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Among expected picks, `District 9′ still surprises
NEW YORK ñ In an Oscar year defined by inclusion, fewer movie folks than normal spent nominations morning feeling snubbed.
With the field of best picture nominees doubling from five to 10, there were more celebrations Tuesday and still some surprises:
“DISTRICT 9” INVADES: Yes, the relatively low-budget South African science-fiction hit was in the Oscar buzz. But no film benefited more from the expansion of best picture nominees, and it’s still surprising to hear it announced alongside movies such as “Up in the Air” and “The Hurt Locker.” Science-fiction is among the rarest of genres to cross that threshold, with only “Star Wars” and “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial” (and now “Avatar”) previously getting best picture noms. “District 9” earned four nominations in all, including editing, visual effects and best adapted screenplay.
COENS RETURN: Ethan and Joel Coen are back at the Oscars. Their “A Serious Man” earned mostly high praise, but had floated on the edge of predictions through awards season. For a film from heavyweight filmmakers, it has been a distinct underdog. But two years after they took home best picture and best director for “No Country for Old Men,” the Coens are again up for best picture and best original screenplay.
COMEDY LOSES OUT, AGAIN: The best picture expansion didn’t help comedy. Sure, there are comedic qualities to movies such as “Inglourious Basterds,” “Up” and “A Serious Man,” but out-an-out comedies like “The Hangover,” “(500) Days of Summer” and “It’s Complicated” all came away empty handed. After a win for best comedy or musical at the Golden Globes, some had thought “The Hangover” ó one of the most crowd-pleasing films of the year ó would squeak into the top 10. But after the nominees were read, “(500) Days of Summer” didn’t even get the best original screenplay nomination that many had predicted. One comedy, a dark one, did earn a surprising nomination for best adapted screenplay: “In the Loop.”
SUPPORTING ACTRESS SWAP: While Jeff Bridges’ performance in “Crazy Heart” has been roundly hailed and is generally viewed as the favorite for best actor, co-star Maggie Gyllenhaal has gone mostly under the radar. Tuesday, she was nominated for best supporting actress ó her first Oscar nomination.
MUSICAL CHAIRS: A few of the most interesting choices were hidden away in music categories. Wes Anderson’s “Fantastic Mr. Fox” was, as expected, nominated for best animated film (a category that included the shocker of “The Secret of Kells”). But Alexandre Desplat’s playful original score also earned a nomination. In best song, “Loin de Paname” from the somewhat unheralded French film “Paris 36” was nominated. Another foreign film also sneaked into the best makeup category. The terrifically stylish and underrated “Il Divo” will compete in the three-film field with “Star Trek” and “The Young Victoria.”