In this film publicity image released by Summit Entertainment, Jeremy Renner is shown in a scene from, "The Hurt Locker."
Academy Awards voters are about to release their first top-10 list in 66 years. Oscar nominations Tuesday feature 10 best-picture nominees instead of the usual five, the first time since the 1943 awards show that so many films are competing for Hollywood's highest honor.
Academy organizers say they wanted a broader range of titles in the mix, including worthy populist movies that often miss out on best-picture nominations in favor of the smaller dramas Oscar voters typically prefer.
Blockbuster best-picture contenders usually translate to better ratings for the Oscar broadcast, whose TV audience peaked with James Cameron's "Titanic" triumph 12 years ago. Ratings have been so-so ever since, hitting an all-time low two years ago.
Luckily for Oscar overseers, the show this time likely will include the biggest thing since "Titanic," Cameron's own "Avatar." The science-fiction sensation has soared past "Titanic" to become No. 1 on the box-office charts, with $2 billion and climbing worldwide.
From 1931 to 1943, the Oscars featured between eight and 12 best-picture nominees. There were 10 in 1943, when "Casablanca" won best picture, but the show switched to five nominees after that.
Other hits in the running for slots in this season's expanded best-picture race include the sci-fi tales "Star Trek" and "District 9," the World War II saga "Inglourious Basterds," the football drama "The Blind Side," the Julia Child romp "Julie & Julia," and the animated comedy "Up."
Prospects also include critical favorites such as the war-on-terror thriller "The Hurt Locker," the recession tale "Up in the Air," the Nelson Mandela story "Invictus," and the teen dramas "An Education" and "Precious: Based on the Novel `Push' By Sapphire."
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