If there’s one thing you hear a lot in the run-up to the Academy Award nominations (aside from the inevitable “The Oscars don’t really matter!” business, which is both true and false), it’s that they’re predictable — that the industry’s “Oscar bait” films are clearly labeled and marketed as such, and the Year End Lists and Oscar Prognosticators make the actual announcement of the nominees an all but foregone conclusion. So maybe it’s just because there was such an embarrassment of cinematic riches in 2012 that there were so many genuine surprises and shocking snubs when Seth MacFarlane (making us feel something we never imagined we were capable of: nostalgia for Billy Crystal) and Emma Stone announced the Academy Award nominees early this morning. Let’s take a look at the list, and its surprising inclusions and exclusions, shall we?
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Flight (John Gatins)
Zero Dark Thirty (Mark Boal)
Django (Quentin Tarantino)
Amour (Michael Haneke)
Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola)
THE PLEASANT SURPRISE: This is the only nomination for our beloved Moonrise Kingdom (seriously, not even a nod for cinematography), but we’re happy it at least got something.
THE HEAD-SCRATCHER: Flight, a cliché-ridden, stunningly simplistic roundup of every trite “falling off the wagon” melodrama you’ve ever seen, with a healthy dose of pseudo-religious claptrap on top. Nominating Denzel for it is one thing — that was a genuinely heartfelt and powerful piece of work. But that’s in spite of this script, not because of it.
THE SNUBS: All three of his actors were nominated, but Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master screenplay got the cold shoulder (as did his direction). Though it may have been a bit of a long shot, if there was any place for the Academy to acknowledge the electrifying Looper, it was here. And with Holy Motors shut out of the Best Foreign Film category (more on that later), we suppose we were kidding ourselves to hope it would see some love here?