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The Biggest Snubs And Surprises Of The 2012 Oscar Nominations

The Biggest Snubs And Surprises Of The 2012 Oscar Nominations

As you might imagine from a many-headed beast like The Academy, it’s impossible to predict exactly what the Oscars will be. Sure, precursor awards and prognosticators might make it seem like the race is done, but there’s so many unknowns, so many obscure rules and wild cards, that there will always be a fair few surprises.

And while there weren’t a ton of shocks in this morning’s announcement, there was plenty to keep the race lively; people who only a few weeks ago had seemed like locks going home empty handed, while individuals who barely figured into the awards conversation suddenly found themselves thrust into the spotlight. As such, below you’ll find a selection of the biggest snubs, and the biggest surprises, from the nominations for the 84th Academy Awards. Anything else you were expecting, and missed, or were surprised to see? Bring ‘em up in the comments section.

Best Director – David Fincher
Sometimes there’s no better shortcut to a nomination than being seen to have unfairly lost out the previous year. While “The King’s Speech”’s Best Picture chances became increasingly likely as the Oscars got closer, most assumed that David Fincher would take home Best Director as a consolation prize. When that happened, the thought that he might at least pick up a nomination for ‘Dragon Tattoo’ started to cross many minds, and as the film performed well at the guilds, including a key nomination for Fincher from the DGA, it started to look all but certain. But Fincher never campaigned (openly disdaining the awards race), and with the film mostly shut out from key categories, he followed. The director won’t give a shit, but his fans generally do. And while we always felt it was on a knife-edge (it’s less accessible than their work on “The Social Network”), some might see the omission of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ score for ‘Dragon Tattoo’ as a surprise — considering they won the award last year, they always had a good chance.

Best Actor – Michael Fassbender
An actor in a breakout year, who won Best Actor at Venice, Michael Fassbender’s turn in “Shame” was always going to be a hard sell, particularly once the film landed an NC-17 rating. But Fox Searchlight fought the good fight, and despite missing out on a few precursors, including the SAG, he looked on course for his first nomination. But with Gary Oldman seemingly taking precedence for the British vote, and the explicit subject matter putting off more than a few voters (we’d heard that the film had played badly at Academy screenings, but thought he might get through), he’ll have to wait for another opportunity (of which we’re sure there’ll be many), to get his tux on.

Best Actor – Leonardo DiCaprio
Speaking of Best Actor, while some, including us, predicted the absence of “J.Edgar” star Leonardo DiCaprio from the final five, plenty more were sure that his SAG nod, and movie-star status, ensured that he’d get a nomination (some had even predicted he might win, at least before the film died at the box office. But it didn’t happen, the Academy presumably deciding they’d rather wait for a better film, with less creaky old-age make-up, to honor one of their favorites again.

Best Actress – Tilda Swinton
A performance we’d pointed to almost a year ago as a potential threat, we weren’t sure if Tilda Swinton would ever quite get the momentum behind her —  “We Need To Talk About Kevin” was always tough material, in a difficult-to-watch and divisive film, and with the film being at Oscilloscope, she didn’t have the same ad firepower behind her as some of the competition. But when she started to sweep critics groups, and landed SAG and even Golden Globe nominations, we, and many others, were convinced it was going to happen. Instead, Swinton will have to wait for a Best Actress nomination to go with her “Michael Clayton” win — the character was seemingly too unsympathetic, and the source material too wrenching, to connect with Academy members.

Best Supporting Actor – Albert Brooks
Albert Brooks had a hell of a comeback year — absent from the limelight for years, he stormed back with a best-selling book, by being the best at Twitter, and with an against-type stunner of a supporting performance in “Drive,” one that gathered awards chatter ever since it unspooled at Cannes. He worked the circuit hard, but the violent, tricky source material never connected with his peers, and after his SAG snub, the Oscar nomination was thrown into doubt, and sadly, it never came to pass. Whether this gives him more of a chance when he returns next year in Judd Apatow’s “This Is Forty,” a film more within his traditional comfort zone, depends on the material; we’ll have to see.

