For the first time since 1943 the Oscars feature 10 best-picture contenders instead of the usual five.
This year's best picture nominees are "Avatar", "The Blind Side", "District 9", "An Education", "The Hurt Locker", "Inglourious Basterds", "Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire", "A Serious Man", "Up", and "Up In the Air."
"I applaud the Academy voters this year. I think they gave us everything that we could possibly have wanted. They gave us a little bit of everything," said Tom Sherak, the president of the Motion Picture Academy.
The Oscar telecast producers are thrilled with the variety of films in the best picture race.
"It's a horse race, and it's a horse race for the public in the sense that they know these pictures. This is the year where you didn't have to go to an art house theater to see the movies," said Oscar telecast producer Bill Mechanic.
"Avatar" and "The Hurt Locker" tied for nine nominations apiece, which are the most among 2009 films. "Inglourious Basterds" received eight nominations, including one in the best supporting actor category for Christoph Waltz, who was little-known in the U.S. prior to this role.
One horse race everyone will have their eyes on is best director. Among the five nominees are Quentin Tarantino for "Inglourious Basterds", Lee Daniels for "Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire", Jason Reitman for "Up in the Air", James Cameron for "Avatar" and Kathryn Bigelow for "The Hurt Locker."
"Hollywood is all about back story, drama and conflict, and we have it build into this race with James Cameron up against his ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow. And these are the two frontrunners for best picture, Avatar versus Hurt Locker, David versus Goliath," said Tom O'Neil, TheEnvelope.com.
Bigelow is only the fourth woman to ever be nominated for best director. No woman has ever won the directing Oscar, and until Bigelow, no woman had ever won the Director's Guild honor.
Twelve of the acting nominees have never been nominated for an Academy Award before, and five are previous winners.
Jeff Bridges got his fifth nomination for "Crazy Heart," competing for best actor against George Clooney, "Up in the Air"; Colin Firth, "A Single Man"; Morgan Freeman, "Invictus"; and Jeremy Renner, "The Hurt Locker." This is Renner's first nomination.
In the best actress category, three of the contenders are first-time Oscar nominees, including Carey Mulligan for "An Education", Gabourey Sidibe for " Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire" and Sandra Bullock for her role as the real-life Leigh Anne Tuohy in "The Blind Side." Also nominated are Helen Mirren for "The Last Station" and 2-time winner Meryl Streep for "Julie & Julia."
This is Streep's 16th Oscar nomination. She was first nominated in 1978 for her role in "The Deer Hunter."
Nominated for best supporting actor are Matt Damon for "Invictus", Woody Harrelson for "The Messenger", Christopher Plummer for "The Last Station", "Stanley Tucci for "The Lovely Bones" and Christoph Waltz for "Inglourious Basterds."
The best supporting actress nominees are Penelope Cruz for "Nine", Vera Farmiga for "Up in the Air", Maggie Gyllenhaal for "Crazy Heart", Anna Kendrick for "Up in the Air" and Mo'Nique for "Precious: Based on the Novel `Push' by Sapphire."
"The only race where there's some suspense maybe is best actress, Sandra versus Meryl Streep, that's still pretty close. But otherwise, it looks like Jeff Bridges will win lead actor, Mo'nique and Christoph Waltz have those supporting races locked up," said O'Neil.
Disney-Pixar's "Up" is only the second fully animated film to ever be nominated for Best Picture, after 1991's "Beauty and the Beast," another Disney film.
The Academy Awards will be held on Sunday, March 7, 2010, right here on ABC7.
Disney is the parent company of ABC7.