Prospective Academy Awards nominees have pretty much every decade of the last century covered, from the World War I epic War Horse through modern times with the family drama The Descendants.
In between at Tuesday morning's nominations are such contenders as the 1920s and '30s tales The
Artist and Hugo, the 1950s movie-making story My Week with Marilyn, the 1960s Deep South drama The Help, the 1970s Cold War thriller Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and the Margaret Thatcher chronicle The Iron Lady, spanning decades from her youth in World War II through her 1980s and '90s career as Britain's prime minister.
The Oscar nominations will be announced by Jennifer Lawrence at a 10-minute, predawn ceremony at the headquarters of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
The best-picture prize on Oscar night could become a tussle between the top films at the Golden Globes: best drama recipient The Descendants, starring George Clooney as a Hawaii father trying to keep his family together after a boating accident puts his wife in a coma and best musical or comedy winner The Artist, with Jean Dujardin as a silent-movie star whose career crumbles as talking pictures take over.
Clooney and Dujardin, who won the lead-actor Globes in their respective categories, are likely best-actor nominees at the Oscars.
Another performer with strong prospects is Globe dramatic actress winner Meryl Streep as Thatcher in The Iron Lady. Two-time Oscar winner Streep would pad 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.
Also in the running: Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer as black maids in Mississippi in The Help, Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe and Kenneth Branagh as Laurence Olivier in My Week with Marilyn Leonardo DiCaprio as FBI boss J. Edgar Hoover in J. Edgar Glenn Close as a woman masquerading as a male butler in Albert Nobbs; Brad Pitt as Oakland A's baseball team general manager Billy Beane in Moneyball, and Michael Fassbender as a sex addict in Shame.
Winners of the 84th annual Oscars will be announced at a Februry 26 ceremony televised live from Hollywood's Kodak Theatre, with Billy Crystal returning as host for the first time in eight years.
The most-beloved Oscar host of the last two decades, Crystal agreed to lead the show for the ninth time after Eddie Murphy bowed out in support of his pal, filmmaker Brett Ratner, who quit as Oscar producer amid the uproar over a gay slur he uttered in front of an audience at a screening of his and Murphy's comedy Tower Heist.
Crystal's return could bump up the TV ratings for the show, which have been on a general decline over the last couple of decades.
What usually results in big TV ratings, though, is a blockbuster such as eventual Oscar champs Titanic or The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King in the thick of the best-picture contest. More fans tune in because they have a stake in the outcome.
But there are no colossal films such as that in the mix this time.
The Help and best-picture longshot Bridesmaids are solid hits, both taking in about $170 million domestically, while The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is closing on the $100 million mark. So far, other best-picture prospects are well under that level, ranging from $75 million for Moneyball to $12 million for The Artist.
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