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Avatar and The Hurt Locker lead Oscar race

The most expensive film ever made, James Cameron’s sci-fi epic Avatar – already the highest grossing film of all time – is sharing top-billing in the Oscar nomination stakes with a low-budget, independently financed thriller, director by his ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker.
Each film has secured nine nominations – including Best Director and Best Picture, in a newly expanded field of ten.
Bigelow is only the fourth woman to be nominated for Best Director at the Oscars, and coming to the competition with the Director’s Guild medal could hold her in good stead to become the first women to pick up arguably the most coveted creative Oscar.
Battling the former couple are Quentin Tarantino, for Inglourious Basterds, Lee Daniels for Precious and Jason Reitman for Up In The Air.
All five of those films are up for Best Picture, alongside A Serious Man, The Blind Side, District 9, the animation Up and the British hope, An Education.
Its star Carey Mulligan is one of two British nominees in the Best Actress role; Dame Helen Mirren picks up her fourth Oscar nomination for The Last Station. They face competition from Meryl Streep (Julie & Julia), Gabourey Sidibe (precious) and Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side), whose profile has been raised by recognition from her peers at the Screen Actors Guild.
There’s a British hope in the Best Actor race too — Colin Firth, for A Single Man. The favourite in this category, though, is Jeff Bridges, for Crazy Heart. George Clooney also picked up a widely expected nomination for Up In The Air with a less than expected nod for the star of The Hurt Locker, Jeremy Renner. The final nominee here is Morgan Freeman, who plays Nelson Mandela in Invictus. Playing a real-life character never did anyone any harm in this category.
His co-star, as South African rugby captain Francois Pienaar, Matt Damon, is in the running for the Best Supporting Actor Oscar, alongside Christopher Plummer (The Last Station), Stanley Tucci (The Lovely Bones), Woody Harrelson (The Messenger) and the hotly tipped Christoph Waltz, whose fearsome performance as the Jew Hunter in Inglourious Basterds has been widely acclaimed.
Up In The Air co-stars Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick are competing against each other for the Best Supporting Actress Oscar. Maggie Gyllenhaal (Crazy Heart) and last year’s winner Penelope Cruz (Nine) are also in the running. But Mo’Nique’s abusive mother in Precious has already seen her pick up prizes in this category at other awards ceremonies.
There are more British nominees in the Best Adapted Screenplay category, with Nick Hornby nominated for turning Lynn Barber’s memoirs into An Education while Armando Iannucci and his team have brought The Thick of It to the big screen with In The Loop. Geoffrey Fletcher (precious), Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner (Up In The Air) and Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell (District 9) are the ones they have to beat.
In the Best Original Screenplay category, the Coen Brothers are nominated for A Serious Man, Quentin Tarantino is recognised for Inglourious Basterds, Mark Boal is up for The Hurt Locker, Alessandro Camon and Oren Moverman for The Messenger and the writers of Up, Bob Peterson, Pete Docter and Tom McCarthy.
As expected the two big foreign films of the year, A Prophet and The White Ribbon, are facing each other again – with competition from Israel’s Ajami, Peru’s The Milk of Sorrow and The Secret of Your Eyes, from Argentina.
The awards will be handed out at a ceremony, hosted by Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin, on Sunday the 7th March.

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