Juno among top Oscar nominees

Tuesday has been "surreal" and "unbelievable" for Halifax actress Ellen Page, after her breakout film Juno emerged with four major Academy Award nominations, including best actress and best picture.

Toronto filmmaker Sarah Polley's Away From Her scores 2 nominations

Tuesday has been "surreal" and "unbelievable" for Halifax actress Ellen Page, after her breakout film Juno emerged with four major Academy Award nominations, including best actress and best picture.

Ellen Page, left, and U.S. screenwriter Diablo Cody each picked up an Oscar nomination Tuesday. ((Gareth Cattermole/Getty) )

The teen pregnancy comedy was among the top nominees for the Western world's most prestigious film honours, also netting Oscar nominations for Montreal-born director Jason Reitman and a best original screenplay nomination for first-time U.S. screenwriter, Diablo Cody.

Speaking to NBC's The Today Show immediately after the announcement, Page described her character as a "teenage female lead that I really feel like we've never seen before."

Juno is "one of the best filmmaking experiences I've had," she later told CBC News from London, where she is promoting the movie's European release.

"It's pretty unbelievable," Page said of being nominated alongside actresses she admires. "But this is what I love to do. It's this huge gift."

The 20-year-old will face stiff competition for the Oscar.

Her fellow best actress nominees are Cate Blanchett reprising her role as the British monarch in Elizabeth: The Golden Age, Marion Cotillard as Edith Piaf in the biopicLa Vie en Rose, Laura Linney as a woman dealing with her estranged, ill father in The Savages and screen icon Julie Christie, nominated for her star turn as a woman succumbing to Alzheimer's in Toronto filmmaker Sarah Polley's Away From Her.

In Away From Her, Julie Christie portrays a woman succumbing to Alzheimer's, to the dismay of her husband, played by Gordon Pinsent. ((Lionsgate Films/Associated Press))

Joining Juno in the best picture category are this year's two leading contenders: crime tale No Country for Old Men and oil boom drama There Will Be Blood — both with eight nominations, and based on books by Cormac McCarthy and Upton Sinclair, respectively.

Rounding out the best picture category are wartime drama Atonement and legal thriller Michael Clayton, which received seven nominations each.

Acting nods largely as predicted

Past Oscar winner Daniel Day-Lewis fulfilled predictions of a best actor nomination for his portrayal of a flamboyant oil baron in There Will Be Blood.

Also vying for the trophy are George Clooney as the titular legal fixer in Michael Clayton; Johnny Depp for his turn as the musical and murderous lead in Sweeney Todd; In the Valley of Elah's Tommy Lee Jones as a stoic former soldier investigating his son's disappearance, and Viggo Mortensen's Russian mob role in Eastern Promises, directed by Toronto's David Cronenberg.

Spanish actor Javier Bardem was among the widely predicted acting nominees, a best supporting actor contender for playing a psychopathic killer in No Country for Old Men. ((Associated Press))

Several best supporting actor nominees were also not surprising, after having won acclaim over the past few months, including Spanish star Javier Bardem for his turn as a psychopathic serial killer in No Country for Old Men, Casey Affleck for The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and Philip Seymour Hoffman's rogue CIA agent in Charlie Wilson's War.

Also nominated are Hal Holbrook for Into the Wild and Tom Wilkinson for Michael Clayton.

Past Oscar winner Blanchett is a dual-nominee this year, with a nod in the supporting actress category (for the Bob Dylan film I'm Not There) in addition to her lead actress nomination.

Also vying for the supporting actress trophy are Atonement's teen actress Saoirse Ronan (who was nominated though her co-stars Keira Knightley and James McAvoy were shut out); Ruby Dee, who portrays a woman whose son becomes a top drug dealer in American Gangster; Amy Ryan as an addict whose daughter is kidnapped in Gone Baby Gone and Tilda Swinton as a ruthless lawyer in Michael Clayton.

