In writer-director Christopher Nolan's sci-fi thriller "Inception," Leonardo DiCaprio portrays a dream-time cat burglar who smuggles ideas in and out of people's minds. But on Tuesday, many Oscar prognosticators felt that "Inception" itself had gotten hijacked — with Nolan passed over for a widely expected best director nomination even as the movie found itself in the best picture category.
But Nolan was hardly alone in the Academy Awards snubs department, with a number of presumed shoo-ins not being invited to this year's ceremony — a surprise in the final leg of the awards season horse race that left some in Hollywood struggling to make sense of the omissions.
Even as the parenting dramedy "The Kids Are All Right" hauled in the nominations — for best picture, original screenplay, lead actress (Annette Bening) and supporting actor (Mark Ruffalo) — director and co-writer Lisa Cholodenko expressed a degree of shock that "Kids" co-lead Julianne Moore had been overlooked.
"The movie would never have been made without her," Cholodenko said. "She stuck with it for five years."
Added "Kids" co-writer Stuart Blumberg: "She was also instrumental in getting Annette" to be in the film.
Having handed in a restrained performance as Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin in "The Social Network," British actor Andrew Garfield was heralded by more than a few gurus of gold as the guy to beat in the supporting actor race. But he emerged without academy acclaim Tuesday, while journeyman character actor John Hawkes — who plays a grizzled methamphetamine addict in the micro-budgeted indie movie "Winter's Bone" — walked off with a surprise nod in that category.
Likewise, Ben Affleck wasn't able to parlay critical accolades and more than $92 million in box office receipts for his Boston-set bank heist thriller "The Town" into Oscar love; the actor-director who previously won a best original screenplay statuette for 1997's "Good Will Hunting" was, like Nolan, denied a space in the best director category.
The upsets in the best documentary slot were twofold. Although awards pundits had put the smart money on previous Oscar winners Alex Gibney for "Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer" and Davis Guggenheim for his educational system exposé "Waiting for 'Superman,'" both were left off the list. Meanwhile, "Exit Through the Gift Shop," a documentary about guerrilla street art that was directed by graffiti legend Banksy — a rabble-rousing satirist who has never been publicly identified — landed a nomination.
Disney's mega-budgeted, box-office hit "Tangled" was bumped out of the best animated feature category by French filmmaker Sylvain Chomet's well-reviewed but little-seen "The Illusionist."
And although "Black Swan" ballerina Mila Kunis was nominated for a supporting actress Golden Globe this season, she and Barbara Hershey, who plays a maniacal mother in the film, went unrecognized by Oscar standard-bearers.
For lead actor, dark horse "Biutiful" star Javier Bardem — who portrays a hustler confronting questions about his mortality and morality in the Barcelona-set film — edged strong contenders including "Blue Valentine" heartthrob Ryan Gosling, Robert Duvall's portrayal of a hermit in "Get Low" and Mark Wahlberg's turn as a working-class boxer in "The Fighter."
"Just because it's the quiet role doesn't mean it should be ignored," Todd Lieberman, a producer on "The Fighter," said of Wahlberg. "He's the reason the other actors were allowed to do what they do. His performance was the center of the movie."
Composer Hans Zimmer, who picked up his ninth Oscar nomination for "Inception" on Tuesday, said he was disappointed not to see Nolan's name among the director nominees and a bit puzzled — but not totally shocked.
"Once you've been around a bit you know that it does happen," said Zimmer, who won for 1994's "The Lion King." "It is a shame in this case. It's absolutely his vision. Obviously this is a film from his point of view, as a writer and director, this is his film and it's such a joy working with a writer-director on something like this because it is their statement and vision."
Times staff writers Geoff Boucher and John Horn contributed additional reporting for this article.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun