It's Academy Award Nominations Day, which means for every sure-thing nominee to applaud (go George Clooney!) or fan fave who squeaks in (woo hoo Melissa McCarthy!), there's a snub to bemoan (where's Albert Brooks?) or a huge surprise to marvel at (who's Demian Bichir?), and this year's list of Oscar hopefuls contains several shockers.
Before we start a month of predictions and odds-making, let's take a moment to point out the many ways the Academy missed the mark or pleasantly surprised us with their picks.
We hope Martin Scorsese thanks his wife this morning for demanding he make a movie their 12-year-old daughter could actually see. The Oscar winner's adaptation of a beloved children's book just scored an impressive 11 nominations in basically everything except the performance categories (most notable snubbing: Sir Ben Kingsley). Although it's highly the movie will sweep "Return of the King"-style, it's still a coup for the quintessential New Yorker's film to receive the most nominations of the year.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Nominated
After missing the deadline to be named in most of the critics' best-of-2011 lists and then being passed over for the Globes, it seemed Stephen Daldry's emotional adaptation would remain a tearjerker without any acclaim. But the Academy obviously responded to the 9/11 drama, particularly Max von Sydow's wordless performance; he's up for Best Supporting Actor. Even more surprising? The movie grabbed one of the coveted Best Picture spots.
Melissa McCarthy Better Pick Out Dress Again
Melissa McCarthy may not have nabbed a Golden Globes nomination for her hilariously scene-stealing performance in "Bridesmaids," but the Academy more than made up for the Hollywood Foreign Press' mistake. Not only is McCarthy scoring one for funny ladies everywhere, but she has proven pretending to poop is a fine art. She faces tough competition, but McCarthy is already a winner to us.
Albert Brooks Won't Need Driver
Despite receiving several accolades and award nominations for his surprisingly against-type role as a Los Angeles gangster in "Drive," Brooks was completely (and unforgivably) overlooked for the Academy Awards. We don't want to blame anyone, but it looks like Max von Sydow and/or Jonah Hill stole Brooks' place. And while we're complaining about Brook's lack of a nomination, it's a shame that Nicholas Winding Refn's beautifully acted critical darling isn't represented, save for a Best Sound Editing nod.
No Love for Genre Pics in Best Pic Category
Some movies just can't break out of their genres. Even with universally fabulous reviews, a ton of fans and stellar casts, movies like "Bridesmaids," "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II" and "The Girl With the Drag Tattoo" were all frozen out of the Best Picture race. Is it because James Cameron didn't direct them? We'll never know, but we're still sad (especially about "Potter").
Leonardo DiCaprio is no stranger to the Academy Awards; he's been nominated three times, but this was not his year. The "J. Edgar" star's transformation into the legendary FBI head may have been a classic case of Clint Eastwood Oscar bait, but the Academy (for once) didn't bite. Sorry, Leo, but there's always 2013. If anything should earn you some Oscar gold, it's playing Jay Gatsby.
'Tree of Life' Has Enough Ardent Fans
Never underestimate how many Hollywood insiders adore Terrence Malick. The auteur's polarizing treatise on the meaning of life and family didn't score any Golden Globe nominations, but now it's competing in two major categories (Best Picture and Best Director), not just Cinematography as expected. And with its stars Jessica Chastain and Brad Pitt nominated for other films, there will be plenty of 'Life' love on Oscars night.
Shailene Woodley Loses Inheritance
She had one of the biggest breakouts of 2011, but the young actress who went toe-to-toe with George Clooney will have to wait for an Academy Award nomination. Instead, the voters selected Jessica Chastain – ostensibly for "The Help," but probably for impressing audiences in "The Tree of Life" and "Take Shelter" as well last year.
Jonah Hill, Oscar Nominee
What a milestone year for Jonah Hill. Not only did he lose 40 pounds and join the elite list of men who can claim a Brad Pitt bromance, but he also received an Academy Award nomination for playing Pitt's geektastic sidekick in "Moneyball." And whether or not he goes home with Oscar gold (our money's on Christopher Plummer, who has yet to win), he's now got bragging rights over Seth Rogen, Jason Segel and the rest of his bros.
The Girl With the Oscar Nomination
Last year, Rooney Mara made waves for beating out scores of other Hollywood starlets to land the much-desired role of Lisbeth Salander in David Fincher's Americanized take on "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo." This year, the 26-year-old actress proved she was the right woman for the job with an Academy Award nomination. We couldn't be more chuffed, because Mara killed as the badass private investigator, and we can't wait to see her play the mysteriously inked character again and again.
We Need to Talk About Tilda Swinton
Swinton's much lauded portrayal of maternal horror in the difficult-to-watch "We Need To Talk About Kevin" (even seasoned movie lovers like us found it cringe-inducing at times) must have been a little too hard for the Academy voters to screen, because Swinton was surprisingly left off the Best Actress list. We think Swinton's nomination went to Rooney Mara instead.
Hello Animated Features We've Never Heard Of
We're not sure what happened to "The Adventures of Tintin," but the nominations for Best Animated Feature included two films that have been completely off our radar: "A Cat in Paris" and "Chico & Rita." Both are foreign animated films ("Cat" is French, "Chico" Spanish), and now we'd love to figure out how to see them. True to its title, "Cat" follows a feline's adventures in Paris, while "Chico & Rita" is a love story about a pianist and a beautiful singer who meet in pre-Castro Havana.
