We reflect on the just-announced 2013 Oscar nominations. Sorry DC Nation... Marvel Studios has kicked your butt one more time.
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Life of Pi
Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty
Going into this category, the big question wasn't so much which films would be nominated, but how many of them would be nominated, given the Academy's still-new ability to single out up to ten films a year. Turns out, the list tapped out at nine, all of them fairly predictable choices, right down to the indie darling, Beast of the Southern Wild, and the people's favorite, Life of Pi (which has enjoyed strong box office despite little attention from critics' groups). The lone surprise (for some) might be Amour, the Michael Haneke Cannes-winner is also the frontrunner in the Foreign Language Category. As the film with the most overall nominations, Lincoln would seem to be in the pole position to win, but there's plenty of potential for another movie to make a late-inning push (keep your eye on Argo, Amour and Silver Linings Playbook in particular) and steal its thunder.
Michael Haneke (Amour)
Ang Lee (Life of Pi)
David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook)
Steven Spielberg (Lincoln)
Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild)
By far the biggest upsets were found here, with seemingly assured nominees Ben Affleck and Kathryn Bigelow overlooked in favor of newcomer Benh Zeitlin and reformed bad boy David O. Russell. (Quentin Tarantino, Paul Thomas Anderson and Tom Hooper also all failed to make the cut, but that was always assumed to be the case, despite Hooper's DGA nomination.) Given how Picture shook out, Michael Haneke's inclusion is less of a surprise and hints that Amour could be a bigger contender outside of the Foreign Language category than previously assumed.
Actor in a Leading Role
Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook)
Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln)
Hugh Jackman (Les Misérables)
Joaquin Phoenix (The Master)
Denzel Washington (Flight)
He may hate awards season with the fiery passion of a thousand suns, but Oscar votes still did the right thing by handing Joaquin Phoenix the slot that many assumed was saved for John Hawkes from The Sessions, which watched its status as a Sundance darling be transferred to Beasts of the Southern Wild instead. (One other surprise: despite Amour's strong showing, the film's lead actor, Jean-Louis Trintignant, went overlooked. Too bad -- he's brilliant in a very demanding role.) Otherwise, this category mostly lines up with the SAG Awards list of nominees and suggests a clear path to victory for Daniel Day-Lewis. Also, how crazy is it that Bradley Cooper, of all people, has become the first former Alias star to score an Oscar nomination? Our money was always on Michael Vartan! (No, not really.) Poor Jennifer Garner... first hubby Ben gets snubbed and now she has to watch Will Tippin flash his pearly whites on the red carpet for a solid month.
Actress in a Leading Role
Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty)
Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook)
Emmanuelle Riva (Amour)
Quvenzhané Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild)
Naomi Watts (The Impossible)
SAG correctly predicted three out of these five names, but overlooked both the youngest (Quvenzhané Wallis, who was disqualified from the guild's awards due to Beasts not being a union production) and the oldest (Emmanuelle Riva, whose spot likely went to Marion Cotillard instead) of the eventual nominees. (Dark horse candidate Rachel Weisz was also ignored as not enough voters apparently took the time to watch their Deep Blue Sea screeners.) With Zero Dark Thirty seemingly doing a fast fade, this race is going to come down to the breakout young star (Jennifer Lawrence) versus the veteran European actress (Riva). The former will sell more magazine covers, but the latter has career longevity going for her. Emerging triumphant in this battle may be more of a challenge than anything Lawrence faces in the Hunger Games arena.
Actor in a Supporting Role
Alan Arkin (Argo)
Robert De Niro (Silver Linings Playbook)
Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master)
Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln)
Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained)
Two big quibbles off the bat here: both Hoffman and Waltz are essentially co-leads in their respective movies, certainly in terms of screentime. But that's the Oscars for you -- a place where the definition of "supporting" versus "lead" is always mutable. And honestly, both men do deserve recognition for their great work, although I still contend that Django's best performance is delivered by one Mr. Samuel L. Jackson. (It's worth noting that Waltz took the slot that many assumed was being saved for Leonardo DiCaprio. Good thing he has Great Gatsby in his corner... although based on the early trailers for that Baz Lurhmann production, he probably shouldn't hold his breath.) Hard to say who the frontrunner here is right now -- Arkin is adored in Hollywood, but he already won this award for Little Miss Sunshine not too long ago. It's been a lot longer (32 years, to be precise) since De Niro has taken home an Oscar. Also counting in his favor: Silver Linings Playbook is the first film in some time to score nominations in all four acting categories, but his co-stars face longer odds in their respective races. If voters really want to recognize the ensemble, this seems the most likely place to do it.
