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January 24, 2012
Snubs, welcome inclusions among Oscar nominations

The announcement of Academy Award nominations this morning immediately prompted a scan of the list for who was left out.

The most notable omission wasAlbert Brooks'supporting performance as a crime boss in "Drive." Brooks collected several critics' awards, a Golden Globe nomination, and was once considered Christopher Plummer 's (Golden Globe winner and now Oscar nominee for "Beginners") main competition for the Academy Award.

The lack of a directing nomination for Steven Spielberg also counts as a snub, given that his "War Horse" made the best-picture list. It's puzzling because Spielberg's pictures are so, well, Spielbergian, that one cannot easily separate director and picture.

Other omissions were not as surprising. Last year was a stellar one for actresses, but there are only five slots in lead-actress Academy Awards field. Somebody was going to be left out, or in this case, four people: Charlize Theron, from "Young Adult," Tilda Swinton, from "We Need to Talk About Kevin," and wild cards Kristen Wiig, from "Bridesmaids," and Kirsten Dunst, from "Melancholia."

Wiig was nominated for co-writing the "Bridesmaids" screenplay, and co-star Melissa McCarthy made the supporting actress list for her star-making performance as the tell-it-like-it is Megan.

This brings us to a more upbeat aspect of today's nominations: the welcome inclusion of actors, directors and films who might have been on the bubble.

McCarthy was one, if only because the film is a broad comedy, and those are not usually recognized by the Academy. Another is lead-actor nominee Demian Bichir, who starred in "A Better Life" as a Mexican citizen living in the United States illegally and striving to care for his teenage son.

Bichir was on the bubble because the small, independent "Better Life," did not draw as much attention as bigger awards-season films. But he's wonderful in the film, and so different from the drug boss he played on Showtime's "Weeds" that you hardly recognize him as the same guy.

The Academy's recognition of Terrence Malick's challenging "Tree of Life" in the best-picture and director categories also was nice to see. Some viewers were turned off by the picture's abstract qualities, and by a long segment that seemed unrelated to the narrative. But the picture is more moving, ambitious and accomplished than most other films in the best-picture category.

The Academy Awards will air at 4 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 26 on ABC.

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