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Check out our guide to the Oscars

Leonardo DiCaprio as Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street.
Leonardo DiCaprio as Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street. Mary Cybulski

WHAT is about 34cm tall and weighs almost 4kg?

It's the famous Oscar statue and it will be one of the most coveted items in Hollywood on Monday morning.

But ask any serious film fan or critic what the Oscars mean to them and it's likely they will shrug their shoulders and point to some of the year's notable omissions.

And 2014 is no different, with the most startling exclusion from the Best Actor category being Tom Hanks' performance in Captain Phillips which was believed to have been a shoo in.

But Oscar's history is littered with similar oversights.

Alfred Hitchcock famously never claimed a gong for his directing efforts nor did Stanley Kubrick.

Citizen Kane, generally regarded as one of the greatest films ever made, did not claim the prize in 1941.

Does this mean that these directors and films should be held in less esteem than those that have won an Academy Award? Of course not.

The point here is that any "best of" list is arbitrary and purely subjective. But that doesn't mean the Oscars can't be fun.

At its best, an Oscar nomination can prompt mainstream viewers to seek out smaller, less-seen films - this year that includes Her, The Wind Rises, The Act of Killing - and help get those films to a wider audience.

Gravity and American Hustle lead the way this year with 10 nominations each followed by 12 Years a Slave with nine.

But each of these films could struggle to dominate the award ceremony with Lord of the Rings: Return of the King the last film to win each of its 11 nominations in 2003.

Since then, the Oscars have shared the love among its nominees even occasionally splitting the Best Picture and Best Director awards.

From left, Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Bradley Cooper in a scene from the movie American Hustle. S
From left, Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Bradley Cooper in a scene from the movie American Hustle. S

Below are just some of the categories and favourites in contention for the gold statue.

Best Animated Feature

Bookies favourite: Frozen
Featuring a strong-willed female lead and a recognisable Disney tradition of bringing life to its non-human characters, Frozen is indeed one of the best animated films of the year.
The other film that could challenge in this category is The Wind Rises. This beautiful film from Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki takes a unique look at the life of Jiro Horikoshi - the man who designed Japanese fighters during the Second World War.


Best Original Screenplay
Bookies favourite: Her
Spike Jonze wrote and directed Her and brings his unique vision of the near future to the screen. It stars Joaquin Phoenix as a lonely writer, who falls in love with a unique operating system. The fact Jonze is able to make this relationship resonate with the audience is a testament to the script.


Best Actress
Bookies favourite: Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
Blanchett is definitely the best thing in an otherwise disappointing Woody Allen film. She plays a New York socialite who has fallen on hard times and as usual completely disappears in the role and is only hampered by an average script. At this stage of her career critics have run out of adjectives to describe the actress but she does face strong competition from Sandra Bullock, Amy Adams, Judi Dench and the incomparable Meryl Streep.

Best Actor
Bookies favourite: Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)
While the attention has been focused on his dramatic weight loss for the role of Ron Woodruff, McConaughey does deliver an intense performance. The charm and natural swagger he has used in previous roles remains beneath his frail appearance. He will face challenges from a powerhouse performance by Leonardo DiCaprio in Wolf of Wall Street and a restrained, yet no less powerful performance, by Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years a Slave.

Best Picture
Bookies favourite: 12 Years a Slave.
This award seems to be a three-way tussle between 12 Years a Slave, Gravity and American Hustle. While American Hustle is a crowd pleasing film and Gravity a technical marvel, it is 12 Years a Slave that offers a bold look at slavery. Director Steve McQueen brings the artistic sensibilities he showed in his previous films - Hunger, Shame - but subtly adjusts it for the tough material.


Best Supporting Actress: Favourite:Lupita Nyong'o (12 Years a Slave)

Best Supporting Actor: Favourite: Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)

Best Adapted Screenplay: Favourite: 12 Years a Slave

Best Cinematography: Favourite: Gravity

Best Original Score: Favourite: Gravity

Best Editing: Favourite: Gravity

George Clooney in a scene from the movie Gravity.
George Clooney in a scene from the movie Gravity. Courtesy of Warner Bros. Picture

This year actress Meryl Streep extends her lead as the most nominated performer with her 18th nomination.
The most successful films in Oscar history are Ben-Hur, Titanic and Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King with 11 awards each
The country with the most Best Foreign Film Oscars is Italy
Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips), with his best supporting actor nomination, becomes the first Somali actor to ever receive an Oscar nomination.
John Williams (The Book Thief) scores his 44th nomination for best original score

 

  • The WIN/Nine network will telecast the 86th Academy Awards live from the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood next Monday, March 3, at 11.30am.
     

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