Oscars: 'Silver' matches 'Raging Bull'

Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper and the Philadelphia Eagles danced their way into Oscar's heart. The Weinstein Company

The 85th Academy Award nominations are in! And it's official: "Silver Linings Playbook," with its eight nods, is the new "Raging Bull."

OK, OK, calm down "Bull" fans -- it's true that the David O. Russell written/directed film about a group of erratic, neurotic, unstable but on the whole lovable Philadelphians likely won't live on in best-movies-ever lore the way the 1980 Martin Scorsese boxing film has. Also, the film's relationship with sports isn't remotely as strong (although the Philadelphia Eagles are a major character throughout, and a Cowboys-Eagles game plays a big part in the third act).

But consider:

• First, the obvious: Both films feature Robert De Niro, and both earned him Oscar nominations (De Niro won his lone Best Actor trophy for "Bull"; this year he's nominated in the Best Supporting Actor category).

• The eight nominations for "Silver Linings" matches the number for "Raging Bull" -- and they almost line up category-for-category. Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Bradley Cooper in "Silver Linings"), Best Supporting Actor (Joe Pesci in "Raging Bull"), Best Supporting Actress (Cathy Moriarty in "Raging Bull," Jacki Weaver in "Silver Linings") and Best Film Editing all match. The other two for "Silver Linings" are Best Actress (Jennifer Lawrence) and Best Adapted Screenplay; "Raging Bull" earned Best Cinematography and Best Sound accolades.

• Those eight nods for "Silver Linings" are the most received by a sports movie since ... "Raging Bull." (Unless you count "Forrest Gump" and its football/pingpong connection, or you consider "Gladiator" a sports film.)

Side note: "Silver Linings" became the first film of any kind to receive nominations in all four acting categories since 1981 and "Reds," which is not about the Cincinnati baseball team.

• Like "Raging Bull," which lost controversially to Robert Redford's "Ordinary People," "Silver Linings" probably will not win Best Picture. "Lincoln," with its 12 nominations, critical success and box-office power, seems the front-runner there.

One final point: We could be in the golden age of sports movies, at least as the Academy goes.

Thanks in part to the expanded size of the category, a sports film has received a Best Picture nomination each of the past four years (the others being "The Blind Side," "The Fighter" -- also by David O. Russell -- and "Moneyball"). Stretching back to 2003, six sports films have received Best Picture nominations ("Seabiscuit" that year, "Million Dollar Baby" in '04), and five of them earned at least six nominations.

And although sports won't repeat in this category, the Best Documentary Feature award last year went to the football-themed "Undefeated."

So in other words, bet on sports movies going forward. (Just be careful with parlays.)