Nominees for the 85th Academy Awards were announced last week. Lincoln is the frontrunner, but instead of talking about the likely winners, I’d like to discuss some of the movies that were overlooked this year. Here are the nominees in most of the top categories, along with other films and artists I think are worthy of recognition.
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty
Life of Pi
A fairly recent rule change allows the Academy to nominate 10 films for best picture. It nominated nine this year, and I think it should have given the tenth slot to Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master. Divisive among critics and audiences alike, this uncompromising post-World War II epic is a worthy follow-up to There Will Be Blood, which remains one of the best films of the century. The Master offers no easy answers in its tale of a damaged war veteran and his relationship with the founder of a religion called The Cause. The elusive nature of the material may account for the film's absence here, but the Academy recognized its greatness in the acting categories, giving Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams hugely deserved nominations.
David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook
Ang Lee, Life of Pi
Steven Spielberg, Lincoln
Michael Haneke, Amour
Benh Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild
In addition to Anderson, Ben Affleck and Quentin Tarantino, I would have liked to have seen Robert Zemeckis on this list. After more than 10 years experimenting with performance capture, the Oscar-winning director of Forrest Gump made a triumphant return to live-action filmmaking with Flight. The white-knuckle early scenes depicting the impossible landing of a faltering airliner topped the plane crash in Cast Away, and Zemeckis once again proved himself an excellent director of actors, guiding Denzel Washington to his first Best Actor nomination since Training Day.
Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
Denzel Washington, Flight
Hugh Jackman, Les Misérables
Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook
Joaquin Phoenix, The Master
Comedians are rarely rewarded by the Academy for making dramatic turns, which is a shame in the case of Jack Black, who gave his finest performance to date as the real-life killer of a mean old lady in Richard Linklater's Bernie. The role gives Black a chance to sing and to try on a lisping Texas accent. He shows surprising pathos in the scene where “the nicest guy in town” finally snaps.
Naomi Watts, The Impossible
Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty
Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
Emmanuelle Riva, Amour
Quvenzhané Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild
This category would have been the best way for the Academy to honor The Deep Blue Sea, Terence Davies' ravishing adaptation of Terence Rattigan's 1952 play. Director Davies and actress Rachel Weisz go deep, showing us a passionate love affair and its aftermath in this beautiful bummer of a movie.
Best Supporting Actor
Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained
Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Master
Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook
Alan Arkin, Argo
Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln
I'm not complaining about Christolph Waltz being nominated; his self-amused portrayal of Dr. King Shultz in Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained is one of my favorite performances of the year. But Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson pulled off riskier supporting turns in the same movie. Also going in a bold new direction: Ezra Miller in The Perks of Being a Wallflower. After a ferocious performance as Tilda Swinton's homicidal son in We Need to Talk About Kevin, Miller made out-and-proud teenager Patrick a standout in Wallflower, which has one of the year's most appealing ensemble casts.
Best Supporting Actress
Sally Field, Lincoln
Anne Hathaway, Les Misérables
Jacki Weaver, Silver Linings Playbook
Helen Hunt, The Sessions
Amy Adams, The Master
A shocker set almost entirely inside a fast-food restaurant, Compliance will prove hard to watch for many. The film draws much of its power from Ann Dowd's layered performance as Sandra, a too-easily-manipulated night shift manager.
Best Original Screenplay
Flight, John Gatins
Zero Dark Thirty, Mark Boal
Django Unchained, Quentin Tarantino
Amour, Michael Haneke
Moonrise Kingdom, Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola
This category gives the Academy the chance to reward strikingly original films. This year it's given love and attention to Moonrise Kingdom, which is more than fine by me. I just wish Oscar voters had spread the love to The Cabin in the Woods, the most audacious horror-comedy since Scream.
Best Adapted Screenplay
Beasts of the Southern Wild, Lucy Alibar & Benh Zeitlin
Lincoln, Tony Kushner
Silver Linings Playbook, David O. Russell
Life of Pi, David Magee
The Perks of Being a Wallflower author Stephen Chbosky showed unusual sensitivity and perceptiveness in adapting his own beloved 1999 novel to the screen. The result is a movie that's destined to be cherished by the young at heart for many years to come.