'Avatar,' 'Hurt Locker' lead in Oscar nods
(CNN) -- The biggest box-office hit of all time and a small independent film that grossed about $16 million led all comers when the nominations for the 82nd annual Academy Awards were announced Tuesday morning.
The head-to-head competition between "Avatar," the gigantic hit about the collision of two civilizations, and "The Hurt Locker," a gritty film about a bomb disposal unit in Iraq, takes on additional drama since the directors of those two films -- James Cameron and Kathryn Bigelow, respectively -- were once married to each other.
The two films each earned nine nominations. Quentin Tarantino's World War II drama "Inglourious Basterds" followed with eight.
Ten films total received best picture nominations, including Cameron's "Avatar," Bigelow's "The Hurt Locker," Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds," American sports movie "The Blind Side," sci-fi thriller "District 9," British coming-of-age film "An Education," dark comedy "A Serious Man," film festival favorite "Precious," Disney-Pixar animated comedy "Up" and George Clooney's "Up in the Air.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences doubled the number of movies nominated for the best picture this year to 10, a move perhaps aimed at bolstering sagging ratings for the Academy Awards broadcast.
It is a return to the way the Oscars were awarded in its early decades when as many as 12 movies were considered in the field of finalists, academy President Sid Ganis said when he announced the change last June.
A best picture nomination often serves as a marketing boost for films, driving DVD sales for those films no longer in theaters.
Acting award nominations closely followed the lead of the Screen Actors Guild awards and the Golden Globes, handed out in January.
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."
The best actress Oscar nominations include Sandra Bullock for "The Blind Side," Helen Mirren for "The Last Station," Carey Mulligan for "An Education," Gabourey Sidibe for "Precious" and Meryl Streep for "Julie & Julia."
The nomination for Streep was her 16th -- extending her own record. Katharine Hepburn and Jack Nicholson both have 12.
Among the surprises: "District 9," a low-budget film about the tense relationship between humans and extraterrestrials in South Africa, earned nominations for best picture and best adapted screenplay; and Penelope Cruz earned a best supporting actress nomination for "Nine," a film that, after a big push, earned disappointing reviews and box office.
The 82nd Academy Awards show is set for March 7 at Hollywood's Kodak Theatre.