1. “The Artist” is expected to win this year’s Best Picture award, which would make it the first silent film to win since “Wings” did it back in 1929 — at the very first Academy Awards.
2. Meryl Streep is widely regarded as the greatest living actress, thanks in part to her record-setting 17 acting nominations. The weird part? If she wins for “The Iron Lady” this year, it will be her first Oscar victory since way back in 1983 (for “Sophie’s Choice”).
3. George Clooney has the unusual honor of being nominated this year in two different categories for two different movies — Best Actor for “The Descendants” and Best Adapted Screenplay for “The Ides of March.” But this is actually the second time Clooney has managed this odd feat: In 2006 he won an Oscar for “Syriana” and was nominated for two more for “Good Night, and Good Luck.”
4. Speaking of Clooney, his varied résumé is topped only by that of Kenneth Branagh, whose nod for Best Supporting Actor in “My Week with Marilyn” is his fifth career nomination — in his fifth different category. Previous nominations include Director (“Henry V”), Actor (“Henry V”), Live Action Short (“Swan Song”) and Adapted Screenplay (“Hamlet”).
5. Prior to the Oscars, “The Artist” won the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical. How unusual is it for a comedy or musical to win Best Picture at the Oscars? The last time a movie won both of these awards was “Oliver!” way back in 1968. Geesh, lighten up, Academy!
6. Writers Jim Rash and Nat Faxon are nominated this year for Best Adapted Screenplay for “The Descendants.” But if they don’t win, at least they will still have their day jobs — as sitcom actors. Rash is currently appearing on “Community” as Dean Pelton, while Faxon plays Tim Kornick on “Are You There, Chelsea?”
7. Just how shocking is it that Pixar didn’t earn a nomination in the Best Animated Feature category? This is the first time since the category debuted in 2001 that the studio hasn’t received a nomination. Not coincidentally, it’s also the first year the Academy has found room to honor two foreign films (nominees “A Cat in Paris” and “Chico & Rita”).
8. There are a lot of familiar faces among the acting nominees this year, but of the 20 stars up for awards, only two of them have ever actually won an Oscar before: Clooney and Streep. Hard to believe, but Glenn Close, Brad Pitt and Michelle Williams have never actually taken home the prize.
9. Despite getting mostly negative or mixed reviews, “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” still managed to land a Best Picture nomination. Why? It might have to do with director Stephen Daldry, who continued his amazing record: All four of his films (the other three being “Billy Elliot,” “The Hours” and “The Reader”) have now earned Oscar nods in either the Best Picture or Best Director categories.
10. “The Help” also has one other unusual claim to fame: Of the nine Best Picture nominees, it’s the only one that has earned more than $100 million at the box office so far. That could change, though. Last year’s winner, “The King’s Speech,” had only earned $58 million domestically at the time it was nominated, but ended up riding its Oscar success to a $138 million total before all was said and done. Looks like Oscar isn’t made of fool’s gold after all.