Descendants

Conspicuous by Absence: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The 84th Academy Awards ceremony will be presented Feb. 26 at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center, hosted by Billy Crystal. Of course, I’ll be watching.

News_Hugo_movie_Ben Kingsley_Asa Butterfield
Hugo received the most nominations of any movie, with 11.
News_Meryl Streep_Margaret Thatcher_The Iron Lady
Meryl Streep is the favorite to take home the Best Actress award for her uncanny portrayal of Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady
News_Golden Globes 2012_The Help_Viola Davis
Viola Davis could score an upset in the Best Actress category for The Help Photo by Dale Robinette/DreamWorks II Distribution Co., LLC
News_George Clooney_Brad Pitt
Best pals George Clooney, left, and Brad Pitt are both up for Best Actor. Clooney is expected to win for The Descendents. Pitt could score an upset for Moneyball.
Austin Photo Set: News_brian kelley_freud_dec 2011_the artist
The Artist is the favorite for Best Picture. It received 10 Oscar nominations.