Best Screenplay – Steve Zaillian
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” managed a late surge in the awards race, thanks to nominations from the WGA, the DGA and the PGA, but other than Rooney Mara (who missed out with the guild), the film failed to land any major nods. Perhaps the most surprising was writer Steve Zaillian, who, whatever the film’s flaws, did a pretty strong job at pulling off a difficult adaptation. He’s not too upset; he got a nomination in the category anyway, for “Moneyball.” But it confirms that, whatever the high-class pedigree of the project, Academy members couldn’t get past the dark, pulpy source material of ‘Dragon Tattoo’

Best Screenplay – Will Reiser
We can’t have thought that the screenplay for “50/50” was something of a lock. A well-liked film, funny, yet about serious subject matter, with a WGA nomination in the bag, and most importantly, a great real-life narrative (a first-time scribe persuaded by his movie star pal to write a screenplay based on his own experiences with cancer). But Will Reiser failed to make the cut. Was it an Academy reticence to award a Seth Rogen movie (although a nomination for “Bridesmaids” suggests they’re not shy to recognize R-rated comedy)? Was it a realization from other screenwriters that the script is actually the film’s weakest link, never quite managing to be funny or moving enough? Perhaps. We’re sure Reiser will go on to bigger and better things, nevertheless.

Best Animated Feature – “The Adventures of Tintin”/”Cars 2”
Ok, we were way off here. The domestic box office failure of “Arthur Christmas” meant that the film was always a little dicey, so that was less of a shock. No one much liked “Cars 2,” but since the inception of the category a decade ago, Pixar have been nominated every single year bar 2002 and 2005, and those years were only because they hadn’t made a film. Hopefully, missing out will serve as a reminder to John Lasseter to raise his game next time he makes a cash-grab sequel. Finally, “The Adventures of Tintin” was always on a knife-edge, but its absence confirms that the animators branch are just as suspicious of performance capture as the actors. Can any film win them over?

Best Documentary – “Project Nim”
A notoriously irritating, unpredictable category like Best Documentary was always going to provide a few upsets, but most of the big ones came early, when “The Interrupters” and “Senna” were left off the longlist. And one of best-liked docs of the year still missed out at the last, as James Marsh (who won in 2009 for “Man On Wire”) was snubbed for his excellent monkey man doc “Project Nim.” Maybe it’s because he’s already won (almost no one in recent years has been nominated more than once). Or maybe it’s that the branch favors politically-driven, issue-led films for the most part. Either way, it’s another shame in a category that needs reform well beyond the half-measures that have been offered so far.  

Best Art Direction – “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”
It was mixed news for “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” — while it got nominations in a number of other categories, the one that even the film’s detractors felt was the most likely fell by the wayside. Maria Djurkovic’s work on the film was easily one of the technical highlights of last year; an impossibly detailed, musty invocation of 1970s Britain. But in a tough category (we don’t necessarily begrudge any of the other nominees), something had to give, and it was Djurkovic. Sad, to be sure, but we’re sure she’s lined up all kinds of other work down the line.

Best Visual Effects – “The Tree of Life”
Obviously, “The Tree of Life” is not the kind of film that ordinarily gets a visual effects nomination, but given the mind-bending dawn of time sequence, featuring everything from CGI dinosaurs to chemical processes, most thought it stood a good chance, especially with “2001” veteran Douglas Trumbull involved — he’s getting a lifetime achievement award this year. But no dice — instead, the rock’em’sock’em robots of “Real Steel” became an Oscar nominee. Sigh.

Best Picture – “The Tree of Life”
Terrence Malick’s long-delayed opus was in and out of the awards conversation after its Palme D’Or win, but Guild snubs meant that most had ruled out its chances at a Best Picture nomination. But not only did Malick manage a nomination himself, as was always more likely, but the film found itself among the nine Best Picture contenders. The lesson here? Under the new system, where a film needs 5% of first-place votes to get a nomination, passion counts for a lot, and few films had more fervent supporters than this one. It’s always going to be too divisive to win, but the nod, and the fact that he’s never won before, suddenly makes Malick someone to watch in the director category.

