The Cheat Sheet
Cheat Sheet: Oscars 2014
The 2014 Oscar nominations are out, with “12 Years a Slave,” “American Hustle,” “Captain Phillips,” “Dallas Buyers Club,” “Gravity,” “Her,” “Nebraska,” “Philomena” and “The Wolf of Wall Street” nominated for best picture.
Haven’t seen all the films or just want to learn more about them as well as the nominated directors, actors and actresses? Check out our cheat sheet to all of them below.
The 86th Academy Awards, hosted by Ellen DeGeneres, will be held on March 2 at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.
Capsules by Susan King, unless otherwise noted.
12 Years a Slave
No film can re-create the unspeakable degradation of one human being owning another, but this film starring Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michael Fassbender insists we feel things in a particularly oppressive way. This is impressive filmmaking, but it is not easy to take in. (Kenneth Turan) | Review
Dizzying and outlandishly entertaining, David O. Russell's film is a 21st century screwball farce about con men, scam artists and those who dream of living large starring Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence. (Kenneth Turan) | Review
This piercingly realistic Paul Greengrass-directed tale starring Tom Hanks as a captain trying to protect his crew from Somali pirates exceeds all expectations. (Kenneth Turan) | Review
Dallas Buyers Club
Few actors can play a grifter and a good ol' boy with the laid-back precision of Matthew McConaughey. The actor needs all of those substantial powers of persuasion for the gutsy, gritty “Dallas Buyers Club.” He portrays a homophobic Texas redneck who becomes an unlikely warrior on the front lines of AIDS. Jared Leto as Rayon, a transsexual, matches him biting aside for aside. Together they elevate the movie. (Betsy Sharkey) | Review
Words can do little to convey the visual astonishment this space opera creates. Directed by Alfonso Cuarón and starring Sandra Bullock as an astronaut in trouble, this is a film whose impact must be experienced in 3-D on a theatrical screen to be fully understood. (Kenneth Turan) | Review
Spike Jonze's look at the pleasures and perils of new technology stars Joaquin Phoenix and the voice of Scarlett Johansson and is a smart entertainment and a subtle warning, a love story and a horror show. (Kenneth Turan) | Review
Alexander Payne's latest marries tart-tongued comedy with unexpected warmth in a story that touches on family, memory, getting old and staying alive. And it allows 77-year-old Bruce Dern to give the performance of a lifetime. (Kenneth Turan) | Review
Judi Dench is the only reason to see this unapologetic crowd-pleaser directed by the veteran Stephen Frears, which tells the story of a woman in Ireland looking for a child she was forced to give away in adoption. (Kenneth Turan) | Review
The Wolf of Wall Street
Think you already hate those Wall Street high rollers who took so many investors for a ride in the '90s? Just wait until Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio are through with you. Man, does this movie have a savage bite. Yet it is such a kick to watch the filmmaker and the star in their fifth collaboration. (Betsy Sharkey) | Review
Alfonso Cuarón, "Gravity"
Cuarón, 52, earns his first Oscar nomination in the director category for the Sandra Bullock-George Clooney sci-fi thriller. His Golden Globe win for best director follows directing honors from multiple critics’ organizations, including the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn., and he is up for a DGA Award on Jan. 25. He is also nominated with Mark Sanger in the Oscar editing category.
Steve McQueen, "12 Years a Slave"
The British filmmaker, 44, earns his first Oscar nomination for this unflinching portrayal of slavery in the U.S. The New York Film Critics Circle named him for best director for the film, and he remains in contention for a Directors Guild of America Award and an Independent Spirit Award. The only black filmmakers previously nominated in this category were Lee Daniels for “Precious” (2009) and John Singleton for “Boyz n the Hood” (1991).
Alexander Payne, "Nebraska"
The man who received Oscar nominations for directing “The Descendants” (2011) and “Sideways” (2004) picks up his third nod in the category for this black-and-white comedy about an aging father who believes he’s won $1 million in a magazine sweepstakes. Payne, 52, won Oscars for co-writing “The Descendants” and “Sideways” but never has won in the directing category. This year he was one of five shortlisted for the Golden Globe.
David O. Russell, "American Hustle"
This marks the third nomination in four years for Russell, 55, whose previous nods in the Academy Awards’ directing category were for “The Fighter” (2010) and “Silver Linings Playbook” (2012). “Hustle” also brought Russell and co-writer Eric Warren Singer a nod in the original screenplay category. The filmmaker was one of the five directors nominated for a Golden Globe and is up for the DGA Award.
