LOS ANGELES — Martin Scorsese's "Hugo" and silent-era throwback film "The Artist" led the pack of Oscar nominees on Tuesday, including nods in the best film category, in the race for the world's top movie honors.
"Hugo," Scorsese's 3D film exploring the magic of moviemaking, earned the most nominations with 11 overall, including one for him in the director category. "The Artist," which has swept through the awards season this year taking many pre-Oscar honors, had 10 nominations in total.
The two easily outdistanced other top nominees, including baseball movie "Moneyball," with six nods, and Steven Spielberg's World War One tale "War Horse," also with six nominations.
Joining those four films in the race for best movie are family drama "The Descendants," civil rights movie "The Help," Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris," Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life," and 9/11 movie "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close."
Although it had 11 nominations, the nods for "Hugo" came largely from relatively minor categories such as art direction and costume design. The 10 nods for "The Artist," by contrast, were in a wide-range of groups including best supporting actress for Berenice Bejo and director for Michel Hazanavicius.
Best actress nominees were led by Meryl Streep portraying former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in "The Iron Lady," Glenn Close in a gender-bending role in "Albert Nobbs," Viola Davis for "The Help," Rooney Mara in "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," and Michelle Williams in "My Week with Marilyn."
The best actor race sets up an intriguing match between friends George Clooney and Brad Pitt. Clooney was nominated for his role as a father trying to keep his family together in a time of crisis in "The Descendants," and Pitt in his turn as a numbers-crunching baseball executive in "Moneyball."
But the pair of Hollywood A-listers face stiff competition from Frenchman Jean Dujardin playing a fading silent picture star redeemed by love in "The Artist," as well as Gary Oldman in "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" and Demian Bichir in "A Better Life."
The Oscars are given out by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and this year's winners will be named at a gala ceremony in Hollywood on Feb. 26.
The awards included a wide variety of films from heart-warming "The Artist" to serious dramas like "The Descendants" and "Extremely Loud & Dangerously Close" to art films such as "The Tree of Life."
"I don't see a trend at all this year. You never want to see anyone left out but it (diversity) does make for great conversation," said Tom Sherak, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
"The Artist" has been a Hollywood darling this awards season winning best film honors from critics groups and taking the Golden Globe award for best film musical or comedy. In the best picture race, it may face its stiffest competition from "The Descendants," which was named the Golden Globe best film drama winner and also has been a critical hit.
"Filming 'The Artist' in Los Angeles was a dream come true, and to receive this recognition today is far beyond what I ever imagined," Hazanavicius said in a statement.
With so many nominees among best picture contenders, clues in the race come from the best director category because in the Oscar's 83 previous awards there has been a strong correlation between the best director and best film winners.
Joining Hazanavicius in that category are "The Descendants" maker Alexander Payne, Scorsese with "Hugo," Allen and his "Midnight in Paris" and Malick with "Tree of Life." Shut out was Tate Taylor, director of widely touted "The Help."
In other key awards, Bejo will be joined in the best supporting actress race by Jessica Chastain and Octavia Spencer, both in "The Help," Janet McTeer for "Albert Nobbs" and Melissa McCarthy for comedy "Bridesmaids."
Best supporting actor nominees were Kenneth Branagh in "My Week with Marilyn," Jonah Hill for "Moneyball," Nick Nolte in "Warrior" and veterans Christopher Plummer for "Beginners" and Max von Sydow in "Extremely Loud & Dangerously Close."
Foreign language film nominees were Belgian movie "Bullhead," Canada's "Monsieur Lazhar," Iranian film "A Separation," "Footnote" from Israel and Poland's "In Darkness."
© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.