It's an interesting curiosity, and a tribute to the expressive human face, that three of the nominated performances in the acting categories are mute – not just Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo in The Artist, but also Max von Sydow in Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. And Michel Hazanavicius has earned a nom for writing a screenplay almost entirely unblemished by words. This year, silence is as golden as the statuettes.
Christopher Plummer at 82, Woody Allen at 76, Martin Scorsese at 69, Terrence Malick at a callow 68 – objectively, they may not be doing their best work late in life, but you wouldn't know it by Oscar. He does admire longevity.
Michael Fassbender in Shame, Ryan Gosling in Drive, Leonardo DiCaprio in J. Edgar were all left out, although maybe the characters they played – sex addict, crook and despot, respectively – just didn't fit with Oscar's more upbeat mood. Obviously, neither did Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, a criminal oversight in the best-picture list. On the other hand, Steven Spielberg got snubbed in the director category even though War Horse oozes sentimentality. Go figure.
Nick Nolte makes an unexpected appearance for his labours in Warrior, a lesser-known film where he plays the alcoholic trainer of a martial-arts fighter – perhaps Nick is this year's Mickey Rourke. Demian Bichir is a better surprise for A Better Life, and Melissa McCarthy is a welcome addition for Bridesmaids. She's a large person by actor standards, and, occasionally, Oscar likes to remind us that he's not a body fascist.
The irony is clear: French-Canadian films, the very ones that go largely unwatched by English-speaking Canucks, often receive a warm welcome from Oscar. He likes to pick them for his foreign-language category, and Monsieur Lazhar, succeeding last year's Incendies, continues that trend. Maybe the rest of Canada can learn from him.