Bafta swag for Gravity, 12 Years a Slave

BAFTA NODS: The nominations give an awards boost to Gravity, an astonishing 3-D technical achievement.
BAFTA NODS: The nominations give an awards boost to Gravity, an astonishing 3-D technical achievement.

The space thriller Gravity, the unflinching slavery saga 12 Years a Slave and the crime caper American Hustle gained awards-season momentum on Wednesday with stacks of nominations for the British Academy Film Awards, Britain's equivalent of the Oscars.

Gravity received nominations in 11 categories, including best picture; best director, for Alfonso Cuaron; lead actress, for Sandra Bullock; cinematography and special effects.

12 Years had 10 nominations, including nods for star Chiwetel Ejiofor, supporting performers Lupita Nyong'o and Michael Fassbender and director Steve McQueen.

"I continue to be immensely proud of the recognition this film is getting around the world," said British actor Ejiofor, who plays a free black man kidnapped into slavery in the 19th-century United States.

"There is, of course, something particularly special about receiving a BAFTA nomination from home."

David O Russell's American Hustle also was nominated in 10 categories, while Somali hijacking story Captain Phillips received nine nods.

Liberace biopic Behind the Candelabra and Saving Mr Banks, which tells the story behind the film adaptation of Mary Poppins, each got five nominations.

The nominations give an awards boost to several films, especially Gravity, an astonishing 3-D technical achievement, and the wrenching 12 Years a Slave.

The list also demonstrates the increasing globalisation of the movie business. 12 Years a Slave is an American story with a British director and star. Gravity teams Hollywood stars Bullock and George Clooney with Mexican director Cuaron and British special-effects teams.

The British-picture category includes motor-racing film Rush, which has an American director, Ron Howard, a British screenwriter in Peter Morgan and stars from Australia (Chris Hemsworth) and Germany (Daniel Bruhl, who has a supporting-actor nomination.)

The best-picture nominees are: 12 Years a Slave; Gravity; American Hustle; Captain Phillips; and Philomena, the story of an Irishwoman in search of the son she lost decades earlier.

The separate category of best British film pits Gravity, Philomena and Saving Mr Banks against Rush, biopic Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom and gritty parable The Selfish Giant.

Best-actor nominees are Ejiofor; Leonardo DiCaprio for ode to excess The Wolf of Wall Street; Bruce Dern for road movie Nebraska; Christian Bale for American Hustle; and Tom Hanks for Captain Phillips.

Bookies picked Ejiofor as the strong favorite to win.

"here is traditionally a slight British bias when it comes to the BAFTAs," said Joe Crilly, spokesman for bookmaker William Hill.

"However, Ejiofor's performance in 12 Years is so mesmeric that there needn't be this year."

In the best-actress category, Bullock is up against Judi Dench for Philomena; Amy Adams for American Hustle; Emma Thompson for Saving Mr Banks; and Cate Blanchett for Blue Jasmine.

Dench, 79, received the 15th British Academy acting nomination of her career - a record. She said she was "honoured and thrilled to be in such fine company".

The British prizes, known as BAFTAs, will be awarded at London's Royal Opera House on February 16.

In recent years, the British awards have helped underdog films including Slumdog Millionaire, The King's Speech, and The Artist build momentum for success at the Oscars.

Last year, the Iran hostage drama Argo took the BAFTA for best film, and went on to win the best-picture Oscar.