BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (CBS News)-- "Lincoln," Steven Spielberg's drama of the 16th president's fight to eradicate slavery, leads the race for this year's Academy Awards, with 12 nominations, including Best Picture.
Joining "Lincoln" among Best Picture nominees are: "Argo," in which a CIA operative tries to evacuate Americans trapped in Tehran during the 1979 hostage crisis by pretending to be a film crew, based on a true story; "Les Miserables," an adaptation of the stage musical of love and vengeance in France against a backdrop of revolution; and "Zero Dark Thirty," an account of the hunt and ultimate killing of terror leader Osama bin Laden.
Also nominated: "Amour," Michael Haneke's intimate portrayal of an aged couple grappling with illness and the specter of loss, a top-prize winner at Cannes and the European Film Awards; "Beasts of the Southern Wild," a Sundance favorite that uses magical realism to evoke a child's world in the Louisiana bayou; and "Django Unchained," Quentin Tarantino's violent tale of bounty hunters and slaveowners; "Life of Pi," a mystical fable of a young man stranded on a ship's lifeboat with a voracious Bengal tiger; and "Silver Linings Playbook," a comedy-drama of a man released from a mental institution, probably prematurely.
Recent changes in Oscar rules for Best Picture ballots - which use preferential voting to tally a particular film's support, with each Academy member listing a maximum of five choice - mean that the number of first-place votes a particular film garners determines how many nominees there will be, between five and a maximum of 10. This year's roster indicates that other prospective nominees "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," "The Dark Knight Rises," "The Master," "Moonrise Kingdom" and "Skyfall" failed to earn enough first-place ballots to qualify.
Spielberg was nominated for his seventh Best Director Oscar (he has won the award twice, for "Schindler's List" and "Saving Private Ryan"). He was joined by Michael Haneke, "Amour"; Benh Zeitlin, "Beasts of the Southern Wild"; Ang Lee, "Life of Pi"; and David O. Russell, "Silver Linings Playbook.
Among Thursday's surprises were the absences of two of the ;leading Best Picture contenders' director: Tom Hooper of "Les Miserables" and Kathryn Bigelow of "Zero Dark Thirty." Also missing from the Best Director lineup were Quentin Tarantino ("Django Unchained") and Wes Anderson ("Moonrise Kingdom"), although each received Best Original Screenplay nominations.
Daniel Day-Lewis (an Oscar winner for "My Left Foot" and "There Will Be Blood") received his fifth Academy Award nomination for Best Actor as the president in "Lincoln." He is joined by Bradley Cooper as a bipolar man trying to straighten out his life after a stint in a mental institution in "Silver Linings Playbook"; Hugh Jackman as ex-con Jean Valjean in "Les Miserables"; Joaquin Phoenix as a WWII veteran who become the fiercest defender of a cult in "The Master"; and Denzel Washington (an Oscar-winner for "Glory" and "Training Day") as a pilot battling both an NTSB probe into a fatal plane crash and his own alcoholism in "Flight."
Among Best Actress nominees are Jessica Chastain as a CIA analyst instrumental in the hunt for Osama bin Laden in "Zero Dark Thirty"; Jennifer Lawrence as a young widow who acts as a go-between for her bipolar friend and his estranged wife in "Silver Linings Playbook"; Emmanuelle Riva as an octogenarian stroke victim who is the center of her husband's universe in "Amour"; Quvenzhane Wallis as an imaginative and self-reliant child in "Beasts of the Southern Wild"; and Naomi Watts as a wife and mother whose family is shattered by a natural disaster in "The Impossible";
Walls, who was just 5 when she first auditioned for the role in "Beasts" and who turned 9 after the movie opened, becomes the youngest female ever nominated in an acting category. The two previous youngest child nominees ever were Justin Henry (a Best Supporting actor node for "Kramer vs. Kramer" at age 8 years, 9 months), and Jackie Cooper (as Best Actor for "Skippy" at age 9 years).
Riva, whose film credits include "Hiroshima, Mon Amour" and "Three Colors: Blue," becomes the oldest performer to receive a Best Actress nomination. (Previously, Best Actress winner Jessica Tandy for "Driving Miss Daisy" and nominee Edith Evans for "The Whisperers" were honored at age 80.
Alan Arkin (an Oscar-winner for "Little Miss Sunshine"), was nominated for Best Supporting Actor as the Hollywood producer of a fake movie serving as a CIA cover in "Argo." Also nominated: Two-time Oscar-winner Robert De Niro (for "The Godfather Part II" and "Raging Bull") as the father of a mentally unstable young man in "Silver Linings Playbook"; Philip Seymour Hoffman (a Best Actor Oscar-winner for "Capote") as the charismatic leader of a cult in "The Master"; Tommy Lee Jones (an Oscar-winner for "The Fugitive") as abolitionist Congressman Thaddeus Stevens in "Lincoln"; and Christoph Waltz (an Oscar-winner for "Inglourious Basterds") as a bounty hunter in "Django Unchained."
Two-time Oscar-winner Sally Field (for "Norma Rae" and "Places in the Heart") joins her "Lincoln" co-star Day-Lewis as a Best Supporting Actress nominee, for playing first lady Mary Todd Lincoln. Also nominated: Amy Adams as the wife of a cult leader - with a powerful will of her own - in "The Master"; Anne Hathaway as the tragic factory worker Fantine in the musical "Les Miserables"; Helen Hunt (an Oscar-winner for "As Good As It Gets") as a sex surrogate in "The Sessions"; and Jacki Weaver as the mother of a mentally unstable son in "Silver Linings Playbook."
Best Foreign Film "Amour" (Austria), Michael Haneke's intimate portrayal of an aged couple grappling with illness and the specter of loss, leads the Best Foreign Language film category. Also nominated: "War Witch" (Canada), Montreal director Kim Nguyen's harrowing tale of Congolese child soldiers; "No" (Chile), in which director Pablo Larrain tells the true-life story of the voters' referendum that effectively ended the reign of Chilean dictator Gen. Pinochet; "A Royal Affair" (Denmark), starring Mads Mikkelson and Alicia Vikander as the royal physician in an 18th century Danish court who beds the young queen; and "Kon-Tiki" (Norway), Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg's epic retelling of Thor Heyerdahl's 1947 trans-Pacific voyage.
© 2013 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.