LONDON (AP) — "Amour," a searing portrait of old age from Austria's Michael Haneke, was lauded by Hollywood's movie elite Thursday, receiving five Academy Award nominations including best foreign film and — unexpectedly — best picture.
The film stars octogenarian French acting greats Emmanuelle Riva and Jean-Louis Trintignant as a loving Parisian couple whose world is devastated by the wife's serious illness.
Unflinching and in French, it was a surprise best-picture nominee, and also received nominations for Haneke's direction, for original screenplay and for the performance of 85-year-old Riva.
Austria also scored an acting nomination, with Christoph Waltz up for best supporting actor for Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained." Waltz won the supporting actor prize for his turn as a loquacious Nazi in Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds."
The other foreign-language nominees are 18th-century court saga "A Royal Affair" by Denmark's Nikolaj Arcel; child soldier drama "War Witch" by Canada's Kim Nguyen; seafaring adventure "Kon-Tiki" by Norway's Joachim Roenning and Espen Sandberg; and "No" by Chile's Pablo Larrain.
"No" tells the story of a Chilean ad agency that helped to oust dictator Augusto Pinochet through a clever marketing campaign around a 1988 referendum. The film, starring Gael Garcia Bernal, was a surprise hit of the Cannes Film Festival and has since gathered accolades around the world.
Larrain said it struck a chord because it told an unusual story.
"Dictators are not usually ousted through democratic elections and this is a profoundly human story, which is resolved through things that have to do more with beauty than with horror," he said.
"A Royal Affair" is a tale of love and intrigue centered on a triangle involving an ailing Danish king, his queen and the monarch's forward-thinking physician, played by former Bond villain Mads Mikkelsen.
"Kon-Tiki" recreates explorer Thor Heyerdal's audacious 1947 journey across the Pacific Ocean on a balsa-wood raft. The 101-day trip was designed to prove that South Americans could have settled Polynesia in pre-Columbus times.
The $16 million budget makes it one of the most expensive Norwegian movies ever made.
Directed by Montreal-born Nguyen, "War Witch" — known as "Rebelle" in French — follows a 12-year-old girl abducted by a rebel army. It was filmed in Congo with a partly non-professional cast but set amid an unspecified conflict.
Its teenage star, Rachel Mwanza — who formerly lived on the streets of Kinshasa — won acting prizes at the Berlin and Tribeca film festivals.
Nguyen said the Oscar nomination was "a great privilege and an honor."
"I will always remember when Rachel Mwanza, after being the first African woman to ever win the Silver Bear for Best Actress (in Berlin), returned home to the Congolese streets of Kinshasa and was greeted by passionate chants and overwhelming pride," he said. "So, in the case of 'War Witch,' these recognitions do make a difference. They bring back pride to a nation that greatly needs it. "
Winners of the 85th Oscars will be announced Feb. 24 during a ceremony at Hollywood's Dolby Theatre.
Associated Press Writers Luis Henao in Santiago, Chile, Jan Olsen in Copenhagen, Matti Huuhtanen in Helsinki and Charmaine Noronha in Toronto contributed to this report.