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Oscar Surprises: Dark Knight Out, Reader In

Oscar Surprises: Dark Knight Out, Reader In

The Oscar nominations are in and The Dark Knight did not make it to best picture. The Reader landed the slot instead, also scoring noms for Stephen Daldry for best director (over The Dark Knight’s Chris Nolan), David Hare for adapted screenplay and Kate Winslet (instead of Revolutionary Road). The Dark Knight was in the running though, with eight noms, including a posthumous nom for Heath Ledger, who is the frontrunner for best supporting actor.

Harvey Weinstein is a happy man.

A late-entry in the Oscar race, The Reader was barely finished in time. But Weinstein knew he had a winner and several Oscar-watchers were telling me Golden Globes weekend that their Academy pals weren’t saying they voted for The Dark Knight. They were hearing they liked The Reader, which finally landed five noms. (Penelope Cruz also landed a nom for supporting actress for TWC’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona, but Woody Allen was shut out for original screenplay.)

Media prognosticators who reach a consensus on these things aren’t always right–check out The Gurus ‘O Gold. Everybody said The Dark Knight–including me–because it was hard to figure anything else for that slot. The Reader was one of several possibilities, including two other films produced by Scott Rudin, Doubt (five noms) and Revolutionary Road (three). Rudin took his name off The Reader when he kept wrangling with Weinstein.

The other news was actors’ actors Melissa Leo and Richard Jenkins landing nods. Many Academy voters loved Sony Pictures Classics’ Sundance pick-up Frozen River, which also landed an unexpected nom for Courtney Hunt for original screenplay. The nom for Jenkins’ quiet performance in The Visitor meant that Clint Eastwood did not get a slot for Gran Torino, nor did Leonardo DiCaprio for Revolutionary Road, which landed three noms, for costume design, art direction and supporting actor Michael Shannon. Eastwood had to console himself with Changeling’s three noms (Jolie, cinematography and art direction). Gran Torino was shut out.

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are also happy today, as both won noms. Jolie won an Oscar in 2000 for Girl Interrupted, while Pitt hadn’t been nominated since his supporting role in Twelve Monkeys in 1996.

The best actress category was open for some surprises. Button’s Cate Blanchett did not make it, nor did critics’ faves Sally Hawkins and Kristin Scott Thomas, who were overlooked mainly because not enough people saw art-house entries Happy-Go-Lucky and I’ve Loved You So Long. Oscar perennial Mike Leigh did land his sixth Oscar nom, for his Happy-Go-Lucky original screenplay. He has never won.

Animated film Wall-E, from Pixar, didn’t make it to best picture but it did earn six noms, including original screenplay, tying with Beauty and the Beast (which had four music noms). Pixar’s Ratatouille earned five last year and won best animated feature, as Wall-E is likely to do.

Here’s the list of noms, led by David Fincher’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, with 13. Someone asked me to make my Oscar pics before this morning, and I backed out. You have to get a feel for the whole list. Heading toward the Academy Awards night on February 22, Benjamin Button will be slugging it out with Slumdog Millionaire. But Milk also did very well, which is why I’m still picking Sean Penn to beat Mickey Rourke, partly because The Wrestler landed only two acting noms. Milk is going to have to win something.

UPDATE: Tom O’Neil explains why Bruce Springsteen didn’t make the cut.

The noms list is on the jump:

“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (13 noms)
“Frost/Nixon” (5)
“Milk” (8)
“The Reader” (5)
“Slumdog Millionaire” (10)

Richard Jenkins, ‚ÄúThe Visitor”
Frank Langella, “Frost/Nixon”
Sean Penn, “Milk”
Brad Pitt, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
Mickey Rourke, “The Wrestler”

Anne Hathaway, “Rachel Getting Married”
Angelina Jolie, “Changeling”
Melissa Leo, “Frozen River”
Meryl Streep, “Doubt”
Kate Winslet, “The Reader”

Danny Boyle, “Slumdog Millionaire”
Stephen Daldry, “The Reader”
David Fincher, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
Ron Howard, “Frost/Nixon”
Gus Van Sant “Milk”

Josh Brolin, “Milk”
Robert Downey Jr., “Tropic Thunder”
Philip Seymour Hoffman, “Doubt”
Heath Ledger, “The Dark Knight”
Michael Shannon, “Revolutionary Road”

Amy Adams, “Doubt”
Penelope Cruz, “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”
Viola Davis, “Doubt”
Taraji P. Henson, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
Marisa Tomei, “The Wrestler”

[Originally appeared on Variety.com]

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