Fresh from winning the Golden Globe for lead actress in a comedy or musical, Bening earns her fourth Academy Award nomination and her third in the lead actress race for her role as Nic, a doctor whose happy life with her longtime companion (Julianne Moore) and their two teenagers is upended after their children contact the partners' sperm donor. Bening, 52, was nominated for a Critics' Choice Movie Award and is in contention for SAG, Spirit and BAFTA awards for her performance. She was previously nominated for lead actress for 1999's "American Beauty" and 2004's "Being Julia." She was a supporting actress nominee for 1990's "The Grifters."
JENNIFER LAWRENCE "Winter's Bone"
The 20-year-old actress, who cut her teeth on the TBS sitcom "The Bill Engvall Show," earns her first lead actress nomination for her acclaimed performance as Ree, a strong-willed Ozark teenager who encounters danger when she tries to find her drug-dealing father. Lawrence has won the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures award for breakthrough performance and earned lead actress honors at the Seattle International Film Festival and from the Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Assn. She was nominated for a Golden Globe and Critics' Choice Movie Award and is up for a Spirit Award and a SAG Award. If Lawrence wins, she'll be the youngest woman to ever receive a lead actress Academy Award.
NICOLE KIDMAN "Rabbit Hole"
The lead actress Oscar winner for her portrayal of Virginia Woolf in 2002's "The Hours" earns her third nomination in the category, for her role as Becca, a woman trying to cope with the death of a child. Kidman, 43, was nominated for a Golden Globe and Critics' Choice Movie Award for her performance and is vying for SAG and Spirit awards. She received her first Academy Award nomination for 2001's Moulin Rouge."
NATALIE PORTMAN "Black Swan"
Portman, 29, who began her career as a child actress and who appeared as Padme in George Lucas' second wave of "Star Wars" films, earns her first lead actress nomination as Nina, a prima ballerina descending into madness as she prepares for her starring turn in "Swan Lake." The newly engaged mother-to-be was previously nominated for supporting actress for 2004's drama "Closer." The winner of the Golden Globe for lead actress in a motion picture drama and the Critics' Choice Movie Award, Portman is also in contention for SAG, Spirit and BAFTA awards.
MICHELLE WILLIAMS "Blue Valentine"
A supporting actress Oscar nominee five years ago for director Ang Lee's "Brokeback Mountain," the former "Dawson's Creek" costar receives her first lead actress nomination as Cindy, a young woman whose marriage is falling apart. Williams, 30, was nominated for a Golden Globe and Critics' Choice Movie Award for the role and is in contention for a Spirit Award.
DAVID FINCHER "The Social Network"
The 48-year-old filmmaker has won numerous critics awards for the drama about the creation of Facebook, including from the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn., the New York Film Critics Circle, the National Society of Film Critics and the Critics' Choice Movie Awards. Fincher also won the Golden Globe and is nominated for a Directors Guild of America Award and a BAFTA. Fincher was previously nominated in this category two years ago for "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button."
TOM HOOPER "The King's Speech"
The 38-year-old British director is a first-time Oscar nominee in this category for his work on the historical British drama about King George VI working to overcome his stutter. Hooper was nominated for a Golden Globe and Critics' Choice Movie Award, and the director is in contention for DGA and BAFTA awards.
JOEL AND ETHAN COEN "True Grit"
The iconoclastic filmmaking brothers receive their second director Oscar nomination together (for Joel, his third overall) with their adaptation of the Charles Portis novel. They won in this category three years ago for "No Country for Old Men." They also won Oscars for adapted screenplay and best picture for "No Country for Old Men" and for original screenplay for 1996's "Fargo." They were nominated for a Critics' Choice Movie Award for directing "True Grit."
DAVID O. RUSSELL "The Fighter"
The 52-year-old writer-director picks up his first director Academy Award nomination for his inspirational drama about a boxer who gets a second chance. Russell was nominated for a Golden Globe for his work and received the Director of the Year Award this month at the Palm Springs Film Festival. Russell, whose previous films include "Three Kings," is also in contention for a DGA award.
DARREN ARONOFSKY "Black Swan"
The indie filmmaker earns his first director Oscar nomination for his psychological thriller set against the backdrop of the ballet. The 41-year-old director earned nominations for Golden Globe and Critics' Choice Movie Awards and is in contention for DGA, BAFTA and Spirit awards.
CHRISTIAN BALE "The Fighter"