Avatar, starring Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, and Sigourney Weaver, and The Hurt Locker, featuring Jeremy Renner and Anthony Mackie, are the 2010 Academy Awards' leaders. James Cameron's sci-fi/fantasy adventure and Kathryn Bigelow's Iraq War drama received nine nominations apiece, including best picture, best director, and best original screenplay. Curiously, Cameron and Bigelow were married for a couple of years about two decades ago.
The other best picture nominees – the first time since 1943 in which 10 films have been shortlisted – are: the sentimental (extended) family drama The Blind Side, the British coming-of-age-tale An Education, the South African political-sci-fi thriller District 9, the World War II revenge fantasy Inglourious Basterds, the urban family drama Precious, the mordant suburban comedy A Serious Man, the animated blockbuster Up, and the socially conscious comedy-drama Up in the Air.
Up is the first animated film to be nominated in that category since Beauty and the Beast (1991). Pete Docter's box office hit was also shortlisted for best animated feature, along with Coraline, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Princess and the Frog, and The Secret of the Kells, which received an European Film Award nod late last year.
This year is one of the rare instances when the Academy's best director nominees matched the Directors Guild's shortlist: Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker), James Cameron (Avatar), Lee Daniels (Precious), Jason Reitman (Up in the Air), and Quentin Tarantino (Inglourious Basterds). Bigelow won the DGA's top prize last Saturday, and is expected to win the Oscar as well.
The Academy's acting nods were nearly identical to those of the Screen Actors Guild Awards.
The best actress nominees are Meryl Streep (above), who earned her 16th mention for her portrayal of chef Julia Child in the comedy Julie & Julia; fourth-timer Helen Mirren as Leo Tolstoy's wife in The Last Station; and Oscar newcomers Sandra Bullock as a conservative well-to-do mom who discovers compassion after adopting an inner-city teen, Gabourey Sidibe as an abused pregnant teen, and Carey Mulligan as a 1960s London student who falls for a man about twice her age.
Streep has two Oscars: supporting for Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) and lead for Sophie's Choice (1982). Mirren won for The Queen four years ago.
The best actors nominees are Jeff Bridges for his troubled country singer in Crazy Heart, George Clooney for his corporate downsizer in Up in the Air, Colin Firth for his bereaved 1960s gay college professor in A Single Man, Morgan Freeman for his Nelson Mandela in Invictus, and Jeremy Renner for his bomb-disposing Iraq War soldier in The Hurt Locker.
Bridges and Freeman are five-time nominees; this is Clooney's third acting nomination. Firth and Renner are first-timers. Both Freeman and Clooney have won Oscars in the best supporting actor category; the former for Million Dollar Baby (2004), the latter for Syriana (2005).
In the running for best supporting actor are Matt Damon's rugby player in Invictus, Woody Harrelson's soldier in The Messenger, Christopher Plummer's Leo Tolstoy in The Last Station, Stanley Tucci's psycho murderer in The Lovely Bones, and odds-on favorite Christoph Waltz's Nazi in Inglourious Basterds (above).
Damon's and Plummer's supportingness may be debatable, but that's how those things go. Damon had previously received a best actor nod for Good Will Hunting (1997). Harrelson's prior nomination, also in the best actor category, was for The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996). Plummer, Tucci, and Waltz are all Oscar newcomers.
The supporting actress nominees are third-timer Penélope Cruz for Nine, and first-timers Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick for Up in the Air; Maggie Gyllenhaal for Crazy Heart, and odds-on favorite Mo'Nique for Precious. Last year, Cruz won a best supporting actress Oscar for Woody Allen's Vicky Cristina Barcelona.
Of all the names listed above, only Maggie Gyllenhaal's was missing from the SAG Award nominations. Gyllenhaal replaced Diane Kruger for Inglourious Basterds.
The winners will be announced on March 7.
Photos: Inglourious Basterds (François Duhamel / The Weinstein Co.), Julie & Julia (Jonathan Wenk / Columbia Pictures)
Meryl Streep breaks acting record
Meryl Streep has broken her own record for most Oscar nominations for acting: 16 in all. They are: The Deer Hunter (supporting, 1978), Kramer vs. Kramer (supporting, 1979), The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981), Sophie's Choice (1982), Silkwood (1983), Out of Africa (1985), Ironweed (1987), A Cry in the Dark (1988), Postcards from the Edge (1990), The Bridges of Madison County (1995), One True Thing (1998), Music of the Heart (1989), Adaptation (supporting, 2002), The Devil Wears Prada (2006), Doubt (2008), and Julie & Julia (2009).
She won for Kramer vs. Kramer and Sophie's Choice.
Meryl Streep breaks another acting record
Thanks to her Julie & Julia nomination, Meryl Streep has also broken the record for most acting nominations in a leading role. The previous record holders were Streep and Katharine Hepburn, with 12 nominations each. Streep now has 13.
For the (other kind of) record: Thelma Ritter holds the record for most acting nominations in the supporting category: six in all. Katharine Hepburn still holds the record for the most acting wins: four.
Photo: Julie & Julia (Jonathan Wenk / Columbia Pictures)
Among the Oscar 2010 curiosities are the following:
Ex Husbands and Wives
James Cameron and Kathryn Bigelow are both competing in the best director category. About two decades ago, they were married for a couple of years. Cameron's Avatar cost one trillion dollars to make and has earned about two trillion dollars at the box office. It's now the biggest, all-time, for all eternity supermegablockbuster in the history of the universe (not accounting for inflation or higher 3D/IMAX prices etc etc). Bigelow's The Hurt Locker cost about $11 million and grossed less than $13 million in North America. Let's not even mention “inflation” here.
Well, don't expect a Titanic replay. The Hurt Locker has already won both the Producers Guild and the Directors Guild awards; it's now the favorite to win the best picture Oscar. Bigelow is all but assured an Oscar statuette, which would make her the first woman to ever win in that category.
Kathryn Bigelow & Nominated Woman Directors
Back to Bigelow: Kathryn Bigelow is only the fourth woman to be nominated for best director. Previous nominees were Italian Lina Wertmüller (Seven Beauties, 1976), New Zealander Jane Campion (The Piano, 1993), and American Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation, 2003). The gap between nominations keeps getting smaller. Perhaps we'll have another nominated female director within three or four years. Hey, slow progress is better than none whatsoever.
Up for Best Picture
Pete Docter's Up is the first animated feature to be included in the best picture category since Beauty and the Beast (1991). And they're the only two so far.
Photo: The Hurt Locker (Jonathan Olley / Summit Entertainment)