The Academy Award contenders

More than any Awards Season in recent memory, this year has been unpredictable. Speculation has only been that, with surprise wins cropping up all over the place. So with the 86th Academy Awards being held this Sunday and it’s still difficult to name who the front runners are.

To educate you a little on some of the more notable nominations this year, here is a list of films which have received nods for their work, even if ultimately they don’t take away the top prizes.

Best Picture nominations:

12 Years a Slave

Directed by Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave is based on the incredible true story of Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) whose book of the same name details his struggle for freedom when he, a free black man from up-state New York, is abducted and sold into slavery. Struggling to stay alive and retain his dignity, he fights to send a message to his family. Lupita Nyong’o‘s portrayal of Patsy has her tipped for Oscar glory, although judging from previous ceremonies this awards season, Jennifer Lawrence may pip her to the post. Michael Fassbender’s frightening take on the slave owner Edwin Epps and Ejiofor’s Solomon have also earned them nods. The film is up for Best Picture.

American Hustle

David O’Russell films always seem to get nominations. Thought of as the ‘actors director’, American Hustle has earned him a Directing nomination, while cast members Amy Adams, Christian Bale, Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper have been nominated in the Acting categories. Based on true events, the story revolves around a con man named Irving Rosenfeld (Bale) who, along with his cunning partner Sydney Prosser (Adams), is forced to work for FBI agent, DiMaso (Cooper). Pushed into a world of Jersey power brokers and the Mafia, Irving’s unpredictable wife Rosalyn (Lawrence) may just be the one that breaks their world into pieces. Best Film was awarded to American Hustle at the Golden Globes, but not the BAFTAs which gave the honour to 12 Years a Slave.

Dallas Buyers Club

Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto have been dominating awards season this year in the Best Actor and Supporting Actor categories (the film was not considered for BAFTA this year due to new rules stating the film must have been released in the UK before the ballots came in). Dallas Buyers Club revolves around Ron Woodroof, an electrician and hustler in Dallas, 1985, who is diagnosed with AIDs and told he has days to live. Working around the system, he crosses borders to help other AIDs patients get the medication they need to prolong their lives. Jean-Marc Vallee directed this biographical tale that was shot in just 25 days.


Alfonso Cuarón directs, and has been nominated for, this sci-fi drama that ticked all the critics boxes. Dr Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is a brilliant medical engineer who is taken up on her first shuttle mission. While on a routine space walk with veteran astronaut Matt Kowalsky (George Clooney) in command for his last flight before retirement, disaster strikes when the shuttle is destroyed. Stone and Kowalsky have nothing but each other as they spiral into the pitch darkness. Sandra Bullock has been praised and nominated for her lead performance, although it looks like she won’t win this year (Blanchett is tipped to win Best Actress). Other categories Gravity is nominated for in include: Original Score, Sound Editing, Visual Effects and Film Editing.


Prepare for your emotions to be put through the ringer with this one. When a lonely man named Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) is in the final stages of a divorce, he purchases the new ‘OS1’  aka the world’s first artificially intelligent operating system and develops an unlikely relationship with Samantha (Scarlet Johansson), the voice behind his new gadget that is designed to meet his every need. Having fallen in love with her, Theodore is guided through life by Samantha’s powerful intelligence while struggling to understand his feelings for her. Written and directed by Spike Jonze, the film is up for Best Picture, Original Song, Production Design, and Original Screenplay.

Foreign Language Film nominations:

The Great Beauty

The Broken Circle Breakdown

Belgium has done well in the eyes of the Academy Awards over the years, with seven previous film nominations in the Foreign Language Film category. This time around, The Broken Circle Breakdown revolves around bluegrass performer Didier and his girlfriend Elise as they face a family tragedy. The history of their relationship in its early days is revisited and, reluctant at first to let adult responsibilities alter the carefree nature of their lives, the two learn that love can sometimes bring both intense joy and great sorrow. Directed by Felix Van Groeningen, the two main players are portrayed by Johan Heldenbergh and Veerle Baetens.

