Nomination Analysis…Shock? Awe? Awesome?

nominationsvideoIt’s like Christmas morning for film geeks (the ceremony is like New Year’s Eve). AMPAS has announced the nominations for the 85th Academy Awards (complete list of nominees).

beasts_of_the_southern_wild_04Surprise! You’re In!

Beasts of the Southern Wild might be the biggest surprise recipient this morning. Some were worried that it may have peaked too soon. But, when Benh Zeitlin was announced in Best Director the gasps were heard ’round the world. Less surprising were the nods for Best Picture, Best Actress (for the indefatigable Quvenzhane Wallis, and Best Adapted Screenplay. Indeed, some thought the only sure thing left for the film was the screenplay nod.

I was not terribly surprised at the strength Amour showed in the nominations, but some were. Michael Haneke’s career has been growing in recognition over the past decade (though his career goes back much further than that) and he’s become the default world auteur for Hollywood to fall in love with. Amour is his most accessible piece yet (though not an easy watch) and it focuses on the lives of an elderly couple…and we all know that the Academy membership is not known for its youth-skewing.

Jackie Weaver’s nomination for Silver Linings Playbook was a bit of a surprise and it gave an unexpected strength to the film, making it the first film in 31 years to be nominated in Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress and Screenplay. The last film to do it was Reds. That year, Warren Beatty’s film was upset by Chariots of Fire. Does this open the door for a shocker on February 24?

bigelow-2Surprise! You’re Out!

When the Best Director nominees were announced, the gasps may have been less for Benh Zeitlin being in than they were for Ben Affleck and Kathryn Bigelow being out. Each were considered front-runners (along with Spielberg) for the win, let alone the nomination. I think they were both victimized by the “they don’t need my vote, they’re surely in” syndrome that strikes the Academy from time to time (I think that’s how Paul Giamatti was snubbed for Sideways).

Many were shocked at Nicole Kidman’s absence in Best Supporting Actress for her delightfully over-the-top work in The Paperboy. I was less so. The predecessor nominations were, themselves, surprising. Her performance was simply not the type of thing the Academy tends to go for. If they’re not going to nominate The Birdcage performances (which killed at the SAG awards that year), they clearly don’t get “camp” and aren’t going to go for it.

John Hawkes’ snub for The Sessions was a bit of a surprise. I had suspected it, though. The film had just dropped from conversation recently. Many also were a tad shocked by Helen Mirren being left out of Best Actress, but given Hitchcock‘s less than stellar reviews, I was not.

One of the most shocking snubs came in a category that only shocks the most devout of Oscar followers (but tends to shock us every year). France’s The Intouchables was thought a surefire nominee and a strong challenge to Amour for the win. With the Weinstein Company backing it, who would’ve even considered this? Not many. Of the possible NaFF film nominations, this seemed most likely.

5_Broken_CamerasHow’d NaFF films do?

Four nominations this year from nine possibilities.

In Best Documentary, 5 Broken Cameras is a nominee.
In Best Live Action Short, 2012 NaFF winner Curfew is a nominee, as is 2012 selection Buzkashi Boys.
And, in Best Documentary Short, former winner Cynthia Wade’s Mondays at Racine is a nominee.

lincoln-movie-trailerHow’d I Do on my picks?

My top nine picks for Best Picture were all included. So, 9 for 9.
I was with most of the world in Best Director, so the Affleck / Bigelow snubs make me 3 for 5 in that category. I did have David O. Russell in my spoilers. I, like most, did NOT expect Benh Zeitlin (but am thrilled to see him there).

I went 4 for 5 in Best Actress, believing The Impossible had come out too late for Naomi Watt’s to get the momentum necessary and Marion Cotillard’s constant campaigning would carry her in. But Watt’s was atop my spoiler list.

Best Actor? Nailed it. 5 for 5.

