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'Avatar,' 'Hurt Locker' Lead in Oscar Nods

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CNN: The 3-D sci-fi blockbuster "Avatar" and war thriller "The Hurt Locker" each gathered nine Oscar nominations for the 82nd annual Academy Awards.

Nominations were announced Tuesday morning.

The head-to-head competition between the two films takes on additional drama since the directors of those two films -- James Cameron and Kathryn Bigelow -- were once married to each other.

Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds" followed with eight nominations.

Ten films share 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."

See the complete list of nominees

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. Follow everything Oscar on CNN's 2010 Academy Awards special

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."

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.

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