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‘Gravity’, ‘12 Years’ lead UK awards Bookies pick Ejiofor as strong favorite to win

LONDON, Jan 8, (Agencies): The space thriller “Gravity,” the unflinching slavery saga “12 Years a Slave” and the crime caper “American Hustle” gained awards-season momentum Wednesday with stacks of nominations for the British Academy Film Awards, Britain’s equivalent of the Oscars. “Gravity” received nominations in 11 categories, including best picture; best director, for Alfonso Cuaron; lead actress, for Sandra Bullock; cinematography and special effects. “12 Years” had 10 nominations, including nods for star Chiwetel Ejiofor, supporting performers Lupita Nyong’o and Michael Fassbender and director Steve McQueen. “I continue to be immensely proud of the recognition this film is getting around the world,” said British actor Ejiofor, who plays a free black man kidnapped into slavery in the 19th-century United States.
“There is, of course, something particularly special about receiving a BAFTA nomination from home.”

David O. Russell’s “American Hustle” also was nominated in 10 categories, while Somali hijacking story “Captain Phillips” received nine nods. Liberace biopic “Behind the Candelabra” and “Saving Mr. Banks,” which tells the story behind the film adaptation of “Mary Poppins,” each got five nominations. The nominations give an awards boost to several films, especially “Gravity,” an astonishing 3-D technical achievement, and the wrenching “12 Years a Slave.” The list also demonstrates the increasing globalization of the movie business. “12 Years a Slave” is an American story with a British director and star. “Gravity” teams Hollywood stars Bullock and George Clooney with Mexican director Cuaron and British special-effects teams.

The British-picture category includes motor-racing film “Rush,” which has an American director, Ron Howard, a British screenwriter in Peter Morgan and stars from Australia (Chris Hemsworth) and Germany (Daniel Bruhl, who has a supporting-actor nomination.) The best-picture nominees are: “12 Years a Slave”; “Gravity”; “American Hustle”; “Captain Phillips”; and “Philomena,” the story of an Irishwoman in search of the son she lost decades earlier. The separate category of best British film pits “Gravity,” ‘’Philomena” and “Saving Mr. Banks” against “Rush,” biopic “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” and gritty parable “The Selfish Giant.” In related story, the nominations offered further indications of the strong Oscar chances of “12 Years a Slave.”

“American Hustle”, a drama about two con artists embroiled with the FBI in the 1970s, equalled the ten Bafta nominations for “12 Years a Slave”. “Hustle” star Christian Bale will go up against Ejiofor, Tom Hanks for “Captain Phillips”, Bruce Dern for “Nebraska” and Leonardo DiCaprio for “The Wolf of Wall Street” in the best leading man category. Bookmakers immediately installed Ejiofor as favourite to win best leading man with odds of 1-4, while they made “12 Years a Slave” favourite for the best film award.

Ejiofor, who was raised in London, said: “I continue to be immensely proud of the recognition this film is getting around the world. There is, of course, something particularly special about receiving a Bafta nomination from home.” Last year, Iran hostage drama “Argo” took the Bafta for best film before scooping the best-picture Oscar. In the leading actress category, Bullock will challenge “American Hustle” star Amy Adams, Cate Blanchett for “Blue Jasmine”, Emma Thompson for “Saving Mr Banks” and Judi Dench for “Philomena”. “Captain Phillips” and “Philomena” — based on a true story about the Catholic Church in Ireland selling babies to wealthy Americans in the 1950s — complete the five-strong list of contenders for best film. Steve Coogan, who stars alongside Dench in “Philomena” and co-wrote the film, said it had been “a labour of love”.

“To make a film with the very best people, where comedy and pathos sit side by side is not easy,” he said. “We all wanted to make something sincere and uncynical without being naive. To have it acknowledged by Bafta is very satisfying.” US chat show host Oprah Winfrey was nominated for best supporting actress for her role in “The Butler”. That category also sees Nyong’o, Jennifer Lawrence (“American Hustle”) and Julia Roberts (“Osage County”) nominated along with Sally Hawkins for her role in Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine”. The Bafta awards ceremony takes place at the Royal Opera House in London on Feb 16, two weeks before the Oscars.

Best-actor nominees are Ejiofor; Leonardo DiCaprio for ode to excess “The Wolf of Wall Street”; Bruce Dern for road movie “Nebraska”; Christian Bale for “American Hustle”; and Tom Hanks for “Captain Phillips.” Bookies picked Ejiofor as the strong favorite to win. “There is traditionally a slight British bias when it comes to the BAFTAs,” said Joe Crilly, spokesman for bookmaker William Hill. “However, Ejiofor’s performance in ‘12 Years’ is so mesmeric that there needn’t be this year.” In the best-actress category, Bullock is up against Judi Dench for “Philomena”; Amy Adams for “American Hustle”; Emma Thompson for “Saving Mr. Banks”; and Cate Blanchett for “Blue Jasmine.” Dench, 79, received the 15th British Academy acting nomination of her career — a record. She said she was “honored and thrilled to be in such fine company.” The British prizes, known as BAFTAs, will be awarded at London’s Royal Opera House on Feb 16.

