RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
Oscar nominations are in. They were announced this morning in Beverly Hills. And "American Hustle" and "Gravity" are the early front-runners. Each of them got 10 Academy Award nominations, including best picture. "12 Years a Slave" was close behind with nine nominations. For more, we're joined now by Linda Holmes, who writes and edits NPR's entertainment and pop culture blog Monkey See. Good morning.
LINDA HOLMES, BYLINE: Good morning to you.
MONTAGNE: All right. So as I said, "American Hustle," "Gravity" and "12 Years a Slave" big box office hits as well as critically acclaimed, all of them. Any sense on which might come out ahead?
HOLMES: Well, you know, "Gravity" is the biggest earner by far, but at the same time it's the only best picture nominee out of these nine that didn't have its screenplay nominated. So it may have a few things for it to overcome. "American Hustle" pulled off a fairly rare feat, which is it hit all four of the acting categories, lead and supporting actor and actress, which interestingly enough, the director, David O. Russell, his film last year, "Silver Linings Playbook," did the same thing. So that might, you know, push in favor of "American Hustle" a little bit. It's hard to say at this point. I think there are several good contenders. "12 Years a Slave" is my favorite of the ones that I have seen, but...
MONTAGNE: Also an American history film, the sort that does win Oscars in many years.
HOLMES: Sometimes, yes. And then in the last couple of years, they've been tilting a little bit toward more crowd-pleasing, "Argo" and things like that, thing that are a little easier on people. It sort of depends on the year.
MONTAGNE: All right. Well, let's take a look at best actor and actress.
HOLMES: Yeah. You know, the best actor's nominees are some of your big awards - the actresses, Streep and Judi Dench, things like that. On the actor side, they are a little well-established as awards winners, even if they are big stars. People like Leonardo DiCaprio and Matthew McConaughey and especially Chiwetel Ejiofor, who conveyed this big splash in "12 Years a Slave"; none of those guys are as accustomed to walking up and winning tons of awards as some of the women on the acting side.
MONTAGNE: Although one of the big front-runners in these awards is Cate Blanchett. She's is up for best actress.
HOLMES: Absolutely. It wouldn't be a big shock to anyone.
MONTAGNE: Best director, best screenplay, what are we seeing there?
HOLMES: Well, you know, best director - the best director nominees are drawn from among the best picture nominees. I think a lot of people think that Martin Scorsese is always a decent pick for best director, but you could get Steve McQueen for "12 Years a Slave." But it can be a tough race to call. I think in the screenplay category, "12 Years a Slave" is a very good possibility in adapted screenplay. I think that in original screenplay, I actually think "Her" by Spike Jonze would be my pick of the ones I've seen for original screenplay. Decent possibility that will happen.
MONTAGNE: Well, again, there's lots of movies out there. Are there any of the what you might call sleeper movies that might surprise us on Oscar night?
HOLMES: Well, the little ones in the nominees are "Philomena" and "Nebraska." And then my favorite nomination is Barkhad Abdi from "Captain Phillips," played a Somali pirate.
MONTAGNE: As a sleeper possible supporting actor.
HOLMES: Supporting actor, wonderful performance.
MONTAGNE: Linda, thanks.
HOLMES: Thank you.
MONTAGNE: Linda Holmes writes and edits NPR's entertainment and pop culture blog, Monkey See. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.