February 11

Has anything changed in your
opinion since nominations?
If so, what?
Scott Bowles Nope
Anthony Breznican I don’t think much has changed. Jeff Bridges wins. Sandra Bullock wins. Christoph Waltz. Mo’Nique. Best picture — Avatar? Probably. But looking at the formula for calculating the 10 votes to include second and third choices makes me wonder how solid that is. Does that potentially benefit The Hurt Locker? Dark-horse Up in the Air? Invictus? (Wait, nevermind …) Probably Bigelow for director. Avatar for picture. Up in the Air gets adapted screenplay for Reitman, while Inglourious Basterds wins original screenplay for Tarantino. And overall, the Academy spreads the wealth during a very strong year.
Gregory Ellwood I think the only thing that has changed – ever so slightly – is that people would actually be surprised of Streep won Best Actress. It’s pretty much expected that Bullock will win.
Pete Hammond I think the Best Picture race is appearing more fluid because of the uncertainty of how the preferential balloting will affect certain films. Still no matter how many times I come up with an alternative premise that tries to make the race interesting and suspenseful I then talk to a handful of Oscar voters who tell me they are voting for The Hurt Locker. Go figure. No other changes in the acting races. They appear locked as far as I can see although the actress race has gotten more aggressive but will it help? We’ll see. It’s Bullock’s to lose at this point.
Eugene Hernandez In the wake of her DGA win and continued momentum for The Hurt Locker, Kathryn Bigelow seems to be solidly on track for the directing Oscar. Meanwhile Jeff Bridges, Christoph Waltz and Mo’Nique appear headed for wins, as well. I think Sandra Bullock is well positioned, but keep an eye on Meryl Streep. At this stage, is anyone willing to consider a surprise in this category: Gabourey Sidibe or Carey Mulligan. Not out of the question. Also, I’m keeping an eye on the doc category. Food Inc. seems solid, but The Cove got a boost this week with news of a release in Japan. Don’t count out Daniel Ellsberg, which is a strong film. Finally, best picture: In any other year I’d predict The Hurt Locker at this moment, but given the new ballot with ten nominees… We’ll all be holding our breath down to the final award of the night. Just what the Academy ordered.
Peter Howell I don’t think anything has changed, apart from firming up of the top prospects. I’ve talked to lot of people who are FINALLY going to see The Hurt Locker as result of the noms — which is good.
Dave Karger No, we’re definitely in a lull right now…
Mark Olsen
Nothing has changed, things have just solidified/been confirmed. It’s kind of the scourge of the extended awards season and our microscopic coverage, that we take much of the surprise out of it both for ourselves and anyone else who actually follows along. Of course, if things weren’t quite so predictable/understandable we’d all be out of business, so…
David Poland Well, there’s a lot of talk. Seems to me that the thing that has changed is that viewers of The Hurt Locker in The Academy has probably jumped from 40% to 90%. That’s a huge win.
Steve Pond What’s changed is that we’re looking for things to write about, and there aren’t as many of those things as there were a week ago.

Movement in the races, momentum shifts, that kind of thing? Not so much.

Sean Smith
Sasha Stone What has changed is that we are entering the second phase of the Oscar race. Not many people seem to notice that there was a date extension, which means that there are a few weeks with ballots outstanding. This is very different from the past several years when there wasn’t any time to mull over the frontrunners. That means there will be more careful consideration of the contenders.

Avatar has been seriously hurt by not winning the DGA or the PGA, or having any SAG nominations — heading into the Oscar race with no acting nor writing nominations means that it is weakest at the heart of the voting academy, where actors kind of rule. This change took place, it feels like, because of the momentum put forth by Cameron’s winning the Golden Globe. Voters after that in the various races seemed to go, “hold on a minute, THAT is the best film of 2009?” At the same time, though Avatar has become the highest earner, the week that ballots went out its position dipped to one behind Dear John. Had it remained in a dominant spot throughout these next few weeks it still might have been enough.What has changed, though, ultimately, is not a question we can answer because none of us have ever been through a ten-picture race. What is exciting is that anything is possible and no one should be surprised if a film not expected to win turns up in the number one spot, like Up or Precious, or even Inglourious Basterds. For me the miracle of this race, the truly surprising thing about it so far, is how well a small film written off by almost everyone (one that continues to be written off) keeps winning despite its box office returns. On the one hand, this could be seen as an anti-Cameron vote, on the other hand, wow.

