Oscar nominations: Actors
Best Actor: Bradley Cooper, "Silver Linings Playbook"
Topics: slideshow, Movies, Academy Awards, Oscars, Movie Awards Season, Zero Dark Thirty, Lincoln, django unchained, amour, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Editor's Picks, Oscar snubs, Kathryn Bigelow, Entertainment News
On one hand, it sure looks as if Hollywood is getting skittish about “Zero Dark Thirty” and the continuing political controversy around its portrayal of torture and links to the CIA. As expected, the film was among the nine best-picture nominees in Thursday morning’s Academy announcements. But Kathryn Bigelow was denied a best-director nomination in a category many (myself included) thought she might well win.
If Bigelow’s omission was the biggest surprise of this morning’s announcements, it wasn’t the only one. Ben Affleck was denied a directing nomination for his Iran-hostage drama “Argo,” and Tom Hooper, who won the directing prize two years ago for “The King’s Speech,” was similarly rejected for “Les Misérables.” Also missing from the directing category was Quentin Tarantino of the bloody slave-revenge western “Django Unchained,” but that’s arguably less of a surprise given the academy’s traditional allergy to any and all material tinged with racial controversy. (Consider the fate of “The Help” in last year’s Oscar season.) All three films were nominated within the promiscuous best-picture category, but are now far less likely to be regarded as serious contenders.
But we can also choose to view what happened this morning as an embrace rather than a set of rejections. Once again the academy has skewed in a more adventurous and indie-friendly direction than most observers expected. Both the riveting old-age drama “Amour” and the magical-realist bayou allegory “Beasts of the Southern Wild” were nominated for best picture, and their creators – severe Austrian genius Michael Haneke and first-time New Orleans filmmaker Benh Zeitlin – were both nominated for best director. If the first outcome is not an enormous surprise, the second one definitely is. Personally, I never imagined I’d see the Oscars honor Haneke, one of the most rigorous and demanding cinema artists of our time, and I’ll gladly trade Bigelow, Affleck and anybody else for that.
This year’s Oscar nominations also feature the oldest best-actress nominee in history (Emmanuelle Riva of “Amour,” who is 85) and the youngest (Quvenzhané Wallis of “Beasts,” who is now 9 – but was 6 when most of the film was shot). Neither is likely to win, in a category that’s expected to be a close race between Jennifer Lawrence of “Silver Linings Playbook” and Jessica Chastain of “Zero Dark Thirty.” Similarly, every man nominated in the best-actor category who isn’t named Daniel Day-Lewis – for the record, they were Bradley Cooper, Hugh Jackman, Joaquin Phoenix and Denzel Washington — is likely to remain an afterthought.
If we assume that neither “Beasts” nor “Amour” is a likely best-picture winner, and further assume that the directing category offers the best guide to what will actually win (as is usually the case), then this year’s Oscar race sets up as a three-way battle between “Lincoln,” Ang Lee’s 3-D CGI fantasy “Life of Pi” (which garnered 11 nominations overall), and David O. Russell’s realist rom-com “Silver Linings Playbook,” which was nominated in every major category. To put it mildly, “Lincoln” is the overwhelming favorite. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Day-Lewis, Steven Spielberg, writer Tony Kushner, supporting actor Tommy Lee Jones and the film itself sweep the big awards on Oscar night. (Sally Field is perhaps an underdog for supporting actress, given the consensus that Anne Hathaway’s rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream” in “Les Miz” has guaranteed her a statuette.)
If there were no other snubs as notable as those of Bigelow, Tarantino and Affleck, there were plenty of other big names and prominent films that went unmentioned. Wes Anderson’s gorgeous and charming “Moonrise Kingdom” was denied any major nominations, which is really too bad. Many people thought that John Hawkes would be nominated for his role as a severly disabled man seeking to lose his virginity in “The Sessions,” but the mild-mannered film underperformed at the box office. Previous best-actress winner Marion Cotillard probably deserved a nomination for her role in Jacques Audiard’s “Rust and Bone” – but perhaps “Amour” was enough French film for this year.
Leonardo DiCaprio got no supporting nod for his role as a nefarious slaveowner in “Django Unchained,” and Matthew McConaughey – recently honored by the New York Film Critics Circle for his winning role as captain to a team of male strippers in “Magic Mike” – also found no love from Oscar. There was a last-minute push to get a best-picture slot for “Skyfall,” which is the highest-grossing James Bond film of all time, in a year when the academy plans a special presentation to honor the long-running franchise. But even with only nine of the potential 10 nominations filled, it didn’t happen.
