Nine not so fine: "Avatar" and "The Hurt Locker" lead this year's derby with nine nominations each; "Nine" managed just four nominations. However, beginning with "The Life of Emile Zola" in 1937, there have been 77 films that have landed 10 or more Oscar nominations. Last year's big champ "Slumdog Millionaire" won eight of its 10 races, while "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" managed just three wins from 13 nominations.
Money matters: On nomination day, "Avatar" broke the domestic box office record of 1997 best picture champ "Titanic" when it reached $601 million in receipts. The foreign title -- also held by "Titanic" -- fell to "Avatar" last week. While "Avatar" would thus be the highest-grossing best picture champ, "The Hurt Locker" -- with domestic receipts of $12.6 million -- would be the lowest when adjusted for inflation.
Take five: With double the number of entries in the best picture race, it is not so surprising that all five directing nominees helmed a contender. In the eight years from 1936 to 1943 when there were also 10 best picture nominees, the five directing nominees each year had a hand in one of those contenders save for 1936 and 1938. In 1936 Gregory LaCava ("My Man Godfrey") was the spoiler, while in 1938 it was Michael Curtiz ("Angels With Dirty Faces") who was the odd man out. Frank Capra took home the directing award in both those years, while Curtiz won his only Oscar in 1943 for helming "Casablanca" -- the last best picture champ to win over nine rivals.
All in the family: Father and son Ivan and Jason Reitman are nominated for producing "Up in the Air." Brothers Joel and Ethan Coen are double nominees for writing and producing "A Serious Man." Onetime married couple Kathryn Bigelow ("The Hurt Locker") and James Cameron ("Avatar") are each nominated for best director.
Something old, something new: Supporting actor nominee Christopher Plummer is a first-time contender at age 80 for his 86th movie, "The Last Station," while Gabourey Sidibe landed a lead actress nomination for her film debut in "Precious." Plummer also lends his voice to best picture nominee "Up."
Batting 1.000: Animated short nominee Nick Park ("Wallace & Gromit in A Matter of Loaf and Death") has won all four of his previous Oscar races -- animated short (1990, 1993, 1996) and animated feature (2005). In 1990 he was a double nominee, winning for "Creature Comforts" over "A Grand Day Out with Wallace & Gromit." In 1993 he won for "Wallace & Gromit in the Wrong Trousers," in 1996 for "Wallace & Gromit in A Close Shave" and in 2005 for "Wallace & Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit."
Animated features: "Up" is the second animated feature after "Beauty and the Beast" to contend for best picture. While "Beauty" had five other nominations in 1991, including three song bids, score and sound, "Up" is contending in four other categories -- screenplay, score, sound editing and animated feature. That last category wasn't created till 2001, and this is only the second year -- after 2002, when "Spirited Away" won -- that there have been five rather than three nominees.
Only the lonely: The nominations for lead actor Colin Firth ("A Single Man"), lead actress Meryl Streep ("Julie & Julia") and supporting actor Stanley Tucci ("The Lovely Bones") are the only Oscar nods for those films.
Return engagement: Only two of last year's acting nominees are back in the Oscar race this year -- lead actress nominee Meryl Streep and supporting actress nominee Penelope Cruz ("Nine"). Cruz -- who won that same award last year for "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" -- follows in the footsteps of supporting actress champs Estelle Parsons ("Bonnie & Clyde," 1967) and Lee Grant ("Shampoo," 1975), who both contended again the year after their victory; neither won. Bette Davis and Greer Garson share the record of most consecutive years nominated at five apiece in the lead actress category. Davis kicking off her reign in 1938 with a win for "Jezebel" while Garson began her run in 1941 with a nod for "Blossoms in the Dust."
Photo: Academy Award statues. Credit: AMPAS