The Academy Award nominations were announced earlier this week at Hollywood's Kodak theater and were heavily dominated by comedy dramas. As ever, most of the films nominated were along expected lines with a couple of surprises thrown in, and a couple of shock exclusions. Here's the list, and Cine-International's take on their chances of winning the most coveted movie award of the year.


                         



Directed by the Academy Award Winner Alexander Payne, the comedy-drama stars George Clooney as a parent trying to re-connect with his two daughters after his wife's coma. Clooneys' superlative performance has already won him a Golden Globe and a Best Actor Oscar nomination. The Descendants is one of my favorites for the Academy Award after winning the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture.




War Horse


Guess all it takes for Steven Spielberg to make the Oscar shortlist is to make a movie. Based on a children's novel set during WWI, the War Horse is the moving tale of friendship between a young man Albert and his beloved horse Joey, as they travel across Europe with the war raging on. Though one wouldn't regard it as a serious Oscar contender, but it is definitely a worthy nominee.



Hugo


Martin Scorsese at the helm of a big-budget 3-D children's epic movie; who would have thought. But the auteur banished any doubts with arguably the most delightful feast for people of all ages with the brilliant story of a young orphan boy living in the walls of a train station working to unravel a mystery about his father and a certain automation. Hugo is the leading contender at the Academy Awards this year with it's bag of 11 nominations.




The Artist


One of the surprising critical hits of the year, The Artist is a tribute to the world of Cinema set in 1920s and 1930s. Shot mostly in black-and-white, it's mostly a silent film about silent Cinema growing out of fashion, with supreme performances from Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo. Winner of 3 Golden Globes, The Artist is a leading contender with 10 Academy Award nominations this year.



The Tree of Life


Amidst a whirlwind of gratuitous expectations, The Tree of Life premiered at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival and walked away with the highly coveted Palme d'Or. Since then, it's been a regular at Film-Festivals across the globe winning countless awards and admiration. The critics have largely relished Terrence Malick's vision and the performances by the ensemble cast, but a section of mainstream has also dismissed it as self-indulgent. 




The Help

One of the biggest surprise hits of the year, The Help is a charming drama based on a bestselling novel by Kathryn Stockett. Set during the Civil Rights Era in the 60s, the movie explores the relationship between a young white journalist 'Skeeter' and her two black maids ('the help') as Skeeter decides to write a controversial book highlighting the racism faced by the maids as they work for rich white families.



Midnight in Paris


After a string of mediocre efforts the last couple of decades, Woody Allen returns with the brilliantly scripted Midnight in Paris about a screen-writer protagonist realizing the shortcomings of his relationship with his fiancée as he enjoys some magical encounters each night in Paris. Though I doubt the film's chances of winning the Best Picture, it's definitely my favorite for Best Original Screenplay.



Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close


Based on a novel by Jonathan Safran Foer, this is the story of a nine year old boy Oskar Schell, suffering from Asperger's syndrome, in search of the mystery behind a key that belonged to his father, who died in the 9/11 attacks. Undoubtedly the biggest surprise inclusion of the year as it has failed to impress the critics at large and has struggled at the box office as well, despite it's ensemble star cast which include the likes of Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock.




Moneyball


An Oscar Best Picture nominee list is incomplete without a Brad Pitt starrer. Moneyball is a unique sports drama about baseball and statistics that managed to hit a home-run with the critics and the box-office alike. Brad Pitt also earned a Best Actor nomination for his portrayal of Oakland Baseball team's general manager Billy Beane who employed the complex Sabermetric approach for picking his team .





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