The Oscar nominees are in, and, as expected, the historical epic Lincoln emerged as the big winner and front-runner for the 85th Annual Academy Awards.
Lincoln, director Steven Spielberg's political drama set in the waning days of the Civil War as President Lincoln marshals support for an anti-slavery amendment to the Constitution, led all films with 12 nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, and both supporting actor categories.
Les Miserables, the starry film adaptation of the popular stage musical set in early 1800s France, received eight nominations, as did the mental health romantic-comedy Silver Linings Playbook.
The other Best Picture nominees are Zero Dark Thirty, Silver Linings Playbook, Life of Pi, Amour, Django Unchained, Argo, and the surprise of the category, acclaimed indie drama Beasts of the Southern Wild.
Set in near-future Louisiana, Beasts of the Southern Wild is a wild and intense apocalyptic fantasy-drama based on the post-Katrina stage play Juicy and Delicious by Lucy Alibar. Beasts also received nominations for director Benh Zeitlin, Best Actress — 9-year-old newcomer Quvenzhane Wallis, the youngest nominee ever in this category — and adapted screenplay.
The Academy amended its rules for this year's Best Picture nominees, allowing for up to 10 films, but no less than five.
Daniel Day-Lewis' towering performance as Lincoln leads the Best Actor group by a wide margin, followed by Hugh Jackman (Les Miserables), Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook), Denzel Washington (Flight), and Joaquin Phoenix (The Master). Phoenix's inclusion is a surprise, not because of his performance — as a troubled soul who believes he's found salvation in a cult-like leader Phoenix is a force of nature onscreen — rather that he publicly ranted about not wanting to be nominated. John Hawkes as an aspiring man immobilized by childhood polio who seeks the help of a sex surrogate in the comedy-drama The Sessions was the category's most-puzzling omission.
While Best Actor is a foregone conclusion, Best Actress is anything but: Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty), Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook), Emmanuelle Riva (Amour), and Naomi Watts (The Impossible) are all strong candidates. Wallis, while her inclusion makes for a great story, is the "I'm just happy to be here" nominee. Riva at 85 is now the oldest nominee ever in this category
Best Supporting Actor is equally challenging to predict: Alan Arkin (Argo), Robert De Niro (Silver Linings Playbook), Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master), Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln), and Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained) are all brilliant and they are all previous Oscar winners, so forget the "I'll just vote for the one who's never won before" selection.
Like Day-Lewis, Anne Hathaway as Les Miserables's tragic Fantine is the heavy favorite in the category. She sings, she lost weight, and she shaved her head — could she do anything more? Helen Hunt, who bares all in The Sessions as the sex surrogate, might suggest yes, and could be considered the dark horse in this category. Rounding out the Supporting Actress nominees are Amy Adams (The Master), Sally Field (Lincoln), and Jackie Weaver (Silver Linings Playbook).
The Best Director nominees are notable as much for who didn't make the cut as who did. Michael Haneke (Amour), Ang Lee (Life of Pi), David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook), Spielberg, and Zeitlin received nominations. The surprising omissions includes two recent Best Director Oscar winners, Tom Hooper (Les Miserables) and Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty), and actor-director Ben Affleck. Hooper took home his Oscar for 2010's The King's Speech, and Bigelow in 2008 for The Hurt Locker, while Affleck, whose behind-the-camera work in Argo drew wide praise among critics and helped make the Iran-hostage thriller a box-office hit, won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay along with Matt Damon for 1997's Good Will Hunting.
The Academy Awards airs beginning at 7 p.m. Feb. 24 on ABC, and can be seen locally on WTVG-TV, Channel 13.
Contact Kirk Baird firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6734.