Oscar race: 'Hustle' vs. 'Slave' vs. 'Gravity'

Steve McQueen and actor Chiwetel Ejiofor break from filming "12 Years a Slave." Both are nominated for Academy Awards.
Steve McQueen and actor Chiwetel Ejiofor break from filming "12 Years a Slave." Both are nominated for Academy Awards.
Posted: January 17, 2014

THIS YEAR'S Oscar nominations point to a three-way best picture race among "American Hustle," "Gravity" and "12 Years A Slave," and I'd call it a toss-up.

"Hustle" and "Gravity" have 10 nominations apiece, and "12 Years" is just behind with nine, so each front-runner has widespread support among the voting base. Handicappers have established "12 Years" as an early 2-to-5 favorite over "Hustle" (4-to-1) and "Gravity" (12-to-1), but these are the same oddsmakers who a few weeks ago thought "Saving Mr. Banks" was an Oscar favorite. That movie got virtually nothing yesterday.

Snubs

The Coen Brothers' "Inside Llewyn Davis," a (too?) melancholy movie about a talented artist lost to history, is now a case of life imitating art: The movie looks to be a casualty of bad luck, poor timing or the fact there is no accounting for taste. Two acting nominations for "August: Osage County"? None for "Davis"? That seems lame.

Oscar Isaac, in the lead, gave a career-making performance but couldn't crack this tough category. The movie was nominated for cinematography and sound mixing.

As for Robert Redford, all hope for an acting nod is lost. A few months ago, Redford was considered a potential best actor winner for his role as a solo sailor in "All Is Lost," but he didn't even get a nomination. The movie scored a sound editing nod.

"The Butler," which might have yielded a nod to Forest Whitaker or Oprah Winfrey, was shut out.

The Oscar boost

That could happen for "Her," the boy-meets-computer movie that opened weakly last weekend, and yesterday picked up a best picture nod, a best original screenplay nod for director Spike Jonze, and nominations for best original song, for score, and for its superb production design.

There was help, too, for "Nebraska," which never really caught fire at the box office but was well-represented yesterday - best picture, best actor (Bruce Dern), best original screenplay, and best director (Alexander Payne) - and will be re-released in theaters today, as will "Gravity."

It's a minor surprise that Jonah Hill received his second nomination, this time for "Wolf of Wall Street." The Martin Scorsese film had been hissed and booed at a few Academy screenings, but clearly there is no backlash at work. Scorsese himself was nominated, and so was Leonardo DiCaprio for best actor, where he'll compete with Dern, Christian Bale ("American Hustle"), Chiwetel Ejiofor ("12 Years a Slave") and Matthew McConaughey ("Dallas Buyers Club").

The latter movie is a bit of a sleeper. It also picked up a supporting actor nomination for Jared Leto and was nominated for best original screenplay.

"Buyers Club" also snagged one of the nine best picture nominations. The academy can nominate as many as 10 but chose not to run a full slate. Strange, as it seemed voters wanted to make room for Woody Allen's "Blue Jasmine," for which Sally Hawkins got a bit of an unexpected nod in the best supporting actress category.

Cate Blanchett - the almost certain winner - was nominated as best actress. Allen received an original screenplay nod.

In some ways, the nominations were surprising for their lack of surprise. They conformed a bit dully to the Golden Globes and seemed to share Globes-ish taste for showy, attention-seeking performances.

Thus, no Oscar for Isaac.


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