Best Actor: Bradley Cooper, "Silver Linings Playbook"
Best Actor: Denzel Washington, “Flight"
Best Actor: Hugh Jackman, "Les Miserables"
Best Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis, “Lincoln”
Best Actor: Joaquin Phoenix, “The Master”
Best Supporting Actor: Robert DeNiro, "Silver Linings Playbook"
Best Supporting Actor: Alan Arkin, "Argo"
Best Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz, "Django Unchained"
Best Supporting Actor: Philip Seymour Hoffman, “The Master”
Best Supporting Actor: Tommy Lee Jones, “Lincoln”
Best Actress: Jessica Chastain, “Zero Dark Thirty"
Best Actress: Naomi Watts, “The Impossible”
Best Actress: Jennifer Lawrence, "Silver Linings Playbook"
Best Actress: Emmanuelle Riva, "Amour"
Best Actress: Quvenzhané Wallis, "Beasts of the Southern Wild"
Best Supporting Actress: Amy Adams, "The Master"
Best Supporting Actress: Helen Hunt, "The Sessions"
Best Supporting Actress: Sally Field, "Lincoln"
Best Supporting Actress: Jacki Weaver, "Silver Linings Playbook"
Best Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway, "Les Miserables"
"Argo" (AP Photo/Warner Bros., Claire Folger)
"Silver Linings Playbook"
"Les Miserables" (AP Photo/Universal Pictures, Laurie Sparham)
"Amour" (AP Photo/Sony Pictures Classics, File)
"Beasts of the Southern Wild" (AP Photo/Fox Searchlight Pictures, Jess Pinkham)
"Life of Pi" (AP Photo/20th Century Fox)
"Zero Dark Thirty" (AP Photo/Sony - Columbia Pictures, Jonathan Olley)
Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoët
Kerascoët's lovely, delicate pen-and-watercolor art -- all intricate botanicals, big eyes and flowing hair -- gives this fairy story a deceptively pretty finish. You find out quickly, however, that these are the heartless and heedless fairies of folk legend, not the sentimental sprites beloved by the Victorians and Disney fans. A host of tiny hominid creatures must learn to survive in the forest after fleeing their former home -- a little girl who lies dead in the woods. The main character, Aurora, tries to organize the group into a community, but most of her cohort is too capricious, lazy and selfish to participate for long. There's no real moral to this story, which is refreshing in itself, beyond the perpetual lessons that life is hard and you have to be careful whom you trust. Never has ugly truth been given a prettier face.
Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science by Philippe Squarzoni
Squarzoni is a French cartoonist who makes nonfiction graphic novels about contemporary issues and politics. While finishing up a book about France under Jacques Chirac, he realized that when it came to environmental policy, he didn't know what he was talking about. "Climate Changed" is the result of his efforts to understand what has been happening to the planet, a striking combination of memoir and data that ruminates on a notoriously elusive, difficult and even imponderable subject. Panels of talking heads dispensing information (or Squarzoni discussing the issues with his partner) are juxtaposed with detailed and meticulous yet lyrical scenes from the author's childhood, the countryside where he takes a holiday and a visit to New York. He uses his own unreachable past as a way to grasp the imminent transformation of the Earth. The result is both enlightening and unexpectedly moving.
Here by Richard McGuire
A six-page version of this innovative work by a regular contributor to the New Yorker first appeared in RAW magazine 25 years ago. Each two-page spread depicts a single place, sometimes occupied by a corner of a room, over the course of 4 billion years. The oldest image is a blur of pink and purple gases; others depict hazmat-suited explorers from 300 years in the future. Inset images show the changing decor and inhabitants of the house throughout its existence: family photos, quarrels, kids in Halloween costumes, a woman reading a book, a cat walking across the floor. The cumulative effect is serene and ravishing, an intimation of the immensity of time and the wonder embodied in the humblest things.
Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer
The legendary Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist delivers his debut graphic novel at 85, a deliriously over-the-top blend of classic movie noir and melodrama that roams from chiaroscuro Bay City to Hollywood to a USO gig in the Pacific theater of World War II. There's a burnt-out drunk of a private eye, but the story is soon commandeered by a multigenerational collection of ferocious women, including a mysterious chanteuse who never speaks, a radio comedy writer who makes a childhood friend the butt of a hit series and a ruthless dame intent on making her whiny coward of a husband into a star. There are disguises, musical numbers and plenty of gunfights, but the drawing is the main attraction. Nobody convey's bodies in motion more thrillingly than Feiffer, whether they're dancing, running or duking it out. The kid has promise.
The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis
This is a weird one, but in the nervy surreal way that word-playful novels like "A Clockwork Orange" or "Ulysses" are weird. The main character, a teenage schoolboy named Scarper Lee, lives in a world where it rains knives and people make their own parents, contraptions that can be anything from a tiny figurine stashable in a pocket to biomorphic boiler-like entities that seem to have escaped from Dr. Seuss' nightmares. Their homes are crammed with gadgets they call gods and instead of TV they watch a hulu-hoop-size wheel of repeating images that changes with the day of the week. They also know their own "death day," and Scarper's is coming up fast. Maybe that's why he runs off with the new girl at school, a real troublemaker, and the obscurely dysfunctional Castro, whose mother is a cageful of talking parakeets. A solid towline of teenage angst holds this manically inventive vision together, and proves that some graphic novels can rival the text-only kind at their own game.
NOBROW 9: It's Oh So Quiet
For each issue, the anthology magazine put out by this adventurous U.K.-based publisher of independent graphic design, illustration and comics gives 45 artists a four-color palette and a theme. In the ninth issue, the theme is silence, and the results are magnificent and full of surprises. The comics, each told in images only, range from atmospheric to trippy to jokey to melancholy to epic to creepy. But the two-page illustrations are even more powerful, even if it's not always easy to see how they pertain to the overall concept of silence. Well, except perhaps for the fact that so many of them left me utterly dumbstruck with visual delight.
Over Easy by Mimi Pond
When Pond was a broke art student in the 1970s, she took a job at a neighborhood breakfast spot in Oakland, a place with good food, splendid coffee and an endlessly entertaining crew of short-order cooks, waitresses, dishwashers and regular customers. This graphic memoir, influenced by the work of Pond's friend, Alison Bechdel, captures the funky ethos of the time, when hippies, punks and disco aficionados mingled in a Bay Area at the height of its eccentricity. The staff of the Imperial Cafe were forever swapping wisecracks and hopping in and out of each other's beds, which makes them more or less like every restaurant team in history. There's an intoxicating esprit de corps to a well-run everyday joint like the Imperial Cafe, and never has the delight in being part of it been more winningly portrayed.
The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
You don't have to be a superhero fan to be utterly charmed by Yang and Liew's revival of a little-known character created in the 1940s by the cartoonist Chu Hing. This version of the Green Turtle, however, is rich in characterization, comedy and luscious period detail from the Chinatown of "San Incendio" (a ringer for San Francisco). Hank, son of a mild-mannered grocer, would like to follow in his father's footsteps, but his restless mother (the book's best character and drawn with masterful nuance by Liew) has other ideas after her thrilling encounter with a superhero. Yang's story effortlessly folds pathos into humor without stooping to either slapstick or cheap "darkness." This is that rare tribute that far surpasses the thing it celebrates.
Shoplifter by Michael Cho
Corinna Park, former English major, works, unhappily, in a Toronto advertising agency. When the dissatisfaction of the past five years begins to oppress her, she lets off steam by pilfering magazines from a local convenience store. Cho's moody character study is as much about city life as it is about Corinna. He depicts her falling asleep in front of the TV in her condo, brooding on the subway, roaming the crowded streets after a budding romance goes awry. Like a great short story, this is a simple tale of a young woman figuring out how to get her life back, but if feels as if it contains so much of contemporary existence -- its comforts, its loneliness, its self-deceptions -- suspended in wintery amber.
Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
This collection of archetypal horror, fairy and ghost stories, all about young girls, comes lushly decked in Carroll's inky black, snowy white and blood-scarlet art. A young bride hears her predecessor's bones singing from under the floorboards, two friends make the mistake of pretending to summon the spirits of the dead, a family of orphaned siblings disappears one by one into the winter nights. Carroll's color-saturated images can be jagged, ornate and gruesome, but she also knows how to chill with absence, shadows and a single staring eye. Literary readers who cherish the work of Kelly Link or the late Angela Carter's collection, "The Bloody Chamber," will adore the violent beauty on these pages.