What are the surprises? A few films that were far from sure things snuck into the Best Picture race. “Lincoln,” “Argo,” “Zero Dark Thirty,” “Life of Pi,” and “Les Miserables” were all considered locks for the big prize, and “Amour,” a film about an elderly couple struggling with the wife’s illness, and “Silver Linings Playbook” were considered to have a fairly good shot. A film about a little girl struggling to survive in her Southern community, “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” and director Quentin Tarantino’s movie about a slave fighting to free his wife, “Django Unchained,” were considered possibles but not sure things, yet each scored a Best Picture nomination.
Also doing better than expected was the film “The Master.” While it didn’t garner a Best Picture nomination or best director nomination for Paul Thomas Anderson, the film’s acting ensemble earned three nods total, with Joaquin Phoenix earning a nomination for Best Actor, Philip Seymour Hoffman getting one for Best Supporting Actor, and Amy Adams snagging a nod for Best Supporting Actress. Phoenix in particular was a surprise; in what was thought to be a tight Best Acting race, he bumped an actor who was thought to be a major contender in the category, John Hawkes for “The Sessions,” from consideration. It will be interesting to see how Phoenix’s nomination affects the race, as many were predicting that if anyone could upset Daniel Day-Lewis for “Lincoln,” it was Hawkes.
Quvenzhané Wallis also made history as the youngest-ever actress nominated in the Best Actress category, at age 9. She was considered a possible nominee, but far from a sure thing because her movie "Beasts of the Southern Wild" was so under the radar and she herself is so young. Meanwhile, Emmanuelle Riva, nominated for “Amour,” is the oldest-ever nominee at 85.
The best supporting actor category went mostly as expected, with the only possibility being that Leonardo DiCaprio might steal co-star Christoph Waltz’s spot for “Django Unchained.” However, Waltz earned the nomination. A surprise nominee snuck into the best supporting actress category, however – Jacki Weaver, who has been nominated previously for the film “Animal Kingdom” but has gotten virtually no awards buzz for her performance in “Silver Linings Playbook,” got a nod.
The best directing category also contained a couple of surprises. More love than expected for “Amour” and “Beasts of the Southern Wild” led directors Michael Haneke and Benh Zeitlin to each earn a nomination, while expected contenders like Kathryn Bigelow for “Zero Dark Thirty” and Ben Affleck for “Argo” were shut out. It’s happened before that the winner for best picture didn’t also get a statuette for best director (notably when the film “Crash” won for Best Picture but “Brokeback Mountain” director Ang Lee took the directing prize), but not often.