Somehow, I knew there would be a surprise in Best Supporting Actress, but I went with Dench, believing the 50-year anniversary of Bond might carry her into the first ever Bond-film acting nomination. Instead, it was Weaver – who, yes, was on my spoiler list. 4 for 5.

Best Supporting Actor, I went with a surprise Argo snub here. Should’ve used that in Director. Arkin replaces DiCaprio on my list and I go 4 for 5.

Flight overtook The Master in Original Screenplay, leaving me 4 for 5 there.

Nailed Adapted Screenplay with a 5 for 5 call.

I went 4 for 5 in Best Foreign Film, missing the one that nearly everyone predicted (the aforementioned The Intouchables) instead of Canada’s War Witch.

And, finally, 4 for 5 in Best Documentary with How to Survive a Plague replacing Bully. I honestly think that I liked How to Survive a Plague too much to believe it would make it. There is usually something to infuriate me in this category. Not this year.

Overall, in the categories I predicted, I went 46 for 54 for 85%. In comparison, Nathaniel at went 44 for 54 for 81%. IndieWire’s Peter Knegt went 42 for 54 for 78%. Scott Feinberg at The Hollywood Reporter went 43 for 54 for 80%. I give myself a NAILED IT!

Let’s hope that Oscar night is as surprising as this morning was. Mark your calendars for Feb. 24.


Oscar Nominations Tomorrow

les mis

Tomorrow at 7:30 am (CST), the Academy announces the nominees for the 85th Annual Academy Awards.

One of the least predictable line-ups is in the offering tomorrow, but some things are certain.

  • Les Miserables will contend with Lincoln for the most nominations. Desipte mixed responses, Les Mis is the type of fare that gets plenty of nominations. Those same mixed responses will likely keep its win total lower than originally thought, but it’ll land in a lot of “top 5s”, meaning tons of nominations. Oh, and go ahead and place a bet on Anne Hathaway to win Best Supporting Actress.
  • This will not be a good year for independents. Aside from the usual categories where they do well by default (Best Documentary and Best Foreign Language Film), the studios will dominate in most categories. The exceptions: Beasts of the Southern Wild and Michael Haneke’s Amour could pull in a few nominations.
  • NaFF films have a shot at up to nine nominations. While I’d love it, it would take a miracle for all nine to pull through. Still, it’s a good position for the films we screened last April (and one from April 2011).

I’m not going to predict all categories (there are many websites for that – including frequent NaFF juror Nathaniel Rogers’, but for kicks and giggles, here’s what I expect to be named tomorrow.

Best Picture:

  • Argo
  • Les Miserables
  • Life of Pi
  • Lincoln
  • Silver Linings Playbook
  • Zero Dark Thirty

If they go up to ten, here’s what I expect in order:

  • Amour, Django Unchained, Beasts of the Southern WIld, Skyfall

Best Director

  • Ben Affleck, Argo
  • Kathryn Bigelow, Zero Dark Thirty
  • Michael Haneke, Amour
  • Ang Lee, Life of Pi
  • Stephen Spielberg, Lincoln


  • David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook;, Tom Hooper, Les Miserables

Best Actress

  • Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty
  • Marion Cotillard, Rust and Bone
  • Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
  • Emmanuelle Riva, Amour
  • Quvenshane Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild


  • Naomi Watts, The Impossible; Helen Mirren, Hitchcock; Rachel Weisz, The Deep Blue Sea

Best Actor

  • Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook
  • Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
  • Hugh Jackman, Les Miserables
  • Joaquin Phoenix, The Master
  • Denzel Washington, Flight


  • John Hawkes, The Sessions; Jean-Louis Trintignant, Amour

Best Supporting Actress

  • Amy Adams, The Master
  • Judi Dench, Skyfall
  • Sally Field, Lincoln
  • Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables
  • Helen Hunt, The Sessions


  • Nicole Kidman, The Paperboy; Maggie Smith, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel; Ann Dowd, Compliance; Jackie Weaver, Silver Linings Playbook

