This is not about merit. Or rather, this is never only about merit, so don't take my observations as endorsements or write-offs.
The producers of this year's Oscars telecast may have gone way populist, hiring attractive young stars James Franco and Anne Hathaway as co-hosts, but the Academy voters have gone the opposite route, shunning a surprisingly large number of glamorous stars who actually merited consideration.
Full list of Oscar nominations is here.
It struck me immediately as I listened to the nominees being announced this morning, the unfun lack of household names except in cases where the performance was beyond locked (Natalie Portman, Annette Bening).
Off the top of my head, major surprise snubs include (in descending order of WTF?): Andrew Garfield for The Social Network (he was the heart of that movie, has acting cred from Boy A and is the next Spider-Man), Ryan Gosling for Blue Valentine (a well-liked, extremely respected actor whose counterpart was honored), Mila Kunis for The Black Swan (she may be a newcomer to critical acclaim but she played two completely different roles, one of which was arguably the title character), Matt Damon for True Grit (an old favorite in one of the year's hardest-charging contenders to steal The Social Network's thunder), Mark Wahlberg for The Fighter (not considered a great thespian but he was responsible for the film existing and was the title character), Julianne Moore for The Kids Are All Right (she's been nominated and overlooked before, but this time was really exceptional).
Voters also passed on Armie Hammer (especially) and Justin Timberlake for The Social Network and an excuse for Christina Aguilera and/or Cher to sing. And continuing the "fuck you, known entity" theme, Ben Affleck's highly regarded directorial offering The Town wasn't deemed worthy of a Top 10 nomination (though Jeremy Renner earned a nod for his performance in it), nor was the year's most famous documentary, Waiting for Superman.
Instead of some of the names I've mentioned, the Academy will be relying on the fan clubs of Javier Bardem (thanks, Julia Roberts!), John Hawkes, Hailee Steinfeld, Jackie Weaver and others to tune in.