The 82nd annual Academy Awards ceremony is being held in Hollywood, with the movie industry's biggest stars gathered together to recognize the year's top films and filmmakers.
In early awards, Christoph Waltz won the best supporting actor for his role as a cunning Nazi officer in Inglourious Basterds.
Actress Mo'Nique won best supporting actress for her role as an abusive mother in the drama Precious.
Mark Boal took the first Oscar for The Hurt Locker - winning best original screenplay. Jeffrey Fletcher won best adapted screenplay for Precious.
The science fiction epic Avatar and the critically acclaimed Iraq war drama The Hurt Locker top the list of contenders with nine Oscar nominations each.
Those include best picture and best director for James Cameron of Avatar, the highest grossing film of all time, and best director for Kathryn Bigelow of The Hurt Locker.
Bigelow, who is Cameron's ex-wife, is the odds-on favorite to win Best Director after receiving a series of awards seen as early indicators to Oscar success. To date, no woman ever has received Best Director Academy Award.
A total of 10 films are nominated for best picture hits year, including the World War II revenge saga Inglourious Basterds - District 9 a science-fiction thriller set in South Africa - and Precious a story of inner city life in Harlem.
Other contenders are the football drama The Blind Side, the British teen tale An Education, the Jewish domestic chronicle A Serious Man, the recession-era drama Up in the Air, and the animated adventure Up.
In the best acting categories, veteran actor Jeff Bridges earned a nomination for his performance as a downtrodden country singer in Crazy Heart, while Sandra Bullock leads the pack for best actress for her role as an adoptive mother in The Blind Side.
Nominations the foreign language category include the Israeli-Arab film Ajami, which depicts life in a mixed Jewish-Arab neighborhood in the Mediterranean city of Jaffa.
Other nominees include The Milk of Sorrow, set in the aftermath of Peru's violent and former repressive regime, the bleak black and white German murder mystery The White Ribbon, the Argentine crime drama The Secret in their Eyes, and France's A Prophet.