Say this for the past. It refuses to stay there. This morning's announcement of the 84th Academy Award nominations put Martin Scorseses vibrant film-history lesson and train-station adventure, "Hugo," atop a nine-movie best-picture field with 13 nods. Right behind it, with 12, is "The Artist," a light, black-and-white comedy, about a silent-film actor fretting at the dawn of talking movies. The movie is itself almost totally silent.
"The Help," a very popular dramatic comedy focused on black maids and their white employers in 1960s Mississippi, received four. Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris," in which a stalled screenwriters travels back to Jazz-Age Paris also received four.
At least six of this year's nine best pictures nominees comfortably reside in decades before our own. Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life," which scored three nominations, is set, in part, many millennia before 2012, and Steven Spielberg's old-Hollywood epic, "War Horse," about a steed in the trenches during World War I. And three of the acting nominations went to performers playing, respectively, Marilyn Monroe, Sir Laurence Olivier, and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher: Michelle Williams, Kenneth Branagh, and Meryl Streep.
The other picture nominees include: "The Descendants," Alexander Payne's comedy about the domestic stress of a land baron (it received five nominations overall); Bennett Miller's baseball-management study, "Moneyball" (six nominations); and "Extremely Loud and Incredible Close," in which a boy looks for a lock to fit a mysterious key after his father perishes in the September 11th attacks.
So now is a good time to ask, "Why nine, as opposed to five or 10?" Last summer, the Academy's board of governors introduced a new nominating system, which uses a version of preferential voting that eliminates from consideration any film that failed to appear as the number-one choice on at least 10 percent of members' ballots. There are just around 5,000 voting members of the Academy, which means that at least nearly 500 voters would have had to put, say, "Bridesmaids," in the first slot on their ballot, which didn't happen.
In the best actress category, Meryl Streep earned her 17th nomination, this time for playing Margaret Thatcher, in "The Iron Lady." She's joined by Viola Davis, who plays a dolorous and conscientious maid in "The Help" and Williams, who dismantles Marilyn Monroe's persona in "My Week with Marilyn." These women were widely seen as sure bets for a nomination. But in a refreshing change of pace from the many years in which this category seemed to suffer from drought, the remaining two spots were considered open to a small field of four or five women. One slot went to Glenn Close, who spent years laboring to make "Albert Nobbs," a drama about an Irishwoman working as a butler in 19th-century Dublin. Rooney Mara took the other, for her role as the oft-abused, highly vengeful, perversely moral genius goth-hack in "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo."
The actor's race had, in some circles, been called the Sexiest Man Alive Referendum, with the pack being led by George Clooney, for his performance as a dysfunctional father in "The Descendants," and Brad Pitt, who plays the stoic general manager of the Oakland A?s baseball team in "Moneyball." They're joined by Jean Dujardin, who plays the silent-film star of "The Artist" and a couple of curveballs. Demian Bechir was nominated for his dignified performance as an illegal-immigrant in "A Better Life," a drama that few people have seen but that has touched those who have. And Gary Oldman scored his first nomination, for his work as an aging espionage agent in "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy."
Here's the complete list of nominees:
"Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close"
"Midnight in Paris"
"The Tree of Life"
Actor in a Leading Role
Demi?n Bichir in "A Better Life"
George Clooney in "The Descendants"
Jean Dujardin in "The Artist"
Gary Oldman in "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy"
Brad Pitt in "Moneyball"
Actor in a Supporting Role
Kenneth Branagh in "My Week with Marilyn"
Jonah Hill in "Moneyball"
Nick Nolte in "Warrior"
Christopher Plummer in "Beginners"
Max von Sydow in "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close"
Actress in a Leading Role
Glenn Close in "Albert Nobbs"
Viola Davis in "The Help"
Rooney Mara in "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo"
Meryl Streep in "The Iron Lady"
Michelle Williams in "My Week with Marilyn"
Actress in a Supporting Role
B?r?nice Bejo in "The Artist"
Jessica Chastain in "The Help"
Melissa McCarthy in "Bridesmaids"
Janet McTeer in "Albert Nobbs"
Octavia Spencer in "The Help"
Animated Feature Film
"A Cat in Paris" Alain Gagnol and Jean-Loup Felicioli
"Chico & Rita" Fernando Trueba and Javier Mariscal
"Kung Fu Panda 2" Jennifer Yuh Nelson
"Puss in Boots" Chris Miller
"Rango" Gore Verbinski
"The Artist" Production Design: Laurence Bennett; Set Decoration: Robert Gould
"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2" Production Design: Stuart Craig; Set Decoration: Stephenie McMillan
"Hugo" Production Design: Dante Ferretti; Set Decoration: Francesca Lo Schiavo