Best Supporting Actor

  • Leonardo DiCaprio, Django Unchained
  • Robert DeNiro, Silver Linings Playbook
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Master
  • Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln
  • Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained


  • Alan Arkin, Argo; John Goodman, Flight; Eddie Redmayne, Les Miserables; Matthew McConaughey, Magic Mike; Javier Bardem, Skyfall

Best Original Screenplay

  • Paul Thomas Anderson, The Master
  • Wes Anderson, Moonrise Kingdom
  • Mark Boal, Zero Dark Thirty
  • Michael Haneke, Amour
  • Quentin Tarantino, Django Unchained


  • Looper, Flight

Best Adapted Screenplay

  • Lucy Alibar & Benh Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild
  • Tony Kushner, Lincoln
  • David Magee, Life of Pi
  • David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook
  • Chris Terrio, Argo


  • Ben Lewin, The Sessions; William Nicholson, Les Miserables; Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Best Foreign Language Film

  • From Austria, Amour
  • From Chile, No
  • From Denmark, A Royal Affair
  • From France, The Intouchables
  • From Norway, Kon-Tiki

Best Documentary

  • 5 Broken Cameras
  • Bully
  • Chasing Ice
  • The Gatekeepers
  • Searching for Sugar Man

So, there you have it. I know I’m not right. I went out on a limb on a few and hewed close to conventional wisdom on others. There are always surprises – even if it’s a lack of surprises where you expect them.

More tomorrow when they’re announced.

NaFF and the Oscar Shortlists

5 Broken CamerasSo far the Academy had released their shortlists for Best Documentary Short Subject and Feature Films, Animated Shorts, and Live Action Shorts and so far, a NaFF 2012 film has made it to each list.

Here’s the track record so far (NaFF selections in bold)…

Best Documentary Feature:
Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, directed by Alison Klayman
Bully, directed by Lee Hirsch
Chasing Ice,directed by Jeff Orlowski
Detropia, directed by Rachel Grady & Heidi Ewing
Ethel, directed by Rory Kennedy
5 Broken Cameras, directed by Emad Burnat & Guy Davidi
The Gatekeepers, directed by Doro Moreh
The House I Live In, directed by Eugene Jarecki
How to Survive a Plague, directed by David France
The Imposter, directed by Bart Layton
The Invisible War, directed by Kirby Dick
Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God, directed by Alex Gibney
Searching for Sugar Man, directed by Malik Bendjelloul
This Is Not a Film, directed by Mojtaba Mirtahmasb & Jafar Panahi
The Waiting Room, directed by Peter Nicks

Note: The Waiting Room was last month’s presentation at Human Docs, a partnership between NaFF and Lipscomb University.

Best Documentary Short Subject:
The Education of Mohammad Hussein, directed by Heidi Ewing & Rachel Grady
Inocente, directed by Sean Fine
Kings Point, directed by Sari Gilman
Mondays at Racine, directed by Cynthia Wade
Open Heart, directed by Kief Davidson
ParaÍso, directed by Nadav Kurtz
The Perfect Fit
, directed by Tali Yankelevich
Redemption, directed by Jon Alpert and Matthew O’Neill

Best Animated Short:
Adam and Dog, directed by Minkyu Lee
Combustible, directed by Katsuhiro Otomo
Dripped, directed by Léo Verrier
The Eagleman Stag, directed by Mikey Please
The Fall of the House of Usher, directed by Raul Garcia
Fresh Guacamole, directed by PES
Head over Heels, directed by Timothy Reckart
Maggie Simpson in “The Longest Daycare”, directed by David Silverman
Paperman, directed by John Kahrs
Tram, directed by Michaela Pavlátová

Note: Dripped was the winner of the NaFF 2012 Best Animated Short Award and The Eagleman Stag was a 2011 NaFF selection.

