‘Gravity,’ ‘American Hustle’ lead Oscar nominations

By Barbara Vancheri
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via McClatchy-Tribune

Hollywood, we have liftoff.

The 3-D technological wonder “Gravity” and con-artist comedy “American Hustle” each picked up 10 Oscar nominations Thursday, 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 in Beverly Hills, Calif. Ellen DeGeneres will host the 86th Academy Awards on March 2, from the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.

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.

Ejiofor was nominated along with Christian Bale as a fraudster in the thick of Abscam in “American Hustle”; 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 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 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,” 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.”

For best foreign language film, the nominees include Italy’s “The Great Beauty” and “The Broken Circle Breakdown” from Belgium. Rounding out the field: “The Hunt” from Denmark, “The Missing Picture” from Cambodia and “Omar,” Palestine.