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HomeAwardsMomentum and Surprises at the 85th Oscar Nominations

Momentum and Surprises at the 85th Oscar Nominations


The Oscars took a step toward re-establishing their primacy – or at least their legacy – in the burgeoning “award show” business, which has tended to proliferate almost like college bowl games, in recent years.

But this time, the Academy decided to establish a beachhead by announcing its nominations before the Golden Globe award ceremony, in order to change the calculus, or at least the conversation, about what constitutes momentum in the statue sweepstakes.


Momentum would seem to be with Lincoln, which was nominated for 12 awards, in many of the expected above-the-line categories (Steven Spielberg‘s directing, Daniel Day-Lewis‘ admittedly astonishing lead performance, Tony Kushner‘s historically astute screenplay, etc.) and it did well in below-the-line categories as well, including the production design, costuming, Janusz Kaminski‘s cinematography and Michael Kahn‘s editing. Kahn, Spielberg’s longstanding editor-of-record, is now the most-nominated editor, with this being his eighth nomination.

Other “most/best” records popped up in below-the-line categories, too, with John WilliamsLincoln score giving him more nominations – 48 – than any other living person. Walt Disney himself holds the record at 59.

Thomas Newman was nominated for his score on the latest 007 opus, Skyfall, making the Newman family (Alfred, Lionel, Randy, et al) score a whopping 87 nominations, primarily in music categories. The nomination suddenly begs the question of why the late Sir John Barry‘s iconic scores for such Bond flicks as Goldfinger and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service were never nominated (however, he did win for Born Free and Lion in Winter, back in those swingin’ ’60s), but a lot of Oscar lore – and success – is built on momentum, as much as intrinsic merit.

Anna Karenina

On the music side, nominated composer Dario Marinelli singled out his Anna Karenina director, Joe Wright, and the benefits of longstanding collaborations. “For the fourth time, he has inspired me and made sure I would not miss any of the opportunities his movie opened up for the music,” Marinelli said. “I feel very grateful towards him.”

There is some gratitude among Bond producers as well. Skyfall made an unusual Oscar showing for a 007 flick, and not just for music, with five nominations, with score and song nominations (the latter for Adele‘s near-iconic theme tune), as well as sound editing and mixing, and Roger Deakins’ cinematography.

Rounding out the DP category was Seamus McGarvey‘s work for the aforementioned Anna Karenina, Robert Richardson‘s lensing on Django Unchained and Claudio Miranda for Life of Pi.

Life of Pi

“The director of the film I’m currently working on just texted me,” said McGarvey. “We had a $100 bet that I wouldn’t get nominated, but he texted me that he’s $100 richer! I’m over the moon!”

In the momentum category, Life of Pi was something of a surprise, with 11 nominations, including an expected nomination in the best visual effects category. Also expected was Joe Letteri’s work on The Hobbit, Janek Sirrs and crew’s work on The Avengers, and surprisingly durable contender Snow White and the Huntsman. Richard Stammers and his colleagues round out the VFX category with a nomination for Prometheus, but some surprises were the shut-outs for Cloud Atlas, and this year’s other superhero offerings, the last of the Dark Knight trilogy, and the rebooted Spider-Man.

Not only does Bill Westenhofer and Rhythm and Hues‘ work on Life of Pi become a near frontrunner for the FX statue, but Pi showed resiliency in surviving the Academy’s “culling” of DGA-nominated directors. Ang Lee and Spielberg survived the cut, tethered to their respective films’ best picture nominations.

“I am deeply honored and frankly a little overwhelmed by all of the nominations that Life of Pi has received this morning,” said Lee. “So many talented people gave everything they had to this film, both in front of and behind the camera, and to see all of them receive this kind of recognition is something I am incredibly grateful for.”

Meanwhile Tom Hooper, Ben Affleck and Kathryn Bigelow were all shut out of the best directing Oscar chase, even though Les Miserables, Argo and Zero Dark Thirty, respectively, made the expanded best picture list.

Silver Linings Playbook

On the Oscar side, we have instead Germany’s Michael Haneke nominated for Amour, and indie favorite Benh Zeitlin picked for the strong-out-of-Sundance Beasts of the Southern Wild. David O. Russell was also nominated for Silver Linings Playbook, which, along with Life of Pi, is now the other favorite nipping at Lincoln‘s heels, becoming the first film since Reds to be nominated in every key above-the-line category – picture, director, writing and all four acting categories.

