"American Hustle" and "Gravity" led nominations for the 86th Academy Awards with 10 each, followed by nine for "12 Years a Slave." The trio will compete for best picture in a category that this year has nine entrants, also including "Captain Phillips," "Dallas Buyers Club," "Her," "Nebraska," "Philomena," and "The Wolf of Wall Street."
Oscar voters always provide a few surprises, but this year they outdid themselves.
David O. Russell film had acting contenders honored in all four categories. Meryl Streep continues her streak with an 18th nomination.
The surprises include Sally Hawkins, Christian Bale and Amy Adams, since none was a shoo-in. But biggest shocks were the omissions of Tom Hanks, Emma Thompson, Robert Redford and Paul Greengrass.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences and PricewaterhouseCoopers follow a complicated weighted system for best picture, which allows for five-to-10 contenders. For the past two years, there were also nine. (James Schamus explains the system in a separate story.)
The nominees include some racial and cultural diversity, underscoring the fact that the film industry needs to reflect the universal nature of the business. It's an expanded sensibility that theater and TV have been quicker to embrace.
Many of this year's top nominees are themed to the economy ("American Hustle," "Blue Jasmine," "The Wolf of Wall Street"), health care ("Dallas Buyers Club"), terrorism ("Captain Phillips"), survival ("12 Years," "Gravity,") and technology ("Her" and "Gravity").
And then there are the classic American themes of family: "August: Osage County," "Nebraska," "Philomena."
Historically, the Oscars nominations rarely parallel box office performance. With $670 million worldwide, "Gravity" was the only best-pic nominee in the global box office top 10.
The foreign language and animation categories failed to capture a best-picture nomination in the way that "Toy Story 3" and "Amour" did in the past few years.
Also MIA were a few longshots whose supporters had hoped in vain for awards attention. That list includes James Franco ("Spring Breakers"), James Gandolfini ("Enough Said") and Scarlett Johansson ("Her").
The build-up to today's nominations has been long and intense. In most years, there have been three or four shoo-ins for a best-picture nomination, plus a handful of other possibilities. This year, in addition to four that seemed like no-brainers, there were a dozen other contenders all worthy of attention. Every Oscar category was overcrowded, so the campaigning has been at a record level of activity since September.
There were 289 eligible pics with a total of 6,028 Academy voters. The largest single branch is actors, with 1176 (19% of the total); the smallest being casting directors, with 54 members (less than 1%).
The nominations were announced at 5:38 a.m. at the Academy's Beverly Hills headquarters. Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences prexy Cheryl Boone Isaacs and Chris Hemsworth made the announcement.
Balloting runs Feb. 14-25. Awards will be handed out at ceremonies at the Dolby Theatre March 2, telecast live by ABC-TV.
THE FULL LIST OF NOMINEES:
"12 Years a Slave"