Page last updated at 17:13 GMT, Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Helen Mirren and Colin Firth lead Britain's Oscars dash

Helen Mirren and Colin Firth
Mirren is an Oscar winner while Firth makes his debut

Actors Dame Helen Mirren and Colin Firth are leading the British nominations at this year's Oscars.

Dame Helen, who won best actress for The Queen in 2008, is nominated in the same category, playing the wife of writer Leo Tolstoy in The Last Station.

Firth has picked up his first Oscar nomination, in the leading actor category for A Single Man.

Dame Helen said her character "would have been over the moon. So in that spirit, I am too."

The UK has another acting nod, in the form of newcomer Carey Mulligan, who is up against Dame Helen for An Education.

The 24-year-old Londoner was nominated for a Golden Globe for her coming-of-age role as a teenage girl in 60s suburban London.

She is shortlisted for two Baftas, one for leading actress and the rising star award.

Mulligan has been tipped for huge success this year and has just completed the sequel to Oliver Stone's Wall Street, starring opposite Michael Douglas and Shia LaBeouf.

Could this be the next Kate Winslet?

"This is beyond anything I've ever dreamed of. I've definitely never felt such excitement and nausea this early in the morning!" she said.

Firth, who also starred in the Bridget Jones's Diary films and Girl With a Pearl Earring, has won rave reviews for his role as a bereaved, gay college professor in A Single Man.

It is his first Oscar nomination and he has been Bafta nominated for the same role.

The actor, who was recently in box-office smash Mamma Mia!, said: "I thought I was managing my expectations, but on hearing the news I discovered new and unfamiliar vocal tones.

"Perhaps I should do another musical," he added.

Recent years have seen some rather meagre returns for outstanding British acting performances. Despite that, Kate Winslet scooped the best actress award for The Reader last year.

Loaf and Death

Nick Park, the Bristol-based animator and creator of Wallace and Gromit, is already one of the UK's most prolific Oscar successes.

He has already won four Oscars out of his six nominations. The last was the best animated feature in 2006 for Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit.

This year, he has been nominated for best animated short film for another Wallace and Gromit project: A Matter of Loaf and Death.

Wallace and Gromit in A Matter of Loaf and Death
Wallace and Gromit on the trail of a deadly "cereal killer" in Loaf and Death

"It's brilliant, it's nice to be in there again," Park told the BBC. "You can't get used to it really, it's such an amazing thing to be nominated for. It doesn't happen often enough to get blase about it."

British writing has also been celebrated this year, with two nominations in the best adapted screenplay shortlist.

Comedy writers Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci and Tony Roche are all nominated in the adapted screenplay category for In The Loop.

The film, starring Bafta nominee Peter Capaldi as the venomous political spin-doctor Malcolm Tucker, is a spin-off from the BBC TV series The Thick of It.

Iannucci's response to the nomination, on micro-blogging site Twitter, was typically British.

"Bloomin heck. In The Loop nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar. Bonk me purple," he tweeted.

An Education was brought to the big screen by celebrated British writer Nick Hornby, who has been named in the adapted screenplay category.

Hornby is well known for his books Fever Pitch, High Fidelity and About A Boy, which have all made it to the big screen.

Other behind-the-scenes nominations include costume designer Sandy Powell for The Young Victoria, starring Emily Blunt.

Powell is a hugely successful designer and has won two statuettes - for The Aviator and Shakespeare in Love - out of eight nominations.

Make-up artist Jenny Shircore is also in the running for The Young Victoria. She is previously a winner for Elizabeth in 2007.

Mancunian Barry Ackroyd has one of The Hurt Locker's nine nominations for cinematography.

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Sky Movies Brit Oscar hopefuls "over the moon" - 15 hrs ago
Telegraph Oscar nominees 2010: what they said - 20 hrs ago
Reuters UK Brits celebrate Oscar nominations - 23 hrs ago
Daily Star British stars up for Oscar gloryFull Story - 24 hrs ago
The Sun Brit flicks to take on AvOscar - 24 hrs ago

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