Academy Awards: first reactions to the nominees

By Karsten Burgstahler

Somewhere in Hollywood Thursday morning, a publicist was crying.

Those tears were either tears of joy or tears of despair. Come Oscar announcement morning, triumphant underdogs have their day and stars who spent months of their careers working on a role they thought would get them the gold find their dreams dashed. But no matter who fell in what column, the prognosticators no longer have to guess which movies will make the cut. Now they have to pick an absolute winner.

Obviously anything can (and will) happen over the next month to turn the voting tide. But as it stands today, several names are at the front of the pack. Before we break down the categories, take a look at Thursday’s announcement:


The full list of nominees is viewable on the official Oscar website. Read on for predictions in six top catagories.

Best Picture

Frontrunner: “12 Years a Slave”

“12 Years a Slave” held frontrunner status for much of the campaign, and is still quite a force to be reckoned with. “Gravity” was both a critical and mainstream hit; however, it is admired for its special effects much more than its screenplay, which failed to secure an Original Screenplay nomination, so it has somewhat of a climb. “American Hustle” scored just as many nominations as “Gravity,” but it just doesn’t seem to have the same pull as “Slave.” If the Oscar voters end up going for lighter fare, “Hustle” will take it. But “Slave” is the frontrunner for the time being.

Best Director


Frontrunner: Alfonso Cuaron, “Gravity”

The Academy has voted against the grain in the past; last year they famously snubbed Ben Affleck for “Argo,” a move that might have launched it to its Best Picture win. But “Gravity” is as much a director’s film as Ang Lee’s “Life of Pi” was last year, and Lee took home the prize. There’s no question Cuaron pulled off an achievement with “Gravity,” a movie which places the audience miles above Earth and doesn’t let go for an hour and a half. Steve McQueen is a close contender for “12 Years a Slave,” as the way he holds his camera on uncomfortable moments forces the audience to confront the horrors of slavery. However, with all the good will toward both “Gravity” and “Slave,” this could very well be a split ticket.

Best Actor

Frontrunner: Matthew McConaughey, “Dallas Buyers Club”

A few months ago Chiwetel Ejiofor would have been the hands-down winner here. His performance as Solomon Northup in “12 Years a Slave” is powerful. But McConaughey won the Golden Globe over Ejiofor, and while there’s no overlap between the voters there’s a psychological advantage to winning the award — the Academy takes notice. McConaughey gives the best performance of his career as Ron Woodroof, a homophobic, sexist cowboy who contracts HIV in the early years of the epidemic. Giving him the award isn’t just recognition of a great performance, it would be an acknowledgement of the way he has turned his career around.

Best Actress

Frontrunner: Cate Blanchett, “Blue Jasmine”

Blanchett ran the risk of peaking early, as “Blue Jasmine” came out late last summer. However, she’s been able to stay on top of the pack and scored a nomination over other buzzy performances, such as Emma Thompson in “Saving Mr. Banks.” Amy Adams was also somewhat of a surprise, although in retrospect it is not smart to doubt a cast member in a David O. Russell film. Sandra Bullock, in “Gravity,” is Blanchett’s biggest competition; Bullock dominated “Gravity,” which was essentially a one-woman show. But Blanchett should be able to hold on to her lead for an easy win.

Best Supporting Actor

Frontrunner: Jared Leto, “Dallas Buyers Club”

Leto is pretty much a sure thing. In “Dallas Buyers Club,” he plays transgendered woman Rayon, who helps Ron run the club. Leto loses himself in the role and gives a terrific performance. That’s not to discount the other players, however; Michael Fassbender is menacing in “12 Years a Slave,” and Jonah Hill was a surprise nominee for “The Wolf of Wall Street.” Still, Leto is in the Academy’s favor and is as close to a lock as possible this year.

Best Supporting Actress

Frontrunners: Jennifer Lawrence, “American Hustle” and Luptia N’yongo, “12 Years a Slave” (Dead heat)

Both these actresses gave knockout performances this year. It is hard to deny N’yongo frontrunner status, as she’s even stronger than Ejiofor in “12 Years a Slave,” but Lawrence is an Academy darling and chews up scenery as the best part of “American Hustle.” However, with nominations in every acting category, chances are “Hustle” will walk away with at least one award and that will probably be for Lawrence. If so, it is pretty much how the race went down last year: “Silver Linings Playbook” was nominated for all four acting awards and Lawrence was the only winner.

Karsten Burgstahler can be reached at [email protected], on Twitter @kburgstahler_DE or by phone at 536-3311 ext. 254.