Studio scorecard: Paramount 28 (Paramount 14 + Paramount Vantage 6 + DreamWorks 6 + Marvel 2), Warner Bros 21Universal 20 (Universal 6 + Imagine 5 + Focus 9), Disney 14 (Walt Disney 8 + Miramax 6), Fox 13 (20th Century Fox 1 + Fox Searchlight 12), The Weinsten Co 6, Sony 5 (Sony Classics 5), Marvel 2, MGM/UA 0

My analysis: As usual, the Academy Motion Picture Arts & Sciences voters got it wrong. That they could ignore a Best Picture nod for The Dark Knight and a Best Director nomination for Chris Nolan, nor show any love for Iron Man which was a very satisfying film as well, shows just how out of touch the mostly geriatric members who decide the Oscars really are. The result is that this year’s broadcast, lacking any movies that smack of blockbuster in the major category, should be low-rated yet again. Wall-E was robbed for Best Picture, too. It’s long overdue for an animated film to win that category. And overlooking Darren Aronofsky for Best Director was absurd, though he’s honored indirectly for both Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei’s nods. And what’s the deal for ignoring Bruce Springsteen’s swell song for that film?

But the madness of today’s nominations for the February 22nd Academy Awards goes on and on…

The voters blanked Clint Eastwood for Best Actor, despite the fact he’s never won in that category, and for Best Director, which he’s won twice. I’d suspected since December that the Gran Torino story, dialogue and message wouldn’t appeal to the Oscar elite because it’s too blue collar. But, as I’ve said before, if you want to properly handicap the Oscars, just figure out who is envied or hated most by the Academy voters. This year, Clint certainly deserved a major category nomination, and the geriatrics love the guy cuz he’s still got a prostate and balls. But Hollywood is also jealous of him because he’s won too many times. The community figures if he wins any more Oscars, then the awards might as well be renamed the Clints. So the Academy pries the viewfinder from his liver-spotted hands and picks from younger directors to make that walk to the podium. Although the well-deserved nod for Angelina Jolie in Changeling is an indirect tribute to Eastwood.

So many major category nods for The Reader also bewilder me. Yes, I thought Kate Winslet would get the nomination for that movie because 1) people who vote for the Academy Awards seemed to hate her in Revolutionary Road as well as disliked that pic overall, and 2) the thinking was she’d be nominated for Best Supporting Actress and win, and 3) she’s now in first position to win Best Actress. I think The Reader‘s popularity with the Oscar balloters was all about Harvey, but not as a reward for The Weinstein Co asshole. This is a sympathy vote for Scott Rudin and Stephen Daldry and Kate Winslet for having to put up with that nasty oaf during the tortured post-production and release of the movie, and for Sydney Pollack and Anthony Minghella for passing away before their time.

It was heartening to see that, unlike the Academy voters’ diss of Brokeback Mountain to win Best Picture after barely screening the pic because of its guy-on-guy action (albeit tame), the balloters were not scared off Milk. Terrific that both Anne Hathaway and Mickey Rourke won nods: the Academy could have blamed her for appearing in that crappy pic Bride Wars, and him for opening his mouth too much and opining about everything. (Less is more, Mickey…) And fortunately, Heath Ledger, the 7th posthumous nominee, is undisputed frontrunner for Best Supporting Actor and fittingly nominated exactly one year to the day since his death from an accidental drug overdose.

Back on December 26th, I raised the question whether this year’s Oscars as shaping up as rather suspense-less. See my Oscar Ballots Mailed: Are Best Picture And Other Major Categories Already Decided? Despite the huge money (too much) which Paramount is spending to sell Benjamin Button because Brad Pitt was Brad Grey’s former client, I’m still certain that Slumdog Millionaire is a shoo-in for Best Pic. And the only major categories in any real doubt at this point are Best Actor which is slightly less competititive now without Eastwood, and Best Supporting Actress which is wide open now that Winslet isn’t in it.

Nominees for the 81st Academy Awards

Best motion picture of the year
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Paramount and Warner Bros)
A Kennedy/Marshall Production
Kathleen Kennedy, Frank Marshall and Ceán Chaffin, Producers

Frost/Nixon (Universal)
A Universal Pictures, Imagine Entertainment and Working Title Production
Brian Grazer, Ron Howard and Eric Fellner, Producers

Milk (Focus Features)
A Groundswell and Jinks/Cohen Company Production
Dan Jinks and Bruce Cohen, Producers

The Reader (The Weinstein Company)
A Mirage Enterprises and Neunte Babelsberg Film GmbH Production
Nominees to be determined

Slumdog Millionaire (Fox Searchlight)
A Celador Films Production
Christian Colson, Producer

