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Scorsese's 'Hugo' leads Oscars with 11 nominations

By David Germain

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 24 2012 9:22 a.m. MST

Along with Streep and Williams, best-actress nominees are: Glenn Close as a 19th century Irishwoman masquerading as a male butler in "Albert Nobbs"; Viola Davis as a black maid going public with tales of white Southern employers in "The Help"; and Rooney Mara as a traumatized, vengeful computer genius in "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo."

"I am honored to be in company with such beautiful artists, and touched deeply by my fellow actors for their generosity in giving me this acknowledgment," Streep said.

Octavia Spencer's win at the Globes as supporting-actress for "The Help," in which she plays a fiery maid whose mouth continually gets her in trouble, could give her front-runner status for the same prize at the Oscars. The same may hold true for supporting-actor nominee Christopher Plummer, who won a Globe for his role as an elderly dad coming out as gay in "Beginners."

An esteemed film and stage actor, Plummer went most of his 60-year career unacknowledged at the Oscars until earning a supporting-actor nomination two years ago as Leo Tolstoy in "The Last Station." If he wins this time, the 82-year-old Plummer would become the oldest acting recipient ever; Jessica Tandy now holds that position for her best-actress win in "Driving Miss Daisy" at age 80.

Also in contention for supporting actor: Kenneth Branagh as Laurence Olivier in "My Week with Marilyn"; Jonah Hill as a statistics whiz in "Moneyball"; Nick Nolte as a derelict dad making amends in "Warrior"; and Max von Sydow as a mute mystery man in "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close."

Also up for supporting actress are "The Help" co-star Jessica Chastain as Spencer's lonely, needy boss; Melissa McCarthy as a crude but caring member of the wedding in "Bridesmaids"; and Janet McTeer as a woman posing as a male laborer in "Albert Nobbs."

McCarthy is a rare funny lady competing at the Oscars, which seldom honor performances in mainstream comedies such as "Bridesmaids."

The nomination for McCarthy was a small surprise next to some other startling turns among the nominations.

Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock's "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close," which got mixed reviews and has not been much of a factor at earlier Hollywood awards, was a very unexpected best-picture nominee. There were gasps and cheers of surprise from the crowd of publicists and Hollywood insiders at academy headquarters when the film's nomination was announced. Von Sydow's supporting-actor nomination also was a surprise.

Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life" also had been considered a bit of a best-picture longshot. The movie, which won top honors at last May's Cannes Film Festival but was a love-it-or-hate-it drama among audiences, also picked up a directing nomination for Malick.

Oscar heavyweight Clint Eastwood's "J. Edgar" was shut out entirely, including for best actor, where Leonardo DiCaprio had been a strong prospect as FBI boss J. Edgar Hoover.

Other surprises included best-actor contender Bichir, who gave a terrific performance in "A Better Life," a film few people have seen.

Bichir beat out not only DiCaprio but also such actors as Ryan Gosling for two films, "Drive" and "The Ides of March," and Michael Fassbender for "Shame," who both had been high on Oscar forecasters' lists.

Also missing out on nominations were Tilda Swinton for "We Need to Talk About Kevin," Albert Brooks for "Drive" and Shailene Woodley for "The Descendants."

Along with Mara for best actress, "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" had five other nominations but missed out on best picture and director for David Fincher, who had been among the favorites a year earlier with "The Social Network."

The best-director roster is loaded with past winners and nominees, including Scorsese for "Hugo," Malick for "The Tree of Life," Woody Allen for "Midnight in Paris" and Alexander Payne for "The Descendants."

"Midnight in Paris," Allen's biggest hit in decades, was the filmmaker's first best-picture nominee since 1986's "Hannah and Her Sisters" and first directing nomination since 1994's "Bullets Over Broadway." With his 15th honor for original screenplay, Allen also extended his lead as record-holder for most writing nominations (Billy Wilder is second with 12).

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