2013 Oscar nominations announced: "Lincoln" leads with 12 nods; Ben Affleck, Kathryn Bigelow, Tom Hooper snubbed
More than any other year in recent memory, I see the strings, the pull of outside forces, with this year’s Oscar nominations. And I hate it.
Steven Spielberg’s historical epic “Lincoln,” a great movie but the very definition of Oscar bait, received a leading 12 nods, including best picture, best director, best actor for Daniel-Day Lewis, and best supporting actress for Sally Field.
Admittedly, the films competing for Oscar glory were particularly strong this year, so there were bound to be some big snubs. But I didn’t expect the Academy to stack quite so many chips for “Lincoln,” even if it is the safest contender around. After all, it’s got a revered director, a two-time winner who is a lock for a third in its lead actor slot and a storytelling focus – the passage of the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery – that every decent person can wholeheartedly get behind.
Still, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences effectively plowed the road for “Lincoln” with the rest of the nominations: Although “Zero Dark Thirty,” “Argo” and “Les Miserables” all made the list of nine best picture nominees, their respective directors – Kathryn Bigelow, Ben Affleck and Tom Hooper – were shockingly left out of the best director race.
While in some rare cases the director is not the single biggest factor in the quality of the final film, that is not the case with those three movies. Bigelow, who became the first woman to win the best director Academy Award for “The Hurt Locker” in 2009, brought even more of her stunningly immersive filmmaking style to her new film about the decade-long hunt for Osama bin Laden. Likewise, Affleck built on his burgeoning skill as a first-rate maker of thrillers with his fact-based third outing behind the camera. And Hooper’s groundbreaking decision to have the actors sing the numerous songs in “Les Mis” live gave the film an emotional resonance uncommon for movie musicals.
Many of the nominees and the snubs in this Oscar race feel like they have been made to either dodge or deal with controversy. Since a movie almost never wins the top prize if the helmer isn’t nominated for best director – you have to go all the way back to 1989 and “Driving Miss Daisy” to find the latest example – the Academy is off the hook for some potentially messy scenarios. No controversy about torture from “Zero Dark Thirty” to muck up the back-patting festivities. No controversy about race with “Django Unchained” since Quentin Tarantino isn’t in the running for top director, either.
Interestingly, “Zero Dark Thirty” got five nominations, the same number as best director nominee Michael Haneke’s aging drama “Amour,” which just happened to come about in a year when the Academy is facing increased criticism for its treatment of foreign films, in particular, its tendency to relegate practically all non-American or British films to the best foreign language film category.
Also irritating is the absolute absence of “The Dark Knight” rises from any category. That’s right, Christopher Nolan’s final installment of one of the best all-around cinematic trilogies ever made got zero nominations. Even “The Avengers” got nominated in the best visual effects category, but Nolan’s third Batman movie gets to contend for nothing, which leaves me with the lingering suspicion that Academy folks didn’t want to address the Colorado shooting now so linked to the film and used that as an excuse to slough off the comic book movie they didn’t want deal with anyway.
While it feels like more than ever that the actual quality of the films and their craftsmen weren’t the only factors that led to this year’s Oscar nominations, the news isn’t all bad. David O. Russell’s terrific mental illness rom-com “Silver Linings Playbook” got eight nominations, and it might just outshine “Lincoln” in a few categories, with nods for best picture, best director, best adapted screenplay, best film editing and in all four acting categories to its credit.
Also, Benh Zeitlin’s marvelous feature debut “Beasts of the Southern Wild” got four nominations, including best picture, director, adapted screenplay and best actress for 9-year-old newcomer Quvenzhane Wallis. Wallis is now the youngest ever nominee for best actress, while “Amour” thespian Emmanuelle Riva at 85 is now the oldest best actress contender in Oscar history.
The Academy Awards will air live at 6 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 24 on ABC with Seth McFarlane as host. See the complete list of nominees after the break.
2013 Academy Award nominees
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