2013 Oscars Nominations Announced

In case you didn’t notice, the 2013 Academy Awards nominations hit the digital newsstand early this morning. For the most part, there were few unexpected twists; things went right down the line. Even for those who watch these things closely (like yours truly), there’s usually at least one or two nominations that bring about a WTF style moment. Not really this time (though they are two huge snubs, which we’ll get to momentarily).

Perhaps the most surprising is the consistency of the top movies. We have nine best picture nominations for the second year in a row (there can be anywhere between five and 10), but only a relatively low 13 total films received nominations in the Top Eight categories (Picture, Director, Writing & Actors). To put it another way, if you take away the nine Best Picture candidates, only seven nominations out of a potential 35 went to non-Best Picture films. If nothing else, that makes it pretty clear that the Academy really was solidly behind these nine films.

So I’ve listed each of the nominees from the Top 8 categories (the only ones I really cover) below. But before we get to this, you have to read my comments here (no, you may NOT scroll past them).

Note: I am four films short of completing this list for the Academy Awards, so I’m writing this as best I can. I still need to see Zero Dark Thirty and Amour (which don’t even release in the Washington DC area until tomorrow) as well as Django Unchained and The Impossible (which is likely this weekend’s selection).

Shameful Self-Promotion Note: I use the words “Academy Awards” a lot to help the search optimization for this article. So here we go: Academy Awards. Academy Awards. Academy Awards. Do you love the Academy Awards? I enjoy watching movies nominated for Academy Awards. I think that the English Patient was the most boring movie ever to win best picture at the Academy Awards. There that should do it. Academy Awards. Okay seriously, this needs to stop. Academy Awards. I’m addicted. Academy Awards. Academy Awards. Okay, all done now. Academy Awards.

What It All Means
Yes, there’s nine Best Picture candidates, but right now I’m only looking at two: Lincoln and Silver Linings Playbook. The consistency of the films throughout the nominations in the Top Eight categories tells me that the Academy has really made up its mind about which pictures are truly the best. Silver Linings Playbook got nominated in EVERY one of the top categories (you can only get nominated in one writing cat) and Lincoln only missed out in Best Actress (because it doesn’t have a lead actress; Sally Field was Supporting).

Depending on how campaigning goes, Zero Dark Thirty could make a move, particularly if Jessica Chastain catches up to Jennifer Lawrence in the Best Actress category, but don’t count on either. Some might discuss Les Miserables as well, but no backstop in the Director category for Tom Hooper (fast becoming one of my favorite directors, especially after re-watching HBO’s John Adams miniseries), AND no writing nomination (you wouldn’t expect it; the story IS the music, and the music imports directly from the stage just fine).

Amour is the one to watch though; it picked up noms in four of the Top 8, and as I understand it the movie is really two people, so that’s only one significant miss (in the Best Actor category). That’s a pretty big upset.

Glad to see
Denzel Washington nominated for Best Actor and Flight pick up a writing nomination in the Academy Awards. Though neither will likely win, the film was very well done and very well ignored. Also glad to see Quvenzhane Wallis nominated for Best Actress; though she was only six when she did Beasts of a Southern Wild, she earned that right with her soulful performance.

Biggest surprise
Amour, just in general. In my 20 Movies to See Before Academy Awards Night post, I ignored this one completely due to the lack of a big name (at least in America) actor and the French language. There’s always a foreign film or two that makes the rounds in the pre-nomination times that people like to latch on to for one reason or other. Sometimes they’re really good and deserving (like last year’s Iranian submission The Separation, which not only should have been nominated for Best Picture, it should have been in contention to win), and a lot of times people just want to pretend their artsy and cultured by talking about them. Either way, they never seem to hold up in the actual nominations. Amour seemed to be that film this year. Since it’s just releasing this week wider in the US, I’ll let you know how I feel about it in a week or so when I see it.

