As a new year begins, its somewhat surprising that so much seems settled in this year's Oscar race.  True, there are two spots (possibly three) at play for Best Picture, but what other questions are racking the brains of studio publicists, consultants, actors and filmmakers clamoring for their shot at Oscar gold?  Let's take a look, shall we?


Is "Nine" out or is it in?
Lord, it would be a big surprise if it made it.  The critic's mostly skewered it and its being perceived as a box office bomb within the industry (which is pretty much true...baring a miraculous turnaround).  The musical's big test?  Making the PGA's ten nominations for best picture on Tuesday morning.  If it doesn't, it's pretty much over.

Could Sandra Bullock actually beat Meryl Streep for Best Actress?
Most expect Bullock to be a not-so "surprising" Best Actress in a Drama winner at the Golden Globes later this month.  If that truly comes to pass, there are those in the Sony camp who are a tad concerned Bullock could overtake Streep's long journey for a third Oscar statue.  The industry loves Bullock, but that would be one of the greatest upsets in Academy history. We don't buy it.

Can "Avatar" win without an acting nomination?
It's incredibly rare or a Best Picture winner to not have received any sort of acting nomination, let alone win.  The last time it occurred was, um, last year with "Slumdog Millionaire."  Before then?  in 2004 with "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King."  And before then? "Braveheart" in 1996.  Seems like "Avatar" might keep another trend going.

With 1-8 seemingly set, which flicks can sneak into the top 10?
That's the only real drama left in awards season this year (good thing they switched to ten nods, no?).  Possibilities include "The Blind Side," "District 9," "It's Complicated," "Crazy Heart" and maybe...maybe, even "Star Trek."  Academy members have to pick 10 movies.  What will they remember most?

Is Lee Daniels in danger of not getting nominated for Best Director?
Sadly, yes.  The DGA nominations will be a strong precursor, but picture and the actress nominations may be "Precious'" big nods.  Anyone from Academy favorite Clint Eastwood ("Invictus") to Neill Bloomkamp ("District 9") could knock him out of contention.  That would have been shocking three months ago, but after a lackluster release and Academy campaign by Lionsgate it's almost an expected disappointment.

Is Penelope Cruz a lock for a Best Supporting Actress nod?
No.  In fact, if her name isn't revealed toward the beginning of the nominations on Oscar morning it's the first sign "Nine" didn't make the top ten.  Anyone from Samantha Morton ("The Messenger") or Paula Patton ("Precious") could fill the fifth slot instead.

Does the film editing rule apply with ten nominees?
We say yes. It's almost impossible for a film to win the top prize without having at least a Best Editing nomination.  However, it won't matter much this year as both "The Hurt Locker" and "Avatar" are guaranteed to receive nominations in that category.  And if "Up in the Air" does not?  Well, there ya go...

Could the upset of Oscar night be in...Best Supporting Actor?
There has been an underreported but pretty spectacular campaign to get Woody Harrelson nominated for his work in "The Messenger" and it's working.  Harrelson has already landed both SAG and Globe nods off a campaign driven by screeners.  Now, there is more than enough time for Harrelson to overtake the little-known Waltz for the main statue. 

If "It's Complicated" wins the Golden Globe for Best Picture - Comedy or Musical will it make the 10?

Not necessarily.  The last four winners of this category all failed to land Oscar nods for Best Picture ("Walk the Line," "Dreamgirls," "Sweeney Todd" and "Vicky Christina Barcelona").  Even with ten nods, that trend may not end in 2010.

Is there any drama left in the season at all?
Seemingly from these questions, yes, but in all honestly not so much.  The ten nominees have made the race interesting, but besides the Best Actor race (Clooney vs. Bridges) there feels like less to be settled than in some time.  That wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing, but it has to be disconcerting for the Academy who have drawn out the process to avoid the Winter Olympics an the Super Bowl.  In 2014?  We suggest moving the calendar up to have the show before the Super Bowl.

Are you still excited about the race?  Share your thoughts below.

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