‘Birdman’, ‘Budapest Hotel’ lead Oscar race

BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA (TIP) Show business satire ‘Birdman’ and colorful caper ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ led the Academy Award nominees on Thursday with nine nods apiece, including best picture, in the quest for Hollywood’s top film prize.

The two Fox Searchlight films are joined in the best picture Oscar race by ‘American Sniper’, ‘Boyhood’, ‘The Imitation Game’, ‘Selma’, ‘The Theory of Everything’ and ‘Whiplash’. The Academy chose only eight films to compete for its highest honor, although it could nominate up to 10. British World War-II biopic ‘The Imitation Game’ garnered eight nominations, including best actor for Benedict Cumberbatch, while Iraq war portrait ‘American Sniper’ and coming of age tale ‘Boyhood’ each earned six.

The best picture race promises to be competitive, with no clear frontrunner before the February 22 Oscars ceremony. Several of the top films have pushed cinematic boundaries with novel approaches to storytelling.

‘Boyhood’, which director Richard Linklater made over 12 years with the same actors, was considered a favorite after winning the Golden Globe for best drama last weekend.

‘Birdman’ from Mexican director Alejandro G Inarritu lost in the best comedy or musical category to Wes Anderson’s quirky ‘Grand Budapest Hotel’. Both films offer innovative visual spectacles and original characters.
‘Birdman’ features Michael Keaton, a best actor nominee, as a washed-up former superhero actor battling to make a comeback by putting on his own Broadway play, his angst captured in what looks like one long shot in the cramped confines of the theater.

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‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ was an early favorite last year with critics, with its whimsical story of a hotel concierge caught up in a murder plot. It won nominations for its colorful production design, costumes and makeup, among others.

“It’s harder and harder to get any film made, and all of these movies are really original and difficult,” said Tim Gray, awards editor at Variety. “On the scale of difficulty, all of these are off the chart.”

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