Leading the pack with 10 Oscar nominations including Best Picture, Best Director, and a sweep of Leading/Supporting Actor/Actress, American Hustle is a comedy-crime-drama from David O'Russell. Starring Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, and Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle tells the story of a con man working for an FBI agent and all the calamity that's bound to ensue.
Perhaps the most unique movie of 2013, Her is set in the near future and tells the story of a man who gradually falls in love with his personal operating system. Spike Jonze's latest film is up for Best Picture, as well as original score and song, production design, and original screenplay.
The most immediately striking aspect of Nebraska, from director Alexander Payne (Sideways, The Descendants) is that it was shot entirely in black-and-white. Appropriately, the film has been nominated for best cinematography, in addition to Best Picture, Directing, Original Screenplay. Bruce Dern and June Squibb also received nominations for Actor in a Leading Role and Actress in a Supporting Role, respectively. Nebraska tells the story of a middle-aged father (Dern) who travels across country with his son (Will Forte) to claim a million dollar prize, despite the son's insistence that the award is clearly a scam.
12 Years a Slave
12 Years a Slave may be the year's most powerful and difficult movie to watch. Based on a true story, the movie follows Solomon Northup, a free man born in antebellum New York who is kidnapped and sold into slavery. Second only to American Hustle in amount of nominations, 12 Years a Slave is up for awards in nine categories. Most talked about has certainly been Chiwetel Ejiofor's Best Actor nomination for his breakout performance as Northup.
Stephen Frears' Philomena is another Best Picture nominee based on a true story. Judi Dench gives an Oscar-nominated performance as Philomena Lee, a woman whose son was taken away from her and put up for adoption by nuns when he was three years old. The movie drew such strong reactions that it enabled the real-life Philomena Lee to visit Pope Francis at the Vatican, where they viewed and discussed the film. Philomena is also nominated for Best Original Score and Best Adapted Screenplay.
Tom Hanks stars in this true story of a US ship hijacked by Somali pirates in 2009. While Hanks certainly brings the star power to this remarkable story, Barkhad Abdi's Oscar-nominated performance as one of the pirates named Muse is truly captivating. In additions to nominations for Best Picture and Actor in a Supporting Role, Captain Phillips is up for Film Editing, Sound Mixing, and Best Adapted Screenplay
Dallas Buyers Club
Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto both give jaw-dropping performances in Dallas Buyers Club. McConaughey plays Ron Woodroof, an electrician and hustler whose reckless lifestyle in 1985 Dallas gets turned around completely when he is diagnosed with HIV. Woodroof manages to turn this tragedy into an opportunity to fight for justice against the health care industry and deliver proper medication to others suffering from AIDS. McConaughey and Leto are both nominated for their performances, with Dallas Buyers Club also receiving nods for Film Editing, Makeup & Hairstyling, and Original Screenplay.
While definitely not a movie for the squeamish, director and editor Alfonso Cuaron's Gravity is a visual powerhouse. Sanda Bullock delivers a powerful performance as astronaut Ryan Stone, who spends the majority of the movie alone and in turmoil after a horrific accident on her first space shuttle mission. Gravity ties 12 Years a Slave with nine Oscar nominations, and is the only of the Best Picture nominees to also be up for the Visual Effects award.
The Wolf of Wall Street
Will this finally be Leo DiCaprio's year? He's nominated for Best Lead Actor again this year, this time for his performance as Jordan Belfort, a horribly corrupt stock broker who made it big in the early 1990s. The movie charts his rise and fall, leaving no profanity or explicit scenes out in order to full profile his life and career. The Wolf of Wall Street was director by the famed Martin Scorsese and is up for Actor in a Leading Role (DiCaprio), Actor in a Supporting ROle (Jonah Hill), Directing, and Best Adapted Screenplay.