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Can Oscars Escape Pull of Major Commercial Films Like Gravity?

Matthew McConaughey accepts his award for best actor for Dallas Buyers Club. Does it give him an Oscar leg up.

Matthew McConaughey accepts his award for best actor for Dallas Buyers Club. Does it give him an Oscar leg up.

“American Hustle,” “Gravity” and “12 Years a Slave,” are undeniably the biggest contenders for Oscars following the Critics Choice Awards, the first credible group to name this year’s standouts. But whether their picks point to Oscars is another question.

Among the leading categories, “12 Years a Slave,” was named best picture, while “Gravity,” scored seven awards and “American Hustle” four.

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If the films share one thing in common; they are mainstream commerical films, and were box office hits. “12 Years” grossed a fairly modest $51.7 million worldwide, according to the latest figures. But “Gravity” soared into blockbuster territory with $675 million.

“American Hustle” has grossed more than $130 million so far and it’s only been in wide release since Dec. 13. Award show buzz will give all of these films a second life in theaters and pay-per-view.

Not surprisingly, “Gravity” and “American Hustle” are leading Oscar contenders with 10 nominations each. But the Academy Awards aren’t supposed to be about box office success; they’re supposed to be about excellence in film-making.

What makes this year’s contest so interesting is the number of smaller budget and indie films that contained superb, highly nuanced acting performances by top stars. Can they knock off the big three?

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The Broadcast Film Critics Association is the largest film critics organization in the United States with about 280, supposedly informed, television, radio and online voting members. It’s decisions provide a window into Hollywood thinking.

Some may also belong to the National Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which hands out Oscars. The group is made up of about 6,000 artists and professionals, who are eligible to vote on nominees and winners.

Despite the Academy’s numbers, the members aren’t immune to politics or studio favoritism, especially given the pressure to maximize revenues in Hollywood. An Oscar does wonders for that.

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In that light, could a 77-year-old actor like Bruce Dern win for his performance of a lifetime in “Nebraska?” Or could “Nebraska” even win best picture?

The film, nominated for six Oscars, grossed only $8.6 million. It’s safe to say few moviegoers have seen it. Yet it’s a masterful piece of film-making by Director Alexander Payne, who is up for Best Director.

Among the notable Critic’s Awards, Matthew McConaughey took home the actor statuette for “Dallas Buyers Club,” besting popular favorites like Christian Bale for American Hustle, Chiwetel Ejiofor for “12 Years a Slave,” Tom Hanks for “Captain Phillips” and sentimental favorite Dern and Robert Redford for “All Is Lost.”

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The win, however, reinforces the stereotype that an actor must go through a major physical transformation to win an award. Think Charlize Theron in 2003’s “Monster.”

Jared Leto’s win for Best Supporting Actor was also a surprise, again, topping favorites like Barkhad Abdi in “Captain Phillips,” Bradley Cooper in American Hustle and Michael Fassbender in “12 Years a Slave.”

Cate Blanchett’s win for Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine” was another small-film thumbs up. She topped favorite Sandra Bullock for “Gravity” and Oscar powerhouse Meryl Streep for “August: Osage County.”

“Philomena” is also in the Oscar running for Best Picture. With a respectable worldwide box office of $59.2 million it’s turned enough heads to deserve attention. Plus, the story and acting are superb. It’s been nominated for four Oscars, including Judy Dench for Best Actress.

Bullock, who won a best actress Golden Globe, cant’ be counted Out. She picked up a critics award for Best Actress in an Action Movie, a category that doesn’t like up with an Oscar.

And, in one of the bigger upsets for Best Support Actress, Lupita Nyong’o, “12 Years a Slave,” topped popular favorite Jennifer Lawrences for American Hustle, a role for which Lawrence won the Golden Globe.

Check out the Critic’s association awards below, let us know your thoughts and be sure to follow TheImproper on Twitter for all the latest movie news, insights and analysis. For more information, check out the film critics association online.