Best Live Action Short:
A Fábrica (The Factory), directed byAly Muritiba
Asad, directed by Bryan Buckley
Buzkashi Boys, directed by Sam French
Curfew, directed by Shawn Christensen
Death of a Shadow, directed by Tom Van Avermaet
Henry, directed by Yan England
Kiruna-Kigali, directed by Goran Kapetanovic
The Night Shift Belongs to the Stars, directed by Silvia Bizio Eduardo Ponti
9meter, directed by Anders Walther
Salar, directed by Nicholas Greene
when you find me, directed by Bryce Dallas Howard

Note: Curfew was the winner of the Best Live Action Short at NaFF 2012.

In addition, four NaFF 2012 selections were nominated by their home nations for consideration for Best Foreign Language Film.

Headshot, from Thailand
The Intouchables, from France
Inuk, from Greenland
and A Trip (Izlet), from Slovenia.

5 Broken Cameras

Additionally, many Oscar prognosticators are suggesting that “Still Alive” from Paul Williams Still Alive (the 2012 co-closing night selection) is a likely nominee for Best Original Song.

There could be a surprise or two, but these are the most likely nominees from the 2012 NaFF selections leaving us with the possibility of up to 9 nominated selections from this past festival (including one from the 2011 fest).

Not a bad year, I’d say. Not bad at all!

Best of luck to all of the filmmakers.

(Updated to correct the director of “The Nightshift Belongs to the Stars”)

New York Film Critics Circle Live

Best Picture to Zero Dark Thirty


Eleventh Award:
Kathryn Bigelow for Best Director for Zero Dark Thirty


Tenth Award:
Tony Kushner for Best Screenplay for Lincoln


Ninth Award:
Daniel Day-Lewis for Best Actor in Lincoln


Eight Award:
Rachel Weisz for Best Actress in The Deep Blue Sea


Seventh Award:
Amour for Best Foreign Language Film


Sixth Award:
Frankenweenie is Best Animated Feature


Fifth Award:
Matthew McConaughey for Magic Mike, Bernie


Fourth Award
Sally Field – Best Supporting Actress for Lincoln.


Third Award:
The Central Park Five wins Best Non-Fiction Film for Ken Burns and his daughter and son-in-law.

Second Award:
Zero Dark Thirty wins Best Cinematography.


First Award:
How to Survive a Plague wins Best First Feature, upsetting Beasts of the Southern Wild.

Gotham Independent Audience Awards

IFP East has announced the Gotham Awards nominations, which include some very odd choices – like nominating Melanie Lynskey for Breakthrough Actor, when her breakthrough role was opposite Kate Winslet in the 1994 Peter Jackson classic Heavenly Creatures. But more fun than those are the interactive Gotham Independent Film Audience Awards – for which voting begins today.

Beauty is Embarrassing is the nominee qualified through the Nashville Film Festival (our Narrative winner – The Intouchables – is ineligible because this award is for American films only), but joining Neil Berkeley’s doc (coming back to the Belcourt October 30 through November 1) are 2012 NaFF selections Brooklyn Brothers Beat the BestTrash Dance and Under African Skies, which was runner-up to Beauty is Embarrassing here in Nashville.

See the complete list and make sure to vote!

Oscars Announce Short Subject Doc Short List

Eight documentary shorts have been placed on the short list for the Academy Awards, including Cynthia Wade’s Mondays at Racine, which played the festival this past April. Also on the list, Rachel Grady, who was on the 2009 NaFF Documentary Jury.

Here’s the complete list:

The Education of Mohammad Hussein, directed by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady
Inocente, directed by Sean Fine
Kings Point, directed by Sari Gilman
Mondays at Racine, directed by Cynthia Wade
Open Heart, directed by Kief Davidson
ParaÍso, directed by Nadav Kurtz
The Perfect Fit
, directed by Tali Yankelevich
Redemption, directed by Jon Alpert and Matthew O’Neill

Congratulations to all the filmmakers.

The final list of nominees will be announced on January 10, 2013.