Oscar nominations 2014: Best picture is a suspenseful race

With the 2014 Oscar nominations unveiled, it’s anyone’s guess which films and actors will take home prizes next month. 

The past year was an exceptional one for filmmaking as the best picture category alone will show -- with contenders "American Hustle,” "Captain Phillips,” "Dallas Buyers Club,” "Nebraska,” "Philomena,” "12 Years a Slave,” "Gravity,” "The Wolf of Wall Street” and "Her" all competing for the coveted prize. 

"It's a race this year," Tim Gray of Variety told CBS News. "This year there’s genuine suspense…In the past couple of years I would go to industry events and you would just sense the enthusiasm for 'Argo' and 'The Artist,' [which both went on to win best picture]. This year, everybody has their fans...This year, it’s open.”

 

 This year’s leading nominees “American Hustle” and “Gravity” – which both scored 10 nods Thursday – could be seen as front-runners for the best picture category. But Gray says every film has really passionate fans, so the best picture category is really up for grabs.

“A lot depends on what happens in the next couple of weeks because people’s mood changes,” said Gray.

“When ‘Gravity’ opened, it was a mind-blower…it was a game-changer. And then they saw ’12 Years a Slave’ and they were like, ‘This topic is enormous…This is a game-changer.’ So you thought it was going to be one of those two. But then when ‘American Hustle’ opened, it was so entertaining...So we’ll see what happens.”

Even films such as “Philomena” and “Nebraska” could have a chance to win. “’Philomena’ is one of the few movies this year that’s a real tear-jerker.”

Vanity Fair digital director Mike Hogan told CBS News, "If I had to guess right now, I would still say '12  Years a Slave' will win best picture, but I think that's there's a problem -- it's trailing in the total nominee count by two other films,” he said. 'Gravity' and 'American Hustle' could charge in and win."

In terms of acting nods, a lot of eyes will be on Oscar-winner Cate Blanchett for her lead acting role in “Blue Jasmine." She's already picked up several other honors this year, including a Golden Globe. Hogan expects Blanchett will win, adding, “The only problem she could have is Amy Adams never won an Oscar. This is he fifth nomination and there may be people who think it’s her turn.”

Jared Leto, meanwhile, is considered the front-runner for the best supporting acting category for “Dallas Buyers Club.” Leto, who picked up the Golden Globe on Sunday, will be up against Barkhad Abdi ("Captain Phillips"), Bradley Cooper ("American Hustle"), Michael Fassbender ("12 Years a Slave") and Jonah Hill ("The Wolf of Wall Street").

The best actor category is a competitive one: Christian Bale ("American Hustle"), Bruce Dern ("Nebraska"), Leonardo DiCaprio ("The Wolf of Wall Street"), Chiwetel Ejiofor ("12 Years a Slave" and Matthew McConaughey ("Dallas Buyers Club”).

"If you have performances like Tom Hanks in ‘Captain Phillips’ and Robert Redford in ‘All is Lost’ that are not even there, [you know it’s a good year.] If you look at the five who are there, it’s like they all deserve to be there…these are really great performances,” said Gray.

In the end, it all comes down to the 6,000 or so Academy voting members who will spend the next few weeks mulling the contenders.

Gray says that voting members are still “working” – meaning many of them are catching up and watching movies for the first time. “I talked to a lot of them, and some of them told me recently, ‘I still haven’t seen ‘Gravity’ and '12 Years a Slave.’”

Winners of the Academy Awards will be announced on March 2.

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