After all, many more people watch the Oscars when films they know and have an emotional stake in are up for awards than when the Academy nominates films that few viewers at home have seen. In any case, the new rule will certainly make the Best Picture race more interesting and harder to predict, with a lot more wild cards in the deck this year. Will the opening up of the Oscars' Best Picture category, from five nominees to 10, cheapen the awards show or save it? On the one hand, it seems to lower the standards the Academy has professed to uphold for decades; on the other hand, it could allow films that have been both box office crowd-pleasers and critical favorites, like 'Star Trek,' 'Up,' and 'Inglourious Basterds.'
After all, many more people watch the Oscars when films they know and have an emotional stake in are up for awards than when the Academy nominates films that few viewers at home have seen. In any case, the new rule will certainly make the Best Picture race more interesting and harder to predict, with a lot more wild cards in the deck this year.
The Locks: Overwhelming buzz means three movies are sure to be nominated: 'Up in the Air,' 'The Hurt Locker,' and 'Precious' (pictured, above right). That still leaves seven slots to fill.
The Oscar Hopefuls: Movies destined to get multiple acting, writing and directing nominations stand a better chance of getting a Best Picture nod as well. So you can probably count on Best Picture citations for 'An Education' (pictured, left), 'Invictus,' 'Nine' and 'A Serious Man.'
The remaining slots could go to children's movies, animated films, or other blockbusters that pleased mass audiences but also delighted critics. So there may be room for sophisticated kid fare like 'Up,' 'Where the Wild Things Are,' and 'Fantastic Mr. Fox,' as well as smart, grown-up action hits like 'Star Trek' and 'Inglourious Basterds.'
The Globe Hopefuls: Over at the Golden Globes, where they've always had 10 Best Picture nominees (divided into drama and comedy/musical categories), they're used to considering more populist movies that might not make the Oscar cut. This year, that includes films like 'Julie & Julia' (pictured, right) 'The Blind Side,' '(500) Days of Summer,' and 'This Is It' (that's a musical, isn't it?). Of course, these now become dark horse Oscar candidates as well.
The Long Shots: Conversely, the inclusion of more populist movies could elbow out the acclaimed but low-profile indie and art-film fare that usually merits a slot (or several) in this category. It's going to be much tougher this year for movies like 'The Messenger' (pictured, left), 'The Last Station,' 'Bright Star,' 'A Single Man,' 'Brothers,' 'The Road' and 'Crazy Heart,' all of which may have to settle for an acting nomination or two.
Too Soon to Tell: Does 'The Lovely Bones' have a shot? Does 'Avatar'? Not enough people have seen these yet to form a consensus. There's also an outside chance for 'It's Complicated,' though that may have to settle for an acting nomination or two - plus the presence of its two male stars, Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin, as Oscar hosts.
Don't Forget: It's pretty rare for voters to take notice of movies that have grossed less than $1 million, particularly if they're foreign-language films or documentaries. Still, we wish the Oscars and the Globes would take notice of Korean drama 'Treeless Mountain' or underwater eco-doc 'The Cove.'