Oscars' Biggest Snubs: Steven Spielberg, Ryan Gosling, David Fincher, 'Harry Potter' Among Academy's Notable Omissions

Steven Spielberg War Horse Premiere - P 2012
Ian Gavan/Getty Images

Steven Spielberg War Horse Premiere - P 2012

As was inevitably going to be the case, this morning's Oscar nominations announcement made a lot of talent, publicists, and studios very happy, but also baffled and disappointed just as many if not more. Here's an in-depth, category-by-category look at the highest-profile "snubs"...

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

The Ides of March
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
My Week with Marilyn
J. Edgar
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- Part 2

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Universal's Bridesmaids, have to be disappointed that the Academy couldn't have put off its rules-change for at least one more year.

PHOTOS: 2012 Academy Awards Nominees

Dragon Tattoo demonstrated tremendous strength amongst the guilds, which have historically predicted Academy support -- if not passion, which the new system emphasizes -- as well as anything. Indeed, it scored nominations from the Directors Guild of America Producers Guild of America, Writers Guild of America, American Cinema Editors, American Society of Cinematographers, and Costume Designers Guild. It can't have missed by much, especially when one notes that Rooney Mara, who played its title character, was supported enough by the Academy's actors branch -- its largest -- to score a best actress nomination over an actress who had garnered SAG, HFPA, BFCA, and BAFTA noms!

I was a bit more skeptical about Bridesmaids, just because the raunchy summer comedy is so outside of the conservative Academy's traditional wheelhouse. That being said, it was very hard to ignore how well it performed amongst the guilds, scoring noms from the PGA (historically one of the top predictors of best picture nominations), SAG (for best ensemble and best supporting actress Melissa McCarthy), WGA, ACE, CDG, and even the Art Directors Guild. Based on that showing, as well as the fact that the Academy did nominate it today for best supporting actress (McCarthy) and best original screenplay (Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig), I suspect that the film probably finished about eleventh in best picture voting.

COMPLETE LIST: 2012 Oscar Nominations

Others who had outside-shots at a best picture nomination but came up short include Sony's Ides (the studio was teased by the film's inclusion on the PGA's list of 10 and a Golden Globe best picture nom, but wound up with just a single Oscar mention, for best adapted screenplay); Focus Features' Tinker (which has performed very well at the box-office and scored 11 BAFTA noms, behind only The Artist, to go along with its ADG and ASC noms); FilmDistrict's Drive (a violent film that is not everyone's cup of tea, but scored ADG and CDG noms to go along with BFCA and BAFTA recognition, and seemed poised to do well under the new voting system, since those who like it really like it); The Weinstein Company's Marilyn (the light period piece that was nominated for best picture at the Globes, scored an ACE nom, and had a field-leading 16 mentions on BAFTA's long-list); and Warner Bros.' J. Edgar (a much-hyped Oscar contender that never really took off) and Harry Potter (which Academy members never really regarded as anything but a kids' movie, unlike the films that comprised another blockbuster franchise that they embraced not that long ago, The Lord of the Rings trilogy).

Snubs: David Fincher (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)
Steven Spielberg (War Horse)
Bennett Miller (Moneyball)
Tate Taylor (The Help)
Stephen Daldry (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close)

Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive)
Tomas Alfredson (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy)

Many are focusing on the absence of the four directors whose films were nominated for best picture -- Spielberg, Miller, Taylor, and Daldry -- but, statistically-speaking, the snub of Fincher is probably the most noteworthy, since he was nominated by the DGA, which has historically predicted this category very accurately and did indeed forecast all of the category's eventual nominees except for the one who took Fincher's place, Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life).

Spielberg was seen by many -- myself included -- as having a very strong shot, as well, possibly even stronger than his film's, since he's an old Academy favorite with six best director noms already under his belt, including one for a film that the Academy did not concurrently nominate for best picture, Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977).

Taylor is a relative unknown who was under consideration for his first real feature film, which was more of an acting than a directing showcase, so he was always a longer-shot. Though Daldry has been nominated in this category twice before, the film for which he was eligible this year was not regarded as a serious contender by most people, so neither was he. And Miller, a nominee in this category for the one other feature that he has directed, Capote (2005), always faced an uphill climb against bigger-name competition.

Some of my colleagues suggested that Refn or Alfredson had passionate backers for their divisive films, and they may well have, but they simply did not number enough in the end.

Leonardo DiCaprio (J. Edgar)
Michael Fassbender (Shame)
Ryan Gosling (Drive and The Ides of March)
Michael Shannon (Take Shelter)

DiCaprio was nominated by the holy trinity of precursor groups -- SAG, HFPA, and BFCA -- but he was ultimately unable to withstand the negative feelings that have plagued his film since its release. Fassbender was probably hurt by the Academy's pollyanna-ish feelings; since the NC-17 rating was created in 1990, no performance in a film that received that rating has ever been nominated, and the group proved unwilling to make an exception for even this critically-hailed portrayal of a sex-addict.

That being said, few would quibble with the two veteran actors who were chosen in place of DiCaprio and Fassbender: Demian Bichir (A Better Life), a 44-year-old Mexican actor who has been toiling in obscurity since he was 14, and who had previously scored a surprise SAG nom; and Gary Oldman (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), the popular character actor who had never before been nominated, but who caught voters attention with his quiet, understated performance in this Cold War spy pic.

Mention should be made of the fact that Gosling had a career-year, giving standout performances in three films -- Drive, The Ides of March, and Crazy, Stupid, Love -- but made the cardinal mistake of failing to choose one horse (pick the film for which he had the best shot at scoring a nod) and riding it hard (working the campaign circuit). After campaigning hard but still getting snubbed last awards season for his great work in Blue Valentine, I suppose that it's understandable that he wanted to take a year off from glad-handing, although it's quite possible that it could have made a difference.

Tilda Swinton (We Need to Talk About Kevin)
Charlize Theron (Young Adult)
Elizabeth Olsen (Martha Marcy May Marlene)

One of the biggest surprises of the morning, for many, was the fact that Swinton was passed over in favor of Mara despite scoring virtually every important precursor nom that an actress can: SAG, HFPA, BFCA, and BAFTA. My sense is that many people simply found Kevin to be too disturbing and without a clear point. I never quite bought that Swinton -- as great an actress as she is -- would be nominated for such a dark film after being ignored last year for an even better performance in a far more digestible film, I Am Love.

Theron, a BFCA and HFPA nominee, and Olsen, a BFCA nominee, played similarly dark characters. I gave Olsen a slightly better shot than Theron, as she plays a beautiful young newcomer who goes nude while playing a mentally-disturbed character (that certainly checks off a lot of the Academy's favorite boxes), as opposed to a self-proclaimed "bitch." Both of the actress' characters are very dark, like Mara's, but never inspire the audience to root for them in the way that Mara did, which may have done them in.

Albert Brooks (Drive)
Ben Kingsley (Hugo)
Armie Hammer (J. Edgar)
Andy Serkis (Rise of the Planet of the Apes)

Shailene Woodley (The Descendants)
Carey Mulligan (Shame)
Sandra Bullock (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close)

Tate Taylor (The Help)
Steven Zaillian (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)
Eric Roth (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close)
Richard Curtis, Lee Wall (War Horse)

Will Reiser (50/50)
Tom McCarthy, Joe Tiboni (Win Win)
Mike Mills (Beginners)

Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life)
Diablo Cody (Young Adult)

The Adventures of Tintin
Cars 2

Arthur Christmas

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