Oscar oddities and observations (Variety)

The list of nominees for the 82nd annual Academy Awards includes some notable rarities:

  • Perhaps signaling the increased globalization of showbiz, only four of the 10 films nominated for best picture are set primarily in the U.S. ("The Blind Side," "Precious," "A Serious Man," "Up in the Air"). Other locales include South Africa, Europe, South America, the Mideast and Pandora. Also reflecting, perhaps, a global frame of mind, many of the nominated films have subtitled sequences, some brief, some lengthy: "Avatar," "District 9," "Inglourious Basterds," "Precious." (Last year's winner, "Slumdog Millionaire," was two-thirds subtitled).

  • The 24 Oscar categories again offered proof that festivals play a key role in awards strategies. Eight of the 10 top contenders debuted at fests: "The Hurt Locker" (Venice/Toronto 2008), "Precious" and "An Education" (Sundance); "Up," "Inglourious" (Cannes); "Up in the Air" (Telluride/Toronto), "A Serious Man" (Toronto) and "Avatar" (Dubai). Contenders in other categories include "A Single Man" (Venice), "The Messenger" (Sundance/Berlin), "The Last Station" (Telluride), "The White Ribbon" and "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus" (Cannes), "Fantastic Mr. Fox" (London) and "The Young Victoria" (Toronto).

  • Gabourey Sidibe ("Precious") joins a select group of 68 previous actors who have been nominated for their first performance. That's out of a total of more than 1,400 nominated perfs over the years.

  • Kathryn Bigelow ("The Hurt Locker") is the fourth woman ever nommed as director, while Lee Daniels ("Precious") is only the second black. Previous helming nominees include Lena Wertmuller ("Seven Beauties"), Jane Campion ("The Piano"), Sofia Coppola ("Lost in Translation") and John Singleton ("Boyz n the Hood").

  • "Up" is the second toon ever nominated for best pic, after Disney's 1991 "Beauty and the Beast." It's the first CGI toon in the top category, and the first in that race since the Academy launched the feature-toon category in 2001.

  • This is the first year that 3D films were taken seriously by Academy voters, with "Up," "Coraline" and "Avatar" in contention.

  • Despite a flurry of Iraq War-themed movies in past years, "Hurt Locker" is the first to get a best-pic bid.

  • Meryl Streep keeps breaking her own record, with her 16th nomination. Acting runners-up are Katharine Hepburn and Jack Nicholson, with 12 each. And Streep's 13th bid as lead actress means she's now the champ in that category, after being tied with Hepburn (who'd never received a supporting bid).

  • Jason Reitman scored triple noms as a producer, writer and the helmer of "Up in the Air." Double contenders include Lee Daniels (producer and director of "Precious"), James Cameron ("Avatar" producer and director), Joel & Ethan Coen ("Serious" producers and writers), Quentin Tarantino ("Basterds" writer and helmer), Pete Docter (a writer of "Up," also nommed for animated feature), Randy Newman (two songs from "The Princess and the Frog"), and Christopher Boyes ("Avatar") and Paul N.J. Ottosson ("Hurt Locker"), in both sound editing and sound mixing.

  • Of the 10 best pic contenders, six were released in the fourth quarter. "Up" launched in May, "Hurt Locker" in June, "District" and "Inglourious" in August.
Justin Chang contributed to this report

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