Oscar contenders vie for underdog status

Wed Feb 3, 2010 11:01pm EST
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By Stephen Galloway

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Is "Avatar" truly the underdog?

That's the way Fox co-chairman Tom Rothman saw the best picture race last month in an interview with the New York Times -- and that was before "Avatar" lost to "The Hurt Locker" at the producers and directors guild awards in recent weeks.

The reality, though, is more complicated. Typically, the movie with the most Oscar nominations is the front-runner for best picture, and here "Avatar" and "Locker" are tied with nine apiece. That gives each an edge over the other eight nominees in this year's supersized category.

But which, if either, will win? What follows is an analysis of some of the factors that might determine the winner.


As recently as early December, "Avatar" wasn't even being discussed as an Oscar movie. The picture hadn't screened for critics; a 25-minute preview at Comic-Con and another 15-minute clip that played in Imax theaters nationwide had drawn mixed responses. If anything, "Up in the Air" was looking like the favorite -- then "Avatar" started to roll out.

The Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. saw it and loved it; trade reviews were raves; and the first major press screening ended in applause. As critics followed with near-unanimous praise and the film began breaking box office records, "Avatar" emerged as the front-runner.

"The Hurt Locker" stole its thunder at the Critics Choice Awards on January 15, taking the directing and best picture prizes. But "Avatar" rebounded two days later at the Golden Globes, winning those races.   Continued...

<p>An Oscar statue is seen on stage after the 82nd annual Academy Awards nomination announcements in Beverly Hills February 2, 2010. The 82nd annual Academy Awards will be presented in Hollywood on March 7, 2010. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok</p>