Robyn Beck/Getty Images
Jake Perlman
January 16, 2014 AT 07:57 PM EST

It’s Oscar nomination day, and for movie nerds, it’s like Christmas morning. Like Santa and his sleigh, we eagerly await the announcement of the year’s Oscar nominees. Who will get snubbed? Who will be surprised? Fans across the country can watch the nominations announced live either online or on some TV outlets. But what’s it like to actually be at the Academy on a morning like this? EW was on the scene (before the sun) to be there for the 5:38 a.m. PT air time. The room is full of press and publicists there to support their clients or films, hoping to hear their names called.

The Academy and producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron announced that this year’s Oscar telecast would have a movie hero theme, so the lobby of the Samuel Goldwyn Theatre in Beverly Hills was filled with images and video clips of some heroic characters from past Oscar films. Everyone from Shrek to Superman to Thelma and Louise were represented. Publicists can be overheard pre-congratulating each other on such a great year for film. “Just hoping the best for everybody. There are just so many films, so many actors,” one was overheard saying. Soon, the friendly smiles turned to focused concentration once the theater opened. As you can expect, there’s a lot of security for an event like this, to make sure the nominees stay secret and in the right person’s hands. Once inside the theater, Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs coyly announced that we had our own superhero among us to help announce the nominees: Thor himself, Chris Hemsworth. Here is what went down during the 12 categories they announced live:

Best Supporting Actor

Barkhad Abdi, the breakout star of Captain Phillips, received a warm reception when he was the first name called for the morning. One publicist was heard whispering “wow” after his name. An Oscar nomination is a pretty impressive thing for a film debut. However, there was an even bigger reaction for Jonah Hill, who was definitely a surprise in the category for Wolf of Wall Street. Jared Leto, who just won a Golden Globe for Dallas Buyers Club, received an applause after his name was announced.

Supporting Actress

Blue Jasmine actress Sally Hawkins, the first name in the category, received the warmest response, probably because she was the least expected nominee in the category. I’m still trying to process not hearing Oprah’s name this morning.

Original Song

Some really big responses in this category. One person screamed with enthusiasm when the song “Alone Yet Note Alone” was nominated from the film of the same name. Also “Happy” from Despicable Me 2 by Pharrell Williams and “Ordinary Love” from Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom by U2 received very warm responses. I’m happy to see a full category here again and the potential for great performances, but the real question remains: Will Idina Menzel or Demi Lovato sing Frozen‘s hit “Let It Go” now that is was also officially nominated?

Adapted Screenplay

Also a lot of reaction for this category, specifically for Before Midnight, Philomena, and The Wolf of Wall Street. The latter reaction was the beginning of a strong showing of support for Scorsese’s controversial film.

Original Screenplay

Huge cheers from one section for the Dallas Buyers Club nomination.

Animated Feature

A respectful acknowledgement for The Wind Rises, Hayao Miyazaki’s last film, took over part of the crowd and some surprised reactions for Despicable Me 2 getting nominated, perhaps over Disney’s Monsters University. Disney still has a good shot to take the prize home with Frozen, though, and The Wind Rises was produced by Disney as well.

Documentary Feature

Really big response for 20 Feet From Stardom, which was the last film announced. Many people were immediately surprised by the snub of the anti-Sea World doc Blackfish.


The biggest response was for Alexander Payne and Martin Scorsese, even though Alfonso Cuaron got some applause. It seemed Payne and Scorsese were more of a surprise to everyone.

Best Actress

Biggest shock was Emma Thompson was missing, and it wasn’t realized right away. A couple of publicists were heard laughing, almost in fear of the strong category, one saying, “Oy, tough one,” after Meryl Streep’s name was announced.

Best Actor

Again, what a morning! A quiet hush took over the room before this one, because everyone knew this was THE one that, no matter what, people would be upset. It seemed almost instantly people knew things were going to be crazy when Christian Bale was the first name announced, alphabetically of course. Leo received a little bit of applause, but the clear favorite in the room for the category was the last name called, Matthew McConaughey. Lots of Dallas Buyers Club support overall.

Best Picture

The holy grail. Now that there can be anywhere from five to 10 nominees, you never know when they are going to stop with this one, so you really have to be paying attention. Big cheers were especially given for Dallas Buyers Club, Her, Philomena, and, again, The Wolf of Wall Street.

Ellen DeGeneres hosts the 86th Academy Awards on Sunday, March 2, at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood on ABC.

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