Entertainment & Arts

Oscar nominations 2012 analysis: Nostalgia rules

A look at the certainties, surprises and shocks in this year's Oscar nominations.

Image caption The Artist, Hugo and My Week With Marilyn were all recognised in the major categories

Movie nostalgia rules this year.

The two films with most nominations - Hugo and The Artist - are both love letters to the early days of cinema. But both approach their subject matter in totally different styles.

Martin Scorsese's Hugo, with 11 nods, celebrates the work of turn-of-the-century film pioneer Georges Melies, played by Sir Ben Kingsley.

Set largely in a train station in 1930s Paris, Scorsese uses lavish 3D and computer-generated imagery to tell his story.

By contrast, in The Artist - with 10 nominations - director Michel Hazanavicius employs the film conventions of 1927. It is silent, shot in black and white and boasts an aspect ratio that may surprise audiences reared on widescreen.

My Week with Marilyn's success in the acting categories - with nominations for Michelle Williams and Kenneth Branagh - shows the Academy spreading some love to yet another golden era of Hollywood.

Elsewhere among the acting hopefuls, there is a broad mix of new faces and Oscar veterans.

Believe it or not, Gary Oldman gets his first Oscar nomination for his role as British spymaster George Smiley in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

He's up against Hollywood heart-throbs George Clooney (as Hawaiian-shirted father in family drama The Descendants) and Brad Pitt's turn as a baseball manager in sports-and-stats drama Moneyball.

They face strong competition from Oscar newcomer Jean Dujardin, French star of The Artist.

The best actor category is completed by Mexican actor Demian Bichir as an immigrant working as a gardener in Los Angeles in A Better Life.

Bichir's inclusion had been predicted by many Oscar-watchers, leaving the likes of Michael Fassbender (Shame) and Leonardo DiCaprio (J. Edgar) out of the race.

Streep's year?

It's no surprise to see Golden Globe winners Meryl Streep and Michelle Williams up against each other for best actress.

Streep, who plays Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady, breaks her own Oscar record and now has 17 acting nominations, five more than Katharine Hepburn and Jack Nicholson.

Streep has won two Oscars - supporting actress for 1979's Kramer vs Kramer and best actress for 1982's Sophie's Choice - but has lost on her last 12 attempts.

Image caption Up for best actress: Rooney Mara in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

Her much-lauded performance as the former British prime minister could be the one that puts a third golden statuette on Streep's coffee table.

The surprise in the best actress category was Rooney Mara for her dark, dangerous computer hacker Lisbeth Salander in David Fincher's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

Last year Mara had a small role at the start Fincher's The Social Network. 2012 sees her catapulted onto the Oscar front lines.

Veteran actor Christopher Plummer is the hot tip to win best supporting actor for his role as an elderly father who comes out as gay in Beginners.

If he wins, the 82-year-old Canadian actor would become the oldest recipient of an acting award. That record is held by Jessica Tandy, who won for Driving Miss Daisy aged 80.

Plummer is up against Kenneth Branagh as Laurence Olivier in My Week with Marilyn, as well as Jonah Hill as a statistics expert in Moneyball and Nick Nolte in fighting drama Warrior.

Branagh's success sets an Oscar record: he has five different nominations in five categories - supporting actor, actor, director, screenplay and short film.

Image caption Thomas Horn in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

But the surprise in this category is Max von Sydow in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close as The Renter - a mute old man who helps the film's main character Oskar on his quest across New York City.

Stephen Daldry's film was also a surprise inclusion in the best picture list. With its 9/11 subject matter and Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock in the cast it created early buzz, but opened to mixed reviews.

This year's best picture field has nine nominees because of a change in voting rules.

It includes Terrence Malick's love-it-or-loathe-it The Tree of Life which took the top prize at Cannes. Malick also earned a best director nod.

Steven Spielberg's War Horse is also up for best picture, though Spielberg missed out on best director, and his The Adventures of Tintin was absent from the best animated feature category.

Meanwhile, Midnight in Paris is Woody Allen's first best picture hopeful since 1986's Hannah and Her Sisters. Allen is also up for best director and gets his 15th nomination for original screenplay.

So who missed out?

There was nothing for Clint Eastwood's biopic J Edgar and Ryan Gosling was nowhere to be seen for his impressive turns in The Ides of March and Drive. And what happened to Lynne Ramsay's We Need To Talk About Kevin?

In the race for best picture, expect a showdown between The Artist and The Descendants.

A victory for The Artist on 26 February would make it only the second silent movie to win best picture after Wings at the first ever Oscars in 1929.

But with its 10 nominations, The Artist should not forget the fate of True Grit at last year's Oscars. Its 10 nominations failed to turn into a single prize on the big night.

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