Take a peek at the Academy Awards

Christian Harding
Staff Writer

hero719_oscar-experience-logoOn January 10, 2012, the 85th Oscar nominations were announced to a very eager public, and with these announcements came some rather unexpected results.
One thing that we’re given this year is an incredibly solid lineup for Best Picture – one of the better selections the category’s had in years. It’s a diverse selection of subject matters and tones that benefited from the recent expansion in the category to include more than five films. Also featured is an array familiar faces and returning favorites, as well as a few fresh faces not yet honored by the Academy. Also noteworthy this year is the Best Animated Feature category, where three out of the five nominees were made using stop motion animation (the most the category’s ever had at once), which is quite a feat in this increasingly digital era of filmmaking.
Conversely, it’s with the Best Director lineup where people tend to start having some disagreements. While the list of nominees didn’t include previous honored filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino, Kathryn Bigelow, and Tom Hooper, each of whom had new films out last year, it is actor turned filmmaker Ben Affleck’s exclusion in the category that is arguably most surprising of year. What makes this case especially odd is how Affleck’s film ‘Argo’ been sweeping the standard Oscar prerequisites in the past few weeks, some of which include the Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild. Now it’s being poised to go ahead and win Best Picture regardless of Affleck’s directing snub, with its only major competition being the equally acclaimed ‘Lincoln’, which received the most nominations of out any film this year, earning a hefty total of 12 nods in total.

Daniel-Day Lewis is the front runner to win Best Actor.
Daniel-Day Lewis is the front runner to win Best Actor.

But with all that said, it’s still hard to feel completely disappointed in the overall lineups with there being so many pleasant surprises abound – in particular, all the unexpected attention given to films like the independent ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’ and Michael Haneke’s French drama ‘Amour’, both of which received nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, and Best Screenwriting. The fact that both films received some well earned attention from the Academy might prompt an otherwise uninterested viewing public to give these a look. Another interesting result of these films becoming large contenders for top prizes this year is that the Best Actress category now has two new records – at 85, Emmanuel Riva became the oldest actress to be nominated (this time, for her performance in ‘Amour’) and 9 year-old ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’ star Quvenzhané Wallis became the youngest nominated actress in the category.
As far as predicting the winners go, this year appears to be far less certain then past years have been, at least with regards to the bigger categories. But it’s pretty safe to assume with the utmost certainty that Daniel Day-Lewis is going to win his third Best Actor award for his portrayal of President Abraham Lincoln, while Anne Hathaway is very much a lock for her increasingly popular turn in the musical ‘Les Miserables’. And the Best Actress prize seems to be split between Jessica Chastain and Jennifer Lawrence, with Lawrence seemingly taking the lead recently, though it’s not wise to place any bets just yet. And regarding the aforementioned ‘Amour’, it’s presence in the regular Best Picture lineup is a good indicator that it is winning the Best Foreign Language Film, which is reminiscent of the years ‘Up’ and ‘Toy Story 3’ won Best Animated Feature when they were part of the regular Best Picture lineups.
While this has proven to be one of the most unpredictable Oscar races of recent years, one thing that is certain is that this has been an exciting race. The Oscars are scheduled to air live on Sunday, February 24 at 8 pm.