Photo Credit: Warner Bros.;Suzanne Hanover/Universal Studios;Sony Pictures
Considering the way the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has tried to play to a mainstream audience throughout the past few years -- hello Inception and Avatar -- it seems that this year they decided to play their cards pretty close to their chest. They opted to nominate nine films for best picture this year because of their new voting system, but are missing a much-anticipated mainstream dark horse from the mix, like Bridesmaids or The Muppets or Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2.
That being said, there were several surprises in the best picture category. While the expected films got their nods -- The Artist, The Descendants, Hugo -- some other movies that have been skipped over in other critics awards got recognition. War Horse, The Tree of Life and Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, perhaps the biggest surprise of the nine, all received nominations.
The best actor and best actress pools were similarly unexpected. While Leonardo DiCaprio, Ryan Gosling and Michael Fassbender were all snubbed nominations unfairly (maybe Shame's NC-17 rating really was its Oscar death toll), A Better Life's Demian Bichir, and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy's Gary Oldman got surprising, albeit well-deserved, nods. Similarly, Rooney Mara got the best actress nod that would have otherwise likely gone to Kristen Wiig.
While Bridesmaids might have gotten the short end of the stick in the major categories, at least Melissa McCarthy did land a nomination for best supporting actress. This is what adorable golden retriever puppies can do for a woman. Also, congratulations are in order for Jonah Hill, who earned his first very well-deserved Oscar nomination today for his role in Moneyball. He's come a long way from his Superbad days (sort of). Unfortunately that meant that Albert Brooks and Alan Rickman didn't get any recognition for their roles in Drive or Harry Potter, respectively, but both of those films were pretty much universally panned in Oscar nominations.
The Academy seemed to really like The Tree of Life this year, as Terrence Malick scored a best director nomination. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo wasn't so lucky, as David Fincher was snubbed a nod.
It came as a bit of a shock that Kung Fu Panda 2 and Puss in Boots (and heck, even Rango) received best animated film nominations over The Adventures of Tintin, considering the latter won the Golden Globe in this category. Maybe it was up for best picturee instead of best animated, but ended up being snubbed from both? Either way, its absence is duly noted in the nomination pool.
There were some nice surprises farther down the list of today's nominees. The Muppets song "Man or Muppet" earned one of two best original song nominations (though where were Elton John and Lady Gaga's "Hello Hello" or Madonna's Golden Globe-winning "Masterpiece"?). And in the screenplay categories, Margin Call got a surprising nod for best original screenplay and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy received one for best adapted screenplay.
Tune into the Oscars on Sunday Feb. 26 at 7 p.m. ET on ABC. You can check out the full list of nominees here.