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Originally published Tuesday, January 25, 2011 at 11:18 AM

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This year's Oscar nominees: surprises and omissions

Where is director Christopher Nolan's Oscar nomination for "Inception"? And what about Mila Kunis, Mark Wahlberg, Andrew Garfield? Tuesday morning's announcement of Academy Award nominees was full of surprises.

Seattle Times movie critic

Looks like the king's on top, at least for now. "The King's Speech," a historical drama about Britain's King George VI, led the Oscar nomination race with 12 nominations. The western "True Grit" followed with 10; "The Social Network" and "Inception" had eight each.

And a former local is in the mix as well. Writer/producer Anne Rosellini, who grew up on Mercer Island and was a programmer for the Seattle International Film Festival and 1 Reel Film Festival before moving to New York in 2001, was nominated twice for the indie drama "Winter's Bone," for best picture and best adapted screenplay.

The acting categories included a few surprises from lesser-known films. Javier Bardem was nominated for lead actor for the Spanish-language drama "Biutiful" (opening in Seattle Feb. 4); Nicole Kidman and Michelle Williams as best actress for "Rabbit Hole" and "Blue Valentine" respectively. Veteran Australian actress Jacki Weaver scored her first Oscar nomination as supporting actress as a terrifying grandmother in the crime noir "Animal Kingdom."

Though the best-picture category had 10 nominees — a practice begun last year — it's easy to tell which are the top five, based on the directing nominations: "Black Swan" (Darren Aronofsky), "The Fighter" (David O. Russell), "The King's Speech" (Tom Hooper), "The Social Network" (David Fincher) and "True Grit" (Joel and Ethan Coen). The brothers Coen scored a rare trifecta, nominated for best picture (as producers), directing and writing.

The most surprising omission was that of Christopher Nolan from the directing category, for "Inception" — the clever, twisty film was a box-office hit, and Nolan was nominated for a Directors Guild of America award, usually a reliable Oscar predictor. Other notable snubs: Mila Kunis in "Black Swan," Ryan Gosling in "Blue Valentine," Mark Wahlberg in "The Fighter," Andrew Garfield in "The Social Network" and Robert Duvall in "Get Low."

Eight of the 20 acting nominees are first-timers: Jesse Eisenberg (lead actor, "The Social Network"), James Franco (lead actor, "127 Hours"), Jennifer Lawrence (lead actress, "Winter's Bone"), Christian Bale (supporting actor, "The Fighter"), John Hawkes (supporting actor, "Winter's Bone"), Mark Ruffalo (supporting actor, "The Kids Are All Right"), Hailee Steinfeld (supporting actress, "True Grit," and the year's youngest nominee at 14), and Weaver.

"Alice in Wonderland" (whose costumes were designed by Eastern Washington native Colleen Atwood, scoring her ninth career nomination), "The King's Speech" and "True Grit" dominated the design categories, while "Inception" led the technical categories. Composer Randy Newman scored his 20th career nomination with the song "We Belong Together" from "Toy Story 3."

And the most burning question is: What will Helena Bonham Carter, she of the deliberately mismatched shoes at the Golden Globes, wear to the Oscar ceremony? On Feb. 27, we'll find the answer, to this and other Oscar questions.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725

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