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Oscars 2014: Our Gut Reaction to the Nominations

Oscar voters do the hustle, American style.

Best Picture
American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club
Gravity
Her
Nebraska
Philomena
12 Years a Slave
The Wolf of Wall Street

Just so I don't sound like a broken record, let's get this out of the way off the top: Inside Llewyn Davis wuz robbed! The Coen Brothers' achingly beautiful, darkly comic portrait of a frustrated artist was completely shut out in every potential major category, including Best Picture, where many assumed it would at least pick up a token nomination. Nothing doing -- instead, much like in the movie, Llewyn Davis is soundly rejected, picking up two technical nods (Cinematography and Sound Mixing). That's appropriate considering Llewyn's onscreen track record of failure I suppose, but boy does its absence from the major races smart. I'm assuming that its slot went to Philomena, a middlebrow movie that boasts a great Judi Dench performance and a touching story, but considerably less artistry. On the other hand, I'm happy that the Academy looked past the controversy and recognized the balls-out boldness of The Wolf of Wall Street, as well as Spike Jonze's delicate sci-fi romance Her. Also, kudos for the Saving Mr. Banks snub, a pleasant enough movie that had no business joining the Best Picture ranks, but some thought would sneak in thanks to its Disney connection. C'mon, though… we've known all along that this race is about three films in particular: Gravity, American Hustle and 12 Years a Slave, with the latter currently enjoying the edge. But there's still a month-and-a-half to go, so either of its competitors could have its hopes buoyed as Oscar night approaches.

Best Director
David O. Russell, American Hustle
Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity
Alexander Payne, Nebraska
Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave
Martin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street
This is almost exactly the same list of names nominated by the DGA with one notable exception: Paul Greengrass was ditched in favor of Alexander Payne, a turn of events we can probably chalk up to the actors' branch, which has lots of love for The Descendants director. And while Spike Jonze also has a solid fanbase, Her was a longshot in this category, especially with its consolation prize (Best Original Screenplay) all but assured. Look for the 12 Years/Gravity split to occur here, with Cuarón getting Director while 12 Years gets Picture… unless Russell shocks everyone by winning both Director and Picture, which could happen. And I could complain about the absence of the Coen Bros., but again… broken record and all that.

Best Actor
Christian Bale, American Hustle
Bruce Dern, Nebraska
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street
Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
The Phillips snubs continue as Tom Hanks -- who many assumed was a lock thanks to those last ten minutes -- got upended by the American Hustle Express and his slot went to Bale. Robert Redford's absence, on the other hand, is less surprising since he declined to do any serious campaigning for All Is Lost (which actually makes us respect him all the more). Besides, he's already got a pair of Oscars on his shelf -- one for directing Ordinary People and the other an Honorary Award -- and is too busy watching movies at Sundance right now to know or care that he's not nominated. Keep your eyes on the SAG Awards this weekend: if McConaughey repeats his Globes triumph there, he's the frontrunner for the big prize. (I'm no fan of Dallas as a movie or its simplification of early '80s AIDS history, but Matty McC is darn good.) And last Davis reference, I promise: poor Oscar Isaac -- great performance, wrong year.

Best Actress
Amy Adams, American Hustle
Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Sandra Bullock, Gravity
Judi Dench, Philomena
Meryl Streep, August: Osage County
First off, huzzah Amy Adams! Her performance (not to mention her wardrobe) is the best thing about American Hustle and after four Supporting Actress nomination, it's nice to see her in the Lead category. Too bad she's the also-ran to Cate Blanchett's apparently unstoppable Bay Area Blanche DuBois. The industry's general disaffection for Banks showed up in this race too, as Emma Thompson -- who, like Adams, was the best thing about her movie -- got shut out in favor of benchwarmer Streep. Also MIA is Enough Said's Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who perhaps was still too strongly identified with her TV work to cross over to the big screen awards race. Finally, while I wish that one of these awards bodies would get over their objection to mo-cap/voiceover performances and recognize Scarlett Johansson's disembodied Her star turn for what it is -- a remarkable bit of acting -- the Oscars were never gonna be that bold.

