BY STEVEN ARMOUR
Following the recent announcement of the Oscar nominations – honouring the best in film 2012 had to offer –, this year is shaping up to be the most unpredictable awards race in recent memory. Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln unsurprisingly dominated with an impressive 12 nominations, closely followed by Ang Lee’s poignant adventure-drama Life of Pi with 11 nominations. Despite a somewhat mixed reception Les Miserables managed to garner 8 nominations, as did quirky dramedy . Expected to be a major player, Kathryn Bigelow’s follow-up to the acclaimed The Hurt Locker – Zero Dark Thirty – underwhelmed with 5 nominations, while Ben Affleck’s political thriller Argo exceeded expectations with 7. Other celebrated films from the past year, such as Tarantino’s Django Unchained, Bond entry Skyfall, and French-language Amour, also fared well with 5 nominations apiece.
Lincoln appears to be in the prime position for taking ‘Best Picture’, leading the race with the most nominations of any film this year, but Silver Linings Playbook could provide stiff competition for the win, with key notices in all the major categories including all four acting ones – the first time since Reds in 1981. Argo and Les Miserables can’t be counted out as potential spoilers after their recent success at the Golden Globes, but both are on severely shaky ground after missing out on that crucial ‘Best Director’ nomination for Affleck and Tom Hooper respectively. Affleck’s snub in the category came as a major surprise, as did Bigelow’s for Zero Dark Thirty, considering both were primed as the frontrunners for not only a nomination, but also the win, with a slew of precursor attention from critics as well as Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations for the pair.
With the exclusion of Affleck and Bigelow from ‘Best Director’ the category is well and truly up for grabs. Steven Spielberg is in a comfortable position with the massive success of Lincoln critically and commercially, but the Academy may decide to award Ang Lee’s visionary work for Life of Pi. Daniel Day-Lewis seems firmly on his way to becoming a three-time Oscar winner, garnering virtually every critics award, the Golden Globe for ‘Actor – Drama’, and a BAFTA for his rousing portrayal of Abraham Lincoln in Spielberg’s biopic. A win by any of the other nominees in ‘Best Actor’ would comes as a major surprise. ‘Best Actress’ was initially a two-horse race between relative newcomers Jennifer Lawrence and Jessica Chastain for Silver Linings Playbook and Zero Dark Thirty respectively, with both winning ‘Actress’ awards at the Globes, but the honour is now up for grabs in light of veteran Emmanuelle Riva’s win for her harrowing work in Amour at the BAFTAs on Sunday. However, out of the three worthy women, Lawrence has a slight edge due to the immense love for her film from the Academy and recent controversy surrounding Zero Dark Thirty’s depiction of American torture methods. Anne Hathaway is a sure lock for taking ‘Best Supporting Actress’ in what has proven to be a weak year for the category, while ‘Best Supporting Actor’ is wide open, with Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln), Robert DeNiro (Silver Linings Playbook) and Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained) all vying for the win.