|Best Original Screenplay nominee: Moonrise Kingdom|
Who will Win: This is definitely a talented group of nominees, and strong group of writers. Sadly, only one can come out on top, and that's probably going to be big winner of the night Zero Dark Thirty.
Who SHOULD Win: Though I can't yet give Amour or ZD30 the critique they deserve (soon, I promise), I loved both Django and Moonrise Kingdom, the latter of which lost out on a much-deserved Best Picture nod. I would not be disappointed if either stole the trophy.
What Should be There: Flight was a fine movie, but it was also extremely ordinary, with only the acting performances making it the hit it was. In a category that regularly gives credit to offbeat, imaginative fare, a nod to Rian Johnson for his sci-fi thriller Looper would have been much deserved. Or perhaps even Martin McDonagh's wildly irreverent Seven Psychopaths.
|Best Adapted Screenplay nominee: Beasts of the Southern Wild|
Who will Win: This is a tough race, with five Best Picture nominees vying for their first major win of the night. With that in mind, it will likely be Kushner's adaptation of "Team of Rivals" that takes it home.
Who SHOULD Win: Again, this is a tough choice, but of the five movies on this list, the one I loved the most (and largely because of its deft, authentic writing) was Argo. Terrio did a great job putting this experience down on paper, and was a huge reason the film has gotten so much love.
Who was Snubbed: Sure, it would have been a dark horse candidate, especially in such a deep field of nominees, but I wouldn't have minded if Life of Pi had been dropped and an underrated, more artistically penned screenplay had made the cut, Steven Chbosky's The Perks of Being a Wallflower. It certainly would have been a better selection than the comically-overrated Pi.
|Best Foreign Film nominee: Amour|
As with most years, the Foreign Language Film category has one major contender and a handful of minor hopefuls. This year it is Palme D'or winner Amour that holds the honor of fairest of them all (it's also nominated for Best Picture), but there is some actual competition from long shots A Royal Affair and No. However, either of them winning would take a groundswell of public support, which seems unlikely. Kon-Tiki and War Witch are negligible nods at best, which makes the snub of international powerhouse The Intouchables such a surprise. The French film, which broke box office records overseas before putting up decent numbers stateside, would have been a strong contender for the prize had it been nominated. Instead, Amour will take it easily.
|Best Animated Feature nominee: Wreck-It Ralph|
Who will Win: In what was an amazing upset in 2012, Disney animation actually managed to beat Pixar at its own game of creating wholly original worlds and characters and infusing them with a great story and humor that worked for kids and adults. For that reason alone, they deserve to take home the statue for Wreck-It Ralph.
Who SHOULD Win: It's actually a tough race, and I won't feel bad if Wreck-It Ralph wins (quite the opposite, actually), but I was extremely and pleasantly surprised with the quality of stop-motion animated film ParaNorman. If anybody was going to pull an upset, it should be those the guys and gals from LAIKA.
What are YOU doing there? In what was definitely a big year for animated films, I think I speak for everybody when I am SHOCKED at the nomination of Pirates!, a move that officially shut Dreamworks completely out of the category. Pirates! certainly deserved the nod more than Rise of the Guardians or Hotel Transylvania, but that it managed to draw attention to itself after a disappointing theatrical run is a miracle in and of itself. Mayhaps The Academy felt bad for snubbing the excellent Arthur Christmas last year, but whatever their reason I hope it helps this underrated comedy find a second life on home media.
|Best Supporting Actress nominee: Anne Hathaway|
Who will Win, and SHOULD: She sings! She acts! She's simply astounding! The role might not have been the biggest in Les Miserables, but Anne Hathaway wowed everybody who watched Tom Hooper's revamped big screen musical with a powerful, emotional performance that broke your heart and never quite let you recover. She also has a strong set of lungs, no doubt surprising most viewers with her vocal abilities.
