‘Up’ and ‘The Cove’ Receive Oscar Nominations

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Russell, left, and Carl Fredricksen are the animated stars of “Up,” which was nominated Tuesday for an Oscar for best picture. (Disney/Pixar)

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BEVERLY HILLS.—The science-fiction sensation “Avatar” and the war-on-terror thriller “The Hurt Locker” lead the Academy Awards with nine nominations each. Films with Asian themes were largely ignored by the film academy, in the first year in which the best picture category was expanded to 10 films.

Also nominated for best-picture Tuesday: “District 9”; the animated comedy “Up”; the World War II saga “Inglourious Basterds”; the football drama “The Blind Side”; the recession tale “Up in The Air,” the 1960s drama “A Serious Man,” and the teen tales “An Education” and “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ By Sapphire.”

“Up,” a travel adventure about a lonely widower who flies his house off to South America suspended from helium balloons, is only the second animated film ever to earn a best-picture nomination, following “Beauty and the Beast” in 1991, when the category had only five contenders. “Up” is also the rare Hollywood movie which features an Asian American in a lead role, voiced by local Japanese American youth, Jordan Nagai.

Along with best picture, “Up” was nominated for animated feature, along with “Coraline,” “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” “The Princess and the Frog” and “The Secret of Kells.” Pixar Animation, which made “Up,” has produced four of the eight winners since the animated-feature category was added in 2001.

Hayao Miyazaki’s “Ponyo,” expected by many to be among the nominees in the animation category was not included. It is the first Miyazaki film in seven years not to be nominated for an Oscar.

Films from Asia were also not represented in the Best Foreign Film category, which was awarded last year to Japan’s “Departures (Okuribito).”

“The Cove,” which follows a group of activists who seek to reveal the slaughter of dolphins in a cove in the town of Taiji in Wakayama Prefecture, was nominated in the Best Feature Length Documentary category. The film screened at last year’s Tokyo Film Festival, has not been widely seen in Japan, which still engages in commercial whaling. On the film’s Web site, the filmmakers proclaimed “it’s a good day for dolphins.”

Last summer, academy organizers decided to go back to 10, saying 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.

The 82nd Oscars will be presented March 7 in a ceremony airing on ABC from Hollywood’s Kodak Theatre.

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