I hope Paul Giamatti was nowhere near a spit bucket when he heard the best-actor Oscar nominations announced Tuesday morning.
The Sideways actor's slight was the Academy's most glaring omission, especially since his co-stars Thomas Haden Church and Virginia Madsen heard their names called out in their respective supporting categories. Gee, who were they supporting if not Giamatti?
It's such a case of life imitating art. Giamatti plays a middle-aged loser who's failed in love and art. I can think of no other actor who could have played this role as achingly well. The omission should go down as one of the biggest gaffes in the history of the awards.
Then again, the nominations list does tend to read like one big beauty and popularity contest. How else to explain Johnny Depp 's nomination for the maudlin Finding Neverland ? Or Hollywood vet Clint Eastwood 's for Million Dollar Baby ?
Giamatti - let's face it - looks like a normal person. That's why he's a critics' darling. We all look like him, drink too much, have too many opinions and, like his character Miles, probably have an unpublished novel stashed away.
Ironically, another regular-looking guy got shut out as well. Michael Moore campaigned to have Fahrenheit 9/11 nominated in the best picture category, and refused to submit it for consideration in the documentary category, which he won in 2003 with Bowling For Columbine. A noble cause, especially since docs are quickly becoming more compelling than fiction films.
Part of Moore's campaign consisted of a Hollywood-style make-over - tailored suits, funky glasses, a Queer-Eyed coif. The ploy backfired. You can hear the golden kids saying, "You're trying too hard - and anyway, Bush won. You're so 2003."
I like to think that maybe Giamatti and Moore are sharing a good pinot noir with Meryl Streep , also shut out for The Manchurian Candidate . Or having dim sum with Zhang Yimou , whose House Of Flying Daggers was curiously absent from the best foreign film list. Perhaps Wyclef Jean 's One Million Voices - the overlooked song from Hotel Rwanda 's closing credits - is playing in the background.
There were some pleasant surprises, including Catalina Sandino Moreno 's richly deserved nomination for best actress for her poignant portrayal of a drug mule in Maria Full Of Grace . Supporting actors Clive Owen and Natalie Portman got nominations for Closer , proving that the Golden Globes really do pull some weight (they both won). Local light Chris Landreth 's Ryan (on two of NOW's top-10-film lists last year) got nominated for best animated short. And after almost a half-century in the biz, Alan Alda scored his first Oscar nomination ever for his sly turn as Senator Ralph Owen Brewster in The Aviator .
Then there are the unprecedented five nominations for performances by black actors: Jamie Foxx ( Ray ) and Don Cheadle (Hotel Rwanda) for best actor, Morgan Freeman (Million Dollar Baby) and Foxx again ( Collateral ) for supporting actor, and Sophie Okonedo (Hotel Rwanda) for supporting actress.
Count on host Chris Rock to make a lot of this fact - and on the camera cutting to a teary-eyed Oprah Winfrey - when the awards are broadcast February 27.
None of the best picture contenders - The Aviator, Million Dollar Baby, Ray, Sideways and (insert groan here) Finding Neverland - came close to grossing a blockbuster $100 mil. That could change. On average, a best-picture nomination translates into an extra $11 million at the box office.
Which means a lot more people will see how badly Giamatti was robbed.