2013 movie nominations

2013 Oscar nominations mark the start of an all-American race

LincolnPatriot games ... Steven Spielberg's Lincoln leads the field with 12 Oscar nominations. Photograph: 20thC Fox/Everett/Rex Features

This awards season begins with a rousing chorus of the Star-Spangled Banner, the crash of civil war gunfire, a strangled rebel yell and the sound of my crystal ball falling to the ground and shattering. Since the end of last summer I have been variously opining, tweeting and generally banging on about the brilliance of Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master and its disturbing vision of a quasi-scientology cult leader in postwar America – and how it was of course bound to clean up at Oscar time. Wrong! The Baftas denied it best film and best director nominations and now the Oscars have done the same thing, effectively declaring that it is inferior to, say, David O Russell's hyperactive dramedy Silver Linings Playbook.

Oh well. Every Oscar year has its forehead-slapping moment of bad taste and Anderson's film does at least have acting nominations for Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams – of which Hoffman might be worth a bet.

But it's quite clear that as far as the Academy is concerned there is room for only one master, and that is the 16th president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. Steven Spielberg's movie about Lincoln's constitutional dark night of the soul in the civil war – a choice to end slavery or end the bloodshed – leads the field with 12 Oscar nominations and offers Academy voters something reassuringly mainstream and essentially, unimpeachably patriotic. Perhaps it is odd that a non-American should have been chosen to play Lincoln, but Lincoln's Shakespearian greatness meant that Daniel Day-Lewis was entirely appropriate, and Hollywood and the Academy have always had great respect for Day-Lewis's sheer, Olivier-esque classiness.

There is a similarly patriotic charge to the seven nominations for Ben Affleck's Argo, his feisty, funny but oddly lightweight true-life political thriller about the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis. For all the satire and absurdity and craziness pinballing around the place in this movie, it ends on a deadly serious patriotic note.

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