'Avatar' and 'The Hurt Locker' to slug it out at Oscars tonight

All eyes at tonight's Oscars will be on the showdown between 'Avatar' and 'The Hurt Locker'. Each has nine nominations.

All eyes at tonight's Oscars will be on the showdown between 'Avatar' and 'The Hurt Locker'. Each has nine nominations.

The director and best picture categories are expected to be one of the biggest Oscar battles in years.

They are tipped to be a two-way fight between Avatar’s James Cameron and his ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow, whose Iraq War drama 'The Hurt Locker' was made for a fraction of the cost of the sci-fi blockbuster.

The Hurt Locker’s widespread critical acclaim helped it creep ahead in some recent bookies’ odds for the coveted gongs of best film and best director.

The movie cleaned up at the Baftas, scooping six awards, while 'Avatar', said to be the most expensive film made, won two, both in technical categories.

Bigelow is only the fourth female best director nominee in Oscar history and would be its first winner.

Other director nominees are Quentin Tarantino for Second World War saga 'Inglourious Basterds', a film which is in the running for eight awards, Lee Daniels ('Precious') and Jason Reitman ('Up In The Air').

Daniels is only the second black film-maker nominated for best director.

American football drama 'The Blind Side', teen tales 'An Education' and 'Precious', 1960s drama 'A Serious Man', animated comedy 'Up', recession tale 'Up In The Air' and 'District 9' are up for best film alongside 'Avatar', 'Inglourious Basterds' and 'The Hurt Locker'.

The 82nd Academy Awards will be hosted by Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles.

For the first time since 1943 the Oscars have featured 10 best-picture contenders this year instead of the usual five.

British film 'An Education' has three nominations including best adapted screenplay for writer Nick Hornby, whose script is based on journalist Lynn Barber’s memoir.

Armando Iannucci is in the same category for 'The Thick Of It' spin-off 'In The Loop', while Nick Park’s Wallace and Gromit caper 'A Matter Of Loaf And Death' is in the running for animated short film.

Sandra Bullock, who is Oscar-nominated for the first time, who is seen as a shoo-in after taking the Golden Globe for her performance in 'The Blind Side'.

Also nominated are Meryl Streep, who played TV cook Julia Child in 'Julie and Julia' and extends her record as the most nominated performer in Oscars history with 16 nods, and Gabourey Sidibe, who made her debut in 'Precious'.

Helen Mirren, who won an Oscar three years ago for her performance in 'The Queen', has said: “I think Tolstoy himself would have been perplexed by all this, but Sofya, his wife, would have been over the moon. So in that spirit, I am too.”

Carey Mulligan previously said of her nomination: “This is beyond anything I’ve ever dreamed of.”

In the best actor category, Colin Firth is tipped by bookies to lose out to Jeff Bridges for his role in country music drama 'Crazy Heart'.

William Hill has cut Bridges’ odds to 1/7 to win – the shortest price it has offered for a major Oscar since Helen Mirren was quoted at 1/50 for her portrayal of the Queen.

Others competing for best actor are George Clooney for 'Up In The Air', Morgan Freeman for 'Invictus' and Jeremy Renner for 'The Hurt Locker'.

Iannucci previously expressed his surprise at his nomination by saying on Twitter: “Bloomin heck.... Bonk me purple.”

Nine’s Penelope Cruz, 'Up In The Ai'r co-stars Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick, Crazy Heart’s Maggie Gyllenhaal and 'Precious' star Mo’Nique are contenders for supporting actress.

Matt Damon ('Invictus'), Woody Harrelson ('The Messenger'), Christopher Plummer ('The Last Station'), Stanley Tucci ('The Lovely Bones') and Christoph Waltz ('Inglourious Basterds') are up for best supporting actor.

Star Trek had been considered a likely best-picture nominee, but it missed out, scoring only technical nominations including visual effects and make-up.

Last year’s Oscars were dominated by British rags-to-riches tale 'Slumdog Millionaire', while Kate Winslet won best actress.

The build-up to the awards is being shown on Sky1, with the ceremony being broadcast on Sky Movies Premiere.