Best Picture – “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
A less pleasant surprise, and arguably the biggest of the whole announcement, was the shock Best Picture nomination for “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.” We’d pegged it early on as a strong contender even to win, but then the film was screened, and it got some of the most poisonous reviews of the year. That, plus a total shut-out of most precursors, and a disappointing early box office, meant that almost everyone had written it off completely. But thanks to hard-fought, persistent campaigning by Warners and their Oscar publicists, it managed to connect with enough Academy members to make the cut. Sure, the fact that it only got one other nomination (for Max Von Sydow) suggests it doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of winning. And, sure, it might be the worst Best Picture nominee since, what, “Doctor Dolittle?” “Cleopatra?” Ever? But at this point, if Scott Rudin produced a Stephen Daldry film that involved nothing but kittens being thrown into wood chippers for 90 minutes, it’d probably still manage a nomination.

Best Actor – Demián Bichir
But as surprising as Oldman was, the nomination for Demián Bichir was even more surprising. The Mexican actor was more or less unknown when cast in the lead in Chris Weitz’s little-seen “A Better Life,” only faintly recognizable as Castro in “Che” (which even fewer people likely saw), but awards talk wouldn’t die down around the performance. Even when he got an SAG nomination, most put it down to a guild-led curio unlikely to be repeated. But there he is, among four much better-known nominees, in what we like to call ‘The Richard Jenkins Slot.’ And kudos to Summit on this one; they made sure the film was the first screener to land on Academy members’ doorsteps, and clearly the quality of the performance lingered.

Best Actor – Gary Oldman
As the philosopher Aristotle once famously said: toldja. When we made our predictions last week, even we admitted we were out on a bit of a limb predicting Oldman to be one of the nominees, but we felt that the quality of the admittedly low-key turn, as well as the oft-repeated fact that Oldman had never been nominated, would see George Smiley through to the Kodak. Which doesn’t mean that we weren’t surprised when we were right. Despite Oldman’s sometimes prickly relationship with Hollywood, his peers dug the performance (if, clearly the film less so), and few nominations this morning have been greeted with a warmer reaction. It’s also nice to see a well-deserved posthumous nomination for co-writer Bridget O’Connor, who completed the ‘Tinker Tailor’ script with real-life partner Peter Straughan not long before she passed last year.

Best Actress – Rooney Mara
While perhaps the most left-field choice — the category had generally been seen to be six actresses fighting for five places — most prognosticators suggested that Rooney Mara would be left out in the cold, But in fact, she snuck in, and we’d argue deservedly so — her take on Lisbeth Salander was a far more interesting one (and far more faithful to the book) than Noomi Rapace’s, and the nod has certainly confirmed her stardom. Whether or not it comes from the Academy’s subconscious desire to make sure some pretty young ingenue is there, clearly the contrast between her performance in “The Social Network” and the almost unrecognizable Swedish hacker made an impression on the Academy.

Best Screenplay – “Margin Call” & “A Separation”
The field in original screenplay seems to get thinner every year (as much as we like “The Artist,” we’re not sure it’s a golden example of the form), so it was nice to see a well-written pair of relatively under-the-radar films perform strongly. Some of the cannier predictors (not including ourselves, it should be said), had felt that Asghar Farhani’s excellent work on “A Separation” could get in to the five, and so it did, a rare example of the best written film of the year gaining recognition. And the steady success of “Margin Call” since it premiered at Sundance a year ago climaxed with debut writer/director J.C. Chandor gaining a nod. The film had to settle for that alone, despite some vague talk of Best Supporting Actor for Kevin Spacey, or even Best Picture, but it’s cemented Chandor’s place as someone that everyone’s going to want to work with next time around.

Best Original Song – Well, Everything
The only category where we got everything wrong, in part to thanks to the Academy awarding only two songs. Which can only lead to the question: what’s the fucking point? Nominations for arguably the least good song in “The Muppets,” and for a Black Eyed Peas knock-off from an animated film that everyone’s already forgotten suggests that even those in the songwriter’s branch are struggling to get enthused about the category, let alone the millions who get up for a piss and a cigarette during the performances. We can only hope that this is the start of a gradual fading out in the category; one nomination in 2013, and none in 2014…

Best Score – John Williams Gets Two, Alberto Iglesias Gets One
John Williams is a master, we know that, and we get that. And we were fully expecting him to get one nomination, particularly as he hadn’t scored a film in over three years, and already has five wins and 45 nominations. But bringing that total up to 47 with two scores which, while pleasant enough, are far from his best work, was a bit of an eyebrow raiser. Still, it was a more pleasant surprise to see Alberto Iglesias get in for his superb work on “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” particularly as he’s never won.