Of course, back in 1981, Reds split key awards with the feel-good Chariots of Fire, which was ultimately that year’s best picture. Whether this year is a feel-good year or one for sober historical reflection – or mythic parable – remains to be seen.

Finally, in the best animated picture category – which didn’t exist in 1981 – studio fare fared well, as Disney scored noms for Pixar‘s Brave, along with studio-side releases Frankenweenie and Wreck-It-Ralph. Sony‘s The Pirates! Band of Misfits rounds out the category, along with seemingly steadily growing critical word-of-mouth for ParaNorman.


Directors Sam Fell and Chris Butler were understandably “overjoyed” at the nomination, and singled out “the amazing crew at LAIKA,” which they hailed as “unique and cutting-edge,” precisely because they weren’t “cutting-edge,” but rather, because they were able to tell their story using “the enduring craft of stop-motion animation.”

Pirates! director Bill Lord had a similar sentiment. “We were trying to do something a little different in terms of tone and comedy, and it’s just brilliant the Academy has responded to it in such a wonderful way,” Lord said.

In addition to announcing early, there were indeed more than a few surprises in the Academy’s “responses” to the past year in film. Whether their capacity for surprises was exhausted in the nomination process, or will continue on Award night itself, will be found out a mere six weeks from today.

The nominations for the 85th Academy Awards are

Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook
Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln
Hugh Jackman in Les Misérables
Joaquin Phoenix in The Master
Denzel Washington in Flight

Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

Alan Arkin in Argo
Robert De Niro in Silver Linings Playbook
Philip Seymour Hoffman in The Master
Tommy Lee Jones in Lincoln
Christoph Waltz in Django Unchained

Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

Jessica Chastain in Zero Dark Thirty
Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook
Emmanuelle Riva in Amour
Quvenzhané Wallis in Beasts of the Southern Wild
Naomi Watts in The Impossible

Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role

Amy Adams in The Master
Sally Field in Lincoln
Anne Hathaway in Les Misérables
Helen Hunt in The Sessions
Jacki Weaver in Silver Linings Playbook

Best Animated Feature Film

Brave, Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman
Frankenweenie, Tim Burton
ParaNorman, Sam Fell and Chris Butler
The Pirates! Band of Misfits, Peter Lord
Wreck-It Ralph, Rich Moore

Achievement in Cinematography

Anna Karenina, Seamus McGarvey
Django Unchained, Robert Richardson
Life of Pi, Claudio Miranda
Lincoln, Janusz Kaminski
Skyfall, Roger Deakins

Achievement in Costume Design

Anna Karenina, Jacqueline Durran
Les Misérables, Paco Delgado
Lincoln, Joanna Johnston
Mirror Mirror, Eiko Ishioka
Snow White and the Huntsman, Colleen Atwood

Achievement in Directing

Amour, Michael Haneke
Beasts of the Southern Wild, Benh Zeitlin
Life of Pi, Ang Lee
Lincoln, Steven Spielberg
Silver Linings Playbook, David O. Russell

Best Documentary Feature

5 Broken Cameras
Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi
The Gatekeepers
Nominees to be determined
How to Survive a Plague
Nominees to be determined
The Invisible War
Nominees to be determined
Searching for Sugar Man
Nominees to be determined

Best Documentary Short Subject

Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine
Kings Point
Sari Gilman and Jedd Wider
Mondays at Racine
Cynthia Wade and Robin Honan
Open Heart
Kief Davidson and Cori Shepherd Stern
Jon Alpert and Matthew O’Neill

Achievement in Film Editing

Argo, William Goldenberg
Life of Pi, Tim Squyres
Lincoln, Michael Kahn
Silver Linings Playbook, Jay Cassidy and Crispin Struthers
Zero Dark Thirty, Dylan Tichenor and William Goldenberg

Best Foreign Language Film of the Year

Amour, Austria
Kon-Tiki, Norway
No, Chile
A Royal Affair, Denmark
War Witch, Canada

Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling

Howard Berger, Peter Montagna and Martin Samuel

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Peter Swords King, Rick Findlater and Tami Lane

Les Misérables
Lisa Westcott and Julie Dartnell

Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Score)

