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Oscar Nominations for the Year 2012: Acting Categories

To continue my Oscar nominations coverage, I will delve into the hotly contested acting categories, starting with BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:

Alan Arkin as Lester Siegel in Argo
Robert De Niro as Pat Solitano, Sr. in Silver Linings Playbook
Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Lancaster Dodd in The Master
Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens in Lincoln
Christoph Waltz as Dr. King Schultz in Django Unchained
This was one of the categories I actually nailed 5/5 in predictions. And this also marks the first category in Oscar history where every nominee has won before, one of many records broken in this year’s nominations.  Arkin, Hoffman and Jones had received nominations from the Golden Globes, the SAG awards, the Critics Choice, and the BAFTAs, which are usually strong indicators that they’ll be supported at the Oscars as well.  Arkin is an industry favorite who, despite not doing much in Argo, has enough of a screen presence to get in.  Hoffman essentially plays a version of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard in The Master and it’s one of the best performances of his career.  Jones is the only actor playing a real-life person whose philosophy about slavery and equal rights most mirrors our own, making him one of the most relatable characters in Lincoln.  On paper, Robert De Niro plays “the dad” role in Silver Linings Playbook but his years of experience and expressive face help to elevate the role significantly. He has always been embraced by the academy, having two Oscars already and he may very well add a third next month.  Waltz has been a last minute contender in this race, with many predicting co-star Leonardo DiCaprio months before the Django had even come out.  Waltz, who already won an Oscar for another Tarantino production Inglourious Basterds, plays a similar character here, which may explain his presence here.  Early buzz for a winner has been on Tommy Lee Jones, but De Niro and Hoffman are right on his tail.

