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Academy’s biggest snubs? Start with Albert Brooks and Michael Fassbender

Updated: February 26, 2012 8:08AM

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is nothing if not obtuse.

Amazing, but these guys still think the best way to announce the Oscar nominations is to hold a press conference at 5:30 a.m. Pacific time in order to get maximum coverage from the morning chat shows.

But, hey, they spice it up by bringing in a formerly nominated actress to help read the nominees in rapid-fire fashion. Breathtaking television!

So, as usual, the nominations were announced in a press conference that was underwhelming, un-dramatic — and was punctuated by a few unprofessional so-called journalists whooping it up when their favorites were announced. Who were those clowns who let loose when “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” was given an undeserving nod as one of nine “best picture” nominees?

And the nominees aren’t . . .

Let’s start with the biggest snubs. After making nearly every other organization’s final five (and winning the Chicago Film Critics award), Albert Brooks wasn’t even nominated for his brilliant work as a movie producer turned cold-blooded villain in “Drive.” Well, at least Brooks won’t have to sit there and smile grimly when Christopher Plummer’s name is announced.

Equally shocking was the absence of Michael Fassbender’s name for “best actor” for “Shame.” Not to demean Demian Bichir’s fine work in “A Better Life,” but raise your hand if you’ve seen Demian Bichir’s fine work in “A Better Life.” (Not that popularity should translate to awards, of course.)

I like Jonah Hill, but I’m not sure his work in “Moneyball” was more impressive than Ben Kingsley in “Hugo.” And how about that Melissa McCarthy getting a “best supporting actress” nod for “Bridesmaids?” I’m thinking that’s the first time an actress was nominated for a performance that called for her to, um, relieve herself in a sink. But I’ll have to re-check Dame Judi Dench’s body of work.

Every half-decade or so, there’s a “best actress” performance that you know will resonate for generations. Meryl Streep in “Sophie’s Choice,” Kathy Bates in “Misery,” Hilary Swank in “Million Dollar Baby,” Halle Berry in “Monster’s Ball.”

Other “best actress” wins are more indicative of a performer’s overall popularity and a showcase role, e.g., Julia Roberts in “Erin Brockovich” or last year’s win for Sandra Bullock in “The Blind Side.”

I thought the best performance by any actress in a lead role this year was Tilda Swinton in “We Need to Talk About Kevin.” As the mother of a son who seems destined to become a sociopath from the cradle, Swinton does searing, shattering work. It’s a difficult film to sit through as we anticipate the inevitable, but anyone who sees “We Need to Talk About Kevin” (opening this Friday in Chicago) won’t soon forget Swinton’s work.

Yet Swinton wasn’t even nominated. I have no idea how so many industry professionals could omit her name from the ballot.

But it was great to see Rooney Mara recognized for her star-making performance in “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” and, of course, Academy favorites such as George Clooney, Meryl Streep and Woody Allen were deserving of their nods.

As for “best picture,” don’t even get me started on the convoluted process that led to nine nominees. I wasn’t surprised the academy didn’t recognize such cutting edge films as “Drive” and “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” but “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” was a bit of a shocker.

And how can there be only two nominees for “best song?” Nobody else was singing in 2011?

The 84th Academy Awards will be Feb. 26. As we speak, Billy Crystal and his writers are figuring out ways to incorporate “War Horse,” “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” and “The Help” into an opening number.

I’ll have all my predictions in the coming weeks, but this much you can bank on: There will be some moments of great drama and inspiration, and a 90-minute stretch in which we’ll be bored out of our friggin’ minds.

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