Actress Anne Hathaway and Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President… (Al Seib / Los Angles Times )
"Avatar" and "The Hurt Locker" have been duking it out all awards season. Now, the two films face their final showdown: They enter the 82nd annual Academy Awards prizefight with nine nominations apiece.
The films which, coincidentally, are by former husband-and-wife James Cameron and Kathryn Bigelow couldn't be more different. "Avatar" is an eye-popping 3-D science-fiction studio extravaganza: It is the most expensive film ever made and has gone on to be the most successful film ever, earning more than $2 billion so far, worldwide. By contrast, "The Hurt Locker" is a gritty, low-budget, independent film about a bomb-disposal unit in the Iraq War. Though it has earned plenty of accolades this awards season, it has yet to crack the $13-million mark at the box office.
The films are two of the best picture nominees announced Tuesday morning by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, among an eclectic mix that included another sci-fi hit, "District 9," another war film, "Inglourious Basterds" and the animated hit "Up," which is only the second animated film ever to receive a nod in this category.
Though it was no surprise that "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire" and "Up in the Air" earned best picture nods, there were some unexpected choices, including "The Blind Side," "An Education" and "A Serious Man."
Noticeably missing from the best picture list was the summer blockbuster "Star Trek," which some had thought would have a shot given the expanded best picture field and its recent Producers Guild of America nomination. Still, with "Avatar" and "District 9" nominations for best film, a sci-fi flick has its best chance yet of finally winning Oscar's top award.
The academy's announcement marked the first time in 66 years that there were 10 nominees in this marquee category, instead of the traditional five. The last time the academy went this route, "Casablanca" took home Oscar gold as the best picture of 1943.
Other top nominees Tuesday morning were "Inglourious Basterds" with eight, "Precious" and "Up in the Air" with six apiece, and "Up," which, in addition to its best picture nod also earned four other nominations, including best animated film.
The nominees for best director were as expected. They included: Cameron for "Avatar," Kathryn Bigelow for "The Hurt Locker," Lee Daniels for "Precious," Quentin Tarantino for "Inglourious Basterds" and Jason Reitman for "Up in the Air."
But two of the nominees were nonetheless noteworthy: Bigelow, who won the Directors Guild of America Award over the weekend, is only the fourth woman to earn a best director nod. Daniels is just the second African American filmmaker to earn that honor.
In the acting categories, the academy followed in the footsteps of the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild Awards. The only real surprise was Maggie Gyllenhaal for best supporting actress for "Crazy Heart." She had largely been overlooked this awards season.
The nominees for best actress included two veterans who had previously won in this category, as well as three newcomers to the fold: Sandra Bullock, earning her first-ever Oscar nomination for "The Blind Side," and first-timers Carey Mulligan, nominated for "An Education," and Gabourey Sidibe, nominated for "Precious." They will compete with Helen Mirren, for "The Last Station," and Meryl Streep, for "Julie & Julia." With this nod, Streep has earned an unprecedented 16 Oscar nominations over the last 31 years. She has received two Oscars: best supporting actress for 1979's "Kramer vs. Kramer" and best actress for 1982's "Sophie's Choice."
The best actor nominations went to Jeff Bridges for "Crazy Heart," George Clooney for "Up in the Air," Colin Firth for "A Single Man," Morgan Freeman for "Invictus" and Jeremy Renner for "The Hurt Locker." Freeman and Clooney are previous Oscar winners, and Bridges has been nominated four times previously. Renner and Firth are newcomers.
Joining Gyllenhaal in the best supporting actress category are Penelope Cruz for "Nine," Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick for "Up in the Air" and Mo'Nique for "Precious." Cruz won in this category last year for "Vicky Cristina Barcelona." This is the first Oscar nomination for the other four actresses.
Nominated for best supporting actor are Matt Damon for "Invictus," Woody Harrelson for "The Messenger," Christopher Plummer for "The Last Station," Stanley Tucci for "The Lovely Bones" and Christoph Waltz for "Inglourious Basterds." It's the first Oscar nomination for the 80-year-old Plummer, as well as for Tucci and Waltz.
In the animated film category, "Up" is joined by "Coraline," "Fantastic Mr. Fox," "The Princess and the Frog" and "The Secret of Kells." Documentary feature nominees include "Burma VJ," "The Cove," "Food, Inc.," "The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers" and "Which Way Home."
Nominated for foreign language film are "Ajami" from Israel, "El Secreto de Sus Ojos" from Argentina, "The Milk of Sorrow" from Peru, "Un Prophete" from France and "The White Ribbon" from Germany.
The nominations were revealed at 5:38 a.m. Tuesday at the academy's Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills, with last year's lead actress nominee Anne Hathaway helping academy President Tom Sherak with the announcements.
The Oscars will be telecast live March 7 on ABC from the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood.
Besides increasing its nomination list for best picture, the academy also is featuring two hosts at the Oscar ceremony: Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin, who just starred together in "It's Complicated."