The real Woodroof was a hustler and hellraiser, but he wasn't entirely the man portrayed in the film. (The Washington Post)

A quick look at this year’s Academy Award nominees for Best Picture…

Synopsis: Hard-living Texas cowboy Ron Woodruff learns he has AIDS in 1985, leading him to set aside his homophobia and work with the transgendered Rayon to bring drugs, which haven’t been approved by the FDA, to people desperate for a cure.

Total Nominations: 6 (Picture, Actor, Supporting Actor, Original Screenplay, Makeup and Hairstyling, Film Editing)

Directed by: Jean-Marc Vallée (nominated for Film Editing; first nomination)

Starring: Matthew McConaughey (nominated for Best Actor; first nomination), Jared Leto (nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role; first nomination) and Jennifer Garner

Jared Leto as Rayon and Matthew McConaughey as Ron Woodroof  “Dallas Buyers Club.”  (Anne Marie Fox / Focus Features)

Why it should win: “Dallas Buyers Club” ticks off the checklist of Oscar-worthy elements: McConaughey lost 40 pounds for the career-defining role of Ron and Leto is unrecognizable portraying Rayon; the movie has the requisite character transformation, as Ron turns from hateful toward the gay community to advocating for it; and there’s also a thrilling underdog fight in which Ron and Rayon take on a government that isn’t working fast enough to find a cure.

Why it won’t win: “Dallas Buyers Club” seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle. While the actors’s performances have stood out — and Leto will almost certainly win for his work — the movie can’t seem to escape the shadow of that other important historical account, “12 Years a Slave,” or the flashier throwback “American Hustle.”

Ann Hornaday’s review: 4 stars

“Really the movie is about choices, in this case a protagonist’s unspoken evolution from homophobia to a begrudging, vaguely haunted humanism; an actor’s decision not to compulsively seek the audience’s love and approval; and a filmmaker’s decision to keep what might have become a saccharine parable of uplift on a harder, riskier edge.”

Box office as of Feb. 24: $24 million domestic, $30 million worldwide

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