The nominees for the 80th annual Academy Awards, led by the films No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood, have been announced in Beverly Hills by Oscar winner Kathy Bates.

Neither film, which each received eight nods – including best film, has yet been released in South Africa.

No Country for Old Men, directed by the Coen brothers, is about a hunter who stumbles upon dead bodies, a stash of heroin and more than $2 million in cash.

There Will Be Blood, by dircetor Paul Thomas Anderson, is a story about family, greed, religion, and oil, centred around a turn-of-the-century prospector.

British film Atonement, a romance that spans several decades starring Keira Knightley, and Michael Clayton, staring George Clooney as a lawyer in crisis, both picked up seven nominations including best film.

The final nominee in the best film category is the indie flick Juno, about an offbeat woman faced with an unplanned pregnancy.

George Clooney, Daniel Day-Lewis (There Will Be Blood), Johnny Depp (Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street), Tommy Lee Jones (In the Valley of Elah) and Viggo Mortensen (Eastern Promises) are all in the running for the best actor in a leading role award.

Cate Blanchett is in line for two Oscars this year thanks to her lead role in Elizabeth: The Golden Age and a supporting role in I’m Not There. She was previously nominated for an Oscar for playing the same character, Queen Elizabeth I, in 1999’s Elizabeth.

Others up for best actress in a leading role include Julie Christie (Away from Her), Marion Cotillard (La Vie en Rose), Laura Linney (The Savages) and Ellen Page (Juno).

Many were surprised that the leads in Atonement, Keira Knightley and James McAvoy, and the film’s director, Joe Wright, were ignored. An expected nod for Angelina Jolie, for her performance in A Mighty Heart, also never materialised.

Best supporting actor nominations included Casey Affleck (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford), Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men) and Philip Seymour Hoffman (Charlie Wilson’s War).

Unusually, an animated film, the hit Ratatouille, scored a nomination for best original screenplay, although its writer, Brad Bird, was also nominated in that same category for the 2004 animated film The Incredibles. Ratatouille is also up for best animated feature.

The Academy Awards is scheduled to take place on Sunday, February 24 but there are concerns that the event could be cancelled due to the ongoing Writers Guild of America strike.

While producers insist that the show will go on, the event could be an unglamorous and star-less one; the Screen Actors Guild has said its members will not take part, in solidarity with writers, if the strike is not resolved at the time.

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