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And the Oscars go to ...

Wednesday, February 26, 2014 by PAUL WILLISTEIN in Focus

It's not nearly as surprising as who will receive an Oscar at the 86th Academy Awards, as who has not received a competitive Oscar.

The list, to name a few, includes Alfred Hitchcock, Cary Grant and Peter O'Toole.

That said, the year 2013 is memorable for brilliant directing, brave acting and superb productions. It was a year for the ascendancy of African-American directors and actors, as well as for fact-based stories.

This year, there could even be a WeightWatchers honor in the first category:

Actor, Male: Christian Bale (Oscar recipient, supporting actor, male, "The Fighter," 2011) gained 43 pounds, shaved his head, did a massive comb-over and slouched so much he got a herniated disc as con man Irving Rosenfeld in "American Hustle." It's the second nomination (Oscar nomination, supporting actor, male, "Coming Home," 1978) for Bruce Dern, 77, as Woody in "Nebraska," who received the 2013 Cannes Film Festival acting award. It's the fourth and fifth Oscar nominations (others: "Blood Diamond," 2006; "The Aviator," 2004; "What's Eating Gilbert Grape," 1993) for Leonardo DiCaprio for his showy role as mastermind Jordan Belfort in and as producer of "The Wolf of Wall Street." In "12 Years A Slave," first-time nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor portrays the heart-wrenching Solomon Northup, a black man from upstate New York sold into slavery in 1841. For his role as Ron Woodroof, a man diagnosed with HIV, he lost 47 pounds and the first-time Oscar nominee received the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) award, often an Oscar predictor, for "Dallas Buyers Club," so the Oscar goes to: Matthew McConaughey.

Actor, Female: Cate Blanchett, as unflinching as ever (Oscar recipient, actor, female, "The Aviator," 2004), the weapons of self-destruction are hers in director Woody Allen's tragic-comedy "Blue Jasmine," as this year's SAG recipient repeats in the title role of Jasmine. Sandra Bullock (Oscar, "The Blind Side," 2009) is lost in space in the jaw-dropping "Gravity." Judi Dench (Oscar recipient, supporting actor, female, "Shakespeare In Love," 1999) mines her repertoire in the title role of "Philomena." As dysfunctional family matriarch, Violet Weston, in "August: Osage County," Meryl Streep has a record-breaking 18th nomination (receiving three: "Iron Lady," 2014; "Sophie's Choice," 1983; "Kramer Vs. Kramer," 1980). She's on a roll (see "Her"), fearless as Sydney Prosser in "American Hustle," her fifth Oscar nomination (following "The Master," 2012; "The Fighter," 2010; "Doubt," 2009; "Junebug," 2005): Amy Adams.

Supporting Actor, Male: Barkhad Abdi was a limo driver when he auditioned for his first acting role as a Somali pirate in "Captain Phillips." The cast of "American Hustle," including Bradley Cooper as enthusiastic FBI agent, Richie DiMaso, shared the SAG ensemble award. Jonah Hill is a second-time nominee ("Moneyball," 2011) as "The Wolf of Wall Street" investment scammer Donnie Azoff. Michael Fassbender startlingly portrays brutal slave-owner Edwin Epps in "12 Years A Slave." In "Dallas Buyers Club," the sad life of Rayon is rendered remarkably by Jared Leto.

Supporting Actor, Female: Sally Hawkins is Ginger, Jasmine's silly but true sister in "Blue Jasmine." Julia Roberts (Oscar recipient, actor, female, "Erin Brockovich," 2000; Oscar nominee, supporting actor, female, "Steel Magnolias," 1989) is Barbara, Violet's bitter daughter in "August: Osage County." Jennifer Lawrence (Oscar recipient, actor, female, "Silver Linings Playbook," 2012; Oscar nominee, "Winter's Bone," 2010) puts the bustle as Rosalyn Rosenfeld in "American Hustle." June Squibb, 84, is the force majeure as Woody's trash-talking wife, Kate, in "Nebraska." The SAG actress recipient in her film debut as Patsey, a young slave woman in "12 Years A Slave," will repeat: Lupita Nyong'o.

Director: So much to say, so little space, about: Steve McQueen, "12 Years a Slave"; David O. Russell, "American Hustle"; Martin Scorsese, "The Wolf of Wall Street," and Alexander Payne, "Nebraska." For sheer cinema perseverance, achievement and the awe that gets us out to the movies: Alfonso Cuarón, "Gravity"

Motion Picture: "American Hustle," "Captain Phillips," "Dallas Buyers Club," "Gravity," "Her," "Nebraska," "Philomena" and "The Wolf of Wall Street" are all outstanding films. The emotional take-away, however, is: "12 Years A Slave."

Animated Feature: "The Croods," "Despicable Me 2," "Ernest & Celestine" and "The Wind Rises" will sing along with "Frozen"

Box Office, Feb. 21: "The Lego Movie" built on its success, three weeks in a row at No. 1, with $31.4 million, $183.1 million, three weeks, killing the chances of Kevin Costner's thriller, "3 Days To Kill," opening at No. 2 with only $12.3 million, and leaving "Pompeii" in the ashes, opening at No. 2, with a disastrous $10 million;

4. "RoboCop" $9.4 million, $43.6 million, two weeks; 5. "The Monuments Men," $8.1 million, $58 million, three weeks; 6. "About Last Night," $7.4 million, $38.1 million, two weeks; 7. "Ride Along," $4.6 million, $123.1 million, six weeks; 8. "Frozen" (two Oscar nominations: animated film, song: "Let It Go"), $4.3 million, $384 million, 14 weeks; 9. "Endless Love," $4.3 million, $20.1 million, two weeks; 10. "Winter's Tale," $2.1 million, $11.2 million, two weeks

Unreel, Feb. 28:

"Non-Stop," PG-13: An air marshall attempts to prevent the hijacking of a transatlantic passenger airline. Liam Neeson and Julianne Moore star in the action-thriller.

"Son of God," PG-13: Producer Mark Burnett's "The Bible," the 10-hour mini-series which received high ratings and critical acclaim, has been edited into a two-hour film. Diogo Morgado, Amber Rose Revah, Sebastian Knapp and Paul Knops star in the drama about the story of Jesus.

Read Paul Willistein's movie reviews at the Lehigh Valley Press web site,; the Times-News web site,; and hear them on "Lehigh Valley Art Salon," 6 - 6:30 p.m. Mondays, WDIY 88.1 FM, and, where they're archived. Email Paul Willistein: pwillistein@ You can follow Paul Willistein on Twitter and friend Paul Willistein on facebook.