American Hustle, Gravity and 12 Years A Slave look set to dominate the 2014 Academy Awards. The movies will go head-to-head for Best Picture along with Captain Phillips, Nebraska, Philomena, Dallas Buyers Club, Her and The Wolf of Wall Street.
British stars Christian Bale (American Hustle) and Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years A Slave) both scored a mention for Best Actor, while American Hustle's Amy Adams will go head-to-head with Gravity's Sandra Bullock for Best Actress.
Other actresses nominated in the category are Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine), Judi Dench (Philomena) and Meryl Streep (August: Osage County).
Last year's (13) winner of the Best Actress trophy, Jennifer Lawrence, will compete for Best Supporting Actress for her role in American Hustle, while Bradley Cooper landed a Best Supporting Actor nod for his role in the crime caper.
12 Years A Slave co-stars Lupita Nyong'o and Michael Fassbender also picked up nods for their supporting roles, while the film's director Steve McQueen and American Hustle's David. O. Russell both landed nominations for Best Director along with Gravity's Alfonso Cuaron.
Speaking shortly after the nominations were announced, British moviemaker McQueen told the BBC, "(I am) just very excited - nine nominations. A lot of them (the Oscar nominees are) British. I am just so excited. We worked very hard and are very privileged to receive these nominations."
While O. Russell admits he is thrilled that all four of his film's main actors picked up nods, adding, "It's all four actors... you always worry as sort of the captain... that one of your great performers is not going to get recognised... they all put so much into it and they did it together so it's nice that none of them got left out."
American Hustle and Gravity both scored 10 nominations, while 12 Years A Slave landed nine.
The nominations were announced by actor Chris Hemsworth and Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President Cheryl Boone Isaacs on Thursday (16Jan14), and the winners will be unveiled during the Los Angeles prizegiving on 2 March (14).
The full list of nominees is as follows:
Dallas Buyers Club
12 Years A Slave
The Wolf of Wall Street
David O. Russell - American Hustle
Alfonso Cuaron - Gravity
Alexander Payne - Nebraska
Steve McQueen - 12 Years a Slave
Martin Scorsese - The Wolf of Wall Street
Actor in a Leading Role:
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
Actress in a Leading Role:
Amy Adams - American Hustle
Cate Blanchett - Blue Jasmine
Sandra Bullock - Gravity
Judi Dench - Philomena
Meryl Streep - August: Osage County
Actor in a Supporting Role:
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
Actress in a Supporting Role:
Sally Hawkins - Blue Jasmine
Jennifer Lawrence - American Hustle
Lupita Nyong'o - 12 Years a Slave
Julia Roberts - August: Osage County
June Squibb - Nebraska
Before Midnight - Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke
Captain Phillips - Billy Ray
Philomena - Steve Coogan, Jeff Pope
12 Years A Slave - John Ridley
The Wolf of Wall Street - Terence Winter
American Hustle - Eric Warren Singer, David O. Russell
Blue Jasmine - Woody Allen
Dallas Buyers Club - Craig Borten, Melisa Wallack
Her - Spike Jonze
Nebraska - Bob Nelson
Animated Feature Film:
Despicable Me 2
Ernest & Celestine
The Wind Rises
The Grandmaster - Philippe Le Sourd
Gravity - Emmanuel Lubezki
Inside Llewyn Davis - Bruno Delbonnel
Nebraska - Phedon Papamichael
Prisoners - Roger A. Deakins
American Hustle - Michael Wilkinson
The Grandmaster - William Chang Suk Ping
The Great Gatsby - Catherine Martin
The Invisible Woman - Michael O'Connor
12 Years A Slave - Patricia Norris
The Act of Killing
Cutie and the Boxer
20 Feet from Stardom
Documentary Short Subject:
Karama Has No Walls
The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life
Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall
American Hustle - Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers, Alan Baumgarten
Captain Phillips - Christopher Rouse
Dallas Buyers Club - John Mac McMurphy, Martin Pensa
Gravity - Alfonso Cuaron, Mark Sanger
12 Years A Slave - Joe Walker
Foreign Language Film:
The Broken Circle Breakdown
The Great Beauty
The Missing Picture
Makeup And Hairstyling:
Dallas Buyers Club
Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa
The Lone Ranger
Music - Original Score:
The Book Thief
Saving Mr. Banks
Music - Original Song:
Alone Yet Not Alone by Bruce Broughton and Dennis Spiegel, from Alone Yet Not Alone
Happy by Pharrell Williams, from Despicable Me 2
Let it Go by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, from Frozen
The Moon Song by Karen O, from Her
Ordinary Love by U2, from Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom
The Great Gatsby
12 Years A Slave
All Is Lost
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Inside Llewyn Davis
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Iron Man 3
The Lone Ranger
Star Trek Into Darkness.
Lions Gate via Everett Collection
When we last left our heroes, they had conquered all opponents in the 74th Annual Hunger Games, returned home to their newly refurbished living quarters in District 12, and fallen haplessly to the cannibalism of PTSD. And now we're back! Hitching our wagons once again to laconic Katniss Everdeen and her sweet-natured, just-for-the-camera boyfriend Peeta Mellark as they gear up for a second go at the Capitol's killing fields.
