1) No Kathryn Bigelow for Best Director
What. The. Hell. Please. Explain. While there is no doubt that Zero Dark Thirty has been extremely controversial, has the torture debate gotten so loud that voters began thinking the movie wasn't good anymore? Did people somehow begin to think the film was … poorly directed? I just checked Metacritic in case I'd somehow blocked out a bunch of bad reviews; no, it still has a score of 95. Yes, Zero Dark Thirty was nominated for Best Picture, but Bigelow being snubbed three years after she became the first woman ever to win Best Director tells us this one-time favorite for the top title is out of the race entirely.
2) No Ben Affleck for Best Director!
Same situation here, but possibly with even less logic, because it's not like Argo has prompted a Senate inquiry that might repel the more conservative Academy members. Against all odds, Ben Affleck has gone from his Gigli/Bennifer/tabloid joke days to a thoughtful, original director/actor. Clearly, he deserves to be punished. Again, Argo was nominated for Best Picture — but bye, Argo.
3) The Rise of "Silver Linings Playbook"
Harvey Weinstein sneak attack! Silver Linings Playbook has been quiet during this awards season — which may be exactly how Weinstein, the awards-dominating movie mogul, has wanted to play it. We always knew that it would gather steam, and Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, and Bradley Cooper were solid locks in the acting categories. But Jacki Weaver — who was terrific as Cooper's character's mom — for Best Supporting Actress is a surprise, and David O. Russell was on the outskirts of Oscar gurus' Best Director predictions. (Russell was also nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay.) It's been many years since a film has run the table in the acting categories, and that fact alone makes it Lincoln's only real challenger. The Weinstein factor cannot be underestimated here.
4) The Leonardo DiCaprio Curse Strikes for "Django Unchained"
Remember when Titanic got nominated for pretty much everything and won Best Picture and Leonardo DiCaprio wasn't even nominated? The Academy just hates him. He's been nominated three times (The Aviator, Blood Diamond, What's Eating Gilbert Grape) and not won, and he's been snubbed entirely, too, for J. Edgar, Shutter Island, and, yes, Titanic, which he lifted up — imagine a Robert Pattinson in that role, and then imagine yourself laughing. There's no reason to feel sorry for Leonardo DiCaprio. But I don't know when or if he will ever win an Oscar.
5) Joaquin Phoenix's "Bullshit" Nomination
I will never understand Academy snobbery. The act of being Leonardo DiCaprio is an affront to them, but Joaquin Phoenix calling the Oscars "bullshit" is something the members can get over. Phoenix was considered a shoo-in for The Master — his "comeback" role after his fake, truly gross, life-as-performance-art diversion a few years ago, when he "quit" acting, all of which was chronicled in the vile (fake) documentary I'm Still Here. Then, with The Master, most people thought his chances were dead after he told Elvis Mitchell in Interview that the Oscars are "total, utter bullshit, and I don't want to be a part of it. I don't believe in it. It's a carrot, but it's the worst-tasting carrot I've ever tasted in my whole life. I don't want this carrot." Having sat through his over-acting in The Master, I don't want him to have this carrot either!
6) The Tragedy of the John Hawkes Snubbing
There's no one-to-one relationship with who "takes" someone else's nomination, because, of course, we never really know. But the omission of John Hawkes for The Sessions! He played a mostly immobilized polio survivor who wants to lose his virginity! It was beautiful. It was transformative. And it's such a sweet, funny movie. In an alternate universe, he would not only be nominated, he would win.
7) Best Actress Oddities: No Marion Cotillard, No Helen Mirren!
It's not like Helen Mirren lit the world on fire in Hitchcock, but conventional wisdom was that she was likely to appear in this category because she is Helen Mirren. And usually that mere fact is enough. Cotillard's absence (for Rust and Bone) is a huge surprise, however — she was considered a sure bet. Instead, there are three women in the category who were all maybes: Emmanuelle Riva (Amour), Naomi Watts (The Impossible), and Quvenzhané Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild). (Ha, I just called Wallis a woman even though she's nine! Love that kid.) Anyway. No Cotillard. It's a weird one.
8) Lots of "Amour"
This Michael Haneke movie — about an aging French couple trapped by health declines — won the Palme d'Or at Cannes, and everyone loves it. But the number of nominations (five) is a surprise; foreign films often get shoved into the foreign category with perhaps one acting nomination. Instead, Amour is right out front, with Best Picture, Best Director (Haneke), Riva for Best Actress, and Haneke for Best Original Screenplay. The fifth nomination is for Best Foreign Film: if any fool will bet you against it, take their money.
9) No Quentin for Best Director
The strangeness in the Best Director category continues here. Quentin Tarantino is always a wild card, and so was Django Unchained. But it was nominated for Best Picture, which was very iffy — so you'd think it would then follow that Tarantino would get in as well. Nope!
10) So Much "Beasts of the Southern Wild"!
The Sundance sensation Beasts of the Southern Wild wasn't eligible for a lot of the guild-sponsored awards (because it was non-union), and it got left out entirely by Golden Globe voters, whose tastes are generally the opposite of this odd American movie with a black cast. So it wouldn't have been a shock if that lack of momentum and presence had translated into no Oscar nominations. Instead, the film did well — four nominations, including for Best Picture! Benh Zeitlin in the Best Director category is the biggest surprise, and pundits will puzzle over whether he got Bigelow's or Affleck's spot. Fun trivia: Wallis (who played the heroine Hushpuppy) is the youngest person ever nominated for Best Actress, and Riva for Amour is the oldest (at 85).
11) "Dark Knight Rises" Shut Out Entirely
There's always talk about a massive blockbuster like Dark Knight Rises possibly getting a Best Picture nomination. And it so rarely happens — this year, that talk focused on Dark Knight and Skyfall, with a little Avengers whispering as well. As usual, none was nominated for Best Picture. But for Dark Knight Rises not to be nominated for Visual Effects is completely insane!