The 2013 awards season kicked off in England Wednesday with the BAFTA nominations and good news for Javier Bardem, whose “Skyfall” scored a whopping eight nods —a rare awards recognition for an action movie.
The thriller "Argo," about a Latino CIA agent in a rescue mission in Iran in the 70's, took seven of the British nominations.
Topping the list of nods is the historical biopic "Lincoln,” which captured 10 nominations, including best picture and best actor. Epic musical "Les Miserables" and boy-meets-tiger saga "Life of Pi" received nine nominations each. The BAFTA awards are considered Britain's equivalent of the Oscars
"Lincoln" focuses on the last months in the life of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, as he struggled to end the Civil War and pass a constitutional amendment banning slavery.
Britain's Daniel Day-Lewis is nominated for leading actor for his uncanny embodiment of the iconic president, and there are supporting nominations for Sally Field as his wife Mary Todd Lincoln and Tommy Lee Jones as abolitionist firebrand Thaddeus Stevens.
The best picture nominees are "Lincoln," ''Les Miserables," ''Life of Pi," ''Argo" and Osama bin Laden thriller "Zero Dark Thirty."
"Les Miserables" is also a contender in the separate category of best British film, alongside "Anna Karenina," ''The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," ''Seven Psychopaths" and "Skyfall."
"Les Mis" producer Tim Bevan said he was pleased with the movie's nine nominations, but surprised director Tom Hooper didn't make the shortlist.
"Steven Spielberg wasn't nominated for best director for 'Lincoln,' which tops the list, so it just goes to show how wide open it is this year," he said.
Ben Affleck is nominated both as director of "Argo" and as its leading actor. The other male acting contenders are Day-Lewis, Bradley Cooper for "Silver Linings Playbook," Hugh Jackman for "Les Miserables" and Joaquin Phoenix for "The Master."
"Skyfall" star Daniel Craig was snubbed, but the film received supporting acting nominations for Judi Dench's spy chief and Javier Bardem's scene-stealing baddie.
The best-actress shortlist includes 85-year-old "Amour" star Emmanuelle Riva — who was nominated for the same prize 52 years ago for "Hiroshima, Mon Amour" — Jennifer Lawrence for "Silver Linings Playbook," Jessica Chastain for "Zero Dark Thirty," Marion Cotillard for "Rust and Bone" and Helen Mirren for "Hitchcock."
Mirren said it had been wonderful to play Hitchcock's wife in Sacha Gervasi's film.
"Alma Reville was more than Hitchcock's wife, in many ways she was his muse, his assistant, his editor and more, and I am proud to have had the opportunity to portray her," Mirren said.
Besides Affleck, the heavyweight best-director list includes, Michael Haneke for Cannes Film Festival prize-winner "Amour," Quentin Tarantino for "Django Unchained," Ang Lee for "Life of Pi" and Kathryn Bigelow for "Zero Dark Thirty."
Poignant old-age portrait "Amour" is up for best foreign-language film, along with Norway's "Headhunters," Denmark's "The Hunt" and French films "Rust and Bone" and "Untouchable."
In recent years, the British awards, known as BAFTAs, have helped underdog films including "Slumdog Millionaire," ''The King's Speech" and "The Artist" gain momentum for Oscars success.
The winners will be announced at a ceremony in London on Feb. 10, two weeks before the Hollywood awards.
Based on reporting by the Associated Press