‘Hugo’ And ‘The Artist’ Lead Oscar Race

George Clooney and BFF Brad Pitt to face off in Best Actor category.

A silent picture, a baseball flick, a horse tale, a 3-D children’s movie for grown-ups, an infidelity family drama, an ode to classic cinema and a film that tackles race relations against the backdrop of the 1960s civil right movement. The nominations for Best Picture at this year’s Academy Awards read like a travelogue of the history of film.

The names of the nominees for the 84th annual Academy Awards, hosted by Billy Crystal, were announced on Tuesday (January 24) morning and in addition to a lot of the expected vote-getters, a few dark horses emerged from the pack, which was led by Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo” with 11 nods, followed by the acclaimed silent film “The Artist” with 10.

For photos of all the Oscar nominees, click here.

The Best Picture 
 race will be a dogfight between one of the year’s most lauded films, the French silent movie “The Artist”; director Alexander Payne’s family drama “The Descendants”; the inspiring tale of “The Help”; Scorsese’s 3-D children’s film/ode to his love of the movies, “Hugo”; and one of Woody Allen’s most box-office-friendly flicks in years, “Midnight in Paris.” Also making the list was the Brad Pitt baseball drama “Moneyball,” as well as Steven Spielberg’s “War Horse,” reclusive director Terrence Malick’s existential “The Tree of Life” and “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.”

The bids for “The Artist” mark the first time in nearly 80 years that a black-and-white silent film is the leading contender to take the Best Picture award. The Oscars will air live on February 26 from the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles.

Golden Globe winner George Clooney and his pal Pitt will vie for the Best Actor award for their work, respectively, in “The Descendants” and “Moneyball.” They will need to overcome a strong bid from Jean Dujardin in “The Artist,” as well as Gary Oldman in the drama “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.” Also in the mix is the surprise vote for Mexican actor Demian Bichir, who was praised for his work in “A Better Life” as a gardener in East L.A. intent on keeping his son out of a local gang.

It’s a mix of the usual suspects and some new names in the Best Actress 
 category, with 16-time nominee Meryl Streep leading the list for her take on Margaret Thatcher in “The Iron lady,” Viola Davis earning major kudos for her work as a sweet-natured maid in “The Help,” Michelle Williams getting a nod for her portrayal of Marilyn Monroe in “My Week With Marilyn” and first-time nominee Rooney Mara for her goth punk blitzkrieg in “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.” Glenn Close was also honored for her gender-bending turn in “Albert Nobbs.”

Best Director will pit three legends — Scorsese, Allen and Malick — against Payne and rising star Michel Hazanavicius for “The Artist.”

The Best Supporting Actor category features Kenneth Branagh (“My Week with Marilyn”), Johan Hill (“Moneyball”), Nick Nolte (“Warrior”), Christopher Plummer (“Beginners”) and Max Von Sydow (“Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close”). In the Best Supporting Actress race, Octavia Spencer (“The Help”) will take on “Janet McTeer (“Albert Nobbs”), Melissa McCarthy (“Bridesmaids”), Jessica Chastain (“The Help”) and Berenice Bejo (“The Artist”).

Breakout “Saturday Night Live” star Kristen Wiig and her writing partner Annie Mumolo were honored with a Best Original Screenplay bid for their explosively funny “Bridesmaids” script, along with Allen for “Midnight in Paris,” Hazanavicius for “The Artist,” Asghar Farhadi for “A Separation” and J.C. Chandor for “Margin Call.”

The Animated Feature battle will feature such popcorn pleasers as “Kung Fu Panda 2″ going up against “Puss in Boots” and “Rango” as well as two lesser-known movies, “A Cat in Paris” and “Chico & Rita.”

See the complete list of Academy Awards Nominations.

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