It's going to be a battle of the exes in the Golden Globes' Best Director race. In this corner: director of the most expensive movie ever made (twice!), Oscar-winner, and self-proclaimed King of the World - 'Avatar''s James Cameron!

And in this corner: action-filmmaker extraordinaire, director of 2009's biggest critical darling, and possibly the first woman ever to win a Best Director Oscar - the former Mrs. James Cameron, 'The Hurt Locker''s Kathryn Bigelow!

It's going to be a battle of the exes in the Golden Globes' Best Director race. In this corner: director of the most expensive movie ever made (twice!), Oscar-winner, and self-proclaimed King of the World - 'Avatar''s James Cameron!

And in this corner: action-filmmaker extraordinaire, director of 2009's biggest critical darling, and possibly the first woman ever to win a Best Director Oscar - the former Mrs. James Cameron, 'The Hurt Locker''s Kathryn Bigelow!

Twenty years ago, when Cameron and Bigelow were married, both their careers were on the rise. (Their union lasted from 1989 to 1991. She was the third of his five wives; he was her only husband to date.) He was the rising-star sci-fi director of 'The Terminator' and 'Aliens.' She was a rare woman in a boys'-club world of action filmmakers and the director of such innovative genre films as 'Near Dark' and 'Point Break.'

Since then, Cameron has directed three more massive blockbusters, including Oscar-winning Best Picture and biggest-hit-ever 'Titanic,' before taking a 12-year break from feature filmmaking, while Bigelow's career hit a couple of icebergs, in the form of such fascinating but flawed films as 'Strange Days' and 'K-19: The Widowmaker.' 2009 saw them both return to the fore with massively hyped projects, though his was in his customary sci-fi/blockbuster arena, while hers was another acclaimed action film that was also a thoughtful indie drama about the Iraq War.

Cameron would seem to have a slight edge here; on this morning's list of Golden Globes nominations, 'Avatar' appears four times, 'The Hurt Locker' three. Both films are nominated for Best Picture (Drama). But if Cameron's citations are wider, they're not as deep. The movie's other two nominations are for James Horner's music, while 'Hurt Locker' was also nominated for Mark Boal's screenplay. In other words, Cameron's 3-D sci-fi epic may have razzle-dazzled voters with its visual spectacle, but Bigelow's military drama actually moved them with a memorable story.

Plus, outside the Globes' sphere, 'Hurt Locker' has been named Best Picture by five critics' groups, with Bigelow named Best Director by seven groups. Only the obscure New York Film Critics Online has named "Avatar' Best Picture, and no one has named Cameron Best Director. So the critical consensus is weighted heavily toward Bigelow.

Of course, the Cameron-Bigelow battle could end up being an under card to the main event. After all, Jason Reitman's 'Up In the Air' has more Globe nominations than any other film, and Reitman is also up for Best Screenplay, so that give him a better shot at a Best Director win than any of the other nominees. Quentin Tarantino's 'Inglourious Basterds' has four nominations, same as 'Avatar,' but two are for Tarantino (he's also up for Best Screenplay), so he has a slight edge over Cameron as well. The longest long shot in the category is now Clint Eastwood, whose 'Invictus' got three nods but was shut out of the Best Picture race.

The biggest surprise in this category is the exclusion of Lee Daniels, whose 'Precious' has been getting all kinds of citations this season, including a Best Picture nod at the Globes. (Eastwood seems to have taken his directing slot here.) When the Oscar nominations come out next month, however, Daniels still has a shot, while Eastwood probably doesn't, given the failure of critics groups and the Globes to line up behind 'Invictus.'

Usually, the Academy's nominees for Best Director are an identical or near-identical match to its Best PIcture nominees. With the Best Picture category open to ten movies instead of five this year, that means at least five worthy directors won't make the cut. Critical support thus far for 'Hurt Locker,' 'Up in the Air,' and 'Precious' means likely nominations for Bigelow, Reitman, and Daniels, while the fight to fill the fourth and fifth slots may see Cameron and Tarantino slugging it out with such dark horses as Rob Marshall ('Nine') or Joel and Ethan Coen ('A Serious Man').

If Bigelow does get nominated for an Oscar, as seems likely, she'll be only the fourth woman in eight decades of Academy Awards history to earn a Best Director nomination. No woman has won the award - yet.