Best Supporting Actor
Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips
Bradley Cooper, American Hustle
Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave
Jonah Hill, The Wolf of Wall Street
Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
The American Hustle love powered Cooper to a Supporting Actor slot that seemed primed for Daniel Brühl's much buzzed-about turn in Ron Howard's Rush, a well-reviewed movie that never found any awards season traction. Also, the Wolf devotees nabbed Hill his second Best Supporting Actor statue in place of a posthumous honor for James Gandolfini's lovely work in Enough Said. Still, this is the one category where Dallas Buyers Club is all but assured a victory, so neither Cooper nor Hill should worry about rehearsing an acceptance speech.

Best Supporting Actress
Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine
Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
Lupita Nyong'o, 12 Years a Slave
Julia Roberts, August: Osage County
June Squibb, Nebraska
Back in August, Lee Daniels' The Butler won some early-season awards buzz, particularly for the showy supporting turn by Oprah Winfrey, a good friend to almost everyone in Hollywood. But those friendships apparently meant bupkus when it came time to elect nominees as Oprah was passed over in favor of Sally Hawkins (who, in my opinion, actually has the more challenging role in Jasmine and pulls it off with aplomb). In the end, though, this is going to be a photo finish between the stunning newcomer (Lupita Nyong'o) and the stunning returning champ (J-Law).

Best Original Screenplay
Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell, American Hustle
Woody Allen, Blue Jasmine
Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack, Dallas Buyers Club
Spike Jonze, Her
Bob Nelson, Nebraska
[Sotto voice] Inside Llewyn Davis. [Normal voice] All the usual suspects present and accounted for. It's Spike's statue to lose.

Best Adapted Screenplay
Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke, Before Midnight
Billy Ray , Captain Phillips
Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope, Philomena
John Ridley, 12 Years a Slave
Terence Winter, The Wolf of Wall Street
Again, no big surprises here apart from the welcome inclusion of Before Midnight, an Original Screenplay that falls into the Adapted category due to one of those eligibility quirks. And hey, Steve Coogan can now be referred to as "the Oscar-nominated Steve Coogan," which should make him more insufferably (and hilariously) smug than usual.

Best Animated Feature
The Croods
Despicable Me 2
Ernest & Celestine
Frozen
The Wind Rises

Ding dong, Pixar is dead. The once-beloved animation powerhouse failed to crack a category in which it once reigned supreme. Between this and the similar snub for Cars 2, hopefully they'll realize the need to get back to original content and avoid unnecessary sequels and prequels. (Except Finding Dory… I kinda want to see that. So yes, I'm clearly part of the problem.) There's a slim chance that the lovely, hand-drawn French cartoon Ernest & Celestine could be the dark horse winner, but who are we kidding? Let it go… to Frozen.

Best Foreign Language Film
The Broken Circle Breakdown
The Great Beauty
The Hunt
The Missing Picture
Omar

First up: the controversial French drama about love, loss and lesbians, Blue is the Warmest Color, isn't here because it wasn't eligible, having been released past the qualification deadline in its native country. That leaves the path to victory clear for Italy's The Great Beauty, the visually sumptuous tale of a sixtysomething reformed party animal reflecting on his wild life and times.

Best Documentary Feature
The Act of Killing
Cutie and the Boxer
Dirty Wars
The Square
20 Feet From Stardom

In one of the more surprising upsets, Sarah Polley's much raved-about autobiography Stories We Tell got left out in the cold, along with my favorite documentary from last year, Tim's Vermeer from Penn & Teller. Also missing was the anti-SeaWorld expose Blackfish, which should make the SoCal tourism industry happy. But voters did make room for 2013's most-acclaimed non-fiction feature (The Act of Killing as well as its most successful (20 Feet From Stardom) thus proving that they weren't completely out of touch.

Other Notable Nominations
It's Round 2 of U2 vs. Idina Menzel in the Best Original Song category. The Academy can't break millions of young girls (and boys) hearts by picking Bono over Elsa, though, right? Gore Verbinski's Razzie-nominated The Lone Ranger picks up two nominations -- one for Visual Effects and one for Makeup and Hairstyling -- which is the same total number that Inside Llewyn Davis got. Also in Visual Effects, Marvel thumps DC again as Iron Man 3 gets a nod, while Man of Steel didn't even make the shortlist. (On the other hand, Pacific Rim did make the shortlist, but not the final round, which makes us mad enough to climb into our own Jaeger gear.) Also snubbed again: Ben Affleck. Not for anything specific this time -- the Academy just likes snubbing him.

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