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For all the people that says that Glenn Close didn´t deserved her sixth Oscar nomination:
Look at Glenn´s past performances, you will see that she is great, but also you will see that Albert is the most subtle role of her career, but more important, she BECOMES Albert, and that's what acting is all about. Glenn didn´t won, because she didn´t deserved to win that year, but she was nominated for a reason, she did an amazing and challenging performance.

Laura Wheelwright

The fact that We Need to Talk About Kevin got zero nominations is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. The Academy must be crazy. Tilda Swinton deserves to win Best actress, Ezra Miller should be in the running for Best Supporting Actor, and the screenplay, direction and film itself should all be in the running for an award. Since when is dark material and beautiful, heartbreaking performances a bad thing?


Tree of life is a joke of a nomination. How anyone can connect with a pretenious and obsolite film is beyond me. Is that what the oscar's stand for? Anything pretenious with no hert or emotion gets our approval? Fassbender, Brooks, Hardy (Warrior) and Swindon missing out is a disgrace. The SAG awards are just as bad. Though this year seems like it will be okay (other then that little rant lol). Hopefully The Artist wins best picture and director but non of the acting accolades. Also Gary Oldman was amazing in TTSS but that movie wasn't saved performace! It was terrible film!

Graham O'Riordan

Just saw Shame last night. I don't think it was good enough to be best picture. I still think its a disgrace Michael Fassbender didn't get nominated, a complete joke. He gave one of the best performances I've seen in years, a diffucult role played to perfection. And George Clooney got nominted?? He is so overrated, I put him up there with Ben Affleck and Tom Cruise, got to the top because he looks good.


At least one thing is "just" I believe – Girl With The Dragon Tattoo not getting much recognition. It may have been a good film, but it's an insult to foreign cinema that the remake was made SO soon after the first one – especially since the first was very successful anyway! Fincher is meant to be a dark horse, making daring and interesting choices – instead he does a dull (not the film, the choice in making it) unnecessary remake. He knows better.


Drive, Deathly Hallows Part II snubs are unnaceptable.


We need to Talk about Kevin, Shame, even Drive – all brilliant and daring scripts, direction and cinematography. The Academy prides themselves with choosing the "greatest cinematic achievements". Then why did they nominate blockbusters instead of films by directors who actually attempted something different and interesting (and which all received huge critical success anyway)? I don't understand why "content" (i.e. dark subject matter) should make a difference? Why do they keep praising the safe fuzzy choices instead of filmmakers who are actually trying to be artists?? It should be about quality of work. And auteurs and incredibly talented actors were dismissed this year (and most years). Its absolutely shocking that Swinton wasn't nominated (and Mara was – proof that they always need a "young" actress to fill some "void') nor Fassbender who's roles this year were lightyears more challenging than the other's that got nominated. The Academy doesn't care about cinematic achievement – if they did, they would have given Scorcese an award long before they did or they wouldn't have given Witherspoon one over Huffman (who was playing a man pretending to be a woman!). Actually perhaps its not about being too afraid to pick "dark" choices, maybe it's just down to their lack of imagination.
Oh sorry, wait I'm being unfair, they're right, we should be praising a role that had a character shit in a sink for comedy effect (funny, but oscar worthy seriously? SERIOUSLY?).


Shannon not getting nominated was a bigger snub than Fassbender IMO. Best performance of the year hands down.


it's the worst list.Tilda Swinton, Albert Brooks. best Screenplay – Steve Zaillian
“The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo,best original 50/50 . Project Nim (documentary ) are out . it’s silly ides of march is nominated for screenplay? (Because of Clooney?) pitt is producer of moneyball ,so where is Johnny Depp for hugo’s producer .his name and company are as producer in list and movie’s website.

Taylor C.

uh hello… Melacholia? Kirsten Dunst?

