On January 16, the 2014 Academy Awards campaign headed into final stretch with the nomination announcement for Hollywood's big night. An all-star driven dramedy inspired by a real-life sting operation and an ambitious space thriller tied for the most bids, while a critically-acclaimed drama saw its leading status take a hit. The 86th Academy Awards provided storylines for several films, some of their nominated stars, and even Hollywood superstars whose pushes for this year's Oscar glory came up just a bit short.
1. The late-season bustle of American Hustle pays off
Soon after pulling off a late run last year with Silver Linings Playbook, writer-director David O. Russell brought in actors from that film and his 2010 winner The Fighter for this outrageous tale inspired by a real-life FBI sting operation involving politicians, con artists and corruption. Russell's late-season push paid off yet again, and American Hustle benefited with a year-leading ten bids - tying it with Alfonso Cuaron's powerful work Gravity. It also earned acting nods for Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, making it one of fifteen movies to pull off bids in all four acting categories (with Silver Linings being one of them). American Hustle also has the chance of joining three other films (It Happened One Night, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and The Silence of the Lambs) to win the Big Five categories on the same night.
2. Has 12 Years a Slave lost its frontrunner status?
The ambitious drama about New York-born free man Solomon Northrup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) who finds himself kidnapped and put through the painful ordeal of slavery stunned critics early on in the Oscar campaign. Leading man Ejiofor, supporting scene-stealer Lupita Nyong'o (playing a fellow slave) and director Steve McQueen received respective bids, as did the film for Best Picture. Yet while it won the Golden Globe for Best Drama, it didn't make the top of the Oscar leaderboard, missing it by one bid. It also faces the stigma of being the early favorite only to lose steam by Oscar night, reminding die-hard followers of The Social Network's fate in 2010. The Facebook drama was hailed by many critics as the year's best, only to lose to the eventual Best Picture winner The King's Speech.
3. How dare Scorsese: so much for that Wolf brouhaha
Martin Scorsese's outrageous adaptation of Jordan Belfort's memoir The Wolf of Wall Street received attention for not only its 500+ F-bombs, but gained notoriety when word leaked out of a senior Oscar voter's disdain - going as far as yelling at the filmmaker, "How dare you!" Somehow it overcame all of the negative criticisms to earn five nominations including a trip to the Best Picture race, and also brought Leonardo DiCaprio his fourth acting bid. The
three-hour epic also continued the evolution of smart-aleck comedian Jonah Hill, who scored his second Supporting Actor nod in three years.
4. The Best Actor category was truly a crowded one
Somebody was going to get burned in the race for Hollywood's top leading man, and a couple of legends found themselves out of the running. Even as Paul Greengrass' biopic Captain Phillips found itself in the Best Picture race, its star Tom Hanks was shut out. Despite early season buzz for his towering solo performance in All Is Lost, Robert Redford's iconic status wasn't enough to secure a spot. Besides Bale, DiCaprio and Ejiofor's bids for their respective films, Bruce Dern was back in the hunt for the first time since his nomination for the 1978 Vietnam War drama Coming Home - a 35-year wait between nominations. The veteran actor scored his nod for the role of an old man convinced he's won a lottery in the black-and-white road movie Nebraska. Matthew McConaughey rounded out the category with his heroic portrayal of a man dying of AIDS in Dallas Buyers Club, completing his road from go-to romantic comedy lead to a serious player - and his recent Golden Globe win didn't hurt.
5. Amy Adams can pull an Adrien Brody in the Best Actress race
When combining the Oscar track records for this year's leading ladies, they have amassed a total of 38 nominations and 6 wins between them - and yet one of them has not won her statuette. Adams' stunning turn as a con artist who gets in over her head during an ambitious FBI sting operation in American Hustle landed her first Best Actress bid after four supporting nominations. She has the opportunity to upset four previous winners including the 18-time nominee Meryl Streep (August: Osage County), and like Gravity's Sandra Bullock, has a Best Picture nominee pushing her chances. This reminds Oscar historians of Adrien Brody's 2001 Best Actor win for The Pianist, when he defeated previous winners Nicolas Cage, Michael Caine, Daniel Day-Lewis and Jack Nicholson for the trophy.
6. Jennifer Lawrence has a shot at a rare back-to-back
Katniss Everdeen, Oscar winner...again? After scoring the Best Actress prize last year for David O. Russell's Silver Linings Playbook, the Hunger Games star is back for her third trip in four years - this time in the supporting category. Lawrence's turn in American Hustle as the frustrated wife of a conman (and who wants a piece of the action) could lead to a unique moment in Oscar history. With a victory for Best Supporting Actress, she could become the first actor to win a lead category one year, followed by a supporting category the following year.
7. Jackass crashes the Oscar party...no joke
Who would have ever thought a movie based off an MTV television series where a group of guys do some of the wildest, craziest stunts you should never try at home would be an Oscar-nominated hit? In order for the Jackass franchise to pull it off, they needed to put some old-age makeup on show leader Johnny Knoxville to get it done - and it worked. Makeup artist Stephen Prouty scored a nomination for his work on turning Knoxville into the elderly Irving Zisman, who along with his grandson go on an outrageous adventure.
8. 2013's biggest bomb The Lone Ranger sneaks in
It had the potential on paper to be a big hit and a franchise launcher: Johnny Depp was Tonto, Jerry Bruckheimer was producing, and they were re-teaming with Gore Verbinski, who directed the first three successful Pirates of the Caribbean films. When the film was released last summer, it became one of the biggest box office bombs in history faster than critics could say "Hi-no, Silver!" Despite being turned away by audiences and embraced by the Razzie community where it finds itself competing against Adam Sandler and the ensemble work Movie 43, The Lone Ranger is in the running for the Makeup and Visual Effects categories. Even Bruckheimer vehicles such as Armageddon and Pearl Harbor made the Oscar race, with the latter even winning for its special effects in the 2001 Oscar season.
9. The man who wrote the Star Wars music still has it
John Williams could have rested easy after a legendary career that has seen him win five Academy Awards, with wins for Star Wars and Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and Schindler's List among them. Even so, the composer who currently boasts the record for most nods by a living nominee continues to make a late run for the gold. After scoring three nominations in the 2011 and 2012 Oscar ceremonies, he earned his 49th nomination for the score of the World War II drama The Book Thief.
10. Alan Partridge is an Oscar nominee!
In the world of British comedy, Alan Partridge was an obnoxious talk show host who stormed the radio and TV worlds beginning in the 1990s, with the TV series Knowing Me Knowing You and I'm Alan Partridge being the highlights. Yet actor-comedian Steve Coogan sealed his ticket to the Oscar dance with a more serious effort, a true-life story about a Catholic woman determined to find out what happened to the son she gave away for adoption. Dame Judi Dench played the title role, while Coogan starred as a journalist out of work who takes up Philomena's plight and helps her discover the truth. While Coogan did not join Dench as an acting nominee, he did receive two bids for his producing and co-writing of the screenplay.