The Oscar nominations hit on Thursday morning, Jan. 10, and there were a few shockers in the announcements. While "Lincoln" received 12 nominations, easily expected for the prestigious Steven Spielberg period piece, the surprising "Life of Pi" received 11, a shockingly large number for a specialty art-house styled movie. However, the biggest surprise of the 85th Annual Academy Awards nominations came with the choices for Best Director.
The two easy picks were Steven Spielberg for "Lincoln" and David O. Russell for "Silver Linings Playbook," but the other three were head scratchers.
Outside of those two frontrunners, the other nominees include Benh Zeitlin ("Beasts of the Southern Wild"), Michael Haneke ("Amour") and Ang Lee ("Life of Pi"). Now, just because there were some major names snubbed, that does not mean these three directors were not worthy.
Lee created arguably the best looking 3D movie since "Avatar," based on a book once deemed "un-filmable." The story of a young Indian boy trapped on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger remains life affirming and an amazing visual feat. Of the three directors listed here, he is the one who put in the most work, and seems to fit in well among the Spielberg's and Russell's of the film world.
Zeitlin also did great work on an apocalyptic tale of survivors in a Louisiana area cut off after a major levee break. The story is a fable, a fantasy with larger-than-life creatures, yet possessing a heart not normally found in these types of films. "Beasts of the Southern Wild" also broke a Hollywood record when its star, Quvenzhane Wallis, earned a Best Actress nomination at the age of nine. However, while she deserved the actress nomination, director Zeitlin seems slightly out of place here.
As for Haneke, he seems to be this year's prestige director, and his movie has topped many year-end awards lists. However, with the names the Oscars snubbed, he seems out of place in this category as well.
The biggest snub is easily Kathryn Bigelow for "Zero Dark Thirty." When the year ended, Bigelow was building awards momentum for her work on the hunt for Osama Bin Laden film. While her lead actress, Jessica Chastain, deservedly picked up a nomination, Bigelow constructed a masterful cat-and-mouse film that kept the viewer guessing the entire movie. The entire success of this film was due to Bigelow's masterful pacing, and her snub remains unforgivable.
Before Bigelow's movie hit theaters, Ben Affleck was the hot name on many critics' lists. Affleck told the story of the daring escape of trapped Americans in Iran during the hostage crisis that started in 1979. Much like Bigelow, Affleck had a story that people already knew the ending to, but he was able to wring out a thrilling film that captured the attention of the viewers. It was proof that Affleck is a director at the top of his game, yet the Academy snubbed him.
Two other snubs went to Quentin Tarantino for "Django Unchained" and Tom Hooper for "Les Miserables." Tarantino's snub might come due to the controversy surrounding his movie's themes and Hooper's might come down to the choice for live singing in place of a polished soundtrack, but both men put out great movies in 2012.
While the nominated directors deserve recognition, one has to still wonder if they really were better than Bigelow and Affleck, two names that remain shocking omissions from the 85th Annual Academy Awards nominations.
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