This morning's Oscar nominations were a generally predictable bunch. With "Avatar" and "The Hurt Locker" expectedly leading the pack, there were no "The Reader"-esque shockers a la last year, and all but one of the acting nominations had been crystal clear going in. But there were sprinkles of surprise throughout... Perhaps most notably, "Avatar" and "Locker" were much closer in total noms than most expected. Here's indieWIRE's ten biggest surprises:
1. "The Hurt Locker" ties "Avatar" for most nominations.
With the surprising (and deserved) inclusion of a best original score nod, Kathryn Bigelow's "The Hurt Locker" will head into Oscar night on equal footing with James Cameron's "Avatar" (which suggests we are in for quite the showdown - between ex-spouses, to boot). Each recevied nine nominations.
2. Julianne Moore snubbed in best supporting actress.
While nearly all of the acting nominations were incredibly predictable (both the Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild Awards predicted 19 of 20 nominees), best supporting actress offered the only surprise in its snub of "A Single Man"'s Julianne Moore.
In her place came....
3. Maggie Gyllenhaal makes the cut for "Crazy Heart."
With essentially no precursors to her name, Maggie Gyllenhaal scored her very first Oscar nomination for her role opposite Jeff Bridges in "Crazy Heart."
4. "The Messenger" and "In The Loop" get screenplay nods; "(500) Days of Summer" doesn't.
Nearly half of the ten screenplay nominees debuted at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, including "Precious" and "An Education," which both also received best picture nods. But, while those two nominations were expected, surprises came in the form of Alessandro Camon & Oren Moverman's script for "The Messenger," and Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, Tony Roche's for "In The Loop." "The Messenger" knocked out an expected Sundance nominee in "500 Days of Summer," which had scored multiple precursor nominations.
5. "The Blind Side" for best picture.
While not shocking, "The Blind Side"'s inclusion in the best picture category is definitely the biggest surprise of the Academy's top ten. Producer's Guild nominees "Invictus" and "Star Trek" were left out in the Sandra Bullock-starrer's wake and its inclusion bodes well for Bullock's best actress bid. Her biggest competitor - Meryl Streep - was her film's lone nominee. Its a rare feat for an actress to win this award on a film's only nomination, though 2003's Charlize Theron and 1994's Jessica Lange are two examples in the past 20 years.
6. "The Secret of Kells" for best animated feature.
Definitely the most obscure nomination, "Kells" - an Irish film directed by Tomm Moore that won the audience award at the 2009 Edinburgh International Film Festival - beat out hefty $100 million grossers like "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs" and "Ice Age 3."
7. The foreign language film category doesn't do anything stupid.
Films that didn't make it to the previously announced shortlist aside, the foreign-language film category features an uncharacteristically deserving bunch, with a Cannes rematch between Jacques Audiard's "A Prophet" and Michael Haneke's "The White Ribbon" likely. Both are from Sony Pictures Classics, which also received a third nomination in the category with Argentina's "El Secreto de Sus Ojos".
8. "Loin de Paname" for best original song.
At the expense of "Avatar"'s horrid ballad "I See You," the Academy made an excellent decision honoring Reinhardt Wagner and Frank Thomas's “Loin de Paname,” from “Paris 36” instead.
9. "Which Way Home" and "The Most Dangerous Man in America" for best documentary feature.
Relatively unknown docs from Rebecca Cammista ("Home") and Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith ("America") made the cut at the expense of more high-profile docs that had made the shortlist: "The Beaches of Agnes," "Every Little Step," and "Valentino The Last Emperor."
10. A woman and an openly gay African-American get best director nominations. An animated film and two sci-fi films get best picture nominations. Half the best picture nominees gross over $100 million, three of them gross under $13 million.
Alright, so these aren't surprises. But they're definitely something. All in all, as expected as these nominations were, they represent one of the most diverse batches of nominations the Academy has (ever?) offered. Here's to this no longer being the exception to the rule.
"For Your Consideration" is a weekly column written by indieWIRE Associate Editor Peter Knegt. Check out the previous editions of the column:
For Your Consideration: Final Oscar Predictions
For Your Consideration: Guessing The Golden Globes
For Your Consideration: Is Kathryn Bigelow a Female Director?
For Your Consideration: Re-Assessing The Major Categories
For Your Consideration: How Much Does Oscar Love a Musical?
For Your Consideration: 10 Surprises From The Spirit Award Nominations
For Your Consideration: A Guide To The Oscar Precursors
For Your Consideration: 25 Things The Academy Got Right In The 2000s
For Your Consideration: The 50 Most Despicable Oscar Snubs of the 2000s
For Your Consideration: Assessing The Major Oscar Categories
For Your Consideration: Oscar's Gay Tendencies
For Your Consideration: 11 Underdog Performances
For Your Consideration: History Repeats as Major Foreign Films Left Off Academy List
For Your Consideration: 10 Things The Fall Fests Told Us About Awards Season