Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

Final stab at the Oscar nominations. Is Hurt Locker now favourite?

Hello. Billy the Fish here with his final attempt to guess Tuesday’s Oscar nominations. As we seek to anticipate the Academy’s shortlist for best picture, a strange revelation sets in. When, last summer, it was announced that the powers that …

Sun, Jan 31, 2010, 22:22


Hello. Billy the Fish here with his final attempt to guess Tuesday’s Oscar nominations. As we seek to anticipate the Academy’s shortlist for best picture, a strange revelation sets in. When, last summer, it was announced that the powers that be were to increase the number of best picture nods from five to 10, Screenwriter was not alone in suggesting that the real nominees would come to be seen as those films whose directors received nods. As things have worked out, the best director nominations appear already to be sewn up. So, if there were still just five best picture places, speculation would already have ended on that race. If you haven’t been following the action, the pictures in question are Avatar, Up in the Air, Precious, Inglourious Basterds and The Hurt Locker. Only Quentin Tarantino, director of Basterds, need have even the slightest worry about not ending up in the director derby.


L to R: Bigelow, Cameron, Your one out of Titanic who’s now married to Jim.

With that in mind, expanding the race seems, for pundits at least, to have been a very good idea. At least we have something to talk about. Not much has changed in the bottom region of the list over the past few weeks. As has been the case for a month, there seem to be seven dead certs: the five pictures mentioned above plus Up and An Education. The remaining three places are, in this writer’s estimation, sure to be drawn from the following pool of eight: Star Trek, Invictus, A Serious Man, District 9, Crazy Heart, The Messenger, A Single Man and (no, really) Julie & Julia. That’s right. After figuring in everyone’s list in late October, Nine and The Lovely Bones now shiver on the Oscar equivalent of an undiscovered moon of Pluto. No three from that eight would amaze me, but it would be a disappointment (not least to the mainstream-hungry Academy) if one of the two science fiction pictures didn’t make it in. My heart — though not my head — votes for both Star Trek and District 9.

What really has changed over the last few days is the race for the best picture Oscar itself. Last night, The Hurt Locker added the Directors Guild prize for best picture to the Producers Guild gong it won earlier in the week. Unlike the stupid Golden Globes, these prizes have a very good record in predicting Oscar success (not least because both electorates are packed with Academy members). So, Avatar is no longer a dead cert. The Hurt Locker has become a very, very strong second favourite. In fact, more than a few pundits now have Hurt Locker back in front.

This creates several intriguing conflicts. Firstly (and most deliciously) the directors of the two films — Kathryn Bigelow and James Cameron — were once married. Secondly, whereas Avatar would (duh!) be the most successful film ever to take the top prize, The Hurt Locker would, by most estimates, be the least financially lucrative ever to win best picture. Indeed, a recent article in the LA Times suggested that it might be the first best-film winner to actually lose money on its theatrical release. And of course there’s the issue of gender. No woman has ever been so close to nabbing the best director Oscar.

So it’s David (née Mrs Goliath) versus her swaggering giant of an ex. Fun, fun, fun.

Enjoy our stab at guessing the main nominations below. The lists are arranged in order of likelihood. So you can take each number one as my current pick for the final prize.


1. Avatar

2. The Hurt Locker

3. Up in the Air

4. Precious

5. Inglourious Basterds

6. Up

7. An Education

8. Star Trek

9. Invictus

10. A Serious Man


1. James Cameron

2. Kathryn Bigelow

3. Jason Reitman

4. Lee Daniels

5. Quentin Tarantino


1. Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart)

2. George Clooney (Up in the Air)

3. Colin Firth (A Single Man)

4. Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker)

5. Morgan Freeman (Invictus)


1. Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side)

2. Gabourey Sidibe (Precious)

3. Carey Mulligan (An Education)

4. Helen Mirren (The Last Station)

5. Meryl Streep (Julie & Julia)

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