I wrote a book about the Oscars, so I tend to over-think these things, but here are some random observations about the Academy Award nominations:Â
â€¢ The best picture and best director nominations are totally in synch. This actually is a fairly rare occurrence. In fact, the last time it happened was the last time a “gay” movie (“Brokeback Mountain”) was up for best picture: 2005.
â€¢ This is Gus Van Sant’s second nomination, the first for directors David Fincher and Danny Boyle, and the third (out of three films) for Stephen Daldry. Only Ron Howard has won before.
â€¢ Sean Penn is the only prior winner of the five best actor nominees, and the only one ever nominated for leading actor in the past (Pitt, the only other former nominee, was up for supporting actor for “12 Monkeys”).
â€¢ Kate Winslet won the Golden Globe for supporting actress for “The Reader,” and she actually campaigned for supporting actress for that film, but was nominated for leading actress instead. This rarely happens.
â€¢ This year, Winslet received her sixth nomination â€” all before the age of 34. She has never won. By comparison, Meryl Streep â€” who broke her own record with her 15th nomination this year (her 12th for leading actress, tying Katharine Hepburn) â€” didn’t receive her sixth nomination until she was 36. She’s won twice.
â€¢ Heath Ledger is only the seventh actor â€” following Jeanne Eagles, James Dean, Spencer Tracy, Peter Finch, Ralph Richardson and Massimo Troisi â€” to be nominated posthumous for an Oscar. Only Finch has won, although Ledger is hotly favored to win this year.
â€¢ “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” got 13 nominations, the most this year and one short of the record; “Slumdog Millionaire” was second with 10, and “Milk” and “The Dark Knight” tied for third with eight each. But “most nominations” does not translate to “best picture” win. Â
â€¢ Only three songs are nominated, and from only two films, making this the fewest number of films represented in the song category ever. If “Wall-E” composer Thomas Newman wins, it will be his first victory in 10 tries; if “Defiance” composer James Newton Howard wins, it will be his first victory in 8. Whoever wins among the five will break new ground, though: None of the best score nominees has ever won.