Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook
Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
Hugh Jackman, Les Misérables
Joaquin Phoenix, The Master
Denzel Washington, Flight
Daniel Day-Lewis, being Daniel Day-Lewis has probably got a lock on this category. At this point, the Irish actor has pretty much made Oscar his bitch. He’s been nominated for Best Actor five times and has won twice before. He just took home the British Academy of Film and Television Award and the Golden Globe for Best Actor. His only real competition comes from Bradley Cooper, whose seriocomic turn in Silver Linings Playbook has received much critical praise. It seems doubtful, though, that many in Hollywood will want to hand an Oscar to a guy whose next film is The Hangover, Part III. Joaquin Phoenix hates Hollywood and the feeling is kinda mutual. (He recently called the Oscars “the stupidest thing in the world” in an interview with Interview magazine.) Washington was quite good playing against type in Flight, but the film didn’t generate enough pre-Oscar buzz. Hugh Jackman was the best singer in Les Misérables, but this is an Oscar not a Grammy.
Who got snubbed? John Hawkes certainly deserved a nod for his impressive physical work as a quadriplegic poet in The Sessions. No reason why he shouldn’t be here. Richard Gere got a lot of critical attention for his work in the financial thriller Arbitrage, but the film didn’t get seen by enough people. Finally, Leonardo DiCaprio obviously had a blast playing a racist villain in Django Unchained. He should have landed a Best Supporting Actor nomination, but got to sleep with Bar Refaeli instead.
Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty
Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
Emmanuelle Riva, Amour
Quvenzhané Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild
Naomi Watts, The Impossible
It’s neck-and-neck between Chastain and Lawrence (and a couple of lovely necks they are). Chastain has probably got the edge, having lost Oscar gold for her great supporting role in 2011’s The Help. This year, she’s already locked up the BAFTA and the Golden Globe. To be perfectly honest, her role in Zero Dark Thirty isn’t as nuanced as Lawrence’s in Silver Linings Playbook. But the momentum seems to be behind the much-admired Chastain. Talented as she is, Lawrence is young and has another Hunger Games film on the horizon to console her. The other actresses appeared in films too small to really give them a credible shot—although it would be mighty cool to see 9-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis become the youngest Oscar winner in history.
All in all, this is a well deserving bunch of nominees. It’s hard to come up with many ladies who got ignored. French actress Marion Cotillard was far and away the best thing about Rust and Bone, but the film was a tonal muddle—which is probably why fellow Frenchwoman Emmanuelle Riva walked away with the nomination for her performance in the devastating Amour.
Amour, Michael Haneke
Django Unchained, Quentin Tarantino
Flight, John Gatins
Moonrise Kingdom, Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola
Zero Dark Thirty, Mark Boal
Argo, Chris Terrio
Beasts of the Southern Wild, Lucy Alibar & Benh Zeitlin
Life of Pi, David Magee
Lincoln, Tony Kushner
Silver Linings Playbook, David O. Russell
Odds are high that Best Adapted Screenplay will go straight to Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Tony Kushner (Angels in America). He did an exemplary job adapting snippets of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals to the big screen. Argo could make a good argument as well, having snapped up a ton of critics choice awards. And David O. Russell might be a dark horse favorite. But if you’re gonna bet, bet on the guy with a Pulitzer.
Every year, I’m tempted to just hand the Best Original Screenplay award to Wes Anderson. But the nostalgic Moonrise Kingdom may have been a bit too twee for a lot of voters. That puts Django Unchained and Zero Dark Thirty in something of a photo finish. The advantage should go to Tarantino, who gets his third Best Original Screenplay nomination here. He won it once before for Pulp Fiction, and he got shut out of this year’s Best Director category, so expect him to nab this as consolation prize—and deservedly so.
Which writers got snubbed? Stephen Chbosky certainly did a beautiful job adapting the teen angst drama The Perks of Being a Wallflower. (He better have, he wrote the book.) Rian Johnson’s stylishly twisty screenplay for the time travel flick Looper wouldn’t have looked at all out of place in the Best Original Screenplay category. Both would have been fine additions.
Amour, Michael Haneke
Beasts of the Southern Wild, Benh Zeitlin
Life of Pi, Ang Lee
Lincoln, Steven Spielberg
Silver Linings Playbook, David O. Russell
Zeitlin, Russell and Haneke are all too outsidery to secure enough votes in Hollywood. Fans of edgy cinema probably split their votes among those films anyway. That leaves Lee and Spielberg. Lee’s been nominated three times, has won once (for 2005’s Brokeback Mountain). Spielberg has been nominated for Best Director seven times. He’s won twice (for 1999’s Saving Private Ryan and 1994’s Schindler’s List). Advantage: Spielberg. Funny thing is, both of them lost the BAFTA and the Golden Globe to Ben Affleck—who, yup, isn’t even nominated. Which brings us to ...
Snubs: There are a lot of them in this category. Keep in mind, the Academy Awards can nominate up to 10 films in the Best Picture category and only five in Best Director. Somebody’s bound to get left off the list. This year it was Ben Affleck (Argo), Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty), Quentin Tarantino (Django Unchained) and Tom Hooper (Les Misérables). The most egregious snub seems to be Affleck, though, who’s seen his stock rise mightily during awards season.
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Life of Pi
Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty
Lincoln seems to be the safe choice—particularly if Spielberg captures Best Director—but Argo has been doing gangbusters in other awards shows, sweeping up statues at BAFTA and the Golden Globes. With Ben Affleck missing from the Best Director category, that gives Argo a major leg up in the night’s biggest race. Oddsmakers around the world have Argo’s chances at almost dead even (hovering between 1 in 1.12 and 1 in 1.20)
The point of increasing the Best Picture category from five to a possible 10 nominations was to include more popular, big-budget fare. Surprising then that Academy voters only managed to locate nine films this year. Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises and Joss Whedon’s The Avengers have both been mentioned as hugely popular Best Picture choices. But the obvious missing picture here is Sam Mendes’ perfect revamping of the James Bond franchise in Skyfall. Why no love for 007, Oscar? We know you love a man in a tux.