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Look Closer: There Are Some Oscar Surprises

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Is the biggest surprise of the Oscar nominations the fact that there weren’t any surprises?

Even before the Granddaddy of All Hollywood Trophies announced its list, we’d already had most of the biggest names trotted before us at various other fawn-fest announcements.

But giving things a closer look, the academy did toss a few unexpected selections in the mix and reveal some notable snubs:

“The King’s Speech”: The film and its principals have had clear voices in the awards din since day one, but after gathering 12 nominations from Oscar (and its Golden Globe victory) it’s clearly been crowned as the frontrunner come February 27. A pretty regal accomplishment, given that three months ago everyone was already handing the golden guy to “The Social Network.”

“True Grit”: Just like Marshal Rooster Cogburn, the Coen brothers’ seemingly shopworn effort may have some unexpected glory ahead on the trail. Critics lavished the love on the film, but it was largely ignored by some of the major brand-name awards. It’s got one eye on some ten Oscars now, and let’s not forget, little sister: the Academy adores both underdogs and its own legacy (John Wayne took a Best Actor trophy for the 1969 version).

Mark Ruffalo: Annette Bening and Julianne Moore have shared most of the awards attention for “The Kids Are All Right,” but Ruffalo, an actor Hollywood and the public seem to regard with both great affection and great admiration, finally scores his first-ever Oscar nom – both overdue and, for this film, richly deserved.

Mark Wahlberg: Even mostly unheralded (but perennial Oscar darling) Amy Adams managed to grab a nom out of the frenzy over the seven-times-nominated “The Fighter,” but the leading man who tirelessly kept himself in fighting shape in the long slugfest to get the film made is overlooked. Wahlberg does have a nomination as a producer of the film, however, in his corner.

Christopher Nolan: No nomination for directing Best Pic contender “Inception?” We must be dreaming.

Mila Kunis: Was a supporting actress nomination for “Black Swan” expected? Sorta. Would it have been deserved? Umm…We’ll finally get around to seeing Jacki Weaver’s turn in “Animal Kingdom” and let you know.

Ryan Gosling: The Academy turned its collective back on his performance as sharply as he was rejected in “Blue Valentine.” With a nearly symbiotic performance alongside Michelle Williams, only honoring hers seems like nominating one half of a broken heart.

Javier Bardem: He’s coming to awards attention late in the game, but again, the Academy loves them a legacy nominee – and he has a better haircut in “Biutiful."

Movies that should seemingly have no business being mentioned in the same breath as Oscar: That twangy disaster “Country Strong” (Best Song nominee) and “Hereafter” aka “Clint Eastwood’s Worst Film Ever” (Best Visual Effects nominee) can now use the phrase “Academy Awards nominee” in their home video marketing. But, mercifully, “Burlesque” can’t. So there’s at least some justice among Academy voters.

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