Family, broad audience films at forefront of this year's Oscars race

By Jeff Peterson

For the Deseret News

Published: Thursday, Jan. 10 2013 6:25 p.m. MST

Suraj Sharma in "Life of Pi."

Twentieth Century Fox

Thursday morning, celebrity host Seth MacFarlane and co-presenter Emma Stone announced the nominees for the 85th annual Academy Awards. Amid all the surprises and snubs typical of awards season, films for more broad and family audiences came out ahead.

Leading the pack with the most nominations — 12 altogether — including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor in a Leading Role, is Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln,” rated appropriate for ages 13-plus by OK.com. The historical drama focusing on the last months of the president’s life has already earned a number of honors during awards season, including a Best Actor win for Daniel Day-Lewis from the New York Film Critics Circle earlier this week.

For right now, at least, Day-Lewis looks like he could be the front-runner in the Best Actor category. If he wins, this would be his third statuette.

Along with Day-Lewis, the cast of “Lincoln” is also nominated in the Best Supporting Actress and Best Supporting Actor categories for Oscar vets Sally Field and Tommy Lee Jones, respectively. However, although Field also brought home an award from the New York Film Critics Circle for her role as Mary Todd Lincoln, many are predicting the Oscar will go to Anne Hathaway for “Les Misérables.”

Right behind “Lincoln” with an impressive 11 nominations is another family-oriented film, Ang Lee’s “Life of Pi,” a PG-rated film that, according to OK.com, is appropriate for ages 12 and up. The visually stunning adaptation of Yann Martel’s best-selling novel will compete head to head with the Spielberg biopic in many of the big categories, including Best Picture and Best Director.

“Life of Pi” is also a strong contender for the Best Visual Effects award, a category it shares with more mainstream fare like “Marvel’s The Avengers” and “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.”

Finally, in third place with eight nominations, including Best Picture, Best Actor (Hugh Jackman) and Best Supporting Actress (Anne Hathaway), is Tom Hooper’s adaptation of Claude-Michel Schönberg’s “Les Misérables," which OK.com recommends for ages 15-plus.

Undoubtedly the biggest shock from the Thursday morning nominees announcement, however, was the sheer amount of love shown to one of the hits of last year’s Sundance Film Festival, first-time director Benh Zeitlin’s fantastical and surreal “Beasts of the Southern Wild” (rated PG-13).

Along with a Best Picture nod, Zeitlin himself edged out top-tier names like Ben Affleck (“Argo”), Kathryn Bigelow (“Zero Dark Thirty”) and Tom Hooper (“Les Miserables”) for a coveted Best Director nomination, causing a bit of an upset among Oscar prognosticators. Meanwhile, his “Beasts” star, the 9-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis, became the youngest person ever nominated in the Best Actress category. This puts her in direct competition against another historic nominee, French actress Emanuelle Riva (“Amour”) who, at 85, is the oldest nominee in the category.

Among other things, the unexpected, but well-deserved, success of “Beasts of the Southern Wild” is proof of concept for Utah’s Sundance Film Festival. The little indie film that could should be great publicity for the Park City-based event as it gears up for its 2013 program in the next few days.

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