The Oscar nominations have been announced. Here’s what our critics had to say about several films in contention.
Quentin Tarantino’s spaghetti western about slavery got nominations for best picture and for supporting actor Christoph Walz. Christopher Benfey found it a film ”in love with European allusions,” from Wagner to Dumas.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
The first installment of Peter Jackson’s take on Tolkien’s The Hobbit earned a nod for best visual effects, which J. Hoberman predicted. The movie “features endless digital battles predicated on space-warping virtual camera moves and chute-and-ladder sudden escapes.”
Beasts of the Southern Wild
The fantastical tale of a young New Orleans girl is up for best picture and best adapted screenplay. The film’s star, Quvenzhané Wallis, is up for best actress for her portrayal of Hushpuppy which Geoffrey O’Brien called "intense, unflinching, incapable of meek submission."
Michael Haneke’s film portrays a happily married Parisian couple dealing with "the shocks, the cruelties and indignities" of old age, writes Francine Prose. She said the French film, up for best picture, “stays with you long after you might have chosen to forget it.”
Joaquin Phoenix was nominated for best actor, and Philip Seymour Hoffman for best supporting actor, in Paul Thomas Anderson’s story of a cult leader. The character of Freddie Quell, Geoffrey O’Brien writes, is “a mass of tics and sexual compulsions who improvises his life from second to second. As played by Joaquin Phoenix—‘played’ seems too light a word—he inhabits his body as if it were ill-fitting armor he’d been saddled with.”
Steven Spielberg’s epic had the most Oscar nominations with twelve, including best picture, best director and best adapted screenplay. “The combination of Lincoln’s many elements is effected with a deliberation and exactness that consistently skirts the abyss of empty heart-stirring sentiment, the favorite destination of patriotic epics,” writes Geoffrey O’Brien of its depiction of the early months of 1865. Daniel Day-Lewis also received a nod for his portrayal, which David Bromwich called "a commanding performance and a credible one."