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'Social Network' loses a few friends in Tuesday's Oscar nominations

Of all the questions about picking 10 best picture Oscar nominees, one never occurred to me until Tuesday morning:

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What happens when 10 slots aren't enough?

Listening to Mo'Nique rattle off this year's finalists for the 83rd Academy Awards' shiniest prize, I kept waiting for one title to gripe about. Instead the alphabetical list concluded with Winter's Bone — proving voters really do pay attention — and all I could do was grin.

Excuse my mashup of The King's Speech and My Fair Lady but: By George (VI), I think the academy's got it.

Sure, many moviegoers can name a personal favorite that missed the cut. Please, think twice about speaking up for The Twilight Saga: Eclipse or Grown Ups. We're not talking People's Choice or MTV Movie Awards here. There are other standards besides teenage smoldering and pee-in-the-pool jokes.

Fans of Ben Affleck's The Town and obscure indies like Blue Valentine may grumble, but not for long, if they really think about it.

Half of my relatively informed top 10 list was bypassed, but that's cool. It's encouraging to see the academy's outreach to popular tastes (and potential TV ratings) while not sacrificing cinematic standards that Oscar has exemplified for decades. It isn't pandering when what's offered is quality stuff.

The academy set up an intriguing arc for the awards season homestretch. Did you think The Social Network had the Oscar sewn up after dominating through the Golden Globes? Not so fast, Tuesday's results suggest.

Not only is the Facebook flick tied for third overall with Inception (eight nominations each) but handily trails The King's Speech's dozen nods, and also True Grit with its surprising 10. More often than not, the movie with the most Oscar nominations reaps the biggest prize, although not as much lately.

There is also a timing issue, with The Social Network and Inception having peaked in hype and played out in theaters while The King's Speech and True Grit continue building momentum.

How ironic if one movie as topical as your home page and another that seems jettisoned from the future wind up feeling like yesterday's news.

Steve Persall can be reached at or (727) 893-8365. Read his blog, Reeling in the Years, at

Hugs and snubs

After all the previous awards shows, it's tough for the academy to come up with genuine surprises when acting nominations are announced. But a few selections in major categories raised eyebrows.

Christopher Nolan's Inception fan base is howling online over his omission from the best director race, after a similar dis for The Dark Knight two years ago. Judging from pre-nominations forecasts, Nolan was bumped in favor of Joel and Ethan Coen and the academy's stunning support of True Grit. It doesn't soothe Nolan's disappointment that Darren Aronofsky was cited for directing the equally trippy Black Swan.

Neither did the academy reach for youth cred as expected by nominating supporting actors Justin Timberlake or Andrew Garfield for The Social Network, or Mila Kunis from Black Swan. They look better on a red carpet than John Hawkes (Winter's Bone) and Animal Kingdom's Jacki Weaver, but anyone who saw those portrayals of criminal lowlifes understands.

Any complaints are moot since Colin Firth, Natalie Portman and Melissa Leo can go ahead and get their names inscribed on the statuettes. Oh, and Christian Bale, who'll follow in the bootsteps of another Batman, George Clooney, as a best supporting actor honoree. Somewhere Michael Keaton and Val Kilmer are kicking themselves.

Steve Persall, Times film critic

'Social Network' loses a few friends in Tuesday's Oscar nominations 01/25/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 25, 2011 10:44pm]
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