"Avatar," "Hurt Locker" square off at Oscars

Tue Feb 2, 2010 4:24pm EST
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By Bob Tourtellotte

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Fantasy "Avatar" and war movie "The Hurt Locker" claimed nine Oscar nominations each on Tuesday, including best film, pitting the two against one another as front-runners for the world's highest film honors.

The contrast between the two presents several intriguing elements. "Avatar" director James Cameron and Kathryn Bigelow, his ex-wife and director of "Hurt Locker," will compete against each other in the category for best director.

"Avatar" is a big-budget science-fiction space adventure from major studio 20th Century Fox with a global box office haul over $2 billion. It is the highest-grossing movie of all time -- eclipsing Cameron's previous blockbuster "Titanic."

"This has gone way above our wildest expectations. We were looking to make a good movie that entertained the masses," said "Avatar" producer Jon Landau, calling it "a pinch-me moment."

At the opposite end of the movie spectrum is "Hurt Locker," a low-budget film about soldiers who defuse bombs in Iraq made by independent Summit Entertainment. Its worldwide ticket sales stand at a mere $16 million.

"I was surprised at the number of nominations and very grateful," said "Hurt Locker" writer and producer Mark Boal. "When a film gets nominated in nine different categories, you just have to take it as a huge compliment."

Bigelow's nomination was a rarity. Only three other women, including Sofia Coppola for 2003's "Lost in Translation," have been nominated for best director in the 80-plus years since the Oscars have been bestowed by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. No woman has ever won.

Only one nod behind "Avatar" and "Hurt Locker" is Quentin Tarantino's World War Two fantasy, "Inglourious Basterds," also in the best film and best director race.   Continued...

<p>A scene from best picture nominee "Avatar". REUTERS/WETA/Fox Pictures/Handout</p>