Half the reason people pay attention to awards is so they can argue about them, and this year's crop of Oscar nominees has its share of table-pounders. Let's take a look at the two biggest shockers and the two biggest outrages.
"Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" – Best Picture
Stephen Daldry's adaptation of Jonathan Safran Foer's post-9/11 novel has been panned by critics, and barely tolerated by audiences, scoring the film a 48 and 67 respectively on Rotten Tomatoes. And the only other nomination it scored was a Best Supporting Actor nod for Max Von Sydow. So how on Earth does a film that was not particularly beloved, and had little else going for it wind up being hailed as one of the nine best films of 2011? We have no idea. All we can think is that it benefitted immensely from the Oscar glow of stars Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock. Honestly, we're at a loss.
Demian Bichir, "A Better Life" – Best Actor
There had been rumblings that Bichir's candidacy had been gaining steam, but who'd've guessed that a group as a middle-of-the-road would find the time to honor a guy who starred in a film that ran in only 216 theaters and took in a meager $1.7 million? "A Better Life," directed by Chris Wietz ("About a Boy"), stars Bichir as a Mexican immigrant and single father working as a landscaper to provide a better life for his teenage son, who is ashamed of him. We're happy for Bichir but what about MIchael Fassbender?
U.S. & World
"The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo"
This film endured weeks of accusations that it’s a flop, despite the fact that the hard-R thriller packed with graphic violence and sex is poised to break $100 million. And now director David Fincher's adaptation of the global bestseller just took it on the chin from the Academy. The film tied "The Descendants" for the fifth-most nominations, being recognized for Best Actress (Rooney Mara), Cinematography, Editing, Sound Editing and Mixing. So how does a film with great acting that looked and sounded great, and was masterfully put together not rank as one of the year's best films? "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close," whose case is buttressed only by Max Von Sydow's Best Supporting Actor nod, finds itself nominated for Best Picture, but not "Dragon Tattoo"? Hell, "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" received more nominations than "Extremely Loud."
Albert Brooks, "Drive"
Watching Albert Brooks in "Drive," playing a gangster who's exceptionally deft at handling a razor blade, was a rare treat. A gifted actor you've watched for decades going completely against type, without resorting to mugging or other such scenery-chewing nonsense—much like the exact opposite of watching Gary Oldman in "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy." Brooks was so serenely menacing in the face of Ryan Gosling's nameless driver or his bombastic partner, a walking landmine just waiting to be stepped on. We love Kenneth Branagh and Jonah Hill, but what Brooks did in "Drive" makes their work in "My Week With Marilyn" and "Moneyball" look like summer stock.
Michael Fassbender, no Best Actor nod for "Shame"
David Fincher, no Best Director for "The Girl With the Dragoon Tattoo"
Shailene Woodley, no Best Supporting Actress for "The Descendants"
"The Adventures Tintin," No Best Animated Feature nod
"Project Nim," no Best Documentary nod