( dpa ) - A bleak slate of movies dominated the Oscar nominations Tuesday with There Will Be Blood, Atonement, No Country For Old Men, Juno and Michael Clayton vying for the best picture Oscar - the most coveted prize in Hollywood.
Critics noted that the movies revolved around bleak themes that reflected the mood in Hollywood and across the country. The leading films were also mostly box office weaklings as opposed to last year's picks, like The Departed and Dreamgirls.
The violent and acclaimed Western crime thriller No Country For Old Men picked up eight nominations, including nods for best director and best screenplay for its creators Joel and Ethan Coen and a best supporting actor nomination for Javier Bardem.
There Will Be Blood, a turn-of-the-century epic about a rapacious oil-baron, also earned eight nominations, including best director and best screenplay for Paul Thomas Anderson and best actor for Daniel Day Lewis.
Legal thriller Michael Clayton, about an embattled corporate whistle-blower, emerged as a major contender with seven nominations including best director, best screenplay, best supporting actress (Tilda Swinton), best supporting actor (Tom Wilkinson) and a best actor nod for George Clooney.
Another multiple nominee was Atonement, a British World War II drama about love and betrayal, which picked up seven nominations, including best picture, though it was shut out of the other major categories apart from a supporting actress nomination for Saoirse Ronan.
One of the big surprises was the success of Juno, an independent comedy about a pregnant teenager, which in addition to its best pic nod was also nominated for a best actress award for Canadian newcomer Ellen Page. Writer Diablo Cody, a former stripper, was nominated for a best original screenplay award, while Jason Reitman is up for the best director award.
" Hollywood is in a bleak mood this year, and the Oscar nominees announced Tuesday morning reflected that state of mind," noted New York Times critic Brooks Barnes.
The announcement of the nominations came as Hollywood struggles to deal with a 12-week writers strike that forced the cancellation of the Golden Globes ceremony two weeks ago and also threatens the Academy Awards show set for February 24.
Gil Cates, the director responsible for the show, said that the telecast would go on regardless of whether the writer's strike has been settled by then.
"I'm optimistic. I hope they come to a settlement but the bottom line is the show will go on," he said. "It won't be cancelled."
The best foreign language film is to be chosen from among Beaufort (Israel), The Counterfeiters (Austria), Katyn (Poland), Mongol (Kazakhstan) and 12 (Russia).
The nominees for achievement in directing were Julian Schnabel for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Jason Reitman for Juno, Tony Gilroy for Michael Clayton, Joel Coen and Ethan Coen for No Country for Old Men and Paul Thomas Anderson for There Will Be Blood.
Apart from Clooney and Day Lewis, the other best actor nominees were Johnny Depp in Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Tommy Lee Jones in In the Valley of Elah and Viggo Mortensen in Eastern Promises.
Competing with Page for the best actress Oscar were Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth: The Golden Age, Julie Christie in Away from Her, Marion Cotillard in La Vie en Rose and Laura Linney in The Savages.
Blanchett was also nominated for best supporting actress for her role in I'm Not There. Also nominated were Ruby Dee for American Gangster, Saoirse Ronan for Atonement, Amy Ryan for Gone Baby Gone and Tilda Swinton for Michael Clayton.
Apart from Wilkinson and Bardem, the nominees for best supporting actor were Casey Affleck in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Philip Seymour Hoffman for Charlie Wilson's War and Hal Holbrook for Into the Wild.