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Peter T Chattaway
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I must admit, when I first read the Gleiberman sentence quoted below, I had to pause for a moment and wonder which movie was which.

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'Avatar' vs. 'Up in the Air': The most symbolic Oscar race since 'Forrest Gump' vs. 'Pulp Fiction'

In this case, though, it’s not Establishment vs. Outsider. It’s Old School script-driven Classic Hollywood vs. New Age post-script 21st Century Entertainment.

Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly, January 2

Oscar Watch: 'Hurt Locker' win at NSFC boosts 'Avatar' chances

If you go by history, the best picture win by Bigelow's "The Hurt Locker'' at the National Society of Film Critics over the weekend can only help "Avatar,'' directed by Bigelow's ex-husband James Cameron. How's that? Well, the last time the NSFC -- known for its esoteric choices -- picked the same best picture as the New York Film Critics Circle and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association was for 1997. That was "L.A. Confidential'' and the Best Picture Oscar went to...Cameron's "Titanic.''

Lou Lumenick, New York Post, January 4

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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In this case, though, it’s not Establishment vs. Outsider. It’s Old School script-driven Classic Hollywood vs. New Age post-script 21st Century Entertainment.

Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly, January 2

Boy do I ever disagree with Gleiberman on this one. Forrest Gump versus Pulp Fiction was a sentimental crowdpleaser of epic proportions versus All Kinds of Awesome. And both of them were supersized. Avatar versus Up in the Air is a massive, groundbreaking, effects extravaganza versus Crowdpleasing Jerry-Maguire-Lite... which is very lite indeed. The Schindler's List trick of "bringing out the real live suffering folks" at the end of Up in the Air doesn't make what came before it more substantial.

I think Up in the Air has a lot more in common with Forrest Gump than Pulp Fiction, but compared to Gump's ambition, Up in the Air plays like the cartoon that comes before the real movie.

Edited by Overstreet

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Variety reports that the Producers Guild has announced its ten nominees; so far, the winner has won the Oscar for Best Picture 13 times out of 20:

  • Avatar
  • An Education
  • District 9
  • The Hurt Locker
  • Inglourious Basterds
  • Invictus
  • Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire
  • Star Trek
  • Up
  • Up in the Air

Variety goes on to note: "Contenders missing the cut included 'The Blind Side,' 'It's Complicated,' 'The Last Station,' 'The Messenger,' 'Nine' and 'A Serious Man.'"

The winner will be announced January 24 ... about a week before the Oscars have even announced their NOMINATIONS.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Producers vote 'Locker' best film

Topping the first-ever slate of 10 contenders, "The Hurt Locker" has won the Producers Guild of America award for best feature in a portent of an increasingly competitive awards season. . . .

The PGA win for "Locker" came a day after it came up empty in the SAG awards as "Basterds" took the cast trophy -- and a week after the gritty Iraq War thriller lost the Golden Globe for best drama to James Cameron's "Avatar" and was shut out in all Globe categories. . . .

The PGA win gives "Hurt Locker" some momentum back after having mostly dominated the awards season in the major critics prizes including New York, Los Angeles and the National Society of Film Critics. And the PGA's trophy has matched the Oscar Best Picture winner in 13 of its 20 years, including last year when "Slumdog Millionaire" took both.

The producers branch comprises about 8% of the total AMPAS voting membership of 5,777. Oscar noms will be announced Feb. 2. . . .

Variety, January 24

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Vote!

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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FWIW, I don't know if this is a reliable indicator of anything, but the Producers Guild nominees matched the Oscar nominees in 8 out of 10 cases:

  • Avatar
  • District 9
  • An Education
  • The Hurt Locker
  • Inglourious Basterds
  • Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire
  • Up
  • Up in the Air

But where the Producers Guild went with Invictus and Star Trek to fill out their list of ten, the Oscars went with The Blind Side and A Serious Man.

The Producers Guild gave it to The Hurt Locker in the end. We will see what the Oscars do.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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But where the Producers Guild went with Invictus and Star Trek to fill out their list of ten, the Oscars went with The Blind Side and A Serious Man.

