BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — It’s been a crowded awards season, full of lavish spectacles and gripping indies. So naturally there were some surprises and snubs among Thursday’s Academy Award nominations. Among them:
LIGHTS OUT FOR “THE DARK KNIGHT”: Yes, the Batman epic received eight nominations Thursday, the third-highest total for any film this year (behind “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” with 13 and “Slumdog Millionaire” with 10). But momentum seemed to have been building for a best-picture nomination, as well as one for director Christopher Nolan, who’s up for a Directors Guild award. It got neither. As expected, Heath Ledger earned a posthumous supporting-actor nomination for his riveting turn as the Joker, but the other nominations came in technical categories like cinematography, art direction and visual effects.
FINALLY HER TIME: Kate Winslet earned the sixth Oscar nomination of her young life — she’s only 33 — but it came for best actress in “The Reader” instead of her showier portrayal of a 1950s housewife on the edge in “Revolutionary Road.” It makes absolute sense. Clearly, she gives a lead performance as a former Nazi concentration camp guard in “The Reader,” but Winslet seemed to have been positioned as a supporting player, and she won the Golden Globe earlier this month in that category. Whatever the picture, this looks like her year; having built an impeccable career, she’s long overdue.
ALONG THOSE LINES ... Everything about “Revolutionary Road” screamed Oscar bait. It came from esteemed source material, Richard Yates’ novel about a miserable married couple in the Connecticut suburbs. It featured the much-anticipated reteaming of “Titanic” stars Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio. It boasted flawless production values under the direction of Sam Mendes, who’d previously scored big with the academy with 1999’s “American Beauty.” Instead, “Revolutionary Road” earned just a supporting-actor nomination for Michael Shannon, as a disturbed neighbor who serves as the voice of reason, and for art direction and costume design.
HOPEFULLY STILL SMILING: Sally Hawkins won a Golden Globe Award for best actress in a comedy or musical for her endearing turn as the eternally perky Poppy in “Happy-Go-Lucky.” Sadly, she didn’t receive an Oscar nomination. Kristin Scott Thomas’ name also had been bandied about for “I’ve Loved You So Long,” in which she plays a woman struggling to reconnect with her family after being released from prison. (The English actress gives the performance in French.) But it’s lovely that longtime character actress Melissa Leo got in for the tiny “Frozen River,” in which she gives an understated, realistic performance as a poor mother who resorts to immigrant smuggling.
THEY’RE OFF HIS LAWN: Clint Eastwood looked like a favorite in the best-actor category for “Gran Torino,” in which he plays a bigoted retiree who becomes a reluctant neighborhood hero. The 78-year-old Eastwood, who also directed the film, has said he’s considered making this his last appearance on screen. Although he has four Oscars for his work behind the camera, he’s never won one for his acting. The absence of DiCaprio in “Revolutionary Road” is also a surprise. But as in the case of Leo in the best-actress race, it’s great to see dark horse Richard Jenkins make it in here for his touching turn in “The Visitor.”
SECOND FIDDLE A SECOND TIME: How does Michael Sheen keep getting snubbed? He’s David Frost in “Frost/Nixon” opposite Frank Langella, who received a best-actor nomination as Richard Nixon. He was Tony Blair in “The Queen” opposite Helen Mirren, who won the best-actress Oscar two years ago as Queen Elizabeth II. In both films, Sheen is crucial to holding things together — and both times, the academy has shut him out. Perhaps his acting is so subtle, it’s easy to overlook and take for granted in the face of flashier starring roles.
A LOSS FOR THE BOSS: Amazingly, Bruce Springsteen didn’t receive an original-song nomination for his melancholy title tune from “The Wrestler,” which earned him a Golden Globe. Miley Cyrus also was considered a possible nominee for “I Thought I Lost You” from the animated “Bolt,” which she co-wrote. And it would have been so much fun to refer to her for all of eternity as “Academy Award nominee Miley Cyrus.”
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