2013's Biggest Oscar Nomination Surprises

By Matthew Dagen,
Who's In? Who's Out?

Award season is in full swing as the Academy Award nominations have now been officially released. A total of nine films have been nominated for Best Picture, the same total as last year's ceremony. As with every year, there are plenty of names and movies that get left off the list, and some that make it on but leave the public scratching their heads. Here's a list of the biggest surprises of this year's Oscar nominees, and if there are any other big snubs or surprises, feel free to leave comments below:

Leonardo DiCaprio, Best Supporting Actor - Django Unchained

What does the man have to do to win the golden statue? He's been previously nominated for What's Eating Gilbert Grape? in the supporting actor category and for The Aviator and Blood Diamond in the lead acting category, failing to win on all three occasions. DiCaprio also turned in Oscar-worthy performances in The Departed and Shutter Island, but wasn't nominated. In his first movie in a long time that he could even be considered a supporting character, DiCaprio's turn as Calvin Candie was so different from all of his other roles, and so perfectly executed, as well as a Golden Globe nom to boot, an Oscar nomination seemed like a no-brainer. Guess not.

Ben Affleck, Best Director - Argo

If anyone deserves to be in the mix for best achievement in directing, it's Ben Affleck. Not only is his movie about the Iran hostage crisis nominated for Best Picture, but Affleck is, first and foremost, and actor. Affleck's directing chops have gotten better and better from film to film, with Argo being his best crack at being behind the camera yet. The movie keeps the viewer on the edge of their seat the entire time, even with most of the viewers already knowing exactly how the plot ends before they went into the theater.

Kathryn Bigelow, Best Director - Zero Dark Thirty

In 2010, Bigelow became the first woman to win the Academy Award for Best Director, winning the award for the Iraq war drama The Hurt Locker. Three years later, she released a film about the same war, but with a little more controversy involved, this one about the SEAL Team 6 raid on bin Laden's compound that resulted in the death of bin Laden. Despite the film receiving nominations for it's screenplay, best picture and lead actress for Jessica Chastain, Bigelow didn't make the cut in the directing category.

Quentin Tarantino, Best Director - Django Unchained

With Django getting Tarantino a nomination for best original screenplay, this marks the third film of his that has been nominated after Pulp Fiction and Inglorious Basterds. In the cases of those other two films, Tarantino was also nominated for best director along with the screenplay nods. This time around, while the Academy seemed OK with the racially charged script, maybe the excessive, over-the-top violence was a little off-putting.

Judi Dench, Best Supporting Actress & Javier Bardem, Best Supporting Actor - Skyfall

While it's nice Adele got some love for the title song in the latest James Bond adventure, where's the love for the two former winners that helped bring depth and acting prowess to the action heavy series? Both Dench and Bardem, who was one of the best Bond villains in recent years, helped make Skyfall one of the best acted Bond movies in some time, and a nomination for either of them could've helped show that the Academy actually does watch popcorn movies too.

Rian Johnson, Best Original Screenplay - Looper

Shut out of the Golden Globes as well, Rian Johnson's screenplay for his film Looper is probably the most original of all of the original screenplays that came out this past year in cinemas. The film itself got shut out of the Oscars completely, but this one is definitely worth a look. It's sitting pretty at 94 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, and features Josepth Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis bringing Johnson's script to life as the same person out to kill each other. What's not to like?

Jacki Weaver, Best Supporting Actress - Silver Linings Playbook

With Jacki Weaver's surprise, but well deserved nomination, Silver Linings Playbook tallied nominations in every major category: Best Picture, Best Director (David O. Russell), Best Actor (Bradley Cooper), Best Actress (Jennifer Lawrence), Best Supporting Actor (Robert DeNiro) and Best Original Screenplay (Russell). This is the first film since Reds received nominations in all seven categories in 1982.

Seth MacFarlane & Walter Murphy, Best Original Song - Ted

Even if it's just for the opening credits song, it's nice to see America's favorite new foul mouthed teddy bear getting some Oscar love. MacFarlane, also this year's host, used what kind of sounds like recycled Family Guy music, but the festive nature of it, coupled with Norah Jones on the microphone, makes for one of the more lighthearted moments in an otherwise filthy, yet hilarious, film.

Beasts of the Southern Wild

Every year, Oscar seems to invite an indie darling to the big dance, and this time around, that film is Beasts of the Southern Wild. The film, which got its premiere last year at the Sundance Film Festival, received nominations in four of the major categories, including Best Picture, Best Director (Benh Zeitlin), Best Adapted Screenplay (Lucy Alibar & Benh Zeitlin) and Best Actress (Quvenzhané Wallis). Wallis became the youngest ever nominee for Best Actress at nine years old.

The Dark Knight Rises

The fanboys are going to be mad about this one. While The Dark Knight didn't garner Christopher Nolan directing or writing nominations, it did receive the Best Supporting Actor win for the late Heath Ledger, as well as nominations and one win in seven of the technical categories. While there weren't any standout performances like Ledger's, Nolan's final chapter in his Batman trilogy didn't receive a single nomination. Not a one.

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