Director David O. Russell's "American Hustle" and Alfonso Cuaron's "Gravity" led the pack of Oscar contenders Thursday with 10 nominations each, and Steve McQueen's "12 Years a Slave" was fast on their heels with nine nods.
All three directors also received a nomination for their work and the films were all among those listed for best picture. The other best picture nominees include "Captain Phillips," "Dallas Buyers Club" and "Nebraska," which each garnered another 5 nominations, and "Philomena," "Her" and "The Wolf of Wall Street."
The Academy's system of weighting best picture choices to derive a list of five to 10 nominees resulted in a lineup of only nine competitors this year.
The other directors nominated are Alexander Payne for "Nebraska" and Martin Scorsese for "The Wolf of Wall Street."
Leading actors with a chance to take home the coveted gold statuette are Chiwetel Ejiofor for "12 Years a Slave," Christian Bale for "American Hustle," Bruce Dern for "Nebraska," Matthew McConaughey for "Dallas Buyers Club" and Leonardo DiCaprio for "The Wolf of Wall Street." The category was particularly competitive this year and veterans Robert Redford and Tom Hanks were not nominated despite critically praised performances.
For best actress, the nominees include Amy Adams for "American Hustle," Sandra Bullock for "Gravity," Cate Blanchett for "Blue Jasmine," Judi Dench for "Philomena" and Meryl Streep for "August: Osage County." That gives Streep, already the record holder, 18 nominations over her career. Adams, who won a Golden Globe for her performance, is the only contender without a previous acting Oscar, though she has been nominated four times before for supporting roles.
In the supporting categories, nods were given to actresses Sally Hawkins in "Blue Jasmine," Jennifer Lawrence in "American Hustle," Lupita Nyong'o in "12 Years a Slave," Julia Roberts in "August: Osage County" and June Squibb in "Nebraska." The 23-year-old Lawrence, who won the best actress prize last year, is the youngest ever three-time acting nominee.
The supporting actor nominees are Barkhad Abdi in "Captain Phillips," Bradley Cooper in "American Hustle," Michael Fassbender in "12 Years a Slave," Jonah Hill in "The Wolf of Wall Street" and Jared Leto in "Dallas Buyers Club."
The list of acting nods included eight first-time nominees.
Actor and sometime superhero Chris Hemsworth and Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President Cheryl Boone Isaacs made the traditional early morning announcement at the Academy's Beverly Hills headquarters.
In the foreign film category, nods went to Belgium's "The Broken Circle Breakdown," Italy's "The Great Beauty," "The Hunt" from Denmark, "The Missing Picture" from Cambodia and the Palestinian entry "Omar."
The best animated feature film nominees include "The Croods," "Despicable Me 2," "Ernest & Celestine," "Frozen" and "The Wind Rises." No foreign or animated films made it onto the best picture list.
U2 -- individually credited as Paul Hewson (Bono), Dave Evans (The Edge), Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen -- were among those nominated for original songs, for their "Ordinary Love" from "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom." That was the only nod for the Nelson Mandela biopic.
The other song nominees are "Alone Yet Not Alone" from the film of the same name, "Happy" from "Despicable Me 2," "Let It Go" from "Frozen" and "The Moon Song" from Spike Jonze's "Her."
Woody Allen was nominated for his original screenplay for "Blue Jasmine," along with Spike Jonze for "Her," David O. Russell and his co- writer Eric Warren Singer for "American Hustle," Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack for "Dallas Buyers Club" and Bob Nelson for "Nebraska."
Adapted screenplays for the films "Before Midnight," "Captain Phillips," "Philomena," "12 Years a Slave" and "The Wolf of Wall Street" all garnered nominations.
Best picture nominee "American Hustle" boasts four acting nominations for its story of '80s con artists caught up in a sting operation -- the second time a film by Russell managed to land a spot in all four categories; the first was for last year's "Silver Linings Playbook." It is also only the second time in the last 32 years that a film has been nominated in the best picture, directing, writing and all four acting categories. "Silver Linings Playbook" was the first since "Reds" (1981) to do so.
In addition to competing in the directing and song categories, "American Hustle" is up for awards for costume design, film editing, production design and original screenplay. That puts it running head to head against best picture nominee "12 Years a Slave" in several categories. In addition to directing and acting nods, McQueen's story of a free black man kidnapped and sold into slavery was nominated for costume design, film editing, production design and adapted screenplay.
Director Cuaron's technical marvel about a woman adrift in space will compete for Oscars for cinematography, film editing, original score, production design, sound editing, sound mixing and visual effects, in addition to the best picture and directing categories.
Producer Megan Ellison, a relative newcomer to the business, has two films in the best picture race: "Her" and "American Hustle." She is only the fourth person -- and the first woman -- who can make that boast. She was previously nominated for last year's "Zero Dark Thirty."
Best documentary feature contenders include "The Act of Killing," "Cutie and the Boxer," "Dirty Wars," "The Square" and "20 Feet from Stardom."
The 86th Academy Awards will be presented March 2 at the Dolby Theatre at the Hollywood & Highland Center in Hollywood. Ellen DeGeneres will make her second appearance as host. She also hosted in 2007.
—By Elizabeth Marcellino, City News Service