This morning, in irksomely bit-y fashion (it's too early for bits, guys), Emma Stone and Seth MacFarlane announced the nominees for this year's Academy Awards. As always there were some surprises, some disappointments, and some definite snubs. To spare you from us gloating about how mostly right we were in our predictions, let's first talk about how we were wrong.
The morning's biggest upsets/surprises/whatever definitely came in the Best Director category. Two of the directors that we called "this year's favorites" yesterday, Zero Dark Thirty's Kathryn Bigelow and Argo's Ben Affleck, were left off the list this morning, in exchange for Life of Pi's Ang Lee and Amour's Michael Haneke. Well, OK, most others would say they were left off in exchange for Silver Linings Playbook director David O. Russell or Beasts of the Southern Wild's Benh Zeitlin, who were for many the surprise inclusions of the morning. But yeah, no chance at gold for Bigelow and Affleck, the two American directors who told tales of American soldiers and operatives prevailing in troubled Middle Eastern climes.
Were the movies too political? It'd be hard to argue that Argo was, being that it's about a 30-year-old mission that is near-universally viewed as a good. But in Zero Dark Thirty's case, we suspect that, yes, something about the film's urgent political/moral tone and its unwillingness to tie things up nicely did alienate Academy voters. How else to explain the movie's snubs for both director Bigelow and cinematography? Sure it got the Best Picture, Screenplay, and Actress nods, but this was one of the best-reviewed films of the year. That its director was ignored in favor of Russell and Lee indicates, to us anyway, that there was some itchiness with the movie's subject matter. Affleck is a bigger mystery. A beloved Hollywood fixture, helming a beloved Hollywood movie. It seemed like a sure-thing. And yet. The Academy is strange and fickle, folks!