Hollywood's Oscar contenders chart course for gold

Sun Feb 28, 2010 4:10pm EST
 
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By Bob Tourtellotte

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - With the Vancouver Olympics near an end on Sunday, Hollywood began charting its own path to glory at the Oscars, and though the film honors feature shoo-in contenders in several key races, industry watchers still expect some excitement.

War film "The Hurt Locker" and action adventure "Avatar," which each earned nine nominations for the world's top film honors, are frontrunners among 10 best motion picture nominees, but which of the two films will win remains anybody's guess.

The awards telecast, which airs on Sunday March 7, annually is seen by hundreds of millions of viewers worldwide, and Oscar organizers at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences made the unusual move of hiring two hosts -- Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin -- to bring laughter and a fast pace to the show.

And what would the Oscars be without controversy? Last week reports surfaced that "Hurt Locker" producer Nicolas Chartier sent an e-mail to Academy members asking them to vote for the film, a violation of rules for which he has apologized.

What will be his punishment? It could be as simple as the Academy yanking his tickets to the coveted ceremony, but a spokeswoman said no decision will be made until after all the final Oscar ballots have been collected this Tuesday.

"It really doesn't seem like there's much suspense, but I will say this, there will be tension until the last minute when best film is announced," said Dave Karger, movie writer for Entertainment Weekly magazine.

TWO-HORSE RACE?

In an effort to widen the pool of movies up for best film, the Academy for the first time since 1943 has put 10 movies in nomination, instead of five, but even so, most industry pundits have said the best film is a two-horse race and given "Hurt Locker" the edge.   Continued...

 
<p>A poster showing Alec Baldwin (L) and Steve Martin as hosts of the 82nd annual Academy Awards is seen at the bottom of the steps to the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in the Academy's headquarters building after the nominations announcements in Beverly Hills February 2, 2010. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok</p>