Jan. 25 2011 12:00 AM

Ryan Gosling and Julianne Moore among the unjustly overlooked


Once the cheers die down and everyone gets a closer look at
the annual Academy Award nominations, the questions begin popping up. This
year’s crop of nominations, which were announced Tuesday morning, is no

As expected, Annette Bening got a best actress nomination
for “The Kids Are All Right,” in which she plays a lesbian mom trying to deal
with her adolescent kids and the surrogate father (Mark Ruffalo) who has
suddenly resurfaced in their lives. But Julianne Moore, who some might argue
had the more challenging role as Bening’s conflicted partner, was overlooked in
both the best actress and supporting actress categories.

Similarly, Michelle Williams garnered a deserved best
actress nomination for “Blue Valentine” (opening Friday at
Celebration!Lansing), in which she sears the screen as a woman who gradually
realizes her marriage is beyond salvation. Unfortunately, Ryan Gosling — who is
equally astonishing as her erratic husband — did not make the cut in the best
actor field.

Tilda Swinton, thought to have a strong shot at best actress
for “I Am Love,” didn’t make the final five. Andrew Garfield, who was touted as
a string supporting actor candidate for “The Social Network,” was overlooked,
as was Matt Damon’s colorful comic role in “True Grit.”

Although the mind-bending
dream-within-a-dream-within-a-dream thriller “Inception” landed a best picture
nomination and a nod for Christopher Nolan’s screenplay, Nolan was locked out
of the running as best director; so was previous winner Danny Boyle (“Slumdog
Millionaire”), even though his nerve-wracking “127 Hours” — a director’s film
if ever there was one — also got a best picture nomination and a slot in the
adapted screenplay category.

Aside from a few minor surprises, such as Javier Bardem
getting into the best actor category for the heavy-duty drama “Biutiful” and
Australian actress Jacki Weaver landing a supporting actress nomination for
“Animal Kingdom,” the nominees were more or less what industry observers had
expected. A few contests seem as if they’ve already been decided. Is anyone
likely to steal the supporting actor Oscar from Christian Bale after his
mesmerizing performance in “The Fighter”? Would voters dare deny Colin Firth
the best actor prize for “The King’s Speech” after disappointing him last year
for his superb work in “A Single Man”?

But other races are more difficult to call, such as
supporting actress, in which Weaver faces Amy Adams and Melissa Leo (both
nominated for “The Fighter”), as well as Helena Bonham Carter (as the future
Queen Mum in “The King’s Speech”) and 14-year-old firebrand Hailee Steinfield,
who arguably stole the show from Bridges and Damon in “True Grit.” It will also
be fascinating to see who goes home with the best director prize, considering
this is one of the very rare occasions in which all five of the nominated
movies — “Black Swan,” “The Fighter,” “The King’s Speech,” “The Social Network”
and “True Grit” — are certifiable critical and commercial hits.

For the second year in a row, the Academy has honored 10
best picture contenders: “Black Swan,” “The Fighter,” “Inception,” “The Kids
Are All Right,” “The King’s Speech,” “127 Hours,” “The Social Network,” “Toy
Story 3” (also nominated as best animated feature), “True Grit” and “Winter’s
Bone.” It’s a stronger selection than last year, in which the battle quickly
boiled down to “Avatar” vs. “The Hurt Locker.” While “Social” and “Speech” may
have the most gusto as of now, support has been building for “Swan,” “Fighter”
and even “Grit,” which is one of the few remakes ever to be showered with Oscar

Expect the picture to become considerably clearer by the
time the Academy Awards are presented Feb. 27.