By the end of each year, there are a handful of movies and performances that seem destined to be nominated for Oscars. Then there are the not-so-obvious nods. This year, though film pundits were pulling for offbeat favorites WALL-E (for Best Picture) and The Dark Knight (for Heath Ledger’s performance) — neither of which received a nomination — it was Kate Winslet who managed to raise some eyebrows.
Here’s a look at some of the less predictable Oscar noms through the years.
1. Kate Winslet, Best Actress, The Reader (2009)
That Kate Winslet was nominated wasn’t a surprise — this is her sixth Oscar nod. It was what she was tapped for: she snagged a Best Actress nom for The Reader, instead of for the much-hyped Revolutionary Road, for which she’s won a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress.
2. Renée Zellweger and Catherine Zeta-Jones, Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress, Chicago, 2002
While Renée Zellweger and Catherine Zeta-Jones share virtually the same amount of time onscreen in Chicago, it was Zellweger who got the Best Actress nomination and Zeta-Jones who went home with a statuette for a supporting role.
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3. James Cromwell, Best Supporting Actor, Babe , 1995
While James Cromwell is a fine actor, his nomination for a supporting role in 1995’s Babe came as something of a surprise, considering that his lines consisted of “That’ll do, pig.” It was a quirky year for the category, with Brad Pitt nominated for Twelve Monkeys and Kevin Spacey winning for his turn as Keyser Söze in The Usual Suspects.
4. Jack Palance, Best Supporting Actor, City Slickers , 1991
Palance’s role as Curly got him an Oscar (he beat out Harvey Keitel and Ben Kingsley), though he had been nominated before — in 1953, for Sudden Fear , and in 1954, for Shane . Curly came across as more of a parody than an Oscar-winning performance.
5. Jaye Davidson, Best Actor, The Crying Game , 1992
Few Americans had seen this edgy Sundance favorite when Davidson was nominated. The studio worried that it would give away the fact that Davidson’s character was a man and ruin the movie’s mystique.
1. Best Picture, The Godfather: Part III , 1990
Maybe they were just being nostalgic about the first two: The Godfather: Part III is one of the most disappointing movies of all time.
2. Best Picture, Jaws , 1975
Jaws is one of the first summer blockbusters to be nominated for an Oscar. It lost to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest .
3. Best Picture, The Exorcist , 1973
When The Exorcist came out, moviegoers were so disturbed by the projectile vomiting, headlong dives down dark staircases, and general messiness that some theaters stocked barf bags. It came as a surprise that the Academy considered it for Best Picture.
4. Best Picture, The Fugitive , 1993
Compared to heavyweights like Schindler’s List , The Piano , and In the Name of the Father , The Fugitive seemed trivial. Harrison Ford later claimed that his Oscar was stolen by a one-armed man.
5. Best Picture, My Left Foot , 1989
One of the first independent movies to strike Oscar gold, My Left Foot won Daniel Day-Lewis a Best Actor statue for his portrayal of Christy Brown, an Irish man with cerebral palsy and a less than lovable personality. The film opened the door for indie movies like Pulp Fiction , The Crying Game, Little Miss Sunshine , and Juno .