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January 15, 2014

Diverse Group of Films Draws Oscar Buzz

by Penelope Poulou

The nominees for the 2014 Academy Awards were announced Thursday morning in Los Angeles.  The big surprise was the absence of the Coen Brothers' Inside Llewyn Davis from any major award categories.

Regardless of their differences most of the films have one thing in common: Their directors are already either previous Oscar winners or Oscar nominees.

Steve McQueen’s historic drama 12 Years a Slave, which tells the story of Solomon Northup, a free man from the North kidnapped into slavery in the South, is considered an Oscar frontrunner.

Leading up to awards season, Chiwetel Ejiofor, who portrays Northup, has been the Academy Award favorite to win Best Actor, while Steve McQueen could take Best Director.

​​With an impressive cast, the film could also get the coveted award for Best Picture. But the competition is stiff and it is uncertain whether 12 Years a Slave will keep its momentum.

One of the newly released films that has gained momentum in  the Oscar race is David O Russell’s dark comedy American Hustle. 

Irving Rosenfeld, played by Christian Bale, plays a multi-layered con man who, with his equally cunning girlfriend, played by Amy Adams, enter the dangerous world of New Jersey mafia as moles for FBI agent Richie Dimaso, portrayed by Bradley Cooper. The powerful character film carries the signature of David O.Russell, last year’s Oscar nominee for Silver Linings Playbook, another dark comedy.

​​The cast of American Hustle is star-studded with Oscar winners Jennifer Lawrence and Christian Bale as well as Oscar nominees Bradley Cooper and Amy Adams. For her performance,as Sydney Prosser, Rosenfeld's scheming girlfriend, Amy Adams has a serious chance to nab the Oscar for Best Actress.

Martin Scorsese’s dark comedy The Wolf of Wall Street, about a sleek Wall Street man and his excessive lifestyle before the crash of 2008, plays out like a Scorcese gangster movie without the violence.

Leonardo Di Caprio plays real-life con man Jordan Belford, who made a killing by scamming investors in Wall Street. The caustic comedy of a man and his team, whose corruption and debauchery are central to the story, is a serious contender for the golden statuette, though many critics have voiced misgivings whether a film which sensualizes crime should win. Though Di Caprio’s performance is already garnering awards, many feel his unethical, remorseless character could cost him the ultimate award.

​​Alfonso Cuaron’s existential drama Gravity has gathered Oscar buzz since its release last summer. Produced in IMAX 3D, the film’s long sequences of astronauts lost in space are visually stunning. Many have compared Cuaron’s work to Stanley Kubrik’s classic Space Odyssey in unveiling the awesome emptiness of space.

Sandra Bullock and George Clooney portray the astronauts adrift, but in this film, the star attraction is the picture itself.

Two-time Academy Award winner Tom Hanks and Oscar-nominated filmmaker Paul Greengrass teamed up to tell the real life story of Captain Phillips, who surrendered to Somali pirates so that his crew would be spared. There has been criticism that Greengrass undermined the authenticity of the story by idealizing Phillips’s character, but the movie has been a hit with movie-goers.

The coveted golden statuettes will be handed out at the 86th Academy Awards in Hollywood on March 2.

See full list of nominees here