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Oscar nominations add up to dark night for Warner Bros.

January 22, 2009 - Andy Gray
Academy Awards voters flexed their muscles, letting the other awards groups and the critics know they weren’t going to be told how to vote.

Many of the movies expected to gets multiple Oscar nominations got them, but there were plenty of surprises scattered among the categories.

The big winners were: “Slumdog Millionaire,’’ which is emerging as the Best Picture favorite and earned 10 nominations; “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” which leads all films with 13 nominations: and “The Reader,” which is a surprise choice in earning Best Picture, Best Director (Stephen Daldry) and Best Actress (Kate Winslet) nominations.

Winslet’s selection wasn’t a surprise; the category was. She won the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress, and The Weinstein Company had been campaigning for her in that category, despite the fact that her part in “The Reader” really is a lead role. Winslet was expected to get her Best Actress nod for “Revolutionary Road,” which turned out to be one of the big losers this morning.

When Paramount Vantage decided to roll the movie out onto 800 screens this Friday (including Tinseltown in Boardman), it was counting on more than a Best Supporting Actor nomination (for the deserving Michael Shannon) and Art Direction and Costume nods to help sell it.

“Gran Torino” also got smacked by Academy voters. Clint Eastwood was considered a lock for one of the Best Actor slots, and some thought the movie’s big opening weekend at the same time voters were sending in their nominating ballots might even push it into the Best Picture category. Instead, it was shut out.

“The Dark Knight” collected eight nominations in all, but not the Best Picture and Best Director (Christopher Nolan) that were expected. All in all, it was a bad day for Warner Bros., which not only made “The Dark Knight” and “Gran Torino” but also once owned “Slumdog Millionaire” outright (through its Warner Independent Pictures subsidiary). When it folded WIP, Warners sold distribution rights to “Slumdog” to Fox Searchlight.

I was thrilled to see Richard Jenkins make it into the Best Actor category for “The Visitor.” And voters also plucked a Best Actress nominee from the indie film ranks – Melissa Leo for “Frozen River.”

Voters snubbed Sally Hawkins, who won a Golden Globe for her work in “Happy Go Lucky,” and they also skipped Bruce Springsteen, who won Best Song at the Globes for “The Wrestler.”


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