Just how unusual are the nominees for the 85th Academy Awards? Consider this:
Argo, the heavy favorite to win Best Picture (and a slew of other Oscars) did not receive a Best Director nomination for Ben Affleck. If the film wins, it will join the select group of movies ( Wings, Grand Hotel and Driving Miss Daisy) that snagged the big prize by seemingly directing themselves.
Silver Linings Playbook, an admittedly cracked and divisive rom-com but still a rom-com is the first movie since Reds to earn nominations in all four acting categories, along with Best Picture and Best Director.
Amour, director Michael Hanekes grim exploration of old age and death, earned a surprising five nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actress for Emmanuelle Riva, making her the oldest nominee in this category in Oscar history.
Beasts of the Southern Wild, a low-budget movie starring a bunch of nonprofessional actors, enters tonight with four nominations, including Best Director for first-timer Benh Zeitlin and Best Actress for Quvenzhané Wallis, who was 6 years old during filming and is now 9, making her the youngest nominee in this category in Oscar history.
Sure, the usual Oscar-fodder films centered on history or social events are accounted for: Steven Spielbergs magnificent Lincoln has 12 noms, and Kathryn Bigelows terrorism drama Zero Dark Thirty has five. But neither one is expected to take home Best Picture, befitting a year in which the song for a James Bond movie (Adeles Skyfall) will win an Oscar for the first time in the franchises 50-year history.
Heres a rundown of the six major categories. Most years, these are fairly easy to call after the slew of industry awards that have been handed out leading up to tonight. This year, though, expect a major upset. Or three.
The one guaranteed, bet-the-farm lock tonight will be Daniel Day-Lewis trophy for his uncanny portrayal of the 16th U.S. president in Lincoln. This will be the actors third Oscar, which would tie Jack Nicholsons record. A couple of other nominees are worthy when I saw The Master in September, I couldnt imagine anyone but Joaquin Phoenix winning this one but Day-Lewis performance humanizes one of the most iconic figures in U.S. history, and he does it in a humble but commanding manner. There is no stopping this train.
Should win: Day-Lewis.
Will win: Day-Lewis.
Jessica Chastain was the early front-runner for her portrayal of a driven CIA agent who is instrumental in tracking down Osama bin Laden in Zero Dark Thirty. But the controversy surrounding the movie about its depiction of torture and boneheaded criticisms that her character is a cipher with no inner life have derailed her chances. That opened the door for Jessica Lawrence to take the lead with her performance as a manic-depressive widower in Silver Linings Playbook. But that movie is a love-hate proposition people who dont like it really dont like it and even with Harvey Weinsteins formidable marketing muscle behind it, Oscar prospects have dimmed. The edge now rests with Amours Riva, who has been making movies for 50 years and whose portrayal of a woman who suffers a stroke and loses her dignity is among her best ever. Also, the Academy clearly loves the movie. And Riva happens to turn 86 today. What better birthday gift than an Oscar?