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Oscar nominations include 'Beasts of the Southern Wild' among 4 films with Hudson Valley ties
Four films with Hudson Valley connections -- “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” “Life of Pi,” “Flight” and “Les Miserables” -- received Oscar nods in major categories this morning.
“Beasts of the Southern Wild,” directed by former Hastings resident Benh Zeitlin, was nominated for Best Picture, Best Director (for Zeitlin), Best Actress in a Leading role (for newcomer Quvenzhané Wallis) and Best Adapted Screenplay (for Zeitlin and Lucy Alibar).
In an interview with Newsday Westchester this afternoon, Zeitlin, 30, said he was “thrilled” and “honored” by his film’s multiple nominations. “It just seems like for a movie that was made the way this one was, it feels like a coup,” he said. “It’s like a miracle.”
Trailer: 'Life of Pi'
| Trailer: 'Beasts of the Southern Wild'
| Trailer: 'Flight'
PHOTOS: Oscars nominations 2013 | Oscar winners from the Hudson Valley | Benh Zeitlin and 'Beasts of the Southern Wild'
MORE: Oscars: 'Lincoln' among 9 Best Picture noms | Benh Zeitlin on Oscar chances for 'Beasts'
In the Best Picture category, "Beasts" is joined by two other movies with Hudson Valley connections: "Life of Pi" was directed and produced by former Larchmont resident Ang Lee and "Les Miserables" stars Anne Hathaway, who was briefly enrolled at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, and Middletown native Aaron Tveit. Other Best Picture contenders are "Argo," "Zero Dark Thirty," "Amour," "Silver Linings Playbook,” “Django Unchained” and “Lincoln.”
"I am deeply honored and frankly a little overwhelmed by all of the nominations that ‘Life of Pi’ has received this morning,” Ang Lee said in a statement. “So many talented people gave everything they had to this film, both in front of and behind the camera, and to see all of them receive this kind of recognition is something I am incredibly grateful for."
In the Best Actress in a Leading Role category, Wallis, a 9-year-old New Orleans local who'd never acted before playing Hushpuppy in "Beasts," is up against some big-name talent. The youngest nominee ever in the category will face off against Jessica Chastain for "Zero Dark Thirty," Naomi Watts for "The Impossible," Jennifer Lawrence for "Silver Linings Playbook" and “Amour’s” Emmanuelle Riva, who at 85 is the oldest actress ever nominated in the category.
“I’m just so proud of her; she’s just such a spectacular human being [and] a brilliant actress,” Zeitlin said of Wallis' historic Oscar nod. “It’s sort of this wild underdog story.”
The Best Actor in a Leading Role category also includes a Hudson Valley connection: Denzel Washington, a Mount Vernon native, is nominated for his portrayal of an alcoholic pilot in "Flight."
" 'Flight' was one of the most challenging roles I've ever had in my career, and it was an honor to be directed by Robert Zemeckis," Washington said in a released statement. "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."
Washington is up against Bradley Cooper for "Silver Linings Playbook," Daniel Day-Lewis for "Lincoln," Hugh Jackman for "Les Miserables" and Joaquin Phoenix for "The Master."
In the Best Director category, Zeitlin was nominated along with Lee for "Life of Pi." David O. Russell for "Silver Linings Playbook," Steven Spielberg for "Lincoln" and Michael Haneke for "Amour" also received nominations.
Zeitlin said that when he heard his name announced as a Best Director nominee, he felt like he “sort of had a blackout.”
“I was really not prepared for that," he added. "Looking at who I was competing with in that category, I just didn’t think there was any chance I could be nominated.”
Outside of the big four categories, an actress and screenwriters with connections to Hudson Valley also received nominations. Hathaway was nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for playing Fantine in “Les Miserables," and many critics say she is a lock to receive the award. Others in the category include Sally Field for "Lincoln," Jacki Weaver for "Silver Linings Playbook," Helen Hunt for "The Sessions" and Amy Adams for "The Master."
John Gatins, who grew up in Poughquag and graduated from Arlington High School and Vassar College, earned a nomination for Best Original Screenplay for "Flight."
In an interview with Newsday Westchester this afternoon, Gatins called the nomination “surreal” and an “out-of-body” experience that he has yet to fully process. The “Flight” screenplay was inspired by Gatins’ past struggles with substance abuse, so the nod has particular meaning to him.
“I'm one of those people who can't say this wasn't an emotional moment for so many reasons,” Gatins said. “My wife was kind of just reminding me that ... the framework of your whole life is kind of encapsulated in that movie script, both personally and professionally, because I worked on the movie for 12 years … and I had a whole career inside those 12 years.”
Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola also are nominated in this category for "Moonrise Kingdom," which stars Palisades resident Bill Murray. Other nominees include the writers for "Amour," "Django Unchained" and "Zero Dark Thirty."
In the Best Adapted Screenplay category, Zeitlin is nominated along with Lucy Alibar for "Beasts of the Southern Wild," which vividly combines fantasy and reality in telling the story of a young girl who lives with her father in a fantastical bayou community. Writers for "Argo," "Life of Pi," "Lincoln" and "Silver Linings Playbook" are also nominated in the category.
The 85th annual Academy Awards, hosted by Seth MacFarlane, will be broadcast at 7 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 24, on ABC.
Photo: Anne Hathaway, Benh Zeitlin and Denzel Washington were all nominated for 2013 Academy Awards.