Only in Hollywood could a tiny, low-budget tale of a little girl named Hushpuppy who lives in the bayou take on a historical epic by master filmmaker Steven Spielberg about the 16th president’s struggle to end slavery and the Civil War.
But “Beasts of the Southern Wild” and “Lincoln” will both be vying for best picture and best director at the 85th Academy Awards ceremony, after Thursday morning’s Oscar nominations saw some shocking omissions, delightful surprises and Oscar history being made.
Rounding out the nine best picture nominees are: “Zero Dark Thirty,” “Argo,” “Les Miserables,” “Life of Pi,” “Silver Linings Playbook,” “Amour” and “Django Unchained. The other nominees for best director are Ang Lee for “Life of Pi,” David O. Russell for “Silver Linings Playbook,” Michael Haneke for “Amour” and Benh Zeitlin for “Beasts of the Southern Wild.”
PHOTOS: Top Oscar nominees
The nods put Spielberg on track to win his third Academy Award for best director and solidify his position as one of the industry’s most lauded filmmakers. Not that his standing was in doubt: Thursday’s nomination is his seventh best director nod. It’s an honor he has won twice before -- for “Schindler’s List” and “Saving Private Ryan.”
Winning a director Oscar this year would put Spielberg in the rarefied company of Hollywood legends John Ford, Frank Capra and William Wyler, the only filmmakers to have won three or more Oscars for best director.
Noticeably missing from the best director nominees are Kathryn Bigelow for “Zero Dark Thirty,” Tom Hooper for “Les Miserables” and Ben Affleck for “Argo.” Just this week, all three were nominated for the Directors Guild of America Award -- considered a leading Oscar indicator.
LIST: Complete list of nominees
“Lincoln” earned the most nominations of the day -- 12 -- including nods for performers Daniel Day-Lewis, Tommy Lee Jones and Sally Field.
Lee’s “Life of Pi,” a story about a shipwrecked young man who shares a lifeboat with a tiger, followed with 11 nominations. That was followed by the epic musical “Les Miserables” and the quirky romantic comedy “Silver Linings Playbook,” which earned eight nominations apiece. “Argo” earned seven nods.
In addition to Day-Lewis, the best actor nominees are Bradley Cooper for “Silver Linings Playbook,” Hugh Jackman for “Les Miserables,” Joaquin Phoenix for “The Master” and Denzel Washington for “Flight.” Best actress nominees include Jessica Chastain for “Zero Dark Thirty,” Jennifer Lawrence for “Silver Linings Playbook,” Emmanuelle Riva for “Amour,” Naomi Watts for “The Impossible” and Quevenzhane Wallis for “Beasts of the Southern Wild.”
FULL COVERAGE: Oscars 2013
“Amour” and “Beasts of the Southern Wild” made especially strong showings.
“Amour,” the Austrian drama about an elderly couple, earned five nominations including best film, best foreign language film, best director, best original screenplay and best actress. “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” a magical story that has captured the hearts of critics and moviegoers, received four marquee nominations: best film, best director, best adapted screenplay and best actress.
The two movies are making academy history. At 85, the veteran French actress Riva is the oldest nominee in her category in academy history, while Wallis is the youngest best actress nominee at the age of 9.
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Vying for best supporting actor along with Jones are Alan Arkin for “Argo,” Robert De Niro for “Silver Linings Playbook,” Philip Seymour Hoffman for “The Master” and Christoph Waltz for “Django Unchained.” All five nominees in the category are previous Oscar winners.
In the supporting actress category, Field will be competing against Amy Adams for “The Master,” Anne Hathaway for “Les Miserables,” Helen Hunt for “The Sessions,” and Jacki Weaver for “Silver Linings Playbook.”
Joining “Amour” in the foreign language film categories are “Kon-Tiki” from Norway, “No,” from Chile, “A Royal Affair” from Denmark and “War Witch” from Canada. A surprising omission from the list: France’s blockbuster hit “The Untouchables.”
PHOTOS: Oscar snubs & surprises