Kathryn Bigelow’s Oscar Snub and Other Academy Award Surprises

Who does Ben Affleck have to screw to get a little credit?

At 8:30am yesterday morning, Emma Stone and this year’s Oscar host Seth MacFarlane announced the nominations for the 85th annual Academy Awards, taking place Sunday, February 24th. (For a complete list, click here.) Lincoln leads with 12 nominations, followed by Life of Pi (11), Silver Linings Playbook (8), and Les Miserables (8). Much was to be as expected, if not boring. (No out-of-left-field Best Picture nominees, like last year’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close or The Blind Side). But, as always, there were plenty of surprises and snubs — mostly involving the Best Director category. Here are some highlights:

  • The Academy loves a gimmick. This year’s Best Actress category includes the youngest (Quvenzhané Wallis, for Beasts of the Southern Wild, at 9 years and 135 days) and oldest (Emmanuelle Riva, for Amour, at nearly 86 years) actresses to ever receive nominations in this category. While there’s merit in discussing the validity of Wallis’ nomination (and whether the true recognition should be given to director, Benh Zeitlin), there’s no questioning Riva’s astonishing performance.
  • Everyone (including me) expected to see Kathryn Bigelow and Ben Affleck receive Best Director nods for Zero Dark Thirty and Argo, respectively. Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild) and Michael Haneke (Amour) crafted tender and passionate films, but the scope and emotional complexity of Dark Thirty and Argo should not have been overlooked. (Seriously, Academy. After, Gone Baby Gone, The Town and Argo, what does Affleck need to do to finally get his due?)
  • Some are saying Tom Hooper’s lack of director nomination (for Les Mis) is a snub. I do not. With static vision (not every solo should be a leering close up), questionable casting decisions, and live singing that benefits the soloists at the expense of the group numbers, I think the Academy made the right decision.
  • Of the three top box office earners of 2012, only Marvel’s The Avengers received a nomination (Visual Effects). The Dark Knight Rises, whose two prequels garnered nine nominations and two wins, earns none.
  • After weeks of award season pontificators dismissing his Oscar chances, Joaquin Phoenix’s gets a Best Actor nod for The Master. Love it or hate it, his performance is captivating.
  • I love Jacki Weaver, especially her Oscar-nominated work in Animal Kingdom. But her nomination for Silver Linings Playbook (as Best Supporting Actress) was the only nomination that made me go “huh?” She’s good in the movie, but there were so many other actresses that, in my opinion, were more memorable: Ann Dowd for Compliance, Pauline Collins for Quartet, Maggie Smith for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, or even Judi Dench for Skyfall. Perhaps the Academy wanted another talking point: with Weaver, Playbook is nominated in every acting category. The last movie with that distinction was 1981’s Reds.
  • Alan Arkin (Argo), Robert De Niro (Silver Linings Playbook), Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master), Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln), and Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained). All nominated for Best Supporting Actor. All previous Oscar winners. How nice it would have been to see Matthew McConaughey receive his first nomination for Magic Mike or Tom Holland become the young actor nominated this year for The Impossible.
  • Host Seth MacFarlane earns his first nomination for writing lyrics for Ted’s original song, “Everybody Needs a Best Friend.” Let’s hope things turn out better for MacFarlane than for the last host/nominee, James Franco.
  • 2007 Best Actress Marion Cotillard fails to earn a nomination for her heartbreaking performance in Rust and Bone. Two possible theories: (1) her death scene in The Dark Knight Rises Norbit-ed her chances, or (2) there was room for only one French-language film performance, Amour’s Riva.
  • Wes Anderson’s romantic, wistful Moonrise Kingdom fails to earn nomination for production design or cinematography. Its sole nomination is for its screenplay.
  • Of the 12 acting categories, only four are first-time nominees Wallis, Riva, Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook) and Hugh Jackman (Les Miserables).

So, what do you think were the biggest snubs or surprises? Weigh in—and also, join me February 24th as I live-tweet the Oscars.