LOS ANGELES (AFP) - Alfonso Cuaron's Roma, an ode to his childhood in 1970s Mexico City, and offbeat royal romp The Favourite on Tuesday (Jan 22) topped the Oscar nominations with 10 each.
Popular musical romance A Star Is Born and Dick Cheney biopic Vice finished with eight nominations each, while superhero blockbuster Black Panther finished with seven.
So far, the awards season has been a bit surprising, with prizes sprayed among a variety of films. So Tuesday's announcement gives the race to the Academy Awards on Feb 24 a bit more clarity.
The sweeping success of Roma is history-making for streaming giant Netflix, marking its first nomination for best picture, and also first in other top categories like best director and best actress.
The black and white film snatched up nods for best supporting actress, best foreign film and a swirl of other nominations.
But The Favourite scored a bit of a surprise with its stellar haul. While nominations for its trio of stars - Olivia Colman, Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz - were a near-lock, its flight to the top of the list was not.
Director Yorgos Lanthimos took a nod - instead of Cooper.
A Star Is Born, the latest iteration of the classic musical romance, scored in most big categories, with nominations for three of the four acting prizes - Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga and their co-star Sam Elliott.
Surprisingly, Cooper was denied a nod for his directing debut, despite earning nominations at the Golden Globes and from the Directors Guild.
In all, there are eight films vying for best picture: Roma, The Favourite, A Star Is Born, Spike Lee's BlacKkKlansman, Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody, satirical Dick Cheney biopic Vice, civil rights dramedy Green Book and Black Panther.
Black Panther also made a bit of history, as the first superhero flick ever nominated in the category.
Green Book earned five Oscar nominations and moved up in the Academy Award conversation at the weekend when it won best film at the Producers Guild of America awards.
Twenty times out of 29, the PGA award winner has gone on to take the best picture Oscar, including The Shape Of Water last year.
Last year, the awards season was marked by the Harvey Weinstein scandal, and the birth of the #MeToo and Time's Up movements against sexual misconduct and harassment in the workplace.
This year, multiple controversies are plaguing the Oscars - none of them related to last year's bombshell.
In August, the Academy - under fire for being too elitist - announced it would add a "best popular film" award. But many saw the new category as a booby prize for blockbusters like Black Panther that would keep them out of contention for top honours.
The plan was scrapped a month later.
Then actor-comedian Kevin Hart had perhaps the briefest tenure ever as Oscars host - a few days. He withdrew after homophobic tweets he had written years ago sparked a crippling backlash on social media.
By all accounts, with many stars reportedly unwilling to grasp the poisoned chalice, the Academy has opted to go forward without a host.
Of course, on Oscars night, the focus will revert to the nominees, and the red carpet glamour.
In the best actor category, Christian Bale looks to be the frontrunner for his uncanny portrayal of Cheney in Vice. But Rami Malek's Golden Globe win for his work as Freddie Mercury in Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody put him into the conversation.
Viggo Mortensen (Green Book) and Cooper (A Star Is Born) are also contenders, with Willem Dafoe (At Eternity's Gate) rounding out the field as a dark horse.
For best actress, Glenn Close's momentum is soaring after her twin Globe and Critics' Choice wins for The Wife, in which she plays a woman author whose marriage boils over when her writer husband wins the Nobel Prize.
But Gaga and Olivia Colman, who plays Queen Anne in The Favourite, are expected to give her a fight, along with breakout Roma star Yalitza Aparicio and dark horse Melissa McCarthy (Can You Ever Forgive Me?).
In the supporting actor category, Elliott will go head-to-head with Green Book star Mahershala Ali, who took home a Golden Globe. For best supporting actress, Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk) will battle with Stone and Weisz.
Roma is the pre-emptive favourite for best foreign language film. It will compete with Capernaum (Lebanon), Cold War (Poland), Never Look Away (Germany) and Shoplifters (Japan).
The nominations were announced on Tuesday in the pre-dawn hours in Hollywood by actors Tracee Ellis Ross and Kumail Nanjiani.
OSCAR NOMINEES IN MAIN CATEGORIES
A Star Is Born
Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman
Pawel Pawlikowski, Cold War
Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite
Alfonso Cuaron, Roma
Adam McKay, Vice
Christian Bale, Vice
Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born
Willem Dafoe, At Eternity’s Gate
Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody
Viggo Mortensen, Green Book
Yalitza Aparicio, Roma
Glenn Close, The Wife
Olivia Colman, The Favourite
Lady Gaga, A Star Is Born
Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Best supporting actor:
Mahershala Ali, Green Book
Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman
Sam Elliott, A Star Is Born
Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Sam Rockwell, Vice
Best supporting actress:
Amy Adams, Vice
Marina de Tavira, Roma
Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk
Emma Stone, The Favourite
Rachel Weisz, The Favourite
Best foreign language film:
Cold War (Poland)
Never Look Away (Germany)
Shoplifters (Japan) .
Best animated feature:
Isle Of Dogs
Ralph Breaks The Internet
Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse