Thursday, January 10, 2013

2013 Oscar Nominations (Reaction and Analysis)

Interestingly enough, I didn't attempt to predict the nominations this year, but I should have since it ended up being one of the safest and most predictable batch of nominees we've had in years. Announced this morning by Oscar host Seth MacFarlane and Emma Stone, the 85th Annual Academy Award nominations (full list here) were only surprising for what was omitted. But given their history of head scratching snubs, do any of those decisions really surprise us anymore? You'd be forgiven for dozing off during the announcement which, save for the Best Director category shocker, doesn't off up much in the way of talking points. Lincoln racked up 12 nominations and, barring a huge upset, will be wining Best Picture. Spielberg's winning Best director. Daniel Day-Lewis is winning Best Actor. And you can write those down with a permanent magic marker. It's that kind of a year. I should probably bite my tongue now since I've only seen one of the Best Picture nominees so far, meaning there's a lot of work still left to do. That viewing these nominees could be considered "work" probably isn't a good sign, nor is it one that I've been trying to motivate myself to see Lincoln and Les Miserables for the past three weeks...unsuccessfully. Django Unchained, Silver Linings Playbook and Zero Dark Thirty are a different story, though at this point all seem to stand little chance of stopping the Lincoln juggernaut and winning the big prize. I'm all for conventional, conservative choices if it means rewarding deserving films of quality (which, in their defense, the Academy always does) but boy did they really take the "safety first" approach to new heights this year. But there were still at least some noteworthy items coming out of the nominations this morning:

 -Nine Best Picture nominees. The second year in a row we've had that number. The two "surprises" are Beasts of the Southern Wild and Amour but upon closer examination both do fit firmly within the Academy's wheelhouse. Same for Life of Pi, which likely pushed all the right emotional buttons for them.

-Ben Affleck SNUBBED for Best Director. God, that is a shock. If there was one element of the film that should have been a lock to be nominated it was Affleck's direction. Really strange. There's just no explanation/excuse for it.

-Kathryn Bigelow SNUBBED for Best Director. Well, here there's at least somewhat of an explanation. It's because she's a woman! Just kidding. It was the torture stuff. Leave up to the Academy to make their decisions based on news headlines rather than the actual work.

-Quentin Tarantino SNUBBED for Best Director. When you're as polarizing a figure as Tarantino is it's difficult to classify this as a snub. It's more like something that just comes with the territory. On the bright side, Django got in for Best Picture and that was far from a lock.

-Nine Best Picture nominees. The second year in a row we've had that number. The two "surprises" are Beasts of the Southern Wild and Amour but upon closer examination both do fit firmly within the Academy's wheelhouse. Same for Life of Pi, which likely pushed all the right emotional buttons for them.

-Hugh Jackman gets his first Best Actor nomination for Les Miserables, proving that the Academy sometimes doesn't care how many critics trash a movie or performance if they really, really LOVE it. That was clearly the case here.

-If Alan Arkin's supporting actor nomination for showing up for a couple of minutes and grumpily delivering a few lines isn't proof enough the Academy votes for the actors they like and not the actual performances, I don't know what is.

-Christoph Waltz, NOT Leonardo DiCaprio, is nominated in supporting for Django Unchained.

-Anne Hathaway's acceptance speech is probably already written. That one's over.   

-Silver Linings Playbook gets a second wind with nominations for Picture, Director (David O' Russell), Actor (Bradley Cooper), Actress (Jennifer Lawrence), Supporting Actor (Robert De Niro) and most surprisingly, Supporting Actress (Jacki Weaver). This film's fortunes just turned around in a hurry. Party at Jeff Wells' house!

-Academy Award nominated actor Bradley Cooper. Let it sink in. 

-Was I the only one worried Joaquin Phoenix wouldn't make it in for Best Actor? Luckily, he did. Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams are in for Supporting as well. 

-If the nominations tell us anything it's that the surest path to being nominated is having been previously nominated.

-Beasts of the Southern Wild seems to be that little movie this year that everyone bangs the drum hard for as the underdog to the point that it gets willed to a Best Picture nomination. Then it doesn't feel so little anymore. Or like an underdog.

-Quvenzhan√© Wallis is the youngest actress ever nominated in the LEAD category. I wonder how Haley Joel Osment and Hailee Steinfeld,--both previous nominees thrown into supporting categories because of their ages-- feel about that.  

-Even though I knew it wouldn't happen, I was hoping for a Looper Original Screenplay or Emily Blunt Supporting Actress nomination. But there was no chance.

-No Moonrise Kingdom in anything except Original Screenplay. We all kind of saw that coming whether we wanted to admit it or not. Wes Anderson's films are just too far off the beaten path to ever secure a Best Picture nod from this stuffy group. He wouldn't be wrong to take it as a compliment. The same can be said, but doubled this year, for Paul Thomas Anderson, as The Master predictably got the shaft (save for the acting categories).

-No John Hawkes for Best Actor for The Sessions. A curious omission considering the nature of the part and the fact that he was at one point considered a front-runner to actually win this thing. Bizarre. That movie apparently lost a lot of steam.

-For some reason I fully expected Helen Mirren to be nominated for Hitchcock despite the film's lackluster reception, but was strangely pleased she wasn't. Mildly surprised Naomi Watts got in for The Impossible.

-Best Actress is shaping up to turn into a showdown between Jennifer Lawrence and Jessica Chastain. Having not even seen either performance yet I still feel comfortable calling that the most intriguing race of the night by a landslide. All the other outcomes feel pre-determined. This doesn't. It's the one worth watching.

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