Robyn Beck/Getty Images
Anthony Breznican
January 10, 2013 AT 03:52 PM EST

Robyn Beck/Getty Images

You could hear the gasp when Benh Zeitlin’s name was read. It reverberated throughout Hollywood, which has to feel good if you’re the first-time feature director.

Even he didn’t expect himself to get a nomination. “For director, I honestly didn’t think there was any possibility that that was going to happen,” he told EW’s Karen Valby this morning. “And I thought they’d finished announcing the names so I wasn’t even nervous. … I just sort of tuned out and then I just heard my name out of the back of my head and I went into a black-out.”

If you’re three particular veteran directors … it didn’t feel quite so great.

The Beasts of the Southern Wild director wasn’t considered a favorite at all for a best director nomination … And where was Argo‘s Ben Affleck, Zero Dark Thirty‘s Kathryn Bigelow, and Les Miserables‘ Tom Hooper?

The directing category provided the most shocks, differing from the Directors Guild Awards contenders not just by one (which is typical) but by three. The other two surprises in addition to Zeitlin: Silver Linings Playbook‘s David O. Russell and Amour‘s Michael Haneke.

Here’s a breakdown of how some of the top categories shook out:

Best Picture



Beasts of the Southern Wild

Django Unchained

Les Miserables

Life of Pi


Silver Linings Playbook

Zero Dark Thirty

The list could have run anywhere from five to 10 nominees, depending on how many films got No. 1 votes from members, and it went to nine — just like last year. There weren’t many surprises here, but what was once a four- or five-way race now seems to have a clear front-runner: Lincoln, which led the total nominations with 12. Life of Pi was right behind it with 11.

Pundits will now be reshuffling their Top 5 predictions to look something like this:

1. Lincoln

2. Life of Pi

3. Beasts of the Southern Wild

4. Silver Linings Playbook

5. Amour

Prize Fighter score: I correctly predicted eight of the nine. Django Unchained was one I suspected wouldn’t get nominated, and I had Moonrise Kingdom instead. I also thought it would go to 10 nominees, and had Skyfall in that final slot.

I accurately gauged early on that Life of Pi would be a top contender, which a lot of people dismissed. I can tug on my suspenders with pride over Ang Lee’s film being the runner-up with most nominations today, but not so fast … I should also hang my head about not having more faith in Django getting on to the list, although many pundits predicted otherwise. I heard too many conflicting reactions from anecdotal sampling of voters, and my instinct said a film about the gleeful vengeance killing of rich white folks wouldn’t resonate so much with the Beverly Hills set.

Lesson learned: Never underestimate Hollywood’s deep longing for self-destruction.

Next Page: The Best Actor category …

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