Oscar season is upon us once again. Most of Jan. 10’s nominations were exactly what many expected. Every year, though, there are a few surprise inclusions and a few shocking omissions, and this year’s was no different.
Major Nominations for Amour and Beasts
Many expected Amour to secure at least one nomination, for Best Foreign Language Film. Few forecasted it receiving as many as five, let alone in major categories like Best Picture, Best Actress (Emmanuelle Riva), and Best Director (Michael Haneke). Similarly, while Beasts of the Southern Wild’s central performance by 9-year-old Quvenzhane Wallis had received early awards buzz, prognosticators weren’t expecting it would be sitting at the big boy’s table with Best Picture, Best Director (Benh Zeitlin), and Best Adapted Screenplay nominations. The inclusion of a foreign film and an indie in the major categories draw attention to how eclectic and progressive a selection of movies the Academy is recognizing this year.
Two New Best Actress Records
The previous record-holders for being the youngest and oldest Best Actress nominees were Keisha Castle-Hughes (Whale Rider), at 13, and Jessica Tandy (Driving Miss Daisy), at 80. Some had speculated one of the records might get broken this year by 9-year-old Wallis or just possibly by 85-year-old Riva, but few expected both to occur. With dual records shattered and a remarkable 74-year difference in ages between the two nominees, the race for Best Actress instantly became much more unpredictable.
No Love for DiCaprio
Few actors in their ‘30s have already received three Academy Award nominations; even fewer manage to score their first as a mere teenager. Despite this, DiCaprio is shafted by the Academy just as much as he is recognized – both The Departed and Titanic won Best Picture without his performances in them garnering so much as a nod – and the trend continued this year. While Django Unchained’s Christoph Waltz did receive a Best Supporting Actor nomination, DiCaprio’s portrayal of the deliciously slimy Calvin Candie didn’t make the cut. In hindsight, it shouldn’t have been that surprising, but it still was.
One of the festival darlings last year was the French movie The Intouchables, which not only scored a whopping eight César Award nominations but also became the third-most watched movie in France’s history, following a staggering ten weeks of being #1 at the French box office. As such, most expected it would be nominated for Best Foreign Language Film, even if it would ultimately lose to the recently emerging favourite Amour. Instead, the crowd-pleaser walked away empty-handed.
Stop-Motion Makes a Strong Return
In the prior 12-year history of the category, 39 animated movies had been nominated for the Best Animated Feature Oscar, only four of which used stop-motion animation. That stop-motion total had nearly doubled by the time this year’s nominees were announced; three of the five nominees were animated with old-school models and clay. While this record number could partially be attributed to changing aesthetics in modern animated films, it still stands as a testament to the quality of a movie like The Pirates!: Band of Misfits that The Lorax, Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted, Hotel Transylvania, Ice Age: Continental Drift, and Rise of the Guardians all failed to get nominations.
Lost Amidst the Clouds
Cloud Atlas, one of the most polarizing movies of 2012, walked away without a single nomination. Despite a cast of actors with a collective five Oscars (and 12 total nominations), the sprawling epic proved too divisive to snag even Make-Up or Score slots, both of which many presumed to be sure-things. It wasn’t a complete shock on the day nominations were announced, as its make-up artists hadn’t even made it to the shortlist of pre-nomination finalists, but it was still a surprise to see it also shut out of every other technical category.
Looper was one of the best-reviewed wide releases of 2012, with much credit given to Rian Johnson’s screenplay. Stephen Chbosky adapted his own book into the screenplay for The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which led to an acclaimed adaptation. Even so, both were left unrecognized, in the wake of eight of the Best Picture nominees, as well as Moonrise Kingdom and Flight.
Directors Left in the Cold
When there are nine or ten nominees for Best Picture and only five for Best Director, there will inevitably be acclaimed films whose directors don’t get recognition. Even so, few expected Argo’s Ben Affleck, Zero Dark Thirty’s Kathryn Bigelow, and Django Unchained’s Quentin Tarantino to all be left off the final ballot. After all of Affleck’s Argo buzz/awards, Bigelow’s directorial win three years ago for The Hurt Locker, and the ease with which Tarantino landed a nomination for Inglourious Basterds’ direction, all were favoured, if not necessarily expected, to be nominated – especially considering Argo and Zero Dark Thirty were two of the three Best Picture frontrunners going into the nominations. With all three getting snubbed and the Academy’s history of awarding its top prize to a film whose director is also nominated, the overall race now seems to be Lincoln’s to lose.