The Great Beauty

Italy are well known for their Academy Award nominations in the Foreign Film category, and The Great Beauty is the country’s 28th nomination. Written and directed by Paolo Sorrentino, Jep Gambardella (Toni Servillo) is a well-known journalist whose success has placed him at the center of Rome’s decadent social world, seducing his way through the night-life of Rome. But Jep is also the author of an acclaimed novel, written years ago, and he remains haunted by the career he failed to pursue when he chose the seductive ease of his current life. Choosing to leave the nightclubs and parties, we follow him through a discovery of a timeless landscape of exquisite beauty.

Documentary Feature nominations:

The Act of Killing

The Act of Killing

A truly fascinating concept, Joshua Oppenheimer and co set out to create a documentary where they challenge former Indonesian leaders to face the truly horrible crimes against humanity they have committed. In the wake of the deaths of nearly a million opponents of Indonesia’s political regime in the 1960s, the heads of the country’s death squads are now often celebrated as heroes. The makers of The Act of Killing challenged these men to stage, recreate and film the killings they committed in a cinematic genre of their choice. The result is a unique spectacle that combines fact and fiction as the men produce elaborately staged movies that re-enact the mass slayings. The result is devastating in its honesty and poignancy. Truly.

Dirty Wars

One of the least-known components in the war on terror, the Joint Special Operations Command conducts its work in secret and seemingly without limitations. With no existing record of their actions or personnel, the JSOC carries out strikes against those deemed a threat to U.S. security while remaining entirely outside the scope of public knowledge. Following investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill, Dirty Wars is a documentary covering the hidden world of America’s covert wars in Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen and beyond. Gripping and gritty, the film is both an action picture and a detective story, with Scahill pulled into an unexpected journey, chasing the hidden truth behind America’s ever expanding war zones. Rich Rowley directed this illuminating documentary.

Animated Feature Film nominations:

The Wind Rises


Frozen has steam-rolled the competition at the box office and already earned its spot as a Disney great. Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee and Peter Del Vecho are behind this loose re-imagining of The Snow Queen. Anna (Kristen Bell) is a fierce optimist who is forced to set off on an epic journey when her sister Elsa’s icy powers burst out of control and grip the kingdom of Arendelle in an eternal winter. With the help of a mountain man named Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) and his reindeer Sven, the two encounter tricky mountain conditions and discover the true meaning of love with a little help from a hilarious snowman and mystical trolls. The soundtrack has earned an Oscar nod too, with Let It Go, performed by Idina Menzel and written Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, being nominated for Original Song.

The Wind Rises

Hayao Miyazaki‘s last animated feature film has earned him and his team an Oscar nomination. It would be great if the career of the man behind Spirited Away ended on a win, but sadly the odds look to be in Frozen‘s favour. As a boy, Jiro Horikoshi dreams of someday building the planes that his poor eyesight will never allow him to fly. After training as an engineer, Jiro puts his talents to good use and becomes a leading innovator in aviation design, while Japan moves through the turbulent events of the 1920s and ’30s that will carry it closer to the Second World War. The English-language voice cast includes Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Jiro, John Krasinski as Honjo, Emily Blunt as Nahoko Satomi and Stanley Tucci as Caproni.

The Croods

Animated comedy adventures set in the prehistoric era don’t come around often, and The Croods has an all star cast including Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone and Ryan Reynolds to boost its appeal. The Crood family live in a prehistoric world filled with dangerous animals and unsettling changes. When they encounter a young man named Guy (Reynolds), a member of a more evolved group of humans, only teenage daughter Eep is willing to listen to his warnings that the world as they know it is ending. Will the Croods be able to adapt in order to survive? This animated feature was written and directed by both Chris Sanders and Kirk De Nicco, and was also nominated for a Golden Globe and a BAFTA this year.

The 86th Academy Awards will be on Sunday 2nd Mar at 4pm PST, 7pm EST, and 1.30am in the UK.

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