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Snubs and surprises shake up Oscar race

The Oscars are often predictable, but this year’s nominations were marked by some surprising snubs (Marion Cotillard, John Hawkes, Kathryn Bigelow, “Intouchables”) and inclusions. FRANCE 24 film critic Jon Frosch offers a closer look.


The Oscars tend to be a mostly predictable affair, with major categories dominated by one or two frontrunners and a bunch of other films and performances just “happy to be recognised”.

This year’s crop of nominees, announced on Thursday, are not exactly an exception: Steven Spielberg’s sombre, magisterial “Lincoln” picked up a whopping 12 nods; its star, Daniel Day Lewis, looks like a Best Actor shoo-in for his astonishingly lived-in, slyly humorous turn in the title role; and prognosticators say Anne Hathaway might as well pick up her Best Supporting Actress statuette (for her portrayal of the doomed Fantine in Tom Hooper’s “Les Misérables”) right now.

But there were also some surprises, snubs, and clues that point to a slightly less clear-cut race than we have come to expect from the film world’s most obsessively buzzed-about award ceremony, to take place on February 24 in Los Angeles.

Lots of love for ‘Amour’

Michael Haneke’s austere French-language drama “Amour”, winner of last year’s Palme d’Or at Cannes, got enough votes from Academy members to make it into the Best Picture field, despite subtitles and dreary subject matter (aging, illness and death). It’s exceedingly rare for films that are not in English to be nominated in the main category; Clint Eastwood’s “Letters for Iwo Jima” (Japanese) in 2007, Ang Lee’s “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” (Mandarin) in 2001, and Roberto Benigni’s “Life is Beautiful” (Italian) in 1999 are three movies that managed the feat over the past two decades.

The Academy’s evident affection for the film could potentially shake up the Best Actress field, as well. Fresh off a handful of critics’ prizes, “Amour”’s leading lady Emmanuelle Riva (the legendary 85-year-old French star of Alain Resnais’ “Hiroshima, Mon Amour”) looks increasingly like a distinguished dark horse in what was previously predicted to be a two-woman race between Jessica Chastain’s scrappy CIA operative in “Zero Dark Thirty” and Jennifer Lawrence’s feisty widow in “Silver Linings Playbook”. The Oscars have a history of rewarding actors who play disabled or ailing characters, and in “Amour”, Riva does both -- wrenchingly.

It came as somewhat of a surprise, then, that the Academy snubbed Riva’s compatriot Marion Cotillard (who won Best Actress in 2008 for playing Edith Piaf in “La Vie en rose”), who gave a searing performance as a wheelchair-bound woman in love in Jacques Audiard’s “Rust and Bone”.

Similarly, John Hawkes was missing from the Best Actor slate, though his work as a paralysed man on a mission to lose his virginity in “The Sessions” was thought to be ideal “Oscar bait”.

Kathryn Bigelow, ‘Intouchables’ shut out

Perhaps the most conspicuous omissions, however, were in the Best Director category. Kathryn Bigelow, who became the first woman to take home the award in 2010 for “The Hurt Locker”, was shockingly shut out, though “Zero Dark Thirty”, her brilliant CIA procedural about the decade-long hunt for bin Laden, was nominated for Best Picture. That unfortunate oversight may have been the price to pay for weeks of rather fruitless debate over whether or not the film glorifies torture.

Ben Affleck, who directed the much-praised Iran hostage thriller “Argo”, and Quentin Tarantino, the man behind spaghetti western riff “Django Unchained”, were also left off the list, though their films earned Best Picture nods.

Those exclusions made room for Benh Zeitlin, the 30-year-old director of the stirring and distinctive “Beasts of the Southern Wild”, as well as David O. Russell, whose sparkling screwball romance “Silver Linings Playbook” picked up 8 nominations.

One slight likely greeted with sighs of relief from critics -- but gasps of surprise in France -- came when the nominations for Best Foreign Film were read out, and French submission “Intouchables” was not among them. That well-intentioned but hopelessly trite interracial-buddy film had been widely expected to figure on the list.

“Amour”, though in French, was an Austrian submission (as per director Haneke’s nationality) and picked up a nod in the category -- meaning it has a chance, albeit a very slim one, of taking home both the Best Picture and Best Foreign Film awards.

The full list of nominees:

Best Picture
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Django Unchained
Les Miserables
Life of Pi
Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty


Best Actor
Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook
Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
Hugh Jackman, Les Miserables
Joaquin Phoenix, The Master
Denzel Washington, Flight

Best Actress
Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty
Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
Emmanuelle Riva, Amour
Quvenzhane Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild
Naomi Watts, The Impossible

Best Supporting Actor
Alan Arkin, Argo
Robert DeNiro, Silver Linings Playbook
Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Master
Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln
Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained

Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams, The Master
Sally Field, Lincoln
Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables
Helen Hunt, The Sessions
Jacki Weaver, Silver Linings Playbook

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

Best Original Screenplay
Flight, John Gatins
Amour, Michael Hanake
Django Unchained, Quentin Tarantino
Moonrise Kingdom, Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola
Zero Dark Thirty, Mark Boal

Best Adapted Screenplay
Argo, Chris Terrio
Beasts of the Southern Wild, Lucy Alibar and Benh Zeitlin
Life of Pi, David Magee
Lincoln, Tony Kushner
Silver Linings Playbook, David O. Russell

Best Foreign Film
Amour (Austria)
Kon-Tiki (Norway)
No (Chile)
A Royal Affair (Denmark)
War Witch (Canada)

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