Martin Scorsese, "The Wolf of Wall Street"
The veteran filmmaker, 71, earns his eighth director Oscar nomination for his controversial dark comedy about a hedonistic New York stockbroker. Scorsese’s only win came for directing best picture winner “The Departed” (2006); his losses include in 1981 when his “Raging Bull” lost to Robert Redford and “Ordinary People” and in 1991 when his “GoodFellas” lost to Kevin Costner and “Dances With Wolves.”
Christian Bale, "American Hustle"
The former child actor, 39, won the supporting actor Oscar for David O. Russell’s 2010 film, “The Fighter.” This is his first lead actor nomination, earned for his turn as a follically challenged con man in Russell’s 1970s Abscam-inspired comedy. Bale was also a Golden Globe nominee and is in contention for a BAFTA.
Bruce Dern, "Nebraska"
The actor earns his first Oscar nomination in this category at age 77. In Alexander Payne's black-and-white drama, he portrays a cantankerous father who believes he’s won $1 million in a magazine sweepstakes. Dern received a supporting actor nomination for the 1978 film “Coming Home.” He won the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. lead actor award for “Nebraska,” was up for a Golden Globe and is nominated for the Screen Actors Guild Award, Independent Spirit Award and BAFTA.
Leonardo DiCaprio, "The Wolf of Wall Street"
DiCaprio, 39, picks up his fourth Oscar nomination — his third in the lead actor category. In Martin Scorsese's film about Wall Street, DiCaprio portrays the living-large Jordan Belfort. His first Oscar nomination was for supporting actor in “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” (1993), and his previous lead actor nods were for “The Aviator” (2004) and “Blood Diamond” (2006). DiCaprio has the momentum of a Golden Globe win for actor in a comedy or musical.
Chiwetel Ejiofor, "12 Years a Slave"
The British actor, 36, won his lead actor nomination for his work as Solomon Northup, a free black man from New York who is abducted and sold into slavery. Ejiofor picked up nominations for most major awards, including the Golden Globes, BAFTA, Independent Spirit and SAG.
Matthew McConaughey, "Dallas Buyers Club"
From People magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive” to Oscar nominee: McConaughey earns his first nomination in the lead actor category by playing Ron Woodroof, an electrician who, after learning he has AIDS, works to get medicine for himself and others. The actor, 44, lost nearly 50 pounds for the fact-based role. He won the Golden Globe for actor in a drama and is nominated for Independent Spirit and SAG awards.
Amy Adams, “American Hustle”
A Golden Globe win for lead actress in a comedy or musical boosted Adams’ Oscar odds for her role in the David O. Russell hit. Adams, 39, has four previous nominations in the supporting actress category for “Junebug” (2005), “Doubt” (2008), “The Fighter” (2010) and “The Master” (2012). An upset of Blanchett would give Adams her first Oscar win.
Cate Blanchett, “Blue Jasmine”
Blanchett, whose performance as Katharine Hepburn earned her the supporting actress Oscar for “The Aviator” (2004), receives her third lead actress nomination. This time, it's for her acclaimed turn as a mentally unstable socialite in Woody Allen’s drama. The 44-year-old Australian is coming off a Golden Globe win for this role and was named best actress by the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn., the New York Film Critics Circle and the National Society of Film Critics.
Sandra Bullock, “Gravity”
The lead actress Oscar winner for “The Blind Side” (2009), Bullock earned this nomination for her performance as a medical engineer stranded in space. Though it has been 20 years since Bullock burst onto the scene in “Speed,” her nomination here represents only her second nod from the academy. The role also has brought Bullock, 49, nominations for Golden Globe, BAFTA and SAG awards.
Judi Dench, “Philomena”
The veteran British actress, 79, earns her seventh Academy Award nomination. In a story inspired by true events, he portrays a woman searching for the son she was forced to give up for adoption five decades earlier. Besides her supporting actress Oscar for “Shakespeare in Love” (1998), Dench has been nominated five other times in the last 15 years. For her role in “Philomena,” Dench also earned Golden Globe, BAFTA and SAG Award nods.
Meryl Streep, “August: Osage County”
Playing the ultimate dysfunctional matriarch, the ultimate American actress — with 18 Oscar nominations — earns her latest for this comedy based on Tracy Letts’ Pulitzer Prize-winning play. Streep, 64, has received more Oscar nods than any other performer. She won supporting actress for “Kramer vs. Kramer” (1979) and lead actress for “Sophie’s Choice” (1982) and “The Iron Lady” (2011). Her Oscar nod this year follows Golden Globe and SAG award nominations.
