Avatar, Hurt Locker in Oscar battle
Avatar and The Hurt Locker lead the Academy Awards with nine nominations each, including best picture and director for James Cameron and ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow.
For the first time the Oscars feature 10 best-picture contenders instead of the usual five.
Also nominated for best-picture are District 9, Up, Inglourious Basterds, The Blind Side, Up In The Air, A Serious Man, An Education and Precious: Based On the Novel Push By Sapphire.
Cameron's Avatar won best drama and director at the Golden Globes, while Bigelow's The Hurt Locker beat Cameron at the Directors Guild of America Awards.
Bigelow, whose films include Point Break and K19: The Widowmaker, is only the fourth woman nominated for a directing Oscar, following Sofia Coppola for 2003's Lost In Translation, Jane Campion for 1993's The Piano and Lena Wertmuller for 1975's Seven Beauties.
No woman has ever won the directing Oscar, and until Bigelow, no woman had evern won the Director's Guild honour.
She said: "I am perhaps overwhelmed with joy. But I do think that I hope someday we can lose the modifier and that becomes a moot point whether the person is male or female and they're just filmmakers making statements that they believe in."
Lee Daniels, who made Precious, became only the second black filmmaker nominated for best director, after John Singleton for 1991's Boyz N The Hood.
"I can't crack champagne because I've been cracking champagne throughout all these awards ceremonies and I'm on this psychotic diet, so I'll celebrate in the gym. It is an Oscar diet. I gotta fit ... in that tux," he joked.
Also nominated for best director are Jason Reitman for Up In The Air and Quentin Tarantino for Inglourious Basterds.