BEVERLY HILLS (Reuters) - U.S. Civil War-era drama "Lincoln" won 12 Oscar nominations on Thursday, narrowly edging out the fantasy shipwreck tale "Life of Pi," while several top filmmakers were snubbed for the coveted director's award.
Director Steven Spielberg's story of President Abraham Lincoln's battle to end slavery was nominated for best picture along with "Life of Pi," which received a total of 11 nominations, and "Les Miserables," which had 8 nominations.
Iran hostage drama "Argo," French language drama "Amour," Osama bin Laden thriller "Zero Dark Thirty," comedy "Silver Linings Playbook," Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained," and mythological film "Beasts of the Southern Wild" rounded out the category.
The Oscars are given out by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and this year's winners will be named at a ceremony in Hollywood on February 24.
"The fact that there are so many great films this year purports for a great, great Oscar show. There isn't any one film that's way above all the others," Academy president Hawk Koch told Reuters after the nominations were announced.
"I don't know who's going to win and I don't think anyone is going to know until they open that envelope at the end of the (Oscars) show," Koch said.
Daniel Day-Lewis, nominated for his towering performance as Abraham Lincoln, is seen as the frontrunner for the best actor's award. Hugh Jackman, who plays a reformed petty thief in "Les Miserables," also was nominated in the category.
In the race for best actress, Jessica Chastain was nominated for her role as a CIA agent in "Zero Dark Thirty" as was Jennifer Lawrence for playing a young widow in "Silver Linings Playbook."
"Lincoln" also picked up nominations for best director - Spielberg - best supporting actors - Sally Field and Tommy Lee Jones - as well as for best adapted screenplay and costumes.
James Bond film "Skyfall" won five nominations, including best original song and cinematography, but the British secret agent movie missed out on a coveted best picture mention.
The screen adaption of musical "Les Miserables" will compete in eight categories, including best supporting actress for Anne Hathaway as tragic heroine Fantine.
But the director's short-list contained four major snubs - Tom Hooper ("Les Miserables") Ben Affleck for "Argo," Kathryn Bigelow for "Zero Dark Thirty" and Tarantino for his violent slavery-era Western "Django Unchained."
"Ben Affleck as best director is something I would have liked to have seen on the list. But overall, it's pretty much as expected," comedian Seth MacFarlane, who will host the Oscar ceremony, told Reuters.
PROBLEMS FOR 'ZERO DARK THIRTY'?
"Zero Dark Thirty", which recounts the decade-long hunt for bin Laden, picked up five nods, including best screenplay for Mark Boal.
But the omission of Bigelow in the best director's category may bode ill for the movie's Oscar hopes. The film has caused controversy in the United States over its depiction of torture and the possibly secret sources used by the filmmakers to reconstruct the long hunt for the al Qaeda leader.
"There weren't big shocks but there were a lot of pleasant surprises and a few mild disappointments," said Jeanne Wolf of Hollywood.com
"I think the fact that 'Django' and 'Beasts of the Southern Wild' got so acknowledged by the Academy in this community is very important because people love those films. They're unique, they're off the ball. There's always this guess that the Academy is too old fashioned and they wouldn't pay attention, but they sure did," Wolf said.
"Amour," a moving love story about an elderly couple, fared well with five nods from the Academy. It won a rare double nomination in both the main best picture race and as the foreign language entry for Austria, along with a directing nod for Michael Haneke.
"Amour" actress Emmanuelle Riva, 85, will compete in the lead actress category, becoming the oldest best actress nominee in the Academy's 85-year history.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, Quvenzhane Wallis, 9, became the youngest ever best actress Oscar nominee for her role in the apocalyptic movie set in the Louisiana delta - "Beasts of the Southern Wild" - which also garnered a nod for its first time director Benh Zeitlin.
(Additional reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Vicki Allen and Paul Simao)