A throwback silent movie and a film that pays tribute to the early days of cinema found themselves among a star-studded list of contenders including Steven Spielberg, George Clooney, Brad Pitt, and Woody Allen as Hollywood sent out invitations to its biggest party of the year.
Martin Scorsese's "Hugo," an adaptation of the Brian Selznick book, "The Invention of Hugo Cabret," led the way with 11 nominations as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced its Oscar nominees this morning. "The Artist," a silent movie set in Depression-era Hollywood, duplicated its Golden Globes acclaim with several nominations. Other "best picture" nods went to Spielberg's "War Horse," "Moneyball," "The Descendants," "The Tree of Life," Allen's "Midnight in Paris," the feel-good film "The Help" and the 9/11 tearjerker "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close."
Meryl Streep's dead-on portrayal of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in "The Iron Lady" earned her a record 17th Oscar nomination and could ultimately land her her third Oscar when the awards are handed out Feb. 26.
Clooney finds himself in the best actor mix for his role in "The Descendants," an acclaimed drama about a family coping with the looming death of its matriarch. (Clooney just won the Golden Globe in the same category.) Fellow Hollywood hunk Brad Pitt was nominated for his role as a numbers-crunching baseball team manager in the Aaron Sorkin-scripted "Moneyball," based on Michael Lewis' book.
Another surprise was a long-overdue Academy Award nomination for Gary Oldman, who scored a Best Actor nom for the largely-ignored spy thriller "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy." Despite being considered one of the best actors working today, Oldman has never been up for an Oscar.
In addition to Streep, Best Actress nods went to Viola Davis ("The Help"), Rooney Marra ("The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo"), Michelle Williams ("My Week with Marilyn") and Glenn Close ("Albert Nobbs").
The raunchy comedy "Bridesmaids" made a surprising impression - scoring nominations for Melissa McCarthy for Best Supporting Actress and for Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo for Best Original Screenplay. Comedic performances rarely capture Oscar gold, although McCarthy can look to Kevin Kline ("A Fish Called Wanda") and Marissa Tomei ("My Cousin Vinny") for inspiration.
"Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close," the adaptation of the Jonathan Safron Foer novel starring Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock, was another film that didn't garner much Golden Globe attention but snagged two big nods from the Academy: Best Supporting Actor for veteran Max Von Sydow and Best Picture.
Despite a long and prestigious career, this is only Von Sydow's second nomination. He was last nominated in 1987 for "Pelle the Conqueror." His competition will be Golden Globe winner Christopher Plummer, nominated as a senior citizen finally coming out of the closet in "Beginners." Plummer also surprisingly only has one other Oscar nomination to his name, Best Supporting Actor for 2009's "The Last Station".
With Spielberg, Allen and Scorsese all in the Best Picture mix, legendary directors will be center stage on Oscar night. Scorsese's "Hugo" pays loving homage to Hollywood's silent film era, though in a far different way from "The Artist." Allen's Indie hit "Midnight in Paris" was his most financially successful film ever.
The Academy allows for up to 10 Best Picture nominees, but only saw fit to nominate nine this year.
Veering away from the Golden Globes, the Oscars recognized Terrence Malick's divisive "Tree of Life" (Best Picture/Best DIrector), Chris Weitz's immigration-themed "A Better Life" (a Best Actor nom for star Demian Bichir) and the Gavin O'Connor MMA drama "Warrior" (Best Supporting Actor for Nick Nolte).
The 84th annual Academy Awards ceremony takes place Feb. 26 at Hollywood's Kodak Theatre and will be broadcast on ABC. Billy Crystal is hosting for his ninth time, after stepping in for fellow "Saturday Night Live" veteran Eddie Murphy, who pulled out. (You may recall the near-disastrous hosting gig by Anne Hathaway and James Franco last year, and understand why the Academy is treading the tried and true path.)
Here's the full list:
• "The Artist" Thomas Langmann, Producer
• "The Descendants" Jim Burke, Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor, Producers
• "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" Scott Rudin, Producer
• "The Help" Brunson Green, Chris Columbus and Michael Barnathan, Producers
• "Hugo" Graham King and Martin Scorsese, Producers
• "Midnight in Paris" Letty Aronson and Stephen Tenenbaum, Producers
• "Moneyball" Michael De Luca, Rachael Horovitz and Brad Pitt, Producers
• "The Tree of Life" Nominees to be determined
• "War Horse" Steven Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy, Producers
• Demián Bichir in "A Better Life"
• George Clooney in "The Descendants"
• Jean Dujardin in "The Artist"
• Gary Oldman in "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy"
• Brad Pitt in "Moneyball"
Best Supporting Actor
• Kenneth Branagh in "My Week with Marilyn"
• Jonah Hill in "Moneyball"
• Nick Nolte in "Warrior"
• Christopher Plummer in "Beginners"
• Max von Sydow in "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close"
• Glenn Close in "Albert Nobbs"
• Viola Davis in "The Help"
• Rooney Mara in "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo"
• Meryl Streep in "The Iron Lady"
• Michelle Williams in "My Week with Marilyn"
Best Supporting Actress
• Bérénice Bejo in "The Artist"
• Jessica Chastain in "The Help"
• Melissa McCarthy in "Bridesmaids"
• Janet McTeer in "Albert Nobbs"
• Octavia Spencer in "The Help"
• "The Artist" Michel Hazanavicius
• "The Descendants" Alexander Payne
• "Hugo" Martin Scorsese
• "Midnight in Paris" Woody Allen
• "The Tree of Life" Terrence Malick
Best Animated Feature
• "A Cat in Paris" Alain Gagnol and Jean-Loup Felicioli
• "Chico & Rita" Fernando Trueba and Javier Mariscal
• "Kung Fu Panda 2" Jennifer Yuh Nelson
• "Puss in Boots" Chris Miller
• "Rango" Gore Verbinski
Best Foreign Language Film
• "Bullhead" Belgium
• "Footnote" Israel
• "In Darkness" Poland
• "Monsieur Lazhar" Canada
• "A Separation" Iran
A complete list of nominees can be found on the official Academy Award web site. The Oscar telecast will air live Sunday, February 26th at 7:00 PM ET on ABC