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Sandra Bullock in a scene from ‘Gravity.’ The film was nominated for an Academy Award for best picture on Jan 16. The 86th Academy Awards will be held on March 2, 2014. (AP)
‘Hustle’, ‘Gravity’ lead Oscars race ‘12 Years a Slave’ gets 9 nominations

LOS ANGELES, Jan 16, (Agencies): The con-artist comedy “American Hustle” and the 3-D space odyssey “Gravity” lead the Academy Awards with 10 nominations each, with the historical epic “12 Years a Slave” trailing closely with nine nominations. The nominations announced Thursday set up a race between three very different films, all of which were nominated for best picture. The 86th annual Academy Awards will take place March 2. Mexican-born “Gravity” director Alfonso Cuaron and British-born “12 Years a Slave” director Steve McQueen both received best director nominations. Nine films were nominated for best picture. The other nominees are “Captain Phillips,” ‘’Dallas Buyers Club,” ‘’Her,” ‘’Nebraska,” ‘’The Wolf of Wall Street” and the British film “Philomena.”

The nominations for best foreign language film are “The Broken Circle Breakdown” from Belgium, “The Great Beauty” from Italy, “The Hunt” from Denmark, “The Missing Picture” from Cambodia and “Omar” from the Palestinian territories. The most notable omission for a nomination was Tom Hanks for his lead performance in “Captain Phillips.” Hanks is widely beloved by the academy, having been nominated five times previously, winning for “Forest Gump” and “Philadelphia.” Robert Redford, expected by many to be nominated for the shipwreck drama “All Is Lost,” also missed out on a best actor nod. Redford has never won an acting Oscar.

The best actor nominees are British-born Chiwetel Ejiofor (“12 Years a Slave”), Bruce Dern (“Nebraska”), Leonardo DiCaprio (“The Wolf of Wall Street”), Matthew McConaughey (“Dallas Buyers Club”) and Christian Bale (“American Hustle”). Disney’s making of “Mary Poppins” tale “Saving Mr. Banks” also failed to land either a best picture nomination or a best actress nod for British-born Emma Thompson. The best actress nominees are Amy Adams (“American Hustle”), Australian-born Cate Blanchett (“Blue Jasmine”), Sandra Bullock (“Gravity”), British-born Judi Dench (“Philomena”) and Meryl Streep (“August: Osage County”). This is Streep’s 18th nomination, including three wins.

Many enjoyed their first Oscar nomination Thursday, including Ejiofor, McConaughey, Michael Fassbender (“12 Years a Slave”), McQueen, Barkhad Abdi (a limo driver before being cast in “Captain Phillips”) and Jared Leto, who had devoted himself to music before returning to play a transsexual in the Texas HIV drama “Dallas Buyers Club.” “Yesterday I was doing jury duty, today I woke up with an Academy Award nomination,” said Leto. “Only in America.”

Martin Scorsese’s “The Wolf of Wall Street,” a nearly three-hour Wall Street extravaganza of money, sex and drugs, landed big nominations: best picture, best actor (DiCaprio), best director (Scorsese, his eighth for directing) and best supporting actor (Jonah Hill). Also doing well Thursday were Spike Jonze’s futuristic romance “Her” (five nominations, including best original screenplay for Jonze) and Alexander Payne’s black-and-white road trip “Nebraska” (six nominations, including best director for Payne). One of the day’s biggest winners was the 27-year-old producer Megan Ellison, the daughter of billionaire Larry Ellison. Her Annapurna Pictures produced two of the best-picture nominees (“American Hustle” and “Her”) as well as Chinese-born Wong Kar-Wai’s martial arts drama “The Grandmaster.” She celebrated by tweeting “17!” — the total nominations her films received.

“American Hustle” has ridden a wave of enthusiasm for its manic performances, all draped in ‘70s style. It’s a success for director David O. Russell (who received his third directing nomination) just a year after his “Silver Linings Playbook” was had eight Oscar nominations, with Jennifer Lawrence winning. She was again nominated for “Hustle.” The global box-office hit “Gravity” emerged Thursday thanks partly to its strength in technical categories like cinematography, production design, editing and visual effects. Cuaron’s innovative depiction of being lost in space has been praised for reinvigorating the spectacle of the big-screen experience. Having taken in more than $670 million worldwide, it’s easily the most popular of the best-picture nominees.

Though historically the most-nominated films have taken home the best picture award, that’s not been the case in recent years. Six of the last 10 years the most-nominated film hasn’t won in the end, including last year when Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln,” with 12 nominations, was beaten by Ben Affleck’s “Argo.” This year’s Oscar telecast, with Ellen DeGeneres hosting for the second time, has pressure on it to live up to the increasingly popular Golden Globes. With hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, ratings for the Globes have increased the last two years and drawn good reviews.  The Academy Awards have struggled to freshen up its more prestigious brand.

