'American Hustle,' 'Gravity,' '12 Years a Slave' lead Oscar race
Chris Hemsworth and Cheryl Boone Isaacs announce the nominees for the 86th Academy Awards in Beverly Hills, California
By Mary Milliken and Nichola Groom
BEVERLY HILLS, California (Reuters) - Three films - "American Hustle," "Gravity" and "12 Years a Slave' - cemented their frontrunner status for the Oscars on Thursday in what is shaping up to be a highly competitive year for Hollywood's top honors.
Director David O. Russell's 1970s con-men caper "American Hustle" and Alfonso Cuaron's space thriller "Gravity" each won 10 Academy Award nominations, while Steve McQueen's brutal depiction of slavery in "12 Years a Slave" secured nine. All three films garnered nods for best picture and best director.
"This has been an amazing ride, and to receive nine nominations from the Academy is testament to all of the hard work," said McQueen, a British filmmaker who unearthed the real-life American story about a free man sold into slavery.
But in a year hailed as one of high quality for the Hollywood industry, several other films could challenge the favorites in the race for the world's top film prizes.
Somali piracy thriller "Captain Phillips," the AIDS activism tale "Dallas Buyers Club," and heartland comedy "Nebraska," which each garnered six nominations.
Martin Scorsese's cautionary tale on financial greed, "The Wolf of Wall Street," quirky computer-age romance, "Her" and adoption drama "Philomena" round out the nine nominees for best picture.
Members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences may nominate up to 10 films for best picture, but only chose nine this year. A notable exclusion was the Coen Brothers' "Inside Llewyn Davis," which had won some top critics' awards, and scored only two nods overall.
An Oscar statue is seen at the 86th Academy Awards nominee announcements in Beverly Hills, California
The race could be complicated by the long lead time to the Oscars ceremony, to be hosted by comedian Ellen DeGeneres in Los Angeles on March 2.
TOP ACTORS SNUBBED
The crowded honors race spilled over into the acting categories, where the Academy snubbed some veteran stars and instead chose to recognize up and coming talent.
Eight individuals in the acting categories are first-time nominees, including Chiwetel Ejiofor as the free man sold into slavery in "12 Years a Slave." He will compete in the best actor race with Matthew McConaughey, the Golden Globe winner last Sunday for his role as the unlikely AIDS crusader in "Dallas Buyers Club," and Leonardo DiCaprio as the swindling, fast-living stockbroker in "The Wolf of Wall Street."