Ha! So the Oscars got it right for once. :)

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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FWIW, as noted here, Avatar is now only the 6th film since 1981 to be nominated for Best Picture WITHOUT being nominated for any of the writing or acting awards. The other five films are:

  • Master & Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003)
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
  • Beauty and the Beast (1991)
  • The Mission (1986)
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Notice anything that all those films have in common? That's right, none of them actually WON Best Picture. So that, too, may bode ill for Avatar's Best Picture chances.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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David Poland:

The funny thing about The 10 is... it's just about right. I don't agree with every choice, but every area (except light comedy) is represented. Precious, The Hurt Locker, An Education, and A Serious Man are little engines that could. You have 5, maybe 6, $100 million+ grossers, including 3 of the Top 8 grossers of the year. And right in the middle, you have Up In The Air (which may hit $100m).

You have 2 sci-fi films, an animated film, you have 6 movies based in or traveling to other countries (ironically, not Up In The Air), you have only 3 titles fully funded by studios, 3 festival pick-ups (2 Sundance, 1 Toronto), one output-only film, four titles with female leads, 3 films with major movie stars up front, 5 of the 6 remaining majors represented plus the 3 biggest indies and 2 Dependents.

It's a really balanced list, when you think about it.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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I've not seen all (or most) of the nominees, but the only real shadow on my otherwise wholehearted belief that Inglorious Basterds should win is the fact that I've not seen A Serious Man. IB is just that solid, IMHO.

That said, the winner's totally gonna be Avatar. I can feel it in my bones.

[Oh! There's a compare/contrast for ya--the empowerment of "victim peoples" is a theme in both IB and Avatar, but the way they're treated--ironically in the former, too-sincerely but shallowly in the latter--could not be any more different.]

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FWIW, as noted here, Avatar is now only the 6th film since 1981 to be nominated for Best Picture WITHOUT being nominated for any of the writing or acting awards. The other five films are:

  • Master & Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003)
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
  • Beauty and the Beast (1991)
  • The Mission (1986)
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Notice anything that all those films have in common? That's right, none of them actually WON Best Picture. So that, too, may bode ill for Avatar's Best Picture chances.

Thanks for this stat. I was wondering about that and wasn't too eager to look it up. That's great news. I loved Avatar as a spectacle, but I'd be sad to see it win when it ignores a lot of, ya know, important things that make it a movie.

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NBooth wrote:

: That said, the winner's totally gonna be Avatar. I can feel it in my bones.

I doubt that, actually. No movie has won Best Picture without being at least NOMINATED for writing or acting since 1932's Grand Hotel. And the only movie that did it before that was 1927's Wings.

The way I see it, this comes down to a race between The Hurt Locker and Inglourious Basterds. To quote a slightly modified version of an e-mail that I sent to a couple of discussion lists (and which I might turn into a blog post; there's just one or two things I want to fact-check a little more, first):

The fact that there are ten nominees this year means some of the old rules of thumb may fly out the window. But if we *were* applying those old rules of thumb, here is how the predictions would shake down:

The last movie that won Best Picture without even being *nominated* for Best Director was 1989's Driving Miss Daisy -- and in that case, it wasn't too big a surprise that it won because, going by *another* rule of thumb, it had the most nominations of any film that year. So we can eliminate five of this year's ten nominees right off the bat:

The Blind Side

District 9

An Education

A Serious Man

Up

The last movie that won Best Picture without even being *nominated* for Best Film Editing was 1980's Ordinary People, so we can eliminate:

Up in the Air

Now here's where things get tricky. The last movie that won Best Picture without even being *nominated* for its script or for at least one of its performances was 1932's Grand Hotel. So if we go by *that* rule of thumb, we can also eliminate:

Avatar

This leaves three films for which I know no easy rule of thumb by which to eliminate them:

The Hurt Locker

Inglourious Basterds

Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire

The Hurt Locker would seem to be the favorite to win, since it has the most nominations (it is actually tied with Avatar for the most nominations, but it was nominated for writing *and* acting honours), plus its director Kathryn Bigelow won Best Director at the DGA awards the other day, and whoever wins that award almost always wins the Oscar for Best Director, and the film that wins the Oscar for Best Director usually wins Best Picture as well. But The Hurt Locker has one significant disadvantage: namely, it made almost no money.

You would think box-office shouldn't matter in a determination of the year's best films, but the simple fact is that every Best Picture winner in my

lifetime (stretching back to 1970) has grossed at least $38.3 million (the benchmark was set by Annie Hall -- and that was in 1977 dollars!), and with two exceptions, they have all been among the Top 25 films of their respective years, whether they made the money before or after their nominations. (The two exceptions are Crash, which ranked #49 in 2005, and No Country for Old Men, which ranked #36 in 2007.)

