LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Clint Eastwood just made one of the biggest movies of his career, but Oscar voters kicked the tires of "Gran Torino" and drove off in other vehicles.
The drama which Eastwood directed, produced and starred in -- as well as co-wrote the theme song -- failed to score a single mention when nominations for the 81st annual Academy Awards were announced on Thursday.
"Gran Torino's" best hope was for an acting award for Eastwood himself. He plays a grumpy old war veteran who takes on Hmong gang members, Dirty Harry-style. The Hollywood tough guy has four Oscars, but none for acting.
Of course, with five slots in the main categories, somebody's favorite film will always miss out. And "Gran Torino" fared poorly in other races this season with a grand total of zero Golden Globe and Critics Choice awards.
On the other hand, audiences embraced the Warner Bros. release. The recent chart-topper is on track to earn about $130 million at the North American box office, surpassing 1993's "In the Line of Fire" to become Eastwood's biggest movie to date.
Some critics said they were less than surprised by the snub. Robert Wilonsky of the Dallas Observer said "Gran Torino" was "close to a Clint Eastwood parody."
As he did in 2007, Eastwood had two films in contention. He also directed the fact-based corruption drama "Changeling," which earned three nominations, including best actress for Angelina Jolie.
The Oscar frontrunners are "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" with 13 nominations and "Slumdog Millionaire" with 10.
Rolling Stone magazine critic Peter Travers lambasted the "backward thinking" of Academy voters for a number of exclusions, including Bruce Springsteen for best original song, and "The Dark Knight" and "WALL-E" for best picture.
Springsteen was considered a favorite for his title track for "The Wrestler." Indeed, he won the Golden Globe less than two weeks ago. But this time, the veteran rocker was knocked out by a tune from "WALL-E" and two from "Slumdog Millionaire."
"The Dark Knight," with eight nominations, and "WALL-E" with six, clearly scored with Oscar voters, but that was small consolation for Travers. Both were huge commercial and critical hits last year and should have had a shot at best picture.
"If there was ever a time where an animated feature deserved to be nominated for best picture it's WALL-E," Travers said.
Depending on whether one views a glass as being half-empty or half-full, Kate Winslet could be considered a loser of sorts.
The British actress did score an Oscar nomination -- her sixth -- for playing a former Nazi prison guard in "The Reader." But her role as a woman in a frayed marriage in "Revolutionary Road" did not pass muster with the Academy. She won Golden Globes for both films.
"Revolutionary Road," which was directed by Winslet's husband Sam Mendes, was largely overlooked, landing three nominations, including supporting actor for Michael Shannon.
"Australia," director Baz Luhrmann's lavish period drama starring Nicole Kidman and Oscars host Hugh Jackman, garnered a single nomination for costume design. Kidman could have been in contention for two movies if pregnancy had not forced her to give up her role in "The Reader" to Winslet.
Editing by Mary Milliken and Cynthia Osterman