Homegrown productions

Madame Tutli-Putli is an animated creation of Montreal filmmakers Lavis and Maciek Szczerbowski. ((National Film Board of Canada))

Polley fared well with her feature film directorial debut, Away From Her. Aside from Christie's acting nod, Polley received a best adapted screenplay nomination for her work on the Alice Munro short story The Bear Came Over the Mountain.

Canadian productions also vying for Oscar gold include two animated shorts:  I Met the Walrus, based on a teenage Jerry Levitan's 1969 interview with John Lennon about music, peace, war and society, and Madame Tutli-Putli, the stop-motion film that won two awards at last year's Cannes film festival.

Other nominees announced in Los Angeles include:

  • Director: Julian Schnabel, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly; Jason Reitman, Juno; Tony Gilroy, Michael Clayton; Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men; Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood.
  • Animated Feature Film: Persepolis; Ratatouille; Surf's Up.
  • Foreign Film: Beaufort, Israel; The Counterfeiters, Austria; Katyn, Poland; Mongol, Kazakhstan; 12, Russia.
  • Adapted Screenplay: Christopher Hampton, Atonement; Sarah Polley, Away from Her; Ronald Harwood, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly; Joel Coen & Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men; Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood.
  • Original Screenplay: Diablo Cody, Juno; Nancy Oliver, Lars and the Real Girl; Tony Gilroy, Michael Clayton; Brad Bird, Jan Pinkava and Jim Capobianco, Ratatouille; Tamara Jenkins, The Savages.
  • Documentary Feature: No End in Sight; Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience; Sicko; Taxi to the Dark Side; War/Dance.
  • Original Score: Atonement, Dario Marianelli; The Kite Runner, Alberto Iglesias; Michael Clayton, James Newton Howard; Ratatouille, Michael Giacchino; 3:10 to Yuma, Marco Beltrami.
  • Original Song: Falling Slowly from Once, Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova; Happy Working Song from Enchanted, Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz; Raise It Up from August Rush, Nominees to be determined; So Close from Enchanted, Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz; That's How You Know from Enchanted, Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz.

Among the notable absences from the list announced by Sid Ganis — president of the U.S. Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences — and actress Kathy Bates on Tuesday were Angelina Jolie (A Mighty Heart), Helena Bonham Carter (Sweeney Todd) and further nods for the team behind Into the Wild, the Sean Penn-directed film starring Emile Hirsch and featuring music by rock veteran Eddie Vedder.

The 80th annual Academy Awards gala is set for the Kodak Theater in Los Angeles on Feb. 24, with Jon Stewart as host.

Actress Kathy Bates and Academy president Sid Ganis announce the best picture nominees Tuesday for the 80th annual Academy Awards. ((Chris Pizzello/Associated Press))

The academy will present trophies in 24 different categories, and also recognize production designer Robert Boyle, whose credits include North By Northwest and Fiddler on the Roof, with an honorary Oscar.

However, the U.S. screenwriters' strike — which forced the Golden Globe Awards from a glitzy, star-studded telecast to a dreary news conference — has cast a shadow on the entire film awards season and also is threatening the Oscar broadcast.

Several of Tuesday's nominees said that if there were picket lines outside the awards show, they would not cross to attend.

Longtime screenwriter Tony Gilroy, who made his directorial debut with Michael Clayton, said that as a 20-year member of the Writers Guild of America, he "could never cross a picket line" and that "there's a lot of people who feel that way."

One of his stars, supporting-actor nominee Tom Wilkinson, echoed the sentiment.

"I come from a tradition of not crossing picket lines," the British actor said.

Canadian actress Page said she hoped the labour dispute would be resolved soon, but "if the Oscars don't happen, it is what it is. Worse things have happened in the world."

Organizers vowed that the show will go on no matter what, but have kept their alternate plans under wraps.

"We're dealing with contingencies but we're thrusting ahead," Ganis said.

"We're going to have a show, and we're going to give these incredible artists what they're due."

With files from the Associated Press