Martin Scorsese's lavish 3D adventure "Hugo" won 11 Oscar nominations on Tuesday, ahead of silent movie "The Artist" with 10 nods for Hollywood's top cinema awards.
The third most nominations went to baseball movie "Moneyball" starring Brad Pitt and veteran director Steven Spielberg's equine epic "War Horse," which each got six nods.
"Hugo"'s nominations included the best picture category, where it is up against eight other movies including "The Artist," which has been a favourite for the Oscars after a string of wins and nods in other awards show.
The other movies nominated for best picture are "The Descendants," "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close," "The Help," "Midnight in Paris," "Moneyball," "The Tree of Life" and "War Horse."
"The Artist" star Jean Dujardin was nominated for best actor, up against Clooney in "The Descendants," Pitt in "Moneyball," Gary Oldman in "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" and Demian Bechir in "A Better Life."
Best actress nominees included Meryl Streep, as expected, for her role as former British premier Margaret Thatcher in "The Iron Lady."
Also shortlisted were Glenn Close for her cross-dressing role in "Albert Nobbs," Viola Davis from civil rights drama "The Help," Michelle Williams as Monroe in "My Week with Marilyn" and Rooney Mara from "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo."
Prize-heavy silent movie "The Artist" hopes for yet more good news on Tuesday, as nominations are announced for the Oscars, the climax to Hollywood's annual awards season.
The black-and-white movie, which has won a string of awards over the last two months, is vying to become the first silent film in eight decades to win the Academy Award for best picture next month.
But the French-directed film's chances depend on who gets nominated by the 6,000-odd members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Its relatively unknown director Michel Hazanavicius is vying for the top prize against Hollywood heavyweights, including Martin Scorsese for his lavish 3D adventure "Hugo" and Steven Spielberg with equine epic "War Horse."
Veteran Woody Allen's rare commercial hit "Midnight in Paris" has received critical acclaim, while Alexander Payne's Hawaii-based family drama "The Descendants," starring George Clooney, is also in the running.
Baseball movie "Moneyball," starring Brad Pitt, could also be shortlisted for best picture, as could powerful civil rights drama "The Help."
"The Artist" has already been nominated for best film by the Directors Guild of America (DGA) and won the top prize from the Producers Guild of America (PGA) last week -- both seen as key indicators of Oscars glory.
The film, a tribute to the silent movie era in which a non-talking star battles to save his career after it is torpedoed by the arrival of the "talkies," also won the best picture Golden Globe on January 15.
French actor Jean Dujardin, who plays struggling silent star George Valentin, is among those tipped for a best actor nod when the Oscar nominations are announced at 5:30 am (1330 GMT) on Tuesday.
Rivals for best actor are widely expected to include Clooney for "The Descendants" and Pitt for his performance as a baseball manager using unusual methods to put together a winning team.
Oscars veteran Meryl Streep will almost certainly be in the running for best actress for her gripping turn as British premier Margaret Thatcher -- both in her prime and in dementia-shrouded old age -- in "The Iron Lady."
Actresses up against her are tipped to include Viola Davis -- who plays black maid Aibileen in "The Help" -- and Michelle Williams as Hollywood icon Marilyn Monroe in "My Week with Marilyn."
Glenn Close could win a nod for her cross-dressing role in "Albert Nobbs," as could Briton Tilda Swinton for "We Need to Talk About Kevin."
Best director nominees are likely to include Scorsese, Allen, or Clooney for political thriller "The Ides of March" -- as well as Hazanavicius, who has recently grown used to giving acceptance speeches in English.
The foreign language shortlist will likely include Iran's "A Separation," which won that category at the Globes, while films from Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Israel, Morocco, Poland and Taiwan are also in the running.
List of key Oscar nominations
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced nominations on Tuesday for the 84th Academy Awards. Winners will be revealed in Hollywood on February 26.
Following is a list of nominees in leading categories.
Tree of Life
Midnight in Paris
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Demian Bichir, "A Better Life"
George Clooney, "The Descendants"
Jean Dujardin, "The Artist"
Gary Oldman, "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy"
Brad Pitt, "Moneyball"
Glenn Close, "Albert Nobbs"
Viola Davis, "The Help"
Rooney Mara, "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo"
Meryl Streep, "The Iron Lady"
Michelle Williams, "My Week with Marilyn"
Michel Hazanavicius, "The Artist"
Alexander Payne, "The Descendants"
Martin Scorsese, "Hugo"
Woody Allen, "Midnight in Paris"
Terrence Malick, "The Tree of Life"
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Kenneth Branagh, "My Week with Marilyn"
Jonah Hill, "Moneyball"
Nick Nolte, "Warrior"
Christopher Plummer, "Beginners"
Max Von Sydow, "Extremely Loud and Dangerously Close"
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Berenice Bejo, "The Artist"
Jessica Chastain, "The Help"
Melissa McCarthy, "Bridesmaids"
Janet McTeer, "Alfred Nobbs"
Octavia Spencer, "The Help"
A Cat in Paris
Chico & Rita
Kung Fu Panda 2
Puss in Boots