By comparison, The Hurt Locker has grossed $12.7 million and thus ranks way, way down at #130 on the domestic chart for 2009. And it is already on DVD, so the odds of it making more money in theatres is not good.

http://filmchatblog.blogspot.com/2009/01/oscar-winners-slipping-at-box-office.html

http://www.boxofficemojo.com/yearly/chart/?page=2&view=releasedate&view2=domestic&yr=2009&p=.htm

So it is not impossible that The Hurt Locker could win Best Picture, but it would be a very, very, *very* unusual winner in this respect.

Of the other nominees, Inglourious Basterds has 8 nominations and is thus the most-nominated Tarantino movie ever (Pulp Fiction had 7, and Jackie Brown had 1; of all those nominations, only one became an actual win, namely the Original Screenplay award that Tarantino and Roger Avary won for Pulp Fiction). And Precious has 6 nominations.

And if it's box-office you're looking at, Inglourious Basterds has earned $120.5 million and ranks #25 on the year's chart, while Precious has grossed $45.5 million and ranks #66 on the year's chart.

Considering that Inglourious Basterds won the Screen Actors Guild's "ensemble" award not too long ago -- basically the closest thing that SAG has to a Best Picture award -- and considering how crucial the actors' branch of the Academy was to making Crash the Best Picture winner four years ago, and considering that Inglourious Basterds is, after Avatar, the biggest commercial success among the films nominated for Best Director, I would say that if any film has a chance of upsetting The Hurt Locker's odds of winning, it would be Inglourious Basterds.

But like I say, this is using the logic that applied back in the day when there were *five* nominees for Best Picture. Now that there are *ten*, spoilers could come from anywhere. We shall see.

FWIW, I would add that there were EIGHT nominees for Best Picture when Grand Hotel won. And Grand Hotel had no other nominations whatsoever, just the nomination for Best Picture. So who knows, maybe the fact that the race has expanded to ten nominees again (for the first time since the mid-1940s) means that one of the movies with only two nominations, like The Blind Side or A Serious Man, will win Best Picture.

Hey, it could happen.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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What an amazing analysis Peter. You should submit that to some print media.

Denny

Since 1995 we have authored a commentary on film, cinema in focus. Though we enjoy cinema as an art form, our interests lie not so much in reviewing a film as in beginning a conversation about the social and spiritual values presented. We, therefore, often rate a film higher or lower due to its message rather than its quality of acting or film-making.

Cinema In Focus Website

Free Methodist Church of Santa Barbara Website

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Thanks, Denny.

FWIW, I don't rule out the possibility that this could be one of those years that is just full of surprises, especially now that there are ten nominees for Best Picture AND, if I'm not mistaken, the Academy is changing the method by which votes for that category are counted.

We only have to look back nine years to 2000, when Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon won the Directors Guild Award, Traffic won the Oscar for Best Director and Gladiator won the Oscar for Best Picture. Ordinarily all three of those awards go to the same film, but in that year we had a three-way split. It is not outside the realm of possibility that something like that could happen this year, too.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Peter, your post was like watching Memento in reverse. Everything is so clear now.

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

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Peter, your post was like watching Memento in reverse. Everything is so clear now.

or Irréversible, standing on your head spitting nickels.

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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But like I say, this is using the logic that applied back in the day when there were *five* nominees for Best Picture. Now that there are *ten*, spoilers could come from anywhere. We shall see.

Another point to bear in mind, of course, is that precedents hold true until they don't.

E.g., "The last movie that won Best Picture without even being *nominated* for Best Film Editing was 1980's Ordinary People." In principle, though, Up in the Air could always be the first movie to do it since Ordinary People, even without ten-nominee wild-card dynamics in play.

More plausibly, though, it's not only possible but non-negligibly probable (not necessarily more probable than not, but still more than merely mathematically possible and possibly more probable than other outcomes) that Avatar will be the first film since Grand Hotel and Wings to win Best Picture without being nominated for writing or acting. Unprecedented things happen.

For example, probably no other Best Picture nominee in history ever bumped the director's Best Picture-winning previous film off the top of the domestic and and international BO charts. A film that does that could break other precedents too.

