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Annual Terry Awards honor those Oscar forgot

One door closes — and another opens.

So when Oscar possibilities don’t receive deserved Academy Award nominations, slamming the door on this year’s Oscar dreams, the Review-Journal’s 26th annual Terry Awards ride to the rescue.

Named for "On the Waterfront’s" down-but-not-out dockworker Terry Malloy — the movie character who first uttered those deathless words "I coulda been a contender" — the Terry Awards honor all those who coulda (and shoulda) been contenders for tonight’s 82nd annual Academy Awards.

As always, egregious oversights abound, from "Tyson’s" no-show in the documentary category to "Ponyo’s" missing-in-action status in the animated feature category. Where’s "(500) Days of Summer’s" original screenplay nomination? (The same place the visually stunning "Bright Star’s" cinematography nod went, we presume.)

Happily, they’re all winners, because this is one place where being nominated really is the honor.

Best Picture

With 10 nominees instead of the usual five (for the first time since "Casablanca’s" 1944 best picture victory), movies that would have been Terry winners in any other year ("A Serious Man" and "An Education" among them) actually received best picture nominations. But that didn’t stop Oscar voters from overlooking a few just-as-worthy contenders; both the ravishing period romance "Bright Star" and the scathing political satire "In the Loop" wound up out of the loop.

Best Actor

Oscar’s golden gaze overlooked numerous standout portrayals, from "A Serious Man’s" Job-like title character, Michael Stuhlbarg, to Viggo Mortensen’s desperately protective father in "The Road." In our wounded warrior unit, "Brothers’ " Tobey Maguire and "The Messenger’s" Ben Foster earn medals for emotional intensity beyond the call of duty. This year’s comedy contenders range from Matt Damon’s clean-cut contradictions in "The Informant!" to Paul Rudd’s nice-guy neuroses in "I Love You, Man." Other Terry Award honorees include Joaquin Phoenix’s troubled "Two Lovers" lost soul and, in our golden-age division, Michael Caine’s grudgingly aging magician in "Is Anybody There?" and Hal Holbrook’s flinty farmer in "That Evening Sun."

Best Actress

No disrespect to this year’s five contenders, but what does Abbie Cornish have to do to get an Oscar nomination? Her "Bright Star" performance as poet John Keats’ muse was a thing of beauty, full of lyrical longing. "Two Lovers’ " Gwyneth Paltrow proved a compelling, bad-news romantic focus, while Penelope Cruz delivered another knockout portrayal for Pedro Almodovar in "Broken Embraces." Emily Blunt embodied the indomitable British monarch in "The Young Victoria," while Audrey Tautou captured a future style icon in "Coco Before Chanel."

Best Supporting Actor

Let’s start with the Terry Award winners who have showcase roles in best picture Oscar nominees: Anthony Mackie as "The Hurt Locker’s" by-the-book voice of reason, "An Education’s" Alfred Molina and Peter Sarsgaard (as, respectively, the young heroine’s protective yet strangely permissive father and sophisticated older flame, respectively), and "A Serious Man’s" hapless Uncle Arthur, Richard Kind. (Full disclosure: Richard’s been a friend since college, but even if he weren’t my friend he’d still win a Terry Award.)

Also worthy of applause: Peter Capaldi as "In the Loop’s" epically, hilariously profane press secretary, scene-stealing Alec Baldwin as "It’s Complicated’s" unrepentantly oversexed ex-husband and "Bright Star’s" Peter Schneider as the loyal friend who watches John Keats lose his heart — and his life.

Best Supporting Actress

In our ever-popular couldn’t-have-done-it-without-you division, there’s Julianne Moore, the brittle best friend to Colin Firth’s anguished, Oscar-nominated "A Single Man." And Marion Cotillard, the long-suffering wife of "Nine’s" oversexed cinematic genius — who’s carrying on with, among others, his demanding mistress, played by Oscar nominee Penelope Cruz. (Cotillard also was terrific in the otherwise not-so-terrific "Public Enemies.")

Stanley Tucci’s murderous crimes in "The Lovely Bones" seemed all the more shocking thanks to Saoirse Ronan’s radiant presence as his young victim. And "The Messenger’s" Samantha Morton brought tender fortitude to her role as a soldier’s vulnerable young widow.

Topping our comedic honorees: Marcia Gay Harden as "Whip It’s" die-hard Texas pageant mom and Patricia Clarkson, a sly delight as the latest of Woody Allen’s unforgettable women, in "Whatever Works."

Terry Award winners of 2010, we salute you. (And, of course, wish you better luck next year … )

Contact movie critic Carol Cling at ccling@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0272.

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