Martin Scorsese's Paris adventure Hugo leads the Academy Awards with 11 nominations, among them best picture and the latest director honor for the Oscar-winning filmmaker.
Also nominated for best picture Tuesday: the silent film The Artist; the family drama The Descendants; the Sept. 11 tale Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close; the Deep South drama The Help; the romantic fantasy Midnight in Paris; the sports tale Moneyball; the family chronicle The Tree of Life; and the World War I epic War Horse.
The nominations set up a best-picture showdown between the top films at the Golden Globes: best musical or comedy recipient The Artist and best drama winner The Descendants.
The Artist ran second with 10 nominations, among them writing and directing nominations for French filmmaker Michel Hazanavicius, a best-actor honor for Jean Dujardin and a supporting-actress nod for Berenice Bejo.
"I can't believe that a year ago I was learning how to tap dance and today I am nominated for an Academy Award," said Bejo, the romantic partner of Hazanavicius, who plays a rising big-screen star of the sound era in The Artist.
Because of a rule change requiring films to receive a certain number of first-place votes, the best-picture field has only nine nominees rather than the 10 that were in the running the last two years.
Scorsese, who won the directing prize at the Globes for Hugo, picked up his seventh Oscar nomination in the category. After decades of being overlooked for Hollywood's top filmmaking award, Scorsese finally won the directing Oscar for 2006's The Departed, which also was named best picture.
Dujardin, the Globe winner for best actor in a musical or comedy as a silent-era star whose career goes kaput with the arrival of talking pictures, will be up against Globe dramatic actor recipient George Clooney for The Descendants, in which the Oscar-winning superstar plays a dad trying to hold his Hawaiian family together after a boating accident puts his wife in a coma.
Other best-actor contenders are: Demian Bichir as an immigrant father in A Better Life; Gary Oldman as British spymaster George Smiley in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy; and Brad Pitt as Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane in Moneyball.
Globe winners Meryl Streep (best dramatic actress as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady) and Michelle Williams (best musical or comedy actress as Marilyn Monroe in My Week with Marilyn) scored Oscar nominations for best actress.
Two-time Oscar winner Streep padded her record as the most-nominated actress, raising her total to 17 nominations, five more than Katharine Hepburn and Jack Nicholson, who are tied for second-place.
Streep went two-for-four on her first nominations, winning supporting actress for 1979's Kramer vs. Kramer and best actress for 1982's Sophie's Choice. But she has lost her last 12 times, and the Globe win for her spot-on personification of Thatcher looks like her best chance yet to break that losing streak.
Along with Streep and Williams, best-actress nominees are: Glenn Close as a 19th century Irishwoman masquerading as a male butler in Albert Nobbs; Viola Davis as a black maid going public with tales of white Southern employers in The Help; and Rooney Mara as a traumatized, vengeful computer genius in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
"I am honored to be in company with such beautiful artists, and touched deeply by my fellow actors for their generosity in giving me this acknowledgment," Streep said.
Octavia Spencer's win at the Globes as supporting-actress for The Help, in which she plays a fiery maid whose mouth continually gets her in trouble, could give her front-runner status for the same prize at the Oscars. The same may hold true for supporting-actor nominee Christopher Plummer, who won a Globe for his role as an elderly dad coming out as gay in Beginners.
An esteemed film and stage actor, Plummer went most of his 60-year career unacknowledged at the Oscars until earning a supporting-actor nomination two years ago as Leo Tolstoy in The Last Station. If he wins this time, the 82-year-old Plummer would become the oldest acting recipient ever; Jessica Tandy now holds that position for her best-actress win in Driving Miss Daisy at age 80.
Also in contention for supporting actor: Kenneth Branagh as Laurence Olivier in My Week with Marilyn; Jonah Hill as a statistics whiz in Moneyball; Nick Nolte as a derelict dad making amends in Warrior; and Max von Sydow as a mute mystery man in Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.
Also up for supporting actress are The Help co-star Jessica Chastain as Spencer's lonely, needy boss; Melissa McCarthy as a crude but caring member of the wedding in Bridesmaids; and Janet McTeer as a woman posing as a male laborer in Albert Nobbs.
McCarthy is a rare funny lady competing at the Oscars, which seldom honor performances in mainstream comedies such as Bridesmaids.
The nomination for McCarthy was a small surprise next to some other startling turns among the nominations.
Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock's Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, which got mixed reviews and has not been much of a factor at earlier Hollywood awards, was a very unexpected best-picture nominee. Von Sydow's supporting-actor nomination also was a surprise.
Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life also had been considered a bit of a best-picture longshot. The movie, which won top honors at last May's Cannes Film Festival but was a love-it-or-hate-it drama among audiences, also picked up a directing nomination for Malick.
Oscar heavyweight Clint Eastwood's J. Edgar was shut out entirely, including for best actor, where Leonardo DiCaprio had been a strong prospect as FBI boss J. Edgar Hoover.