Gaspar Marino

Tilda Swinton…Albert Brooks — Michael Fassbender — Carey Mulligan — Leonardo Di Caprio — Project Nim and Buck. What a pity. To think that Melissa McCarthy gets an Oscar nomination. If it were 10 years ago, would Rosie O' Donnell be up for an Oscar? Oscar, time to get serious.

Daryl Hannah

Fassbender is a snub. To me, Ben Kingsley not getting a nomination for Hugo is a snub. Swinton is a snub, I guess.
But Fincher? No. The guy is on autopilot, pressing his technique onto whatever crosses his desk. An Eric Roth Gump rehash? A movie about Facebook? A bestseller/dreck adaptation? All okay but give me something with some soul. He has nothing to say outside of technical wizardry.
And Albert Brooks… I love the guy, but that wasn't that great of a performance in a year that was super strong in the best supporting category.


oscar nominations for best picture 5+ is a joke, has been since inception. i can name 10 of these nominations that are fucked in so many ways.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close


you mean Albert Brooks wasn't nominated? Drive didn't get a best picture nomination? Or a best director nomination? SHOCK!


I'm mad at how Michael Shannon was snubbed. That was the biggest robbery this year.

Abe Lincoln

How did Diablo Cody not get nominated and Margin Call was nominated… god that movie sucked.


Rooney Mara over Swinton and Theron is just plain wrong.


Saying Gary Oldman got the precedence for the British vote over Michael Fassbender is like saying that Meryl Streep got the precedence for the British vote over Tilda Swinton. The point being that working with British directors does not make an actor British and so your point, is quite pointless.


It's a shame about the song category. It has gotten more and more neglected year after year. First they stop performing each individual song during the awards ceremony. Then they do a medley of them. They they cut them down from 5 noms to 3 and now 2?! I doubt it if either song gets any sort of play during the broadcast this year. Original songs have always been a big part of cinema so I can't see them ever doing away with the catergory altogether but this is pathetic. Part of my problem has always been them nominating stupid ass songs from kids filsm and musicals in the first place. So the fact that Randy Newman or Elton John don't have a song this year means there aren't any worthy?? Bollucks. What about Think You Can Wait by The National from Win Win. Beautiful song. Or Gathering Stories by Jonsi from We Bought a Zoo. They snubbed him last year too by not noming his song Sticks and Stones from How To Train Your Dragon. But why am I even surprised. Did David Bowie get nomed for Cat People, or U2 for Hold Me, Kiss Me, or Radiohead for Exit Music, or Eddie Vedder or Bruce Springsteen. Of course not.


Am I the only one who can't understand all the love being shown to Margin Call? Just because it was full of clever sounding technical jargon and the occasional well phrased speech, that doesn't mean it has a good screenplay. Oscar nominated? Are you kidding? the characters were thin (Paul Bettany, looking at you I'm afraid), the dialogue generally pretty weak, and as a piece of drama it was structureless, inert, and completely flat. I thought the most remarkable thing about it was that the fate of the financial world hangs in the balance, and yet it felt like nothing was at stake. If you want verisimilitude, then make a documentary.


I'll tell you a surprise. The fact that Stephen Daldry didn't get a director nom for Extremely Loud. Because to me the fact that the film landed a Best Pic nom was not a surprise to me in the slightest. Not because the movie is good (I haven't seen it) but because Daldry films always get nomed even when they have poor reviews such as the last suprise inclusion of his, The Reader. I even wrote this all before in a rant comment months ago on one of the articles on this site. Nice to know I was right, even though the results are so wrong.


"Arguably" is right–"Man or Muppet" is hands-down the highlight of "The Muppets." I was so stoked to see it nominated…until I saw only 2 songs chosen. And then I basically felt like you: what's the point?


"We can only hope that this is the start of a gradual fading out in the category; one nomination in 2013, and none in 2014…"

I certainly hope not. My favorite moment in the last 10 Oscar ceremony is Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová winning for Once.

The category also gave us: Elliott Smith on an Oscar stage, (Deserving) Academy Award Winner Eminem, and Academy Award Nominees Trey Parker and Matt Stone. Please don't make me go as far as Shaft.


Michael Fassbender is from the Republic of Ireland, so he wouldn't have had the British vote…

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