Michael Haneke, Joaquin Phoenix among the biggest Oscar surprises

There were unusually many surprises among this year’s Oscar nominations (see our full report here and the complete list of nominees here). Among the biggest shocks:

The entire Best Director category
The Directors Guild nominees usually line up closely with the Oscar nominees with one or two exceptions, but this year only two of DGA’s nominees made it through (“Lincoln‘s” Steven Spielberg and “Life of Pi‘s” Ang Lee). Shockingly, Kathryn Bigelow (“Zero Dark Thirty“), Tom Hooper (“Les Miserables“), and Ben Affleck (“Argo“) were snubbed at the Oscars in favor of Michael Haneke (“Amour“), David O. Russell (“Silver Linings Playbook“), and Benh Zeitlin (“Beasts of the Southern Wild“).

The strength of “Life of Pi” and “Silver Linings Playbook
Those films’ chances are buoyed not only their nominations for Best Director, but their overall nomination totals. “Life of Pi” earned 11 bids, just one behind “Lincoln,” and “Silver Linings” picked up eight. Both were nominated for Director and Film Editing; historically, few films have win Best Picture without nominations in both of those categories.

The weakness of “Zero Dark Thirty” and “Les Miserables
Their chances to win Best Picture took devastating hits when their directors were snubbed, but their nomination totals were also soft. We predicted “Zero Dark Thirty” to earn seven nominations, but it only received five. We thought “Les Mis” would pick up 11, but it only got eight.

Jacki Weaver nominated for “Silver Linings Playbook”
Australian actress Jacki Weaver was also a surprise Supporting Actress nominee two years ago for “Animal Kingdom” and she broke through again this year for her more understated turn in “Silver Linings” as Bradley Cooper‘s devoted mother. Her bid gave the film the very rare distinction of being nominated in all four acting categories.

Joaquin Phoenix bumps John Hawkes from Best Actor
Given mixed reception at SAG and the Golden Globes for “The Master,” and also his own comments deriding the Oscar campaign process, it seemed Joaquin Phoenix‘s chances were sunk, but he nevertheless broke through a crowded Best Actor category, replacing John Hawkes, who was expected to be nominated for “The Sessions.”

Paul Thomas Anderson misses out entirely
Though “The Master” seemed to be faltering this season — it didn’t receive nominations from the Producers Guild, Directors Guild, or Best Ensemble from the Screen Actors Guild — it’s nevertheless surprising that five-time Oscar nominee Paul Thomas Anderson was overlooked entirely for his work on the film. He wasn’t nominated for writing or directing the critically acclaimed drama.

Marion Cotillard snubbed from Best Actress
Marion Cotillard has been consistently nominated at precursor awards this season for her performance as an amputee whale trainer in “Rust and Bone,” but it turned out there wasn’t enough room in this year’s Best Actress race for two French-language performances. The Academy opted for Emmanuelle Riva in “Amour” instead.

“The Intouchables” snubbed for Best Foreign Language Film
France’s highest grossing film was considered a possible spoiler against frontrunner “Amour,” but voters ignored it completely. Instead, “Amour” was joined by expected nominees “No” and “A Royal Affair,” as well as surprise contenders “Kon-Tiki” and “War Witch.”

“The Pirates! Band of Misfits” bumps “Rise of the Guardians” from Animated Feature
Rise of the Guardians” seemed vulnerable after it opened to mixed reviews and disappointing box office, but despite those factors it was nominated for Animated Feature at the Golden Globes and Critics’ Choice. However, Oscar voters ignored it much the way they ignored other holiday-themed contenders like “The Polar Express” and “Arthur Christmas.” They replaced it “The Pirates! Band of Misfits,” which is not entirely unexpected since the stop-motion comedy was directed by two-time nominee Peter Lord and produced by Aardman Studios, which also made the Oscar-darling “Wallace & Gromit” films.

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