Massachusetts Daily Collegian

“Hugo” and “The Artist” among top of Academy Award nominees

By Chris Shores

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The nominations for the Academy Awards are officially in, and Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo” stands at the top of the pack with 11.

Right behind with 10 nominations is “The Artist,” the mostly silent black-and-white film that won a Golden Globe for Best Picture, Comedy or Musical.

Two films – “Moneyball” and “War Horse” – were nominated for six awards apiece. “The Descendants” – which took home the Golden Globe for Best Picture, Drama – scored five nominations.

Best Picture and Best Director

In the first year under the new nomination rules, nine films will vie for the Academy Awards’ top prize.

For years, the Best Picture category had been limited to five nominations, a tight field that almost always snubbed at least one worthy contender. The past two years saw an expansion to 10 nominees, which may have been an act of overcompensation, arguably nominating films just to fill out the ballot.

Now, a film must receive at least five percent of the vote to be included as a Best Picture nominee. There can be as many as 10 and as few as five.

“Hugo,” “The Artist,” “Moneyball,” “War Horse” and “The Descendants” – the biggest winners in the nomination list – will all compete for Best Picture. Other nominees include “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” “The Help,” “Midnight in Paris” and “The Tree of Life.”

While the number of nominees for top film will alternate from year to year, the Best Director field is locked at five. Earning nominees this year are Woody Allen (“Midnight In Paris”), Michel Hazanavicius (“The Artist”), Terrence Malick (“The Tree Of Life”), Alexander Payne (“The Descendants”) and Scorsese (“Hugo”).

The Best Director award is one to keep an eye on because it often serves as a predictor for Best Picture. In the past 10 years, there were only two instances when the two awards didn’t align. In 2002, Roman Polanski won for “The Pianist,” but “Chicago” won Best Picture. And in 2005, “Brokeback Mountain” director Ang Lee took home the Oscar, but “Crash” pulled off the upset and earned the top prize.

Only three times has a film won without its director being nominated: “Wings” in 1928, “Grand Hotel” in 1932 and “Driving Miss Daisy” in 1989. That statistic doesn’t bode well for “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” “The Help,” “Moneyball” or “War Horse,” none of which saw their directors make the cut.

Newcomers dominate acting categories

When the Best Actor winner goes to the stage to claim his award, he will be doing so for the first time.

None of the candidates nominated are previous winners, which may be surprising considering three of them go by the names of George Clooney (“The Descendants”), Gary Oldman (“Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”) and Brad Pitt (“Moneyball”). There have been three past Best Actor nominations between the trio (Clooney twice, Pitt once), but no wins.

The other two nominees were virtually unheard of by American audiences before their 2011 films. Mexican star Demián Bichir earned the nod for his role in “The Better Life” and French actor Jean Dujardin, star of silent film “The Artist,” was also nominated.

In contrast, the women in the Best Actress field have 16 previous nominations between them, but 13 of those belong to Meryl Streep (“The Iron Lady”). Despite being a regular in the category, Streep has not won the award since 1982 and is hoping that her performance as Margaret Thatcher can end the 30-year cold spell.

Glenn Close (“Albert Nobbs”) has never won the award but was nominated twice, in 1987 and 1988. And speaking of actresses nominated two years in a row, Michelle Williams (“My Week With Marilyn”) has earned a nomination again this year for her performance as Marilyn Monroe. Williams also recently won a Golden Globe for Best Actress, Comedy or Musical.

While Streep is the one to beat (she won the Golden Globe for Best Actress, Drama), Viola Davis (“The Help”) has been considered a serious contender as well. Rounding out the category is Rooney Mara, who played Lisbeth Salander in “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.”

The awards for Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress each feature five nominees, none of whom have never previously won the award.

The nominees for Best Supporting Actor are Kenneth Branagh (“My Week With Marilyn”), Jonah Hill (“Moneyball”), Nick Nolte (“Warrior”), Christopher Plummer (“Beginners”) and Max von Sydow (“Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close”). Only Plummer has received a previous nomination.

For Best Supporting Actress, the nominees are Bérénice Bejo (“The Artist”), Jessica Chastain (“The Help”), Melissa McCarthy (“Bridesmaids”), Janet McTeer (“Albert Nobbs”) and Octavia Spencer (“The Help”). None of the actresses have been previously nominated.

“Hugo” dominates technical categories

With 11 nominations, “Hugo” may be hoping to avoid the fate of two films – “The Turning Point” (1977) and “The Color Purple” (1985) – who lost in all 11 of their nominated categories.

Without a single nomination in the acting categories, “Hugo” will try to rely on nominations in the technical field. The film has been nominated for Art Direction, Cinematography, Costume Design, Film Editing, Music (Original Score), Sound Editing, Sound Mixing and Visual Effects.

It will have to compete against either “The Artist” or “War Horse” in all of those categories. “The Artist” was nominated for Art Direction, Cinematography, Costume Design, Film Editing and Music (Original Score). “War Horse” earned nominations for Art Direction, Cinematography, Music (Original Score), Sound Editing and Sound Mixing.

“Hugo” was also nominated in the category of Best Adapted Screenplay. Screenwriter John Logan will compete against screenwriting teams nominated for “The Descendants,” “The Ides of March,” “Moneyball” and “Tinker Tailor Solider Spy.”

“The Artist” director/writer Haznavicius was nominated for Best Original Screenplay. He will compete against a notable group including Allen (“Midnight in Paris”) and Saturday Night Live star Kristen Wiig, who co-wrote “Bridesmaids” with Annie Mumolo. J.C. Chandor (“Margin Call”) and Asghar Farhadi (“A Separation”) were also nominated.

Summer blockbuster “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2” earned three nominations: Art Direction, Makeup and Visual Effects.

Elton John and Madonna both wrote songs for movies this year, but neither was nominated for Best Original Song. That category will be between “Man or Muppet” from “The Muppets” and “Real in Rio” from “Rio.”

And Pixar’s streak of four wins in a row for Best Animated Feature has officially ended as “Cars 2” did not earn a nomination. The five nominees in that category are “A Cat In Paris,” “Chico & Rita,” “Kung Fu Panda 2,” “Puss in Boots” and “Rango.”

The Academy Awards begin on Feb. 26 at 7 p.m. on ABC.

Chris Shores can be reached at [email protected]

 

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