Friday, February 19, 2010

Trivial Pursuits: Oscars 2009

It's Oscar trivia time, 2009 edition!:

- If either Best Picture front-runners Avatar or The Hurt Locker win, they would either be the highest or lowest grossing winners, respectively, in Academy Award history.

- The last time that there were 10 nominees for Best Picture was 1944, when the winner was a little film called Casablanca.

- Two Best Picture nominees — An Education and The Hurt Locker — were directed by women (Lone Scherfig and Kathryn Bigelow, respectively).

- Bigelow is only the fourth woman to be nominated for Best Director, joining Lina Wertmüller (Seven Beauties), Jane Campion (The Piano) and Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation). No female director has won ... so far.

- Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire's Lee Daniels is only the second African American to be nominated not only for Best Director, but also as a co-producer of a Best Picture nominee. Previous nominees were John Singleton (Boyz N the Hood) and Quincy Jones (The Color Purple), respectively.

- Precious is also the first Best Picture nominee to be directed by an African American.

- Avatar and District 9 join A Clockwork Orange, Star Wars and E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial as the only science fiction Best Picture nominees.

- Up is only the second animated feature to be nominated for Best Picture (Beauty and the Beast was the first) and the first to do so since the Best Animated Feature category was created in 2001.

- All in the family: Father and son Ivan and Jason Reitman are nominated for producing Up in the Air, as are brothers Joel and Ethan Coen for producing and writing A Serious Man.

- Best Picture nominees The Blind Side and A Serious Man received only one other nomination. The last time a Best Picture nominee received only two nominations was in 1994 with Four Weddings and a Funeral.

- Best Actress nominee Gabourey Sidibe was recognized for her film debut in Precious.

- With her nod for Julie & Julia, Meryl Streep not only broke her own record of overall acting nominations (16 total), but she also bested Katharine Hepburn's reign as the most nominated Best Actress contender (13 total).

- Along with Streep's Julia Child, six of the acting nominees portray real people: Sandra Bullock as Leigh Anne Tuohy in The Blind Side, Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela and Matt Damon as François Pienaar in Invictus, and Christopher Plummer and Helen Mirren as Leo and Sofya Tolstoy in The Last Station.

- Double duty: Plummer can also be heard in Up, while lead acting contenders Streep and George Clooney (Up in the Air) led the voice cast of Fantastic Mr. Fox.

- Nine's Penélope Cruz and Streep are the only repeat acting nominees from last year, when Cruz won Best Supporting Actress for Vicky Cristina Barcelona and Streep was a Best Actress contender for Doubt.

- And finally: the last time Streep won an Oscar (for Sophie's Choice in 1983), her competitors Carey Mulligan (An Education) and Sidibe weren't even born yet!

Illustration by Tom Bachtell for The New Yorker.

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