Olympics 2010If this year's Oscar race were a little more exciting, I wouldn't mind that the awards show itself has been pushed back two weeks to avoid competing with the Vancouver Olympics. Without the Games, 2010 Oscars would be handed out this Sunday. But you tell me, how would ABC's Oscar ratings fare on the night when NBC will be showing bobsled, figure skating and men's hockey?

No, the Academy had to get off the Feb. 21 date. But given how this year's Oscar race has shaken out, they would have done better to move the show earlier, not later. Granted, they would have had to move the date way earlier. The Sunday before the Olympics opening ceremony was Super Bowl Sunday, an event that Oscars could never touch, even if both John Wayne and Clint Eastwood showed up simultaneously. Olympics 2010If this year's Oscar race were a little more exciting, I wouldn't mind that the awards show itself has been pushed back two weeks to avoid competing with the Vancouver Olympics. Without the Games, 2010 Oscars would be handed out this Sunday. But you tell me, how would ABC's Oscar ratings fare on the night when NBC will be showing bobsled, figure skating and men's hockey?

No, the Academy had to get off the Feb. 21 date. But given how this year's Oscar race has shaken out, they would have done better to move the show earlier, not later. Granted, they would have had to move the date way earlier. The Sunday before the Olympics opening ceremony was Super Bowl Sunday, an event that Oscars could never touch, even if both John Wayne and Clint Eastwood showed up simultaneously.

But the week before that, Jan. 31, would have been perfect. No football, no Olympics, nothing but clear sailing for the Super Bowl of movies. Such a move would have put a crimp in the entire pre-Oscar awards schedule, but that would have been a good thing. The Academy Awards season, even with a mid-to-late February finale, is far too long. And as it has turned out this year, as it turns out in most years now, many of the winners are known long before the show.

Current example: Golden Globe and SAG winners Jeff Bridges ('Crazy Heart'), Sandra Bullock ('The Blind Side'), Christoph Waltz ('Inglourious Basterds') and Mo'Nique ('Precious') have nothing to fear but forgetting people to thank on March 7.

Not much about this year has worked out the way the Academy had hoped. The major mission of the Oscars is to give a commercial boost to the nominees and winners. But except for 'Avatar,' which owned every box office record by the time the nominations were announced Feb. 2, and the indie film 'Crazy Heart,' which went wide on nominations weekend, most of the nominees were already played out in theaters.

Nor has the Academy's wild gambit of doubling the number of Best Picture nominees from 5 to 10 increased interest in the awards show. Yeah, they caught one big, fat popular fish -- 'The Blind Side' -- in their widened net, but the Best Actress nomination for that film's star, Sandra Bullock, is all that its fans needed if they were going to tune in. It would be an upset on the order of Neil Armstrong finding cheese on the moon if 'The Blind Side' won for Best Picture.

The Olympics, on the other hand, is full of surprises, of athletes overcoming long odds to win medals. That just doesn't happen very often with the Academy Awards. There are too many pre-Oscar awards and too much money spent on campaigns for favorites for an out-of-the-blue winner in a major category. Even if the Oscars were being handed out on time this Sunday, there would be little drama. In only a couple of the big categories are there more than two conceivable winners.

Here's a rundown of those races, as they now stand. If Oscars came in gold, silver and bronze like Olympic medals, the only competition would be between nominees vying for the silver and bronze.

Best Actor: Jeff Bridges ('Crazy Heart'). No one else can win.

Best Actress: Sandra Bullock ('The Blind Side') or Meryl Streep ('Julie & Julia'). No one else can win.

Best Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz ('Inglourious Basterds'). No one else can win.

Best Supporting Actress: Mo'Nique ('Precious'). No one else can win.

Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow ('The Hurt Locker'). Only other possibility is James Cameron ('Avatar').

Best Picture: 'The Hurt Locker' or 'Avatar.' Outside chance: 'Inglourious Basterds.'

Best Animated Feature: 'Up.' Nothing else can win.
CATEGORIES Oscars