There's nothing better than a good surprise on Oscar morning, and this year we had one in almost every category. Before we get to the snubs, the surprises and who shouldn't be nominated, let's take a look at what type of a morning this was:

This was the morning that The Academy once again showed how out-of-touch it is. By not dominating "The Dark Knight", the Oscars continued to show that it doesn't care about nominating movies people actually like. There was absolutely no reason this film shouldn't get nominated: It has a 94% percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, it got an A from audiences according to Cinemascore and it made over $500 million at the box office. There should be a rule that if these three things happen then the film is automatically nominated. Not to mention that the best reviewed film of the year, "Wall-E", that grossed over $200 million also got snubbed.

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This was the morning that "The Reader" shocked the world. This film received nothing more than a Golden Globe nomination and a few very minor precursors and somehow found itself nominated in four major categories, including a surprise Best Picture nomination. This is probably the biggest out-of-nowhere sweep at the Oscars this decade.

This was the morning the Weinsteins reclaimed their Oscar campaigning throne. There was a time where Miramax got a Best Picture Oscar nomination every year. This is because Harvey Wenstein, its former owner, would pick a film and relentlessly campaign for it. Things had been quiet in that regard for a few years as he and his brother have been forming their new company, but they came back with fury this year as they pulled off what The Joker couldn't: They took down Batman.

This was the morning that Oscar snubbed the boss. Lost in the hoopla over the major categories was the fact that Bruce Springsteen didn't get nominated for his Golden Globe-winning title track from "The Wrestler." How could the Academy have the audacity to do this to the boss? Especially when the song is featured on every trailer for the film.

This was the morning the Academy ignored its own rules. Supposedly actors are able to pick the categories in which they get nominated. This was thrown out the window when Kate Winslet got nominated as a lead for "The Reader", costing her a double nomination. She may actually be a lead in the film, but so was Philip Seymour Hoffman in "Doubt" and he got a supporting nod. Why are the rules different here?

This was the morning the Academy continued to ignore comedy, kind of. Sure Robert Downey Jr. got nominated but what of Sally Hawkins, the Golden Globe-winning lead of "Happy-Go-Lucky" who won more critics awards than anyone in her category. Then the Academy nominates "Wall-E", "In Bruges", and "Happy-Go-Lucky" for screenplay, but ignores "Vicky Cristina Barcelona." What gives?

This was the morning Brangelina lived up to the hype. Are they the new Tracy and Hepburn? Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie became the first married couple to be nominated for an Oscar in the same year since Rex Harrison and Rachel Roberts pulled off the feat in 1963 for "Cleopatra" and "This Sporting Life", respectively. Okay, so Brad and Angelina aren't actually married, but we can ignore that for this bit of trivia can't we?

This was the morning that showed trying to predict the Oscars is a fool's errand. With so many surprises, a nomination that shouldn't have happened by the rules, and the fact that there were five lead-pipe-locks for Best Picture and a film that barely seemed like it merited a mention as an afterthought got nominated just goes to show that it's impossible to predict the way the Academy will vote.

With that, here are the snubs, the surprises and who shouldn't be nominated in each category:

Best Picture

The Nominees:

"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
"The Reader"
"Slumdog Millionaire"

Surprise: No doubt about it, "The Reader" was an absolute shocker. There are a variety of metrics available to predict the Oscars and every single one had "The Dark Knight" getting in and "The Reader" nowhere to be found. "The Reader" would have rated tenth most likely on a list of nominee predictions and it sweeps in with the nomination.

Snub: Obviously "The Dark Knight." This was mentioned above, but how in the world does one of the ten best-reviewed films of the year that all of America loved and grossed over $500 million not get nominated for Best Picture? This is an absolute embarrassment for the Oscars.

