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Oscar nominations 2012: Five of the day's biggest story lines

January 24, 2012 |  9:26 am

Click here for complete coverage of Oscar nominations

Oscar nominations always come with a few surprises, but the unexpected seemed to be flowing even more freely Tuesday morning. Here are five story lines that jumped out at us when the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences announced its nominations for the 84th Academy Awards -- and that are worth keeping an eye on as we get closer to the Feb. 26 show.

Close encounters. Coming into the nominations, Steven Spielberg's "War Horse" was considered a wild card on the best picture front, while his "The Adventures of Tintin" appeared to be a lock in the animation category. When the announcements came out, everything was turned on its head -- "War Horse" was nominated for best picture while "Tintin" was overlooked in animation. The Oscars will still be a Spielberg-filled affair, but don't count on seeing Spielberg at the podium: "War Horse" is a considerable long shot to take the prize. The question is: How much of a campaign will DreamWorks mount for it?

FULL COVERAGE: The Oscar nominees

Rudin's return. Just a few days ago, he seemed all but done for at the Oscars. But powerhouse producer Scott Rudin, the filmmaker behind "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" and "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," staged a comeback, picking up a best picture nomination for "Extremely Loud" while his "Dragon Tattoo" star Rooney Mara nabbed a surprise best actress nomination. (Rudin also is credited as a producer on "Moneyball," which was nominated for best picture, but wasn't considered by the academy to have done enough work on the film to be nominated.) Also, Max von Sydow took a supporting actor nomination for "Extremely Loud," completing the comeback. Rudin was a force last year, actually landing two best picture nominations -- for "The Social Network" and "True Grit" -- though he didn’t end up coming to the show as the Weinstein Co.'s "The King’s Speech" surged to a win. We'll see where we'll find him this year.

We need to talk about Tilda (and Albert). They gave two of the most well-regarded performances of the year, but Tilda Swinton ("We Need to Talk About Kevin") and Albert Brooks ("Drive") each failed to land on the academy’s shortlist. The oversights have earned the actors sympathy from those who loved their performances, but that probably doesn't help the pill go down any easier. And where does this leave Brooks' career comeback?

Woody and Terry. Woody Allen and Terrence Malick have famously arms-length relationships with the Hollywood machine -- Allen isn't in the academy (by choice), and Malick hasn't even given an interview in decades. Yet both are nominated for best director, Malick in something of a surprise for "The Tree of Life," which pundits had written off in recent weeks. Will either of them actually make the trip to the Kodak Theatre? And how will the Oscars handle the absence of 40% of its director field if they don’t?

Better lives. There were few places where surprises ran as rampant as in the actor category. Brad Pitt got in for "Moneyball," Demian Bichir for the little-seen "A Better Life," and Gary Oldman, previously thought on the bubble for spy movie "Tinker Tailor Solider Spy," landed a spot for his role as a taciturn agent. Meanwhile, Ryan Gosling and Michael Fassbender, two of Hollywood's younger stars, were overlooked despite having some of the most acclaimed performances of the year (in "Drive" and "Shame," respectively.) It was a story of experience over youth -- in keeping, perhaps, with the Billy Crystal Oscars.


And the nominees are ...

PHOTOS: 84th Academy Awards nominees

"Artist," Scorsese's "Hugo" shine brightest

-- Steven Zeitchik

Photo: Max von Sydow and Thomas Horn in "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close." Credit: Warner Bros. 

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