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Analysis: Oscar nods packed with snubs, surprises

5:09 PM, Jan. 10, 2013
Sally Field and Daniel Day-Lewis appear in a scene from 'Lincoln.' Field was nominated for an Academy Award for best supporting actress and Lewis was nominated for best actor on Thursday. The 85th Academy Awards will air live on Feb. 24, 2013 on ABC.
Sally Field and Daniel Day-Lewis appear in a scene from 'Lincoln.' Field was nominated for an Academy Award for best supporting actress and Lewis was nominated for best actor on Thursday. The 85th Academy Awards will air live on Feb. 24, 2013 on ABC. / DreamWorks II Distribution Co., LLC and Twentieth

Entertainment editor Julio Diaz’s early Oscar predictions

Best Picture: “Lincoln.”
Best Director: Steven Spielberg for “Lincoln.”
Best Actor: Daniel Day Lewis for “Lincoln.”
Best Actress: Jennifer Lawrence for “Silver Linings Playbook.”
Best Supporting Actor: Robert De Niro for “Silver Linings Playbook.”
Best Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway for “Les Miserables.”
Best Animated Feature: “Frankenweenie.”

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Nine Best Picture nominees may seem like a lot, but in a year that was full of well-respected and beloved movies, there were still bound to be some snubs when nominations for the Academy Awards were announced Thursday morning.

Perhaps the biggest came in the race for Best Director, where three likely favorites – Ben Affleck for “Argo,” Tom Hooper for “Les Miserables” and Kathryn Bigelow for “Zero Dark Thirty” (which opens in Pensacola today; see Weekender for a review) – were left out of the competition. The three, along with Oscar nominees Steven Spielberg for “Lincoln” and Ang Lee for “Life of Pi,” are up for the same award from the Directors Guild of America. This is the first time in recent memory that the Oscars didn’t duplicate at least four of the five DGA nominees. Especially surprising is the snub of Bigelow, the only woman to win a Best Director Oscar (for her prior film, “The Hurt Locker”).

Instead getting the director nods, David O. Russell for the romantic dramedy “Silver Linings Playbook,” Benh Zeitlin for the Louisiana fantasy “Beasts of the Southern Wild” and Michael Haneke for the French-language drama “Amour.”

The success of these smaller films may come as something of a surprise to local audiences, given that “Silver Linings” and “Amour” have yet to play Pensacola. (“Beasts” had a brief theatrical run here in August.) Each of these films also scored Best Actress nominations, setting records for the youngest Best Actress nominee – 9-year-old Quvenshane Wallis for “Beasts” – and the oldest – 85-year-old Emmanuelle Riva for “Amour.” Meanwhile “Silver Linings” star Jennifer Lawrence receives her second nod. (Lawrence’s first was for “Winter’s Bone,” but if you know her name, it’s likely for 2012’s smash hit, “The Hunger Games.”) They’ll compete with previous nominees Jessica Chastian for “Zero Dark Thirty” and Naomi Watts for “The Impossible.”

In addition to nods for Best Picture, each film was also nominated for writing – “Beasts” and “Silver Linings” for adapted screenplay; “Amour” for original screenplay. Additionally, “Silver Linings” lined up nods for Bradley Cooper (Best Actor), Robert De Niro (Best Supporting Actor) and Best Editing, while and “Amour” is France’s entry in the Best Foreign Language Film competition.

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The slight of “Argo” in the Best Director category has to diminish the Best Picture chances of a film that was once the early favorite; especially considering the Iran hostage crisis thriller’s near-total shutout from the acting kudos. Only Alan Arkin received an acting nod from the film, for Best Supporting Actor.

That would seem to clear the decks for “Lincoln” as the odds-on favorite to take home most of the major awards. The most nominated film of the year with 12 nods, it competes in every major category except Best Actress, including nominations for previous Oscar winners Daniel Day-Lewis, Tommy Lee Jones and Sally Field. Where “Argo” or perhaps “Zero Dark Thirty” might have been seen as the closest competitor before the nominations were announced, speculation now must rest on “Silver Linings” to be the dark-horse challenger. Given that “Silver Linings” was produced by the Weinstein Company, home of master Oscar marketer Harvey Weinstein, don’t count it out completely.

With the surprises in the Best Director category, your best indication of which of the nine Best Picture nominees has a real shot at winning may come in the Best Editing nominees – no film has won Best Picture without being nominated in this category since 1981, and 2/3 of the time, the same film wins both awards. That would mean that the buzzy “Les Miz” is out of contention for Best Picture, and that after “Silver Linings,” the challengers to “Lincoln” would include “Argo,” “Zero Dark Thirty” and “Life of Pi.” For “Beasts,” “Amour,” “Les Miz” and “Django Unchained,” then, the nomination is the honor.

Thursday morning’s other big surprise was a fun one. Oscar host Seth MacFarlane, best known as the impresario behind TV’s “Family Guy,” is now himself an Oscar nominee, receiving a nod in the Best Original Song category for the film “Ted,” which he also wrote, directed and starred in. Not a bad first line for your CV, Mr. MacFarlane.

MacFarlane and actress Emma Stone announced the nominations with a healthy dose of snarky wit, perhaps previewing the vibe of the MacFarlane-hosted Oscars, which will be presented on Feb. 24. He conveyed something of a post-modern Rat Pack vibe, channeling equal parts Frank Sinatra and Don Rickles. With no small degree of sarcasm, the duo noted the “breath of fresh air” in the Best Supporting Actor category, which features five men who already have Oscars – Arkin, De Niro, Jones, Philip Seymour Hoffman for “The Master” and Christoph Waltz for “Django.”

The Best Actor category also was almost completely free of surprise. Previous winners Day-Lewis and Denzel Washington (“Flight”) will compete against previous nominee Joaquin Phoenix (“The Master”) and Cooper and previous Oscar host Hugh Jackman (“Les Miz”), all of whom were expected to compete. It is the first nomination for Cooper and Jackman.

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