I set my alarm (as a late riser, I’m always on L.A. time) and was up at the crack of 8:30 to hear Emma Stone and this year’s Oscar Host Seth MacFarlane announce the nominations– when I was blown out of my breakfast nook by the stupefying news that Kathryn Bigelow and Ben Affleck were NOT nominated as BEST DIRECTORS for their fine films, respectively: ZERO DARK THIRTY and ARGO. (See my reviews.)

Was ZERO DARK THIRTY too damning, too controversial with its scenes of waterboarding? Or did the Academy think that one Oscar nomination for the first woman director ever to win one (last year for THE HURT LOCKER) was enough?

Was ARGO too morally complex because it suggested that the Iranians who stormed the American Embassy that day in 1979 were understandably angry at being oppressed for 25 years by a cruel dictator installed in cooperation with the US government? I am mystified. Is the voting body getting more conservative? Less intelligent? Did they see these movies??

And what of Director Quentin Tarentino and his explosively bloody Plantation Western DJANGO UNCHAINED? At least DJANGO was nominated for Best Picture, and the diabolically charismatic Christoph Waltz.

Somehow the quirky but slight family dramedy SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK and its director David O.Russell snagged a spot with 8 nominations in all.  Jennifer Lawrence Best Actress? Bradley Cooper Best Actor? These were good performances, interesting even– but hardly the stuff that Oscar should be made of. Bradley Cooper and Daniel Day-Lewis going head to head???

In fact, the Best Actress category is the weakest– Naomi Watts as a Tsunami victim spends the whole film wet and moaning– and THE IMPOSSIBLE was not a porn film.  Helen Hunt would have won in this category for her extraordinary work as a sex surrogate in the grossly under appreciated THE SESSIONS. She was half of those sessions. The other half was John Hawkes as the polio victim to whom she was ministering. His extraordinary performance was overlooked entirely.

Hunt instead finds herself positioned in the Best Supporting Actress category where she will most likely lose to the marvelous Sally Field in LINCOLN or Anne Hathaway, the one bright spot in the miserable LES MISERABLES. The child Quvenzhane Wallis in BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD— while captivatingly natural– hardly delivers  what anyone could call a fully shaped, character- infused performance.

I am thrilled however, that the brilliant Austrian/German film AMOUR directed by Michael Haneke in French was nominated for Best Picture, Foreign Feature, Director, and Best Actress for the brilliant Emmanuelle Riva– who should win because she deserves to for her tender, soul-searing, subtly nuanced heartbreaker of a performance–  not because she’s an octogenarian. Her co-star the towering Jean Louis Trintignant should have been nominated as Best Actor, but they just had to leave room for Hugh jackman’s overwrought performance in LES MIS.

I am thrilled for Denzel for his potent performance in FLIGHT. The Best Supporting Actor category is far and away the strongest– packed with previous Oscar winners, and spectacular performances all around. I’m a big fan of LINCOLN and its 12 nominations.

That’s my two cents. I will attempt to calm down before February 24th. Here’s the gory story in the top 6 categories:

Best Picture:
“Beasts of the Southern Wild”
“Silver Linings Playbook”
“Zero Dark Thirty”
“Les Miserables”
“Life of Pi”
“Django Unchained”

Best Supporting Actor:
Christoph Waltz, “Django Unchained”
Philip Seymour Hoffman, “The Master”
Robert De Niro, “Silver Linings Playbook”
Alan Arkin, “Argo”
Tommy Lee Jones, “Lincoln”

Best Supporting Actress:
Sally Field, “Lincoln”
Anne Hathaway, “Les Miserables”
Jacki Weaver, “Silver Linings Playbook”
Helen Hunt, “The Sessions”
Amy Adams, “The Master”

Best Director:
David O. Russell, “Silver Linings Playbook”
Ang Lee, “Life of Pi”
Steven Spielberg, “Lincoln”
Michael Haneke, “Amour”
Benh Zeitlin, “Beasts of the Southern Wild”

Best Actor:
Daniel Day Lewis, “Lincoln”
Denzel Washington, “Flight”
Hugh Jackman, “Les Miserables”
Bradley Cooper, “Silver Linings Playbook”
Joaquin Phoenix, “The Master”

Best Actress:
Naomi Watts, “The Impossible”
Jessica Chastain, “Zero Dark Thirty”
Jennifer Lawrence, “Silver Linings Playbook”
Emmanuelle Riva, “Amour”
Quvenzhané Wallis, “Beasts of the Southern Wild”