'Lincoln' leads the way as 'Amour' feels the love
In a rare display of unpredictability, the nominations for the 2013 Oscars delivered a number of surprises, though ‘Lincoln’ still looks certain to assert its authority
Well whack me in the head with a drunken key grip. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences actually managed to spring a few surprises at the 2013 Oscar nominations yesterday. We do not speak of Fodhla Cronin O’Reilly’s nomination in the best short animation category. Mentioned for the charming Head Over Heels – co-directed with Timothy Reckart – O’Reilly is just the latest in a line of Irish film-makers to compete in the animated-short competition. Good for her. Seamus McGarvey, Armagh’s most gifted cinematographer, secured a nod for his lavish work on Anna Karenina. This is his second nomination and he will get many more. We can afford to be blasé about that established professional’s continuing success.
Nor are we particularly surprised that Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln topped the nominations chart with 12 nods. Already the holder of two Oscars, Spielberg is Hollywood royalty and his latest picture pushes all the Academy’s most conspicuous buttons. It’s a period piece. It’s about a liberal icon. It’s directed by somebody over 50. It’s bum-numbingly long. Just back up the truck, Steve, and we’ll load the noms on the back. Daniel Day-Lewis, who plays Lincoln, is now odds-on favourite to take the best actor prize and become the first man to win three such Oscars.
Elsewhere, however, prognosticators found themselves distinctly inconvenienced. The biggest turn-up was the astonishing performance by Michael Haneke’s Amour: the picture picked up five nominations including best picture and best director. Leaving aside the special case of Clint Eastwood’s Letters from Iwo Jima, the last such film to receive a best-picture nomination was the action-filled Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in 2000.
When, in the mid-1990s, Haneke emerged as the most austere of European film-makers, only a lunatic would have predicted that he would persuade the Academy to go properly foreign. The film is less relentlessly puzzling than earlier Haneke pieces but it is no less forgiving in its unsentimental gaze.
Few Oscar stories in recent years have been as delightful as the news that Emmanuelle Riva, star of Amour, and Quvenzhané Wallis, lead in Beasts of the Southern Wild, will be sharing space in the best actress enclosure. Riva, who turns 86 on the night of the Oscars, is the oldest person ever to secure a best actress nomination. Wallis, just nine, is the youngest to enjoy that honour. They’d better get used to the sight of one another. Every photographer in Hollywood is going to nudge them together when they turn up at awards-season jamborees.
Beasts of the Southern Wild also did significantly better than expected. A wild, noisy, surreal adventure, set in a biblically flooded version of the American south, Benh Zeitlin’s modestly budgeted picture won prizes at Sundance and Cannes, but has failed to register at many of the pre-Oscar awards bashes. The picture has now secured four nominations.
If you wanted proof that the Academy is capable of sideswiping observers then the best director category is the one to study. Since the number of best picture nominations was expanded from five, these films have been regarded as the real best pictures. Spielberg was certain of mention. Ben Affleck, director of Argo, also seemed sure of a place. There was no way Kathryn Bigelow, whose Zero Dark Thirty secured raves, would not be in the final running. In the event, neither Ben nor Kathryn was mentioned. Zeitlin and Haneke now speed up the inside rail to become serious contenders.
What in the name of heaven is going on? The growing political controversy surrounding Zero Dark Thirty, favourite for the top prize as recently as one month ago, may have damaged its chances in the main race. Bigelow’s study of the hunt for Osama Bin Laden begins with scenes of CIA-sponsored torture. Some commentators have detected an implied endorsement of water-boarding. Bigelow and Mark Boal, the film’s writer, have angrily denied the accusations, but some mud may have stuck. The downgrading of Argo – a film that celebrates Hollywood – is harder to explain.
It may seem weird to associate the success of a film made by a septuagenarian Austrian with a lowering of the age demographic at the Academy. But the warm feeling for Amour, and Beasts suggests that those voters have finally opened themselves up to less conventional entertainment. The downside is that this sector may, by favouring those two films, have shuffled a potential masterpiece into the sidelines. When Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master premiered to acclaim at the Venice Film Festival it looked to have a good shot at taking the big prizes. In the event, it failed to register in either the best director or best picture race. Lincoln now looks more likely than ever to take best picture. Tom Hooper’s Les Misérables appeared certain to come second in the nomination race. The lavish musical, in fact, finished third behind Ang Lee’s Life of Pi and David O Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook. Now that Affleck, Hooper and Bigelow have all failed to receive directing nods, the road looks clear for Spielberg.
Then again, this is shaping up to be the least predictable year in recent Oscar history. Could Amour or Beasts actually win? No. Stranger things really haven’t happened. Sorry to burst the bubble.
Oscars 2013 A selection of the nominations
Amour; Argo; Beasts of the Southern Wild; Django Unchained; Les Misérables; Life of Pi; Lincoln; Silver Linings Playbook; Zero Dark Thirty
Actor in a Leading Role
Bradley Cooper – Silver Linings Playbook; Daniel Day-Lewis – Lincoln; Hugh Jackman – Les Misérables; Joaquin Phoenix – The Master; Denzel Washington – Flight
Actress in a Leading Role
Jessica Chastain – Zero Dark Thirty; Jennifer Lawrence – Silver Linings Playbook; Emmanuelle Riva – Amour; Quvenzhané Wallis – Beasts of the Southern Wild; Naomi Watts – The Impossible
Actor in a Supporting Role
Alan Arkin – Argo; Robert De Niro – Silver Linings Playbook; Philip Seymour Hoffman – The Master; Tommy Lee Jones – Lincoln; Christoph Waltz – Django Unchained
Actress in a Supporting Role
Amy Adams – The Master; Sally Field – Lincoln; Anne Hathaway – Les Misérables; Helen Hunt – The Sessions; Jacki Weaver – Silver Linings Playbook;
Animated feature film
Brave; Frankenweenie; ParaNorman; The Pirates! Band of Misfits; Wreck-It Ralph
Anna Karenina – Seamus McGarvey; Django Unchained – Robert Richardson; Life of Pi – Claudio Miranda; Lincoln – Janusz Kaminski; Skyfall – Roger Deakins;
Amour – Michael Haneke; Beasts of the Southern Wild – Benh Zeitlin; Life of Pi – Ang Lee; Lincoln – Steven Spielberg; Silver Linings Playbook – David O Russell
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
Amour – Michael Haneke; Django Unchained – Quentin Tarantino; Flight – John Gatins; Moonrise Kingdom – Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola; Zero Dark Thirty – Mark Boal
5 Broken Cameras; The Gatekeepers; How to Survive a Plague; The Invisible War; Searching for Sugar Man
Foreign Language Film
Amour – Austria; Kon-Tiki – Norway; No – Chile; A Royal Affair – Denmark; War Witch – Canada