Fancy Seeing YOU Here! Though I thought she did a wonderful job as a sex surrogate in The Sessions, I never actually expected Helen Hunt to collect a nomination for her performance. It was a pleasant surprise for the all-but-overlooked gem, and Hunt put together a glorious comeback performance. Weaver was also a surprise, though her limited screen time and lack of major presence in Silver Linings obscures exactly how she got in. Frankly, I thought she was more effective in The Five Year Engagement, and I CERTAINLY wouldn't have nominated her for THAT.
Who was Snubbed: While I am all for Amy Adams, Hathaway and Hunt, there were a large number of ladies eligible for nomination passed over for the less-impactful Weaver and the overly-dramatic Sally Field. Helen Mirren (Hitchcock), Maggie Smith (Best Exotic Marigold Hotel or Quartet) and Judi Dench (Skyfall) would have all been viable alternatives, every one of them a game changer who made their films far more entertaining seemingly without effort. Maybe the Academy just didn't want Hathaway to see any competition. If so, then she'd better win.
|Best Supporting Actor nominee: Philip Seymour Hoffman|
Who will Win: Another tough category, though I fully expect The Master's lone major win to come here. Philip Seymour Hoffman is one of the greats, and was easily the best part of Paul Thomas Anderson's uneven narrative.
Who SHOULD Win: If there's any upset here, I truly hope it goes to Tommy Lee Jones, whose portrayal of congressman and noted abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens was a surprise even among a cast that featured dozens of quality and talented performers.
Who was Snubbed: There were a number of snubs, and while none would likely have toppled Hoffman, they're still too numerous to ignore. Maybe Javier Bardem (Skyfall) and Matthew McConaughey (Magic Mike) were a bit too outside the box for The Academy, but names I'm shocked didn't make the cut include Leonardo DiCaprio (no offense, Christoph) for Django, John Goodman (instead of Arkin) for Argo, and either Sam Rockwell or Christopher Walken for Seven Psychopaths instead of De Niro's good-but-not-THAT-good turn in Silver Linings. And while I'm not surprised by now that Salmon Fishing in the Yemen star Amr Waked was avoided, his performance was one of the most unheralded of the year. He should have had a serious shot at recognition.
|Best Directing nominee: Steven Spielberg|
Who will Win: Putting out his best movie in almost two decades, Steven Spielberg should be all but guaranteed to cross the stage when the winner is announced. He's won twice before, but Lincoln is one of those impossible-to-avoid titles and Spielberg deserves much of the credit for doing it right.
Who MIGHT Win: Michael Haneke and Ben Zeitlin were both surprise nominees for this award, and both no doubt harbor dark horse aspirations. If either of these directors takes the prize I doubt many people will cry foul.
Who was Snubbed, and Might Have Won: The biggest shocker of the nomination announcements might have been the snubbing of three favored contenders: Tom Hooper for Les Miserables, Ben Affleck for Argo, and Kathryn Bigelow for Zero Dark Thirty. Bigelow was the biggest upset, as her film was largely considered among critics to be the best of the year. Whether it still can win without a director's nod is a mystery for now.
|Best Actress nominee: Jessica Chastain|
Who will Win: Despite the question surrounding her film's Best Picture chances, there's no doubt that Jessica Chastain will walk away with her first ever Oscar next month.
Who Could Upset: Actually, it's a VERY tough category, as you've got three young up-and-comers, an industry veteran, and the oldest ever Best Actress nominee fighting for attention. Chastain and Lawrence are both young talented women with long futures (and likely more nominations) ahead of them. Wallis is also talented, but a novelty at this point and shouldn't be considered a serious contender. The Impossible isn't exactly breaking down box office numbers, so Watts likely won't win this time. Keeping that in mind, Riva could topple the crowd if the the votes go exactly the right way. That would be a huge upset, albeit extremely unlikely.
