Heaping seven nominations on both the con-artist melodrama American Hustle and the grimly historical 12 Years a Slave, the Golden Globes nominations set up a showdown of contrasts: comedy and drama, light and dark, white and black.
The two films were validated as Academy Awards front-runners in the Globes nominations announced Thursday in Beverly Hills, Calif., by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, refining what had been a scattered awards season in a year many consider encouragingly plentiful of worthy movies.
The differences between the two top-nominees are vast. While David O. Russells fictionalized caper American Hustle takes a playful, exaggerated approach to an already outlandish story (the FBIs scandal-uncovering Abscam investigation in the disco 1970s), Steve McQueens 12 Years a Slave, based on Solomon Northups 1853 memoir, is unflinching in its portrait of Southern slavery – a subject Hollywood has seldom depicted rigorously or truthfully.
I feel this film is pivotal and just good for the world, said Lupita Nyongo, who was nominated for best supporting actress. The other nominations for 12 Years a Slave include best picture, drama; best actor for Chiwetel Ejiofor; best director for McQueen; and best supporting actor for Michael Fassbender.
American Hustle, though equally dramatic as it is comedic, is for Russell a closely felt story of self-renewal. Reteaming much of the casts from his last two acclaimed films (Silver Linings Playbook and The Fighter), the movies warm reception completes a personal redemption for the director.
There is not a molecule in my body that isnt humbly grateful, said Russell. From the second we made `The Fighter, its been a journey that began from a low point for me to a new period that I feel my life was leading up to.
American Hustle received nominations for best picture, comedy; Russell for best director; Christian Bale for best actor, comedy; Amy Adams for best actress, comedy; and Jennifer Lawrence, last years Oscar darling, for best supporting actress.
The distinction drawn by the Globes between drama and comedy-musical, wont be there for Oscar voters, wholl have to weigh the differences of 12 Years a Slave and American Hustle – that classic dichotomy of hard-to-watch and easy-on-the-eyes – against each other.
The field cant be said to have narrowed too much, though. The innovative, 3-D space odyssey Gravity, which received four nominations Thursday including best dramatic film and best actress for Sandra Bullock, will surely be more of a heavyweight at the Academy Awards, which honor technical achievement categories that the Globes dont.
The `60s Greenwich Village folk tale Inside Llewyn Davis (three nods) and the soulful, futuristic romance Her (three nominations) have each won best film from other groups. Support is also strong for Alexander Paynes father-son road trip Nebraska (five nominations), the Somali pirate thriller Captain Phillips (four nods), and Martin Scorseses wild high-finance party The Wolf of Wall Street (two noms). All five were nominated for best picture.
This years comedy competition – usually a mixed bag compared to the dramatic categories – could be the strongest field ever for the Globes (even if many dont neatly slide under the label of comedy or musical). Aside from American Hustle, the group includes The Wolf of Wall Street, Nebraska, Her and Inside Llewyn Davis.
Two 77-year-old veterans landed best actor nominations: Robert Redford in the drama All Is Lost, and Bruce Dern in the comedy Nebraska. Redford, who hasnt ever won an acting Oscar, gives a nearly unspoken performance as a man shipwrecked in the Indian Ocean in All Is Lost.
The only other time that the Golden Globes came into my life was in 1964, said Redford. I think the organization was only about a year old, but I was voted Star of Tomorrow in 1964. So its been awhile.
Redford was passed over Wednesday by the Screen Actors Guild, a snub he said he wasnt even aware of.
In Nebraska, Dern plays a taciturn Montana man who believes hes won a mailing sweepstakes. Hes been unusually forthright about his honest enjoyment in being back in the spotlight with Nebraska, which was also nominated for Paynes screenplay and June Squibbs supporting performance.
Hes eating it up. Hes having a ball, Payne said of Dern. Its a new start for him at this point in his career and hes chomping at the bit to act. Hes got a lot to give, that guy.
Though the Globes are known for their idiosyncratic choices (last year Salmon Fishing in the Yemen received three curious nominations), their 2013 picks contained few oddities.
Most notably shutout was Lee Daniels The Butler, the civil rights history told through a long-serving White House butler played by Forest Whitaker. Oprah Winfrey has been considered a favorite among supporting actresses. Also denied were hopefuls Fruitvale Station and Prisoners.
Among the nominees were some familiar faces (Judi Dench, Philomena; Tom Hanks Captain Phillips; Kate Winslet, Labor Day, Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts, August: Osage County, Joaquin Phoenix, Her; Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Enough Said) and some more fresh faces (Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips; Greta Gerwig, Frances Ha and Oscar Isaac, Inside Llewyn Davis).
Joel and Ethan have completely changed my life, the 33-year-old Isaac, who plays guitar and sings in the film, said of the Coens. Theres a reason why that happens to so many actors who are involved in their movies.
Gerwig, who plays a young, meandering New York dancer in Frances Ha, said: When the phone rang this morning, I silenced it and I thought, UGH, who do I owe money to?
The last film of 2013 to screen, Scorseses three-hour financial industry extravaganza had been one of the biggest question marks this awards season. After being snubbed Wednesday by the Screen Actors Guild Awards nominations, it earned a nomination for Leonardo DiCaprios performance as an out-of-control Wall Street trader, along with the best picture nomination.