Hollywood is gearing up for the Academy Awards, also known as the Oscars. The event March 7 is the highlight of the year for the American movie industry. Nominees who attended a recent luncheon say the event is a more of a celebration than a contest.
Christoph Waltz is an Austrian actor who got an Oscar nomination for his supporting role in the Quentin Tarantino film "Inglourious Basterds." Waltz, considered a favorite for his portrayal of a suave but sinister Nazi, says the Oscar race is not about winning.
"It's not a competition. It's not a sports event. There's no pistol going off and we all run and the guy who does it under 10 seconds comes in first. We do this together. This is a really beautiful camaraderie that I have never experienced."
Major contenders for this year's Oscars include filmmaker James Cameron and his groundbreaking three-dimensional fantasy "Avatar."
Lee Daniels, the filmmaker behind the unexpected success "Precious," says the film's central character is an outsider ignored by those around her. He says that's not a typical plot for an Oscar-nominated movie. The main character, played by best actress nominee Gabourey Sidibe, is a troubled and overweight African American teenager.
Daniels is a nominee as director and producer. He is African American and gay, and he says that at first, he did not take the nomination too seriously.
"And then I got thousands of emails, thousands of emails, of young, not just African American filmmakers, but gay filmmakers, Chinese filmmakers, that there's a chance that the Academy is wise," he said. "So, it's monumental, guys. I'm over the moon about this."
There are five nominees in most Oscar categories. The best picture competition, which honors a film's producers, has been expanded to 10 entries this year. Yet in every category, most nominees will go home without an Oscar. Many take their loss in stride, but the disappointment is clear on the face of some of the losers.
Maggie Gyllenhaal is a nominee for supporting actress for "Crazy Heart," a film about an aging country musician. She plays opposite Jeff Bridges and she says the veteran actor gave her advice about not getting too excited about the competition.
"The one thing he did say to me before I was nominated, actually, he said, there isn't actually anything at the end of the rainbow. He said, it's a lot of fun, and enjoy it in that spirit."
Jeremy Renner, a nominee for best actor for his role in the war film "The Hurt Locker," says recognition from the fans, especially the families of war veterans, has been just as rewarding as a possible Oscar win.
"We thought we had won when were in four theaters," he said. "We won when we wrapped the movie. It was already a victory for us, so all this is - it's been a really lovely, slow trajectory, and for me to be standing here now is kind of bananas, but what a wonderful feeling."
The Hurt Locker, from director Kathryn Bigelow, is tied with James Cameron's "Avatar" as a leading Oscar entry. Both films have nine nominations, including nods for their directors. Both films will also compete for the Oscar for best picture.
There are many awards in Hollywood, from critics and foreign reporters, and from associations of actors, producers and directors. But the Academy Awards are the culmination and climax of the award season.
Colin Firth, star of the drama "A Single Man," says the whirlwind of activities leading up to the Oscars leaves him uncertain how he feels about his nomination as best actor.
"Since people start talking about this, you're constantly on a plane and talking yourself into circles, so that actually you don't process anything," he said. "So I'm sure I'm ecstatic."
Oscar winners are selected by roughly 6,000 members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which is made up of actors, directors, producers and others in the movie industry.