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Comic-Con mystery: Will James Cameron return to the Oscars with 'Avatar'?

July 24, 2009 | 12:34 pm

Oscar champ James Cameron unveiled 24 minutes of "Avatar" at Comic-Con Thursday. This 3-D sci-fi film is the first from James Cameron since he declared himself to be "king of the world" after "Titanic" won a record-tying 11 Oscars in 1997.

James Cameron Avatar Comic Con Sam Worthington Oscars movie news 1357986 In "Avatar," Aussie actor Sam Worthington plays a Marine sent in altered form to a planet 200 years in the future. Sigourney Weaver — who earned the first of her three Oscar nods under Cameron's direction for "Aliens" — plays the Marine's mentor.

While Worthington appeared only via a video message, Weaver joined James Cameron onstage at Comic-Con. She told the audience, "Jim wrote such a wonderful character for me to play in Grace Augustine.  I find her so moving in a way.  She’s a woman who’s dedicated her life to something she believes in.”

The showman director asked the enthusiastic crowd, "Who wants to go to another planet?" before unspooling the preview reel.

As Denise Martin reported for the Los Angeles Times, "To make the film, Cameron used a new technology that enabled him to super-impose the computer-generated creatures onto his live actors while shooting. He said he wrote the project 14 years ago specifically to push the art of digital 3-D animation. The results, to hear the Comic-Con attendees in Hall H tell it, are stunning."

Those fans unable to make it to Comic-Con will get a chance to see 15 minutes of "Avatar" footage for free on Aug. 21 at IMAX and 3-D screens around the country. The film is scheduled for worldwide release on Dec. 18. That is one day shy of the 12th anniversary of "Titanic," which went on to become the highest-grossing picture of all time.

"Titanic" tied the 1950 record of "All About Eve" when it landed 14 Oscar nominations, though star Leonardo DiCaprio was snubbed as was the script by James Cameron. And "Titanic" equaled the record set by "Ben-Hur" (1959) when it won 11 Oscars, including best picture and director (James Cameron).

This year the best picture race at the Oscars is doubling to 10 nominees. So "Avatar" only needs to inspire passion among groups of voters in below-the-line jobs such as sound and visual effects to land a top bid. 

Sci-fi films have fared poorly in the main races at the Oscars. "Star Wars" landed a best picture nod in 1977, losing to "Annie Hall." More recently, the fantasy film franchise "Lord of the Rings" earned three consecutive best picture bids. The final installment – "The Return of the King" – tied one of the two Oscar records held by "Titanic" with 11 wins, including best picture and director (Peter Jackson).

Photo: 20th Century Fox

NOTE: An earlier version of this blog article incorrectly stated that "West Side Story" won 11 Oscars instead of "Ben-Hur." The fix has been made.

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