The Oscar nominations just came out, announced by Seth MacFarlane and Emma Stone. There were surprises and oddities and the usual silliness. Also, now we know that Lincoln is going to win everything. Here are our quickest thoughts.
*** We correctly predicted the nine films nominated for Best Picture yesterday, but the route the Academy took to get there was a bizarre one. Basically, they've gutted their whole ceremony of any drama or mystery other than "How many times will Seth MacFarlane think he's being really daring by saying 'Hitler'?" Lincoln's two main competitors for Best Picture were probably Argo and Zero Dark Thirty ... and neither Ben Affleck nor Kathryn Bigelow was nominated for Best Director. That effectively eliminates those films from consideration. Only three films have ever won Best Picture without their directors being nominated: Wings in 1927, Grand Hotel in 1931 and Driving Miss Daisy in 1989. Even the darkest-horse candidate, Django Unchained, didn't see its director, Quentin Tarantino, get a nomination. (Basically, the three films that felt the most directed—the ones with their directors' signature touches—were the ones that didn't get their directors nominated.) It's difficult to see a scenario where Lincoln doesn't romp.
*** Your clear "winners"—other than Lincoln, of course—are Beasts of the Southern Wild, Amour and Silver Linings Playbook. Quite a surprise to see Silver Linings get nominations in all acting categories, and to have Russell take what was presumably Affleck's/Tarantino's/Bigelow's slot. Also, it's obvious that the elderly Academy is terrified of dying; when's the last time they embraced a foreign film like they did Amour? Your biggest loser is definitely Argo, which, let's not forget, Roger Ebert guaranteed would win this year. It has no chance now.
*** Another loser: The Master. (This headline now seems even more wrongheaded than it did back in July.) Clearly, it was too much for everybody. Nice to see Joaquin Phoenix get nominated, though.
*** So it's not enough that we're going to have to watch MacFarlane's painful "banter" throughout Oscar night—we'll give him a pass for this morning's struggles; it was 5:30 a.m., after all—but now we'll have to hear him reference his own nomination, for Best Song, all evening. (We don't think we remember that song from the film, but we might have blacked out halfway through.) It's funny: As obnoxious as we find MacFarlane, we'd rather he not bottle that up and try to play nice, as he's clearly going to do as host now. He'd be better off cutting loose, being cheerfully offensive, rather than making the "I'm friends with this celebrity" jokes he's undoubtedly preparing. He riffed about looking like Donny Osmond this morning, but he felt a lot more like Eddie Haskell.
*** We're disappointed by the lack of curveballs. No real shocks other than the Best Director mess, and no random nominations from out of nowhere. We thought Looper had a chance at one of those, but no dice.
*** For the fifth straight year, Weinstein is going to be part of the Best Picture race. He couldn't get The Master in there, but he did land Silver Linings Playbook and Django Unchained. The Weinstein Company has won the last two Best Picture Oscars. It's not going to win three in a row.
*** This is the second straight year that the Palme d'Or winner at Cannes has been nominated for Best Picture. (This year, it's Amour; last year it was The Tree of Life.) That's happened only eight times in the last 30 years.
*** Film festivals like to brag about being the launching pad for award-winning movies, so which premiered the most Best Picture nominees this year? The New York Film Festival, which first screened Lincoln and Life of Pi.
*** Quvenzhané Wallis (who turns 10 in August) is now the youngest Best Actress nominee in Oscar history, beating Keisha Castle-Hughes from Whale Ride by a good four years. Youngest winner in that category? Marlee Matlin, who was 21 when she got the prize for Children of a Lesser God. (Jennifer Lawrence, in case you're wondering, is 22.)
*** We're a little sad that "The Sambola! International Dance Craze" from Damsels in Distress didn't get nominated for Best Song. C'mon, this would have been fun to watch live during the broadcast.
*** The Best Documentary category can be divided into two categories: thoughtful, serious films about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict (5 Broken Cameras and The Gatekeepers) and thoughtful, serious films about social issues (How to Survive a Plague's look at ACT UP and The Invisible War's examination of rape in the U.S. military). If there's a feel-good movie in the bunch, it's Searching for Sugar Man, which may give it the best chance to win.
*** For the first time in its 24-year history, The Simpsons has an Oscar nomination. Maggie Simpson in "The Longest Daycare" (which was before the most recent Ice Age movie) is up for Best Animated Short Film. Too bad it's not very funny.
*** Roger Deakins received his 10th nomination for Best Cinematography for Skyfall. The longtime cinematographer for the Coen brothers has never won. Still, the person with the most nods and no wins is poor Kevin O'Connell, a sound mixer who has received 20 nominations. (O'Connell didn't get nominated today. It's probably just as well.)
*** Looking at the Best Director nominees, we do sorta miss the old five-movies-only Best Picture format. We don't agree with the five director picks, but the exclusions give us something to debate. It's nice to have more movies honored with a Best Picture nomination, but some are just lucky to get into the field, while only a few have a genuine shot at winning the whole thing.
*** Your early favorites to win: Lincoln, obviously, and Steven Spielberg and Daniel Day-Lewis with it. Actress is between Jennifer Lawrence and Jessica Chastain—the warm reception to Silver Linings would seem to bode well for Lawrence—and Supporting Actress is an easy win for Anne Hathaway. Best Supporting Actor, which Stone made a point of noting had five previous winners, is the tightest category, though at this point we'd give the edge to Tommy Lee Jones, just to let Lincoln take everything home.
Grierson & Leitch is a regular column about the movies. Follow us on Twitter, @griersonleitch.