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Originally published Thursday, January 10, 2013 at 4:46 PM

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Oscar snubs, flubs and sure things

"Lincoln's" dominance of the field of Oscar nominees is not surprising. But the omission of nods for directors Kathryn Bigelow and Tom Hooper is. Seattle Times movie critic Moira Macdonald assesses Thursday's announcement.

Seattle Times movie critic

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The Academy Award nominations, announced Thursday morning, brought both the expected and the unexpected. No surprise was the success of Steven Spielberg's Academy-friendly, star-studded "Lincoln," which led the pack with 12 nominations — an impressive if not record-setting total — including best picture. Eyebrows were raised, though, at the best director category, which bypassed previous winners and presumably safe bets like Kathryn Bigelow ("Zero Dark Thirty") and Tom Hooper ("Les Misérables") in favor of first-time nominees Michael Haneke ("Amour") and Benh Zeitlin ("Beasts of the Southern Wild").

Like last year, nine movies were nominated for best picture (out of a possible 10, which each nominee needing to get at least 5 percent of the first-place votes). The biggest surprises on the list were Haneke's quiet, gripping French-language drama "Amour" (a rare foreign-language film to make the top category) and the ultra-low-budget, fantastical indie "Beasts of the Southern Wild," which also made history by providing the youngest-ever best actress nominee: Quvenzhané Wallis, now 9 years old. Among those against whom she'll compete: the oldest-ever nominee in the category, 85-year-old Emmanuelle Riva for "Amour." (Local note: "Amour" hasn't yet played theaters here but is scheduled at arrive at the Harvard Exit on Jan. 25.)

The acting nominees were mostly Oscar veterans; only four of the 20 had never been nominated before (Wallis, Riva, Hugh Jackman for "Les Misérables" and Bradley Cooper for "Silver Linings Playbook"). Nine of the 20 are previous winners; including, unusually, every nominee in the supporting actor category (Alan Arkin, Robert De Niro, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Tommy Lee Jones, Christoph Waltz). Those looking to mark their Oscar ballots early should note the year's safest bet: Daniel Day-Lewis for best actor, for his uncanny work in the title role of "Lincoln." The year's biggest snub, in my book, is also in that category: John Hawkes, unrecognized for his soulful depiction of a writer confined to an iron lung in "The Sessions."

As usual, many of the year's box-office leaders didn't figure much into the Academy voting: "The Dark Knight Rises" received no nominations; "The Hobbit," "The Avengers" and "Skyfall" (despite some buzz that it might be a well-deserved Bond year) weren't named in major categories.

Oscar host Seth McFarlane, in a departure from tradition, announced the nominations himself early Thursday, alongside Emma Stone — and proved himself ready to crack wise at 5:30 a.m. Perhaps there'll be a little bit of energy in this year's Oscar ceremony after all. It'll be held Sunday, Feb. 24; until then, let the campaign season begin.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

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