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Oscar Nominations for the Year 2012: Reactions

Wow. As someone who’s become pretty good at predicting the Academy Awards over the years, I don’t think I ever could have foreseen the craziness of this year’s nominations.  

To start, let’s tackle the BEST PICTURE race:

Beasts of the Southern Wild
Django Unchained
Les Miserables
Life of Pi
Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty
I predicted 8/9 of these nominees to get in (missed Amour for The Master). A pretty eclectic group of nominees if you ask me, though the general theme seems to be history: who made it and how it was made. Five movies: Argo, Django Unchained, Les Miserables, Lincoln, and Zero Dark Thirty concern themselves with either real-life historical events or historical fiction. This theme is a bit of a repeat of last year, with The Artist, The Help, Hugo, and Midnight in Paris having significant nods to history. Perhaps this isn’t a surprise considering the median age of the average academy member is 62, but it’s an interesting trend nonetheless.  
The clear frontrunner at the moment is Lincoln. The Spielberg-helmed historical drama about Honest Abe leads the pack with 12 nominations overall, edging out 11 nominations for Life of Pi, the spiritual adventure film about a boy and his tiger. These two were expected nominations in this category, as were Argo, Les Miserables, Silver LInings Playbook, and Zero Dark Thirty. Django Unchained has proven to be an audience and industry favorite, so it’s no surprise it got in. The last two slots went to quiet indie dramas that have been enormously successful with critic groups: Amour and Beasts of the Southern Wild. Foreign language films hardly ever make it into this category, and Amour is the first since Clint Eastwood’s Letters from Iwo Jima in 2006 (though some count The Artist from last year).  The drama about a couple growing old together and facing death is heavy stuff, and so is Beasts of the Southern Wild. Led by 6-year-old Quvenzhane Wallis, the indie drama first received acclaim at Cannes and Sundance.  

Initial Winner Prediction:

These indie dramas are usually near the bottom of most Best Picture lineups, having little to no chance of winning, but this year may be different, especially when you see the list for BEST DIRECTOR:

Michael Haneke for Amour
Ang Lee for Life of Pi
David O. Russell for Silver Linings Playbook
Steven Spielberg for Lincoln
Benh Zeitlin for Beasts of the Southern Wild
If you would have told me as recently as one day ago that Ben Affleck and Kathryn Bigelow would be snubbed for Best Director this year, I would have laughed in your face and told you to save the Oscar predictions for the big kids. However, the Academy completely shook things up and snubbed both Affleck and Bigelow for Argo and Zero Dark Thirty respectively, despite both movies getting into Best Picture.  It seems reasonable to assume that Quentin Tarantino (Django) and Tom Hooper (Les Mis) would be nominated in their place, considering their status in Hollywood and the success of their films. Nope, the Academy went in another direction entirely and nominated the directors of those same two small indie films: Michael Haneke for Amour and Benh Zeitlin for Beasts.  These movies were assumed to be outside contenders looking in, let alone their directors.  So it’s a huge surprise that they show up here in a top 5 list.  This might be the biggest shocker in a category in a very long time, but it also clears the path for an inevitable Spielberg victory, with Lee slightly behind.  Were Affleck or Bigelow nominated, they honestly could have given him a run for his money, but the academy may still be prejudiced against the young actor turned director and the woman they awarded for a similarly-themed movie just three years ago. We’ll never know.


Initial Winner Prediction:

Tomorrow I will be discussing the acting races, which have their fair share of snubs and surprises as well.


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