"12 Years A Slave," Steve McQueen's harrowing adaptation of the memoir of a free black man who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in the pre-Civil War era Deep South, clearly made an impact among members of the Chicago Film Critics Association. The highly acclaimed drama led all contenders for the group's annual awards with a stunning 11 nominations, including Best Picture, McQueen for Best Director, John Ridley for Adapted Screenplay, Chiwetel Ejiofor for Best Actor for his performance in the lead role, Michael Fassbender for Supporting Actor, newcomer Lupita Nyong'o for Supporting Actress and Promising Performer as well as slots in the categories for Cinematography, Original Score, Art Direction/Production Design and Editing.
Tying for second place with seven nominations each were two very different visions of humans grappling with technology. "Gravity," Alfonso Cuaron's visually stunning thriller about an outer space mission gone awry that threatens to leave a lone astronaut stranded in the cosmos received earned the filmmaker nominations for Director and Editing and nods for Best Picture, Art Direction/Production Design, Cinematography, Original Score and a Best Actress bid for Sandra Bullock. "Her," an oddball comedy-drama about a lonely man who finds himself developing a touching relationship with his computer's new and highly advanced operating system, also found itself among the Best Picture nominees and also found Spike Jonze shortlisted for Director and Original Screenplay, rock group Arcade Fire cited for Original Score, Scarlett Johansson nominated for Supporting Actress for her voice-only performance as the operating system in question and additional nods for Cinematography and Art Direction/Set Direction.
Among the other top nominees, "Inside Llewyn Davis," Joel & Ethan Coen's look at a few days in the life of a troubled folk singer in the era just before the arrival of Bob Dylan, received nods for Best Picture, the Coens for Director and Original Screenplay, Oscar Isaac for Best Actor, Cinematography and Art Direction/Production Design and "American Hustle," David O. Russell's comedic look at the Abscam sting operation of the late 1970s, rounded out the Best Picture category and found Russell nominated for Director and Original Screenplay (along with Eric Singer), Jennifer Lawrence in the running for Best Supporting Actress and an additional citation for Editing and the powerful French drama "Blue is the Warmest Color" received a nomination for Foreign-Language Film while Lea Seydoux made the cut for Supporting Actress and her co-star, newcomer Adele Exarchopoulos, found herself in the running for Best Actress and Most Promising Performer. Alexander Payne's "Nebraska" and the shocking documentary "The Act of Killing" each received three nominations and "The Wind Rises," the latest and apparently the last film from animation legend Hayao Miyazaki, received nominations for both Foreign-Language Film and Animated Feature. (Interestingly, one of its competitors in the latter category is "From Up on Poppy Hill," which he co-wrote and which was directed by his son, Goro.)