'Gravity,' 'American Hustle' lead Oscar nomination field

Hollywood, we have liftoff.

The 3-D technological wonder “Gravity” and con-artist comedy “American Hustle” each picked up 10 Oscar nominations today, including for best picture. The field of nine top nominees also includes “12 Years a Slave,” “Captain Phillips,” “The Wolf of Wall Street,” “Nebraska,” “Dallas Buyers Club,” “Her,” and “Philomena.”

Actor Chris Hemsworth and Cheryl Boone Isaacs, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, revealed the nominations this morning in Beverly Hills. Ellen DeGeneres will host the 86th Academy Awards on March 2, from the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.

A closer look at the Oscar nominations

The PG's Sharon Eberson and Barbara Vancheri take a look at the Academy Award nominations and discuss the snubs and surprises. (Video by Melissa Tkach; 1/16/2014)

Compared with fellow nominees such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Matthew McConaughey, Chiwetel Ejiofor was an unknown to many moviegoers. Until, that is, they watched his portrayal of enslaved free man Solomon Northup and saw his eyes burn with determination as he vowed, “I don’t want to survive. I want to live!”

The London-born actor is the face, in every way, of the scorching drama about a husband, father and musician lured to Washington, D.C., under false pretenses, drugged and sold into slavery.

Mr. Ejiofor was nominated along with Christian Bale as a fraudster in the thick of Abscam in “American Hustle”; Mr. McConaughey as a Texan with AIDS in “Dallas Buyers Club”; Bruce Dern as a gullible retiree who believes he’s won a million dollars in “Nebraska”; and Mr. DiCaprio as a stockbroker given to Roman emperor-style excess in “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

Cate Blanchett, recently called “one of the two greatest living actors” (alongside Meryl Streep) by her “Monuments Men” director George Clooney, enters the best actress contest as the front-runner for “Blue Jasmine.” The Woody Allen drama, which partially takes its name from the song “Blue Moon,” shows what happens when comfortable cocoons of wealth and lies are stripped away and those inside are left exposed.

Also nominated for leading actress: Sandra Bullock as a first-time astronaut stranded in space in “Gravity”; Amy Adams as a con woman who reinvents herself, down to her English accent, in “American Hustle”; Judi Dench in “Philomena,” about an Irishwoman looking for the son taken from her 50 years earlier; and Ms. Streep, picking up an 18th nomination for her pill-popping, ailing matriarch in the screen version of the play “August: Osage County.”

The competition for supporting actress pits a Hollywood favorite — Jennifer Lawrence in “American Hustle” — against stunning newcomer Lupita Nyong’o from “12 Years a Slave.” The Yale film school graduate, born in Mexico and reared in Kenya, emerged from a field of 1,000 actresses (director Steve McQueen likened it to searching for Scarlett O’Hara) to play the role of Patsey.

Also nominated: June Squibb, “Nebraska”; Julia Roberts, “August: Osage County”; and Sally Hawkins, “Blue Jasmine.”

Lending masculine support and being rewarded with nominations: Jared Leto, “Dallas Buyers Club”; Michael Fassbender, “12 Years a Slave”; Barkhad Abdi, “Captain Phillips”; Philadelphia native Bradley Cooper, “American Hustle”; and Jonah Hill, “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

Competing for top director are David O. Russell for “American Hustle,” Alfonso Cuaron for “Gravity,” Alexander Payne for “Nebraska,” Mr. McQueen for “12 Years a Slave” and Martin Scorsese, “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

Notable absences: No Oprah Winfrey or Forest Whitaker from “Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” no Robert Redford for his tour de force in “All Is Lost,” no Idris Elba for his portrayal of Nelson Mandela in “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” and no love for “Saving Mr. Banks” starring Tom Hanks (also skunked for “Captain Phillips”) as Walt Disney and Emma Thompson as the author of “Mary Poppins.”

