CATEGORIES Hot Topic, Oscar News
James Cameron and Kathryn BigelowIf you were to believe the buzz, rumors and overheard conversations related to Sunday's Oscars, you'd think that James Cameron, the Bad Boy King (... of the World) and director of 'Avatar,' magnanimously wants his ex-wife, 'The Hurt Locker's' Kathryn Bigelow, to beat him out for Sunday's Best Director Oscar. The truth, I venture, is that when Cameron began publicly promoting her over himself, he knew that the lady was already the champ and that he might as well take credit for helping her shatter Hollywood's last glass ceiling.

Meanwhile, Cameron has been telling everyone that he wants 'Avatar' to win the Best Picture Oscar as a reward to the hundreds of workers behind the $230 million-plus production. What a mensch, remembering the little people while counting the untold millions he will receive from the film's $2.5 billion worldwide box office.

I don't know if Cameron will get his Best Picture award, but the third of his five wives is almost certain to win as Best Director. Bigelow is one of only four women ever nominated for a prize that has had 294 male nominees. (Watch out guys, they're going to catch you.) The others were Italian director Lina Wertmuller for 'Seven Beauties' (1976), Jane Campion for 'The Piano' (1993) and Sofia Coppola for 'Lost in Translation' (2003). But this is the year when a woman finally breaks through. James Cameron and Kathryn BigelowIf you were to believe the buzz, rumors and overheard conversations related to Sunday's Oscars, you'd think that James Cameron, the Bad Boy King (... of the World) and director of 'Avatar,' magnanimously wants his ex-wife, 'The Hurt Locker's' Kathryn Bigelow, to beat him out for Sunday's Best Director Oscar. The truth, I venture, is that when Cameron began publicly promoting her over himself, he knew that the lady was already the champ and that he might as well take credit for helping her shatter Hollywood's last glass ceiling.

Meanwhile, Cameron has been telling everyone that he wants 'Avatar' to win the Best Picture Oscar as a reward to the hundreds of workers behind the $230 million-plus production. What a mensch, remembering the little people while counting the untold millions he will receive from the film's $2.5 billion worldwide box office.

I don't know if Cameron will get his Best Picture award, but the third of his five wives is almost certain to win as Best Director. Bigelow is one of only four women ever nominated for a prize that has had 294 male nominees. (Watch out guys, they're going to catch you.) The others were Italian director Lina Wertmuller for 'Seven Beauties' (1976), Jane Campion for 'The Piano' (1993) and Sofia Coppola for 'Lost in Translation' (2003). But this is the year when a woman finally breaks through.

'The Hurt Locker' really has been the little movie that wouldn't go away. Summit Entertainment picked it up after some festival showings in 2008 and held on to it until June of last year. The boutique distributor arguably botched its release, opening it in four theaters and counting on reviews to build interest for a wider release. It got into as many as 535 theaters but stalled out with less than $13 million in gross receipts.

But this is one case in which the nation's much-maligned corps of critics kept a weak film alive and then, with a rash of year-end awards and top 10 lists, made it too big to ignore by an industry that normally turns its back on "losers." Bigelow was the biggest recipient of all this attention, and since she won the Directors Guild of America's award for best directing of a feature film -- a first in that organization's history, as well -- her trip to the podium on March 7 has seemed assured. Wouldn't you say, Jim?

Inglourious BastedsThough we'll never see the rundown of the final voting, I'd imagine that Cameron ranks behind Quentin Tarantino on that Best Director ballot. And die-hard fans of QT's 'Inglourious Basterds' -- no small band -- may be hoping he'll be the one to pull an upset here. That isn't going to happen.

In fact, 'Inglourious Basterds' has a better shot at the Best Picture Oscar. It is odd, to say the least, that the most competitive Oscar category this year is the Big One. No other major category has more than two plausible winners, and most of them are down to one. But Sunday's last envelope could contain any of three titles -- 'The Hurt Locker,' 'Avatar' or 'Inglourious Basterds.'

A check of 'Basterds'' eight nominations shows broad support across the Academy's craft branches, and it did win the Screen Actors Guild award for best ensemble feature. That's SAG's equivalent of the Best Picture Oscar, and the actors' branch of the Academy is by far its biggest voting bloc. So, it is not out of the question.

Still, the focus is on the ex-spouses and their movies. By all that's reasonable in the Hollywood scheme, 'Avatar' should win. It is a technical achievement that promises to transform the immediate future of motion pictures and it has shown conclusively that in the age of DVDs, On Demand and wall-size high-definition TVs, people will leave their homes in droves to watch a movie they feel they can't miss or wait for. (And if you plan to wait to see this at home, you should wait long enough to have a 3-D TV.)

Academy voters had a clear choice here: vote for the movie whose commercial success has already earned it a place in history, or the one that they know is the best. 'Avatar' or 'The Hurt Locker'? Cameron or Bigelow? Once again, I'm with her.

A final note about the Academy's decision to double the Best Picture ballot. Where did it get you, fellows? There have never been more than five movies in contention and those five -- the three above plus Lee Daniels' 'Precious' and Jason Reitman's 'Up in the Air' -- filled out the Best Director and Best Picture ballots. The others -- 'Up,' 'District 9,' 'A Single Man,' 'An Education' and 'The Blind Side' -- were mere ballast.

If the Academy really wants to add some spice and intrigue to the proceedings, they should consider having only three Best Picture nominees next year. The howling and screaming of would-be contenders might not get more viewers for the show, but it would sure to be fun to listen to.