The Oscar nominations were announced Tuesday morning, and they set up a battle never seen before in Academy Award history. James Cameron's "Avatar" and Kathryn Bigelow's "The Hurt Locker" led the way with nine nominations each. They will also go head-to-head in the Best Director category. The wrinkle? Cameron and Bigelow used to be married.
"The Hurt Locker" appears to have the early leg up. While "Avatar" received a host of technical nominations, it was shut out in the acting and screenplay categories. "The Hurt Locker" was named in both of those categories.
The Academy added intrigue by expanding the Best Picture category to ten films, harking back to the practice of its early awards days. In addition to "The Hurt Locker" and "Avatar," the Best Picture nominees are: "District 9," "Up," "Inglourious Basterds," "The Blind Side," "Up in The Air," "A Serious Man," "An Education" and "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' By Sapphire."
Jeff Bridges has been cleaning up this awards season for his performance as a down-and-out singer in "Crazy Heart." He is nominated for Best Actor, joining George Clooney, "Up in the Air;" Morgan Freeman, "Invictus;" Colin Firth, "A Single Man;" and Jeremy Renner, "The Hurt Locker."
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For Best Actress, the nominees are: Sandra Bullock, "The Blind Side;" Meryl Streep, "Julie & Julia;" Helen Mirren, "The Last Station;" Carey Mulligan, "An Education;" and Gabourey Sidibe, "Precious."
For Sidibe, she earns an Oscar nod in her first-ever professional acting job, as a Harlem teen overcoming abuse and neglect.
In the supporting categories, nominations for Best Supporting Actor are: Christoph Waltz, "Inglourious Basterds;" Matt Damon, "Invictus;" Woody Harrelson, "The Messenger," Christopher Plummer, "The Last Station;" and Stanley Tucci, "The Lovely Bones."
Best Supporting Actress: Mo'Nique, "Precious;" Vera Farmiga, "Up in the Air;" Anna Kendrick, "Up in the Air;" Penelope Cruz, "Nine;" and Maggie Gyllenhaal, "Crazy Heart."
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Joining Cameron and Bigelow for Best Director are Lee Daniels, "Precious;" Jason Reitman, "Up in the Air;" and Quentin Tarantino, "Inglourious Basterds." Reitman and Tarantino were also nominated in the screenplay categories.
Cameron and Bigelow have been trading off winning Best Director during the awards season. Cameron took home the Golden Globe, while Bigelow won the Directors Guild award, which is considered a better predictor of who wins the big prize. No woman has ever won a best director Oscar.
The Academy Awards will be handed out March 7th.