With less than two weeks until the inauguration, America — or Hollywood, at least — has come together to fully support one president. That president is Abraham Lincoln.
Steven Spielberg’s biopic of the 16th president and the 13th Amendment garnered 12 Academy Award nominations Thursday, including best picture, director, adapted screenplay, supporting actor and supporting actress — and a much-anticipated best-actor nod for Daniel Day-Lewis, a two-time Oscar winner (“There Will Be Blood,” “My Left Foot”), whose stooped, homespun performance transformed Lincoln from myth to man.
“We are absolutely thrilled and astonished with the 12 nominations,” wrote producers Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy in a joint statement that acknowledged a numerical coincidence: “It is such a tribute to the work of those who joined us in this 12-year journey to bring ‘Lincoln’ to the screen.”
“I’m tremendously honored,” Tony Kushner, the “Lincoln” screenwriter, wrote in his midair missive. “I heard that I’d been nominated while waiting to take off on a plane from JFK to LAX. James Gandolfini, who’s sitting in front of me, gave me a hug and a kiss, so I’m about as happy as can be.”
Focus on D.C.
“Lincoln” was just one of this year’s Washington-centric films. Two other Hollywood contenders also looked eastward, honoring the policy, process and nitty-gritty niggling of the nation’s capital. “Zero Dark Thirty,” Kathryn Bigelow’s tense account of the 10-year hunt for Osama bin Laden, won five nominations — although none for Bigelow, who remains the only woman to have won an Oscar in the directing category, in 2010 for “The Hurt Locker.”
Ben Affleck’s “Argo,” about a gutsy, goofy CIA mission to rescue U.S. Embassy workers during the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis, received seven nods, including best picture, adapted screenplay and supporting actor. Affleck, too, was shut out of the directing category. But fear not, Ben. Everyone who follows Hollywood knows that each year is either a Ben Affleck year or a Matt Damon year. It is still an Affleck year.
As with last year, the Academy was technically allowed to put forth up to 10 best-picture nominations but instead stuck with nine — a number that managed to seem both bountiful and choosy.
The best-picture nominees also included French Revolution song-fest “Les Miserables,” spaghetti-western revenge fantasy “Django Unchained,” heartwrenching love story “Amour,” the lush “Life of Pi” and the fantastical “Beasts of the Southern Wild.” “Silver Linings Playbook,” a tragicomic love story/dance-off chronicling a man’s reentry into society after a stint in a mental institution, was the only picture to win nods for best picture, best director and all acting categories.
“I let out a very loud, elongated expletive,” says supporting actress nominee Jacki Weaver, up for portraying a dizzy, enabling mom in “Silver Linings.” “You can’t print it. You know what it was.”
Weaver called from New York and sent her love to Washington — she lived here in 2011 while performing in the Kennedy Center’s “Uncle Vanya.” “It was very hot,” she said. “And I was there for the earthquake.”
Her voice was a bit rough from talking to everyone Thursday morning. Everyone but her husband, who’s home in Australia. “I’ve rung him several times, and I haven’t been able to get him,” she said. “I think he’s still asleep. He’s not a good sleeper so I felt guilty for trying him so early.”
A surprise to few
It was all portrayed as such a surprise, such a whirlwind, from which everyone emerged humbled and thrilled and flabbergasted and stunned.
Thursday was the latest iteration of a beloved and punishing annual ritual: Hollywood dragged itself out of bed at precisely 5:38 a.m. to listen to this year’s host, Seth MacFarlane, and his sidekick, Emma Stone, stand on an empty stage and read a list of names, 90 percent of which had been predicted — and praised and pooh-poohed — before the mike check was finished.
Awards prognostication has become such an art form that the people who follow these things tend to be shocked by the one slot they didn’t guess rather than smug over the four they did.
Example: For months, critics had discussed the deserved inevitability of Day-Lewis’s nomination, and he was joined by other compulsories: Denzel Washington’s alcoholic tailspin in “Flight,” Hugh Jackman for “Les Miserables,” Joaquin Phoenix as a questioning believer in “The Master.” But then, surprise! Helloooo, Bradley Cooper! Your manic turn in “Silver Linings Playbook” was touching and tortured, but wasn’t your slot supposed to go to John Hawkes, supine and iron-lunged in “The Sessions”?