85th Academy Award nominations favor Spielberg, highlight “Beasts”

Spielberg, Day-Lewis, Washington … Quvenzhané?

The nominations for the 85th Academy Awards, which were announced Thursday morning in Hollywood, contained some longtime favorites, as well as some surprising newcomers. Director Steven Spielberg’s towering Lincoln nabbed the most nominations with 12, followed closely by Ang Lee’s adaptation of Life of Pi with 11. The rest of the Best Picture field includes expected titles like Argo, Les Miserables and Zero Dark Thirty, but also some shocking party crashers like the indie fantasy Beasts of the Southern Wild and director Michael Haneke’s punishing drama Amour.

The main snubs come in the directing category, with Ben Affleck and Kathryn Bigelow both missing out. But the fields still contain lots of delights. For the full list, visit the Academy’s nominations site.

Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln

BEST PICTURE

Amour

Argo

Beasts of the Southern Wild

Django Unchained

Les Miserables

Life of Pi

Lincoln

Silver Linings Playbook

Zero Dark Thirty

When The Hurt Locker toppled Avatar for Best Picture in 2009, it was considered a monumental upset — a low-budget, gritty war movie with a weird title coming out on top against a huge box-office hit by a legendary director. Zero Dark Thirty, from that same Hurt Locker team, appeared as though it might have a chance to pull a similar feat, beating out Lincoln, but the lack of any acting awards and not even a directing nod for Bigelow severely hurts its chances.

BEST ACTOR

Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook

Hugh Jackman, Les Miserables

Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln

Joaquin Phoenix, The Master

Denzel Washington, Flight

Day-Lewis and Washington are Academy Awards mainstays, having each won twice, but oddly enough have never gone head-to-head. The Brit has the advantage with the more iconic role (Abraham Lincoln vs. Whip Whitaker) in a bigger movie. Jackman is probably the strongest contender outside the two, and who knows, maybe he earns some extra points for having hosted the ceremony before. Some had predicted John Hawkes would get consideration for his work in The Sessions (roles with disabilities are so often Oscar bait), but Phoenix made the cut despite his public disdain for the whole shebang.

Quvenzhane WallisBEST ACTRESS

Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty

Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook

Emmanuelle Riva, Amour

Quvenzhané Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild

Naomi Watts, The Impossible

Nine-year-old Quvenzhané — I know journalistic form dictates I refer to her by her last name upon second reference, but that’s not going to happen — is the youngest nominee ever in this category, making Keisha Castle-Huges’ 2002 nomination for Whale Rider when she was 13 look like a lifetime achievement award. She’s definitely got some stiff competition, but don’t be surprised to see the little girl hoisting Oscar gold, followed by lots of cutaway shots of Anna Paquin. At the other end of the age spectrum, 85-year-old Riva is the oldest Best Actress nominee ever.

SUPPORTING ACTOR

Alan Arkin, Argo

Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook

Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Master

Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln

Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained

A field for the ages, consisting entirely of previous Oscar winners. It’s particularly gratifying seeing De Niro back in the Academy’s good graces. He hasn’t been nominated since 1992′s Cape Fear, about the time he started making people wonder what the heck was going on with him. Will one gold statuette make people forget Little Fockers, Showtime, Hide and Seek, Godsend, or even (ugh) Rocky & Bullwinkle? Probably not. But at least it shows there’s a little bit of life left in the old dog. Or should I say, “a little bit, a little bit” while squinting and grinning? Yeah, I think I should.

SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Amy Adams, The Master

Sally Field, Lincoln

Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables

Helen Hunt, The Sessions

Jacki Weaver, Silver Linings Playbook

Another solid field, with every candidate a previous winner. How great would it be to see Field back up there, milking every second while everyone waits for her to revisit her “You like me, you really like me” acceptance speech?

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

Zeitlin told The Hollywood Reporter that “Steven Spielberg raised me.” How tremendous it must be then for the 30-year-old to be in the same category as his idol.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola, Moonrise Kingdom

Mark Boal, Zero Dark Thirty

John Gatins, Flight

Michael Haneke, Amour

Quentin Tarantino, Django Unchained

Zero Dark Thirty would seem to have the edge, but the whole torture debate attached to the film might scare away some voters. Tarantino is also an Academy favorite, especially for writing, but who knows where the national mood in the slavery/n-word debate will be by voting time? I kind of like Anderson here, not just because of Moonrise‘s fawning reviews, but because he has yet to take home an Oscar.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Lucy Alibar & Benh Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild

Tony Kushner, Lincoln

David Magee, Life of Pi

David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook

Chris Terrio, Argo

Silver Linings Playbook feels like one of those that Oscar wants to recognize, but not quite in the biggie categories. So David O. Russell has a pretty good shot here of taking home an award for writing, having adapted Matthew Quick’s novel. But Argo could have the same dynamic working in its favor.

Photos: (Lincoln) © 2012 DreamWorks II Distribution Co., LLC & Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. Credit: David James; SMPSP; (Beasts of the Southern Wild) © 2012 Fox Searchlight Pictures in Association with Cinereach & Court 13 Pictures in association with Journeyman Pictures.

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