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‘Avatar,’ ‘Trek’ score Producers nominations

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 5, 2010

LOS ANGELES -- Science fiction scored big with the Producers Guild of America, with "Avatar," ''Star Trek" and "District 9" taking three of the 10 nominations Tuesday for the group's top film honors.

The group representing Hollywood producers also handed best-picture nominations to the animated blockbuster "Up," the World War II hit "Inglourious Basterds" and the critical favorites "The Hurt Locker," ''Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire," ''Up in the Air," ''An Education" and "Invictus."

The Producers Guild followed the lead of the Academy Awards and doubled its best-picture field to 10 nominees this season.

"Up" also is nominated for best animated film, along with "9," ''Coraline," ''Fantastic Mr. Fox" and "The Princess and the Frog."

The guild picks typically are a good forecast for the eventual best-picture lineup at the Oscars, whose nominations come out Feb. 2.

If Oscar choices run the same way, the show will gain the mass appeal organizers have sought to bring to Hollywood's biggest party. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences doubled the best-picture field last summer, hoping to bring a broader range of films into the awards fold, including the sort of blockbuster fare the Oscars often have lacked in recent years.

"The Dark Knight," 2008's biggest hit, earned a best-picture nomination a year ago from the Producers Guild but was overlooked for the top Oscar category. Its omission was cited as a factor in the decision to expand the best-picture field, Oscar organizers saying they felt that more than five films deserved nominations.

TV ratings for the Oscar show, on a general decline over the past few decades, usually climb in years when huge hits are in the running. The Oscars had their biggest audience ever when "Titanic," the modern box-office king with $1.8 billion worldwide, dominated the ceremony 12 years ago.

"Avatar" is "Titanic" director James Cameron's first narrative film since then. The sci-fi epic has topped $350 million domestically and shot past the $1 billion mark worldwide, and it appears headed to the No. 2 spot in the record books globally behind "Titanic."

The Producers Guild lineup includes four other big hits -- "Up" and "Star Trek," both $200 million smashes, and "District 9" and "Inglourious Basterds," which topped $100 million each.

The other nominees present a mix of star power and critical raves.

The recession-era comic drama "Up in the Air" has been an adult-audience favorite with plenty of box-office potential left and the celebrity appeal of star George Clooney.

The Iraq War drama "The Hurt Locker" has dominated key honors from critics groups and did solid independent-cinema business. The teen dramas "Precious" and "An Education" and the South Africa tale "Invictus," directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon, also have been strong art-house earners featuring some of the year's most acclaimed performances.

Other Producers Guild nominees Tuesday:

• Documentary: "Burma VJ," ''The Cove," ''Sergio," ''Soundtrack for a Revolution."

• Long-form television: "Georgia O'Keeffe," ''Grey Gardens," ''Little Dorrit," ''Prayers for Bobby," ''The Prisoner," ''Taking Chance."