The Oscar race is usually about the team who played it best. But this year it feels like it’s actually about the movie. That means that, perhaps, Hollywood might not be ready just yet to give up their nuts and bolts filmmaking and embrace the brave new world of computer-generated worlds and emotion-capture actors. On the other hand, maybe they are.

Kris Tapley Immediately after the Oscar nominations were announced, journalists in the broader media began to dig into the red meat of ” Avatar vs. The Hurt Locker” and all the nifty headlines it conjured.  But at least in fringe corners of the web — where this nonsense is a focus (raises hand) — an awareness of the Best Picture category’s use of the preferential ballot has begun to pick up steam.  This is, after all, one more change in protocol that could have as big an impact as “the 10.”  Suddenly Avatar is understood as a more polarizing film than its competition, and therefore weak to surprise attacks from consensus favorites like Up, Up in the Air or even Inglourious Basterds.  That The Hurt Locker rarely inspires active disapproval probably makes the slow realization moot, but the simple fact that the race can’t be boiled to two contenders is at least making the rounds.
Anne Thompson It’s hard to imagine anything dive-bombing Christoph Waltz and Mo’Nique’s Oscar chances. Sandra Bullock is not a lock to beat Meryl Streep. Many older Academy members are rooting for Hollywood’s most-nominated actress, who hasn’t won an Oscar since 1983’s Sophie’s Choice. And The Hurt Locker‘s Jeremy Renner, who actually played the piano and sang on The View, is challenging veteran Jeff Bridges, whose singing in Crazy Heart not only makes the movie, but should win him his first Oscar. Does Renner have a shot? Most folks didn’t call Adrien Brody’s win for The Pianist. But it’s Bridges’ turn.As for best picture and director, it’s Avatar vs. The Hurt Locker all the way. The trick is to convince people that Avatar isn’t just a great technological achievement but a movie to be taken seriously. That’s why I wonder: if Academy members vote for The Hurt Locker for best picture, wouldn’t they consider giving Cameron best director? Who else could have accomplished what he did on Avatar? It’s a director’s achievement. If it’s a popularity contest, self-effacing Bigelow wins against her egoistic ex-mate. But the Academy didn’t “like” Cameron last time, when Titanic won 11 Oscars. The major difference: Oscar voters took historic romantic period epic Titanic more seriously than tree-hugging sci-fi Avatar.
Susan Wloszczyna The excitement over Avatar and its record box office has subsided, Cameron gave a couple just-OK acceptance speeches and now it looks as if The Hurt Locker and — given the weighted voting — Inglourious Basterds might have a better chance at winning best picture. That surprises me since I would think Hollywood would celebrate the green the blue people brought in and how Cameron proved that 3D is not just a gimmick. Up in the Air seems to be deflating by the minute whereas Precious is taking its op-ed blows pretty well. As much as I am behind Team Bigelow, part of me would love to see a sci-fi film actually win the top prize.

Scott Bowles
…… USA Today
Anthony Breznican
…… USA Today
Greg Ellwood
Pete Hammond
…… LAT Envelope
Eugene Hernandez
…… indieWIRE
Peter Howell
…… The Toronto Star
Dave Karger
…… Entertainment Weekly
Mark Olsen
…….LA Times

David Poland
…… MCN
Steve Pond
…… The Wrap
Sasha Stone
…… AwardsDaily.com
Sean Smith
…… Entertainment Weekly
Kris Tapley
…… In Contention
Anne Thompson
…… Thompson On Hollywood
Susan Wloszczyna
…… USA Today
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