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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(not necessarily more probable than not, but still more than merely mathematically possible and possibly more probable than other outcomes)

That may be my favorite parenthetical ever. Top 5, at least.

"It's a dangerous business going out your front door." -- J.R.R. Tolkien
"I want to believe in art-induced epiphanies." -- Josie
"I would never be dismissive of pop entertainment; it's much too serious a matter for that." -- NBooth

"If apologetics could prove God, I would lose all faith in Him." -- Josie

"What if--just what if--the very act of storytelling is itself redemptive? What if gathering up the scraps and fragments of a disordered life and binding them between the pages of a book in all of their fragmentary disorder is itself a gambit against that disorder?" -- NBooth

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SDG wrote:

: More plausibly, though, it's not only possible but non-negligibly probable . . . that Avatar will . . . win Best Picture . . .

Forgive me for snipping out your parentheticals and qualifiers, but I don't believe they affect the point I wish to make in response, which is that Avatar has one other massive hurdle that has yet to be addressed, which is namely the fact that it is a science-fiction movie -- the first (along with District 9) to be nominated for Best Picture since E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982), or so I read somewhere a few minutes ago.

And this raises another point: How common is it for the top-grossing movie of all time to win Best Picture? NOMINATED, sure: The Exorcist begat Jaws begat Star Wars begat E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial begat Titanic begat Avatar, all of which were nominated for Best Picture -- but the only one that has won so far, i.e. Titanic, had at least some claim to be both a "love story" and an "historical epic", both of which (the latter in particular) are genres that the Academy dearly loves, especially when the "historical epic" has overtones of "true story" (the central romance in Titanic was, of course, utterly fictitious, but the sinking of the ship and many of the supporting characters were not). The others were all sci-fi or horror pics (or whatever you'd want to call Jaws), and I think their nominations can be taken as a sign that the movies couldn't be ignored -- but at the same time, it was generally understood that their box-office revenues would be their reward. (Hmmm, there's gotta be a way to rhyme "ignored" and "reward".)

Incidentally, Star Wars lost to Annie Hall, which is the lowest-grossing Best Picture winner of my lifetime, so far. (Though admittedly, if we adjusted for inflation, its grosses would be a fair sight better than, say, those for Crash.)

: For example, probably no other Best Picture nominee in history ever bumped the director's Best Picture-winning previous film off the top of the domestic and and international BO charts.

E.T. sort of came close, inasmuch as it was the second Spielberg movie to be the #1 movie of all time -- and only seven years after Jaws came out, as opposed to the twelve-year gap between Cameron films. But George Lucas did release Star Wars somewhere in the middle, there. And if by "previous film" you mean "the film immediately preceding this one on the director's filmography", then yeah, Spielberg also churned out Close Encounters of the Third Kind, 1941 and Raiders of the Lost Ark in the interim.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Steve Pond on how the Best Picture voting will be done this year. An excerpt:

When the board of governors expanded the category from five to 10 nominees, the Academy created the possibility that in a year when no film was a clear favorite, a movie could be named Best Picture with as little as 15 to 20 percent of the vote, or even less. Changing to a preferential tally means that while the winner isn't necessarily the film with the most Number One votes, it is the consensus favorite of the entire membership, not just the favorite of a small, passionate minority.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Someone just pointed out that two of this year's Best Picture nominees were directed by women: The Hurt Locker, which is also nominated for Best Director, and An Education.

Since Picture and Director nominations tend to go together, more often than not, and since Hurt Locker director Kathryn Bigelow is only the fourth woman to be nominated for Best Director, I am wondering who ELSE, besides An Education's Lone Scherfig, might have directed a Best Picture nominee without being nominated for Best Director?

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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'Avatar' vs. 'Up in the Air': The most symbolic Oscar race since 'Forrest Gump' vs. 'Pulp Fiction'

In this case, though, it’s not Establishment vs. Outsider. It’s Old School script-driven Classic Hollywood vs. New Age post-script 21st Century Entertainment.

Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly, January 2

Oscars: How a big win for 'The Hurt Locker' could change the Academy Awards

It’s worth taking a moment to point out why, for Academy voters, the box office has always been such a crucial factor. The vulgar way to put it would be: Hollywood, in the end, is all about the bottom line, and so a movie that doesn’t “perform” isn’t eligible, according to the industry’s core values, for the most coveted of honors. Yet the eternal mystic paradox of Hollywood, for the last 100 years, has been that there’s a sneaky humanity built into the DNA of its obsession with pleasing a mass audience. Obviously, if it were just about money, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen would be one of the nominees. But the voters have always needed to know that the big movie they’re voting for is popular, because popularity is the spiritual currency of Hollywood’s art. That’s why we call it “pop culture.”