Initial Winner Prediction:
Amy Adams as Peggy Dodd in The Master
Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln in Lincoln
Anne Hathaway as Fantine in Les Miserables
Helen Hunt as Cheryl Cohen-Greene in The Sessions
Jacki Weaver as Dolores Solitano in Silver Linings Playbook
A surprisingly weak category in a year of great performances. I went 4/5 here, missing Jacki Weaver for Judi Dench in Skyfall.  Since Anne Hathaway was cast as Fantine in Les Miserables, critics and awards geeks were hailing her as the winner of Best Supporting Actress at the Oscars, as if it was a foregone conclusion.  The role of Fantine is traditionally one of the most tragic characters in Les Miserables, spanning the Victor Hugo novel, the stage musical and now the film adaptation.  Usually these types of frontrunners that people predict six months in advance never end up panning out, but Hathaway has sustained her buzz and she’s currently winning critics awards left and right, so she’s way out in front to win at the moment. As far as the rest, Sally Field and Helen Hunt have been nominated for almost everything this season, playing notoriously histrionic Mary Todd Lincoln and sex-surrogate Cheryl respectively.  These actresses have both won before, but it has been at least 15 years since either has been nominated.  Amy Adams has received off-and-on support for her work in The Master as the sometimes timid sometimes domineering wife of “The Master”, and this marks her fourth nomination in eight years, a truly remarkable feat.  And finally, we’ve come to the biggest WTF in any acting category in the form of Jacki Weaver.  Look, she’s a good actress, she’s been nominated here just two years ago in Animal Kingdom but she has very little to do in Silver Linings Playbook.  Her strange Edith Bunker-esque performance has received no attention from anyone, critics or industry, outside of the academy.  If anything, this proves that academy voters absolutely loved SLP and wanted to reward it in everything it could.  Perhaps it doesn’t matter since Hathaway has this all but locked up anyway, but it’s certainly a bold choice for the academy.
Initial Winner Prediction:
Moving on to the lead categories, for BEST ACTOR we have:
Bradley Cooper as Pat Solitano, Jr. in Silver Linings Playbook
Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln in Lincoln
Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean in Les Miserables
Joaquin Phoenix as Freddy Quell in The Master
Denzel Washington as William ‘Whip’ Whitaker in Flight
Another 5/5 prediction!  Much like Hathaway, once Daniel Day-Lewis was announced as playing ABRAHAM LINCOLN in a film by STEVEN SPIELBERG, the Oscar was essentially set in stone.  The notoriously method actor reportedly read hundreds of books about our nation’s greatest president to prepare for the role and he absolutely transforms himself in Lincoln.  Though winning a third Oscar is rare, there shouldn’t be any doubt that he’ll be winning his third next month. Despite this, he does have some competition from each of his fellow nominees, especially Cooper and Phoenix.  Cooper, star of numerous poorly-reviewed comedies, surprised everyone in Hollywood with his starring-turn in Silver Linings Playbook. Playing a man with bipolar disorder who desperately wants to see his wife, he has truly never been better and in another year he might have won.  Phoenix is an interesting case.  His publicized hatred of the Oscars (to which he later renounced) persuaded many people to take him out of the running for his brilliant performance in The Master but the performance was too good to ignore.  Jackman and Washington, two much-beloved actors in Hollywood have received universal acclaim for their roles, and it’s hard to deny Jackman’s level of commitment to his role, but Day-Lewis is simply too strong.
Initial Winner Prediction:
Finally, the nominees for BEST LEAD ACTRESS:
Jessica Chastain as Maya in Zero Dark Thirty
Jennifer Lawrence as Tiffany Maxwell in Silver Linings Playbook
Emmanuelle Riva as Anne Laurent in Amour
Quvenzhane Wallis as Hushpuppy in Beasts of the Southern Wild
Naomi Watts as Maria Bennett in The Impossible
4/5 here, missing Riva for Marion Cotillard in Rust and Bone.  This is an interesting category this year, as none of these names would be recognizable four years ago, aside from Watts.  Ironically, Watts seems to be the least likely to win, with each of her fellow nominees turning out better, star-making performances.  For a few months the two frontrunners have been Chastain and Lawrence.  Chastain’s incredible breakout year in 2011 (The Tree of Life, Take Shelter, The Help, for which she received her first nomination) has another outstanding performance in Zero Dark Thirty as a CIA agent obsessed with capturing Osama bin Laden.  Lawrence has had an incredible year with The Hunger Games making her a household name and her performance in Silver Linings Playbook as a widow with her own set of issues is perhaps her best yet.  And then we have Riva and Wallis, who made history as the oldest and youngest nominees ever in this category, Riva at 85 and Wallis at 9.  Both are huge cases for the power of #1 votes, as they each has passionate support behind them.  Either of them could sneak up and take the Oscar from the two J’s.  As of right now, I think I would give Lawrence the edge, considering how much Silver Linings Playbook overperformed in nominations, and how much Zero Dark Thirty underperformed.
Initial Winner Prediction:
Stray Observations:
-Silver Linings Playbook definitely overperformed with 8 nominations, becoming the first to have a nominee in each acting category since Reds in 1981. It’s definitely right on Lincoln‘s tail.
-Something that nobody seems to be talking about is Life of Pi scoring 11 nominations. People have been underestimating the film from the start, but it definitely has a chance to spoil.
-With “Skyfall” getting in for Best Original Song, could we have Oscar-winner Adele?!
-Speaking of which, congrats to Skyfall for getting the most nominations for any James Bond movie with five.
-It’s kind of funny how The Dark Knight‘s snub in 2008 made the academy extend the number of Best Picture nominations past five and then its sequel The Dark Knight Rises got completely shut out this year.
-No Cloud Atlas in Best Original Score, Best Makeup or Best Visual Effects is a real shame.
-Regardless of who they forced out, it’s awesome to see small movies like Amour and Beasts of the Southern Wild get significant recognition…
-…but at the same time, no Affleck or Bigelow?! Really, academy?! Really?!
-The actual announcement of the nominations was the best ever, with Seth Macfarlane and Emma Stone really stepping it up and making them entertaining. And very cool making them in no particular order.

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