- Associated Press - Thursday, January 10, 2013

LONDON (AP) - Hollywood’s movie elite sent their love to “Amour” on Thursday, giving director Michael Haneke’s searing portrait of old age five Academy Award nominations including best foreign film and _ unexpectedly _ best picture.

The film stars octogenarian French acting greats Emmanuelle Riva and Jean-Louis Trintignant as a loving Parisian couple whose world is devastated by the wife’s serious illness.

Unflinching, unsentimental and in French, it was a surprise inclusion among nine best-picture nominees, and also garnered nominations for Haneke’s direction, original screenplay and the performance of 85-year-old Riva.

Haneke said he was “very happy and gratified … that the voting members of the Academy have taken the film so strongly to their hearts.”

A foreign-film finalist alongside movies from Canada, Denmark, Norway and Chile, “Amour” is one of a handful of non-English-language films ever nominated for the best-picture Oscar.

Although far from mainstream movie formula _ there’s no happy ending _ it has left a trail of enraptured critics and emotionally drained audiences since its May premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, where it won the top prize.

Unsparing but tender in its depiction of illness and death, “Amour” is a departure for the director of “Funny Games,” “Hidden” and “The White Ribbon,” who is best known for films shot through with tension and sudden outbursts of violence.

Riva said Haneke’s talent for evoking reality onscreen was key to the success of “Amour.”

“That’s why it touched the world,” she said. “We are all little, fragile people on this earth, sometimes nasty, sometimes generous.”

Haneke gives few interviews and makes few concessions to industry hype. But the filmmaker said the nominations were “a joyous occasion.”

“It is fulfilling to discover that a film has found the audience and critical acclaim that `Amour’ has garnered,” he said in a statement.

Riva said from New York that she’d awoken at 8:30 a.m. to news of her nomination, “which is rare, because at my age I need lots of sleep.”

“It’s the last stage of my life, so this nomination is a gift to me, a dream I could never had imagined,” she said.

Austria also scored an acting nomination, with Christoph Waltz up for best supporting actor for Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained.” Waltz won the supporting actor prize for his turn as a loquacious Nazi in Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds.”

Australian actors also made a strong showing, with nominations for Naomi Watts (best actress for “The Impossible”), Jacki Weaver (supporting actress for “Silver Linings Playbook”) and Hugh Jackman, a best-actor nominee for “Les Miserables.”

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