The Oscars: Silver Linings Surprise

Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence face tough competition in their Oscar categories.

Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence face tough competition in their Oscar categories.

Today’s Oscar nominations ran the risk of being little more than an echo of yesterday’s BAFTA announcement.  But there was no way the Academy would allow itself to be overshadowed, so what it’s given us is a number of categories following the script, mixed with a few surprises – and the inevitable omissions.

The acting categories are more or less as you would expect.  Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln continues to put even more daylight between himself and the rest of the competition for the Best Actor statuette.  The competition comes in the expected shapes of Hugh Jackman (Les Miserables), Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook) and Joaquin Phoenix (The Master).  But Ben Affleck in Argo misses out and is replaced by Academy favourite, Denzel Washington in Flight.

Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty), Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook) and Emmanuelle Riva (Amour) all make the cut for Best Actress, but BAFTA nominees Helen Mirren and Marion Cotillard are replaced by Naomi Watts for her Golden Globe nominated role in The Impossible and Quvenzhane Wallis for Beasts Of The Southern Wild.  In fact, this year’s Best Actress category contains the oldest nominee ever for the award – Emmanuelle Riva is 85 – and the youngest, as Miss Wallis is just nine.

Playing a movie mogul has to increase Alan Arkin’s chances of winning his second Best Supporting Actor Oscar – the Academy always loves anything to do with the industry.  But all the contenders are previous winners – Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained), Robert De Niro (Silver Linings Playbook), Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln) and Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master) – so he won’t necessarily have it all his own way.

The Supporting Actress category also runs to form, with Sally Field (Lincoln), Amy Adams (The Master), Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables) and Helen Hunt (The Sessions) all in contention.  They’re joined by Jackie Weaver from Silver Linings Playbook, who replaces BAFTA’s choice, Judi Dench.

It’s the Best Director category that raises more than a few eyebrows.  No Kathryn Bigelow for Zero Dark Thirty, despite being tipped as a contender, which means there’s no chance of her pulling off the double again this year.  No Quentin Tarantino for Django Unchained, although it’s been touted as a return to form.  And, much to my personal surprise, no Ben Affleck for Argo.  That he doesn’t get a nod in the Best Acting category is no real surprise, but I really expected to see him shortlisted for directing.  Instead, Steven Spielberg is alongside Ang Lee (Life of Pi) and Michael Haneke (Amour), together with David O Russell (Silver Linings Playbook) and Benh Zeitlin (Beasts Of The Southern Wild).

The Best Picture category contains a total of nine films, all of which are nominated elsewhere, so there are no big surprises.  Thankfully, Argo is on this list, as is Amour which, although shortlisted for the Best Foreign Language Film, has successfully broken out of that category and received the most coveted nomination of the lot.  Could the Academy fall in love with the French all over again, after last year’s flirtation with The Artist?  The Palme D’Or winner has just four nominations, but they are all major ones.

The other Best Picture nominees are much as you would expect – Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, Les Miserables, Zero Dark Thirty, Life of Pi, Django Unchained and the outsider, Beasts Of The Southern Wild.  The latter is one of this year’s pleasant surprises: with awards under its belt from Cannes, plus the Grand Jury prize at Sundance, it’s no lightweight, but it would be an even bigger upset than Crash (2006) if it won.

Silver Linings Playbook is the other surprise, with a strong showing of eight nominations, including all four acting awards. Admittedly, it’s slightly less than its Golden Globe haul of ten, but the Globes have separate categories for comedy/musical, unlike the Oscars – and the Academy is notoriously tight-fisted when it comes to giving actual awards to lighter productions.  We’ll see whether its Globe nominations translate into actual awards on Sunday night.

But, at the moment, all roads seem to be leading to Lincoln.  It’s ahead of the field again, this time with 12 nominations, closely followed by Life Of Pi with 11.  However, a nomination is one thing and winning an award is quite another.  As Steven Spielberg will tell you, you can receive a whole clutch of nominations, and walk away from the ceremony completely empty handed.  Though it’s probably a fair bet that he won’t be repeating that experience this year.

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