Director David O. Russell seems to have the golden touch. His con-man comedy "American Hustle" is not only a box office hit, but it earned 10 Academy Award nominations Thursday morning including best picture and director and nominations in all four acting categories.
He did the same thing last year with his quirky romantic comedy "Silver Linings Playbook," which received eight nominations and a lead actress Oscar for Jennifer Lawrence. (Still not convinced? This all comes on the heels of 2010's "The Fighter," which nabbed seven nominations, including picture and director as well as Oscar wins for Christian Bale and Melissa Leo.)
It all makes him one of the hottest directors to work for in Hollywood, but he has yet to bring home a trophy of his own. That could change when the 86th Academy Awards take place March 2.
"American Hustle" heads into the ceremony as a bona fide front-runner along with Alfonso Cuaron's lost-in-space thriller "Gravity," which also earned 10 nominations, and Steve McQueen's "12 Years a Slave," which followed with nine. Both "Gravity" and "12 Years a Slave," a harrowing depiction of slavery in America, are also vying for best picture and director.
The three top nominees have all performed well this awards season, earning critics honors as well as taking home the marquee trophies at the Golden Globe Awards on Sunday.
Best picture nominees "Captain Phillips," "Dallas Buyers Club" and "Nebraska" each earned six nominations. "Her," "Philomena" and "The Wolf of Wall Street" rounded out the roster of nine best picture nominees.
It is a Cinderella story of sorts for "Dallas Buyers Club." Hollywood passed on the film -- an intimate and poignant look at the AIDS crisis in the 1980s -- again and again. But the project was vindicated with Thursday's strong showing. Besides a best picture nomination, it earned nominations for original screenplay and a first-time nomination for Matthew McConaughey in the lead actor category and Jared Leto in the supporting actor category.
In addition to McConaughey, the lead actor nominees are Bale for "American Hustle," Leonardo DiCaprio for "The Wolf of Wall Street," Bruce Dern for "Nebraska" and Chiwetel Ejiofor for "12 Years a Slave."
Lead actress contenders include Amy Adams for "American Hustle," Cate Blanchett for "Blue Jasmine," Sandra Bullock for "Gravity," Judi Dench for "Philomena" and Meryl Streep for "August: Osage County."
Filling out the directing category are Martin Scorsese for "The Wolf of Wall Street" and Alexander Payne for "Nebraska." McQueen is in a position to make Oscar history. If the British filmmaker wins in this category, he will be the first black director to do so.
Nominated along with Leto in the supporting actor category are: Barkhad Abdi in "Captain Phillips," Bradley Cooper for "American Hustle," Michael Fassbender in "12 Years a Slave" and Jonah Hill in "The Wolf of Wall Street."
The supporting actress nominees are Sally Hawkins in "Blue Jasmine," Jennifer Lawrence in "American Hustle," Lupita Nyong'o in "12 Years a Slave," Julia Roberts in "August: Osage County" and June Squibb in "Nebraska."
If Squibb, 84, goes on to win, she'll be the oldest performer ever to take home Oscar gold.
But if the 23-year-old Lawrence wins, she'll make history as well as the youngest woman to have two Academy Awards. A win for Lawrence would also make her the first actress to win back-to-back Oscars since the legendary Katharine Hepburn accomplished that feat in the late 1960s.
Notably missing from the nominations list were lead actor contenders Tom Hanks for "Captain Phillips" and Robert Redford for "All Is Lost." Also overlooked were Emma Thompson for lead actress in "Saving Mr. Banks," Oprah Winfrey for her supporting role in "Lee Daniels' The Butler" and Paul Greengrass for directing "Captain Phillips."
Ellen DeGeneres, who hosted the Oscars in 2007, returns this year as the emcee of the ceremony, which will be telecast live on ABC from the Dolby Theatre at Hollywood and Highland.