While Steven Spielberg's acclaimed biopic "Lincoln" leads with 12 nominations, Ben Affleck's docudrama "Argo," which reaped just seven bids, leads the race, despite his directing snub.
The romantic comedy-drama "Silver Linings Playbook,: which was out fron following its debut at the Toronto filmfest in September where it won the audience award, has dropped to third though "Silver Linings" star Jennifer Lawrence remains the overwhelming favorite to take home Best Actress.
2005 Oscar champ Lee (Brokeback Mountain") brings Yann Martel's bestseller "Life of Pi" to the screen as a lush 3-D epic and this fanciful tale is in fourth place.
"Lincoln," along with Ang Lee's "Life of Pi" (11 nominations) and David O. Russell's "Silver Linings Playbook" (8), are the only three of the nine nominees to also contend for direction and editing.
Tom Hooper's film version of the 1987 Tony-winning musical "Les Miserables," which was the frontrunner till critics carped, has eight nominations. while Kathryn Bigelow's "Zero Dark Thirty" earned five.
While Affleck, Bigelow and Hooper were nominated by the DGA, the directors branch of the academy snubbed them. In their stead are Russell and two first-time Oscar nominees who saw their films make the cut for Best Picture as well: Michael Haneke for Cannes champ "Amour" (5 noms) and Benh Zeitlin for the Sundance winner "Beasts of the Southern Wild" (4).
Rounding out the roster is "Django Unchained," which netted five bids in all.
"Lincoln" "Argo" and "Zero Dark Thirty" depict real-life events. This genre has won 12 Best Picture Oscars over the years with the first of these, "The Great Ziegfeld" (1936), also being a musical. Other winners were: "The Life of Emile Zola" (1937), "Lawrence of Arabia" (1962); "A Man for All Seasons" (1966); "Patton" (1970); "Chariots of Fire" (1981); "Gandhi" (1982), "Amadeus" (1984); "Out of Africa" (1985); "The Last Emperor" (1987); "A Beautiful Mind" (2001); and "The King's Speech" (2010).
"Argo" celebrates the unsung heroes in the rescue of six Americans from 1979 Tehran -- a CIA operative (Affleck) a movie producer (Alan Arkin) and an Oscar-winning makeup artist (John Goodman). As with last year's champ "The Artist," "Argo" shows Hollywood in a good light.
"Lincoln" player Daniel Day-Lewis is widely predicted to win his third Best Actor Oscar. The film boasts an impressive pedigree of talent both in front and behind the camera.
Only nine musicals have won Best Picture in the 84-year history of the Oscars. The first of these was "The Broadway Melody" (1928/29), which was also the first picture with sound to win. "The Great Ziegfeld," a biopic of the legendary showman, won in 1936. Only one musical -- "An American in Paris" (1951) -- prevailed during the Golden Age of Hollywood. In one decade (1958 - 1968), five of the Best Picture champs were musicals: "Gigi" (1958); "West Side Story" (1961); "My Fair Lady" (1964); "The Sound of Music" (1965); and "Oliver!" (1968). The most recent musical to win was "Chicago" in 2002. No musical has been nominated since.