You can always count on the Academy to shake things up a bit, but other than the Best Actor logjam that resulted in the actors branch bypassing Redford and Hanks, the complete omission of Lee Daniels’ The Butler and most notably Oprah Winfrey in Supporting Actress there weren’t a whole lot of surprises on this list. Even the number of Best Picture nominees with 9 is exactly the same as the past two years and the films on the list are the ones I expected — particularly after the guilds snubbed the Coen Brothers’ once-thought-to-be-a-contender Inside Llewyn Davis (it received noms for a couple of below the line categories: Cinematography and Sound Mixing). Disney’s Saving Mr. Banks was once thought to be possible but was nearly shut out except for a music nomination. Emma Thompson was thought to be a surefire Best Actress nominee for that film but instead the Academy actors branch would not deny Meryl Streep an incredible 18th nomination for August: Osage County. She just keeps breaking her own record and no one will ever catch her. Amazing.
Related: OSCARS: Who Got Snubbed By Academy?
But the really big story is just how wide open this race remains. American Hustle, the co-leader with 10 nominations, is a definite contender with key noms for Picture, Director David O. Russell, Screenplay and noms in all four acting categories for Amy Adams, Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence (at 23 now the youngest ever to receive three acting nominations). The remarkable feat of landing all four actors repeats the feat of another Russell film last year, Silver Linings Playbook, which was the first to do it since Reds in 1981. Since the actors branch is by far the largest there could be huge support for the film above the line, while Gravity , also with 10 nominations, has such a stronghold on technical achievements that it can also be a major player with below-the-line support in the Academy.
Then there’s strength with 12 Years A Slave grabbing nine nominations but inexplicably being left out of Cinematography and Music Score (for Hans Zimmer) where it was also expected to compete. I had thought this film might lead the field, but Gravity and Hustle took the honors — and the headlines. Still Slave’s impressive nine can’t be discounted and should be enough to entice those reticent Oscar voters who have yet to watch the film (and you know who you are). Add Paramount’s duo of Nebraska and The Wolf Of Wall Street getting key picture, acting, writing and directing nods, throw in Dallas Buyers Club with its impressive six nominations, and this could turn into a very interesting, nail-biting race indeed.