One of the nominees for best foreign language film —Italy’s “The Great Beauty” — is now playing at the Regent Square Theater and another, “The Broken Circle Breakdown” from Belgium will open there on Friday. Rounding out the field: “The Hunt” from Denmark, “The Missing Picture” from Cambodia and “Omar,” Palestine.

Other Oscar snapshots

You never know: “Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa” scored a nomination for its makeup and hairstyling by Stephen Prouty who transformed Johnny Knoxville into an 86-year-old traveling cross-country with his grandson.

All about animation: In contention for best animated feature: “The Croods,” “Despicable Me 2,” “Ernest & Celestine,” “Frozen” and “The Wind Rises.”

Writers rooms: Original screenplay nominees are “American Hustle” by Eric Warren Singer and Mr. Russell; “Blue Jasmine” by Mr. Allen; “Dallas Buyers Club” by Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack; “Her” by Spike Jonze; and “Nebraska,” Bob Nelson.

Adapted screenplay nominees: “Before Midnight” by actors Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke and director Richard Linklater; “Captain Phillips” by Billy Ray; “Philomena” by co-star Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope; “12 Years a Slave” by John Ridley; and “The Wolf of Wall Street,” Terence Winter.

First-timers: In the acting categories, eight performers are first-time nominees. Seven, including Mr. Bale, who was also outstanding in the filmed in Pittsburgh “Out of the Furnace,” are previous acting winners.

Red carpet redux: Among this year’s acting nominees, Mr. Cooper, Ms. Lawrence and Ms. Adams also were nominated a year ago. Ms. Lawrence is also the youngest three-time acting nominee at 23 years old. Teresa Wright was 24 when she received her third in 1942.

A full house: A year ago, “Silver Linings Playbook” became the first film to receive nominations for picture, directing, writing and all four acting categories since “Reds.” Now, Mr. Russell repeats that feat with “American Hustle.”

Two for the record books: As noted, Ms. Streep extended her lead as the most nominated performer with 18 while Mr. Allen added to his record with his 16th.

Pittsburgh accents: Aliquippa native Joe Letteri, a four-time winner who also was honored with a separate Scientific and Technical Award, is part of the visual effects team nominated for “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.”

Carnegie Mellon University graduate John Wells directed “August: Osage County” while three other alums — Zachary Quinto, Corey Moosa and Neal Dodson — helped to produce “All Is Lost,” nominated for sound editing.

Choreographer Rob Ashford, a graduate of Point Park University, is one of 13 key members of producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron’s production team. He worked on two previous Oscar telecasts, including last year’s show and the awards in February 2009, for which he won an Emmy.

By the numbers: The voting pool for Oscar is 67 times larger (and far broader) than the Hollywood Foreign Press Association which numbers almost 90. An estimated 6,028 people can vote for the Oscars. The best picture nominees emerged from 289 eligible movies, which was seven more than eligible a year ago.

Hollywood host: She has a long way to go to match Bob Hope (19 times as host) but Ms. DeGeneres has been there before. She proved herself an amiable host in February 2007 when “The Departed” took the top prize and acting honors went to Forest Whitaker, Helen Mirren, Alan Arkin and Jennifer Hudson. ABC, as usual, will televise the ceremony.

Hooray for heroes: Expect the Oscar telecast to honor big-screen real-life heroes, superheroes, popular heroes and animated heroes, both past and present, as well as the bold filmmakers who bring them to life, producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron announced this week.

“We wanted to unify the show with an entertaining and emotional theme,” said Mr. Zadan and Mr. Meron.

“People around the world go to the movies to be inspired by the characters they see on the screen. By celebrating the gamut of heroes who have enriched our movie-going experience, we hope to create an evening of fun and joy. And that includes the filmmakers and actors who take risks and stimulate us with provocative subjects and daring characters. They are all heroes in the cinematic landscape.”

Movie editor Barbara Vancheri: bvancheri@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1632. Read her blog: www.post-gazette.com/madaboutmovies.

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