If The Hurt Locker wins this year’s Academy Award for Best Picture, it will in many ways fracture that essential crowd-pleasing code. Sure, the movie swept the critics’ awards, but that’s never been such a dominant criteria for Hollywood. (If it were, the Oscar for Best Picture would likely have gone to GoodFellas, or Nashville, or Pulp Fiction.) To me, it would be fantastic if The Hurt Locker won, because it would effectively redefine the Oscars as an arena where a work of art, its (minor) success driven by critical praise, could compete on a level playing field. (And, of course, the big structural change this year, with 10 Best Picture nominees competing on a ballot that’s weighted more toward plurality than in the past, could have a major influence on the outcome.) If The Hurt Locker wins, it will really be the culmination of a trend that began back in 1996, the year of Fargo and Shine and Secrets & Lies, when the Oscar nominations were, for the first time, dominated by “small” independent releases. Sure, a handful of indie films (like No Country for Old Men) have won Best Picture since, but before doing so they effectively crossed over and became modest mainstream hits.

I’d like to go back to the sole point I made in that earlier, myopic post that I think was accurate. I said that the battle between Up in the Air and Avatar would be the most symbolic Oscar race since Forrest Gump vs. Pulp Fiction back in 1994/1995. . . . Okay, Up in the Air, while a respectable hit, didn’t forge quite the emotional connection with a lot of the audience that I’d wanted it to. But even if I did have the wrong movie, I think I had the right point: With The Hurt Locker now having all but vacuumed up the year’s critical acclaim, and with Avatar having just this week become the top-grossing domestic movie of all time, Avatar vs. The Hurt Locker is an awesomely symbolic race (and not just because James Cameron and Kathryn Bigelow were once married). It’s a clash of size, values, popularity — of essential notions of What Movie Art Is in the 21st century. A Hurt Locker victory would open the door to a new definition of Oscar glory, a defiant celebration of artistry over commerce. A win for Avatar would be, in its way, a definitive assertion of the same old same old. That’s why, more than in quite a long time, I genuinely hope that Best Picture this year goes to the best picture.

Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly, February 5

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Peter, I noticed in the Avatar and Hurt Locker threads that you're skeptical about either film winning Best Picture, for different reasons (Avatar because of the dearth of writing and acting awards, Hurt Locker because of its low box office performance). Is there another film you think more likely to win?

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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SDG wrote:

: Peter, I noticed in the Avatar and Hurt Locker threads that you're skeptical about either film winning Best Picture, for different reasons (Avatar because of the dearth of writing and acting awards, Hurt Locker because of its low box office performance). Is there another film you think more likely to win?

FWIW, Avatar also has the fact that it is science-fiction, as well as the fact that it is the top-grossing movie of all time, working against it. Star Wars and E.T. were similarly nominated but didn't win (with E.T. losing to the historical epic Gandhi and Star Wars losing to the Woody Allen comedy Annie Hall -- currently the lowest-grossing Best Picture winner of my lifetime in unadjusted dollars). And before that, best-grossing-movie-of-all-time genre pic Jaws was nominated but didn't win either, losing to One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest. Titanic DID win, but it wasn't sci-fi, and it had at least a patina of "historical epic" working in its favour.

Like everyone else, I cower before the awesome might of Avatar's box-office earnings, but if I were going to stick my neck out, I'd say this is a race between The Hurt Locker and Inglourious Basterds (partly because Basterds is very popular with actors, and actors make up one of the largest constituencies within the Academy). Or at least, it WOULD be a race between those two films under the old way of doing things, but now that the Best Picture category has ten nominees and the votes are counted using a system called "preferential voting", who knows? Anything is possible.

(The "preferential voting" system was instituted this year because, with ten nominees, the Academy had created a situation in which, under the old way of voting -- in which everyone picks a single favorite and leaves it at that -- it was very possible that a film might win Best Picture with only, say, 15% or 20% of the vote. The new system is designed to give the award to a movie that enjoys broad support across the Academy, rather than risk the possibility that a movie might win because it has an especially passionate minority following.)

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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