Performance by an actor in a leading role
Richard Jenkins in The Visitor (Overture Films)
Frank Langella in Frost/Nixon (Universal)
Sean Penn in Milk (Focus Features)
Brad Pitt in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Paramount and Warner Bros.)
Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler (Fox Searchlight)

Performance by an actress in a leading role
Anne Hathaway in Rachel Getting Married (Sony Pictures Classics)
Angelina Jolie in Changeling (Universal)
Melissa Leo in Frozen River (Sony Pictures Classics)
Meryl Streep in Doubt (Miramax)
Kate Winslet in The Reader (The Weinstein Company)

Achievement in directing
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Paramount and Warner Bros) David Fincher
Frost/Nixon (Universal) Ron Howard
Milk (Focus Features) Gus Van Sant
The Reader (The Weinstein Company) Stephen Daldry
Slumdog Millionaire (Fox Searchlight) Danny Boyle

Performance by an actor in a supporting role
Josh Brolin in Milk (Focus Features)
Robert Downey Jr in Tropic Thunder (DreamWorks, Distributed by DreamWorks/Paramount)
Philip Seymour Hoffman in Doubt (Miramax)
Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight (Warner Bros.)
Michael Shannon in Revolutionary Road (DreamWorks, Distributed by Paramount Vantage)

Performance by an actress in a supporting role
Amy Adams in Doubt (Miramax)
Penélope Cruz in Vicky Cristina Barcelona (The Weinstein Company)
Viola Davis in Doubt (Miramax)
Taraji P. Henson in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Paramount and Warner Bros.)
Marisa Tomei in The Wrestler (Fox Searchlight)

Original screenplay
Frozen River (Sony Pictures Classics) Written by Courtney Hunt
Happy-Go-Lucky (Miramax) Written by Mike Leigh
In Bruges (Focus Features) Written by Martin McDonagh
Milk (Focus Features) Written by Dustin Lance Black
WALL-E (Walt Disney) Screenplay by Andrew Stanton, Jim Reardon
Original story by Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter

Adapted screenplay
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Paramount and Warner Bros) Screenplay by Eric Roth
Screen story by Eric Roth and Robin Swicord
Doubt (Miramax) Written by John Patrick Shanley
Frost/Nixon (Universal) Screenplay by Peter Morgan
The Reader (The Weinstein Company) Screenplay by David Hare
Slumdog Millionaire (Fox Searchlight) Screenplay by Simon Beaufoy

Best animated feature film of the year
Bolt (Walt Disney) Chris Williams and Byron Howard
Kung Fu Panda (DreamWorks Animation, Distributed by Paramount) John Stevenson and Mark Osborne
WALL-E (Walt Disney) Andrew Stanton

Best foreign language film of the year
The Baader Meinhof Complex, A Constantin Film Production, Germany
The Class (Sony Pictures Classics), A Haut et Court Production, France
Departures (Regent Releasing), A Departures Film Partners Production, Japan
Revanche (Janus Films), A Prisma Film/Fernseh Production, Austria
Waltz with Bashir (Sony Pictures Classics), A Bridgit Folman Film Gang Production, Israel

Best documentary feature
The Betrayal (Nerakhoon) (Cinema Guild), A Pandinlao Films Production, Ellen Kuras and Thavisouk Phrasavath
Encounters at the End of the World (THINKFilm and Image Entertainment), A Creative Differences Production, Werner Herzog and Henry Kaiser
The Garden, A Black Valley Films Production, Scott Hamilton Kennedy
Man on Wire (Magnolia Pictures), A Wall to Wall Production, James Marsh and Simon Chinn
Trouble the Water (Zeitgeist Films), An Elsewhere Films Production, Tia Lessin and Carl Deal

Best documentary short subject
The Conscience of Nhem En
, A Farallon Films Production, Steven Okazaki
The Final Inch, A Vermilion Films Production, Irene Taylor Brodsky and Tom Grant
Smile Pinki, A Principe Production, Megan Mylan
The Witness – From the Balcony of Room 306, A Rock Paper Scissors Production, Adam Pertofsky and Margaret Hyde

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score)
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Paramount and Warner Bros) Alexandre Desplat
Defiance (Paramount Vantage) James Newton Howard
Milk (Focus Features) Danny Elfman
Slumdog Millionaire (Fox Searchlight) A.R. Rahman
WALL-E (Walt Disney) Thomas Newman

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)
“Down to Earth” from WALL-E (Walt Disney) Music by Peter Gabriel and Thomas Newman, Lyric by Peter Gabriel
“Jai Ho” from Slumdog Millionaire (Fox Searchlight) Music by A.R. Rahman, Lyric by Gulzar
“O Saya” from Slumdog Millionaire (Fox Searchlight) Music and Lyric by A.R. Rahman and Maya Arulpragasam

