The Avatar, sorry, Oscar nominations are out.
James Cameron's big, blue blockbuster will vie for Best Picture opposite The Hurt Locker; Inglourious Basterds; Precious; Up; Up in the Air; the Coen brothers' A Serious Man; An Education; one entry that wasn't entirely a sure thing, District 9; and one entry that was completely a shock, The Blind Side.
Avatar and The Hurt Locker tied with the most overall nominations: nine. Inglourious Basterds scored eight. Precious and Up in the Air notched six each.
The acting categories contained a surprise or two. No, actually, they contained a surprise, not two.
Usual suspects Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart), George Clooney (Up in the Air), Colin Firth (A Single Man) and Invictus' Morgan Freeman are up for Best Actor against The Hurt Locker's Jeremy Renner, who isn't a name, but he's not a pick from left field, either.
The Best Actress field likewise held to prescribed form, with heavyweights Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side) and Meryl Streep (Julie & Julia) set to battle it out with Precious newcomer Gabourey Sidibe, An Education's art-house fave Carey Mulligan and former winner Helen Mirren (The Last Station). All five women were Screen Actors Guild nominees, just as all five Best Actor men were.
Making it 3 for 3, the Best Supporting Actor category is also a repeat from SAGs: Matt Damon (Invictus); Woody Harrelson (The Messenger); Christopher Plummer (The Last Station); Stanley Tucci (The Lovely Bones); and Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds). Waltz, Basterds' baddest Nazi of them all, won the SAG—and just about everything else so far this awards season.
Maggie Gyllenhaal was the lone surprise, breaking into the Best Supporting Actress field and proving Crazy Heart isn't all about Jeff Bridges (although mostly it is). Her competition: Precious frontrunner Mo'nique; Up in the Air costars (and presumed vote-splitters) Anna Kendrick and Vera Farmiga; and Nine savior Penélope Cruz.
In the Best Director race, the Titanic Cameron could reign again as king of the world, but ex-wife and Directors Guild victor Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker) won't make it easy. A win by Inglourious Basterds' Quentin Tarantino, Up in the Air's Jason Reitman or Precious' Lee Daniels, who round out the category, would be considered an upset.
Not even the omnipotent Cameron is really omnipotent: He was denied a screenplay nomination. Avatar and The Blind Side were the only two Best Picture nominees to not figure in the screenplay categories.
Thanks to his writing nods, Tarantino's a double nominee; Reitman, who also produced Up in the Air, is a triple threat.
(Originally published Feb. 2, 2010, at 5:51 a.m. PT)