The nominees for the 82nd Oscars:

:: Best actor

Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart)

George Clooney (Up In The Air)

Colin Firth (A Single Man)

Morgan Freeman (Invictus)

Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker)

:: Best supporting actor

Matt Damon (Invictus)

Woody Harrelson (The Messenger)

Christopher Plummer (The Last Station)

Stanley Tucci (The Lovely Bones)

Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds)

:: Best actress

Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side)

Helen Mirren (The Last Station)

Carey Mulligan (An Education)

Gabourey Sidibe (Precious)

Meryl Streep (Julie & Julia)

:: Best supporting actress

Penelope Cruz (Nine)

Vera Farmiga (Up In The Air)

Maggie Gyllenhaal (Crazy Heart)

Anna Kendrick (Up In The Air)

Mo’Nique (Precious)

:: Best adapted screenplay

District 9 – Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell

An Education – Nick Hornby

In The Loop – Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, Tony Roche

Precious – Geoffrey Fletcher

Up In The Air – Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner

:: Best original screenplay

The Hurt Locker – Mark Boal

Inglourious Basterds – Quentin Tarantino

The Messenger – Alessandro Camon and Oren Moverman

A Serious Man – Joel Coen and Ethan Coen

Up – Bob Peterson, Pete Docter (story by Pete Docter, Bob Peterson, Tom

McCarthy)

:: Best film

Avatar

The Blind Side

District 9

An Education

The Hurt Locker

Inglourious Basterds

Precious

A Serious Man

Up

Up In The Air

:: Best director

Avatar – James Cameron

The Hurt Locker – Kathryn Bigelow

Inglourious Basterds – Quentin Tarantino

Precious – Sapphire Lee Daniels

Up In The Air – Jason Reitman

:: Animated feature film

Coraline

Fantastic Mr Fox

The Princess And The Frog

The Secret Of Kells

Up

:: Art direction

Avatar

The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus

Nine

Sherlock Holmes

The Young Victoria

:: Cinematography

Avatar

Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince

The Hurt Locker

Inglourious Basterds

The White Ribbon

:: Costume design

Bright Star

Coco Before Chanel

The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus

Nine

The Young Victoria

:: Documentary (feature)

Burma VJ

The Cove

Food, Inc

The Most Dangerous Man In America: Daniel Ellsberg And The Pentagon Papers

Which Way Home

:: Documentary (short subject)

China’s Unnatural Disaster: The Tears Of Sichuan Province

The Last Campaign Of Governor Booth Gardner

The Last Truck: Closing Of A GM Plant

Music By Prudence

Rabbit A La Berlin

:: Film editing

Avatar

District 9

The Hurt Locker

Inglourious Basterds

Precious

:: Foreign language film

Ajami (Israel)

El Secreto De Sus Ojos (Argentina)

The Milk Of Sorrow (Peru)

Un Prophete (France)

The White Ribbon (Germany)

:: Make-up

Il Divo

Star Trek

The Young Victoria

:: Music (original score)

Avatar – James Horner

Fantastic Mr Fox – Alexandre Desplat

The Hurt Locker – Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders

Sherlock Holmes – Hans Zimmer

Up – Michael Giacchino

:: Music (original song)

Almost There (The Princess And The Frog – Randy Newman)

Down In New Orleans (The Princess And The Frog – Randy Newman)

Loin de Paname (Paris 36 – Reinhardt Wagner and Frank Thomas)

Take It All (Nine – Maury Yeston)

The Weary Kind (Crazy Heart – Ryan Bingham and T Bone Burnett)

:: Short film (animated)

French Roast

Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty

The Lady And The Reaper (La Dama y la Muerte)

Logorama

A Matter Of Loaf And Death

:: Short film (live action)

The Door

Instead Of Abracadabra

Kavi

Miracle Fish

The New Tenants

:: Sound editing

Avatar

The Hurt Locker

Inglourious Basterds

Star Trek

Up

:: Sound mixing

Avatar

The Hurt Locker

Inglourious Basterds

Star Trek

Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen

:: Visual effects

Avatar

District 9

Star Trek

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