By Jeff Jensen
January 25, 2011 at 12:00 PM EST

Image Credit: http://img2.timeinc.net/ew/dynamic/imgs/100803/chris-nolan_320.jpgAll things considered, Christopher Nolan had a fantastic day today. His film Inception received eight Oscar nominations, and the helmer himself was nominated for two awards. Nolan is one of two producers on the film — his wife, Emma Thomas, is the other — and if Inception should win Best Picture, they’d be taking the stage together. Nolan also wrote the script for Inception, and his work was nominated in the Best Original Screenplay category. “And well deserved,” composer Hans Zimmer, who picked up his ninth Oscar nomination today for his Inception score, tells EW. (He’s won only once, for The Lion King.) “I’ve been telling people forever this is one of the most beautiful scripts I have ever read.”

Of course, there’s only one way in which Christopher Nolan’s day could have been even better, and that’s if he had been nominated for Best Director, as well. A lot of people were expecting that he would. His film was widely hailed as one of the best of the year. Most Oscar prognosticators had him on their prediction lists. The Directors Guild of America — a much larger body than the Academy’s director branch — had given him a nomination. The guy seemed to be a lock for an Oscar nod. But he didn’t get it. And because he didn’t, the culture’s Oscar storytellers have framed Nolan’s otherwise very good day as a disappointment. Behold Christopher Nolan, Oscar snub of the year.

Some people are bent out of shape over this. Nolan’s fans have been Tweeting outrage all day. Zimmer isn’t too happy about it, either. When I asked him if he was irked for his friend, Zimmer said: “Totally. I want to kick some tires.” Nolan’s coulda-been rivals in the Best Director category may have been bothered/bewildered by Oscar’s wisdom in this matter, too. For the record, the nominees for Best Director are: Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan; David Fincher, The Social Network; Tom Hooper, The King’s Speech; David O. Russell, The Fighter;  and Joel and Ethan Coen, True Grit. Most pundits believe that the Coen brothers got the nod that might have gone to Nolan, and you have to wonder if the Coen brothers think that, too.  In their only statement today about True Grit’s 10 Oscar nominations, they said: “Ten seems like an awful lot. We don’t want to take anyone else’s.”

Nolan himself has not issued a statement and has not yet done any interviews about his Oscar day. I bet he’s feeling a little bummed — but I’m hoping only a little. He’s got a lot to be thankful for. I’m a huge fan of his work and Inception in particular — and yet, I don’t feel the outrage other Nolanites have over his snub. If anything, I’m irked we can’t have six nominations in this category, if not 10. Regardless, this isn’t striking me as an example of Nolan losing a spot to a director who didn’t deserve to be nominated. Aronofsky, Fincher, Hooper, Russell, the Coens — their films were certifiably great, each is a worthy nominee. I also reject, to some degree, the theory promoted by Oscar strategists that Nolan was denied the nomination because the Academy’s directing branch didn’t like Inception or doesn’t fully appreciate Nolan as an artist because of the genres he works in  (superhero films like The Dark Knight; thrillers like Memento; dark fantasies like The Prestige). Maybe the allegedly “older,” more classically oriented culture of the Academy’s directing wing didn’t connect with Inception and its edgy ambition the way the rest of us did. Regardless, you can believe the exact opposite of the cynical spin — you can believe that Academy voters actually liked Inception and respect Nolan — and get the same exact result (i.e., Nolan, subbed), if you also trust and believe (and I think you can) that those voters happened to like those other great films and their similarly gifted directors at least just a little bit more. You don’t have to be bitter and cynical about this. I mean, I get the appeal of bitter and cynical. I am, after all, an entertainment journalist. But I’m just not feeling it here.

Maybe I’m being pollyanna. Maybe I’m demonstrating exactly how ignorant I am about Academy culture and politics. Do you see it differently? Christopher Nolan: Oscar blessed or unjustly snubbed? Good day or bad day? Nolan fans (and detractors), the floor is yours.

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