Barkhad Abdi, “Captain Phillips”
The native of Somalia has gone from a limousine driver in Minneapolis to first-time Oscar nominee for his acclaimed performance as a Somali pirate who leads the hijacking of a container ship. The actor, 28, moved to Minnesota at age 14 and learned English from Jay Z songs and “Seinfeld” episodes. And this year? He has Golden Globe, BAFTA and SAG nominations for his work in the Paul Greengrass thriller.
Bradley Cooper, “American Hustle”
The 39-year-old is proving to be director David O. Russell’s good luck charm. Cooper’s nomination follows his Oscar nod last year for his lead role in Russell’s “Silver Linings Playbook,” one of eight nominations that film landed. This year Cooper is nominated as supporting actor for his role as an ambitious, well-permed FBI agent, furthering his move from People magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive to A-list actor. He was nominated for a Golden Globe and is vying for a BAFTA.
Michael Fassbender, “12 Years a Slave”
The actor, 36, garners his first Academy Award nomination. He portrays a ruthless Southern plantation owner in Steve McQueen’s harrowing historical drama, the third collaboration between this actor and director. He previously starred in McQueen’s acclaimed “Hunger” (2008) and “Shame” (2011). Fassbender’s performance here collected nominations for the Golden Globe, BAFTA, SAG and Independent Spirit awards.
Jonah Hill, “The Wolf of Wall Street”
For his performance as the outrageous partner in crime of a hedonistic stockbroker in Martin Scorsese’s comedy, Hill earns his second supporting actor Oscar nomination. Hill, 30, is best known for his work in comedies such as “This Is the End” (2013), “21 Jump Street” (2012) and “Superbad” (2007). He earned his first Academy Award nomination for “Moneyball” (2011); this year he heads into the Oscars as the biggest surprise.
Jared Leto, “Dallas Buyers Club”
The actor-rocker, 42, receives his first Academy Award nomination. He portrays Rayon, a transsexual with AIDS, in the 1980s-era drama. Leto spent years concentrating on performing with his band, 30 Seconds to Mars. His return to acting earned him a Golden Globe on Sunday and honors from the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. He’s also nominated for SAG and Independent Spirit awards.
Sally Hawkins, “Blue Jasmine”
The British actress, 37, earned accolades for her starring role in Mike Leigh’s 2008 film “Happy-Go-Lucky,” but it is the role in Woody Allen’s drama that brings Hawkins her first Academy Award nomination. She earns it for playing Ginger, the working-class sister of the mentally unstable socialite played by Cate Blanchett. Hawkins was nominated for a Golden Globe and is a BAFTA and Independent Spirit nominee.
Jennifer Lawrence, “American Hustle”
If Lawrence wins, she will be the youngest actress ever to win two Oscars and the first actress in more than 40 years to win back-to-back. (Katharine Hepburn won for the 1967 film “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” and a year later for “The Lion in Winter.”) Lawrence, 23, won the Oscar last year as the lead in David O. Russell’s “Silver Linings Playbook.” This year, she is a nominee for her performance as the ditsy wife of a con man.
Lupita Nyong’o, “12 Years a Slave”
The actress earns her first Oscar nod for her feature film debut as the slave Patsey in Steve McQueen’s unflinching drama. The Yale University School of Drama grad, 30, has honors that include the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn.’s prize for supporting actress. She is up for BAFTA, Independent Spirit and SAG awards, and was nominated for a Golden Globe. Next: She'll appear with Julianne Moore, Michelle Dockery and Liam Neeson in the action thriller “Non-Stop.”
Julia Roberts, “August: Osage County”
The lead actress winner for the 2000 drama “Erin Brockovich” returns to the Oscar fold, receiving her fourth Oscar nomination. Roberts, 46, earned her first nomination for the 1989 drama “Steel Magnolias” and was a nominee again the next year for “Pretty Woman.” Her “Osage County” role as the judgmental daughter of an acerbic, dysfunctional mother also made her a Golden Globe nominee and put her in contention for SAG and BAFTA awards.
June Squibb, “Nebraska”
Squibb, a theater veteran who played Jack Nicholson’s wife in Alexander Payne’s 2002 film, “About Schmidt,” earns her first Academy Award nomination as the sharp-tongued wife of an aging man who believes he’s won $1 million. At 84, Squibb would be the oldest performer to receive the Academy Award if she were to win. Her comedic performance brought her a Golden Globe nomination, and she is up for SAG and Independent Spirit awards.