LOS ANGELES: Steven Spielberg’s taut political drama “Lincoln,” about the 16th US president’s drive to abolish slavery during the American Civil War, is in the driver’s seat for the Oscars with 12 nominations.
Taiwan-born Ang Lee’s visually stunning 3D adventure “Life of Pi,” based on the novel by Yann Martel, earned 11 nominations from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, ahead of the Oscars ceremony on February 24.
Both movies are nominated for the coveted best film prize, along with dark comedy “Silver Linings Playbook” and musical “Les Miserables,” which each earned eight nominations, and Iran hostage drama “Argo” with seven.
The Oscars nominations list, presented Thursday in the pre-dawn hours in Tinseltown, included a few surprises.
While “Argo” and Osama bin Laden manhunt “Zero Dark Thirty” were each nominated for best picture, directors Ben Affleck and Kathryn Bigelow, widely seen as shoo-ins in their category, were snubbed.
The best supporting actor race features five Oscar winners, while in the best actress race, the oldest-ever nominee, 85-year-old Emmanuelle Riva, will face off against nine-year-old Quvenzhane Wallis.
Beyond best film, “Lincoln” earned nods for best director for Spielberg, best actor for Daniel Day-Lewis for his portrayal of the American president and best supporting actor for Tommy Lee Jones as abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens.
The film had already picked up most nods for the Golden Globes, competing in seven categories in the show this weekend.
“Lincoln” has also garnered top nominations for the Screen Actors Guild, Directors Guild of America and Britain’s BAFTA awards, in the run-up to the Oscars announcement.
Its British-Irish star Day-Lewis will be vying to win a record third best actor Oscar, after winning the accolade in 1990 for “My Left Foot” and in 2008 for “There Will Be Blood.”
”Life of Pi,” about an Indian boy cast adrift with a Bengal tiger, will be Lee’s third bid for Oscars glory after a 2001 nod for “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and a best director 2006 win for “Brokeback Mountain.”
The movie secured three Golden Globe nominations, nine BAFTA nods and was on the DGA’s five-strong best film shortlist.
The best film race features nine films: “Amour,” “Argo,” “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” “Django Unchained,” “Les Miserables,” “Life of Pi,” “Lincoln,””Silver Linings Playbook,” “Zero Dark Thirty.”
Other nominees for best actor besides Day-Lewis are Hugh Jackman in “Les Miserables,” Bradley Cooper in “Silver Linings Playbook,” Joaquin Phoenix in “The Master” and Denzel Washington for “Flight.”
Best actress nominees are Jessica Chastain in “Zero Dark Thirty,” Jennifer Lawrence for “Silver Linings Playbook,” Riva in “Amour,” Naomi Watts in “The Impossible” and Wallis for “Beasts of the Southern Wild.”
Up for best supporting actor are five past Oscar winners: Jones for “Lincoln,” Alan Arkin for “Argo,” Robert De Niro for “Silver Linings Playbook,”Philip Seymour Hoffman for “The Master” and Christoph Waltz for “Django Unchained.””
Zero Dark Thirty,” about the decade-long manhunt for bin Laden after 9/11, has drawn criticism, including from the CIA, for appearing to justify the role of enhanced interrogation, or torture, in the hunt for the al Qaeda chief.
Romcom “Silver Linings Playbook” has also drawn lots of Hollywood buzz, notably for “Hangover” star Cooper but also for being a relatively light-hearted film in a field heavy on drama and history.
Best director nominees are Spielberg, Lee, Michael Haneke for “Amour,” Benh Zeitlin for “Beasts of the Southern Wild” and David O. Russell for “Silver Linings Playbook.”
For Hollywood veteran Spielberg, a best film or best director Oscar would go with his two top-drawer Academy Awards for 1993′s “Schindler’s List” and “Saving Private Ryan” in 1999.