Shouldn't Be Nominated: Finally, at long last, and excuse to bash "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button!" Did anybody actually like this movie? Did anybody actually enjoy sitting there for three hours while nothing happened? Didn't anybody care that Benjamin Button's reverse-aging actually doesn't affect the story in any way whatsoever - he just kind of looks funny? And that last point is the biggest problem with the film. There are so many thematic statements you could make with a character aging backwards, and the movie makes none of them. Instead, it's just a basic love story where the characters skin and hair looks incongruent the whole time. Who cares? Also, Ben Lyons said it was his favorite movie of the year, so you know it has to suck.

Best Director

The Nominees:

David Fincher, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
Ron Howard, "Frost/Nixon"
Gus Van Sant, "Milk"
Stephen Daldry, "The Reader"
Danny Boyle, "Slumdog Millionaire"

Surprise: Like Best Picture, "The Reader's" Stephen Daldry getting nominated is a bit of a shock, especially when Christopher Nolan was nearly neck-and-neck with Danny Boyle for precursor awards and notched the all-important DGA nod, while Daldry got a Golden Globe nomination and little else.

Snub: In that phantom list of likely nominees, Christopher Nolan would have ranked second. There was absolutely nothing that indicated he wouldn't get nominated for directing "The Dark Knight." I guess it's the old Academy bias against well-reviewed films that make a lot of money.

Shouldn't Be Nominated: Ron Howard really should have found a way around having characters in "Frost/Nixon" talk to the camera as though it were a documentary - it was hokey and kind of distracting. Yes, this is a bit of nitpick - this is a solid group.

Best Actor

The Nominees:

Richard Jenkins, "The Visitor"
Frank Langella, "Frost/Nixon"
Sean Penn, "Milk"
Brad Pitt, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
Mickey Rourke, "The Wrestler"

Surprise: People who don't know what they're talking about will say that Richard Jenkins is a surprise, but he got a SAG nomination and a lot of precursors. There really is no surprise in this category (Pitt would have ranked sixth on a likelihood chart).

Snub: Clint Eastwood. Is the myth of The Clint dead? How could this legend in his last acting role with a film that opened at number one and earned him a National Board of Review Award be ignored? Doesn't make sense, especially when his last acting Oscar nomination ("Million Dollar Baby") came along with fewer precursors and less box office.

Shouldn't Be Nominated: Brad Pitt was very good in "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" but it wasn't the most difficult role in the world. Makeup, visual effects, and Fincher's masterful camera seemed to do more than the lead. Pitt was excellent in a subdued role, but was it really a high enough degree of difficulty to get nominated? Probably not.

Best Actress

The Nominees:

Anne Hathaway, "Rachel Getting Married"
Angelina Jolie, "Changeling"
Melissa Leo, "Frozen River"
Meryl Streep, "Doubt"
Kate Winslet, "The Reader"

Surprise: Again, people who don't what they're talking about will say that Leo is a surprise but she got a SAG nomination and actually more precursors than Richard Jenkins. The real surprise here is Winslet. Not that she got nominated, but that it was for "The Reader," ostensibly a supporting role. Something made all the more shocking by the fact that Supporting Actress was read first and didn't include her name.

Snub: This was also covered above, but Sally Hawkins' not being nominated is somewhat inexplicable: She actually won more precursor awards than anybody else in this category. If anything, this speaks to the importance of the SAGs, pretty much the only award she missed.

Shouldn't Be Nominated: Nobody. A very solid list.

Best Supporting Actor


Josh Brolin, "Milk"
Robert Downey Jr., "Tropic Thunder"
Philip Seymour Hoffman, "Doubt"
Heath Ledger, "The Dark Knight"
Michael Shannon, "Revolutionary Road"

Surprise: Michael Shannon isn't a complete surprise seeing as how the fifth slot in the Supporting Actor was completely wide open all year, but it was still a bit of a mild shock to hear his name read this morning.

Snub: The Academy's comedy bias rears its ugly head again as Eddie Marsan doesn't get nominated for his excellent work in "Happy-Go-Lucky". You'd think a win from the National Society of Film Critics would have been enough for people to take notice, but apparently not.

