LONDON (AP) — Space thriller “Gravity,” unflinching slavery saga “12 Years a Slave” and crime caper “American Hustle” gained awards-season momentum 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 and lead actress, for Sandra Bullock.
“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,” he said.
“American Hustle” also was nominated in 10 categories, while Somali hijacking story “Captain Phillips” received nine nods.
Liberace biopic “Behind the Candelabra” and Mary Poppins story “Saving Mr. Banks” 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 globalization 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 Alfonso 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 “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.
“There 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.”
The British prizes, known as BAFTAs, will be awarded at London’s Royal Opera House on Feb. 16.
They are considered an indicator of likely success at Hollywood’s Academy Awards two weeks later. Last year, Iran hostage drama “Argo” took the BAFTA for best film, and went on to win the best-picture Oscar.