Peculiarities abound in the Oscar nominations announced Thursday, Jan. 10. Just about the only contender who made complete sense was Honest Abe.
"Lincoln" led all nominees with 12, including best picture and nods for a bunch of artists who already have Oscars: director Steven Spielberg, actor Daniel Day-Lewis, supporting actress Sally Field, supporting actor Tommy Lee Jones, cinematographer Janusz Kaminsky and composer John Williams. If there's a surprise there, it's that the film was not nominated for the make-up work that transformed Day-Lewis into a dead ringer for the 16th president.
The eight other nominees for best picture harbor plenty of surprises, though: "Amour," considered a lock to win best foreign film, was a rare
foreign-language nominee for best picture, too (although it was nominated by Austria, it is in French). "Argo" and "Zero Dark Thirty," both considered front-runners for the top prize, were nominated but their directors -- Ben Affleck and Kathryn Bigelow, respectively, were not (Affleck also missed out on a nomination for best actor). The other best picture contenders are "Django Unchained," "Les Miserables," "Life of Pi," "Silver Linings Playbook" and "Beasts of the Southern Wild," which, like "Amour," is an independent film that had more Oscar oomph than was anticipated.
"Life of Pi" was the unexpected second-place finisher. Its 11 nominations tie it with "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" as the most-nominated film with no
acting nominations among them.
With eight nominations, "Silver Linings Playbook" also showed unexpected strength, scoring a rare coup: The romantic comedy is the first film since "Reds" in 1981 with nominations in all four acting categories: actor Bradley Cooper, actress Jennifer Lawrence, supporting actor Robert De Niro and supporting actress Jacki Weaver. In addition, David O. Russell was nominated for writing and directing "Silver Linings."
Tying for third place with eight nominations was "Les Miserables," the French Revolution musical that snatched nods for best picture and song, as well as acting nominations for two previous hosts of the Oscar telecast: actor Hugh Jackman and supporting actress Anne Hathaway.
Oscar nominations are voted within categories -- so, for instance, actors are nominated by actors and cinematographers by cinematographers, but it may have been the directors who were the most idiosyncratic. While overlooking Affleck, Bigelow (who won the directing trophy three years ago for "The Hurt Locker") and Hooper (who won two years ago for "The King's Speech"), the directors selected first-timers Benh Zeitlin for "Beasts of the Southern Wild" and Michael Haneke for "Amour," as well as Russell and two previous winners, Spielberg and Ang Lee, for "Life of Pi."
The best actress race features both the youngest person ever nominated for that award -- 9-year-old Quvenzhane Wallis, who was 6 when she made her movie debut in "Beasts of the Southern Wild" -- and the oldest -- "Amour"'s Emmanuelle Riva, who will turn 86 the day the Oscars are presented, Feb. 24. They are joined by a trio of second-time nominees: Lawrence, Jessica Chastain for "Zero Dark Thirty" and Naomi Watts for "The Impossible."
Actors took no notice of Joaquin Phoenix's comment that he doesn't "want to be part of" the Oscars. He's among the best actor nominees for "The Master," along with Cooper, Day-Lewis, Jackman and Denzel Washington in "Flight." The five supporting actor hopefuls are very much part of the Oscars -- each of the men already has a little gold man at home.
The top overall nominee in the 85th Oscars is German-Austrian Michael Haneke, with three shots at the trophy. He's up for directing and writing "Amour," and the film is Austria's nominee for foreign film, a trophy that goes to the director.
Although movies such as "Lincoln," "Argo" and "Life of Pi" are already sizable hits, the year's biggest smashes were mostly overlooked. The biggest hit of 2013, "The Avengers," scored only a visual effects nomination, the second- and third-largest hits, "The Dark Knight Rises" and "The Hunger Games," came up empty, and the fourth-biggest hit, "Skyfall," earned only nominations for Adele's theme song and cinematography (Joel and Ethan Coen's regular cinematographer, Roger Deakins, will have his 10th shot at bringing home the award).
Chris Hewitt can be reached at 651-228-5552. Follow him on twitter.com/ChrisHMovie.
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