BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — The Civil War saga Lincoln leads the Academy Awards with 12 nominations, including best picture, director for Steven Spielberg and acting honors for Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field and Tommy Lee Jones.
Also among the nine nominees for best picture Thursday: the old-age love story Amour; the Iran hostage thriller Argo; the independent hit Beasts of the Southern Wild; the slave-revenge narrative Django Unchained; the musical Les Miserables; the shipwreck story Life of Pi; the lost-souls romance Silver Linings Playbook; and the Osama bin Laden manhunt chronicle Zero Dark Thirty.
Harvey Weinstein produced two of the nine best picture nominees — Django Unchained and Silver Linings Playbook — and was naturally pleased.
“I am blown away! I can’t say thank you enough to the Academy for their support of our films,” he said in a statement. “We have a tremendous group of actors and filmmakers who we had the pleasure of working with this year and I am so happy that their achievements are being recognized.”
Life of Pi surprisingly ran second with 11 nominations, ahead of Zero Dark Thirty and Les Miserables, which had been considered potential front-runners.
“It’s a great surprise. I’m deeply honored. Eleven really surprised me. But it’s a good surprise. I’m very happily surprised,” Ang Lee, director of Life of Pi, said by telephone from Los Angeles.
More surprising were snubs in the directing category, where three favorites missed out: Ben Affleck for Argo and past Oscar winners Kathryn Bigelow for Zero Dark Thirty and Tom Hooper for Les Miserables. Bigelow was the first woman ever the win the directing Oscar for 2009’s The Hurt Locker, while Hooper won a year later for The King’s Speech.
The best-picture category also had surprising omissions. The acclaimed first-love tale Moonrise Kingdom was left out and only got one nomination, for original screenplay. Also snubbed for best-picture was The Master, a critical favorite that did manage three acting nominations for Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams and Philip Seymour Hoffman.
Two-time winner Spielberg earned his seventh directing nomination, and also in the mix are past winner Lee for Life of Pi and past nominee David O. Russell for Silver Linings Playbook. The other slots went to surprise picks who are first-time nominees: Michael Haneke for his French-language Amour and Benh Zeitlin for Beasts of the Southern Wild.
“It’s great company, and there’s some surprises. But it’s great company and it’s an honor to line up with them,” said Lee.
Amour also was a best-picture surprise. The film, which won the top prize at last May’s Cannes Film Festival, mainly had been considered a favorite in the foreign-language category, where it also was nominated. Amour had five nominations, including original screenplay and best-actress for Emmanuelle Riva.
The year’s second-biggest box-office hit, The Dark Knight Rises, was shut out entirely, even for visual effects. The omission of its predecessor, The Dark Knight, from best-picture consideration for 2008, was largely responsible for the expansion of the Oscar category from five nominees to 10 the following year. The Dark Knight had earned eight nominations and won two Oscars.
Chronicling Abraham Lincoln’s final months as he engineers passage of the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery, Lincoln stars best-actor contender Day-Lewis in a monumental performance as the 16th president, supporting-actress nominee Field as the notoriously headstrong Mary Todd Lincoln and supporting-actor prospect Jones as abolitionist firebrand Thaddeus Stevens.
Joining Day-Lewis in the best-actor field are Bradley Cooper as a psychiatric patient trying to get his life back together in Silver Linings Playbook; Hugh Jackman as Victor Hugo’s tragic hero Jean Valjean in Les Miserables; Phoenix as a Navy vet who falls in with a cult in The Master; and Denzel Washington as a boozy airline pilot in Flight.
Cooper had been a bit of a longshot. John Hawkes, a potential best-actor favorite, missed out for his role as a man in an iron lung aiming to lose his virginity in The Sessions.
Nominated for best actress are Jessica Chastain as a CIA operative hunting bin Laden in Zero Dark Thirty; Jennifer Lawrence as a troubled young widow struggling to heal in Silver Linings Playbook; Riva as an ailing woman tended by her husband in Amour; Quvenzhane Wallis as a spirited girl on the Louisiana delta in Beasts of the Southern Wild; and Naomi Watts as a mother caught up in a devastating tsunami in The Impossible.
Best actress had a wild age range: Riva is the oldest nominee ever in the category at 85, while Wallis is the youngest ever at 9.
Along with Field, supporting-actress nominees are Adams as a cult leader’s devoted wife in The Master; Anne Hathaway as an outcast mother reduced to prostitution in Les Miserables; Helen Hunt as a sex surrogate in The Sessions; and Jacki Weaver as an unstable man’s doting mom in Silver Linings Playbook.
Besides Jones, the supporting-actor contenders are Alan Arkin as a wily Hollywood producer in Argo; Robert De Niro as a football-obsessed patriarch in Silver Linings Playbook; Hoffman as a dynamic cult leader in The Master; and Christoph Waltz as a genteel bounty hunter in Django Unchained.
Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane, who will host the Feb. 24 Oscars, joined Emma Stone to announce the Oscar lineup, and he scored a nomination himself, original song for Everybody Needs a Best Friend, the tune he co-wrote for his big-screen directing debut Ted.
“That’s kind of cool I got nominated,” MacFarlane deadpanned at the announcement. “I get to go to the Oscars.”
Walt Disney predictably dominated the animated-feature category with three of the five nominees: Brave, Frankenweenie and Wreck-It Ralph. Also nominated were ParaNorman and The Pirates! Band of Misfits.
“I’m absolutely blown away,” Rich Moore, director of Wreck-It Ralph said by phone. “It is weird at 5:30 in the morning to hear Emma Stone say your name. It’s surreal.”
The Oscars feature a best-picture field that ranges from five to 10 films depending on a complex formula of ballots from the 5,856 voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Winners for the 85th Oscars will be announced Feb. 24 at a ceremony aired live on ABC from Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre.