This morning’s Academy Award nominations produced a clear front-runner in Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln,” which placed in 12 categories. They also anointed two films, Michael Haneke’s “Amour” and first-time feature director Behn Zeitlin’s “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” that remind us that Oscar-voters are receptive to challenging non-mainstream fare.
The latter pair also brings the Academy its oldest and youngest Best Actress nominees. “Amour”’s Emmanuelle Riva – who was born in 1927, the year that yielded the first Oscar nominees, and debuted in 1957 – will turn 86 on February 24, the day of this year’s ceremony. “Beasts”’ Quvenzhané Wallis is 9.
Ang Lee’s “Life of Pi” received 11 nominations, and David O. Russell’s “Silver Linings Playbook” and Tom Hooper’s “Les Misérables” nine each. Along with “Lincoln,” they were nominated for Best Picture with “Beasts,” “Amour,” Kathryn Bigelow’s “Zero Dark Thirty,” Ben Affleck’s “Argo,” and Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained.”
The biggest shock was the omission from the Best Director list of Bigelow, who won the directing Oscar for “The Hurt Locker” in 2010. Also overlooked were Affleck (whose movie otherwise gleaned seven nominations), Hooper, Tarantino, Paul Thomas Anderson (“The Master”), and Wes Anderson (“Moonrise Kingdom”). As I predicted yesterday, the Austrian master Haneke was nominated, along with Lee, Russell, Spielberg (honored for the seventh time), and indie tyro Zeitlin.
As Variety’s Jon Weisman points out, the failure of the Academy’s director nominees to mirror the Director’s Guild nominees – which included Affleck and Bigelow, not Haneke and Zeitlin – “is a logical but still surprising consequence of the earliest voting deadline in Oscar history, which meant Academy of Motion Picture members turned in their ballots before hearing the DGA nom results.” Lee and Spielberg are meanwhile the only Oscar-nominated directors competing for the Golden Globe for directing.
Given its domination of the critics awards, “Zero Dark Thirty”’s haul of five nominations – the same earned by “Amour," "Skyfall," and "Django Unchained" – is a big disappointment for the Bigelow camp. Although its star, Jessica Chastain, was nominated as Best Actress, she will face fierce competition in particular from Jennifer Lawrence, the popular favorite.
Lawrence is one of “Silver Linings Playbook”’s four actors nominated in separate categories – a feat last achieved by “Reds” in 1981. The Australian Jacki Weaver has a second shot at the Best Supporting Actress Oscar following her nomination for “Animal Kingdom” in 2011. Bradley Cooper is up for the Best Actor trophy and Robert De Niro for the Best Supporting Actor award, which he won for “The Godfather, Part II” in 1974. De Niro is one of four actors who could win a third Oscar this year. He shares that distinction with “Lincoln”’s Daniel Day-Lewis and Sally Field, nominated for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress, and Denzel Washington, nominated for Best Actor for “Flight.”
In fact, all five actors in the Best Supporting Actor category are Oscar winners, the others being Christoph Waltz (the lone acting nominee for “Django Unchained” to the likely chagrin of Leonardo DiCaprio’s supporters), Philip Seymour Hoffman (“The Master”), and Alan Arkin (“Argo”).
Despite the expected snubs for P.T. Anderson as writer or director, “The Master” accrued three acting nominations: Amy Adams (Best Supporting Actress) and Joaquin Phoenix (Best Actor) joining Hoffman.
Actors who can consider themselves unlucky not to be nominated include Rachel Weisz (“The Deep Blue Sea”), Marion Cotillard ("Rust & Bone"), John Hawkes (whose costar in “The Sessions,” Helen Hunt, is a Supporting Actress nominee), Jean-Paul Trintignant (“Amour”), Ann Dowd (“Compliance”), and Jamie Foxx and Samuel L. Jackson (“Django Unchained”). In a year in which “Lincoln” and “Django” offered a dialectical approach to slavery in America, only two African-American actors, Wallis and Washington, were nominated.
See the full list of Oscar nominations here.