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Oscars: Who Will Get the Biggest Career Boost?

Lupita Nyong'o, Matthew McConaughey, Spike Jonze sure to see a spike in their already-blossoming careers

Lupita Nyong'o, Matthew McConaughey Will See

Oscar doesn’t always translate to career gold, but winning an Academy Award can boost reputations, earning power and/or brand value. Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, the poster children of Hollywood’s rags-to-riches stories, launched their careers by winning an Oscar for original screenplay in 1997 with “Good Will Hunting.” Since then, the two friends have become bona fide superstars — in Affleck’s case, both in front and behind the camera.

In the past 20 years, Oscar winners such as Quentin Tarantino (“Pulp Fiction”) and Jennifer Lawrence, who was nominated for her third Academy Award in four years, have proved that an Oscar win or even just a nomination can take a showbiz career to a whole new level.

First-time winners Lupita Nyong’o, Matthew McConaughey and Spike Jonze make up the Class of 2014’s rising stars who are sure to see a spike in their already-blossoming careers.

Jared Leto
After a four-year acting hiatus, Leto returned to the biz for the role of a lifetime — Rayon in “Dallas Buyers Club.” Despite superb work in “Requiem for a Dream” and more recently in “Chapter 27” (he gained over 60 pounds for the role) and “Mr. Nobody,” the lead singer of Thirty Seconds to Mars has long been overlooked. Transforming into a transgendered AIDS patient gained him the Oscar nod he’s deserved for years. And although he was unrecognizable in the role, his performance finally made the thesp visible in the Academy and audience’s eyes.

Lupita Nyong’o
The relative newcomer stole the crown from Lawrence last night after winning for best supporting actress. Her career-defining role as abused slave Patsey in “12 Years a Slave” was her first job out of Yale School of Drama. Although green to acting, Nyong’o has been a production runner in several films, including “The Constant Gardener.” Her latest role in Liam Neeson starrer “Non-Stop,” which dominated the box office this weekend, shows that her career has already taken flight. The new Hollywood “it girl” has also made a name for herself on the fashion circuit, impressing with her red carpet looks.

Alfonso Cuaron
Despite not winning best picture, “Gravity” and its director had a history-making win. Cuaron became the first Mexican to win the directing prize, returning to the bigscreen after a seven-year absence to also co-write, co-edit and produce the 3D space epic. His double win for directing and editing (along with Mark Sanger) strengthens his reputation as a filmmaker with one of the biz’s most groundbreaking visions. Partly thanks to Cuaron’s ambitious concept, which required inventing new technology, “Gravity” also won every technical award it was up for, bringing its total to seven wins.

Matthew McConaughey and Amy Adams
Two of the hardest working actors in the biz each starred in two best picture-nominated films this year (“Dallas Buyers Club” and “The Wolf of Wall Street” for McConaughey and “American Hustle” and “Her” for Adams). Although both have been in the game for some time, their Oscar nominations (and win in McConaughey’s case), solidified their careers as versatile thesps capable of taking on darker and deeper roles. Although the only one in the best actress category to have never won, Adams proved that she’s no longer the princess from “Enchanted” with an impressive fifth nomination. McConaughey, on the other hand, has had a career resurgence — a McConaissance, if you will. With “Bernie,” “Killer Joe,” “Mud,” “Dallas Buyers Club” and now HBO’s “True Detective,” he could easily take home an Emmy and an Oscar in the same year.

Steve McQueen
McQueen made history on Sunday night when his drama “12 Years a Slave” won best picture, making it the first movie from a black director to win the honor. McQueen is a British artist who made his first feature film, “Hunger,” just six years ago. He may have lost the best director prize to Cuaron, but he solidified his name as a masterful director to turn to for prestige films.

Spike Jonze
Jonze is easily the best-known skateboarder to win an Oscar. The quirky filmmaker’s victory is a giant leap for both him and the Academy, which doesn’t always recognize outside-of-the-box fare. Jonze, who won for original screenplay, wrote, directed, produced, penned a song for and lent his voice to “Her.” After being overlooked for “Adaptation.” and “Where the Wild Things Are,” he’ll likely be able to get more personal, stylish projects off the ground going forward.