In honor of today’s announcement of the nominations for this year’s Academy Awards, here are a few things to keep in mind about this year’s contenders for Hollywood’s biggest annual honors.
Why there are nine best picture nominees: This year’s best picture noms went to American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity, Her, Nebraska, Philomena, 12 Years a Slave and The Wolf of Wall Street. It’s an odd number, but not that odd — there were nine nominees last year. In 2011, shortly after switching the number of movies in the category from five to 10, the Academy decided to change the rules again so that between 5 and 10 movies would fill out the category. The original change was reportedly meant to allow more audience-friendly films to receive the honor, in hopes of attracting greater interest in the awards — but the general take-away was that there weren’t always 10 movies that deserved a nod. In the current system, voters rank the 10 movies they want to be in the category, but no movie that receives less than 5% of the first-place votes is included.
Which movies dominated: American Hustle and Gravity lead the pack with 10 nominations each. 12 Years a Slave is close behind with nine. All three are best picture contenders, as well as directing contenders — but, even though Gravity is tied for the top number, a large number of its nominations are in technical categories. Hustle is the real leader here, with a nomination in every single acting category.
Which movies got snubbed: What happened to Inside Llewyn Davis? The Coen Brothers folk-music saga was one of those movies — prestigious directors, interesting time period, good reviews — that’s sort of assumed to get at least a few nods. Which it did, for cinematography and sound mixing, which means Academy voters didn’t like the movie as much as others presumed they would. One possible reason: one of the movie’s top draws was its soundtrack, but dependence on folk songs shut it out from the original music category. Another surprising one-nom movie is All Is Lost, the acclaimed Robert Redford picture, which only scored for sound editing.
Why our money’s on 12 Years a Slave for best picture: Not that we’re actually betting, but Richard Corliss’ yearly tabulation of award from critics’ societies has already found that 12 Years is the odds-on favorite.
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Which top contender was shut out of the best actress race: Sure, not every actress or actor who gets a Golden Globes nom can get an Oscars one too; there are just more of them in the former, which differentiates comedy and drama. But this year saw a big crop of actresses who could have easily gotten both, and the most noticeable one who didn’t make the jump was Emma Thompson, from Saving Mr. Banks. Others were Kate Winslet (Labor Day), Julie Delpy (Before Midnight), Greta Gerwig (Frances Ha) and Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Enough Said).
Why not to be surprised about the best supporting actor race: While the best actor race is pretty much exactly who you’d expect (Christian Bale, Bruce Dern, Leonardo DiCaprio, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Matthew McConaughey), the supporting race has a few less predictable ones, but don’t be too shocked. First of all, the list is a reminder that Jonah Hill — despite the forthcoming 22 Jump Street — has made the leap to serious actor territory, having already gotten a nomination once before for Moneyball. It’s also worth noting that, while the actors who played the pirates in Captain Phillips have tended to get lumped together as “the Somali pirate guys” — all new faces and names in Hollywood, playing a gang on screen — the Academy did not fall into that trap, instead highlighting Barkhad Abdi’s stand-out performance as nomination-worthy.
Which un-acclaimed movies got nominations: It’s true. Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa and The Lone Ranger, one a Jackass/Johnny Knoxville comedy that got fair reviews (but is still a Jackass movie) and the other a flop that got most of its attention for maybe being racist, got nominated for Oscars — in the makeup and hairstyling category. The Lone Ranger was also recognized for visual effects, alongside Iron Man 3.
Which movies came out earlier in the year and got totally forgotten about: Though movies that are thought by studios to be contenders tend to clump later in the year, some movies that came out earlier in 2013 did have Oscar chatter…until, apparently, they got forgotten about by voters. Those movies include Fruitvale Station, Lee Daniels’ The Butler and even Spring Breakers.
When the Oscars are: That one’s easy. The winners will be announced Mar. 2, 2014.