Well, this year's Academy Award nominations have been announced and, for what are usually pretty by-the-book awards, there were a decent amount of surprises this year. Let's take a look at 'em.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly What???
Coming out of basically nowhere, the Stephen Daldry-directed, Scott Rudin-produced adaptation of Jonathan Safran Foer's twee 9/11 novel Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close snagged a surprise Best Picture nomination, as well as one for Max von Sydow in the Best Supporting Actor category. Credit this not-so-well-reviewed film's recognition to the Academy's close relationship with Scott Rudin, its enduring love of treacly heartstring-tuggers, and the inherent wonder of a precocious little kid running around doing something vaguely magical. We say Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows had all that and more, but oh well. Extremely Loud and incredibly surprising it is. (Look for about a month's worth of jokes like that, by the way.)
Whither Albert Brooks
Though he's won a raft of critics awards and was up for a Golden Globe and a SAG award, Brooks didn't score what felt like an almost guaranteed nomination for his brilliantly menacing villainy in Drive. In fact, that terrific (and terrifically overlooked) film scored only one nomination, in the Sound Editing category. That it whizzed past the Academy without making an impression is no surprise, but the Brooks omission is. This was supposed to be the completion of his comeback victory tour — even if he didn't win, which he probably wasn't going to, he'd at least have a good seat at the big dance. But, nope, oh well. Life is cruel.
A Better Life Indeed
While it's not entirely a surprise given his SAG nomination, seeing heretofore mostly unknown Mexican actor Demián Bichir's name on the Best Actor list for his role as an undocumented L.A. gardener in A Better Life is still something. Perhaps best known to non-Spanish-speaking Americans as Nancy's mean drug lord husband on Weeds, this is quite a career boon for Bichir. He's this year's Richard Jenkins, the mostly unheralded actor who's been working for years (his first credit on IMDb is from 1977) who is finally getting a little recognition for a good, humble performance.
Melissa McCarthy Is an Academy Award Nominee
We thought this was going to happen, but still: Melissa McCarthy, star of Mike & Molly, is an Oscar nominee. Melissa McCarthy, who pooped in a sink, is an Oscar nominee. A lady who was on Gilmore Girls could win an Academy Award. While we're marveling at that, let's also take a moment to recognize that Kristen Wiig very likely might win an Academy Award. A current member of the Saturday Night Live cast, with an Oscar! These are strange times we live in. The weird dean guy from Community might win too! (For The Descendants.) And Jonah Hill, don't forget Jonah Hill. Who would have predicted that the little fat kid with the sparkly boots in The 40-Year-Old Virgin would someday soon be on the same shortlist as Christopher Plummer? This is a ringing endorsement of his start in dramatic films, that's for sure. It's a ringing endorsement for comedians, this whole thing, really.
Hugo Comes Out on Top
Because it was both a creative and a technical success, Martin Scorsese's Hugo quietly racked up the most nominations, with 11 total. Meanwhile in numbers counts, Transformers: Dark of the Moon has the same number of nominations as The Tree of Life (three). So, quantity doesn't mean everything!