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BILL ZWECKER: Insiders see the nominations evolving — to a degree

FILE - This film image released by Fox Searchlight Pictures shows Quvenzhane Wallis portraying Hushpuppy scene from 'Beasts Southern Wild.'

FILE - This film image released by Fox Searchlight Pictures shows Quvenzhane Wallis portraying Hushpuppy in a scene from, "Beasts of the Southern Wild." Wallis was nominated for an Academy Award for best actress on Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013, for her role in the film. The 85th Academy Awards will air live on Sunday, Feb. 24, 2013 on ABC. (AP Photo/Fox Searchlight Pictures, Mary Cybulski)

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Updated: February 12, 2013 2:36PM



Every year there seem to be controversies stirred when the Academy Award nominations are announced, but the ones revealed Thursday cut across all kinds of groups in Hollywood.

While a veteran industry executive claimed “the increase in younger members of the [Motion Picture] Academy made possible the nominations for ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’ and [youngest ever best actress nominee] Quvenzhane Wallis,” that Hollywood player expressed disappointment that “except for that little girl, Denzel Washington and the best picture nomination for ‘Django Unchained,’ Hollywood still has a long way to go in the diversity department.

“Yes, ‘Lincoln’ was about the abolition of slavery,” added the exec, “but where was a nomination for Samuel L. Jackson for ‘Django Unchained’ — one of his finest performances in a career filled with great performances?”

† In chats Thursday with a couple of Academy members, it was clear the attempt to reach younger audiences — both for films and for the annual Oscar show — has been intensified this year. “That’s why you saw the big change in how they made the announcement [Thursday] morning, by getting Seth Mac­Farlane to give us a taste of what we can expect when he hosts the Oscars,” said one source.

Added another Academy voting member, who also happens to be a director and producer, “Ten years ago you would never have seen a first-time director like Benh Zeitlin nominated over a Kathryn Bigelow or a Ben Affleck or a Tom Hooper. You also likely wouldn’t have seen the older voters — and there are still a lot of them — voting to nominate someone like Joaquin Phoenix who recently said the Oscars were not relevant.”

† While many were trying to figure out why various people were snubbed by Oscar this year, one source opined that the lack of a directing nod for Bigelow [who is up for best picture as a producer] was “largely due to concerns raised about the film’s factual authenticity, possible breach of classified material and — most importantly — strong negative feelings about that very long torture sequence in the beginning.”

UNHAPPY VOTER: Academy member Anthony Mackie, who was in Chicago on Thursday, had no qualms about saying he was “appalled” by the overall list of nominations.

“I don’t know what the Academy was thinking!” said the actor, who was especially unhappy about Bigelow, his “The Hurt Locker” director, getting left out of the directing category for “Zero Dark Thirty.” Ditto for Affleck (“Argo”) and Quentin Tarantino (“Django Unchained.”)

As for “Lincoln,” Mackie was disappointed the film didn’t include the contributions of key abolitionist Frederick Douglass. (“The movie was three hours long; couldn’t they have at least included a couple of lines with Douglass meeting Lincoln?”)

The good news? When a Mackie associate noted “Cloud Atlas” was completely ignored by the Academy, he smiled broadly.

Mackie was at Fox 32 boosting the Friday opening of his “Gangster Squad” film noir, also starring Ryan Gosling, Sean Penn, Josh Brolin and Emma Stone.

‘AN HONOR TO BE NOMINATED’: That phrase always crops up in awards season — especially when the Oscar nominations are announced — and while most of the statements from Thursday morning’s crop of nominees didn’t specifically use that line, it was implied by most who made the cut for the 2013 Academy Awards. “Grateful” and “honored” were key words in similar-sounding statements issued by best actress nominee Jennifer Lawrence (“Silver Linings Playbook”), directors Ang Lee (“Life of Pi”) and Tim Burton (“Frankenweenie”) plus Steven Spielberg and producer Kathleen Kennedy (“Lincoln”).

†Taking a lighter tone, Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg — directors of Norway’s best foreign film nominee, “Kon-Tiki” — revealed they were “both in L.A. with our families and upon hearing the news we ran around in the corridors, hugging each other, waking up the whole hotel at 5:40 in the morning!”

† Always the coolest of the cool, two-time Oscar winnerDenzel Washington not only paid tribute to his un-nominated “Flight” director, South Side native Robert Zemeckis, but added, “It’s always nice to be asked back to the show, and it will be fun to share the evening with our nominated screenwriter John Gatins.”

† The unabashedly enthusiastic gushing of Sally Field upon learning she was nominated for best supporting actress for her portrayal of Mary Todd Lincoln in “Lincoln” might foretell another “You like me! Right now you like me!” exclamation from Field if she wins on Feb. 24. That line — often misquoted over the years as “you like me, you really really like me” — was uttered by Field when she won her second Oscar for “Places in the Heart” in 1984.

In her statement, Field said, “I’m spinning and beyond thrilled on so many levels. … I’m deeply appreciative and overwhelmed, and basically, I still can’t believe I got the role.”

ON THEIR TOES: There likely will be some high-steppin’ Saturday night at Chief O’Neill’s, 3471 N. Elston, as the Sway Dance Studio orchestrates a fancy masquerade ball from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. The good news is a portion of the $25 price will go to fund needy kids’ dance scholarships at Sway.

BYE-BYE BRITNEY: Though as recently as Tuesday, Fox Network chief Kevin Reilly said he would be OK with Britney Spears returning as a judge on “The X Factor,” the Associated Press reported Thursday that the entertainer was not coming back. Spears had been widely criticized for her listless approach to the judging and mentoring on the talent competition — often seeming bored by the whole process.

SEEN ON THE SCENE: Recent star sightings around town have included Patrick Stewart at Tortoise Club while here for that Second City-Lyric Opera program. … Jim Belushi was spied sitting in with the band at the Joynt while back home again headlining at his Comedy Bar club. … Jay Cutler hit up the Goddess and Grocer’s Gold Coast café for sandwiches and ice cream — and helped fiancée Kristin Cavallari celebrate her birthday by dining at the Pump Room.



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