Critics Choice: Top Oscar Nominees
Critics Choice: Top Oscar Nominees
The Academy Awards, also known as the Oscars, are the most highly anticipated annual awards of the film industry. About a billion people worldwide will watch the televised star-studded event on March 2. Of the 24 nomination categories, the top foru are:  Best Director, Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Actress.

Director Alfonso Cuaron sets a new bar in 3D technology with Gravity, which fully
immerses the audience in the terror of two astronauts lost in the void of space. His long sequences and camera fluidity don’t allow the viewer a moment’s respite. Breathless, they are stranded with astronaut Ryan Stone in her endless fall. 

Gravity, co-starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney garnered 10 Oscar nominations. With the help of CGI technology, the film resembles an IMAX documentary.  Bullock, who plays astronaut Ryan Stone, says thanks to technology, she amazingly floated into space without ever leaving Earth.

“Everything  physically that you saw we either did in the cube, locked into the system, we did on the 12-wire rig, so I can fly and can do the body work,” the Oscar-winning actress explained.

"So, pretty much it was hell for actors," joked director Alfonso Cuaron.

Cuaron spent four-and-a-half years painstakingly making the film. He is a leading candidate for Best Director, but may lose the award for Best Picture because according to critics the film’s dialogue is rather poor and dwarfed by its superb cinematography.

Another top contender for that Best Picture Oscar is Steve McQueen’s epic drama 12 Years a Slave, based on the true story of the abduction of free man Solomon Northup, in the 19th-century U.S. South. This film offers grand cinematography, a stellar cast and - as the title suggests - a story that spans 12 years. Despite its scope, the story is told in an intimate way, humanizing Northup, allowing the audience to experience his ordeal.

Critics praised Best Actor nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor's performance as Northup, who believes if he endures all the trials and tribulations he may actually have a chance at freedom. But  Ejiofor faces formidable opponents for the Best Actor Oscar, notably Matthew McConaughey, lauded for his role as a homophobic Texas electrician and hustler who contracts AIDS in 1985 in Dallas Buyers Club.
McConaughey lost 18 kilograms for the role and, stick thin, began losing his eyesight. Along with the physical transformation, he says it was emotionally challenging to show the range of Woodroof's emotions.

“Showing variations of rage," McConaughey said during a press tour to promote the movie. "Because the guy has a lot of rage in him. And rage propels the most activity in us."

In the Best Actress category, Cate Blanchett is one of the frontrunners. Critics praised her performance in Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine, as riveting.  The movie tells the story of destitue Jasmine, forced to move in with her working-class sister in San Francisco after her wealthy investment banker husband is arrested for fraud.

If Blanchett wins, it will be her second Oscar.  Critics say she would be a shoe-in, if it weren't for Amy Adams stellar performance in American Hustle, also nominated in the major categories.