"The production experience on Silver Linings Playbook was one of the best I have ever had in 21 years," said an elated Sharon Pinkenson, executive director of the Greater Philadelphia Film Office. "It was magical, and when that happens, you just know it's going to be a great movie. . . . I just wish there was a category for Best City."
In addition to the Hollywood community's resounding endorsement of an edgy saga about a guy suffering from bipolar disorder, the Oscar nominations read off yesterday were full of significant firsts.
Beasts of the Southern Wild star Quvenzhané Wallis became the youngest best actress nominee in Academy Awards history (she's 9). Amour star Emmanuelle Riva is the oldest nominee in the category (she's 85).
Overall, Lincoln came away with the most nominations - 12. The historical drama scored picture and director (Steven Spielberg) salutes, and Daniel Day-Lewis, as the 16th president, wandering the White House in the middle of the night, is as close to a sure thing as there is to take the best actor prize. (Sorry, Bradley.)
If Day-Lewis does indeed win, that'll be a first as well: no one in Academy history has won three best actor trophies. (Katharine Hepburn won four best actress Oscars over the long course of her career.)
Breaking with the sober pre-dawn tradition of nomination annoucements past (a podium, a blurry-eyed thespian), contenders for the 85th Academy Awards were read off with joky aplomb by the Oscar telecast's designated host, Seth MacFarlane, and actress Emma Stone, who hopped onto the stage from a seat in the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences theater, as if she were surprised to be invited up. Working Donny Osmond and Adolf Hitler jokes in between the list-reading, MacFarlane also pulled off a James Franco-esque coup: he'll be hosting the ceremonies, as Franco did a few years ago, and will also be vying for a prize. MacFarlane co-wrote "Everybody Needs a Best Friend," the song from Ted. It's up against Adele's Skyfall theme, the freshly minted "Suddenly" from Les Miserables, and two other tunes.
After weeks of awards season kudos and expert prognostication, the Academy's pre-dawn announcement Thursday actually threw a lot of people for a loop. Kathryn Bigelow, winner of the directing prize three years ago for The Hurt Locker, and considered a lock for one of the five director slots for her taut Osama manhunt movie, Zero Dark Thirty, was left out. So, too, Ben Affleck, for another ripped-from-CIA-files narrative, Argo. Tom Hooper, director of Les Miserables, also failed to make the cut. Instead, the Austrian director of the French-language Amour, Michael Haneke, sidled into a berth, as did newcomer Benh Zeitlin, for the low-budget Louisiana bayou dream, Beasts of the Southern Wild. Note to presenters: the h in Benh is silent. So is the d in Django - Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained took five nominations, including best picture.
Speaking of Django Unchained and Tarantino, a best picture contender without the concomitant director nod significantly lessens its chances for a win. So what was presumed to be a battle between Lincoln and Zero Dark Thirty is now Lincoln's to lose. But Silver Linings Playbook, with the savvy Oscar campaign skills of The Weinstein Company behind it, has a shot.
In the acting categories, John Hawkes' beautiful performance as the polio-stricken poet Mark O'Brien in The Sessions failed to elbow off the competition in a crowded best actor field, while Marion Cotillard, a strong contender for her work as a double amputee in the French-language Rust and Bone, lost out (probably to that little kid from New Orleans, Wallis).
And Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom, thought by many to be a certain best picture candidate, came away with just one nomination, for original screenplay.
Two films that deal with Israeli-Palestinian tensions - 5 Broken Cameras and The Gatekeepers - are among the best documentary titles. And of the five foreign language nominees, Amour has to be considered the sure bet. It is nominated in five categories, including best picture, best director and best actress. The foreign-language prize is the one this sublime and heart-breaking film will probably win.
The 85th Academy Awards ceremony will be telecast live on ABC, Channel 6, Sunday, Feb. 24, beginning with all the red carpet hooplah at 7 p.m.
Contact movie critic Steven Rea at 215-854-5629 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his blog, "On Movies Online," at www.philly.com/onmovies