In a related story, “To have these actors really put their hearts in it all together, to have them each get a nod is a big deal for us... we created a family together,” said director David O. Russell, himself also nominated for best director. Under recently changed rules, the best picture category can include between five and 10 films.  The fact that nine are in the race this year underlines the strength of the competition. But there were also snubs: two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks failed to win a nomination for his roles in “Captain Phillips” or “Saving Mr Banks,” while awards season perennials Ethan and Joel Coen got only two nods for “Inside Llewyn Davis” — neither of them in the main categories.

Veteran actor Robert Redford also did not make the best actor shortlist for his powerful solo performance in shipwreck movie “All is Lost.” Britain’s Emma Thompson, who played Mary Poppins author PL Travers in “Saving Mr Banks,” also was shut out. Oscar winner Lawrence, who won the best supporting actress Globe, is a favorite in the same category at the Academy Awards.  But she will have stiff competition from Sally Hawkins (“Blue Jasmine”), Lupita Nyong’o (“12 Years a Slave”), Julia Roberts (“August: Osage County”) and June Squibb (“Nebraska”). For best supporting actor, the nominees are Cooper, Barkhad Abdi for “Captain Phillips,” Michael Fassbender for “12 Years a Slave,” Jonah Hill for “The Wolf of Wall Street” and Jared Leto for “Dallas Buyers Club.” The 42-year-old Leto, who had not made a movie for six years, won the Globe and has earned widespread praise for his searing performance in a transgender role.

It was a good year for veteran actresses and Oscar winners. Meryl Streep extended her lead as the most nominated performer with an 18th nomination, this year for best actress as the matriarch in “August: Osage County.” In the next few weeks, Hollywood will look to see how the actors, producers, directors and writers guild awards shape up. Their members also constitute the bulk of the thousands of Academy members.

Following is a list of statements from leading nominees:
Leonardo Dicaprio, best actor nominee, ‘The Wolf Of Wall Street’
“I am deeply humbled by this honor and even happier to share today with Marty, Jonah, Terry as well as this entire cast and crew. ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ has been a passion project of mine, and I found the role to be one of the most challenging and rewarding of my career. Congratulations to all of my fellow nominees and thank you to the Academy for this extraordinary recognition.” Amy Adams, best actress nominee, ‘American Hustle’

“I’m very honored to be nominated alongside such inspiring actresses. Congratulations to the cast and crew of ‘American Hustle’ and ‘Her,’ two films that I’m incredibly proud to be a part of.” Alfonso Cuaron, best director nominee, ‘Gravity’ “Thank you Academy for this incredible recognition. These nominations are not just about single achievements, but rather the collective effort of hundreds of dedicated artists who made this dream a reality. ... I am particularly moved by Sandy’s (Sandra Bullock) nomination. She is the heartbeat of our film. She immersed herself in the part. And I thank her for her grace, her trust and her dedication to finding the truth of this character.” Steve Mcqueen, best director nominee, ‘12 Years A Slave’

“I’m extraordinarily happy for all the cast and crew of our ‘12 Years a Slave’ family. This has been an amazing ride, and to receive nine nominations from the Academy is testament to all of the hard work. And for that I am truly grateful.” Julia Roberts, best supporting actress nominee, ‘August: Osage County’
“This was certainly a once in a lifetime experience and the recognition from it is an absolutely thrilling bonus. I simply could not be more excited right now.” Judi Dench, best actress nominee, ‘Philomena’
“This is just the loveliest news. I’m so happy for everybody involved, and so proud to have been part of the wonderful experience that ‘Philomena’ has been.”

Box-office numbers
North American box-office performance as of Tuesday for Oscar best-picture nominees:
* “American Hustle,” Sony, $103,565,129, 10 nominations, released Dec 12, 2013.
* “Captain Phillips,” Sony, $105,010,295, six nominations, released Oct 10, 2013.
* “Dallas Buyers Club,” Focus, $16,769,169, six nominations, released Nov 1, 2013.
* “Gravity,” Warner Bros., $256,314,185, 10 nominations, released Oct 3, 2013.
* “Her,” Warner Bros., $9,900,985, five nominations, released Dec 18, 2013.
* “Nebraska,” Paramount, $8,477,367, released. Nov 15, 2013.
* “Philomena,” Weinstein Co., $22,324,543, released Nov 22, 2013.
* “12 Years a Slave,” Fox Searchlight, $39,002,295, nine nominations, released Oct 17, 2013.
* “The Wolf of Wall Street,” Paramount, $80,741,968, five nominations, released Dec 25, 2013.

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