As expected, “Lincoln” dominated this morning’s Oscar nominations with a stove top hat high record of 12 nods. “Life of Pi” was close behind with 11 nominations, while “Les Miserables” received 8. But this year, the real buzz coming out of Hollywood is how many surprises the Academy had for all of us movie fans watching with nervous excitement at 7:30 this morning.
Groups like the collection of critics and industry analysts over at Gold Derby (http://bit.ly/Qko4Xh) have practically got predicting Oscar season down to a science, but the Academy still finds ways to defy convention. That’s what makes the Oscars so exciting. And this year there were more than a few jaw droppers. For starters, the Best Direction category does not include the names Ben Affleck (“Argo”), Kathryn Bigelow (“Zero Dark Thirty”) or Tom Hooper (“Les Miserables”). History shows that it’s almost impossible for a film to win Best Picture if its director is not nominated, and this morning those snubs were game changers. On the other hand, “Silver Linings Playbook” now leaps in status as a top contender due to its director David O. Russell securing a director nod as well as his being nominated for the adapted screenplay.
In fact, “Silver Linings Playbook” is probably the big ‘winner’ this morning as far as the nominations are concerned. Not only did it prevail in top categories like those just mentioned but also it was the first film to score nominations in all four acting categories since "Reds" in 1981. Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence were recognized for their leading roles, while Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver both got into the supporting categories.
There were other ‘snubs’ in the sense that most people thought John Hawkes was a lock for a nomination for his lead in “The Sessions” but in a crowded field of superb Best Actor possibilities, he was overlooked. Interestingly, Joaquin Phoenix was nominated for his leading role in “The Master” even though he’s been griping about award season politics. Other names that weren’t called this AM were Leonardo DiCaprio, a certain Best Supporting Actor nominee to many, while his co-star Christoph Waltz got the nod instead for his terrific turn in "Django Unchained".
The other big positive story this morning was the Academy love for “Beasts of the Southern Wild”. It scored Best Picture and Actress nominations (Quvenzhane Wallis, the youngest nominee ever at 9 years old!) and its director Benh Zeitlin. In all, it got 4 nods including an adapted screenplay nomination.
As Chicago’s Horror Examiner, I was thrilled to see that both “Frankenweenie” and “Paranorman" made it on the Best Animated Feature list of five. (http://exm.nr/UQB6hH) The other animated nominees were the expected “Brave” and “Wreck-It Ralph”, and the somewhat surprising choice of “The Pirates! A Band of Misfits”.
I was also pleased to see the recognition of two other films that have some roots in the horror/fantasy genre. “Hitchcock”, a movie bio about the Master of Suspense’s making of “Psycho” which many consider to be the greatest horror movie of all-time, got a nod for its makeup. And Colleen Atwood received a well-deserved nomination for her brilliant costumes in the fantasy “Snow White & the Huntsman”.
Here are the nominees in the six major categories:
“Amour”, “Argo”, “Beasts of the Southern Wild”, “Django Unchained”, “Les Miserables”, "Life of Pi", "Lincoln", "Silver Linings Playbook" and "Zero Dark Thirty"
Michael Haneke “Amour”, Ang Lee “Life of Pi”, David O. Russell “Silver Linings Playbook”, Steven Spielberg “Lincoln” and Benh Zeitlin “Beasts of the Southern Wild”
Bradley Cooper “Silver Linings Playbook”, Daniel Day-Lewis “Lincoln”, Hugh Jackman “Les Miserables”, Joaquin Phoenix “The Master” and Denzel Washington “Flight”
Jessica Chastain “Zero Dark Thirty”, Jennifer Lawrence “Silver Linings Playbook”, Emmanuelle Riva “Amour”, Quvenzhane Wallis “Beasts of the Southern Wild” and Naomi Watts “The Impossible”
Best Supporting Actor
Alan Arkin “Argo”, Robert De Niro “Silver Linings Playbook”, Philip Seymour Hoffman “The Master”, Tommy Lee Jones “Lincoln” and Christoph Waltz “Django Unchained”
Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams “The Master”, Sally Field “Lincoln”, Anne Hathaway “Les Miserables”, Helen Hunt “The Sessions” and Jacki Weaver “Silver Linings Playbook”
So what does it all mean? Well, the Academy is always a fascinating juxtaposition of the expected and truly shocking. As their pick of Seth MacFarlane to host shows, the Academy is willing to go out on the edge. (http://exm.nr/Oa88Ky) He and Emma Stone were quite funny this morning as they read off the nominees, and it struck the right balance between reverence and cheeky. And the nominations will keep us talking about the shocks for some time.
For my money, this year will now be more exciting with so many surprises. I still wish the Academy would keep their Best Picture nominations list to just five, but this list of nine is a very good list. And if expanding the list means there’s room for Quentin Tarantino and Michael Haneke, well, that’s a good thing.
The Oscar statues will be handed out on Sunday, February 24. My predictions will come soon, but for now, all the nominees are winners. I just feel really sorry for Ben Affleck. It was a really good morning for “Argo”, but a Best Director nod would’ve made it great.