This morning’s announcement of the 85th Annual Academy Awards sure had a lot of surprises to keep us on our toes. As they did last year, the academy went with nine Best Picture nominations: “Argo,” “Lincoln,” “Les Miserables,” “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” “Django Unchained,” “Life of Pi,” “Zero Dark Thirty,” “Silver Linings Playbook” and Best Foreign Language nominee “Amour” for the ninth slot, which beat out other contenders like “The Master,” “Moonrise Kingdom” and “Skyfall.”
“Lincoln,” as it has been with the rest of awards nominations, led the pack with 12 nominations closely followed by “Life of Pi” with 11 and then “Silver Linings Playbook” and “Les Miserables” each with eight.
The biggest shake-up came in the Best Director category where the academy really wanted to show off their love for “Amour” and “Beasts of the Southern Wild” as both Michael Haneke and Benh Zeitlin made their way into the category. Joining them was Steven Spielberg for “Lincoln,” David O. Russell for “Silver Linings Playbook” and Ang Lee for “Life of Pi.” This left room for major snubs including Ben Affleck for “Argo” and Kathryn Bigelow for “Zero Dark Thirty” who were both widely predicted to get in. Also left out were Tom Hooper for “Les Miserables” and Quentin Tarantino for “Django Unchained.”
The “Beasts” and “Amour” love continued into the record-setting Best Actress category as both the youngest, Quvenzhane Wallis at 9, and oldest, Emmanuelle Riva at 85, nominated actresses made it in. Joining them were Naomi Watts for “The Impossible,” Jennifer Lawrence for “Silver Linings Playbook” and Jessica Chastain for “Zero Dark Thirty.” Marion Cotillard for “Rust and Bone,” widely expected to get nominated, was left hanging.
Joaquin Phoenix for “The Master” ended up getting his nomination for Best Actor alongside the front-runner of Daniel Day-Lewis for “Lincoln,” Denzel Washington for “Flight,” Hugh Jackman for “Les Miserables,” and Bradley Cooper for “Silver Linings Playbook.” This left out John Hawkes for “The Sessions,” predicted to make it in the category over Phoenix.
“Skyfall” wasn’t able to crack any of the major categories, as the greatest hope was for Javier Bardem to sneak into Best Supporting Actor. Instead, the nominees were Robert De Niro for “Silver Linings Playbook,” Tommy Lee Jones for “Lincoln,” Alan Arkin for “Argo” and Christoph Waltz got in for “Django Unchained” over Leonardo DiCaprio or Samuel L. Jackson.
The Best Supporting Actress category included Anne Hathaway for “Les Miserables,” Helen Hunt for “The Sessions,” Sally Field for “Lincoln,” Amy Adams for “The Master” and filling the fifth up-for-grabs slot was Jacki Weaver for “Silver Linings Playbook.” Weaver’s inclusion in the category means that “Silver Linings” is the only movie to have an actor nod in each category.
John Gatins for “Flight” received a surprise nomination in the Best Original Screenplay category along with Michael Haneke for “Amour,” Wes Anderson for “Moonrise Kingdom,” Quentin Tarantino for “Django Unchained” and Mark Boal for “Zero Dark Thirty.” Left out was Paul Thomas Anderson for “The Master” and Rian Johnson for “Looper.”
Best Adapted Screenplay included Chris Terrio for “Argo,” Tony Kushner for “Lincoln,” Lucy Alibar and Benh Zeitlin for “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” David Magee for “Life of Pi” and David O. Russell for “Silver Linings Playbook.” No surprises in there.
“Skyfall” wasn’t completely left out as it nabbed five technical nominations including Roger Deakins for cinematography, Thomas Newman for score, Adele’s theme for song and then sound mixing and editing.
It’s also curious that with all the love for “Beasts,” the score from Dan Romer and Benh Zeitlin didn’t get a nomination.
What does all this mean for the race to Best Picture? Well, “Zero Dark Thirty” and “Argo,” the front-runners before today, can now be both counted out as each of those directors weren’t nominated. Simple logic tells us the new front-runners are “Lincoln” and “Life of Pi” as they received the most nominations. “Pi” is still a far cry, however, as “Lincoln” has always had the awards momentum from the beginning. It was easier to ignore before, but now with other top contenders having lost their steam, Steven Spielberg’s historical drama is now the one to beat.
The real competition for “Lincoln” comes from David O. Russell’s “Silver Linings Playbook,” which received a huge boost with its collection of nominations nabbing nods for all four actors, director, editing and writing along with Best Picture.
The 85th Annual Academy Awards air live at the Dolby Theatre on Sunday, Feb. 24 at 8 p.m. on ABC hosted by Seth MacFarlane. Check here for a full list of nominations.