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"Hustle" and "Gravity" lead Oscar race with more snubs and surprises than usual

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Many questions lingered in the air on the morning of the Academy Award nominations. Would Meryl Streep receive her record setting 18th nomination for a film panned by audiences and critics? Would "12 Years a Slave" lead the pack with the most nominations? Who would fill out the Best Director category if it segued from the DGA nominations? Would Jennifer Lawrence become the youngest actress to have the possibility to win two Oscars?

As the nominations were announced, many films such as "American Hustle," "Gravity," "Dallas Buyers Club," "12 Years a Slave" and "The Wolf of Wall Street," all garnered their "locks."

The BEST PICTURE race filled out with with nine nominees, the surprise of the bunch being "Her." "Philomena" put Harvey Weinstein back in the race after "The Butler" and "August: Osage County" were snubbed.

BEST LEADING ACTOR gave us the most snubs with Robert Redford and Tom Hanks taking a back seat to Christian Bale and Leonardo DiCaprio. Though DiCaprio is favored at critics awards and the Golden Globes, he rarely sees nominations when it comes Oscar time.

As for BEST LEADING ACTRESS, Cate Blanchett and Sandra Bullock were locks. There was a slight chance that Judi Dench would be pushed aside but she made it through with her graceful performance in "Philomena." Amy Adams received the fourth nomination. Casting out a beautiful Emma Thompson in "Saving Mr. Banks," Meryl Streep did infact set another record with her 18th nomination for acting as Viola Weston in "August: Osage County."

The BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR nominations gave us the surprise of Jonah Hill in "The Wolf of Wall Street," bringing that film's nominations to 5. Michael Fassbender, Barkhad Abdi and Jared Leto were presumed nominations while Bradley Cooper in "American Hustle" was ushered in last.

Jennifer Lawrence received her third acting nomination, though her first supporting one. Besides June Squibb, the rest of the category seemed destined for the nomination. Oprah Winfrey was snubbed but with the inclusion of Julia Roberts, there didn't seem to be much room for her. The surprise in the SUPPORTING ACTRESS race was Sally Hawkins for "Blue Jasmine." Playing opposite Cate Blanchett, it's a well deserving nod that has been absent for most of the season.

"American Hustle," like most of David O. Russell's films has a nomination in all seven major categories. Alfonso Cuaron was a sure thing for directing, as was Steve McQueen. Alexander Payne and Martin Scorsese rounded out the five nominees, snubbing Spike Jonze, The Coen Brothers and Paul Greengrass.

In the foreign language race, one of the most talked about films of the year, "Blue is the Warmest Color" was released too late in its native France to be eligible.

With the exception of the inclusion of an unknown "Alone Yet Not Alone," the BEST ORIGINAL SONG category filled out expectantly. Spike Jonze earned a nomination here for co-writing The Moon Song from "Her."

"Gravity" took in a lot of technical nominations as did "Captain Phillips."

The writing nominations were no surprise. Woody Allen scored another Original Screenplay nod. Spike Jonze was included here as was David O. Russell. The writing trio from "Before Midnight" were honored alongside "The Wolf of Wall Street," "12 Years a Slave," "Philomena" and Captain Phillips.

At the end of the day, "Gravity" and "American Hustle" led the nominations with 10 for each film. Though many will miss their indie favorites here that didn't garner any buzz such as "The Spectacular Now," "Short Term 12" and "Fruitvale Station," the list is still impressive.

In a year ending with masterful, non-special effects films, the range of nominations is vast and complete. It seems the Academy and its British members have favored some over others with an agenda in sight but have made up for it by awarding newcomers and smaller films.

The Academy Awards will air on March 2, 2014 on ABC.

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