By reaping Academy Award nominations for best picture, "Avatar" and "District 9" have shattered a strong bias among academy voters. In the past, only two sci-fi films have been nominated for the top Oscars: "Star Wars" (1977) and "E.T." (1982). OK, three if we count "A Clockwork Orange" (1971), but should we?
Prior to "Up" soaring into the Oscars' best-picture category, only one animated film had ever been nominated in that top race: "Beauty and the Beast" (1991).
No woman has yet won the Academy Award for best director. Prior to Kathryn Bigelow's bid for "The Hurt Locker," only three female helmers were nominated: Lina Wertmüller for "Seven Beauties" (1976), Jane Campion for "The Piano" (1993) and Sofia Coppola for "Lost in Translation" (2003).
Lee Daniels ("Precious") is the second African American nominated for best director. The first was John Singleton for "Boyz in the Hood" (1991).
That "Avatar" and "The Hurt Locker" lead with the most nominations at nine apiece may be fortuitous for one of them. Over the last 20 years, the movie with the most nominations has won best picture 15 times.
The last time that there were 10 nominees for best picture was 1943 (year of film release; awards ceremony was held in 1944). The winner was "Casablanca."
Photo: Scene from "Avatar." Credit: 20th Century Fox