Affleck was seen as the latest in a long line of actors turned directors who become Oscar darlings, including previous winners Robert Redford (“Ordinary People”), Warren Beatty (“Reds”), Kevin Costner (“Dances with Wolves”) and Clint Eastwood (“Unforgiven,” “Million Dollar Baby”) and previous nominee George Clooney (“Good Night, and Good Luck.”). After two well received previous features (“Gone Baby Gone” and “The Town”), Affleck seemed poised for at the very least a nomination, if not a win. He was nominated as Best Director by both the Golden Globes and the Directors Guild of America.
Also surprisingly snubbed in the Best Director category: Kathryn Bigelow, who made history as the first ever female Best Director champion for “The Hurt Locker” in 2010. Bigelow was also nominated by the Globes and DGAs and considered a safe bet for her second directing nom. Maybe the controversy surrounding the film hurt her with Oscar, or perhaps it was just an intensely competitive year.
“Les Miserables” director Tom Hooper (who won for “The King’s Speech” in 2011) was nominated by DGA but not Oscar, while “Django Unchained’s” Quentin Tarantino is up for a Globe but not a directing Oscar. Instead, first-time nominees Benh Zeitlin (“Beasts of the Southern Wild”) and Michael Haneke (“Amour”) join a field that includes previous winners Steven Spielberg (“Lincoln”) and Ang Lee (“Life of Pi”) and previous nominee David O. Russell (“Silver Linings Playbook”).
In the acting fields, Best Actress included two record-setting contenders who were considered possible but not certain nominees: Nine-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis (“Beasts of the Southern Wild”) and 85-year-old Emmanuelle Riva (“Amour”) have become, respectively, the youngest and oldest Best Actress nominees in Oscar history. While neither was nominated for a Golden Globe or SAG award (Wallis was ineligible at SAGs), they were both critical favorites for their heartbreaking performances.
Joaquin Phoenix managed a slightly surprising Best Actor nomination for “The Master” — his third nomination overall following “Gladiator” and “Walk the Line.” Phoenix has been a critics favorite but some thought his controversial comments about the Oscar nominations might cost him a slot, and he was left out at SAG. Instead, SAG nominee John Hawkes (“The Sessions”) was left off the Oscar list.
Australian actress Jacki Weaver earned her second career nomination thanks to her role as Bradley Cooper’s supportive mother in “Silver Linings Playbook.” She had not been nominated by either the Globes or SAGs, but her inclusion gives “Silver Linings” a unique honor: It’s the first film since 1981’s “Reds” to land nods in all four acting categories: Best Actor (Cooper), Best Actress (Jennifer Lawrence), Best Supporting Actor (Robert De Niro) and Best Supporting Actress (Weaver).
Previous winner Christoph Waltz (“Inglourious Basterds”) can thank Quentin Tarantino again for his second career nom. Waltz was the only member of the exceptional cast of “Django Unchained” to earn a nomination. He edged out co-stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson to join this year’s Best Supporting Actor line-up.
James Bond villain Javier Bardem from “Skyfall,” who was nominated by SAG, did not earn an Oscar nom.
“Skyfall” had a decent showing overall, however. Five nominations (including Best Cinematography and Adele’s title song for Best Original Song) make it the year’s most Oscar-nominated blockbuster.
Bond certainly had a better showing than the year’s comic book hits. “Marvel’s The Avengers” was 2012’s highest grossing movie but only managed a single Oscar nom (for Best Visual Effects).
Perhaps even more surprising, Christopher Nolan’s final chapter in his Batman trilogy, “The Dark Knight Rises,” was completely shut out of the nominations. Nolan’s first Bat-pic, 2005’s “Batman Begins,” earned a Best Cinematography nom in 2006, while “The Dark Knight” landed eight noms in 2009 and won Oscars for Best Supporting Actor (Heath Ledger) and Best Sound Editing.
It’s a bit embarrassing that the disappointing but reasonably well-crafted “Rises” was left out while a mediocre hit like “Snow White and the Huntsman” lands two nominations (for Best Visual Effects and Best Costume Design), but that’s sometimes how Oscar works.
The year’s other Snow White movie, “Mirror, Mirror,” also landed a Best Costume Design nomination. While divisive “Alien”-prequel “Prometheus” made the cut in Best Visual Effects.
Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” couldn’t match the Oscar performance of his “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, but did land three noms (Best Makeup and Hairstyling, Best Production Design, Best Visual Effects).
The Best Animated Feature category included a surprise nod for U.K. studio Aardman Animation’s “The Pirates! A Band of Misfits.” The clever stop-motion animated comedy was a hit overseas, but a flop in the U.S. It faces heavyweight challengers in fellow box office flop “Frankenweenie,” mid-level performer “ParaNorman” and hits “Brave” and “Wreck-It Ralph.”
And finally, this year’s Oscar host Seth MacFarlane is also now an Oscar nominee. His song “Everybody Needs a Best Friend” from the blockbuster comedy “Ted” will vie with Adele’s “Skyfall” tune, “Les Miserables” original song “Suddenly,” “Pi’s Lullaby” from “Life of Pi” and the Scarlett Johnasson-performed “Before My Time” from the documentary “Chasing Ice.”