The Oscar nominees have been announced. The 2013 line-up was delivered by Seth Macfarlane, creator of Family Guy, and actress Emma Stone, whose presence apparently comforted her co-host “since there’s nothing creepier than a guy standing by himself in Hollywood at 5am in the morning.” Macfarlane’s gag was among the first in a peculiar act involving actresses, Hitler and inebriation, perhaps inspired by Ricky Gervais’ dark but ticklish presentation at the 2011 Golden Globes. It felt a little more contrived, but the audience sounded like they enjoyed it.
There are nine nominees this year, from big-budget epics to the wonderfully frivolous. The most predictable nominations were those of Lincoln, Les Misérables, Zero Dark Thirty and Argo as well as the less expected Life of Pi. These heavy-weights are also competing against Amour and Beasts of the Southern Wild – the import and the small-scale. The selection of Amour is both unusual and refreshing. Where we would normally expect to see a French-language film only running in the Foreign Language category, Amour has the chance to win both accolades. The other two usurping nominees are the (very) long and (very) violent Django Unchained, and Silver Linings Playbook, a People’s Choice Award champion.
Long-standing directors Steven Spielberg and Ang Lee make their presence known, nominated for Lincoln and Life of Pi respectively. David O. Russell (S L Playbook) returns after missing out on Best Director in 2010. Austrian born Michael Haneke, the art-house master who directed Palme d’Or winner, Amour, has also been honoured.
Lastly, when the nomination of Benh Zeitlin (B o t S Wild) was announced, it excited murmuring in the audience, with at least one discernible ‘wow’. Zeitlin turned thirty last October and has just one feature-length to adorn his portfolio, and he faces seasoned competitors at least double his age, each having directed anywhere between 10 to the Spielbergian figure of 30 full-length films. This doesn’t mean the six thousand-odd Oscar voters are being generous, quite the opposite. To involve a fresh director who has made the arduous climb up through Sundance and Cannes shows that the Academy can frame an honest competition between five visionaries, based solely on their most recent efforts.
Those nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role include Hugh Jackman in Les Misérables, Bradley Cooper in S L Playbook and Denzel Washington in Flight. Also nominated is Joaquin Phoenix for playing Freddie Quell in The Master, Nouse Film’s “seminal performance” of 2012. As for the victor, most are betting on Daniel Day-Lewis, the British-Irish nominee. He won a Golden Globe for his portrayal of the 16th President of the United States in Lincoln, and could be the closest a Briton (even half) could get to the limelight at the Oscars.
Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Those nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role are Christoph Waltz, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Robert De Niro, Alan Arkin and Tommy Lee Jones. All of these men are past Oscar winners, as flagged by Macfarlane’s wry aside: “breath of fresh air in that category.” A more adventurous pick could have been that of the 16-year-old Tom Holland for his highly praised performance as Lucas in The Impossible. Despite the inclusivity of the Oscars this year, Holland is denied the chance to be the Haley Joel Osment of 2013. Instead, a young actress champions the youth.
The nominees for Best Actress in a Leading Role include Jessica Chastain in Z D Thirty, Jennifer Lawrence in S L Playbook and Naomi Watts in The Impossible. The two remaining actresses are the oldest and youngest ever selected by the Academy: 85 year old Emmanuelle Riva for her performance in Amour while 9 year old Quvenzhane Wallis is voted for B o t S Wild. It’s hard to guess who will get the Oscar here. Except for Wallis, all actresses have received nominations before. But then again, Chastain got the Globe.
Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Jackie Weaver, Helen Hunt, Amy Adams, Sally Field and Anne Hathaway are the nominees. Like the corresponding award for men, these women have all been nominated in the past, with Hunt and Field alone being winners.
Other Awards Nominations
While not completely excluded from the most publicised awards, it is a distinct pattern that British films such as Anna Karenina, Skyfall and Les Miserablés speckle the nominations list for their technical qualities. Many nominations for technical excellence mirror the responses of Nouse Film reviewers. As expected, the fluorescent Life of Pi runs for Best Visual Effects, challenging the shiny sci-fi Prometheus (the foremost of its few redeeming features). The feeling is also mutual that The Hobbit (3 nominations, all aesthetic) makes a less moving start to the LoTR series than The Fellowship of the Ring, with 9 nominations including Best Picture in 2001.
We might be surprised to see The Dark Knight Rises completely excluded from the list, as was the weird and wonderful Holy Motors (our “art house masterpiece” of 2012). It is a shame that it cannot join Amour, it’s Palme d’Or competitor on the other side of the Atlantic. But of course, just reflecting on Amour’s success reminds us that the Academy has broken from the script this year, and not only in the Best Picture category.
If, according to Xan Brooks of The Guardian, “the Globes write the script that the Academy then follows,” perhaps we can refine our predictions of the overall winners based on the Golden Globe awardees announced 13th January. Even if one doesn’t place importance on the Academy Awards, and to varying extents most cinema-lovers do, to share these predictions is to engage in a big social debate. The Oscars can after all evoke admiration or dislike of a film, even a feeling of injustice for those excluded.
Overall, this first Oscars ceremony is about more than confirming projections and informing predictions. It celebrates the work of those nominated, an achievement in itself. Thanks to accessible internet databases like IMDb and Wikipedia, even this runner-up prize will give a picture some minor place in movie history. Awards institutions plot the dots on the technocultural film web, ready for future admirers to find.
The principal Oscar nominees for 2013 are Lincoln (12), Life of Pi (11), Silver Linings Playbook (8), Les Misérables (8) and Argo (7). Django Unchained, Zero Dark Thirty and Amour are each running for 5 Oscars.