The nominees are known for the 84th Annual Academy Awards, those recognized are happy and excited (even shocked), and the countdown to Oscar night picks up in intensity.  With a month to go before Hollywood's biggest night (Feb. 26th starting on the Red Carpet @ 7pm on ABC), the debate begins in many categories and questions now start to surface about the decisions of the Academy this year.

Before we delve into the Academy's nominations, congratulations to Hugo and The Artist for being the top nominated movies this year with 11 and 10 respectfully.  Kudos also to George Clooney for his double nomination this year, also to Christopher Plummer for his Best Supporting Actor nomination at the age of 82 - a victory for him would make him the oldest actor to ever win an Oscar.

Records were extended this year with the nominations for Meryl Streep (Best Actress for The Iron Lady) and Woody Allen (Best Director and Best Original Screenplay for Midnight In Paris).  Streep now has an unprecedented 17 career Oscar nominations for acting, while Allen has earned a screenplay nomination 14 times in his distinguished career.

Streep opens the first of many questions around the Academy Awards this year:

Is Meryl Streep a lock for Best Actress?

No!  The favorite - slightly right now.  The Best Actress category may be the hardest one to call this year.  Early awards have brought a split in voting for Michelle Williams playing Ms. Monroe in My Week With Marilyn, Viola Davis for The Help, and Streep who plays former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.  Add Glenn Close who plays a man in a true story of Albert Nobbs (plus factor in she is a 6-time Oscar nominee without a win) and you have a no real lock just yet.

Can the other awards coming up help an Oscar case?

The Screen Actors Guild Awards this Sunday could give somebody a real edge in the Best Actress battle.  All 4 actresses previously mentioned are in the hunt for the SAG.

What was the shock to come from the nominations?

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close was shutout from much of this award season, and yet a Best Picture nomination and a Best Supporting Actor nod for Max Von Sydow (who could also be the oldest Oscar winner ever this year at 82).  The Academy always wants to beat to the tune of its own drum, but a film with mixed reviews, no SAG or Golden Globe nominations, and the buzz performance is not Tom Hanks?

Bridesmaids - not a shock?

Justification - to a degree.  The buzz this award season was seeing this raunchy comedy earning nominations, and here the Academy got it right with Melissa McCarthy (who stole the movie) earning a Best Supporting Actress nomination and Kristen Wiig for her Best Original Screenplay (Yes a shock, but again ...... justification!)  This leads to the next question:

Why didn't Bridesmaids get nominated for Best Picture?

If the Academy is going on this ledge and recognize this film as one of the Top-5 movie Screenplays of the year, how is it not one of the best films of the past year?  Not enough slots?  The Academy has 10 slots for Best Picture and they used 9 - blows that theory!  This is the biggest mystery - it's like the Academy stuck its toe in the water but not willing to dive all the way in (which is totally wrong and the biggest Snub of this year!)

Who else got snubbed by The Academy?

Most critics are saying Leonardo DiCaprio for being J. Edgar Hoover.  The film had Clint Eastwood directing, and the film copped 2 significant early awards (AFI Awards and The National Board of Review), but no real spark at the box office may have hurt this film of big expectations (breaking even with its $37 Million take).  Albert Brooks may have even bigger for not getting the Best Supporting Actor for Drive.  A dozen critics groups awards in every major city, but nothing!  Brooks responds by Twitter "I was ROBBED!  I mean literally - my pants and shoes have been stolen".

How is there only 2 nominations for Best Song?

Songs from The Muppets and Rio make sense, but didn't Madonna just with the Golden Globe in this category for her song in W.E.?  If you think Elton John did not look happy in the Golden Globes, imagine how he's feeling now without a nomination for his contribution to Gnomeo and Juliet?  He may take solace in that the movie was not even nominated for Best Animated Film (but probably not).  "The Material Girl" may now believe The Academy has issue with her - she was snubbed in '96 for her acting in Evita.

Does George Clooney not walk away with an Oscar?

Do not bet against that.  More likely to win Best Actor for The Descendents - he's sort of battling himself sort in Best Adapted Screenplay (The Ides of March which he's nominated for is batting the film he was in).

Will Woody Allen show up to the Oscars?

He's been basically a recluse for many years.  You hear him working but rarely see him out.  He's not been big on going to these award shows, but it would be interesting if he would to see Hollywood's reaction.  Odds are he should win one of the two nominations this year.

best of luck to all the nominees this year, and look out for my predictions post the Friday before the Academy Awards.