The Little Independent That Could
Slumdog Millionaire (or "Slumdog", as the kids say) received 10 nominations, second only to Benjamin Button's thirteen, which suggests, along with its Golden Globe wins, that this the current best picture favorite. Of course, sometimes the film with the earliest best picture buzz fades in the time between the nominations and the ceremony, but for now, it seems that "Slumdog" has the best shot yet in recent years to become the first token "plucky indy" best picture nom to actually win.
A Dark Day
I'm bummed Dark Knight didn't get the fifth "up for grabs" Best Picture nomination (it went to The Reader instead). After winning a handful of guild nominations recently (including the Producer, Writer and Director Guilds), I thought it had a good shot at a best picture nom (it did get nominated for eight Oscars in all, but aside from Heath Ledger's nod, they're all technical awards).
Not that I necessarily think it deserves to win (I honestly haven't given it much thought) but a nomination for the highest grossing film of the year would have ensured that a greater number of people would have tuned in to watch the ceremony, and there would be less grousing from people about how "out of touch" the Academy is with the average moviegoer. It's rare enough that the film the "average moviegoer" likes (ie the movie that makes the most money) is good enough for consideration at the Oscars; when those two stars align, I think the Academy should make the most of it.
Not that I'd want them nominating it JUST for those reasons, but in this case, I think the movie is definitely worthy of nomination regardless of its commerical success.
No Doubt About It
I think its cool that all four of Doubt's main actors received acting nominations: Meryl Streep, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, and Viola Davis.
A number of surprise nominations in the acting categories (and by "surprise," I mean nominations for actors that I hadn't heard much about it in the "likely nominee" discussions): Richard Jenkins's best actor nod for The Visitor and Melissa Leo's best actress nod for Frozen River (two films I've never heard of), Robert Downey Jr.'s best supporting actor nod for Tropic Thunder (a critical acclaimed performance, for sure, but it's rare for the Academy to recognize the work of a summer comedy) and Michael Shannon's nomination for Revolutionary Road (when both his leading costars were shut out).
Do You Feel Lucky, Punk?
Of course, for every surprise inclusion, there's the surprise exclusion, the biggest, perhaps, being Clint Eastwood not getting nominated for Gran Torino (in fact, the film received zero nominations). The Academy loves Clint, so I'm surprised he or his film didn't get a nod SOMEWHERE. Similarly, Kate Winslet, who won two Golden Globes, received only one Oscar nomination, Best Actress, and it was for the role for which she won the SUPPORTING actress Globe (in The Reader). Both hers and Leonardo DiCaprio's work in Revolutionary Road went unrecognized by the Academy.
Second Time's the Charm
In the crap-shoot of a Supporting Actress category, I think a win for Marisa Tomei could be a slight repudiation of the wrong-but-still-persistent urban legend that her win in the same category for My Cousin Vinny years ago was simply because Jack Palance read the wrong name.
This Is The Last Song
Only three Best Song nominees this year, one from Wall-E and two from Slumdog Millionaire. That category sure isn't what it used to be.
The nominations of Frank Langella, Mickey Rourke, Robert Downey Jr. and Heath Ledger means that in a ceremony presided over by Wolverine, Skeletor, Marv from Sin City, Iron Man and the Joker will be battling it out for Oscar gold.