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February 2, 2010 was a big day for announcements.  We’d all been waiting for this special occasion… yes, groundhog day.  For us who live in the Calgary area, we welcomed the news as we began the day: our very own groundhog Balzac Billy did not see his own shadow.  A reward for us resilient folks: an early spring.

But even hours before Balzac Billy popped his head out of his burrow, another excitement stirred at 5:38 am PST.  At the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills, CA, Academy President Tom Sherak and actress Anne Hathaway got up on the stage and announced this year’s Oscar Nominations to a house full of early risers.  What a way to start the day.   Click here to watch the announcement video.

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The major change this year of course is the expansion of the Best Picture category from 5 to 10 selections.  I’ve pondered the pros and cons about this move.  While more films can be included so not to snub deserving ones, it also begs the question of what’s so deserving if the number of contenders are increased.

For the full list of nominations, CLICK HERE.  I won’t repeat them here but I’ll just highlight some items that pique my interest.

The Golden Globes and the SAG Awards remain the best predictors of the Oscars.  So, there are no surprises, just delights, for the three films I’ve reviewed here on Ripple Effects have all been nominated for Best Picture.

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Up In The Air receives 6 noms.  Other than Best Picture,  Jason Reitman gets a nod for Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay.  Clooney, Kendrick, and Farmiga all nominated in their respective acting category.

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An Education gets a Best Picture nod with Nick Hornby nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay, while Carey Mulligan, who plays 16 year-old Jenny, gets to compete with Meryl Streep, 16-time Oscar nominee, this time as Julia Child in Julie and Julia.

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I’m glad too that the Coen brothers’ A Serious Man gets a nod for a chance at the Best Picture Oscar Award as well as a nom for Best Original Screenplay.

Are these deserving smaller films getting the nods reaping the benefits of the expanded Best Picture category?  Or, is it just the other way round, that popular, big box office hits get a chance to be included because of their mass appeal?  It’s that same old art vs. popularity debate again… well, some other time.

Avatar and The Hurt Locker each receives 9 nominations. Both are contenders in the coveted Best Picture and Best Director categories.  Yes, James Cameron will be competing with his ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow for these two coveted prizes.  In all of the Academy Awards’ 82 years history, there have only been three female directors nominated, and none has won. Kathryn Bigelow is the fourth.  Will she make Oscar history this year by being the first woman Director taking home the statuette?  After all, it’s a decade past the twenty-first century now.

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Inglorious Basterds is another major contender with 8 nods.  Quentin Tarantino’s altered-history fantasy is ingloriously riveting.  Christoph Waltz, who brilliantly plays the cold, callous, and calculating Nazi Colonel Hans Landa, is likely to continue his winning streak following the GG and SAG.

Christopher Plummer gets a nom for his role as Tolstoy in the film The Last Station, a biopic about the last years of the great Russian author.  So, why is he nominated in the Best Supporting Actor category?  Who is he supporting?  Mrs. Tolstoy? … whose star Helen Mirren gets to be nominated for Best Actress, not supporting.

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It’s interesting to see the animated feature Up get to compete with the other nine feature films, aiming for the highest prize in the Best Picture category.  I believe only Beauty And The Beast had that honor in the past.  Animated features have taken on a brand new versatility in recent years, with all sorts of technical innovations creating fresh new visual effects.  But it’s always the story that is the winning factor.  Up deserves the nom.

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So hopefully March 7 will not only bring star-studded excitement but the warm and gentle breeze of spring for me as well.

**All photos from the copyright-free picapp.com**