Nine Best Picture Nominees and five oddball Best Director nominees...the notoriously crude "Family Guy" and Ted creator Seth MacFarlane as Academy Awards host...the 2013 Academy Awards seem to be a little wacky, but there's a reason. There's always a reason.
You should know that the Oscars telecast is somewhat at odds with the Academy Awards. The TV show needs to bring in a substantial audience every year to continue giving the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences money, prestige and keep it's worldwide telecast status. Therefore, the Oscars TV show must always recruit new, younger viewers to stay relevant. The average age of an Academy member is 62, only 14% is under 50 and they're generally kinda snobby about the movies they prefer – so, you see the problem. The result is the movies nominated haven't been seen by the general population, therefore, they don't care who wins, so why tune in?
To overcome this issue, the Academy has introduced two solutions. One is to have an entertaining host that will attract young people, an effort which failed epically two years ago with Anne Hathaway and James Franco* and now they're giving it a go with Seth MacFarlane. MacFarlane's comedy may be lowbrow, but it is smart, edgy and irreverent - which is the kind of comedy that sells right now. MacFarlane as a person, on the other hand, is charismatic, charming and croons "the standards," kinda like a Frank Sinatra/Tony Bennett, so the thinking is old people like that. Overall, Seth MacFarlane is much edgier than Billy Crystal without going the full Ricky Gervais.
The second solution is to expand the amount of Best Picture nominees in hopes some popular films will get nominated. The commercial film that had a shot wasn't really The Dark Knight Rises, that pic was too flawed; it was, however the James Bond anniversary pic Skyfall. But, nope, it didn't happen either. Instead, the "commercial" success is Lincoln, which I think we can all agree was always going to get a nomination. [The other nominees are kill Osama Bin Laden pic Zero Dark Thirty, how we got the hostages back in the '70s movie Argo, even crazy people fall in love rom-com Silver Linings Playbook, Tarantino slavery revenge pic Django Unchained, French film Amour (which translates to "Love"), how a Bayou girl survives poverty pic Beasts of the Southern Wild, CGI masterpiece Life of Pi and the everybody sings in one continuous extreme closeup pic Les Miserables.
So, then, the question becomes, how is that most of the seemingly Best Directors didn't get a nomination, like Kathryn Bigelow, Ben Affleck, Quentin Tarantino and - for some - Tom Hooper (although I think most people agree Tom Hooper is what was wrong with Les Miserables)? [The nominees are Behn Zietlan for Beasts of Southern Wild, Michael Haneke for Amour, Steven Spielberg for Lincoln, Ang Lee for Life of Pi, and David O. Russell for Silver Linings Playbook.] Three factors, possibly. Normally, the Academy nominates the same directors as recognized by the Directors Guild Association. However, this year the Academy moved up voting so that members had to get their votes for nominees in before the Directors Guild Association Awards nominees were announced. That early voting also may have affected Kathryn Bigelow and Quentin Tarantino whose films didn't come out until the end of the voting cycle. Third, and I hope this isn't true, you may have noticed not very many women get nominated for a Best Director award. To be fair, male directors significantly outnumber female directors. On the other hand, there may be some feeling that Kathryn Bigelow already got her Oscar with The Hurt Locker and there's been some sentiment in hindsight that she wasn't as deserving as other directors for the win. That bitter contingency may have cost her a nod (Academy membership is 77% male). But hopefully not.
What all this means is a chance Best Picture is anyone's game. Best Picture and Best Director generallly go hand in hand, but not always, like in 2005 when Ang Lee won for Best Director but his film, Brokeback Mountain, didn't win Best Picture, instead going to dark horse Crash. Also, in 1999 when Shakespeare in Love swept the Oscars including Best Picture but Steven Spielberg won Best Director for Saving Private Ryan. But, here's the year we may want to look at: 1990. Only three of the films were nominated for both Best Picture and Best Director, the result was that Driving Miss Daisy won Best Picture and its director Bruce Beresford wasn't even nominated for Best Director. Life of Pi just doesn't have the support to win, it's unlikely a French language film will win eliminating Amour, and Beasts of the Southern Wild is well-respected it also doesn't have the thrust to get over the finish line. It seems like a lock for Lincoln and Steven Spielberg. We can never count out Oscar mastermind Harvey Weinstein whose wins include the most baffling: The Artist, The King's Speech, Chicago, Shakespeare in Love and The English Patient; Weinstein he has two horses in the race: Silver Linings Playbook and Django Unchained. However, the buzz about town is that Argo and Zero Dark Thirty do seem to have the attention of industryites. Depending on what happens during campaigning in the next month, I think the chances are better than ever that Spielberg wins the Director crown but Best Picture goes elsewhere, and if voting occurred today, it would go to Argo.
*last year, Billy Crystal stepped in as an emergency replacement after the edgier Eddie Murphy dropped out at the last minute when his frequent collaborator, Brett Ratner, "resigned" from directing the ceremony after making a homophobic slur.