This year’s Oscar nominations bring few surprises

We mentioned last week that award season was coming into its own. Now, with the announcement of 2009’s Oscar nominations, we can officially say it is in full swing.

There are not too many surprises this year. In all actuality, the nominations were a bit too predictable. If we may be so bold, the nominations are a little…boring.

But there are a few nominations that muster up some interest. There are two that touch base with most movie-goers, but a couple that may not resonate quite as well as they should.

First case: the nominations of Heath Ledger and Robert Downey, Jr. for Best Supporting Actor. For a year now, well before the July release of The Dark Knight, Ledger was a “favorite” to garner a nomination. But a win? That would be the harder part.

As the year progressed, audiences were treated to other solid performances. Nothing, though, quite like Ledger’s turn as the psychotic clown prince of crime, the Joker. Not even Dev Patel’s solid performance in Slumdog Millionaire could quite match Ledger’s memorable offerings.

So while it is not quite the biggest surprise to see Ledger nominated, in a way it still is. Why? The Golden Globes. Ledger was nominated and won Best Supporting Actor. With that out of the way, the Academy could have easily dismissed nominating him for an Oscar. But perhaps they are trying to get more in tune with the general public, as the demand for an Oscar nomination for Ledger was high.

This is where Downey, Jr. comes into play. Typically, comedies are not given too much consideration in terms of Oscar nominations.

That especially holds true for a comedy like Tropic Thunder. So it is a decent surprise that Downey, although very entertaining, was nominated. Maybe the Academy is trying to make connections to the public, even if they are taking baby steps.

While those baby steps might get them a few more viewers, the nominations for The Wrestler and The Visitor might make a few others slightly reconsider tuning in for the show.

Both leads for The Wrestler, Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei, are nominated for Best Actor and Best Actress, respectively. The Visitor’s Richard Jenkins also grabbed a nomination for Best Actor.

Perhaps you have heard this before, but it still holds true. These are films that are low key compared to other films like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon and Milk.

Viewers may be more prone to switch the channel during these segments. Just imagine if the academy nominated The Wrestler or The Visitor for best picture. That certainly would have alienated enough people who did not see either film. If people do not see these films, they will have no vested interest in seeing who wins.

Regardless, it will be interesting to see which films win certain categories. Prime example: Best Cinematography nominees include Benjamin Button, The Dark Knight and Slumdog Millionaire. If you have seen those films, you know they were fantastically filmed.

But back on point, the nominations are both a step forward and a stall for the Academy connecting with the public. Now, we just have to see how the voting turns out.