Most nominated films
- David Fincher's The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, with 13 nominations.
- Danny Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire, featuring Dev Patel and Freida Pinto, with 10.
- Gus Van Sant's Milk, starring Sean Penn, James Franco, and Josh Brolin; and Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight, starring Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Aaron Eckhart, with 8 nods each.
Meryl Streep: Oscar record-tier
Streep has been the overall Oscar record-holder for acting since 2002, when she received her 13th nomination (as Best Supporting Actress for Spike Jonze's Adaptation). She currently has a total of 15 Oscar nominations, including two wins: Best Supporting Actress for Robert Benton's Kramer vs. Kramer, 1979; Best Actress for Alan J. Pakula's Sophie's Choice, 1982.
Laurence Olivier and Spencer Tracy hold the record in the Best Actor category: nine nominations each. The most nominated actor (both lead and supporting categories) is Jack Nicholson, with a total of 12 nods (8 leads; 4 supporting).
Posthumous Oscar nomination
Heath Ledger for his performance as The Joker in The Dark Knight. Ledger was nominated exactly one year after his death. (See also: “Heath Ledger posthumous Oscar.”)
Double Oscar nominations
Not Kate Winslet, who might have been nominated for both Sam Mendes' Revolutionary Road and Stephen Daldry's The Reader – but John Patrick Shanley's Doubt, which boasts two performers competing with one another in the Best Supporting Actress category: Amy Adams and Viola Davis.
Kate Winslet goes from lead to supporting to lead again
Kate Winslet most likely would have received two 2009 Best Actress Oscar nominations – for The Reader and Revolutionary Road – if double nominations weren't a no-no in the same acting category*. Even though she is one of the leads in The Reader, it's curious that enough Academy members opted to vote for Winslet as Best Actress for that film as she has been pushed in the Best Supporting Actress category (so as not to compete with her Revolutionary Road performance). Also, it's worth noting that the Academy's Actors Branch usually do as they're told, i.e., if a lead performance is marketed as a supporting one, the performer ends up nominated in the supporting category, where s/he has a better chance of landing a nomination and/or of taking home an Oscar statuette.
This year alone we have Philip Seymour Hoffman in Doubt and Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight. Previous such instances include Ethan Hawke in Training Day, Julianne Moore in The Hours, and Jake Gyllenhaal in Brokeback Mountain. In any case, Penélope Cruz lucked out: now, the Best Supporting Actress Oscar is most likely hers for her performance in Woody Allen's Vicky Cristina Barcelona.
2009 Oscar comebacks (acting/directing, a decade or more between nominations)
- Robert Downey Jr.: Best Actor nominee for Richard Attenborough's Chaplin in 1992; Best Supporting Actor nominee for Ben Stiller's Tropic Thunder.
- Brad Pitt: Best Supporting Actor nominee for Terry Gilliam's 12 Monkeys in 1995; Best Actor nominee for David Fincher's The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
- Gus Van Sant: Best Director nominee for Good Will Hunting in 1997; Best Director nominee for Milk.
- And even though Mickey Rourke has no prior Oscar nominations, his Best Actor nod for Darren Aronofsky's The Fighter should be considered an Oscar comeback of sorts.
Glaring Oscar 2009 omissions: 'The Dark Knight,' Clint Eastwood, Sally Hawkins
- The Dark Knight for Best Picture, while Christopher Nolan, despite his DGA and WGA Award nominations, was nowhere to be found in the directing and screenplay (with Jonathan Nolan) categories.
- Clint Eastwood for Best Actor in Gran Torino, which is supposed to be his last appearance in front of a movie camera. Eastwood also failed to make the cut as Best Director for either Gran Torino or Changeling, and as the writer of Best Song contender “Gran Torino.”
- Jan Troell's Everlasting Moments, the Swedish Best Foreign Language Film entry that seemed made to order for the foreign-language voters' tastes: it's a period piece about social issues from a prestigious veteran director. Somehow, it failed to be shortlisted. (The Italian submission, Matteo Garrone's Gomorrah, was a glaring omission when the list of 2009 Best Foreign Language Film semi-finalists was announced.)
- The 2008/2009 New York Film Critics Circle and Los Angeles Film Critics Association and National Society of Film Critics and Berlin Film Festival and Golden Globe winner Sally Hawkins was ignored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences just as she had been ignored by the British Academy. Apparently, Academy voters found enough room for only one little-known actress, and that slot was given to Melissa Leo for Frozen River. (See also: “Oscar preferential voting system,” in use since 1936.)
- Waltz with Bashir in the Best Animated Feature category. Ari Folman's Israeli-made anti-war documentary was, however, included in the Best Foreign Language Film shortlist. Note: Last year, Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud's Persepolis received a Best Animated Feature nod, but was snubbed in the Best Foreign Language Film category. Pretty soon some great movie will end up absent from both categories because one group will assume the other will be voting for it – and vice versa.
- Bruce Springsteen's song “The Wrestler” won the Golden Globe, but it wasn't considered good enough by the Academy's Music Branch members. I should add to this the other 45 submitted but nomination-less songs – two of which could also have made the cut. The Academy's Music Branch, however, opted to select only three songs this year.
* After Barry Fitzgerald was nominated for Going My Way in both the Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor categories back in 1944, the Academy banned such double nominations. (Fitzgerald won in the supporting category.) From then on, if a performer garnered enough votes to be included in both categories, he or she would be shortlisted in only one of them.
At least in recent years, the rule reads as follows: “The leading role and supporting role categories will be tabulated simultaneously. If any performance should receive votes in both categories, the achievement shall only be placed on the ballot in that category in which, during the tabulation process, it first receives the required number of votes to be nominated. In the event that the performance receives the numbers of votes required to be nominated in both categories simultaneously, the achievement shall only be placed on the ballot in that category in which it receives the greater percentage of the total votes.”
Photo of Forest Whitaker and Academy president Sid Ganis at 2009 Oscar announcements: Richard Harbaugh / © A.M.P.A.S.