Oscar oddities and observations

Global touch seen; festivals provide focus

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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 the planet 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,” “An Education” (Sundance); “Up,” “Inglourious Basterds” (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,” “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 CG toon in the top category and the first in that race since the Academy launched the feature-toon category in 2001.

  • Ivan Reitman and Jason Reitman, two of the three producers of “Up in the Air,” are only the second father-son team nominated for best picture. Mario Cecchi Gori and Vittorio Cecchi Gori were nominated as producers of “Il Postino” in 1995. It’s the first nom for Ivan Reitman after 41 years in the business.

  • 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 films in past years, “Hurt Locker” is the first to draw 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 and James Cameron scored triple noms. Reitman was cited as a producer, writer and the helmer of “Up in the Air.” Cameron earned bids as a producer, editor and the director of “Avatar.” (Cameron has the distinction of those same three noms for “Titanic.”) Double contenders include Lee Daniels (producer and director of “Precious”), Joel and 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”), Gary Summers (“Avatar” and “Transformers” in sound mixing), plus Christopher Boyes (“Avatar”) and Paul N.J. Ottosson (“Hurt Locker”) each earned bids in both sound editing and sound mixing. And, in a sense, Ryan Bingham is a double nominee: The real Mr. B co-wrote the theme for “Crazy Heart,” while George Clooney was cited for playing the fictional Ryan Bingham in “Up in the Air.”

  • 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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