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The Ten Biggest Surprises of the Oscar Nominations

Oscar nominations were unveiled this morning, and, as always, there were a number of surprises. Yet the sheer number of shocking events this year feels even more monumental than in years past. Check out the ten biggest surprises below, though you wouldn’t be hard-pressed to name a few more.

The Best Director Category

Before there were more than five nominees for Best Picture, there used to be a fifth nominee in this race that didn’t match up with the fifth Best Picture nominee. This year, that spot would have gone to Michael Haneke for Amour or Benh Zeitlin for Beasts of the Southern Wild. Instead, both got nominated, and that meant that the two surest things in the race, Ben Affleck for Argo and Kathryn Bigelow, who became the first woman to win this award three years ago, for Zero Dark Thirty got snubbed. I’m still reeling from it.

Amour truly is beloved

Michael Haneke first encountered Oscar three years ago when The White Ribbon was nominated for Best Foreign Film three years ago. This year, it was suspected that Amour might garner a few nominations, but five nominations is quite a haul. Not only is Emmanuelle Riva the oldest Best Actress nominee ever, at 85, but this is the first foreign-language film nominated for Best Picture in six years, and the first nominated for both Best Picture and Best Foreign Language Film since Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Moonrise Kingdom

A Best Original Screenplay mention was guaranteed for Wes Anderson’s latest marvelous look at the world, but a Best Picture bid seemed likely for the well-reviewed comedy. With ten possible slots, only nine got filled, leaving the Golden Globe nominee for Best Motion Picture – Comedy/Musical with just one nomination for its script.

John Hawkes in The Sessions

The Best Actor race had six major contenders, and it seemed like either Hugh Jackman, Bradley Cooper, or Joaquin Phoenix would be left off. Instead, all three made the cut, and the actor who delivered one of the most heartfelt performances of the year, John Hawkes, got left out. It’s especially surprising since Hawkes managed a nomination two years ago for a far less likeable role, in the grim Winter’s Bone, and his costar Helen Hunt made the grade in the Best Supporting Actress race.

Marion Cotillard in Rust and Bone

Five actresses earned both Golden Globe and SAG nominations for Best Actress. Jessica Chastain and Jennifer Lawrence were sure things for Oscar bids, while Helen Mirren was likely to be forgotten for Hitchcock. With both Emmanuelle Riva and Quvenzhané Wallis grabbing spots and Naomi Watts holding on to her place, Marion Cotillard got left out, for a brutal and extremely compelling turn in a devastating French film. Her chances seemed pretty good considering she won this award five years ago for another French film.

Jacki Weaver for Silver Linings Playbook

David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook had a great day, netting him a Best Director bid and a total of eight nominations. Along with Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, and Robert De Niro, Australian actress Weaver made the cut for her performance as the family matriarch. Her role was hardly as substantial as that of her costars and fellow nominees, and it’s also the first time in thirty-one years that a film has earned nominations in all four acting categories.

The Intouchables

This wildly popular French film looked like the main competition for Amour in the Best Foreign Language film category, with a hefty precursor load, including a Golden Globe nomination, an NBR mention, and nine César (French Oscar) nods. Announced as one of the nine foreign-language finalists several weeks ago, The Intouchables turned out to be one of the four films on that list that didn’t make the final round.

The Master

After earning three nominations apiece for his first two films, director Paul Thomas Anderson hit the jackpot with his fourth film, There Will Be Blood, which netted eight nominations and two wins. His film this year scored three acting bids, but missed out on a Best Picture mention. More surprisingly, Anderson wasn’t nominated for his original script.

Skyfall earns five nominations

It shouldn’t come as a shock that one of the most popular films of the year did so well. Yet the James Bond franchise has never been a stellar Oscar performer. 007 Museum provides a handy tracker of past Bond nominations: this is the first time the franchise has been nominated in over thirty years also marks its largest take ever, including its first-time bids for Best Cinematography and Best Original Score.

The Dark Knight Rises – Nomination Total: 0

After the previous film in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy earned eight nominations and missed out on a Best Picture bid, many felt that the Academy’s decision to expand the Best Picture field to more than five nominees was due to its snub. The tragedy at the Aurora midnight showing probably prohibited this film from making the top category, but to see it shunned in all the technical races is much more unexpected.

By Abe Fried-Tanzer

The Dark Knight Rises Oscars

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