It will be a battle of the hustler’s versus the astronauts at the 86th Annual Academy Awards on March 2nd. Both David O. Russell’s colorful con game American Hustle and Alfonso Cauron’s tale of an astronaut fighting for survival, simply titled Gravity each received 10 nominations Tuesday morning as the contenders for the award were announced by actor Chris Hemsworth and Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs.
For the first time in years, the list of Best Picture nominees comes without a loser in the bunch. The academy – which three years ago decided to give the category some elasticity by allowing from five to ten nominees – chose nine films this year that deserved their nominations. The top contenders come down to three: American Hustle, Gravity and 12 Years a Slave. From that group, it might seem that Slave is the most Oscar friendly, but if the Golden Globes are any indication, it might be American Hustle for the win.
Cauron’s Gravity becomes only the sixth film released predominantly in 3D to receive a best picture nomination. What is encouraging is that this film, like the previous films Avatar (2009), Up (2009), Toy Story 3 (2010), Hugo (2011) and Life of Pi (2012) were all good films. Gravity has been riding the wave of good reviews since its release last October. Does it have a chance? In the technical categories, yes, but in the top categories it the competition from Hustle and Slave is a bit too steep.
Russell’s film dominated the acting categories with one actor in each category – which happened last year with Silver Linings Playbook directed, ironically, by David O. Russell. Before that you have to go back to Warren Beatty’s Reds back in 1981. Christian Bale got his first nomination for Best Actor, Amy Adams, got her fifth nomination but this year moves up the Best Actress category (all others were for supporting). Bradley Cooper gets his second nomination for Best Supporting Actor, and Last year’s Best Actress winner Jennifer Lawrence was nominated in the Supporting actress category.
In an unusual move, all five nominees for Best Director had their films nominated for Best Picture -Alfonso Cuarón for Gravity, Steve McQueen for 12 Years a Slave, Alexander Payne for Nebraska, David O. Russell for American Hustle and Martin Scorsese for The Wolf of Wall Street.
For the most part, the nominations stayed within the predictions. For the men, Christian Bale faces Bruce Dern from Nebraska, Golden Globe winner Leonardo DiCaprio for The Wolf of Wall Street, Chiwetel Ejiofor for 12 Years a Slave, and comeback kid Matthew McConaughey for Dallas Buyers Club. Among the supporting actors, the only surprise is the second nomination for Jonah Hill as a drug addicted salesman in Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street. He faces Bradley Cooper for American Hustle and Michael Fassbender as a slave master in 12 Years a Slave. The stiffest competition in this category comes between newcomer Barkhad Abdi for his debut performance as a Somali hijacker in Captain Phillips and Jared Leto for his heartbreaking performance as a drug-addicted transsexual in Dallas Buyers Club.
On the ladies side, the Best Actress category was more or less expected. Along with Amy Adams in American Hustle, is Cate Blanchett as a once rich society women who is losing her marbles in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine – this is her sixth nomination, third in this category. Sandra Bullock as a wayward astronaut in Gravity, Judi Dench in Philomena and Meryl Streep, who gets nomination #18 for August: Osage County . On the supporting side will come a possible second Oscar in a row for Jennifer Lawrence in American Hustle. Lawrence is Hollywood’s current whiz-kid and if she wins, it will be deserved. Her competition is one of the best rosters of Supporting Actress nominees in recent years; Sally Hawkins in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine, June Squibb as Bruce Dern’s motor-mouthed wife in Nebraska, Julia Roberts for August: Osage County – this is her first nomination since her win back in 2001 for Erin Brockovich. Rounding out the category is newcomer Lupita Nyong’o as a devastated slave woman in 12 Years a Slave.
The only real surprises came from the snubs, the most notable was Tom Hanks who didn’t receive nominations for either Captain Phillips or his turn as Walt Disney in Saving Mr. Banks. His co-star Emma Thompson woke up empty-handed with no nomination for her best performance in years as the grouchy P.L. Travers in Saving Mr. Banks. Also no nomination for Robert Redford for All is Lost, Idris Elba in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Julia Louis-Dreyfus for Enough Said, Joaquin Phoenix for Her, nor his co-star Scarlett Johannsen for her voice-work, which had been petitioned to receive a nod.
• Critical darling Inside Llewyn Davis from the Coen Brothers which garnered two nominations for Cinematography and Sound Mixing received no acting or writing, or even music nominations.
• As it must, be the directing doesn’t match the Best Picture category. All five nominees had their films nominated – that means that Stephen Frears for Philomena, Paul Greengrass for Captain Phillips, Spike Jones for Her, and Jean-Marc Vallée for Dallas Buyers Club were all left out.
• The grand trio of Ethan Hawke, Julie Delphy and Richard Linklater nabbed another nomination for their screenplay to Before Midnight, yet no nominations for the acting or the directing.
• Pixar, for the first time since 2010, didn’t have a film among the Best Animated Feature category – which is sad since Monsters University was one of the best films of the year. It was overlooked in favor the lackluster comedy The Croods, and Disney’s inferior Frozen, which will likely win over fellow (and better) nominees like Miazaki’s The Wind Rises (which might have had a better chance in the Best Foreign-Language Film category), the French-Belgian fantasy French-Belgian, Ernest and Celestine, and the delightful Despicable Me 2.
• The documentary branch left off two of the best films of the year, the killer Killer Whale story Blackfish and Sarah Polley’s pitch perfect Stories We Tell.
The awards will be handed out March 2.