This year’s Oscar nominations were announced this morning by ‘Ted’ director Seth MacFarlane (who will also host the telecast on February 24th) and ‘Amazing Spider-Man’ star Emma Stone. While, on the one hand, the Academy hasn’t offered up too many big surprises among the nominees that made the cut, bigger shocks came from the people and movies left out. I also don’t see many clear-cut winners.
Steven Spielberg’s historical bio-pic ‘Lincoln’ leads the competition with 12 nominations, including major categories Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay. Yet, and maybe this is just my perception, I haven’t seen all that much enthusiasm for the film among critics or audiences. Even its positive reviews and word-of-mouth seem to be mostly polite applause. Admittedly, I haven’t seen the movie yet, but it looks like the kind of dull, stodgy Oscar bait designed for no other purpose than to win Spielberg and Daniel Day-Lewis their third trophies respectively.
Ang Lee’s fantastical CGI-fest ‘Life of Pi’, about a boy and his digital tiger trapped together on a raft, follows with 11 nominations. Its underwhelming box office will probably limit the odds of the film taking home very many of those.
Keep in mind that I have a very poor track record for predicting award winners.
- ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’
- ‘Django Unchained’
- ‘Les Miserables’
- ‘Life of Pi’
- ‘Silver Linings Playbook’
- ‘Zero Dark Thirty’
All of these films were acclaimed over the year. All of them were talked up as potential nominees. None of them stands out to me as being best of the year material. If ‘Lincoln’ does well in other categories, it will probably sweep Best Picture as well.
If you’d asked me yesterday, I would have said that the heavily-buzzed ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ stood a good chance of winning here. However, the lack of a nomination for director Kathryn Bigelow makes that unlikely now. (Oscar likes to tie the Best Director and Best Picture awards together.) That would also rule out ‘Argo’, ‘Django Unchained’ or ‘Les Miserables’.
- Michael Haneke, ‘Amour’
- Ang Lee, ‘Life of Pi’
- David O. Russell, ‘Silver Linings Playbook’
- Steven Spielberg, ‘Lincoln’
- Benh Zeitlin, ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’
Why would I say in the headline that today’s announcements make Ben Affleck sad, when his movie ‘Argo’ got a Best Picture nomination? The poor guy’s been passed over yet again for a Best Director nom, even though all three of his directorial efforts have put him as part of that conversation. While nobody expected him to actually win the trophy, ‘Argo’ seemed like his best shot at finally landing a nomination. I guess he’ll have to console himself with the Best Original Screenplay statue already on his shelf.
This is the category with the most surprises. In addition to snubbing Affleck and Bigelow, the Academy also ignored previous winner Tom Hooper and perpetual runner-up Quentin Tarantino. Of those who did make the cut, both Haneke and Zeitlin are “It’s nice to be nominated” consolation nods. Russell also seems like a long shot, considering the backlash that has already formed against ‘Silver Linings Playbook’.
On the face of it, this looks like a lock for Spielberg. However, he already has two Best Director trophies,
and the Academy may give this one to Ang Lee as an apology for slighting his ‘Brokeback Mountain’ in favor of the obviously-unworthy ‘Crash’. [Whoops. As Julian points out, I'd forgotten that the Academy did give Ang Lee the directing award in 2006, even though his film lost Best Picture.]
- Bradley Cooper, ‘Silver Linings Playbook’
- Daniel Day-Lewis, ‘Lincoln’
- Hugh Jackman, ‘Les Miserables’
- Joaquin Phoenix, ‘The Master’
- Denzel Washington, ‘Flight’
Again, ‘Lincoln’ seems like the front-runner in this contest. Yet Daniel Day-Lewis also already has two Oscars. So does Denzel Washington. I think this may be Hugh Jackman’s year.
- Jessica Chastain, ‘Zero Dark Thirty’
- Jennifer Lawrence, ‘Silver Linings Playbook’
- Emmanuelle Riva, ‘Amour’
- Quvenzhané Wallis, ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’
- Naomi Watts, ‘The Impossible’
Jessica Chastain has been Hollywood’s “It Girl” for the past few years, and I think the Academy has been waiting for an excuse to give her an Oscar. None of the other nominees in this category look like formidable challenges. (Jennifer Lawrence will certainly be nominated again at some point.)
Best Supporting Actor
- Alan Arkin, ‘Argo’
- Robert De Niro, ‘Silver Linings Playbook’
- Philip Seymour Hoffman, ‘The Master’
- Tommy Lee Jones, ‘Lincoln’
- Christoph Waltz, ‘Django Unchained’
I find it interesting that every single one of the nominees in this category has already won at least one Oscar. Almost everyone who’s seen ‘Lincoln’ has said that Tommy Lee Jones steals the picture, so I think he’s the most likely victor here.
Best Supporting Actress
- Amy Adams, ‘The Master’
- Sally Field, ‘Lincoln’
- Anne Hathaway, ‘Les Miserables’
- Helen Hunt, ‘The Sessions’
- Jacki Weaver, ‘Silver Linings Playbook’
Supporting Actress is the category where the Academy often likes to throw in a wild-card nominee, but not this year. While there are fewer previous winners here (just Sally Field and Helen Hunt), all of the contenders have been nominated at least once before.
My Magic 8 Ball says that Anne Hathaway will claim this prize. I’ve been hearing people blather about her “one unbroken take” musical number in ‘Les Mis’ for weeks now.
I’ve already talked about the lack of nominations for Ben Affleck and Kathryn Bigelow. Despite being Wes Anderson’s most accessible film yet and my favorite movie of the year, ‘Moonrise Kingdom’ only garnered a token Best Original Screenplay nomination. (The Academy apparently favored fellow indie sensation ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’.)
Paul Thomas Anderson’s highly-anticipated 70mm epic ‘The Master’ drew mixed reviews and fizzled at the box office. It only drew some acting nominations, none of which it’s likely to win.
I half expected Jennifer Lawrence to pull a nomination for her star-making turn in ‘The Hunger Games’, rather than the much lesser-seen, (in my opinion) less interesting, and certainly less likely-to-win ‘Silver Linings Playbook’.
Also shut out completely was Christopher Nolan’s mega-blockbuster ‘The Dark Knight Rises’. While comic book movies generally aren’t expected to win important awards, the Academy took so much flak for failing to nominate ‘The Dark Knight’ for Best Picture in 2009 that a make-good nomination seemed highly probable this year. (‘Rises’ even failed to score any noms in technical categories.) Of course, ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ isn’t half the movie that ‘The Dark Knight’ was, as far as I’m concerned.
It may have proved divisive among readers of this site, but the latest James Bond entry, ‘Skyfall’, was easily one of my favorite movies of the year. It landed five nominations, including highly-deserved nods for Best Cinematography (Roger Deakins) and Best Original Score (Thomas Newman), as well as one for the theme song by Adele.
Find the full list of nominees on the official Oscars web site. Which of this year’s picks surprise you? Which do you find the most deserving? What do you think will win? Tell us in the Comments.