Broadcast Film Critics Association 2014 Awards (Major Categories)
BEST DIRECTOR – Alfonso Cuaron – Gravity
Paul Greengrass – Captain Phillips
Spike Jonze – Her
Steve McQueen – 12 Years a Slave
David O. Russell – American Hustle
Martin Scorsese – The Wolf of Wall Street

BEST PICTURE – 12 Years a Slave
American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club
Gravity
Her
Inside Llewyn Davis
Nebraska
Saving Mr. Banks
The Wolf of Wall Street

BEST COMEDY – American Hustle
Enough Said
The Heat
This Is the End
The Way Way Back
The World’s End

BEST ACTION MOVIE – Lone Survivor
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Iron Man 3
Rush
Star Trek: into Darkness

BEST SCI-FI/HORROR MOVIE – Gravity
The Conjuring
Star Trek: into Darkness
World War Z

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM – Blue Is the Warmest Color
The Great Beauty
The Hunt
The Past Wadjda

BEST ACTOR – Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
Christian Bale, American Hustle
Bruce Dern, Nebraska
Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
Tom Hanks, Captain Phillips
Robert Redford, All Is Lost

BEST ACTOR IN AN ACTION MOVIE – Mark Wahlberg – Lone Survivor
Henry Cavill – Man of Steel
Robert Downey Jr. – Iron Man 3
Brad Pitt – World War Z

BEST ACTOR IN A COMEDY – Leonardo DiCaprio – The Wolf of Wall Street
Christian Bale – American Hustle
James Gandolfini – Enough Said
Simon Pegg – The World’s End
Sam Rockwell – The Way Way Back

BEST ACTRESS – Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Sandra Bullock, Gravity
Judi Dench, Philomena
Brie Larson, Short Term 12
Meryl Streep, August: Osage County
Emma Thompson, Saving Mr. Banks

BEST ACTRESS IN AN ACTION MOVIE – Sandra Bullock – Gravity
Jennifer Lawrence – The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Evangeline Lilly – The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Gwyneth Paltrow – Iron Man 3

BEST ACTRESS IN A COMEDY – Amy Adams – American Hustle
Sandra Bullock – The Heat

Greta Gerwig – Frances Ha
Julia Louis-Dreyfus – Enough Said
Melissa McCarthy – The Heat

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR – Jared Leto – Dallas Buyers Club
Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips
Daniel Bruhl – Rush
Bradley Cooper – American Hustle
Michael Fassbender – 12 Years a Slave
James Gandolfini – Enough Said

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS – Lupita Nyong’o – 12 Years a Slave
Scarlett Johansson, Her
Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle L
Julia Roberts, August: Osage County
June Squibb, Nebraska
Oprah Winfrey, Lee Daniels’ The Butler

BEST YOUNG ACTOR/ACTRESS – Adele Exarchopoulos – Blue Is the Warmest Color
Asa Butterfield, Ender’s Game
Liam James, The Way Way Back
Sophie Nelisse, The Book Thief
Tye Sheridan, Mud

BEST ACTING ENSEMBLE – American Hustle
August: Osage County
Lee Daniels’ The Butler
Nebraska
12 Years a Slave
The Wolf of Wall Street

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY – Spike Jonze – Her
Eric Singer and David O. Russell – American Hustle
Woody Allen – Blue Jasmine
Joel Coen & Ethan Coen – Inside Llewyn Davis
Bob Nelson – Nebraska

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY – John Ridley – 12 Years a Slave
Tracy Letts – August: Osage County
Richard Linklater & Julie Delpy & Ethan Hawke – Before Midnight
Billy Ray – Captain Phillips
Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope – Philomena
John Ridley – 12 Years a Slave
Terence Winter – The Wolf of Wall Street

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE – Frozen
The Croods
Despicable Me 2
Monsters University
The Wind Rises

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE – 20 Feet from Stardom
The Act of Killing
Blackfish
Stories We Tell
Tim’s Vermeer
20 Feet from Stardom

BEST SONG – Let It Go, Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Frozen
Atlas, Coldplay, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Happy, Pharrell Williams, Despicable Me 2
Ordinary Love, U2, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
Please Mr. Kennedy, Justin Timberlake/Oscar Isaac/Adam Driver, Inside Llewyn Davis
Young and Beautiful, Lana Del Rey, The Great Gatsby

BEST SCORE – Steven Price, Gravity
Arcade Fire, Her
Thomas Newman, Saving Mr. Banks
Hans Zimmer, 12 Years a Slave

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