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Oscars 2014: The newcomers vs. the vets -- VIDEO

This year’s Oscar nominations are all over the map. While Lupita Nyong’o was nominated for her first movie ever (12 Years a Slave), Meryl Streep is breaking her own record with an 18th nod (August: Osage County).

EW’s Anthony Breznican and Sara Vilkomerson lead us through the newcomers and the familiar faces. Who will you be rooting for come March?
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Oscars 2014: Lupita Nyong'o is living in a heightened reality

To watch or not to watch? That was the question plaguing 12 Years a Slave actress Lupita Nyong’o on Wednesday night when she and her best friend were debating whether to watch Thursday’s Oscar nominations when they were scheduled to broadcast early Thursday morning.

“I wasn’t sure I wanted to see it live,” said the actress, who is staying in Los Angeles for the slew of award shows happening in the next week. “We weighed the pros and cons of waking up so early, but we decided it was better to hear it from the horse’s mouth. I knew I would hear about it anyway, so I might as well hear it along with everyone else.”

The news couldn’t have been better for the actress who landed her first Oscar nomination Thursday for her first feature film, playing the role of tortured slave Patsey.

Nyong’o, who has a history of performing on stage and directed her own video short, has found the whole campaigning process to be enlightening.

“Everything is so new. It’s really hard to pick out one thing that stands out above the other. It’s all standing out to me,” she says. “I’m living in a very heightened state.”

Living in such an altered state didn’t come as that much of a surprise to Nyong’o, who says that she knew 12 Years was unique from the moment she was hired for the job.

“I always knew that it would be like nothing else, and every day was confirmation of just how awesome this is. Really. This has been an elevated experience from the day I was cast in this film.”

Oscars 2014: Sally Hawkins is rendered speechless by Oscar nom

It had been less than 24 hours since Blue Jasmine actress Sally Hawkins returned from Los Angeles and the Golden Globes ceremony when she was throttled with the stunning news that she’d been nominated for an Oscar for her turn as Ginger, Jasmine’s working-class sister who reluctantly takes in the former socialite when she shows up on her doorstep penniless in Woody Allen’s latest film.

“I’m in a state of overwhelm, so thrilled and delighted,” said Hawkins, who had just returned from an unglamorous grocery-shopping outing to find herself bombarded with phone calls from family, friends, and her emotional agent.

“I had just stumbled through the door with bags in hand, tripping over suitcases that had yet to be unpacked,” said Hawkins, who had yet to eat the lunch she had bought for herself.

The 37-year-old actress, best known for her work with British writer-director Mike Leigh, said that though she knew her time on set with Jasmine star Cate Blanchett and Woody Allen was special, she never at the time imagined it could lead to an Oscar nomination.
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2014 Oscar nominations: What are the biggest surprises? -- VIDEO

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Entertainment Weekly is gearing up to give you some of the best coverage of this year’s Sundance Film Festival, which started Thursday in Park City, Utah. But before we get all the scoop on the upcoming films premiering this year, we have to talk about the surprises that came out of this year’s Oscar nominations.

Watch EW’s Sara Vilkomerson and Anthony Breznican discuss Meryl beating Emma, lack of Butler love, and more from the EW Lounge, and check back with EW.com for more videos and updates from Sundance.
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Robert Redford dusts off Oscar snub, but wishes distributors had done more

Robert Redford appeared before the press Thursday to discuss the Sundance Film Festival, but it was impossible to ignore the news that he’d been snubbed by the Academy, which overlooked his acting performance in All is Lost. Speaking at the festival’s Day 1 press conference, Redford insisted he wasn’t disturbed or upset by the slight, but he expressed regret that the film’s distributors, Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions, did not do more to champion the film’s award prospects. “When these films go before to be voted on, usually they’re heavily dependent on campaigns that the distributors provide,” he said. “There’s a lot of campaigning that goes on and it can get very political, but that’s okay. Because it is a business. In our case, I think we suffered from little to no distribution. So as a result, our distributors either — I don’t know why — they didn’t want to spend the money, they were afraid, or they just were incapable. But whatever, we had no campaign to help us cross over into the mainstream. So I suspect that had something to do with it.” READ FULL STORY

Oscars 2014: Pharrell reacts to his nomination for 'Despicable Me 2' song

Music renaissance man Pharrell was preparing to give a speech for his record label, Columbia, early this morning when his Oscar nomination for the song “Happy” from Despicable Me 2 was announced by the Academy. But that speech might be a little tougher to prep for, given his reaction to the news. “Since I got the call, I’ve just been speechless,” Pharrell tells EW.

