Oscar 2012: Director Nominations Send Shock Waves

The most surprising nominations this morning were in the Best Director category. Three of the five nominees for top director at the 85th annual Academy Awards did not receive similar recognition from the Directors Guild of America, turning the race to the trophy into a much different affair than many expected.

Michael Haneke of “Amour,” David O. Russell of “Silver Linings Playbook” and Benh Zeitlin of “Beasts of the Southern Wild” took slots from DGA nominees Ben Affleck of “Argo,” Kathryn Bigelow of “Zero Dark Thirty” and Tom Hooper of “Les Miserables,” joining Ang Lee of “Life of Pi” and Steven Spielberg of “Lincoln” in Oscar’s inner circle.

The disruption is a logical but still surprising consequence of the earliest nominations voting deadline in Oscar history, which meant Academy of Motion Picture members turned in their ballots before hearing the DGA nominations results. That’s good news for the Academy’s claim of independent vote, and bad news for the DGA, as reliable predictor of who would win the Best Director.

Remember 2006
The only time in the past decade that even two DGA nominees were subbed by AMPAS was the 2006 group that found Bill Condon (“Dreamgirls”) and Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (“Little Miss Sunshine”) supplanted by Clint Eastwood (“Letters from Iwo Jima”) and Paul Greengrass (“United 93”).

While “Lincoln” might appear to be the dominant force this year with an Academy-high 12 nominations, including acting nods for Daniel Day-Lewis, Tommy Lee Jones and Sally Field and adapted screenplay for Tony Kushner, others grabbed their own share of momentum.

Silver Linings Playbook
“Silver Linings Playbook” impressively scored nods in all four acting categories for Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver, the first such grand slam since “Reds” in 1981, as well as adapted screenplay for Russell.

“Life of Pi” was left out of the acting race but still finished second behind “Lincoln” with 11 nominations, including directr for Ang Lee and adapted screenplay for David Magee.

Art and Indie Films

“Amour” and “Beasts” became partners, sort of the Odd Couple, not only earning screenplay nominations (original and adapted, respectively) but also setting marks for the oldest and youngest lead actress nominations ever, Emmanuelle Riva, who is 86, and Quvenzhane Wallis, who is 9.

Without their expected directing nominations, “Argo” and “Zero” were left with the melancholy joy of a best picture nomination but long odds for a victory, along with Tom Hooper’s “Les Miserables” and Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained.”

“Les Miserables” tied “Silver Linings” with eight total noms, while “Argo” had seven and “Django” and “Zero” five apiece, tying “Skyfall,” which fell short in its campaign to become the first Oscar-nominated James Bond picture.

Anna Karenina; The Anomaly
With four below-the-line nods, “Anna Karenina” tied “Beasts” for the final spot in the top 10 for total Oscar noms.

Foreign Language
Twists occured in the foreign film category, in which France’s crowdpleaser “The Intouchables” was ignored in favor of Austria’s “Amour,” Canada’s “War Witch,” Chile’s “No,” Denmark’s “A Royal Affair” and Norway’s “Kon-Tiki,” and in animated feature, which saw “Rise of the Guardians” sidelined while “Brave,” “Frankenweenie,” “ParaNorman,” “The Pirates! Band of Misfits” and “Wreck-It Ralph” took the Oscar field.

The Master
Dramatic surprises were more spare in the acting categories, which also featured the only three nominations for Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master”: Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams. It’s possible that Tarantino, who’s close friends with P.T. Anderson, “stole” his colleague chances in the Best Picture and Screenplay category.

Best Actor
Lead actor nominees Day-Lewis, Cooper, Phoenix, Hugh Jackman (“Les Miserables”) and Denzel Washington (“Flight”) did nose out such contenders as Screen Actors Guild Awards nominee John Hawkes (“The Sessions”).

In lead actress, Jessica Chastain (“Zero”) and Naomi Watts (securing the only nomination for “The Impossible”) joined Jennifer Lawrence, Emmanuelle Riva and Wallis, at the expense of SAG nominees Helen Mirren (“Hitchcock”) and Marion Cotillard (“Rust and Bone”).

Supporting Actors

Christoph Waltz (“Django”) replaced Javier Bardem (“Skyfall”) among SAG supporting actor nominees at the Oscars, landing a spot in a group with De Niro, Hoffman, Jones and Alan Arkin (“Argo”).

SAG supporting actress nominees Field, Anne Hathaway (“Les Miserables”) and Helen Hunt (“The Sessions”) migrated to the Oscar finals, with Adams and Weaver replacing Nicole Kidman (“The Paperboy”) and Maggie Smith (“The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”).

Four of the five adapted screenplays nominated by the Writers Guild of America made it to the Dolby Theater: “Argo” (Chris Terrio), “Life of Pi” (David Magee), “Lincoln” and “Silver,” with the “Beasts” script by Lucy Alibar and Zeitlin (which was ineligible for WGA honors) trumpedg WGA nominee Stephen Chbosky’s “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.”

Among the original screenplays, three WGA nominees survived their journey to the Oscars: “Flight” by John Gatins, “Moonrise Kingdom” by Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola and “Zero Dark Thirty” by Mark Boal,” with WGA ineligibles “Amour” by Haneke and “Django” by Tarantino replacing “The Master” and Rian Johnson’s “Looper.”

Documentary nominations went to “5 Broken Cameras,” “The Gatekeepers,” “How To Survive a Plague,” “The Invisible War” and “Searching for Sugar Man,” with “Bully,” “Chasing Ice” and “Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God” among those left out.

Seth MacFarlane, who became the first pending Oscar host in four decades to participate in the nominations announcement (accompanied by Emma Stone), got to hear he had received an original song nomination for “Ted.” “Chasing Ice,” “Les Miserables,” Life of Pi” and “Skyfall” will be his competition on black-tie night.

The song nom was one of a bevy of production nominations for “Life of Pi,” which boasts nods for Claudio Miranda (cinematography), Tim Squyres (editing), Mychael Danna (original score), production design (David Gropman and Anna Pinnock), sound editing (Eugene Gearty and Philip Stockton), sound mixing (Ron Bartlett, D.M. Hemphill and Drew Kunin) and visual effects (Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan De Boer and Donald R. Elliott).

Also scoring well in technical and crafts were “Les Miserables” (costume design, makeup and hairstyling, production design and sound mixing), “The Hobbit” (makeup and hairstyling, production design and visual effects) and “Skyfall” (score, sound editing, sound mixing).

William Goldenberg was a double nominee in editing, for “Argo” and “Zero Dark Thirty” (the latter shared with Dylan Tichenor).

Following their race to the nominations vote, Academy members can now take a breather of nearly one month before final voting begins Februray 8, with a deadline of February 19 before the February 24 Oscars.