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Can 'Avatar' sweep the Oscars? Expect up to nine nominations

December 18, 2009 |  1:47 pm
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"Avatar" has already won over film critics, fan boys and many Hollywood awards, scoring best-picture nominations from the Golden Globes and Critics Choice Movie Awards. But how will "Avatar" fare at the Oscars?

My guess is that "Avatar" can score up to nine Academy Award nominations: best picture, director, art direction, film editing, music score, song, sound editing, sound mixing and visual effects.

Forget screenplay. James Cameron wasn't nominated for "Titanic" when it reigned as king of the Oscars. Forget makeup. Radical facial changes are due to special effects instead of powder, paste, lipstick, eyeliner and hair dye. "Avatar" is also just a long shot for costume design.

Below is a category-per-category breakdown of how it competes in its nine serious contests.

James Cameron Avatar movie news

"An Education"
"The Hurt Locker"
"Inglourious Basterds"
"It's Complicated"
"A Serious Man"
"Up in the Air"

"District 9"
"The Hangover"
"Julie & Julia"
"The Lovely Bones"
"The Road"
"A Single Man"
"Star Trek"

Kathryn Bigelow, "The Hurt Locker"
James Cameron, "Avatar"
Lee Daniels, "Precious"
Clint Eastwood, "Invictus"
Jason Reitman, "Up in the Air"
Quentin Tarantino, "Inglourious Basterds"

Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, "A Serious Man"
Pete Docter, Bob Peterson, "Up"
Tom Ford, "A Single Man"
Peter Jackson, "The Lovely Bones"
Rob Marshall, "Nine"
Lone Scherfig, "An Education"

"Avatar," Rick Carter, Robert Stromberg
"District 9," Philip Ivey, Guy Potgieter
"Inglourious Basterds," David Wasco, Sandy Reynolds-Wasco
"Nine," John Myhre, Gordon Sim
"Sherlock Holmes," Sarah Greenwood, Katie Spencer
"Young Victoria," Patrice Vermette, Maggie Gray

SPOTLIGHT: John Myhre won this race the last two times he teamed up with director Rob Marshall ("Chicago," "Memoirs of a Geisha"). Now "Nine" -- set in Fellini's Rome of the 1960s -- may be the kind of period picture that's so popular with voters. Another -- "The Last Station" set in czarist Russia – could bring 1984 champ Patrizia von Brandentstein ("Amadeus") her fourth nomination.

"Bright Star," Janet Patterson, Charlotte Watts
"Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," Stuart Craig, Stephanie McMillan
"It's Complicated," John Hutman, Beth Rubino
"The Last Station," Patrizia von Brandenstein, Mark Rosinski, Heike Wolf
"The Lovely Bones," Naomi Shohan, George DeTitta Jr., Meg Everist
"Public Enemies," Nathan Crowley, Rosemary Brandeburg
"A Serious Man," Jess Gonchor, Nancy Haigh

SPOTLIGHT:  Voters' love of fantasies could bolster the hopes of three-time champ Stuart Craig, who earned his most recent two of eight nominations for previous installments of the "Harry Potter" franchise.

"Avatar," Christopher Boyes, Gwendolyn Yates Whittle, Addison Teague
"The Hurt Locker," Chris Innis, Bob Murawski
"Inglourious Basterds," Sally Menke
"Invictus, " Joel Cox
"Nine," Claire Simpson

SPOTLIGHT: The only past Oscar winners in the running -- Claire Simpson ("Platoon") and Joel Cox ("Unforgiven")" – could contend for best picture nominees that showcase their fast-paced editing of fancy footwork by dancers and rugby players. While the top award usually goes to a picture with at least an editing nomination, nine films have won without one, the most recent being "Ordinary People" in 1980.

"District 9," Julian Clark
"This Is It," Don Brochu, Brandon Key, Tim Patterson, Kevin Stitt
"The Lovely Bones," Jabez Olssen
"Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire," Joe Klotz
"A Serious Man," Roderick Jaynes
"Sherlock Holmes," James Herbert
"Star Trek," Maryann Brandon, Mary Jo Markey
"Up in the Air," Dana E. Glauberman

"Avatar," James Horner
"Coco Before Chanel," Alexandre Desplat
"Fantastic Mr. Fox," Alexandre Desplat
"The Informant!" Marvin Hamlisch
"It's Complicated," Hans Zimmer
"The Princess and the Frog," Randy Newman
"Star Trek," Michael Giacchino
"Up," Michael Giacchino

While Desplat and Giacchino could pull off double nominations, Hamlisch -- who won this category in 1973 ("The Way We Were") -- could be back in this race for the first time since 1982.

