JAMES CAMERON can deliver an audience, whether at movie theatres or at the ACADEMY AWARDS, whether in the frosty North Atlantic or on a lush world light years away.

The Canadian director’s sci fi sensation AVATAR is among a strong crop of popular films in the running for OSCAR nominations tomorrow morning – the sort of hits organizers hope can elevate the modest TV ratings the ceremony has drawn in recent years.

Along with AVATAR, prospects in the OSCAR’S newly expanded BEST PICTURE race of 10 films include two other sci fi smashes STAR TREK and DISTRICT 9, the Second World War hit INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS and the animated blockbuster UP.

Also contending are such critical darlings as the recession tale UP IN THE AIR from director JASON REITMAN, the war on terror thriller THE HURT LOCKER, the Nelson Mandela story INVICTUS and the teen dramas AN EDUCATION and PRECIOUS.

Among acting favourites are lead players SANDRA BULLOCK for the football drama THE BLIND SIDE and JEFF BRIDGES for the country music tale CRAZY HEART as well as supporting performers Mo’NIQUE for PRECIOUS and CHRISTOPH WALTZ for INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS.

All four won GOLDEN GLOBES for their roles.

JAMES CAMERON made the two biggest modern blockbusters with 1997’s TITANIC, set aboard the doomed luxury liner on its maiden Atlantic crossing and AVATAR, a tale of humans and aliens in conflict on a distant moon.

TITANIC did $1.84 billion at the box office worldwide. Just before his new sci fi epic opened in December, the director said, “I don’t expect that kind of performance out of Avatar.”

Yet AVATAR, which won for BEST DRAMA and DIRECTOR at the GOLDEN GLOBES, has shot past TITANIC, heading beyond $2 billion with plenty of box office life left in it.

OSCAR TV ratings typically rise when a major commercial hit is among the favourites. TITANIC dominated the ACADEMY AWARDS and lured the biggest TV audience ever – 55.2 million viewers – for Hollywood’s premier party.

The TV audience has been well below that mark since then.

OSCAR organizers decided last summer to double the BEST PICTURE field to 10 movies, saying they felt there were more than five worthy contenders.

The expanded BEST PICTURE category caught Hollywood by surprise, with filmmakers, actors, studio executives and others divided over the idea. Some say it opens the OSCARS up to a broader range of films, others think it might allow lesser movies to sneak into the BEST PICTURE competition.

Among those with reservations…

“Does that make the awards more prestigious? No. I think it makes them less prestigious,” said Harry Potter producer DAVID HEYMAN. “But listen, if I were ever one of the 10, I’d be very proud and very happy.”

“It seems like it might take away a little bit of the exclusivity of being a nominee out of five, rather than to be a nominee out of 10,” commented MICHAEL DOUGLAS, a producer of the 1975 BEST PICTURE winner ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST and the 1987 BEST ACTOR winner for WALL STREET.

And those who think it might be a good idea…

“Consider critics. No critic has trouble coming up with a top 10 list,” said THE DARK KNIGHT director CHRISTOPHER NOLAN, who earned a BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY nomination for 2001’s MEMENTO.

“When you look at the critics’ top 10 lists, they’re broad lists – a lot of different types of movies. That works very well for critics and maybe it’ll work for the Academy.”


  1. yep, you woke up early for this.


  2. Honey, why are you sorry? You don’t have to apologize to me.

    Christ, if we were in charge of the OSCARS, our ten BEST PICTURE nominees would look a hell of a lot better than their list.

    Let me just clarify a few things before I put all of this to bed. So to speak…

    Yesterday morning, I didn’t really sleep. AT ALL.

    While I was trying to format the nomination post, I had problems with my internet connection. It got f’ed up. So I was actually off line for about an hour, fighting like hell to get back on so that I could finish the piece.

    Lack of sleep + an imminent migraine + no internet + the Academy’s profound lack of good selections = me on the wild side

    This isn’t about getting everything that you want. NO ONE (except possibly the people that are nominated – and even I’m not sure about them) gets every single thing they want OSCAR nomination morning. There are far too many variables involved.

    It’s not like this is Miranda’s world and y’all are just living in it.

    Hmmm. Come to think of it, though, that might not be a bad state of affairs.

    But I digress…

    These are the things that made me wickedly pissed – that I just couldn’t gloss over…

    My top ten didn’t look anything like the ACADEMY’S BEST PICTURE top ten. But I’m used to that. In other years, my top 5 never remotely resembles the ACADEMY’S top 5 either.

    But they have honoured many populist films in the past. (Granted, most of them were not comedies.)

    But when you broaden your horizons to 10, I think you have the responsibility to think outside the box. They failed miserably at that.

    I can not speak to DISTRICT 9 or UP, which I haven’t seen. I didn’t like THE HURT LOCKER or AVATAR. But they were coming to the party (like it or not…) so those were givens all ready.

    I saw AN EDUCATION last night for the third time. (I know. I said I wasn’t going again after initially seeing it last fall at our film festival. But that’s another story…)

    AE is a good film that I have a tremendous amount of affection for at this point. But it’s more of a solid selection. It’s certainly not an essential. It could’ve been left out quite easily and I don’t think most people would’ve complained.

    THE BLIND SIDE is a nice little movie. BUT COME ON. Without the performances of SANDRA and QUINTON, it wouldn’t even exist.

    A SERIOUS MAN is retarded nonsensical misanthropic existential BS of the highest order and the worst movie the Coens have ever made.

    As for the other…

    I knew MICHELLE PFEIFFER had next to no hope for CHERI. She was only part of the discussion for about five minutes. But that still bothers the living hell out of me.


    I am thoroughly and completely disgusted.

    Do I feel better about this today? A bit. Every day that goes by it will seem less and less crucial.

    Doesn’t matter anyway. It’s done.

    So much for the morning…

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