Yes, the nominees for the 81st Annual Academy Awards were announced the morning of January 22, incidentally the day Heath Ledger was found dead one year ago, and there were some surprises and disappointments including by me. I did not make at least 37 correct guesses, which was my goal. Out of 40 nominees, I only correctly guessed 36.
I did terribly in the best actress and original screenplay category. Herewith, the nominees broken down.
Best Picture & Director: All five in both categories actually match up and with The Dark Knight and Revolutionary Road (Hollywood movies both) both mysteriously shut out of both races, chances are it will come down to the old man who ages backwards and the young man who goes all the way on Millionaire. Slumdog Millionaire and The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button will undoubtedly be duking it out. Another shut-out, Revolutionary Road and a surprise sneak in by The Reader.
Adapted & Original Screenplay: Clint Eastwood's tour-de-force Gran Torino was completely shut out of the major races. No real surprises in the Adapted category but In Bruges and Frozen River made it into the Original category and deservedly so.
Actor: No love for Clint Eastwood for his performance as a bigoted Korean War Vet. Nor was Leonardo DiCaprio named for his role as part of a couple who suffer marital discord in the 50's. Surprise name: Richard Jenkins in The Visitor. This film came out pretty early on in the year and the fact that he is one of the 5 proves that the tide is beginning to turn in the Academy. Young blood is evident with the announcement of his name.
Supporting Actor: My guess is it will be between Heath Ledger and Robert Downey, Jr. although people are placing their bets on Ledger becoming only the second person to posthumously be awarded an Oscar. Surprise name: Michael Shannon for Revolutionary Road.
Actress: A lot of shut-outs here, including Sally Hawkins for Happy-Go-Lucky (she won a number of critics awards AND the Golden Globe), Kate Winslet for Revolutionary Road (she instead got a lead actress, as opposed to supporting actress for The Reader...she won both awards at the Globes) and Kristin Scott Thomas for I've Loved You So Long. Another home-run for this British actress. Surprise name: Melissa Leo for Frozen River. Who? Exactly. I saw the film and she did a good job and the film was very well done but it's almost shocking that she got named because any other year she would not have even been a serious contender. This is more proof that the tide in the Academy is slowly turning.
Supporting Actress: No real big surprises except Taraji P. Henson finally got a nomination (she should have been nominated several years ago for her role in Hustle & Flow). As long as Marisa Tomei (as talented as she is) doesn't win this category AGAIN, I don't care who wins.
Below: The major nominees and in parantheses the total number of times they've been nominated, including this time around and how many times they've previously won).
David Fincher-The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button (1st nom)
Ron Howard-Frost/Nixon (2nd nom, 1 win)
Gus Van Sant-Milk (2nd nom)
Stephen Daldry-The Reader (3rd nom)
Danny Boyle-Slumdog Millionaire (1st nom)
Richard Jenkins-The Visitor (1st nom)
Frank Langella-Frost/Nixon (1st nom)
Sean Penn-Milk (5th nom, 1 win)
Brad Pitt-The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button (2nd nom)
Mickey Rourke-The Wrestler (1st nom)
Josh Brolin-Milk (1st nom)
Robert Downey, Jr.-Tropic Thunder (2nd nom)
Philip Seymour Hoffman-Doubt (3rd nom)
Heath Ledger-The Dark Knight (2nd nom)
Michael Shannon-Revolutionary Road (1st nom)
Anne Hathaway-Rachel Getting Married (1st nom)
Angelina Jolie-Changeling (2nd nom, 1 win)
Melissa Leo-Frozen River (1st nom)
Meryl Streep-Doubt (15th nom, 2 wins)
Kate Winslet-The Reader (6th nom)
Amy Adams-Doubt (2nd nom)
Penelope Cruz-Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2nd nom)
Viola Davis-Doubt (1st nom)
Taraji P. Henson-The Curious Case Of Benjamn Button (1st nom)
Marisa Tomei-The Wrestler (3rd nom, 1 win)
The awards will be handed out on Sunday, February 22 and I'll be making my picks as to who I thnk will win.