At 82 years old, the Academy Awards are steeped in history — and fascinating trivia. At this year's ceremony, A-listers Brad Pitt, Meryl Streep, and George Clooney and nostalgic Old Hollywood films Hugo and The Artist will all vie for trophies. Here, seven curious facts about the slate of nominees:
1. Jack of all trades
With his Best Supporting Actor nomination for playing Sir Laurence Olivier in My Week With Marilyn, Kenneth Branagh has become one of the first actors to be nominated for an Oscar in five different categories. He's been previously nominated for Best Director (Henry V), Best Actor (Henry V), Best Live-Action Short Film (Swan Song), and Best Adapted Screenplay (Hamlet). George Clooney has also been nominated in five different categories: Best Director (Good Night, and Good Luck), Best Original Screenplay (Good Night, and Good Luck), Best Supporting Actor (Syriana), Best Actor (Michael Clayton, Up in the Air, The Descendants), and Best Adapted Screenplay (The Ides of March). Brothers Joel and Ethan Coen have also been nominated in five different categories: Picture, Director, Editor, Original Screenplay, Adapted Screenplay. Unlike Branagh and Clooney, however, they've received no nods for work in front of the camera.
2. A black-and-white victory
The Artist is the first silent film to be nominated for Best Picture since The Patriot in 1928. (Admittedly, says Susan King at the Los Angeles Times, The Artist is only "nearly silent.") But perhaps the odds were in its favor. Black-and-white films are twice as likely to be nominated for Best Picture, says L.V. Anderson at Slate. Some impressive number-crunching reveals that color-less films have a 2.5 percent nomination rate, while the nomination rate among all films falls at about 1.125 percent. Should it win the award, The Artist will be the first entirely black-and-white victor since The Apartment in 1960 (1993's Schindler's List included two color sequences).
3. Everybody loves George
George Clooney is a double nominee this year. He's nominated in the Best Actor category for his turn in The Descendants as a troubled father and in the Best Adapted Screenplay category for the political thriller Ides of March. This is actually the second time in his career that Clooney has been nominated for two different films in the same year. Back in 2006, he won Best Supporting Actor for Syriana and was nominated for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay for Good Night, and Good Luck.
4. Oldies, but goodies
Best Supporting Actor nominees Christopher Plummer (Beginners) and Max von Sydow (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close) are 82 years old, both tying the record for the oldest nominee in the category. Splitting hairs, says Scott Feinberg at The Hollywood Reporter, Sydow is actually the second-oldest, while Plummer is fourth. Hal Holbrook was several months older than Sydow when he was nominated for Into the Wild in 2007, while Ralph Richardson was just days older than Plummer when he scored a nod for Greystroke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes in 1984. The average age in the Best Supporting Actor category this year is 62.6.
5. The Daldry touch
Pundits who were shocked (and, in some cases, incensed) by the Best Picture nomination for the divisive 9/11 drama Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close may be justified: With a paltry 48 percent Rotten Tomatoes score, the film is the worst-reviewed Best Picture nominee in 10 years. But when you consider who was at the helm, says Feinberg, perhaps the nod isn't all that surprising. Stephen Daldry has directed exactly three films this past decade: The Hours, The Reader, and Extremely Loud. And each one of those films has been nominated for Best Picture, a perfect track record. (The only other film Daldry has directed, Billy Elliot, was nominated for three awards, including Best Director.)
6. A family affair
A "funny thing happened on the way to the Oscars," says King. Renowned improv comedy troupe the Groundlings surfaced as the year's most impressive Oscar training ground. Five nominees are Groundlings alums, while a sixth, The Help's Supporting Actress contender Octavia Spencer, is a "friend of the Groundlings," says the school's managing director Heather de Michele. Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo are Best Original Screenplay nominees for Bridesmaids, Melissa McCarthy earned a Best Supporting Actress nod for Bridesmaids, and Nat Faxon and Jim Rash — who TV fans might recognize as the flamboyant Dean on Community — are Best Adapted Screenplay nominees for The Descendants. "We've all been [friends] for 13 [or] 14 years," McCarthy tells People. "These are people at my wedding. These are my really close, dear friends. ... We are all having this otherworldly year together."
7. Double trouble
With Jessica Chastain and Octavia Spencer's Best Supporting Actress nominations for The Help, this is the fourth time in four years that two actresses from the same film were nominated in the category. Amy Adams and Melissa Leo were both nominated last year for The Fighter, Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick in 2010 for Up in the Air, and Adams and Viola Davis in 2008 for Doubt. "These situations usually cause voters to split their support between the two," says Feinberg, though Leo did manage to win the category last year.
Editor's note: This article originally misstated how many actors have been nominated for an Oscar in five different categories. It has since been corrected. We regret the error.