Heavy favorites were snubbed, independent visions celebrated, and both the youngest and oldest candidates for Best Actress in Oscar history were named as contenders when the nominees for the 85th annual Academy Awards were announced this morning.
Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln,” as expected, picked up the most nominations, with its 12 nods including Best Picture, Director, Actor (Daniel Day-Lewis), Supporting Actor (Tommy Lee Jones), Supporting Actress (Sally Field), and Adapted Screenplay (Tony Kushner). But another heavily-lauded, if more controversial film, Kathryn Bigelow’s Osama bin Laden-hunt drama “Zero Dark Thirty,” was nominated for only five — including Best Picture and for Jessica Chastain’s leading role — while the filmmaker herself was snubbed for Best Director.
Nor was that the only unexpected upset in the directing category. Ben Affleck, Tom Hooper, and Quentin Tarantino were passed over for “Argo,” “Les Miserables,” and “Django Unchained” respectively, while the directors of two critically lauded but much less commercial films, Michael Haneke of “Amour” and Benh Zeitlin of “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” scored nods for their work.
“Amour” was nominated for five Oscars, including Best Picture, Director, Actress, Original Screenplay, and Foreign Language Film, a remarkable run for an austere French-language drama about an aging woman’s decline and death. The film’s star, Emmanuelle Riva, is at 85 the oldest actress ever to be nominated for an Academy Award. Quvenzhane Wallis, by contrast, is the youngest in that category: She was 6 when she filmed “Beasts of the Southern Wild” and is 9 now.
The nominees for Best Picture were “Amour,” “Argo,” “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” “Django Unchained,” “Les Miserables,” Life of Pi,” “Lincoln,” “Silver Linings Playbook,” and “Zero Dark Thirty.”
Overall, the Oscar nominations seemed to favor big humanist statements and avoid politics and other controversies. With its 12 nominations, “Lincoln” is officially the season’s frontrunner, and Daniel Day-Lewis is considred nearly a lock for Best Actor. The second-most nominated film, with 11 nods, is Ang Lee’s “Life of Pi,” a fantastic but fundamentally serious drama of imagination and survival adapted from a much-loved book. “Silver Linings Playbook,” written and directed by David O. Russell, picked up eight nominations on the strength of its seriocomic depiction of coping with family and mental illness; it is the only film with nominations in all four acting categories: Actor (Bradley Cooper), Actress (Jennifer Lawrence), Supporting Actor (Robert DeNiro), and Supporting Actress (Jackie Weaver).
By contrast, some major year-end contenders came up short. Anne Hathaway’s intense supporting performance as the doomed Fantine in “Les Miserables” was nominated, as expected, and Hugh Jackman has a shot at Best Actor, but the film’s seven total nominations didn’t include director Hooper or the screenplay. “Argo,” Ben Affleck’s commercial hit about a daring rescue of hostages in 1970s Iran, scored nominations in seven categories as well, including Picture, Adapted Screenplay, and for Alan Arkin’s supporting role, but was snubbed in other acting categories. And the minimal showing by “Zero Dark Thirty” has to come as a disappointment to the film’s backers and fans.Ty Burr can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @tyburr.