By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com January 10, 2013 at 11:47AM
The announcement of the Academy Award nominations is many things, but rarely is it dull. Every time it looks like the precursors are pointing to a predictable line-up, the Academy finds a way to throw a spanner in the works, and skip over those who seemed like sure-fire locks, while nominating those who might have otherwise been overlooked by prognosticators and predictors.
And in a year as competitive as this one, it was doubly true, so we've rounded up some of the most notable omissions and surprises of this year's crop. Anything you were raising your eyebrow about? Were your own favorites left off? Sound off in the comments section below.
This is the big one, which virtually no one saw coming. Best Director was the most competitive category in years, but most had assumed that two of the safest nominees among them were Kathryn Bigelow and Ben Affleck, helmers of "Zero Dark Thirty" and "Argo." Bigelow was a winner only three years ago, and Affleck's arrival as a filmmaker had been celebrated all over the shop. Both were included in almost all of the precursor awards, including the DGA and certainly many thought that Affleck had a good chance at winning the award (especially once BAFTA went and nominated him as director and actor yesterday). But both missed out. Bigelow may have been a victim of the "'Zero Dark Thirty' is pro-torture" campaign, but we given the quality of the job he did, we're honestly baffled by Affleck's miss. Maybe it's a question of his stardom working against him?
The Best Picture field was actually one of the more rock-solid categories this year; everyone agreed on the top six, and there was certainly a certain amount of agreement in recent days on "Django Unchained" and "Beasts of the Southern Wild." So the most notable snub for the big prize (given that we were never convinced by "Skyfall"'s chances there) has to be "Moonrise Kingdom," which people had been tipping since Cannes to be Wes Anderson's first nominated film, and this year's equivalent to "Midnight In Paris." It did well in the precursors (PGA, NBR etc), but ultimately seemingly couldn't capture enough first place votes to make the cut. Maybe "Grand Budapest Hotel" will do the trick, Wes?
For almost a year, since "The Sessions" (then called "The Surrogate") premiered at Sundance, John Hawkes was said to be a virtual lock for an Oscar nomination. As the paralyzed man looking to build a sex life, he overcomes the baitier aspects of the role to create a wonderful turn, and that had been reflected in nominations from the SAG, the Golden Globes and many others. But "The Sessions" never performed up to expectations, and had begun to lose steam of late, so, while co-star Helen Hunt was nominated, Hawkes missed out in favor of Joaquin Phoenix. A shame certainly, but given he already has a nod for "Winter's Bone," we're sure Hawkes will be back.
The French actress, and Oscar-winner for "La Vie En Rose," was never quite a sure thing in one of the more fluid, tricksy categories. But she'd won praise for her turn in Jacques Audiard's "Rust & Bone" since Cannes, and Sony Pictures Classics fought hard for her, lining up multiple tributes to the actress at Telluride, the AFI and the Gotham Awards, among others, and it seemed to be paying off. But it always felt like only one French actress from a Sony Pictures Classics picture would make the cut, and in the end, Cotillard was beaten out by Emmanuelle Riva, as well as Quvenzhane Wallis and the late-surging Naomi Watts.
A colorful bad guy is always a good shortcut to an Oscar nomination -- see recent winners Heath Ledger, Javier Bardem and Christoph Waltz. But not so much this year. Despite a SAG nomination, the Academy seemed to find Bardem's turn in "Skyfall" a little too similar to his winning performance in "No Country For Old Men," while Leonardo DiCaprio lost out to co-star Christoph Waltz (also a previous winner, like everyone in the category) for his "Django Unchained" turn. DiCaprio had been on the ropes for a while, once The Weinstein Company walked back their decision to campaign Waltz as lead (mark our words, DiCaprio would have got the nom if that had remained the case), but it still caused a raised eyebrow or two to see the actor miss out here.
"Looper" & "Perks Of Being A Wallflower"
The screenplay categories always have some fun curveballs (see "Bridesmaids" last year), and after their WGA nominations, many were expecting the well-liked "Looper" and "The Perks Of Being A Wallflower" to pick up nominations in Original and Adapted Screenplay respectively, even if they were unlikely to figure in elsewhere. Sadly, they both missed out; Rian Johnson's script replaced by "Amour" and "Flight," Stephen Chbosky's by "Beasts of the Southern Wild" and "Life Of Pi." There was always a degree of wishful thinking to the idea of them being nominated, but it was still disappointing to the films' fans.
Honestly, this is one of the ones we were most surprised by. A giant, giant hit around the world (it was the 13th biggest grossing film worldwide last year, beating "Prometheus" and "Snow White & The Huntsman" to over $400 million), the French comedy was, while not especially well reviewed by U.S. critics, a big favorite of Harvey Weinstein's, especially once it beat out "Rust & Bone" to be picked by the French committee. And yet it ultimately missed out on the final five, with "Kon-Tiki" (another popularist TWC picture) taking its place.
"Rise of the Guardians"
With DreamWorks Animation expected to take a huge write-off on this season's animated disappointment, there was more bad news for the studio today. They'd campaigned hard for a nomination in the category for a film that, while it had middling reviews and disappointing box office, they hoped would appeal to the animators' branch. But whether it was the box office, or the film just not being well liked enough, it missed out, making it the first time in three years that a DreamWorks film didn't make the cut. With three films from arch-rivals Disney among the final five, that has to hurt.
Without the nomination-happy ensemble of "Lincoln" and "Silver Linings Playbook," "Zero Dark Thirty" was never going to challenge those films for number of nominations. But with the film missing out on Best Cinematography (as well as sound mixing and, as we said above, director), it suggests that, while the film picked up five nominations, the Academy didn't take it to their hearts in the way that the critics did. A Best Picture victory is probably a long shot at this point.
"The Dark Knight Rises"
Last year, Warner Bros hoped that the final "Harry Potter" film would benefit from a "Return of the King" effect, and see some added recognition from the Academy. It didn't pay off, but the studio had their fingers crossed that they'd get a different result for "The Dark Knight Rises" -- after all, Christopher Nolan's last Bat-film won two Oscars and was nominated for a further eight, while "Inception" was among the Best Picture picks two years ago. But in fact, the film was a washout with the Academy and for the first time since "Insomnia," a Nolan film failed to win a single Oscar nomination. Maybe "Interstellar" is the one that'll break the duck...