- - Thursday, January 10, 2013

The annual Oscar nominations often confirm the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences‘ allergy to big-budget, crowd-pleasing action and adventure movies.

The nominations often illustrate the Hollywood elite’s aversion to any fare that smacks, however faintly, of pro-American boosterism.

This year’s Academy Award nominations, announced Thursday, managed to flaunt both biases simultaneously.

“Lincoln,” Steven Spielberg’s portrait of the Great Emancipator in action as logroller-in-chief, led the field with 12 nominations, including best picture, best director, best actor and best screenplay, catapulting the film into front-runner status.

Nine films were nominated for best picture as per the academy’s voting rules that allow up to 10 nominees. Besides “Lincoln,” the list includes “Amour,” “Argo,” “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” “Django Unchained,” “Les Miserables,” “Life of Pi,” “Silver Linings Playbook,” and “Zero Dark Thirty.”

Notably absent were box-office smashes such as “The Avengers,” “The Dark Knight Rises” and “Skyfall,” the very sort of films whose controversial omissions were the original impetus behind expanding the best picture nominees beyond the traditional five.

The best director category, whose nominations typically correlate closely with the favorites for best picture, offered a shock to pundits. There were no nominations for Ben Affleck for “Argo” or Kathryn Bigelow for “Zero Dark Thirty.” Both directed political thrillers that dared to deviate from Hollywood’s knee-jerk anti-Americanism — and both had fared well in the early awards-season competitions that historically track with later Oscar success. While both films received multiple Oscar nominations, the snub of their directors makes it unlikely that either will win best picture.

Other surprising omissions for best director were Tom Hooper for “Les Miserables” and Quentin Tarantino for “Django Unchained,” both major box office hits. Instead, the academy honored Austrian auteur Michael Haneke for “Amour,” first-time feature director Behn Zeitlin for “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” Ang Lee for “Life of Pi” and David O. Russell for “Silver Linings Playbook.” While “Life of Pi” was a moderate box office success, the other two were little seen by mainstream audiences, with the French-language “Amour” unknown outside of the art house circuit.

Daniel Day-Lewis, a perennial Oscar favorite, scored his fifth nomination for his portrayal of Honest Abe in “Lincoln.” Other best actor contenders include Bradley Cooper in “Silver Linings Playbook,” Hugh Jackman in “Les Miserables,” Joaquin Phoenix in “The Master” and Denzel Washington in “Flight.” Mr. Phoenix is a particularly surprising choice, because he recently had some disparaging words for the academy, calling the Oscars “the stupidest thing in the whole world,” despite being himself a two-time previous nominee, for “Walk the Line” (2005) and “Gladiator” (2000).

Two records were set this year by the best actress nominees. Nine-year-old Quvenzhane Wallis in “Beasts of the Southern Wild” became the youngest nominee ever, while 85-year-old Emmanuelle Riva in “Amour” became the oldest. Joining them are Jessica Chastain in “Zero Dark Thirty,” Jennifer Lawrence in “Silver Linings Playbook” and Naomi Watts in “The Impossible,” that film’s only nomination. Missing was an anticipated nomination for Marion Cotillard’s turn in “Rust and Bone” as a paraplegic whale trainer.

The best supporting actor category is comprised exclusively of previous Oscar winners — Alan Arkin in “Argo,” Robert De Niro in “Silver Linings Playbook,” Philip Seymour Hoffman in “The Master,” Tommy Lee Jones in “Lincoln” and Christoph Waltz in “Django Unchained.” Mr. Waltz bested “Django” costars Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson for the nod, as well as Matthew McConaughey, whose well-received turns in films such as “Bernie” and “Magic Mike” had garnered Oscar buzz.

The supporting actress category is populated entirely by actresses who have either won or been nominated previously — Amy Adams in “The Master,” Sally Field in “Lincoln,” Anne Hathaway in “Les Miserables,” Helen Hunt in “The Sessions” and Jacki Weaver in “Silver Linings Playbook.”

Adapted screenplay will see Tony Kushner’s script for “Lincoln” face off against “Argo,” “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” “Life of Pi,” and “Silver Linings Playbook.” Mark Boal has the opportunity to win a second Oscar for his “Zero Dark Thirty” script, as does Mr. Tarantino for “Django Unchained.” Both compete with “Amour,” “Flight” and “Moonrise Kingdom.”

One notable nominee was Seth MacFarlane, creator of “Family Guy” and the host of this year’s ceremony. On hand to announce the nominations with actress Emma Stone, Mr. MacFarlane discovered that he had received a nomination for best original song in “Ted,” his directorial debut. “That’s cool, I got nominated. I get to go to the Oscars now,” he quipped.