The nominations for the 81st Annual Academy Awards were announced early this morning, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button led the pack with a total of 13 nominations followed by Slumdog Millionaire with 10 nominations. The largest blockbuster in years, The Dark Knight, came closely behind with 8 nominations, but they were only in technical categories aside from Heath Ledger's nomination. Tied at 8 nominations with The Dark Knight was Milk. WALL-E came next with an honorable 6 nominations, followed by Frost/Nixon, Doubt, and The Reader with 5 nominations each. Revolutionary Road and Changeling each received 3 nominations.
The expected players received their nominations for Best Actor, including Frank Langella for Frost/Nixon, Sean Penn for Milk, Brad Pitt for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and Mickey Rourke for The Wrestler. The surprise was the selection of Richard Jenkins for The Visitor over Leonardo DiCaprio for Revolutionary Road and especially Clint Eastwood for his final role in Gran Torino. It's a tough call whether Rourke or Penn will take home the gold, but my vote still goes to the latter.
The pleasant surprise in the category of Best Supporting Actor was the nomination of Michael Shannon for his haunting role in Revolutionary Road. Other nominees included Philip Seymour Hoffman for Doubt and Josh Brolin for Milk. Now, Robert Downey, Jr. was really good in Tropic Thunder, but I had no idea the performance was sophisticated enough to earn him a nomination here. Good for him. The win, however, goes to Heath Ledger for The Dark Knight. As for the other actors, the nomination alone is their win because there's no beating Ledger.
A shock comes in the category of Best Actress. As expected, Anne Hathaway for Rachel Getting Married, Meryl Streep for Doubt, and Angelina Jolie for Changeling earned their spots. Melissa Leo for Frozen River was selected over Sally Hawkins for Happy-Go-Lucky. The shock, however, comes in the form of Kate Winslet's nomination for her role in The Reader, a role which the Golden Globes considered supporting rather than leading. This placement of her nomination here not only detracts her potential for the win, but it also shuts her out entirely for her role in Revolutionary Road. As tough of a fight as it will be up against Hathaway and Streep, I honestly believe Winslet has a fighting chance. I hope she pulls through.
With Kate Winslet out of the running for Best Supporting Actress, it makes this category suddenly a lot more interesting. Amy Adams and Viola Davis each got nominated for their work in Doubt, along with Penelope Cruz for Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Taraji P. Henson for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and Marisa Tomei for The Wrestler.
In the category of Animated Feature, the nominees were Bolt, Kung-Fu Panda, and WALL-E. We all know the winner. It's interesting to note that this year many other award shows have been placing WALL-E in the category for best film, but it appears that the Academy is standing firm on the fact that animated features are doomed to their separate little category.
It's disappointing to see that Roger Deakins didn't get nominated for Best Cinematography for his work in Revolutionary Road. The nominees in that category include Tom Stern for Changeling, Claudio Miranda for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Wally Pfister for The Dark Knight, and Anthony Dod Mantle for Slumdog Millionaire. Deakins, however, did get nominated alongside Chris Menges for The Reader.
For Best Score, the nominees include Alexandre Desplat for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, James Newton Howard for Defiance, Danny Elfman for Milk, and A.R. Rahman for Slumdog Millionaire. Thomas Newman received his nomination not for Revolutionary Road, but rather, WALL-E.
It's shocking to me that Bruce Springsteen's song for The Wrestler got skipped over in the category for Best Song. Meanwhile, Slumdog Millionaire obtained two nominations in this category for "O Saya" and the rousing number in the credits, "Jai Ho." WALL-E also received a nomination for its song, "Down to Earth."
For Best Documentary, the nominations were The Betrayal, Encounters at the End of the World, The Garden, Trouble the Water, and the magnificent Man on Wire.
In the category of Best Foreign Language Film, there were The Baader Meinhof Complex, The Class, Departures, Revanche, and Waltz with Bashir. While Waltz with Bashir is the most well-known of the selections, The Class has enough acclaim to perhaps sneak out from underneath it.
Eric Roth for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, John Patrick Shanley for Doubt, Peter Morgan for Frost/Nixon, David Hare for The Reader, and Simon Beaufoy for Slumdog Millionaire all were nominated in the category of Best Adapted Screenplay, as it appears this year the Oscar season contained not so many original screenplays.
The ones that did get nominated for Best Original Screenplay were Courtney Hunt for Frozen River, Mike Leigh for Happy-Go-Lucky, Martin McDonagh for In Bruges, Dustin Lance Black for Milk, and for the second time ever for an animated feature, Andrew Stanton and Pete Docter for WALL-E. My question is, why not The Wrestler or Rachel Getting Married?
For Best Director, the nominees were David Fincher for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Ron Howard for Frost/Nixon, Gus Van Sant for Milk, Stephen Daldry for The Reader, and Danny Boyle for Slumdog Millionaire. The big upset here is the selection of Stephen Daldry over the favored Cristopher Nolan for The Dark Knight.
And in the ever-important but overlooked category of Best Film Editing, the nominations went to The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, Milk, Slumdog Millionaire, and The Dark Knight, which replaced The Reader.
Falling right in sync with the Best Director nominees, the nominations for Best Picture were The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, Milk, The Reader, and Slumdog Millionaire. And here lies the largest upset of the morning, and that is the fifth slot for Best Picture. The Reader still surprises me, but it appears its other nominations could only add up to such. The Dark Knight, and I believe many would agree, got snubbed. And the reason for this may lie in the Academy's current trend of focusing on more independent films over more mainstream ones. How many people had seen, or enjoyed, for that matter, No Country for Old Men? It's been a while since the last time a blockbuster hit got recognized in the coveted category of Best Picture. Now, more than ever, would've been the best time.