The New York Film Festival – showing a more selective line-up than any other major one except Telluride – was the big winner when the Oscar nominations were announce this morning. The two films with the most nominations – "Lincoln" (12) and "The Life of Pi" (11) both world premiered at their event (the former as an unannounced surprise screening, the latter Opening Night), while "Flight" (Best Actor and Original Screenplay nominee) was their closer. The festival historically has not been a major player for being the first showing of top contenders, but after "The Social Network" two years ago and "Hugo" last (also an unannouced film), their stock as a rival to the earlier Toronto and other fall festivals has just soared. They also showcased "Amour" (five nominations) and "The Gatekeepers" (Feature Documentary).
Toronto as usual led in volume of Oscar nominees played – 13 films in all played there, although most had shown elsewhere earlier. Their standout premiere was the quite strong "Silver Linings Playbook" (eight nominations), which won the People's Choice award. They also had the first showing of "The Impossible" (Best Actress nominee Naomi Watts).
Sundance, Cannes and Telluride each had one Best Picture premiere (each also with acting nods) – "Beasts of the Southern Wild," "Amour" and "Argo" respectively. "Beasts"' success at Sundance a year ago launched this film, and its multiple major nominations are certain to be on all minds as the buying frenzy starts next week. Sundance also had four of this year's five Feature Documentary nominees in competition last year. For the 2011 Oscars they had two, and had only a single other nominee play in the whole prior festival ("Margin Call"). A second 2012 dramatic competition film, "The Sessions," also received a Supporting Actress nomination.
Cannes had two other world premieres – Original Screenplay nominee "Moonrise Kingdom" and Foreign Language contender "No." Among major categories, Venice showed "The Master" first, as well as craft contender "Anna Karenina." A number of nominees had their North American premieres at either Telluride ("Amour," Doc Feature "The Gatekeepers" and Foreign Language nominee "A Royal Affair") and Toronto (Foreign Language films "No" and "Kon-Tiki" and "Anna Karenina"). Berlin had two world premieres, both Foreign Language contenders ("A Royal Affair" and "War Witch"). Other world premieres for two Doc Features were at IFDA 2011 ("Five Broken Cameras") and Jerusalem 2012 ("The Gatekeepers").
Three Best Picture nominees – all of which also had acting nominees ("Les Miserables," "Zero Dark Thirty" and "Django Unchained" – all December releases) skipped festivals altogether to complete the list of contenders in major categories.
Toronto, with its massive volume of films still remains the go-to place to see the most contenders – 13 features with nominations played there. But its position as a launching pad – or even North American venue – to premiere Oscar films is increasingly coming under threat from both New York and Telluride.