Thoughts by category (at least categories I can comment on) about half an hour after the reveal of the nominees:
Original Screenplay: Moonrise Kingdom‘s only nomination, which is a shame. Personally would have dumped Flight, which had a screenplay that tended to drift toward schmaltz and didn’t quite earn its ending, for something exciting that wouldn’t win, such as Rian Johnson’s Looper script, which would get the Inception treatment (i.e. nerds love that it got nominated and rage when it doesn’t win, even though it never had a chance in the first place) from a couple years ago.
Adapted Screenplay: Nothing particularly surprising here. Though I do believe the Life of Pi screenplay is pretty terrible. Would have liked to see something like The Perks of Being a Wallflower there.
Technical Awards (Visual Effects, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Makeup, Production Design, Costume Design): Lots of Hobbit, lots of Life of Pi, nothing particularly surprising here either. This is always where you see the weird one-off nominations, like Avengers and Prometheus. It is odd that we could now hear the phrase “The Academy Award nominated Mirror Mirror”
Music (Original Song): I’ve listened to “Suddenly” (the Les Miserables song that was clearly written so they could get nominated for this category) a couple times on the soundtrack, and it is SO UNGODLY TERRIBLE (and not even particularly well sung by Mr. Jackman). Here’s hoping Adele can win here, because we don’t want to reinforce bad behavior.
Music (Original Score): I feel like there could be an alternate universe where Alexadre Desplat could have represented more than half of the nominees (he scored Argo, Zero Dark Thirty and Moonrise Kingdom in 2012, among others). I would rather have seen his Moonrise Kingdom score get the nod over Argo, but that’s not the biggest of deals. Just hoping (as always) that John Williams doesn’t win.
Foreign Language Film: Ah, the old case of stacking the deck. Amour was nominated for both Best Foreign Language Film and Best Picture. None of the other films are nominated for Best Picture. It literally has to win this category or the internal logic of the whole nominating process just collapses (I also probably shouldn’t be thinking much about logic when it comes to Oscar nominees, but this is still a slam dunk).
Film Editing: Here’s one of the categories I wouldn’t be upset with a Lincoln win; the editing job during the climactic vote-casting sequence was quite well done. Life of Pi, on the other hand… Django should have gotten the nom here, if only because it’s better. Also, William Goldenberg’s got two shots here, as editor of Argo and co-editor of Zero Dark Thirty. I’d hope he wins for the latter, but I have a feeling this won’t be a good year for middle east war pictures.
Cinematography: You know, you can love or hate The Master. I totally understand both sides. It didn’t particularly move me, but I’ve heard and read enough to see that there were people who were genuinely changed by it. I know it’s getting backlashed into oblivion. But it’s probably the single most beautiful looking film released this year, and yet no nomination for Cinematography. I would bump Anna Karenina or Lincoln, which are nice, but not game changers.
Animated Film: At least the Oscars got it right. The Golden Globes shamefully nominated Rise of the Guardians and Hotel Transylvania over The Pirates! Band of Misfits and ParaNorman. The Oscars fixed that. Interestingly, there are more stop motion films (Frankenweenie, ParaNorman and The Pirates! Band of Misfits) nominated this year than CG films (Brave and Wreck-it Ralph). I do love me some stop motion, so this is pretty great.
Supporting Actress: No surprises. Nothing to see here.
Supporting Actor: Even less surprises. Literally nothing to see here (Alan Arkin? Really? Did he actually act at all in Argo? This is like the one time I’m pissed off DiCaprio wasn’t nominated. Or Sam Jackson for that matter). Yawn.
Best Actress: They went with Old/Young split, as some thought they might (Emmanuelle Riva is the oldest ever nominee, and Quvenzhane Wallis is the youngest), but the real battle is between Chastain and Lawrence. Or at least it should be.
Best Actor: Hugh Jackman really doesn’t deserve this, right? I mean, he’s okay, and his acting’s fine, but his singing voice (and the fact that he was forced to sing “Suddenly,” which I am bringing up again only to have another chance to comment on HOW BAD IT IS) leaves something to be desired. I think it’s awesome that both Bradley Cooper and Joaquin Phoenix were nominated. I think it’s a shame Jamie Foxx and John Hawkes were not nominated. I think they will all enjoy Daniel Day Lewis’ acceptance speech.
Director: What the hell happened here? Weren’t Kathryn Bigelow and Ben Affleck locks? This is the only shocking category. In a year where big name filmmakers like Bigelow, Affleck, PT Anderson and Quentin Tarantino all put out Best Picture nominees, the idea that they would not get nominated is crazy. I still need to see Amour, so I can’t exactly comment on Haneke, but did Benh Zeitlin really deserve a nomination here?
Picture: It seems like Amour bumped Moonrise Kingdom from the field, which is a bit of a shame. What we have here are seven strong films, an eighth I haven’t seen (Amour), and Life of Pi. Which really should be The Master or Moonrise Kingdom. But you can’t win ’em all.
- This is the second straight David O. Russell film that yielded four acting nominations (The Fighter gave us Whalberg for Best Actor, Bale for Best Supporting, and Amy Adams and Melissa Leo for Supporting Actress. Bale and Leo won), but the first to hit all four categories (Cooper in Best Actor, Lawrence in Best Actress, De Niro in Supporting Actor and Weaver in Supporting Actress), the first to do so since 1981. It’s funny, because David O. Russell is so famous for being a giant dick to everyone on set, but now he’s becoming The Actors’ Director, with eight noms in two films. So bizarre.
- The Master got some acting noms, and that’s it. I still don’t know what to think about it, but I do feel like it deserved more than three piddling nominations.
- Remember when Argo had all that momentum? This is a case of it being released too early, right? I know it’s still in theaters, but I feel like it would have been able to ride the momentum wave a little better if it had a November or early December release. Of course, it still could have been swallowed up in the Zero Dark Thirty parade, which actually seems to have been legitimately hurt by all the Washington bellyaching over the torture scenes. It’s fascinating.
- I do get it, but there should really be a rule that a foreign language film nominated for Best Picture can’t also get nominated for Best Foreign Language Film. If that happens, just bump it and add the sixth on the list to the official nominations. Just works better that way.
- I have a sneaking suspicion Lincoln is just going to steamroll everyone. Which isn’t the end of the world. It’s a decent enough Spielberg film to make a run like this. It’s just kinda…blah compared to the other films. I won’t be upset (I’ll be upset if Life of Pi wins somehow), but I won’t be particularly happy either. The disappointment comes when it snipes some of the smaller categories (Cinematography and Film Editing, specifically) away from the more deserving Skyfalls and Zero Dark Thirties of the world.
Actual predictions will come after the Globes this weekend. Anything else would be premature.