Fassbender, Penis Joke Lovers Both Lose
Nothing would've made us happier than to see a repeat of George Clooney's Golden Globes speech, but alas, it's not meant to be at the Oscars. Maybe Academy voters are more conservative than their foreign press counterparts, because Michael Fassbender's brave and raw (read: full frontal) performance in "Shame" went unrewarded. Penis joke fans everywhere will have to hang their heads down low.
There Were Only Two Good Songs This Year?
Those of us hoping for round two of the Elton John vs. Madonna standoff will have to keep waiting. Neither the Material Girl's Golden Globe-winning "W.E." single, "Masterpiece," Sir Elton's "Gnomeo & Juliet" song, "Hello Hello," OR Mary J. Blige's "The Help" song, "The Living Proof," earned nominations. Don't get us wrong, we loved Bret McKenzie's philosophical "Muppets" anthem "Man or Muppet" and the catchy Brazilian tune "Real in Rio" from "Rio," but really, Academy – only two songs? Did someone lose the names of the other nominees?
Meet Demián Bichir
We don't want to brag or anything, but we've been fans of Demián since he played Mary Louise Parker's studly third husband, a Mexican politician and druglord, on "Weeds." In Chris Weitz' father-son drama "A Better Life," Bichir portrays a Mexican immigrant desperate to provide his teenage son with all the opportunities the U.S. has to offer. The powerful role earned Bichir career-making reviews, applauding his "quietly potent," "pitch-perfect" performance.
'Tintin' Makes No Motion
Despite its impressive pedigree, the motion-capture adaptation of the renowned European comic books didn't score any Oscar love. Even with two Academy Award-winning filmmakers at the helm, "Tintin" only earned one nomination: Best Score for John Williams (who unlike Spielberg, was also nominated for "War Horse").
Spielberg Loses Directing 'War'
The Academy loves Steven Spielberg, but apparently he canceled himself out with his two December releases. While it's no surprise "Tintin" didn't generate any award buzz for the legendary filmmaker, it's surprising that his six-time-nominated drama "War Horse" failed to earn Spielberg his 7th Best Director nomination. Since he's the movie's producer, however, he still has a chance to take home a trophy.
Oldman Quietly Sneaks In
Like his tightlipped British intelligence officer George Smiley in "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy," Oldman quietly landed in the Best Actor's race. Understated performances are usually overshadowed by larger-than-life roles, so it's a pleasant surprise that Oldman finally (finally!) earned his first Academy Award nomination. We had to double-check that to be sure, since it seems so incomprehensible, but Oldman has never been nominated before this year. It's about time.
'W.E.' Is Academy-Approved
Many found the pair of Globe Globe nominations (for Best Original Song and Best Original Score) and subsequent win (for the former) for the Madonna written-and-directed "W.E." to be the usual case of Hollywood Foreign Press celebrity brownnosing. But the widely panned film has also made the cut at the Oscars – and no, it's not in a musical category, but rather for Best Costume Design. Will Madge still show?
Do Not Beware the 'Ides of March'
Well, OK, George Clooney's political drama did garner a nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay, but otherwise it didn't make quite the Oscar splash "Good Night, and Good Luck" did six years ago. But Clooney should be celebrating even if "Ides of March" didn't land more nods. Not only is he up for screenwriting, he's the frontrunner to win Best Actor.
Theron Won't Three-Peat
Charlize Theron did a terrific job playing a terribly unlikable protagonist in "Young Adult," but her Golden Globe-nominated performance didn't get a chance at a happy ending come Oscar night. In fact, the Diablo Cody-penned, Jason Reitman-directed comedy must have been too snarky for the Academy, which shut out the movie altogether. If she's anything like her character Mavis, Theron will drown her sorrows in a 2-liter bottle of Diet Coke and some fast food.
Trent Reznor Does Not Score
Thanks to John Williams' double nominations for "Tintin" and "War Horse," several equally as deserving composers didn't get a nod this year, including "Harry Potter" scorer Alexandre Desplat (who also composed "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close"), Dario Marianelli for "Jane Eyre" and Trent Reznor for "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo." It must've been too much to expect Reznor, who won last year for "The Social Network," to repeat. Our response: a full-throated Karen O. yell of disapproval!
Ryan Gosling 0-for-3
Rarely does an actor generate so much buzz for three such different and fantastic roles in a single year. Despite his photo-shopped abs and Method acting skills, Gosling still couldn't woo the Academy into honoring him with a nomination (we hoped for "Drive"). We're not sure why the Oscars haven't fallen for Gosling like the rest of us (well, except for his 2006 performance in "Half Nelson"), but he wuz robbed!
Kristen Wiig Is Oscar-Nominated
Even though we're disappointed that "Bridesmaids" didn't end up on the Best Picture list, at least it got two high-profile, well-deserved nominations: one for Melissa McCarthy and one for Kristen Wiig and her writing partner Annie Mumolo (you know, the terrified flier sitting next to Wiig on the doomed flight to Las Vegas) for Best Original Screenplay. If she wins, Wiig should return to Manhattan and treat her "SNL" peeps to one amazing after-party.
Ugh, And for the Last Time… No Harry Potter
We've saved our biggest disappointment for last: "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2" didn't score a Best Picture nomination (it did, however, score three technical nods). It isn't just because we're unabashed fans of the series or because it's the epic saga's final installment. It's because the movie is genuinely one of 2011's best, or should we say, magical, films, and it deserved to be recognized. As Entertainment Weekly said of the series finale, "the thrilling conclusion to a phenomenal cinematic story 10 years in the telling, 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2' is proof that authentic movie excitement is its own form of magic." Amen.