The Oscars: Side Notes

With 12 nominations, Lincoln led the pack as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences nominated nine movies for its best picture Oscar on Thursday morning. For their 85th Academy Awards, Academy voters embraced a wildly eclectic list of films that included the French-language drama Amour and the indie breakout Beasts of the Southern Wild as well as Argo, Django Unchained, Les Miserables, Life of Pi, Silvers Linings Playbook and Zero Dark Thirty.

In a year that appeared to embrace extremes, the nominees for best actress ranged from Emmanuelle Riva, who plays a woman facing the end of her life in Amour and who at 85 is the oldest actress to be nominated in the category, to Quvenzhane Wallis, who plays a young girl encountering a mysterious world in Beasts and who at age 9 is the youngest nominee in the category. The category also includes Jessica Chastain for her relentlessly driven CIA agent in Zero, Jennifer Lawrence for her not-so-merry widow in Playbook and Naomi Watts for playing a mother battling the elements in The Impossible.
The nominations included some major omissions as well. While the musical Les Miserables received eight noms, Tom Hooper did not make the cut in the best directing category. Similarly, Zero's Kathryn Bigelow, an Oscar winner three years ago for The Hurt Locker, also was among the missing in that category, as was Argo's Ben Affleck. Instead, the directors branch nominated Amour's Michael Haneke, Beasts' Benh Zeitlin, Pi's Ang Lee, Lincoln's Steven Spielberg and Playbook's David O. Russell.
Surprises popped up in other categories, too: Stop-motion dominated the animation category; the technique was used in Disney's Frankenweenie, Sony and Aardman Animation's The Pirates! Band of Misfits and Focus and Laika's ParaNorman. The nominees also include Pixar/Disney's Brave and Disney's Wreck-It Ralph. But DreamWorks Animation's Rise of the Guardians failed to secure a nomination.
In addition to Amour, the Cannes Palme d'Or winner that totaled an impressive five nominations, the nominees for best foreign-language film are Norway's Kon-Tiki, Chile's No, Denmark's A Royal Affair and Canada's War Witch. But France's The Intouchables, a huge worldwide hit, missed the cut.
Although at the beginning of this awards season, it looked as if studio fare might dominate, in the end, the major nominations represented a mix of studio and specialty company releases. Fox (Pi), Sony (with Annapurna's Zero), Warners (with Stage 16's Argo), Universal (with Working Title's Les Mis) and Disney, as the distributor of DreamWorks' Lincoln, were all represented. Fox Searchlight had an entry in Beasts; Sony Pictures Classics (which also received two foreign-language and two feature doc noms) fielded Amour; and the Weinstein Co., exhibiting some real awards-season muscle, was repped by both Django and Playbook as well as foreign-language nominee Kon-Tiki.
Acting nominations clustered around a number of the leading best picture contenders. Lincoln's 12 noms included mentions for lead actor Daniel Day-Lewis, supporting actor Tommy Lee Jones and supporting actress Sally Field. Playbook, with eight noms, scored in all four acting categories: Bradley Cooper was nominated for his lead performance as a bipolar man opposite best actress nominee Lawrence, and Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver, who play the parents of Cooper's character, earned supporting noms. Playbook is the first film to receive noms in all four acting categories as well as picture, directing and writing since 1981's Reds.
The Master's three nominations all came in the acting categories: Joaquin Phoenix was nominated as lead actor for his post-World War II drifter, and Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams, who play a couple heading up a Scientology-like cult, took home supporting noms. In the case of Les Mis, Hugh Jackman was nominated as best actor for his redemption-seeking song-and-dance turn, while Anne Hathaway was nominated as supporting actress for her tragic performance as a fallen woman.
Rounding out the list of best actor nominees is two-time Oscar winner Denzel Washington, who plays an alcoholic airline pilot in Flight. The ranks of supporting actors also includes Oscar winners Alan Arkin, who appears as a Hollywood producer in Argo, and Christoph Waltz, who plays a bounty hunter in Django Unchained. Oscar winner Helen Hunt received a supporting actress nomination for playing a sex surrogate in The Sessions, but her co-star John Hawkes, who many expected to show up in the best actor category, did not collect a corresponding nomination.
Although Pi didn't register in any of the acting categories, it still managed to amass the second-highest number of nominations with 11. In addition to Lee's directing nomination, it picked up an adapted screenplay nom for David Magee, song and score nominations and technical noms ranging from its cinematography to its visual effects.
Three of the best director nominees also did double duty in the screenplay categories.
In the original screenplay lineup, Amour's Haneke was nominated along with Django's Quentin Tarantino, Flight's John Gatins, Moonrise Kingdom's Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola and Zero's Mark Boal. For adapted screenplay, Zeitlin was nominated along with his co-writer Lucy Alibar for their on Beasts, and Russell was nominated for Playbook. The category's other nominees are Argo's Chris Terrio and Lincoln's Tony Kushner as well as Pi's Magee.
The respected cinematographer Roger Deakins, who has earned nine previous nominations without a win, picked up his 10th for his globe-trotting work on the James Bond pic, Skyfall. The category's other contenders are Anna Karenina's Seamus McGarvey, Django's Robert Richardson, Pi's Claudio Miranda and Lincoln's Janusz Kaminski, who has won two Oscars for Spielberg's Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan.
While Skyfall fell short in its bid for a best picture nomination, the movie did pull together five noms overall, including mentions for Thomas Newman's score, its title song by Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth, sound editing by Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers and sound mixing by Scott Millan, Greg P. Russell and Stuart Wilson.
Composer John Williams, who already boasts more nominations than any other living person, extended his lead to 48 with his nom for Lincoln. In addition to Williams and Newman, best score nominees are Karenina's Dario Marianelli, Argo's Alexandre Desplat and Pi's Mychael Danna.
Dressing Snow White did the trick for two of the nominated costume designers: Eiko Ishioka received a posthumous nomination for her work on Mirror Mirror, and Colleen Atwood made the list for a 10th time for Snow White and the Huntsman (she has three Oscars). Their fellow nominees are Jacqueline Durran for Karenina, Paco Delgado for Les Mis and Joanna Johnston for Lincoln.
Sony Pictures Classics, which is distributing two of the foreign-language nominees, Amour and No, also was represented by two of the five feature documentary nominees: The Gatekeepers, which is built around interviews with former heads of the Israeli security agency, and Searching for Sugar Man, which tells the story of a singer/songwriter who became a star in South Africa even while he lived in anonymity in Detroit. The other feature docs are 5 Broken Cameras, about a Palestinian farmer who resisted Israeli forces; How to Survive a Plague, which recounts how activist groups like ACT UP fought the AIDS epidemic; and The Invisible War, which examines rape within the U.S. military.
Seth MacFarlane and Emma Stone unveiled the nominations at the Academy's Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills early Thursday morning. MacFarlane, who will host the Oscar ceremony Feb. 24, is only the second Oscar host to take part in the nominations announcements, following Charlton Heston in 1972. In the midst of the announcements, he also learned that he's been nominated for his first potential Oscar for having written the lyrics for the song "Everybody Needs a Best Friend," music by Walter Murphy, which was included in MacFarlane's hit summer comedy Ted.

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