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Breaking Down This Year's Oscar Nominations

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

With the hack attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment, this has been an eventful few weeks in Hollywood. But as they say, the show must go on, and at this time of year, that means Oscars. Oscar voting begins today, and here to break things down for us is Kim Masters. She's editor-at-large for The Hollywood Reporter. Hi, Kim.

KIM MASTERS: Hey, David.

GREENE: So as usual, we have a bunch of films coming out late in the year with their moviemakers hoping that they get Oscar nominations. Let's start with best picture. How is it shaping up, that race?

MASTERS: Well, it was very late to gel this year. I mean, usually by this time, there's this film that seems to have the mark of destiny or maybe two in contention. But it seems right now there's sort of a film that's considered an underdog front-runner, and it opened back in July. And that film is Richard Linklater's film "Boyhood." This is a film shot over 12 years with the same group of actors, and we'll take a little listen. This is Ethan Hawke playing the dad, Ellar Coltrane playing the son, and like a lot of dads - it's a pretty relatable movie - he's trying to get his children to talk to him about what goes on in their lives.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BOYHOOD")

ETHAN HAWKE: (As Dad) Talk to me. Mason, how was your week? (Imitating Mason) Well, dad, you know, it's kind of tough. Joe, he's kind of a jerk. Actually, he stole some cigarettes from his mom, and he wanted me to smoke them but I said no 'cause I knew what a hard time you had quitting smoking, dad. How about that? Is that so hard?

ELLAR COLTRANE: (As Mason) But, dad, I mean, why is it all on us, though? You know, what about you? How was your week? You know, who do you hang out with? Do you have a girlfriend? What have you been up to?

HAWKE: (As Dad) I see your point.

GREENE: OK, so that's "Boyhood." What other films might be standing in its way?

MASTERS: Well, there's "Birdman" starring Michael Keaton as a washed-up actor who played a superhero, which, in fact, you might recall Michael Keaton actually did "Batman."

GREENE: "Batman."

MASTERS: And he's trying to redeem himself. We also have "Imitation Game," which is the story of Alan Turing, you know, who cracked the Enigma code during World War II, "A Theory Of Everything," the story of Stephen Hawking, and coming in late is "Selma," which is, of course, a story of Martin Luther King and the passage of the Voting Rights Act and that historic march that was organized to pressure the White House to move on this very important issue.

GREENE: OK, so a lot of films up potentially for best picture. Let's hear a little bit of Michael Keaton from the movie "Birdman," and then I want to ask you a question about it.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BIRDMAN")

EMMA STONE: (As Sam) Anything about me, I've...

MICHAEL KEATON: (As Riggan) Look, I'm trying to do something that's important.

EMMA STONE: (As Sam) This is not important.

KEATON: (As Riggan) It's important to me. OK? Maybe not to you or your cynical friends whose only ambition is to go viral. But to me, this is - my God - this is my career.

GREENE: OK, so that's Michael Keaton. He is among those being considered for best actor. Who else is in that mix?

MASTERS: A pretty packed category. Of course, Benedict Cumberbatch for "Imitation Game," Eddie Redmayne for "The Theory Of Everything," David Oyelowo - he is playing Dr. Martin Luther King in "Selma."

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SELMA")

DAVID OYELOWO: (As Martin Luther King Jr.) As long as I am unable to exercise my constitutional right to vote, I do not have command of my own life. I cannot determine my own destiny, for it is determined for me by people who would rather see me suffer than succeed.

GREENE: That sounds like powerful stuff. Well, Kim, let's move to best actress. It sounds like a less packed category than best actor, and a lot of the attention seems to be focusing right now on Julianne Moore, right?

MASTERS: Yeah, absolutely. It is kind of a thin category this year, very unfortunately. Julianne Moore has been nominated several times. But she is coming on strong in a film that I think very few people have heard of at this point. It's called "Still Alice." It's a poignant story of a professor who gets early Alzheimer's.

Meanwhile, I think Reese Witherspoon had hoped to storm the category. She optioned the best-seller "Wild" and, you know, threw her heart and soul into it and I think had hoped that this would be her year. But those are the two performances that people are talking about.

GREENE: And, Kim, one last thing in the directing category. We might actually have a first this year.

MASTERS: We have Ava DuVernay, the director of "Selma." And Ava DuVernay is kind of a remarkable character. I mean, she was a publicist in Hollywood for 14 years. She's already done some firsts as an African-American woman director, and that has to be a very appealing choice to the Academy with this historically significant film. It's the kind of thing that they go for. She would be the first African-American woman to win in that category and a chance for the Academy to make history.

GREENE: All right. Well, the voting for Oscars starts today. We've been hearing a bit of a preview from Kim Masters. Kim, thanks a lot.

MASTERS: Thank you, David.

GREENE: She hosts The Business on member station KCRW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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