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10 Pleasant Surprises From The 2011 Oscar Nominations

The Playlist By Edward Davis | The Playlist January 25, 2011 at 5:44AM

Alright, the 83rd Annual Academy Award nominations are in. Now it's time to analyze, bitch and moan, celebrate, postulate and what have you, depending on your subjective opinion of the way the noms turned out (it's honestly amusing watching the Oscar "expert" bloggers quiver in their boots about the diminishing shine on "The Social Network" even though it still has a great shot at Best Picture; worlds have been accordingly rocked.).
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Alright, the 83rd Annual Academy Award nominations are in. Now it's time to analyze, bitch and moan, celebrate, postulate and what have you, depending on your subjective opinion of the way the noms turned out (it's honestly amusing watching the Oscar "expert" bloggers quiver in their boots about the diminishing shine on "The Social Network" even though it still has a great shot at Best Picture; worlds have been accordingly rocked.).

We've already listed out 11 people and films that got snubbed (sorry guys) and now we're taking a look at the rest of the pack. The Oscars have a history of fucking things up and getting it wrong, but we've got to say that since 2005, they've mostly been getting it right. Oh sure, smaller deserving indies and performances have still been getting the shaft (things like Michelle Williams in "Wendy & Lucy" come to mind in recent years), but hey, that's just the Oscar's m.o. and more importantly, it's not a shock. "The Hurt Locker" over "Avatar"? Yes, please, but 10 years ago, there's no way in hell that would happen. Oscar is changing... slightly, and hell "The King's Speech" leading the pack with 12 nominations may mean the Academy is regressing back to "classic Oscar fare." We'll see how that turns out.

Ok, so what were our pleasant surprises from today's announcement?


1."Winter's Bone" -- Nominated For Best Picture
Some of have been saying this was going to happen all year long-- the indie drama is well deserving, but a recent last minute swell for "The Town," a gigantic film in comparison, especially by way of marketing and Oscar campaign dollars, made us worried. Frankly, Warner Bros got toppled and as much as some of us like the entertaining movie, the Academy made the right move and we're pleased as punch.

2. John Hawkes ("Winter's Bone") -- Nominated For Best Supporting Actor
This we never would have imagined in a million years, yes, Jennifer Lawrence seemed like she would get a nomination. But John Hawkes as her meth-head uncle Teardrop? Fan-fucking-tastic. Hawkes coils and quivers in this intense role and you're on pins and needles awaiting this simmering powder keg to go off. Hawkes is almost an uncontrolled substance in the picture and holy shit, congrats, we're surprised as hell and he totally earned it.

3. "Exit Through The Gift Shop" -- Nominated For Best Documentary
Wow, Banksy's gonzo documentary/sly art critique beats out favorites to win like "Waiting For Superman" and Alex Gibney "Client 9"?(Doesn't Gibney have it in his contract that he gets nominated every year??). 10 years ago, no chance, but amazingly, 'Gift Shop,' one of the most daring and brilliantly recontextualizing-as-it's-going documentaries in recent memories is a tremendous picture and we're psyched that Bansky broke through. Don't call it a sell out, or even a buy in. Good art got noticed, plain and simple.

4. Jackie Weaver ("Animal Kingdom") -- Nominated For Best Supporting Actress
Weaver was in the conversation all year long. Her extraordinary performance as the wolf-in-sheep's clothing doyenne of an Aussie crime family was arresting and electric. But as Leslie Manville's "Another Year" snub demonstrates, just because you're an indie film nom in the conversation, doesn't mean you're going to show up on the opening day line-up. Relieved she made the cut.

5. Javier Bardem ("Biutiful") -- Nominated For Best Actor
Like Weaver, Bardem's performance has been raved about all year, but this awesome Spanish-language film has had a tiny release (it comes out limited release proper this weekend) and many critics turned up their noses at the picture's dour tone. Bardem may have won the Best Actor prize in Cannes, but as Benicio Del Toro's similarly-winning "Che" performance proves: that often means nothing at awards time. Bardem's performance reduces himself to spiritual dust and cuts him down to the soul of the bone. Brutal, but awe-inspiring. Again, relieved the Academy didn't fuck up here.

6. "Dogtooth" -- Nominated For Best Foreign Language Film
Pitch black, twisted and fucked up. Considering just how conservative the jury on this list traditionally is (see the shit-show awful schmaltz of 2009 winner "Departures"), it's practically a shock to the heart that this near-morally-perverted (and hilarious) drama -- by Greek director Giorgos Lanthimos -- about a family of kids sheltered from the outside world lands here. Of course, the prevalent conservatism here and convention wisdom here suggests that the least daring picture nominated here will likely win, but hell, showing up is half the battle and a major achievement here.

7. "True Grit" -- Across The Board, 10 Nominations
'Social Network' is the frontrunner? Try getting in line before "The King's Speech" and the Coen Brothers' "True Grit." Honestly, we kind of love it when Oscar squawkers are wrong and this one has blindsided them. "True Grit" was shown to the guilds late in the game hence the Coen brothers' not scoring a DGA director's nomination, but sorry Christopher Nolan (who is very deserving, frankly), the Academy saw fit to nominate the Coens once more. Proof of this is from the Globes where "True Grit" was completely shut out? Why? The Hollywood Foreign Press hadn't seen it yet. Joel and Ethan's thoughts after this morning's noms? “Ten seems like an awful lot. We don't want to take anyone else's," they said in a statement. LOL, awesome.

8. "Another Year " -- Best Original Screenplay
Hmm, this one is a bit of a joke. Mike Leigh's tremendous getting-older drama, "Another Year," was ignored across the board by the Oscars this year outside of this original screenplay category, but Leigh has already said in several interviews that much of the film was improvised (as is usually the case for Leigh). We suppose some recognition is better than none.

9. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross ("The Social Network") -- Best Original Score
OK, don't get it super twisted and think we're hating (though yes, we've carped on a bit, sorry), we just want perspective. "The Social Network" is a solid picture, there's no question about that. And the Best Original Scores category routinely ignores the most interesting original scores and songs each year, but this year, shockingly, they've got it right. Sure, Reznor and Ross won a Golden Globe, but if you haven't already figured it out, the Globes are kind of a joke. We're very happy to see the duo here. Well deserved.

10. "The Illusionist" -- Best Animated Feature
Hell yes! Sorry "Despicable Me," Sylvain Chomet's wonderful father/daughter adventure animated film -- based on an unproduced script written by the great French director/actor Jacques Tati -- took the nomination and we couldn't be happier. A Sony Pictures Classics film, this is a tiny release compared to the studios that crank out big, tentpole animations (though not smaller than "Winter's Bone" which was released by the even tinier Roadside Attractions)

10.5. Michelle Williams ("Blue Valentine") -- Best Actress
Ok, if anyone was going to get nominated from this indie film, it was going to be Michelle Williams. This we knew, but still, with smaller pictures like this, you just never know. It's a stellar performance -- her first Best Actress Academy Award nomination* -- and well, well deserved (*it's her second Oscar nom overall, she earned a Best Supporting nom for "Brokeback Mountain")

This article is related to: Films, Actors, Actresses, Musicians, Foreign Films, Another Year , Animated Films, True Grit, John Hawkes, Jacki Weaver, Michelle Williams, Trent Reznor, Dogtooth, The Illusionist


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