The science-fiction sensation 'Avatar' and the Iraq war thriller 'The Hurt Locker' lead the Academy Awards with nine nominations each, including best picture and director for James Cameron and ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow.
For the first time since 1943 the Oscars feature 10 best-picture contenders instead of the usual five.
Also nominated for best-picture today were 'District 9'; the animated comedy 'Up'; the World War II saga 'Inglourious Basterds'; the football drama 'The Blind Side'; the recession tale 'Up in The Air,' the 1960s drama 'A Serious Man,' and the teen tales 'An Education' and 'Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' By Sapphire.'
Acting nominees include the four stars who have dominated early awards shows: lead players Sandra Bullock for the American football drama 'The Blind Side' and Jeff Bridges for the country-music tale 'Crazy Heart' and supporting performers Mo'Nique for 'Precious' and Austria's Christoph Waltz for 'Inglourious Basterds.'
The best-picture and director categories shape up as a showdown between ex-spouses who directed films that have dominated earlier Hollywood honours.
Cameron's 'Avatar' won best drama and director at the Golden Globes, while Bigelow's 'The Hurt Locker' beat out Cameron at the Directors Guild of America Awards, whose recipient usually goes on to earn the best-director Oscar.
'The Hurt Locker' also beat 'Avatar' for the Producers Guild of America top prize and was chosen as last year's best film by many key critics groups.
Bigelow, whose films include 'Point Break' and 'K19: The Widowmaker,' is only the fourth woman nominated for a directing Oscar, following Sofia Coppola for 2003's 'Lost in Translation,' New Zealand director Jane Campion for 1993's 'The Piano' and Italian director Lena Wertmuller for 1975's 'Seven Beauties.'
No woman has ever won the directing Oscar, and until Bigelow, no woman had ever won the Director's Guild honour.
Lee Daniels, who made 'Precious,' became only the second black filmmaker nominated for best director, after John Singleton for 1991's 'Boyz N the Hood.'
Also nominated for best director are Jason Reitman for 'Up in the Air' and Quentin Tarantino for 'Inglourious Basterds.' 'Up in the Air' co-writer Reitman also had a nomination for adapted screenplay, while Tarantino also earned a nomination for original screenplay.
Longtime audience darling Bullock has never been nominated for an Oscar before but is considered the best-actress front-runner, playing a wealthy woman who takes in homeless teen Michael Oher, now a star with the American football team Baltimore Ravens.
Bullock is up against past Oscar winners Meryl Streep as chef Julia Child in 'Julie & Julia' and Helen Mirren as Leo Tolstoy's bullheaded wife in 'The Last Station,' along with first-time nominees Carey Mulligan as a British teen involved with an older man in 'An Education' and Gabourey Sidibe as a Harlem teen overcoming horrible abuse and neglect in 'Precious.'
Sidibe made her screen debut in 'Precious,' earning an Oscar nomination for her first professional acting job.
Bridges, nominated four times previously without winning an Oscar, is viewed as the man to beat this time for his role as a boozy country singer trying to clean up his act in 'Crazy Heart.'
Also nominated for best actor are past Oscar winners George Clooney as a frequent-flyer junkie in 'Up in the Air' and Morgan Freeman as South African leader Nelson Mandela in 'Invictus,' Colin Firth as a grieving gay academic in 'A Single Man' and Jeremy Renner as a bomb disposal expert in Iran in 'The Hurt Locker.'
Mo'Nique and Waltz were nominated for wicked roles, she as a reprehensible welfare mother in 'Precious,' he as a gleefully garrulous Nazi in 'Inglourious Basterds.' They were breakout roles for both, Mo'Nique leaping into the awards elite after a career of mainly lowbrow comedy, Waltz making his first Hollywood splash after working mostly in theatre and television.
Also up for supporting actress are 'Up in the Air' co-stars Vera Farmiga as Clooney's frequent-flyer soul mate and Anna Kendrick as his reluctant business protege. The other nominations went to past Oscar winner Penelope Cruz as a filmmaker's needy mistress in the musical 'Nine' and Maggie Gyllenhaal as a single mother involved wit Bridges' character in 'Crazy Heart.'
Joining Waltz in the supporting-actor lineup are Matt Damon as a South African rugby player in 'Invictus,' Woody Harrelson as a military man giving bad news to next of kin in 'The Messenger,' Christopher Plummer as ageing author Tolstoy in 'The Last Station' and Stanley Tucci as a serial killer in 'The Lovely Bones.'
Complete list of 82nd Annual Academy Award nominations
1. Best Picture: 'Avatar,' 'The Blind Side,' 'District 9,' 'An Education,' 'The Hurt Locker,' 'Inglourious Basterds,' 'Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire,' 'A Serious Man,' 'Up,' 'Up in the Air.'
2. Actor: Jeff Bridges, 'Crazy Heart'; George Clooney, 'Up in the Air'; Colin Firth, 'A Single Man'; Morgan Freeman, 'Invictus'; Jeremy Renner, 'The Hurt Locker.'
3. Actress: Sandra Bullock, 'The Blind Side'; Helen Mirren, 'The Last Station'; Carey Mulligan, 'An Education'; Gabourey Sidibe, 'Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire'; Meryl Streep, 'Julie & Julia.'
4. Supporting Actor: Matt Damon, 'Invictus'; Woody Harrelson, 'The Messenger'; Christopher Plummer, 'The Last Station'; Stanley Tucci, 'The Lovely Bones'; Christoph Waltz, 'Inglourious Basterds.'
5. Supporting Actress: Penelope Cruz, 'Nine'; Vera Farmiga, 'Up in the Air'; Maggie Gyllenhaal, 'Crazy Heart'; Anna Kendrick, 'Up in the Air'; Mo'Nique, 'Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire.'
6. Directing: James Cameron, 'Avatar'; Kathryn Bigelow, 'The Hurt Locker'; Quentin Tarantino, 'Inglourious Basterds'; Lee Daniels, 'Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire'; Jason Reitman, 'Up in the Air.'
7. Foreign Language Film: 'Ajami,' Israel; 'El Secreto de Sus Ojos,' Argentina; 'The Milk of Sorrow,' Peru; 'Un Prophete,' France; 'The White Ribbon,' Germany.
8. Adapted Screenplay: Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell, 'District 9'; Nick Hornby, 'An Education'; Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, Tony Roche, 'In the Loop'; Geoffrey Fletcher, 'Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire'; Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner, 'Up in the Air.'
9. Original Screenplay: Mark Boal, 'The Hurt Locker'; Quentin Tarantino, 'Inglourious Basterds'; Alessandro Camon and Oren Moverman, 'The Messenger'; Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, 'A Serious Man'; Bob Peterson, Pete Docter, Tom McCarthy, 'Up.'
10. Animated Feature Film: 'Coraline'; 'Fantastic Mr. Fox'; 'The Princess and the Frog'; 'The Secret of Kells'; 'Up.'
11. Art Direction: 'Avatar,' 'The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus,' 'Nine,' 'Sherlock Holmes,' 'The Young Victoria.'
12. Cinematography: 'Avatar,' 'Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,' 'The Hurt Locker,' 'Inglourious Basterds,' 'The White Ribbon.'
13. Sound Mixing: 'Avatar,' 'The Hurt Locker,' 'Inglourious Basterds,' 'Star Trek,' 'Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.'
14. Sound Editing: 'Avatar,' 'The Hurt Locker,' 'Inglourious Basterds,' 'Star Trek,' 'Up.'
15. Original Score: 'Avatar,' James Horner; 'Fantastic Mr. Fox,' Alexandre Desplat; 'The Hurt Locker,' Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders; 'Sherlock Holmes,' Hans Zimmer; 'Up,' Michael Giacchino.
16. Original Song: 'Almost There' from 'The Princess and the Frog,' Randy Newman; 'Down in New Orleans' from 'The Princess and the Frog,' Randy Newman; 'Loin de Paname' from 'Paris 36,' Reinhardt Wagner and Frank Thomas; 'Take It All' from 'Nine,' Maury Yeston; 'The Weary Kind (Theme from Crazy Heart)' from 'Crazy Heart,' Ryan Bingham and T Bone Burnett.
17. Costume: 'Bright Star,' 'Coco Before Chanel,' 'The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus,' 'Nine,' 'The Young Victoria.'
18. Documentary Feature: 'Burma VJ,' 'The Cove,' 'Food, Inc.' 'The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers,' 'Which Way Home.'
19. Documentary (short subject): 'China's Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province,' 'The Last Campaign of Governor Booth Gardner,' 'The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant,' 'Music by Prudence,' 'Rabbit a la Berlin.'
20. Film Editing: 'Avatar,' 'District 9,' 'The Hurt Locker,' 'Inglourious Basterds,' 'Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire.'
21. Makeup: 'Il Divo,' 'Star Trek,' 'The Young Victoria.'
22. Animated Short Film: 'French Roast,' 'Granny O'Grimm's Sleeping Beauty,' 'The Lady and the Reaper (La Dama y la Muerte),' 'Logorama,' 'A Matter of Loaf and Death.'
23. Live Action Short Film: 'The Door,' 'Instead of Abracadabra,' 'Kavi,' 'Miracle Fish,' 'The New Tenants.'
24. Visual Effects: 'Avatar,' 'District 9,' 'Star Trek.'