Achievement in art direction
Changeling (Universal)

Art Direction: James J. Murakami, Set Decoration: Gary Fettis
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Paramount and Warner Bros.)
Art Direction: Donald Graham Burt, Set Decoration: Victor J. Zolfo
The Dark Knight (Warner Bros)
Art Direction: Nathan Crowley, Set Decoration: Peter Lando
The Duchess (Paramount Vantage, Pathé and BBC Films)
Art Direction: Michael Carlin, Set Decoration: Rebecca Alleway
Revolutionary Road (DreamWorks, Distributed by Paramount Vantage)
Art Direction: Kristi Zea, Set Decoration: Debra Schutt

Achievement in cinematography
Changeling (Universal) Tom Stern
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Paramount and Warner Bros) Claudio Miranda
The Dark Knight
(Warner Bros.) Wally Pfister
The Reader (The Weinstein Company) Chris Menges and Roger Deakins
Slumdog Millionaire (Fox Searchlight) Anthony Dod Mantle

Achievement in costume design
Australia (20th Century Fox) Catherine Martin
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Paramount and Warner Bros.) Jacqueline West
The Duchess (Paramount Vantage, Pathé and BBC Films), Michael O’Connor
Milk (Focus Features) Danny Glicker
Revolutionary Road (DreamWorks, Distributed by Paramount Vantage) Albert Wolsky

Achievement in film editing
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Paramount and Warner Bros.) Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall
The Dark Knight (Warner Bros) Lee Smith
Frost/Nixon (Universal) Mike Hill and Dan Hanley
Milk (Focus Features) Elliot Graham
Slumdog Millionaire (Fox Searchlight) Chris Dickens

Achievement in makeup
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Paramount and Warner Bros), Greg Cannom
The Dark Knight (Warner Bros), John Caglione, Jr. and Conor O’Sullivan
Hellboy II: The Golden Army (Universal), Mike Elizalde and Thom Floutz

Best animated short film
La Maison en Petits Cubes, A Robot Communications Production, Kunio Kato
Lavatory – Lovestory, A Melnitsa Animation Studio and CTB Film Company Production, Konstantin Bronzit
Oktapodi (Talantis Films) A Gobelins, L’école de l’image Production, Emud Mokhberi and Thierry Marchand
Presto (Walt Disney) A Pixar Animation Studios Production, Doug Sweetland
This Way Up, A Nexus Production, Alan Smith and Adam Foulkes

Best live action short film
Auf der Strecke (On the Line) (Hamburg Shortfilmagency), A Media Arts Cologne Production, Reto Caffi
Manon on the Asphalt (La Luna Productions), A La Luna Production, Elizabeth Marre and Olivier Pont
New Boy (Network Ireland Television), A Zanzibar Films Production, Steph Green and Tamara Anghie
The Pig, An M & M Production, Tivi Magnusson and Dorte Høgh
Spielzeugland (Toyland), A Mephisto Film Production, Jochen Alexander Freydank

Achievement in sound editing
The Dark Knight (Warner Bros) Richard King
Iron Man (Paramount and Marvel Entertainment) Frank Eulner and Christopher Boyes
Slumdog Millionaire (Fox Searchlight) Tom Sayers
WALL-E (Walt Disney) Ben Burtt and Matthew Wood
Wanted (Universal) Wylie Stateman

Achievement in sound mixing
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Paramount and Warner Bros) David Parker, Michael Semanick, Ren Klyce and Mark Weingarten
The Dark Knight (Warner Bros) Lora Hirschberg, Gary Rizzo and Ed Novick
Slumdog Millionaire (Fox Searchlight), Ian Tapp, Richard Pryke and Resul Pookutty
WALL-E (Walt Disney) Tom Myers, Michael Semanick and Ben Burtt
Wanted (Universal) Chris Jenkins, Frank A. Montaño and Petr Forejt

Achievement in visual effects
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Paramount and Warner Bros) Eric Barba, Steve Preeg, Burt Dalton and Craig Barron
The Dark Knight (Warner Bros) Nick Davis, Chris Corbould, Tim Webber and Paul Franklin
Iron Man (Paramount and Marvel Entertainment) John Nelson, Ben Snow, Dan Sudick and Shane Mahan

PREVIOUS: At 5:30 AM PT. (I’m traveling for family business on the East Coast so, for once, I don’t have to cover this at the crack of dawn…) Nominations for the 81st Academy Awards will be announced by Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President Sid Ganis and Oscar-winning actor and Academy member Forest Whitaker at the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills.