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Oscar Gets Local

Say what? No Leonardo DiCaprio nomination for Best Actor in Clint Eastwood's "J. Edgar?"

No Best Picture Nomination for "The Girl With The Dragon Tatoo" or its director David Fincher, even though the film's star Rooney Mara was nominated for Best Actress in the film?

What gives?

Very simple, really. As Tip O'Neill famously said underneath his overhanging eyebrows, "all politics is local." And what he might have added (if he cared) is that "All Academy Award Nominations Are Political."

Hence, DiCaprio left out of a Best Actor nomination for being a surprisingly persuasive J. Edgar Hoover in favor of the venerable and extraordinary Gary Oldman in "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" and, get this, Demian Bichir in Chris Weitz' little seen film about an illegal Mexican immigrant working as a gardner in L.A. "A Better Life". And if that latter isn't an example writ large of O'Neill's dictum, nothing is. THERE, is an Oscar nomination that comes from the heart of L.A. life.

Oldman's nomination over DiCaprio (and, while we're at it, Michael Fassbender in the controversial "Shame) is a little less surprising but what now seems to have happened by the Pacific is that Clint Eastwood's Oscar hegemony is officially over. All those past awards for his films and performers seem to have reached critical mass in Hollywood self-promotion.

As for Fincher and "The Girl With the Dragon Tatoo," what seeemms to have been obvious to Oscar nominators--who, after all, only want to make themselves look good --is that Fincher, at one crucial point, was capable of undermining the brute power of his own film to establish Mara as a major star.

The Oscar nominations, I think, were otherwise quite predictable--even the "no winning chance in hell" nominations for Terence Malick's visionary "The Tree of Life" for Best Picture and Nick Nolte for Best Supporting Actor in "Warrior." Those are the nominations of people overjoyed that rebels like Malick can still make films and that Nolte, at 70, can get along well enough with everyone to still be employable.

All those "Bridesmaids" nominations were Hollywood self-congratulations for being able to get raunchy, just as all those Woody Allen nominations were self-congratulations for continuing to have the upscale cultural yearnings and ambitions of their former, better selves.

If you ask me, three of the four major acting awards are vitually gimmes.

The exception, significantly, is the award for Best Actress which --interestingly--shapes up to be the most important of the whole Oscar shebang in a few weeks. Remembering Tip's Law, you'll understand why the Hollywood Foreign Press Association gave a Golden Globe to an actress so honored for her accents playing a British Prime Minister. Which is why all Oscar prognosticators need to pay careful attention to the Screen Actoors Guild Awards on Sunday at 8 p.m. on the TNT network. If Streep wins again over Viola Davis for "The Help," it will indicate that yes, once again, it's definitely Streep's year. If, on the other hand, Tip's Law takes over and American voters living in L. A. vote for the nitti-gritti concerns of their own country and their own communities, it's Davis for sure.

My guess on Sunday? Davis. Until proven otherwise, Tip must always be heeded.

--Jeff Simon

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