In recent years, the British awards have helped underdog films including “Slumdog Millionaire,” ‘’The King’s Speech,” and “The Artist” build momentum for success at the Oscars. Last year, the Iran hostage drama “Argo” took the BAFTA for best film, and went on to win the best-picture Oscar. Nominations in the main categories for the British Academy Film Awards, announced Wednesday: Best Film: “12 Years a Slave”; “American Hustle”; “Captain Phillips”; “Gravity”; “Philomena” Outstanding British Film: “Gravity”; “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom”; “Philomena”; “Rush”; “Saving Mr. Banks”: “The Selfish Giant” Director: Steve McQueen, “12 Years a Slave”; David O. Russell, “American Hustle”; Paul Greengrass, “Captain Phillips”; Alfonso Cuaron, “Gravity”; Martin Scorsese, “The Wolf of Wall Street” Original Screenplay: “American Hustle”; “Blue Jasmine”; “Gravity”; “Inside Llewyn Davis”; “Nebraska” Adapted Screenplay: “12 Years a Slave”; “Behind the Candelabra”; “Captain Phillips”; “Philomena”; “The Wolf of Wall Street”

Leading Actor: Bruce Dern, “Nebraska”; Chiwetel Ejiofor, “12 Years a Slave”; Christian Bale, “American Hustle”: Leonardo DiCaprio, “The Wolf of Wall Street”; Tom Hanks, “Captain Phillips” Leading Actress: Amy Adams, “American Hustle”; Cate Blanchett, “Blue Jasmine”; Emma Thompson, “Saving Mr. Banks”; Judi Dench, “Philomena”; Sandra Bullock, “Gravity” Supporting Actor: Barkhad Abdi, “Captain Phillips”; Bradley Cooper, “American Hustle”; Daniel Bruhl, “Rush”; Matt Damon, “Behind the Candelabra”; Michael Fassbender, “12 Years a Slave” Supporting Actress: Jennifer Lawrence, “American Hustle”; Julia Roberts, “August: Osage County”; Lupiuta Nyong’o, “12 Years a Slave”; Oprah Winfrey, “The Butler”; Sally Hawkins, “Blue Jasmine”

Cinematography: Sean Bobbitt, “12 Years a Slave’: Barry Ackroyd, “Captain Phillips”; Emmanuel Lubezki, “Gravity”; Bruno Delbonnel, “Inside Llewyn Davis”; Phedon Papamichael, “Nebraska” Film Not in the English Language: “The Act of Killing”; Blue is the Warmest Color”; “The Great Beauty”; “Metro Manila”; “Wadjda” Documentary: “The Act of Killing”; “The Armstrong Lie”; “Blackfish”: “Tim’s Vermeer”; We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks” Animated Film: “Despicable Me 2”; “Frozen”; “Monsters University” Rising Star: Dane DeHaan; George MacKay; Lupita Nyong’o; Will Poulter; Lea Seydoux.

Warner Bros. will re-release “Gravity” nationwide on Friday, Jan 17, one day after the Oscar nominations are announced. The exact number of theaters for the re-release will be determined next week, the studio said - though it’s expected to be more robust than a typical limited release. And there will be competition, as it was already shaping up as a crowded weekend. On that same day, Paramount will be releasing “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit,” Open Road Films will debut its first animated film “The Nut Job,” Universal is opening the comedy “Ride Along” and Fox is rolling out the horror film “Devil’s Due.” All will be nationwide releases. Director Alfonso Cuaron’s 3D space epic is a front-runner in the best picture race, its stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney are in the discussion for acting honors and it is a favorite for effects and technical honors, too.

“Gravity” became a surprise blockbuster when it debuted in October, and its $670 million worldwide box-office haul ($255 million domestic) dwarfs that of the other Oscar contenders. Warner Bros. had been planning a second run for “Gravity,” but initially thought it would come later. With awards momentum building, it has decided to go out earlier, and last week ramped up its marketing campaign with new TV commercials running nationwide. “12 Years a Slave,” another awards frontrunner, will also be returning to theaters on Jan 17. Fox Searchlight said in December that it was re-releasing director Steve McQueen’s slavery saga, which has taken in more than $38 million domestically after opening in October.

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