The actual 10 Best Picture nominees were pretty much predicted a couple months ago (eight of the ten films made either my Best of 2010 or Overrated of 2010 lists). You have two mainstream blockbusters (Inception and Toy Story 3), two mid-summer arthouse favorites (The Kids Are All Right and Winter's Bone), the one Oscar-bait critical darling that didn't quite catch fire at the box office (127 Hours), the presumptive front-runner (The Social Network), and the four uber-popular, audience-pleasing bits of late-year Oscar bait (Black Swan, The Fighter, The King's Speech and True Grit). It's a solid cross-section of nominees and proof that the 10-nominee gimmick is a pretty great idea. Not only did the best damn film of the year get in (Toy Story 3), but five of the 10 films were released prior to the official November/December Oscar-bait season. I'm still pulling for a Pixar upset, but right now the four front runners (the films with Picture, Director, Acting, and Editing nods) are The Social Network, Black Swan, The King's Speech, and The Fighter.
I could spend a column whining about what shouldn't have been nominated (everything about True Grit save Hailee Steinfield), but I will only make mention of the fact that I don't see a single Helena Bonham Carter, having spent the last two decades playing all manner of weird and unique characters, gets an Oscar nom for playing the cliched "supportive, nurturing, stand-by-your-man wife," a character with little to do and almost no dialogue. But let's move on to positive developments. Melissa Leo is now a two-time Oscar nominee, and I can't wait to be able to type the sentence: "Melissa Leo is an Oscar-winning actress." Christian Bale received his first (!) Oscar nomination for The Fighter, and he's still the front-runner (only Geoffrey Rush can beat him). Natalie Portman of course was nominated for Best Actress for Black Swan, and at this point she still seems unbeatable (barring a "career-award" upset from Annette Bening).
John Hawkes pulled off a somewhat surprising (and completely pleasing) Best Supporting Actor nomination for Winter's Bone. Best Actress nominee Jennifer Lawrence justifiably got most of the media buzz, but Hawkes' supporting turn truly dominates the third act of the terrific little drama. Jackie Weaver snagged a Best Supporting Actress nod for Animal Kingdom, which means the DVD I have from Blockbuster will probably be watched this evening. Javier Bardem got a somewhat surprising Best Actor nod for Best Foreign Film nominee Biutiful and Michelle Williams snuck in for Blue Valentine. Nicole Kidman got a deserved nod for Rabbit Hole, as it's nice to see people talking about her acting instead of her alleged botox treatments, and or the shocking fact that films like Rabbit Hole don't play like Happy Feet or Batman Forever.
The Illusionist made the cut in the Best Animated Film Category joining Toy Story 3 and How to Train Your Dragon while beating out more mainstream releases like Despicable Me and Tangled. I sincerely hope that the voting block doesn't engage in Pixar-backlash and deny Toy Story 3 the Best Animated Film win that it so clearly deserves, but that's certainly possible. There were few surprises in the various technical categories, although I'm somewhat happily surprised that Tron: Legacy missed out in the Best Visual category. Good on the terrific action picture Unstoppable getting a deserved Best Sound Editing nomination, and yay for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part I getting notice for its often-invisible Visual Effects and its moody Art Direction.
That's all I have for the moment. I'll offer my predictions for who or what will win in what categories when time permits, but that's enough ranting for now. Who do you think got robbed and/or undeservedly nominated? Which nominations made you happiest? Feel free to check in below.