Anders Wright, Film Critic for San Diego CityBeat and President of the San Diego Film Critics Society
Beth Accomando, KPBS Arts Reporter and Author of the blog Cinema Junkie
Related Story: Midday Movies: Oscar Nominations Announced
CAVANAUGH: This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. It's a bit early for most San Diegans to watch live, but the nominations for the 85th academy awards were announced at 5:30 AM today. Nine films were nominated for best picture, and all around there were some surprising inclusions and omissions in this year's nominations. Joining me to talk with who's running for the Oscars this year, Anders wright is film critic for San Diego City beat, and president of the San Diego film critic society. Welcome to the show.
WRIGHT: Good to see you, Maureen.
CAVANAUGH: Beth Accomando is here, KPBS arts reporter, and author of cinema junkie.
CAVANAUGH: Lincoln leads the field with 12 nominations. Does this surprise either of you starting with you, anders?
[ LAUGHTER ]
WRIGHT: It really doesn't. I was thinking about what was going to be the big frontrunner, and it really makes sense that Lincoln is. It's got a high-profile acting role, it's got Spielberg, it's based on real event, it's an epic story, and it's about the eradication of slavery. That's the exact movie Oscar goes for.
ACCOMANDO: It's a very Hollywood film. And the thing about the academy and its voting member, they're all members of the industry. So they're voting for the films that either they know the people who worked on it or they appreciate what it represent, and this is a big Hollywood film that looks good, are it's slick, the acting is very good, and it's got a subject matter that they can feel good about.
WRIGHT: I quantity as taken with it as a lot of people were. But people really like this movie. They come out very affected by it.
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CAVANAUGH: Beth, could you round out the best picture nominees for us?
ACCOMANDO: Sure, there are nine. This is the newly expanded category of best picture, and there's Amor, which say foreign film, Argo, beast of the southern wild, "Django Unchained", "Life of Pi", Lincoln, "Silver Linings Playbook", and "Zero Dark Thirty."
CAVANAUGH: What do you like or hate about these nominations?
WRIGHT: There is one small movie I hoped would make it. It's called take this waltz by the Canadian actress Sarah Pauley. And it features a lovely performance from Michelle Williams. And I was surprised it was completely overlooked. But other than that, there's nothing here that really jumps out as being extraordinary film-making. I'm a big proponent of "Zero Dark Thirty" on this list. But I can sort of see how people are going for Lincoln. And most of the things -- the films that have made the list make sense.
CAVANAUGH: And Beth, you had a surprise, one of your top picks for the year got on this!
ACCOMANDO: For once! Oh, my God! I was thrilled to see beast of the southern wild make the list. It's a small, numbers film, beautifully made, and I was very glad to see that it managed to make the list, and I'm also happy to see "Django Unchained" on there.
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CAVANAUGH: That is the voice of --
ACCOMANDO: QuvenzhanÈ Wallis. The 6-year-old girl who is fabulous. And that's a nice surprise. She got a nomination.
CAVANAUGH: The youngest and the oldest nominees ever in the best actress category, right?
WRIGHT: Yeah, Emmanuel Riva for Amor. She is quite tremendous in this film. I don't believe she'll win the award.
ACCOMANDO: Probably not.
WRIGHT: But that film too, which opens here tomorrow, I think is poised to take the best foreign language.
ACCOMANDO: Although that category is always up for grabs. Unlike the others, you have to see all the nominees in order to vote in that category. So while from the outside you kind of go, oh, that looks like hands down the best winner, not the entire voting academy fends to make use of being able to see all those films and vote on all of them.
WRIGHT: What I think it is is because it's nominated in selfother big categories, if they give it the best foreign language film, they don't have to vote for it for best picture.
CAVANAUGH: Oh, really. Okay.
ACCOMANDO: But you still have to see it to vote for that category. And that changes its odds.
CAVANAUGH: The directing nominations. There are several that you might imagine. Spielberg, of course, for Lincoln. And Ang Lee for "Life of Pi". "Beasts of the Southern Wild", and one name that is not on the list that is sort of surprising a lot of people is Catherine Bigelow for "Zero Dark Thirty."
WRIGHT: I think it's a major snub. I personally believe it's the best-directed film of the year. And life of pi may be closely after that. But "Zero Dark Thirty" say controversial movie. People are talking about it for a lot of reasons. And she won the best director Oscar just a few years ago for the Hurt Locker, and in many way, it seems to be sending a message that people aren't going to vote for her new film this year.
CAVANAUGH: It does seem like almost a deliberate snub. Do you think people should take it that way?
ACCOMANDO: Yeah, it's hard to tell. If you want to look at it in a negative light, it would be a snub to Catherine. If you want to look at it in a positive light, it's like saying let's make some room for some of these smaller films and get some of those directors up there, people who have never had a chance to be up for a nomination.
ACCOMANDO: Well, Ben Zeitlin who did "Beasts of the Southern Wild," David Russell I'm less excited about. But those two I think are very deserving of the nomination. I think the fact that she won recently does also color it in the fact that the film has just recently stirred A LOT of controversy.
