The Oscar noms: Tons of surprises

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences has been trying desperately to shake up their Oscar nominations, and they finally succeeded. In what was generally considered one of the strongest movie years in a decade, the nominations this morning had tons of surprises — many exactly of the kind they wanted, including a powerhouse appearance by indie hit Beasts of the Southern Wild.

Still, many of the predicted frontrunners did expectedly well, with Lincoln scoring the most nominations (12, including three for acting — tied for the most ever acting noms from a Steven Spielberg-directed film), followed closely by my favorite film of the year, Ang Lee’s Life of Pi, which, with 11 nods, has the most ever for a film that didn’t receive a single acting nomination. Also, the dreadful Silver Linings Playbook did well, largely via the push by Harvey Weinstein, despite being the worst movie of 2012Bernie and Cloud Atlas were completely snubbed, as was Matthew McConaughey, who did four films with some buzz last year.

The biggest upsets were in the direction category, with four of the frontrunners — former Oscar winners Kathryn Bigelow, Tom Hooper, Quentin Tarantino and Ben Affleck — all being passed over for inferior work from David O. Russell for SLP, and Beasts‘ Ben Zeitlin in his film debut.

Some good surprises include gay filmmaker David France’s AIDS movie How to Survive a Plague nominated for best documentary feature and The Simpsons‘ cartoon The Longest Daycare snagging a nom for animated short.

All the nominations after the jump.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

USA Film Fest opens with history of AIDS, Q&A

This week, I reviewed How to Survive a Plague, a fascinating and emotional documentary from journo-turned-filmmaker David France about the early days of the AIDS crisis, especially as it relates to the founding of ACT-UP. The screening kicks off this year’s 42nd annual USA Film Festival.

David France, pictured, will be in attendance, and yours truly will be moderating the question and answer session immediately following it, and bring your questions for David!

—  Arnold Wayne Jones