Actress in a Supporting Role
Amy Adams (The Master)
Sally Field (Lincoln)
Anne Hathaway (Les Misérables)
Helen Hunt (The Sessions)
Jacki Weaver (Silver Linings Playbook)
Sorry Amy, Sally, Helen and Jacki... you're great and all (well, not so much you, Sally), but this Oscar has been Anne's since the minute those early Les Miz trailers leaked. Just enjoy the open bar and Seth MacFarlane's "witty" banter on the big night.
Writing (Original Screenplay)
Zero Dark Thirty
Thrilled to see Moonrise Kingdom mentioned somewhere, even if it stands next to no chance of winning. Call me crazy, but I'm actually seeing a potential Django triumph here, given the movie's obvious popularity within the Academy, its box-office success and all the brouhaha kicked up around Mark Boal's ZD30 script. On the other hand, controversy-adverse voters could just as easily pledge their allegiance to Flight, which makes the decidedly non-divisive case that alcoholism is really, really bad for you.
Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Life of Pi
Silver Linings Playbook
All the usual suspects present and accounted for. (If you're wondering why Beasts is here, the film is derived from the one act play Juicy and Delicious, written by the film's co-writer, Lucy Alibar.) At this point, it's looking like a pitched battle between Argo and Lincoln -- whichever movie doesn't win Picture will receive this as a consolation prize.
Animated Feature Film
The Pirates!: Band of Misfits
Wow, three stop-motion animated features up for this Oscar in one year? That's gotta be some kind of record. And while I wasn't the biggest fan of Aardman's Pirates! movie, I am thrilled it beat out DreamWorks's terrible Rise of the Guardians misfire. Honestly, my favorite of these nominees remains Wreck-It Ralph, but as an admirer of stop-motion, I'll be happy if the victory goes to Frankenweenie, ParaNorman or even Pirates instead.
Foreign Language Film
A Royal Affair
Next to the Affleck/Bigelow shut-out, the biggest snub at this year's Oscars is probably the lack of a nomination for The Intouchables the French box-office hit that Harvey Weinstein has aggressively campaigned for stateside. Personally, I say good on Oscar voters for recognizing a pandering, calculated buddy dramedy when they see it. Now there's nothing that stands in Amour's path to victory, although if there is a surprise upset, it will likely be No, a terrific and very timely political thriller from Chile.
Life of Pi
Be honest, Academy. The Ted nomination was just a way of ensuring that Seth MacFarlane would definitely turn up for his hosting gig on Oscar night, right? (Although based on the painful patter he gave us here, we'd be happy if he backed out at the last minute.) Give this to Adele's Bond tune -- the only song that's even remotely memorable -- and be done with it.
In a quick round-up of other notable nominations and omissions, a big congratulations to perennial nominee (but still absurdly winless) Roger Deakins for being recognized for his stellar cinematography in Skyfall, a movie that was thought to have an outside chance in the Picture and Supporting Actor categories (for Javier Bardem) but failed to qualify in either case. (Skyfall did score nods in Original Score and both Sound categories, though.) After watching Return of the King sweep the Oscars a decade ago, Peter Jackson had to content himself with only three technical awards -- Visual Effects, Production Design and Makeup -- for the first installment in his Hobbit trilogy. (C'mon, folks -- it should have gotten at least a Costumes nod as well.) Visual Effects is also the sole category where the year's biggest hit, Joss Whedon's The Avengers, was singled out. That's one more nomination than The Dark Knight Rises, which went completely overlooked, with not even a token technical nod to its name. Ouch. Marvel torches DC once again. Finally, the powerful AIDS documentary How to Survive a Plague picked up a well-deserved Documentary Feature nod, although The Gatekeepers is thought to be the frontrunner in that category.
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