If you’re anything like me, you were up at 6 a.m. this morning hitting refresh on your browser, waiting for the Oscar nominations’ webcast to finally get started.
Amidst some amusing banter and off-color jokes from Emma Stone and Oscar-host Seth McFarlane, “Lincoln” led the pack as expected with a whopping 12 nominations, followed by “Life of Pi” (11), “Silver Linings Playbook” (8) and “Les Misérables” (8). Despite a solid list of films that was very much in line with expectations, here are my top five snubs and surprises of this year’s Oscar nominations.
1. Kathryn Bigelow and Ben Affleck for Best Director
The two snubs that everyone is talking about this morning are those of Kathryn Bigelow for her outstanding work on “Zero Dark Thirty” and presumed shoe-in Ben Affleck for “Argo.” What does this mean for the Oscar race? Sorry to say it, folks, but it’s pretty much over. “Lincoln” and Steven Spielberg are the clear victors.
In Oscar history, only three films have won Best Picture without their directors being nominated, too. Bigelow, Affleck and Tom Hooper (“Les Misérables”) have long been considered Spielberg’s biggest competition when it comes to Best Director, but with them out of the race, he should blaze ahead right to the finish without a problem, as should “Lincoln.”
This doesn’t mean that Spielberg’s fellow Best Director nominees should feel slighted. Ang Lee (“Life of Pi”) will likely see his film reap up the technical awards (as did another 3-D adventure, “Hugo,” last year). David O. Russell probably won’t win for Best Adapted Screenplay either, but should at least be happy to settle with a presumed Best Actress win for Jennifer Lawrence. And hey, surprise nominees like Michael Haneke (“Amour”) and Benh Zeitlin (“Beasts of the Southern Wild”) will probably just be happy to be there.
2. Jacki Weaver for Best Supporting Actress
While she’s certainly been mentioned in early talks for recognition, not many expected Jacki Weaver (“Silver Linings Playbook”) to beat out the likes of Maggie Smith (“The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”) or Nicole Kidman (“The Paperboy”) for a Best Supporting Actress nod. While this award is still all-but-guaranteed to go to Anne Hathaway (“Les Misérables”), Weaver’s nomination actually boosts Jennifer Lawrence’s chances for a win.
“Silver Linings Playbook” received nominations in each of the acting categories, rounded out by Bradley Cooper (Best Actor) and Robert De Niro (Best Supporting Actor). It makes sense that with these four nominations on top of unlikely Best Picture and Best Director wins, the Academy will want to award the film with at least something– the most deserving candidate being Lawrence.
Jessica Chastain (“Zero Dark Thirty”) recently pushed ahead of Lawrence in the Best Actress race, but with a Best Director snub for Bigelow and a surprising lack of love for “Zero Dark Thirty” (with only five nominations), Lawrence has clearly gained the upper hand to move back into first place.
3. "Beasts of the Southern Wild”
This is not so much a surprise – given that it’s been widely discussed as a dark-horse nominee– but it’s fantastic to see “Beasts” ride the awards buzz all the way to four major nominations: Best Picture, Best Director (Benh Zeitlin) Best Actress (Quevenzhané Wallis, who is now the youngest Best Actress nominee in history), and Best Adapted Screenplay (Zeitlin and Lucy Alibar). “Beasts” may have claimed the obligatory indie spot that “The Tree of Life” and “The Kids are All Right” have taken in years past, but it’s nice to see the Academy spreading the love and exposing the general public to this gem of a film, even if it likely walks away empty-handed.
“The Master” hasn’t been considered a heavyweight in the Oscar race for months now, but it’s still a shame to see Mihai Malaimare Jr. snubbed for his mesmerizing cinematography in the film. Other worthy nominees would have been “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” “Moonrise Kingdom” and “Zero Dark Thirty,” although none of the three (aside from “Zero Dark Thirty”) were ever really considered major contenders in the category. Alas, Roger Deakins is more-than-deserving for “Skyfall,” and it’s nice to see “Anna Karenina” getting some love outside of costume design.
5. “Amour” and Best Foreign Language Film
A couple glaring omissions in the Best Foreign Language Film category include “Sister” and “The Intouchables,” the latter of which has long been deemed the biggest threat to “Amour” (the undisputed frontrunner here).
The French-language Austrian drama not only nabbed a Best Foreign Language Film nomination, but one for Best Picture, Best Director (Michael Haneke), Best Actress (Emmanuelle Riva) and Best Original Screenplay. It’s refreshing to see Haneke beat out so many well-known American directors for a spot, one that is extremely well deserved given his illustrious career (“The White Ribbon,” “Funny Games.”) It may be disappointing that Jean-Louis Trintignant was snubbed for his equally haunting performance in “Amour,” but it’s pretty impressive that Riva is now the oldest Best Actress nominee in history.