Director/producer Kathryn Bigelow on the set of Columbia Pictures' thriller "Zero Dark Thirty." / Sony Pictures
When the Oscar host Seth MacFarlane and actress Emma Stone announced the 85th Oscar nominations Thursday morning, the category that was the most buzzed about was not the best picture nominees, but instead best director, in which this year the nominees played musical chairs during awards season.
In the now heavily analyzed awards season, unequivocal snubs have become less common as the field is more accurately predicted. But on Thursday morning, the motion picture academy provided the genuine article: a somewhat shocking and unexpected brush off to one whom it so recently exalted: Kathryn Bigelow.
The director of the Osama bin Laden chase film "Zero Dark Thirty," had been widely expected to land her second directing nomination (she won a Best Director Oscar in 2009 for "The Hurt Locker"), but she was not among the names read. Many have speculated that Bigelow and the film were diminished by the many objections to the movie's much-debated depiction of torture.
Instead, the director nominees were Steven Spielberg for "Lincoln"; David O. Russell for "Silver Linings Playbook"; Ang Lee for "Life of Pi"; Michael Haneke for "Amour"; and Benh Zeitlin for "Beasts of the Southern Wild."
Mouths were agape all over Hollywood. Aghast hordes wielded pitchforks on Twitter around the world.
The category could have very possibly (and many expected it to) include Bigelow, Ben Affleck for "Argo," Quentin Tarantino for "Django Unchained" and Tom Hooper for "Les Miserables" - all of those films best picture nominees. Hooper, Affleck and Bigelow were all nominated by the Directors Guild, presumably the faction of the academy that knows something about directing.
"Lincoln," which led the pack with 12 nominations, was expected to rack up nominations, but "Silver Linings Playbook" (eight nominations), "Amour" (five nominations) and "Beasts of the Southern Wild"(four nominations) all earned more nominations than expected.
Russell's film included the rare feat of nominations in all four of the acting categories: Bradley Cooper (actor), Jennifer Lawrence (actress), Robert De Niro (supporting actor) and Jacki Weaver (supporting actress). The latter two were not favorites.
Haneke's "Amour," too, is an oddity in Oscar history: the first foreign language best picture nomination since Ang Lee's "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" in 2001. Its five nominations includes a nod for the 85-year-old Emmanuelle Riva - the oldest actress ever to receive a best actress nomination.
Made for less than $2 million, the "Beasts of the Southern Wild" did even better than its fans hoped, earning not just best picture, but nominations for director Zeitlin and its young star, Quvenzhane Wallis - the youngest best actress nominee ever. Still, Zeitlin could also be considered a snub: He composed the film's beautifully lush score.
The case of "The Sessions" was just as surprising. In a film about a guy in an iron lung, it's usually the guy in the iron lung who gets an Oscar nomination. But it wasn't John Hawkes' widely hailed performance that earned a nom, but Helen Hunt, who plays a professional sex surrogate helping him lose his virginity. Hawkes was inched out of the race by "The Master's Joaquin Phoenix, who didn't earn a SAG nomination, but ended up coming away with an Oscar nod.
Marion Cotillard's performance as an amputee in "Rust and Bone" was another unexpected snub for the actress who took home the statue for her performance in "La Vie en Rose" in 2008. Leonardo Dicaprio, who previously received three Oscar nominations, as Best Actor for "Blood Diamonds" and "The Aviator," and Best Supporting Actor for "What's Eating Gilbert Grape," was left off of the best supporting actor category for "Django Unchained."