"Midnight in Paris" Production Design: Anne Seibel; Set Decoration: H?l?ne Dubreuil
"War Horse" Production Design: Rick Carter; Set Decoration: Lee Sandales
"The Artist" Guillaume Schiffman
"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" Jeff Cronenweth
"Hugo" Robert Richardson
"The Tree of Life" Emmanuel Lubezki
"War Horse" Janusz Kaminski
"Anonymous" Lisy Christl
"The Artist" Mark Bridges
"Hugo" Sandy Powell
"Jane Eyre" Michael O'Connor
"W.E." Arianne Phillips
"The Artist" Michel Hazanavicius
"The Descendants" Alexander Payne
"Hugo" Martin Scorsese
"Midnight in Paris" Woody Allen
"The Tree of Life" Terrence Malick
"Hell and Back Again" Danfung Dennis and Mike Lerner
"If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front" Marshall Curry and Sam Cullman
"Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory" Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs
"Pina" Wim Wenders and Gian-Piero Ringel
"Undefeated" TJ Martin, Dan Lindsay and Richard Middlemas
Documentary (Short Subject)
"The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement" Robin Fryday and Gail Dolgin
"God Is the Bigger Elvis" Rebecca Cammisa and Julie Anderson
"Incident in New Baghdad"James Spione
"Saving Face" Daniel Junge and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy
"The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom" Lucy Walker and Kira Carstensen
"The Artist" Anne-Sophie Bion and Michel Hazanavicius
"The Descendants" Kevin Tent
"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall
"Hugo" Thelma Schoonmaker
"Moneyball" Christopher Tellefsen
Foreign Language Film"Bullhead" Belgium
"In Darkness" Poland
"Monsieur Lazhar" Canada
"A Separation" Iran
"Albert Nobbs" Martial Corneville, Lynn Johnston and Matthew W. Mungle
"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2" Edouard F. Henriques, Gregory Funk and Yolanda Toussieng
"The Iron Lady" Mark Coulier and J. Roy Helland
Music (Original Score)
"The Adventures of Tintin" John Williams
"The Artist" Ludovic Bource
"Hugo" Howard Shore
"Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" Alberto Iglesias
"War Horse" John Williams
Music (Original Song)
"Man or Muppet" from "The Muppets" Music and Lyric by Bret McKenzie
"Real in Rio" from "Rio" Music by Sergio Mendes and Carlinhos Brown Lyric by Siedah Garrett
Short Film (Animated)
"Dimanche/Sunday" Patrick Doyon
"The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore" William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg
"La Luna" Enrico Casarosa
"A Morning Stroll" Grant Orchard and Sue Goffe
"Wild Life" Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby
Short Film (Live Action)
"Pentecost" Peter McDonald and Eimear O'Kane
"Raju" Max Z?hle and Stefan Gieren
"The Shore" Terry George and Oorlagh George
"Time Freak" Andrew Bowler and Gigi Causey
"Tuba Atlantic" Hallvar Witz?
"Drive" Lon Bender and Victor Ray Ennis
"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" Ren Klyce
"Hugo" Philip Stockton and Eugene Gearty
"Transformers: Dark of the Moon" Ethan Van der Ryn and Erik Aadahl
"War Horse" Richard Hymns and Gary Rydstrom
"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" David Parker, Michael Semanick, Ren Klyce and Bo Persson
"Hugo" Tom Fleischman and John Midgley
"Moneyball" Deb Adair, Ron Bochar, Dave Giammarco and Ed Novick
"Transformers: Dark of the Moon" Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers, Jeffrey J. Haboush and Peter J. Devlin
"War Horse" Gary Rydstrom, Andy Nelson, Tom Johnson and Stuart Wilson
"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2" Tim Burke, David Vickery, Greg Butler and John Richardson
"Hugo" Rob Legato, Joss Williams, Ben Grossman and Alex Henning
"Real Steel" Erik Nash, John Rosengrant, Dan Taylor and Swen Gillberg
"Rise of the Planet of the Apes" Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, R. Christopher White and Daniel Barrett
"Transformers: Dark of the Moon" Scott Farrar, Scott Benza, Matthew Butler and John Frazier
Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
"The Descendants" Screenplay by Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash
"Hugo" Screenplay by John Logan
"The Ides of March" Screenplay by George Clooney & Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon
"Moneyball" Screenplay by Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin. Story by Stan Chervin
"Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" Screenplay by Bridget O'Connor & Peter Straughan
Writing (Original Screenplay)
"The Artist" Written by Michel Hazanavicius
"Bridesmaids" Written by Annie Mumolo & Kristen Wiig
"Margin Call" Written by J.C. Chandor
"Midnight in Paris" Written by Woody Allen
"A Separation" Written by Asghar Farhadi
About Movie Nation
ContributorsTy Burr is a film critic with The Boston Globe.
Mark Feeney is an arts writer for The Boston Globe.
Janice Page is movies editor for The Boston Globe.
Tom Russo is a regular correspondent for the Movies section and writes a weekly column on DVD releases.
Katie McLeod is Boston.com's features editor.
Rachel Raczka is a producer for Lifestyle and Arts & Entertainment at Boston.com.
Emily Wright is an Arts & Entertainment producer for Boston.com.
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