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)
"Freaks and Geeks"
The terminally underwatched Judd Apatow comedy ended its first and only season with protagonist Lindsay ditching her plan to head to an academic summer program in order to chase the Grateful Dead. How would this have impacted the tenderly drawn relationships with her family, as well as her place within the burnout clique she’d joined? Imagining the fallout, at least, is close to as fun as is watching it, which we’ll never do -- all that we have is the gleeful final moment as Lindsay runs off for a summer of fun and freedom, heedless of what’s to come.
The series, about the rise of the aide to an absent-minded governor, culminated in an election between the aide and the governor. Exciting stuff -- not least because the series finale ended on a cliffhanger that the show’s cancellation never resolved!
“Benson” had been a spinoff of this broad parody, which ended a year before its creators had planned and thus featured a number of cliffhangers, including several characters in life-or-death situations. In our minds, they all survived!
Creator David Milch floated the idea of movies to continue the story of his abruptly cut-short Western series; they never came together. But Milch also did his best to tie up narrative threads as best he could given how many plotlines were up in the air. He’s said he suspected the series would be canceled after its third season and attempted to provide some measure of closure in the memorable final scene.
"Caroline in the City"
This NBC series about a cartoonist in New York was but one of the many beneficiaries of the ratings aura around “Seinfeld” and “ER.” When it was moved off Thursday night, things got ugly, and it was canceled after the fourth season, but before viewers found out whether Caroline decided to go through with her wedding after she spotted her true love sitting in the pews.
Like “Veronica Mars,” “Twin Peaks” got a movie after its run ended -- the only problem was that the “Twin Peaks” film, “Fire Walk with Me,” was a prequel, not a sequel. So plenty more was known about poor Laura Palmer, but we’ll never know what happened after Dale Cooper’s seeming psychotic break or demonic possession. The first season is the only worthwhile one, anyhow.
The supernatural shows that cropped up after the success of “Lost” were particularly apt to end without conclusiveness; they were both heavily serialized and generally unsuccessful. This one-season wonder promised to reveal, eventually, the meaning of a global event during which everyone on Earth had a vision of their future. The finale reveals that there’d, in fact, be another global flash-forward, but the effects of this doubling-down will never be known, as that’s all we got!
Another one-season-only “Lost”-alike, this show depicted a fellow living in two worlds, one in which he and his wife had survived a car accident, and another in which he and his son had. The show dared to ask which world was real life and which was a dream. NBC dared to risk viewer ire by never resolving the matter!