Anna Karenina, Dario Marianelli
Argo, Alexandre Desplat
Life of Pi, Mychael Danna
Lincoln, John Williams
Skyfall, Thomas Newman

Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Song)

“Before My Time” from Chasing Ice
Music and Lyric by J. Ralph

“Everybody Needs A Best Friend” from Ted
Music by Walter Murphy; Lyric by Seth MacFarlane

“Pi’s Lullaby” from Life of Pi
Music by Mychael Danna; Lyric by Bombay Jayashri

“Skyfall” from Skyfall
Music and Lyric by Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth

“Suddenly” from Les Misérables
Music by Claude-Michel Schönberg; Lyric by Herbert Kretzmer and Alain Boublil

Best Motion Picture of the Year

Nominees to be determined

Grant Heslov, Ben Affleck and George Clooney, Producers

Beasts of the Southern Wild
Dan Janvey, Josh Penn and Michael Gottwald, Producers

Django Unchained
Stacey Sher, Reginald Hudlin and Pilar Savone, Producers

Les Misérables
Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Debra Hayward and Cameron Mackintosh, Producers

Life of Pi
Gil Netter, Ang Lee and David Womark, Producers

Steven Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy, Producers

Silver Linings Playbook
Donna Gigliotti, Bruce Cohen and Jonathan Gordon, Producers

Zero Dark Thirty
Mark Boal, Kathryn Bigelow and Megan Ellison, Producers

Achievement in Production Design

Anna Karenina
Production Design: Sarah Greenwood; Set Decoration: Katie Spencer

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Production Design: Dan Hennah; Set Decoration: Ra Vincent and Simon Bright

Les Misérables
Production Design: Eve Stewart; Set Decoration: Anna Lynch-Robinson

Life of Pi
Production Design: David Gropman; Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock

Production Design: Rick Carter; Set Decoration: Jim Erickson

Best Animated Short Film

Adam and Dog, Minkyu Lee
Fresh Guacamole, PES
Head over Heels, Timothy Reckart and Fodhla Cronin O’Reilly
Maggie Simpson in “The Longest Daycare”, David Silverman
Paperman, John Kahrs

Best Live Action Short Film

Asad, Bryan Buckley and Mino Jarjoura
Buzkashi Boys, Sam French and Ariel Nasr
Curfew, Shawn Christensen
Death of a Shadow (Dood van een Schaduw), Tom Van Avermaet and Ellen De Waele
Henry, Yan England

Achievement in Sound Editing

Argo, Erik Aadahl and Ethan Van der Ryn
Django Unchained, Wylie Stateman
Life of Pi, Eugene Gearty and Philip Stockton
Skyfall, Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers
Zero Dark Thirty, Paul N.J. Ottosson

Achievement in Sound Mixing

John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff and Jose Antonio Garcia

Les Misérables
Andy Nelson, Mark Paterson and Simon Hayes

Life of Pi
Ron Bartlett, D.M. Hemphill and Drew Kunin

Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom and Ronald Judkins

Scott Millan, Greg P. Russell and Stuart Wilson

Achievement in Visual Effects

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton and R. Christopher White

Life of Pi
Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan De Boer and Donald R. Elliott

Marvel’s The Avengers
Janek Sirrs, Jeff White, Guy Williams and Dan Sudick

Richard Stammers, Trevor Wood, Charley Henley and Martin Hill

Snow White and the Huntsman
Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, Philip Brennan, Neil Corbould and Michael Dawson

Adapted Screenplay

Screenplay by Chris Terrio

Beasts of the Southern Wild
Screenplay by Lucy Alibar & Benh Zeitlin

Life of Pi
Screenplay by David Magee

Screenplay by Tony Kushner

Silver Linings Playbook
Screenplay by David O. Russell

Original Screenplay

Written by Michael Haneke

Django Unchained
Written by Quentin Tarantino

Written by John Gatins

Moonrise Kingdom
Written by Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola

Zero Dark Thirty
Written by Mark Boal

Documentary Feature

The Gatekeepers
Dror Moreh, Philippa Kowarsky and Estelle Fialon

How to Survive a Plague
David France and Howard Gertler

The Invisible War
Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering

Searching for Sugar Man
Malik Bendjelloul and Simon Chinn

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