Who was Snubbed:Actually, this was one of the more benign categories of the night. Sure, I could force the issue and toot my own personal picks as having been overlooked (Silent House's Elizabeth Olsen, Friends With Kids' Jennifer Westfeldt, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen's Emily Blunt, For a Good Time, Call...'s Ari Graynor), but frankly the Academy made the best picks they possibly could. Some have called for Marion Cotillard in Rust and Bone, but I doubt enough people really care.
|Best Actor nominee: Joaquin Phoenix|
Who will Win: In a position similar to that of Meryl Streep last year, Daniel Day-Lewis is by far the best performer nominated. He's already won twice before (for My Left Foot and There Will Be Blood), but to be frank he hands down deserves this one.
Who was Snubbed and SHOULD Win: This was the snub that bothered me the most. It was the perfect opportunity for The Sessions' John Hawkes. His biggest rivals, Day-Lewis and Denzel Washington, are two-time Oscar winners who the Academy would be hesitant to award given a reasonable alternative. Hawkes could have been that alternative; not only does he put forth a performance that is emotionally and physically demanding, but he's proving to be one of those rare consistent talents just reaching his peak. Michael Fassbender was in a similar position last year when his excellent performance in Shame was unfortunately overlooked. But while Fassbender is still a young talent with a long future ahead of him, Hawkes is an industry veteran who deserved this shot. Instead, he'll be sitting on the sidelines.
Who ELSE was Snubbed: Alfred Hitchcock will be ignored at yet another Academy Awards celebration this year. The difference from previous shows is that this time he would have been portrayed by Anthony Hopkins, as critics never quite got on board with his work in Hitchcock. I don't get why; as his perfect imitation and mix of humor and dramatics made for one of the most under-appreciated performances of the year. Also, while Jack Black (Bernie) was an extreme long shot, it should be noted that he had one of his all-time best performances in 2012.
|Best Picture nominee: Silver Linings Playbook|
Who will Win: It will have to overcome the obstacle of its director not getting an Oscar nod, but despite that and the manufactured scandals about its stance on torture the winner for this award will most likely be Zero Dark Thirty.
Who SHOULD Win: Once again, I've yet to see ZD30 or Amour, though I have seen everything else. If these two live up to the hype when I see them in the coming weeks, I'll be okay with either taking home the prize. If not, then my loyalty will lean more towards two other non-nominated directors in Argo and Django Unchained.
Who was Snubbed: There weren't a whole lot of surprises in these nominations, and even with the movies I haven't yet caught, this is a much, MUCH stronger field than the Academy put forth last year. I might have switched out one quirky indie for another, as I thought Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom was oodles better than Beasts of the Southern Wild. Otherwise I've got no issue with the selections.
Finally, a few random notes:
- The Dark Knight Rises didn't garner a single nomination. Perhaps the Academy could see past the Christopher Nolan-inspired hype and understand the truth: the conclusion to his Batman trilogy wasn't THAT good.
- See, this is why the Oscars don't have younger viewers. How much you want to bet that if box office juggernaut Marvel's The Avengers had been directed by James Cameron, it would have gotten a Best Picture nod? It'll have to settle for Best Visual Effects.
- Does anybody besides sound engineers actually know what the difference between Sound Mixing and Sound Editing is?
- I think it's great that Maggie Simpson in "The Longest Daycare" was nominated for best Animated Short, but I still hope it loses out to Disney's Paperman, which I could watch on endless loop and still be brought to happy tears.
- Sorry, Best Original Score nominees, but the best soundtrack all year belongs to a film that's sadly ineligible: Pitch Perfect.
- He's going to lose to Adele, but can you imagine a world in which we call him "Academy Award Winner Seth MacFarlane"? That's crazier than "Academy Award Winner Bret McKenzie" or "Academy Award Winner Eminem".
- Both Snow White adaptations got Best Costume nods. It is my sincerest hope that they both lose.
That's it! What did you think of the nominations? Who were your biggest surprises and snubs?