WRIGHT: And I don't look at it as an intentional snub. Whenever you're making a list of your top-five, top-10, you break down all the things that you want to be on there, and you've got to make cuts.
ACCOMANDO: And when you have the bigger best picture category with nine nominations, some of those films nominated are not going to have their directors showing.
CAVANAUGH: You feel the best actor category this time around is rather weak, as opposed to the best actress category. How does the best actress category round out?
ACCOMANDO: This year it's pretty exciting that we have more than five actresses that we feel are worthy of a nomination. Jessica Chastain for "Zero Dark Thirty." Jennifer Lawrence in "Silver Linings Playbook". Riva from Amore. And Wallis in beast of the southern wild. And Naomi Watts in the impossible.
CAVANAUGH: And there's a person missing from that list, I think. You wanted to see her.
WRIGHT: Michelle Williams, the work she did this take this waltz is really, really spectacular. But she didn't make the cut. They're saying right now that Jennifer Lawrence is the frontrunner. I think Jessica Chastain's work is superior, I suppose. And I think we've seen better work from Jennifer Lawrence herself. But we'll see.
CAVANAUGH: Do you think the lock is in for Daniel day Lewis as Lincoln?
ACCOMANDO: It would seem so, I think. Like I said, the nominations in that category there's nothing that's really exciting in that list to me. And they left off the most exciting punish who's in the supporting actor category, Christoph Waltz.
WRIGHT: If you look at that list, you don't look at them and say, they, they were better than Daniel Day Lewis in Lincoln.
CAVANAUGH: Christopher Lawrence in jango.
ACCOMANDO: It has to do with the studio. The studio tries to make these calculated decisions before the nominations come out as to how they might maximize their Oscar potential. And they were probably thinking if we put Kristoff Walt in best actor, he's less likely to get nominated. And if they're pushing Jamie fox for a best actor category, they would have competition with themselves. That's why we had tatum O'Neal in paper moon who's on screen for like 110 of 114 minutes in the supporting actress category. And age sometimes too. Of the young girl from beast of the southern wild, I'm sure there was a serious debate about whether we should put her up for supporting actress. But there's absolutely no way.
WRIGHT: She's the movie.
CAVANAUGH: What about supporting actors and actress roles? Anything jump out at you?
WRIGHT: I think Tommy Lee Jones is probably a lock to win for Lincoln. Christoph Waltz is terrific in jango. But against him, he won the last time he was in another Tarantino movie. And Tommy Lee Jones is pretty good in linkop. And his competition, Allen arcin is pretty good in Argo. Robert DeNiro showed up and did silver linings laybook. And Phillip Seymour Hoffman is tremendous, but it's being overlooked. Best supporting actress, my guess that Ann Hathaway is going to win. But people love Ann Hathaway.
CAVANAUGH: Well, she lost a lot of weight and cut her hair. Of she's got to win something for it, right?
[ LAUGHTER ]
WRIGHT: And she's the best part of that movie.
ACCOMANDO: No, I would say the other supporting actress who didn't get nominated, Samantha Barks, I think, she actually played the role in Les Mis, on stage, and she was the only highlight in that film for me.
CAVANAUGH: Let me talk about Seth MacFarlane. He's going to be the host. How do you feel about that? I would ventsure to say there are a lot of people to say there are a lot of people who go to the moveebs who don't know who he is.
WRIGHT: I would agree with you. He's mostly been known for his TV work. But this year, he did venture into films. Ted, the comedy with mark Walhberg. And he voices --
CAVANAUGH: Oh, the one with the bear.
WRIGHT: Exactly. And Seth is the voice of the bear.
ACCOMANDO: Everyone probably knows his voice.
WRIGHT: Yes, or voices.
WRIGHT: He's a very funny guy. And he's -- his humor is generally considered to be more edgy than most of the Oscar humor would be. But they obviously need to shake things up. Last year they had James Franco and Ann Hathaway?
ACCOMANDO: Was it last year? It's a painful memory.
WRIGHT: It was a disaster. And I think they're hoping they can bring it become to one guy who can zing the crowd. So he could fall flat, he could offend a lot of people, or he could be exactly the shot in the arm they need.
ACCOMANDO: If you look at Family Guy and the kind of humor that's in there, there's a lot of musical comedy, and a lot of, you know, affection for old-school Hollywood.
ACCOMANDO: So I think there might be an interesting kind of match-up between him and the Oscars. Just enough sly humor to keep it edgy, but just enough of the showmanship that they want to make it fun.
WRIGHT: Yeah, and he can sing, so --
CAVANAUGH: And he has a best song nominee.
WRIGHT: He'll be performing.
ACCOMANDO: This is one of the first times I've ever been excited about a song that's been nominated.
WRIGHT: And his audience skews young.
CAVANAUGH: That's what they need. I won't ask you for prediction, we'll wait till we get closer.