Political stumping and stage singing were the order of the day as The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences handed down nominations for the 85th annual Oscars.
Steven Spielberg's Lincoln led all films with 12 nominations, including best picture, best director, best actor for Daniel Day-Lewis and best supporting actress for Sally Field.
Ang Lee's adaptation Life of Pi received 11 nominations, a surprise for some of the publicists and media in attendance at the pre-dawn ceremony in Beverly Hills. Pi earned nominations for best director for Lee and best picture.
Les Misérables saw a big morning and a surprising snub. The film earned eight nominations (tying it with Silver Linings Playbook), including best picture, actor for Hugh Jackman and supporting actress for Anne Hathaway. But director Tom Hooper didn't make the cut.
Among the other snubs: Ben Affleck, who was considered a front-runner for a best-director nomination, though his story of the Iran hostage crisis Argo did collect seven nominations, including best picture. Also snubbed in the directing category: Zero Dark Thirty's Kathryn Bigelow and Django Unchained's Quentin Tarantino, both of whom are former Oscar winners.
Surprise nominees included the elderly French love story Amour, which nabbed nominations for best picture, best director (Michael Haneke) and best actress (Emmanuelle Riva).
The low-budget bayou fairy tale Beasts of the Southern Wild collected surprise nominations as well, including best picture, best actress for Quvenzhané Wallis, best director for Benh Zeitlin and best adapted screenplay.
The 85th annual show is scheduled for Feb. 24 on ABC.
The nominations follow a strong year at the turnstiles for the industry, which hit a record $10.8 billion in ticket sales in 2012.
More importantly: Attendance at the cineplex spiked 5% over last year, increasing possible viewership.
Louis Giannetti, emeritus film professor at Case Western Reserve University and author of Understanding Movies, says the academy's selections represent a good-if-not-great year artistically for movies.
He says 2012 lacked "that one big film that everyone acknowledges is a masterpiece and is the overriding favorite."
Of the slate of movies, "I'd give it a B-plus," Giannetti says. "I'm not sure we had a movie this year that just knocked your socks off."
The flip side, he says, is that without a heavyweight, the match-ups could be riveting. Oscar hasn't seen an upset for best picture since 2006, when Crash upset Brokeback Mountain.
Although films like Lincoln, Les Misérables and Argo have been scoring well with smaller film circles, "there is really no front-runner for Oscar," he says. "Even the director's race is up for grabs."