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Oscar Nods Arrive; Will a Show Follow?

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

The nominations for the Academy Awards are in, announced this morning in Beverly Hills. The usual excitement surrounding the Oscars has been overshadowed this year by the writers' strike. Informal talks between the two sides in the strike are set to resume today. If a settlement isn't reached, there might not be a red carpet Oscar ceremony with big-name stars this year.

Kenneth Turan is film critic for MORNING EDITION and the Los Angeles Times.

Good morning.

KENNETH TURAN: Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: Well, let's talk about the awards, you know, big TV show or not. They are still pretty important to those doing the work of making these films. List the picks for best picture.

TURAN: Well, the best picture nominations are pretty much as expected. "No Country for Old Men," "Atonement," "Michael Clayton, "There will be Blood" and "Juno." It's a story of a young girl, a teenage girl, high school student who gets pregnant and decides to give the baby up for adoption to a young, well-off couple.

(Soundbite of movie, "Juno")

Ms. ELLEN PAGE (Actress): (As Juno) If I could just have the thing and give it you now, I totally would. But I'm guessing it looks probably like a sea monkey right now, we should let it get a little cuter, right?

Ms. JENNIFER GARNER (Actress): (As Vanessa Loring) Yeah. Great.

Mr. JASON BATEMAN (Actor): (As Mark Loring) Keep it in the oven.

MONTAGNE: How about the acting categories? Let's start with best actor.

TURAN: Well, best actor. I think, you know, one of the things you often see in the academy is that there are actors that the academy likes, and they go with them no matter, you know, what film they're in if the role is reasonable. Tommy Lee Jones, "In The Valley of Elah," was a film that kind of disappeared off of people's radars but he got nominated. Viggo Mortensen in "Eastern Promises" didn't get a lot of traction; he was nominated. "Sweeney Todd" didn't do that well, but Johnny Depp was nominated. George Clooney, very good in "Michael Clayton," and you know, the people - the person that everyone thinks as, you know, the class of the nominees is Daniel Day-Lewis in "There will be Blood."

(Soundbite of movie, "There will be Blood")

Mr. DANIEL DAY-LEWIS (Actor): (As Daniel Plainview) If we decide to drill for oil and if the well begins to produce, I'll give your church a $5,000 signing bonus.

Unidentified Man: (As Character) Ten thousand.

Mr. DAY-LEWIS: (As Daniel Plainview): You want to find someone else that's going to come up here and drill, Eli, make the investment and all the hard work that goes into it? I can just as easily hunt for quail on another ranch.

MONTAGNE: Daniel Day-Lewis's ruthless oilman in "There will be Blood."

Best actress.

TURAN: I think the big surprise in this category is Cate Blanchett for "Elizabeth." Again, this is an actress the academy likes. In fact, she's nominated twice. She's nominated for one of the people who played Bob Dylan for best supporting actress. And to be nominated twice - especially a lot of people didn't like "Elizabeth," so to be nominated for a second time for a film that people didn't like is really a tribute to her abilities and a tribute to the fact that the - you know, that the Academy likes the people it likes.

Laura Linney also nominated for "Savages." Marion Cotillard for "La Vie En Rose," really terrific performance as Edith Piaf. Ellen Page, who we just heard for "Juno." And you know, a veteran that everyone is happy to see back, Julie Christie, who stars in "Away from Her." It's a small drama about a woman who gets Alzheimer's and initiates, really, separating from her husband and putting herself into a home.

(Soundbite of movie, "Away from Her")

Ms. JULIE CHRISTIE (Actress): (As Fiona Anderson) Grant?

Mr. GORDON PINSENT (Actor): (As Grant Anderson) Fiona.

Ms. CHRISTIE: (As Fiona Anderson) You know what I'd like? I'd like to make love, and then I'd like you to go because I need to stay here. And if you make it hard for me, I might cry so hard I'll never stop.

MONTAGNE: That's Julie Christie again the very poignant film, "Away from Her."

Ken, looking at the nominations this morning, what was the most surprising for you? Good or bad?

TURAN: Well, I think the biggest surprise was Jason Reitman as best director. Even though everyone loves "Juno," people - the director's branch doesn't always pick young directors, but they picked him. Two for Cate Blanchett, as I said, was surprising. Ruby Dee, supporting actress, a surprise. Best original script of "Ratatouille" — animation films, since they've gotten their own award, usually don't get that.

MONTAGNE: Ken, thanks very much.

TURAN: Thank you, Renee.

MONTAGNE: Kenneth Turan is film critic for the Los Angeles Times and MORNING EDITION.

The 80th Annual Academy Awards are scheduled for Sunday, February 24th.

This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

MONTAGNE: NPR's Kim Masters on Oscar nominations, which will be announced later this morning.

This is NPR News.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Renee Montagne, one of the best-known names in public radio, is a special correspondent and host for NPR News.
Kim Masters
Kim Masters covers the business of entertainment for NPR News. Her reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition. She joined NPR in 2003.