ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
And I'm Melissa Block.
There is only one story in Hollywood today. Oscar nominations were announced this morning. The two most nominated films, with nine apiece, are the Iraq War drama "The Hurt Locker" and the 3-D extravaganza "Avatar."
Joining us to run through who made the cut and who didn't is our own Bob Mondello.
And Bob, one big change in the process this year: not five nominees for Best Picture but 10 nominees.
BOB MONDELLO: That's right. They wanted to make the playing field a little bit bigger because last year "The Dark Knight" did not get nominated, and they were actually that was the most popular picture of last year. They were worried that no one would watch the Oscar cast as a result.
If you were doing it last year, my guess is that the five that would have gotten nominated are "Avatar" and "Hurt Locker"; Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds," a World War II picture; "Precious," about a troubled Harlem teenager; and "Up In The Air," which had George Clooney in a comedy about a frequent flyer with intimacy issues.
So what do we get out of those other five? Well, you get a big box office hit, "Up," the animated picture; you get another big box office hit, "The Blind Side," a football movie; also "A Serious Man," "An Education," both very small pictures, one by the Coen brothers, the other a British dramedy, I suppose. And you also get a South African picture, and it's not the one everybody was predicting. Everybody thought it was going to be "Invictus." Instead, it is "District 9."
(Soundbite of movie, "District 9")
(Soundbite of music)
Unidentified Man #1 (Actor): (As character) Now to everyone's surprise, the ship didn't come to a stopover at Manhattan or Washington or Chicago but instead coasted to a halt directly over the city of Johannesburg.
MONDELLO: That's a spaceship we're talking about. And the plot of that movie is actually has a lot of similarities to "Avatar." So you got a bunch of interesting pictures, and some of them were very big box office hits. My guess is that the Oscars will be watched by a lot of people this year.
BLOCK: Best Actress category, Bob. One name that is no surprise, no stranger to the Oscar stage, and why am I almost yawning when I say the words: Meryl Streep as Julia Child in "Julie & Julia"?
(Soundbite of laughter)
(Soundbite of film, "Julie & Julia")
Ms. MERYL STREEP (Actor): (As Julia Child) I'm Julia Child. Bon appetit.
MONDELLO: Yes, well, the - that's almost more an impersonation than acting, I think. The other nominees were Helen Mirren in "The Last Station"; Carey Mulligan in "An Education," she was kind of wonderful; Gabourey Sidibe in "Precious"; and Sandra Bullock.
Now, before Sandra Bullock got nominated for "The Blind Side," I would not have guessed that you could get an Oscar nomination for being annoying for two hours.
(Soundbite of film, "The Blind Side")
Ms. SANDRA BULLOCK (Actor): (As Leigh Anne Tuohy) You have no idea of what this boy has been through. And if this is going to become some running diatribe, I can find an overpriced salad a lot closer to home.
BLOCK: People love this movie, though, Bob.
MONDELLO: Absolutely, and three cheers for her. I'm delighted for her. But again, actors push other actors out of categories when they get nominated. And I think there were better performances this year.
BLOCK: In the Best Actor category, Bob, there's been a lot of talk for gosh, it seems since even before the film came out - for Jeff Bridges as the character Bad Blake, a washed-up country singer in the film "Crazy Heart."
MONDELLO: And he is phenomenal. He really is. And hes been...
BLOCK: Never won an Oscar.
MONDELLO: Right. He's been nominated a number of times. I think his only real competition in this category is Colin Firth in "A Single Man." But again, I think he deserves to get it.
BLOCK: Other nominees would be George Clooney, Morgan Freeman and Jeremy Renner. You're not putting any money on neither - any of them.
MONDELLO: No, I mean, I liked all the performances. It's a its just, you know, there sometimes there's a favorite, and the favorite is perfectly legit this time.
BLOCK: Bob, youve seen all these movies, 100 more, I guess, in the past year. What's missing from the Oscar list do you think?
MONDELLO: Well, a lot of things really. I would have loved to have seen in the Best Picture category, because it's the year of "Avatar," I would have loved to have seen some smaller pictures.
It would have been nice to see "In the Loop" there, a very funny British comedy that's sort of a bureaucratic comedy about a run-up to war. I loved "The Messenger," which is a very small picture about the men who deliver the news to families who have lost someone overseas.
And the people who got pushed out by Meryl Streep and Sandra Bullock in Best Actress are Abbie Cornish, who was just magnificent as the muse for poet John Keats in the picture "Bright Star," and Emily Blunt was very effective as a teenage queen in "The Young Victoria." So you lost those.
I have trouble getting terribly upset if the Oscars leave things out because they so frequently leave things out.
BLOCK: Yes, why should this year be any different?
BLOCK: Bob, thanks so much.
MONDELLO: It's always a pleasure.
BLOCK: NPR's Bob Mondello. And we've featured many of these nominees on NPR News over the past year. There's a special podcast of those interviews, along with lots more Oscar coverage. That's at npr.org.
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