Biggest snubs
Where the F*** are Ben Affleck (Argo) and Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty) on the Best Director list? I have yet to see Amour (as noted) or Zero Dark Thirty, but Affleck’s directing far surpasses the somewhat overrated Beasts of the Southern Wild. Somehow, I think the fallout Affleck had from the string of bad movies and J. Lo last decade is still hanging over him; he’s going to have to produce another Argo or two before anyone will talk about him for the golden statue again (don’t forget, he has one as a writer for Good Will Hunting). I’m not hating on BSW, it was a damn fine film, but Affleck’s vision, pacing and storytelling in Argo was amazing and deserves more than it got.

A bit surprised not to see Maggie Smith or Tom Wilkinson for Best Exotic Marigold Hotel either; though I can’t fault any of the other nominations in those categories. Ditto John Hawkes for The Sessions (playing a guy who can’t actually move for an entire film yet have sex and intellectual discourse is a feat worthy of a gold statue). Finally, I’m also going to reserve the right to revisit and complain about Academy Awards nominations for Quentin Tarantino (director) and Leonardo DiCaprio (supporting actor) for Django Unchained down the line after I see the film.

Thank God
The Master did not make the Academy Awards cut for Best Picture; that film had one of the worst stories and some of the worst storytelling and pacing I’ve seen from a film that went out on a fairly wide release (not main-stream, but still in all major US markets). Joaquin Phoenix delivered a powerhouse performance and completely deserved a nomination. Philip Seymour Hoffman deserved one as well (though less so). Amy Adams was great as always, and I’d love to see her win for something, but not this and she won’t. Looking forward to seeing The Master shut out on awards night. Awful film, waste of two hours of my life.

No love for Looper, which in my view was one of the Top 10 movies of the year (we’ll see if I ultimately slot it above any of the BPs; right now I’d put it above Beasts of a Southern Wild and possibly Life of Pi and MAYBE Les Miserables). There was some talk about a writing nom, but nothing there either. Too bad, really…I think people tend to get lost in subject matter when it comes to nominations, and anyone who thinks Looper was just a sci-fi shoot-em-up film either was watching something else or just didn’t bother to turn their brains on that day.

Also wish The Dark Knight Rises had seen something Academy Awards wise; the DK trilogy is an astounding piece of movie-making, but DKR didn’t do quite as well in the absence of a transcendent performance (see: Ledger, Heath) and its run time. Finally, Moonrise Kingdom should have taken a 10th Best Picture slot for the Academy Awards. It’s summer release date and lack of heavy material probably made it fall out of mind for a lot of Academy voters, which is a shame. At least it did get something in the writing category.

I’ll be back in a couple of weeks with full predictions as I finish seeing the films (already rounded out Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress and Best Adapted Screenplay). For now, the full list of the Top 8 for this year’s Academy Awards:

Best Picture
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Django Unchained
Les Miserables
Life of Pi
Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty

Best Actor
Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook
Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
Hugh Jackman, Les Miserables
Joaquin Phoenix, The Master
Denzel Washington, Flight

Best Actress
Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty
Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
Emmanuelle Riva, Amour
Quvenzhane Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild
Naomi Watts, The Impossible

Best Supporting Actor
Alan Arkin, Argo
Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook
Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Master
Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln
Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained

Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams, The Master
Sally Field, Lincoln
Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables
Helen Hunt, The Sessions
Jacki Weaver, Silver Linings Playbook

Best Director
Michael Haneke, Amour
Ang Lee, Life of Pi
David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook
Steven Spielberg, Lincoln
Benh Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild

Best Original Screenplay
Amour, Michael Hanake
Django Unchained, Quentin Tarantino
Flight, John Gatins
Moonrise Kingdom, Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola
Zero Dark Thirty, Mark Boal

Best Adapted Screenplay
Argo, Chris Terrio
Beasts of the Southern Wild, Lucy Alibar and Benh Zeitlin,
Life of Pi, David Magee
Lincoln, Tony Kushner
Silver Linings Playbook, David O. Russell

Academy Awards.