Pharrell is having a huge year — first his work on Robin Thicke’s hit “Blurred Lines,” and now an Oscar nod for “Happy.” So can he share the secret of making songs go viral?

“I didn’t know. You never know, you just know what feels good. Anyone that tells you that they know, then they’re either just super excited about it or they just have that instinct,” he says. “I typically don’t do that. I just stick with the feeling. I can confirm that it does feel really good to me, other than that you just don’t know. Sometimes the stars just have to align.”

Pharrell says it helps that his son, who is 5, is also a fan of the movie and the song. “It was really emotional for me to see my boy react the way he has to it, so the countless children that react the way that they do, it’s been great.”

Oscars 2014: 'Nebraska' actress June Squibb talks nomination -- 'We hugged and kissed and cried'

If there is a more touching Oscar nominations day story than that of veteran thespian June Squibb — who has been given the nod in the Best Supporting Actress category for her performance in Nebraska — we’re not sure our hearts, or our tear ducts, can take it.

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Oscars 2014: Barkhad Abdi reacts to his Best Supporting Actor nomination

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There are several first-time Oscar nominees in the acting categories this year, but Barkhad Abdi is the ultimate rookie phenom: Before being cast as the Somali pirate leader Muse in Captain Phillips, Abdi had never acted at all, period. So it’s understandable that he’s having a little trouble wrapping his head around his Best Supporting Actor nomination for Captain Phillips. “I’m in a state of shock,” Abdi says. “I couldn’t sleep much last night and I watched [the nominations] on TV. My little sister called first, and then after that the phone just started ringing so much the battery died on me. I’m just trying to comprehend everything that’s going on.”

Abdi, who was born in Somalia and emigrated with his family to Minneapolis at age 14, was working as a cab driver when director Paul Greengrass cast him in Captain Phillips. “I wasn’t sure of myself,” he says. “I wasn’t a complete actor. I was just auditioning with no previous experience. Paul Greengrass gets all the credit, honestly. He’s the one that believed in me and pushed me and, any time that I messed up, he was the one that would find a way to make me understand it so I could be that character.”

It’s been a head-spinning few months for the 28-year-old Abdi, who plans to move to L.A. soon to pursue more roles. “It’s been a really wild ride,” he says. “Every time it gets bigger and bigger and bigger and now it’s an Oscar nomination. It’s just a little too big to comprehend. But that’s life. I’m just looking forward to the next adventure.”

Oscars 2014: '12 Years a Slave' director Steve McQueen is 'exhilarated, ecstatic' over nine noms

Waking up to nine Oscar nominations is a good way to start your day, even if you are thousands of miles away from your family. Such was the case for Steve McQueen on Thursday morning when his harrowing drama 12 Years a Slave earned nine Academy Award nominations, including nods for Best Picture and Best Director, and acting recognition for his three leads: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, and Lupita Nyong’o.

“I am exhilarated, ecstatic,” he told EW via phone. “Getting all those nominations, I’m so very happy.”

While the British director admits that he finds the promotional duties that accompany a movie of this subject matter and pedigree grueling, he has been energized by the quality of the discussions that have followed the screenings he’s attended.

“The subject matter conjures up such an interesting debate with the audience that every Q&A has been like a town hall meeting in a way,” McQueen said. “Everyone is talking about the past, present, and future. It’s become much more social and much more passionate in a way. We made a film that was based in 1851, but it’s actually talking about what’s happening today, so it’s been immensely stimulating.”
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Oscars 2014: Best Actor nominee Matthew McConaughey on being the last name called

If your wife has set a pre-dawn alarm and the two of you are awake in bed with your youngest son to watch the Oscar nominations announcement, it really would be a bummer not to hear your name called. And yet as one name after another was ticked off, Dallas Buyers Club‘s Matthew McConaughey says he had a brief moment of anxiety. “They went through all four names and I said ‘there’s only 5,’” the first-time nominee tells EW. “Then I think I saw the shot of me as Ron Woodruff before I heard my name. Yeahhh, it was nice.”

His other two kids with Camile Alves had since woken and McConaughey was eager to get off the phone to share the news with them. “I’ve got to explain it and have the conversation,” he says. “‘Remember when Papai was doing that show in New Orleans, the one where he was really skinny? Well today they’re saying ‘Hey we want to nominate you along with these four other really talented people for being one of the best performances of the year.’ I mean, there’s a lot of good stuff.”

Dallas Buyers Club was recognized with nominations not just for Best Actor, but also Best Original Screenplay, Best Picture, and Best Supporting Actor Jared Leto. “Jared’s was the last name called too!” he says with a laugh. “There was definitely a point where I was like ‘ooh, ooh, ooh’ and then we heard his name and were like ‘Yes!!’

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