But hold your horses — there's a good hour and a half before we step back into the arena. However, the time spent with Katniss and Peeta before the announcement that they'll be competing again for the ceremonial Quarter Quell does not drag. In fact, it's got some of the film franchise's most interesting commentary about celebrity, reality television, and the media so far, well outweighing the merit of The Hunger Games' satire on the subject matter by having Katniss struggle with her responsibilities as Panem's idol. Does she abide by the command of status quo, delighting in the public's applause for her and keeping them complacently saturated with her smiles and curtsies? Or does Katniss hold three fingers high in opposition to the machine into which she has been thrown? It's a quarrel that the real Jennifer Lawrence would handle with a castigation of the media and a joke about sandwiches, or something... but her stakes are, admittedly, much lower. Harvey Weinstein isn't threatening to kill her secret boyfriend.
Through this chapter, Katniss also grapples with a more personal warfare: her devotion to Gale (despite her inability to commit to the idea of love) and her family, her complicated, moralistic affection for Peeta, her remorse over losing Rue, and her agonizing desire to flee the eye of the public and the Capitol. Oftentimes, Katniss' depression and guilty conscience transcends the bounds of sappy. Her soap opera scenes with a soot-covered Gale really push the limits, saved if only by the undeniable grace and charisma of star Lawrence at every step along the way of this film. So it's sappy, but never too sappy.
In fact, Catching Fire is a masterpiece of pushing limits as far as they'll extend before the point of diminishing returns. Director Francis Lawrence maintains an ambiance that lends to emotional investment but never imposes too much realism as to drip into territories of grit. All of Catching Fire lives in a dreamlike state, a stark contrast to Hunger Games' guttural, grimacing quality that robbed it of the life force Suzanne Collins pumped into her first novel.
Once we get to the thunderdome, our engines are effectively revved for the "fun part." Katniss, Peeta, and their array of allies and enemies traverse a nightmare course that seems perfectly suited for a videogame spin-off. At this point, we've spent just enough time with the secondary characters to grow a bit fond of them — deliberately obnoxious Finnick, jarringly provocative Johanna, offbeat geeks Beedee and Wiress — but not quite enough to dissolve the mystery surrounding any of them or their true intentions (which become more and more enigmatic as the film progresses). We only need adhere to Katniss and Peeta once tossed in the pit of doom that is the 75th Hunger Games arena, but finding real characters in the other tributes makes for a far more fun round of extreme manhunt.
But Catching Fire doesn't vie for anything particularly grand. It entertains and engages, having fun with and anchoring weight to its characters and circumstances, but stays within the expected confines of what a Hunger Games movie can be. It's a good one, but without shooting for succinctly interesting or surprising work with Katniss and her relationships or taking a stab at anything but the obvious in terms of sending up the militant tyrannical autocracy, it never even closes in on the possibility of being a great one.
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There's an allure to imperfection. With his latest drama Lawless director John Hillcoat taps directly into the side of human nature that draws us to it. Hillcoat finds it in Prohibition history a time when the regulations of alcohol consumption were subverted by most of the population; He finds it in the rural landscapes of Virginia: dingy raw and mesmerizing. And most importantly he finds it in his main character Jack Bondurant (Shia LaBeouf) the scrappy third brother of a moonshining family who is desperate to prove his worth. Jack forcefully injects himself into the family business only to discover there's an underbelly to the underbelly. Lawless is a beautiful film that's violent as hell striking in a way only unfiltered Americana could be.
Acting as the driver for his two outlaw brothers Forrest (Tom Hardy) and Howard (Jason Clarke) isn't enough for Jack. He's enticed by the power of the gangster figure and entranced by what moonshine money can buy. So like any fledgling entrepreneur Jack takes matters into his own hands. Recruiting crippled family friend/distillery mastermind Cricket (Dane DeHaan) the young whippersnapper sets out to brew his own batch sell it to top dog Floyd Banner and make the family rich. The plan works — but it puts the Bondurant boys in over their heads with a new threat: the corrupt law enforcers of Chicago.
Unlike many stories of crime life Lawless isn't about escalation. The movie drifts back and forth leisurely popping in moments like the beats of a great TV episode. One second the Bondurants could be talking shop with their female shopkeep Maggie Beauford (Jessica Chastain). The next Forrest is beating the bloody pulp out of a cop blackmailing their operation. The plot isn't thick; Hillcoat and screenwriter Nick Cave preferring to bask in the landscapes the quiet moments the haunting terror that comes with a life on the other side of the tracks. A feature film doesn't offer enough time for Lawless to build — it recalls cinema-level TV currently playing on outlets like HBO and AMC that have truly spoiled us — but what the duo accomplish is engrossing.
Accompanying the glowing visuals and Cave's knockout workout on the music side (a toe-tapping mix of spirituals bluegrass and the writer/musician's spine-tingling violin) are muted performances from some of Hollywood's rising stars. Despite LaBeouf's off-screen antics he lights up Lawless and nails the in-deep whippersnapper. His playful relationship with a local religious girl (Mia Wasikowska) solidifies him as a leading man but like everything in the movie you want more. Tom Hardy is one of the few performers who can "uurrr" and "mmmnerm" his way through a scene and come out on top. His greatest sparring partner isn't a hulking thug but Chastain who brings out the heart of the impenetrable beast. The real gem of Lawless is Guy Pearce as the Bondurant trio's biggest threat. Shaved eyebrows pristine city clothes and a temper like a rabid wolverine Pearce's Charlie Rakes is the most frightening villain of 2012. He viciously chews up every moment he's on screen. That's even before he starts drawing blood.
Lawless is the perfect movie for the late August haze — not quite the Oscary prestige picture or the summertime shoot-'em-up. It's drama that has its moonshine and swigs it too. Just don't drink too much.