Other surprises included best-actor contender Bichir, who gave a terrific performance in A Better Life, a film few people have seen.
Bichir beat out not only DiCaprio but also such actors as Ryan Gosling for two films, Drive and The Ides of March and Michael Fassbender for Shame, who both had been high on Oscar forecasters' lists.
Also missing out on nominations were Tilda Swinton for We Need to Talk About Kevin, Albert Brooks for Drive and Shailene Woodley for The Descendants.
The best-director roster is loaded with past winners and nominees, including Scorsese for Hugo, Malick for The Tree of Life, Woody Allen for Midnight in Paris and Alexander Payne for The Descendants.
Midnight in Paris, Allen's biggest hit in decades, was the filmmaker's first best-picture nominee since 1986's Hannah and Her Sisters and first directing nomination since 1994's Bullets Over Broadway. With his 15th honor for original screenplay, Allen also extended his lead as record-holder for most writing nominations (Billy Wilder is second with 12).
The lone newcomer is Hazanavicius for The Artist, a critical darling that has stacked up an impressive list of honors and nominations at earlier awards since its debut last year at Cannes.
While Steven Spielberg's best-picture contender War Horse picked up six nominations, the Oscar-winning filmmaker missed out in the directing category, a prize he has won twice. His first cartoon feature, the Golden Globe-winning The Adventures of Tintin, also did not make the list for best animated film.
Another animated snub was Cars 2, the first feature-length cartoon from Disney's Pixar Animation that failed to earn a nomination since the category was added in 2001. Pixar films including Toy Story 3, Up and WALL-E had won the last four animation Oscars.
This time, the animated nominees are A Cat in Paris, Chico & Rita, Kung Fu Panda 2, Puss in Boots and Rango.
Complete list of 84th Annual Academy Award nominations announced Tuesday:
1. Best Picture: The Artist, The Descendants, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, The Help, Hugo, Midnight in Paris, Moneyball, The Tree of Life, War Horse.
2. Actor: Demian Bichir, A Better Life; George Clooney, The Descendants; Jean Dujardin, The Artist; Gary Oldman, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy; Brad Pitt, Moneyball.
3. Actress: Glenn Close, Albert Nobbs; Viola Davis, The Help; Rooney Mara, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo; Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady; Michelle Williams, My Week With Marilyn.
4. Supporting Actor: Kenneth Branagh, My Week With Marilyn; Jonah Hill, Moneyball; Nick Nolte, Warrior; Christopher Plummer, Beginners; Max von Sydow, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.
5. Supporting Actress: Berenice Bejo, The Artist; Jessica Chastain, The Help; Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids; Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs; Octavia Spencer, The Help.
6. Directing: Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist; Alexander Payne, The Descendants; Martin Scorsese, Hugo; Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris; Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life.
7. Foreign Language Film: Bullhead, Belgium; Footnote, Israel; In Darkness, Poland; Monsieur Lazhar, Canada; A Separation, Iran.
8. Adapted Screenplay: Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, The Descendants; John Logan, Hugo; George Clooney, Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon, The Ides of March; Steven Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin and Stan Chervin, Moneyball; Bridget O'Connor and Peter Straughan, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.
9. Original Screenplay: Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist; Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig, Bridesmaids; J.C. Chandor, Margin Call; Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris; Asghar Farhadi, A Separation.
10. Animated Feature Film: A Cat in Paris; Chico & Rita; Kung Fu Panda 2; Puss in Boots; Rango.
11. Art Direction: The Artist, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, Hugo, Midnight in Paris, War Horse.
12. Cinematography: The Artist, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Hugo, The Tree of Life, War Horse.
13. Sound Mixing: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Hugo, Moneyball, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, War Horse.
14. Sound Editing: Drive, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Hugo, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, War Horse.
15. Original Score: The Adventures of Tintin, John Williams; The Artist, Ludovic Bource; Hugo, Howard Shore; Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Alberto Iglesias; War Horse, John Williams.
16. Original Song: "Man or Muppet" from The Muppets, Bret McKenzie; "Real in Rio" from Rio, Sergio Mendes, Carlinhos Brown and Siedah Garrett.
17. Costume: Anonymous, The Artist, Hugo, Jane Eyre, W.E.
18. Documentary Feature: Hell and Back Again, If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front, Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory, Pina, Undefeated.
19. Documentary (short subject): The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement, God Is the Bigger Elvis, Incident in New Baghdad, Saving Face, The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom.
20. Film Editing: The Artist, The Descendants, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Hugo, Moneyball.
21. Makeup: Albert Nobbs, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, The Iron Lady.
22. Animated Short Film: Dimanche/Sunday, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, La Luna, A Morning Stroll, Wild Life.
23. Live Action Short Film: Pentecost, Raju, The Shore, Time Freak, Tuba Atlantic.
24. Visual Effects: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, Hugo, Real Steel, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Transformers: Dark of the Moon.