Other best-actress nominees are Nicole Kidman as a grieving mother in “Rabbit Hole”; Jennifer Lawrence as a teen trying to find her missing father amid the Ozark Mountains’ criminal underbelly in “Winter’s Bone”; and Michelle Williams as a wife in a failing marriage in “Blue Valentine.”
Joining Fincher and Hooper among best-director picks are Darren Aronofsky for “Black Swan”; Joel and Ethan Coen for “True Grit”; and David O. Russell for “The Fighter.”
One notable omission was director Christopher Nolan for “Inception,” though he got a nomination for original screenplay. Nolan also missed out two years ago on a directing Oscar nomination for “The Dark Knight,” which was famously not nominated for best picture. That contributed to the decision to double the number of contenders so that acclaimed popular movies would have a better chance.
The directing category is back to an all-male lineup after Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to win that prize last year for “The Hurt Locker,” which also claimed best picture.
Bale, the star of Nolan’s “Batman” franchise, is a strong favorite to win supporting actor as former boxer Dicky Eklund, who helps his half-brother to a title shot after his own career unraveled amid drugs and crime in “The Fighter.” The film’s star, Mark Wahlberg, missed out on a nomination as Eklund’s half-brother, boxer Micky Ward.
Two years ago, Bale’s “Batman” co-star, the late Heath Ledger, was on the same awards track as he won a posthumous Oscar for supporting actor for “The Dark Knight.”
“The Fighter” offers two sterling supporting-actress performances from Leo as Ward and Eklund’s doting but domineering mother and Adams as Ward’s tough, defiant girlfriend. Steinfeld, who was just 13 when she shot her debut performance in “True Grit,” also is a strong contender as a girl who hires lawman Cogburn to track down her father’s killer.
“Toy Story 3,” the top-grossing film released in 2010, also is nominated for animated feature and is expected to become the fourth-straight winner in that category from Disney’s Pixar Animation, following “Up,” “WALL-E” and “Ratatouille.” Pixar has won five of the nine animation Oscars since the category was added.
The other animation nominees are “How to Train Your Dragon” and “The Illusionist.”
While two of the three animated categories are huge commercial successes, the best-picture race is a mix of big commercial hits and smaller critical darlings, which is what academy organizers wanted when they expanded the competition to 10 films.
“True Grit” is the first $100 million Western hit since the 1990s, “The Social Network” climbed to about $95 million in revenue, and “Black Swan” is closing on $100 million. At the other end are “Winter’s Bone” with $6.3 million and “127 Hours” with $11 million, respectable returns for lower-budgeted independent films but small change next to big studio productions.
Besides Leo, Adams, Bonham Carter and Steinfeld, Jacki Weaver earned a supporting-actress nomination as a crime family matriarch in the Australian thriller “Animal Kingdom.”
Rounding out the supporting-actor field with Bale and Rush are John Hawkes as a backwoods tough guy in “Winter’s Bone”; Jeremy Renner as a holdup man in the bank-heist thriller “The Town”; Mark Ruffalo as a sperm-donor dad in “The Kids Are All Right.”
The Oscar ceremony will be televised live on ABC from Hollywood’s Kodak Theatre.