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Last week's Oscar nominations full of surprises
Last week's Oscar nominations full of surprises
by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN Contributing Writer

In case you didn't already know, the 80th annual Academy Award nominations were announced this past Tuesday, with both Joel and Ethan Coen's No Country for Old Men and Paul Thomas Anderson's There Will Be Blood leading all nominees with eight. Coming in right behind were Joe Wright's Atonement and Tony Gilroy's Michael Clayton with seven, the four joined by comedic upstart Juno to round out the Best Picture category.

In all fairness, that's really all the information you need to know. At this point it can probably be safely assumed you know all this and, if you don't, I'm not going to take the time to recap it all again for you here. Instead, I'm just going to tear a page out of the Sergio Leone playbook and recap what I feel are the good, bad and the ugly of this year's nominations (with one or two other random comments inserted for good measure). It seems to me that should more then suffice until we get closer to the February 24 ceremony announcing the winners.

THE GOOD
Ratatouille garnering five nominations, including nods for Original Screenplay and for Michael Giacchino's rapturous score. Tommy Lee Jones gaining his first-ever nom for Best Actor (he's been in the Supporting Actor category twice, winning for The Fugitive) for his magnificently moving work in the otherwise forgotten In the Valley of Elah. Viggo Mortensen in the same category, also a first-time nominee, for his galvanizing turn as a Russian gangster in David Cronenberg's sensational Eastern Promises. Sarah Polley getting a much-deserved nomination for her sublime and powerful adapted screenplay for Away from Her. Jason Reitman getting nominated for directing Juno (the Academy tends to forget comedies have directors, too, even if they do get a Best Picture nomination). The fact the absolutely timeless Once got at least one nomination, even if it deserved more then a paltry nod for Best Song ("Falling Slowly"), for which it is thankfully the frontrunner. Teenager Saoirse Ronan (pronounced "seer-sha") getting remembered for her heartbreaking work in Atonement. The equally brilliant Lars and the Real Girl and The Savages both getting nominations for their dynamic and multilayered original screenplays.

THE BAD
Cate Blanchett getting a nod for the perfectly dreadful Elizabeth: The Golden Age while actresses like Amy Adams (Enchanted) and Angelina Jolie (A Mighty Heart) were left out in the cold. The virtual snubbing of Sean Penn's magnificent Into the Wild including the exclusion of every single one of Seattle's own Eddie Vedder's remarkable songs. The fact the Academy came to the conclusion Atonement must have directed itself, leaving the gifted Joe Wright the odd man out. Multiple nominations to Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz for their songs for Enchanted. One made sense, maybe even two, but three? That makes no sense at all. American Gangster, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and The Savages each garnering only two nominations apiece.

THE UGLY
The fact both Persepolis and 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days didn't even make the short list for Best Foreign Film consideration (the former did get a nod for Best Animated Feature, but this is still an inexcusable tragedy no matter how you look at it). The exclusion of Jonny Greenwood's score for There Will Be Blood for a seemingly random technicality. The fact The Golden Compass got nominated for anything at all. The snubbing of Seth Gordon's magnificent The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters from the Best Documentary shortlist. The complete exclusion of Sidney Lumet's dynamic Before the Devil Knows You're Dead. The snubbing of Aaron Sorkin's delightfully intricate and engagingly intelligent screenplay for Charlie Wilson's War.

THE SURPRISING
The fact that there were so few surprises. In a year many consider to be one of the greatest in decades, pretty much all of the films and performers thought of as frontrunners garnered the nominations they were expected to. There were a few twists here and there (3:10 to Yuma getting a - justifiable, if you ask me - nod for score, Surf's Up showing up in the Best Animated Feature category, Laura Linney being remembered for her moving work in The Savages), but overall the 2008 Oscars looked just about exactly like we thought they would.

THE INECUSABLE
The fact that I now have to live in a world where the perfectly awful and unforgivably offensive Norbit can call itself an Academy Award nominee while the absolutely brilliant and instantly classic Zodiac cannot. While the makeup in the former is admittedly great, Fincher's opus is one of the more monumental cinematic achievements of the new millennium. The film's exclusion from the nomination list will certainly go down in history as one of Oscar's greatest tragedies.


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