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Talking Points: Oscar’s Big Surprises

juno-oscar1.jpg“I’m so surprised that Juno was nominated for so many awards this year.” Boy, if I had $20 for every time I’ve heard that over the past month, I would have enough money to buy the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. And you know what that means: Michael Bay, Best Director in 2010 for Transformers 2.

But enough of that Michael Bay-related pipe dream, this year’s Oscar race hasn’t been about surprises. In fact, for a while now we’ve known which movies are going to square off to take home a golden man. But just because Atonement, No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood have garnered their expected share of nominations, that doesn’t mean Oscar doesn’t have a few tricks up his sleeve.

Of course there is Juno, the psuedo-indie darling. This year’s “little movie that could” or “delightful surprise” or whatever cliche tagline with which you can label it. Lets face it though, Juno is not this year’s surprise entry into Oscar’s fray. It is a well cast, well directed, brilliantly scribed film that hinges on a performance by an actress who has already shown us that she is something out of this world (I mean seriously, did no one see Hard Candy? I think not.) Juno is quite the darling, I will admit, and deserving of every accolade and all the press that she will receive, but lets not soil her run by calling her this year’s improbable underdog.

rubydee01.jpgBesides, there are plenty other underdogs who will be announced next Sunday night as nominees. How about Ruby Dee, nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her role in American Gangster. She spent about 12 minutes on screen and with one fatal slap, she solidified her chances of claiming a little golden guy. Up against a solid gathering of nominees, you would think she won’t stand a chance. But think again, as Best Supporting Actress is easily one of the categories this year that could go to just about anyone, especially Amy Ryan, whose performance in Gone Baby Gone was amazing.

And its not just the Supporting ladies who have some surprises among them, what about the leading ladies. Cate Blanchett and Julie Christie are the front-runners, with the aforementioned Ellen Page as the expected surprise winner. But what of this 32 year old French actress, Marion Cotillard. Her performance radiated from the screen, leaving not a dry eye in the house. She could be the one that steals the show from Julie Christie, should fate decide that Ellen Page can wait.

oscar-ratatouille.jpgBut what about the men, you ask? Well, there is Tommy Lee Jones, whose nomination is curious in the sense that it could be for the wrong movie. In the Valley of Elah was a mess, Jones was stellar in No Country for Old Men. I guess we will all be in the dark on that one, especially if he wins. And there is Hal Holbrook, who was the shining light within an otherwise dark, detestable film. If he beats out ole Javier, there will be head scratching for sure.

And gee, those are just the acting and best picture categories. I didn’t even mention the nomination of Norbit for Best Makeup or the nomination of Lars and the Real Girl for Best Original Screenplay. And how about Brad Bird’s Original Screenplay nod for Ratatouille? Do you think that is a surprise? I certainly do.

Underneath the thick layer of Juno lovers and haters who do battle daily in the blogosphere over this year’s darling, there is a wonderful gathering of surprise nominees about whom we should be talking. With plenty of time until we have to get rolling with our man Oscar, I see no reason why we shouldn’t do the debate. That leads us to this week’s talking point…

What are the biggest surprises of this year’s Oscar nominations? Who do you think will be the biggest surprise winner come next Sunday’s ceremony?

Neil Miller is the Founder and Publisher of Film School Rejects. For almost a decade, he has been talking movies on television, the radio, and the Internet.

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