‘American Hustle,’ ‘Gravity’ tie with 10 Oscar nominations

Christopher Palmeri (c) 2014, Bloomberg News

LOS ANGELES — “American Hustle,” a retelling of a 1970s FBI sting, was nominated for 10 Academy Awards, including best picture, tying the space thriller “Gravity” as Hollywood prepared to hand out its highest honors.

“12 Years a Slave,” director Steve McQueen’s drama about a free black man sold into slavery, was nominated for nine Oscars, including best picture. It’s one of nine films that will vie for the industry’s top prize, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences announced today in Beverly Hills, California.

The nominations, ranging from historical pictures to a 3-D space adventure, give academy members a broad sampling of Hollywood fare to choose from. “12 Years a Slave,” which won a best picture Golden Globe Award last week, is a drama with hard- to-watch scenes that depict the violence of slavery, while “American Hustle,” the Globe winner for best comedy, takes a farcical look at the political scandal known as Abscam.

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“The nominees show this is a really strong year for challenging films,” said Joe Pichirallo, chairman of the undergraduate film and television school at New York University. “These are not your cookie-cutter films and many of them did really well at the box office.”

“12 Years a Slave,” from 21st Century Fox Inc., is the favorite to win best picture, followed by Time Warner Inc.’s “Gravity” and “American Hustle” from Sony Corp., according to GoldDerby.com. The site aggregates opinions from journalists, users and its own editors. Stars from all three films, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sandra Bullock, Christian Bale and Amy Adams, were nominated for their lead roles.

This year’s nominations were also notable for who got left out. Oscar winning directors Joel and Ethan Coen were passed over for their film “Inside Llewyn Davis,” which got nominations for sound mixing and cinematography. “Lee Daniel’s The Butler,” which stars Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey, received no nominations. Two of Hollywood’s leading men, in “Captain Phillips” and “All Is Lost,” also missed out.

“The fact that Tom Hanks and Robert Redford didn’t make the cut shows what a strong year it is,” said Phil Contrino, chief analyst at BoxOffice.com

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“Captain Phillips,” a best-picture nominee from Sony, features Hanks as a freighter captain whose ship is hijacked by pirates. The film also grabbed nominations for a supporting role, writing, editing and sound

Another best-picture nominee, “Dallas Buyers Club,” from Universal Pictures’ Focus Features, stars Matthew McConaughey as a hustler who helps AIDS patients get the medicine they need after he is diagnosed with the disease. He’s nominated for best actor, while co-star Jared Leto is up for supporting actor.

The other nominees for best picture are “Nebraska,” about an aging, alcoholic dad who travels to the state to collect a million-dollar sweepstakes prize; “Her,” about a man who falls for a sultry computer voice; “Philomena,” featuring Judi Dench as a woman trying to find the son taken from her years earlier; and “The Wolf of Wall Street,” Martin Scorsese’s feature about a Wall Street scam artist.

Among the studios, Time Warner’s Warner Bros. led the nominations with 20, while Sony had 19, counting feature films with two or more nominations, according to the academy.

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The Oscars will be handed out March 2 in a televised ceremony carried live on ABC.

In the best actor category, Bale was nominated for his leading role as a con man in “American Hustle.” In “12 Years a Slave” Ejiofor plays the title role of Solomon Northup, a free black man sold into slavery. Dern is nominated for the lead role in “Nebraska,” while Leonardo DiCaprio was nominated for his role as a penny stockbroker in “The Wolf of Wall Street”

For best actress, Bullock, starring in “Gravity,” will compete with Adams for her role in “American Hustle,” Cate Blanchett for “Blue Jasmine,” Dench for “Philomena,” and Meryl Streep for “August: Osage County.” With the latest nod, Streep has been nominated 18 times for Oscars and has won three times.

The best director nominees were David O. Russell for “American Hustle,” Alfonso Cuaron for “Gravity,” Alexander Payne for “Nebraska,” Steve McQueen for “12 Years a Slave,” and Martin Scorsese for Paramount’s “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

The Academy Awards, and even nominations, typically translate into increased box-office and home-video sales for films. “Argo,” last year’s best-picture winner, saw its domestic ticket revenue climb 24 percent to $136 million after receiving its nomination, according to Imdb.com.

Fox Searchlight, part of 21st Century Fox, is expanding the number of theaters screening “12 Years a Slave” according to the studio. Since its October release, the movie has collected $51.7 million in worldwide ticket sales, according to researcher Box Office Mojo.

“Gravity” is the most popular nominee with fans, collecting more than $675 million in worldwide ticket sales, according to Box Office Mojo. Burbank, Calif.-based Warner Bros. planned to expand the film to more theaters Friday.

Among best-picture winners since 1978, “Titanic” is the top-grossing picture with inflation-adjusted domestic revenue of $1.06 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

In the documentary category, a film backed by Netflix garnered a nomination. “The Square” is a chronicle of the Egyptian protest movement from director-producer Jehane Noujaim.

— With assistance from Yvette Romero in New York.