With Avatar releasing this week and Nine and The Lovely Bones receiving harsh-to-mixed responses, the Best Picture race is pretty much laid out in front of us. The question is what will get in to this field of ten - the first field of ten since 1943.
Right now, I think the biggest locks are Avatar, Up in the Air and The Hurt Locker. All three have received near-unanimous critical praise and although the former is new to this group, I think the overwhelming reception which began last week and then culminated into big box-office business (not to mention the film's transcendent visual leaps) will make it a legitimate contender - as hard as it is for me to swallow, it's the truth.
Following closely on the heels of the top three are a stable of well-liked films that ultimately haven't taken off due to either lack of timing, box-office numbers or medium of choice. Precious, Invictus, Inglourious Basterds, Up and An Education.
Then we have a grab-bag of goodies which are either too cerebral or too mainstream for the Academy, but up for the last several spots are A Serious Man, Star Trek, District 9, A Single Man, Crazy Heart, Where the Wild Things Are and Bright Star. It's really inconcievable, at this point anyway, that any other film would slide in.
So the big board says, in order:
1. Avatar (20th Century Fox)
2. Up in the Air (Paramount)
3. The Hurt Locker (Summit)
4. Precious (Lionsgate)
5. Inglourious Basterds (The Weinstein Company)
6. Invictus (Warner Bros.)
7. An Education (Sony Pictures Classics)
8. Up (Buena Vista)
9. Nine (The Weinstein Company)
10. A Serious Man (Focus Features)
11. Star Trek (Paramount)
12. A Single Man (The Weinstein Company)
13. Crazy Heart (Fox Searchlight)
14. Bright Star (Apparition)
15. District 9 (Sony/Columbia)
16. Where the Wild Things Are (Warner Bros.)