Shouldn't Be Nominated: Nothing against Josh Brolin, he's a fine actor and did a good job in "Milk," but this was in a very underwritten role that really didn't require Brolin to do much. Plus both James Franco and Emile Hirsch gave better performances in the same film. It's hard to think someone is deserving of a nomination when they weren't one of the two best supporting performances in their own film.

Best Supporting Actress


Amy Adams, "Doubt"
Penelope Cruz, "Vicky Cristina Barcelona"
Viola Davis, "Doubt"
Taraji P. Henson, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
Marisa Tomei, "The Wrestler"

Surprise: Obviously that Kate Winslet isn't included. Since these were read before Best Actress there was a moment where every Oscar prognosticator's heart stopped until they realized the Academy had broken its own rule and put her in as a lead.

Snub: There really isn't an obvious snub. Since Winslet didn't get nominated, 2-6 got in and the only other actress with a real shot was Rosemarie DeWitt from "Rachel Getting Married". Since she was nothing special in that film, there's no snub here.

Shouldn't Be Nominated: Some day, at some point, at some time, in some year somebody is going to realize that if you're on screen for four minutes you really don't deserve an Oscar nomination. It doesn't matter how good Viola Davis was in her one scene, or how well she cried onscreen, her how emotionally charged that scene was, this was not a complete performance. Not when she had no time to develop a character, overcome any obstacles, or take any sort of journey. All she did was walk and then cry. Not Oscar-worthy.

Original Screenplay

Courtney Hunt, "Frozen River"
Mike Leigh, "Happy-Go-Lucky"
Martin McDonagh, "In Bruges"
Dustin Lance Black, "Milk"
Andrew Stanton, Jim Reardon and Pete Docter, "Wall-E"

Surprise: This whole category was kind of a surprise, but it was an expected surprise as the race (outside of "Milk") was wide open all year. The real surprise is that only ONE of the WGA nominees repeated at the Oscars ("Milk" again). This is pretty amazing for a precursor that historically predicts 70% correctly.

Snub: "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" was the best screenplay Woody Allen has written in fifteen years. He always gets nominated for an Oscar when he does something good and with The Weinstein Company behind him and WGA to his credit he seemed like a sure thing. Didn't happen for the Woodman, but rest assured he still has something up his sleeve. Retroactive spoiler alert: If it had been nominated this screenplay certainly would have been named "What should win" in the upcoming Who Will/Who Should Win Column. That's how good it is.

Shouldn't Be Nominated: Seems like a pretty solid group, but with so many possibilities it was impossible to see all the contenders, so this may have to wait till later.

Adapted Screenplay


Eric Roth and Robin Swicord, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button";
John Patrick Shanley, "Doubt";
Peter Morgan, "Frost/Nixon";
David Hare, "The Reader";
Simon Beaufoy, "Slumdog Millionaire."

Surprise: "The Reader" is a very mild surprise that in retrospect had just as good a shot as "The Dark Knight" in this category. So really, there isn't any surprise at all.

Shouldn't Be Nominated: Very easy. When you waste a great premise and refuse to attach any sort of thematic agenda to a film that is crying out for one you don't deserve any sort of praise, let alone and Oscar nomination. All that is precisely what happened with "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button".

Snub: "The Dark Knight" is the clear snub here, completing the Academy's absolutely embarrassing bout of ignorance toward the movie of the year. Though it doesn't really make sense that "The Dark Knight" was considered adapted rather than original. It's not like they based it on an actual book or play (there was no Batman comic with this plot) they just used characters they didn't create. In that regard, shouldn't every movie sequel be considered an adapted screenplay. Either way, this was a glaring snub, especially following its WGA nomination.

That's it for this game. Check back in a few weeks where we play "Who Should Win/Who Will Win" in every single category!

Story by Andrew Payne

Starpulse contributing writer