"Broken Embraces," Alberto Iglesias
"Brothers," Thomas Newman
"A Christmas Carol," Alan Silvestri
"Coraline," Bruno Coulais
"Fantastic Mr. Fox," Alexandre Desplat
"Invictus," Kyle Eastwood, Michael Stevens
"Julie & Julia," Alexandre Desplat
"The Last Station," Sergei Yevtushenko
"Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire," Mario Grigorov
"A Serious Man," Carter Burwell
"Sherlock Holmes," Hans Zimmer
"Up in the Air," Rolfe Kent
"Where the Wild Things Are," Carter Burwell, Karen O

Check out the full list of 63 tunes in contention -- here. Below, the leading players.

"Almost There" ("The Princess and the Frog"), written by Randy Newman, performed by Anika Noni Rose

"Cinema Italiano" ("Nine"), written by Maury Yeston, performed by Kate Hudson

"Down in New Orleans" ("The Princess and the Frog"), written by Randy Newman, performed by Dr. John

"I See You" ("Avatar") written by James Horner and Simon Frangle, performed by Leona Lewis

"Take It All" ("Nine"), written by Maury Yeston, performed by Marion Cotillard

"Trust Me" ("The Informant!"), written by by Marvin Hamlisch and Alan and Marilyn Bergman, performed by Steve Tyrell

"The Weary Kind" ("Crazy Heart"), written by T Bone Burnett and Ryan Bingham, performed by Ryan Bingham

SPOTLIGHT: When stage musicals are adapted to the screen, old songs aren't eligible, thus "Evita" added a new tune ("You Must Love Me" won) and "Dreamgirls" tacked on three (all got nominated). "Nine" showcases two splashy songs performed by Kate Hudson ("Cinema Italiano") and Marion Cotillard ("Take It All").

"All Is Love" ("Where the Wild Things Are"), written by by Karen O and Nick Zinner, performed by Karen O and the Kids

"Invictus 9,000 Days" ("Invictus"), written by Clint Eastwood, Michael Stevens, Dina Ruiz Eastwood and Emile Welman, performed by Overtone with Yollandi Nortjie

"Colorblind" ("Invictus"), written by by Daniel Po, performed by Overtone

"Only You" ("The Young Victoria"), written by Ilan Eshkeri, Nikki Hassman and Pam Sheyne; performed by Sinead O'Connor

"Never Knew I Needed" ("The Princess and the Frog"), written and performed by Ne-Yo

“Hideaway” ("Where the Wild Things Are"), written by Karen O and Imaad Wasif, performed by Karen O and the Kids

"New Divide" ("Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen"), written and performed by Linkin Park

“(I Want to) Come Home" ("Everybody's Fine"), written and performed by Paul McCartney

"God Bless Us Everyone" ("A Christmas Carol"), written by Glen Ballard and Alan Silvestri, performed by Andrea Bocelli

"Winter" ("Brothers"), written by Bono and the Edge, performed by U2

"Raining Sunshine" ("Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs"), written by Matthew Gerrard, Jay Landers, Charlie Midnight, performed by Miranda Cosgrove

"Petey's Song" ("Fantastic Mr. Fox"), written by Jarvis Cocker, Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach; performed by Jarvis Cocker

"Smoke Without Fire" ("An Education"), written by Duffy and Bernard Butler; performed by Duffy

"Avatar," Christopher Boyes
"District 9," Brent Burge, Chris Ward
"The Hurt Locker," Paul Ottosson
"Inglourious Basterds," Wylie Stateman
"Star Trek," Ben Burtt, Alan Rankin, Mark Stoeckinger
"Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen," Erik Aadahl, Ethan Van der Ryn, Mike Hopkins
"Up," Tom Myers, Michael Silvers

SPOTLIGHT: Two-time champ Ethan Van der Ryn lost his only Oscar race for the first "Transformers" while "Avatar" sound man Christopher Boyes won the first of his two Oscars in this category (he has another pair for sound mixing) working with director James Cameron on "Titanic."

"A Christmas Carol," Randy Thom, Dennis Leonard
"The Lovely Bones,"  Brent Burge, Chris Ward
"Nine," Wylie Stateman, Renee Tondelli
"The Princess and the Frog," Odin Benitez
"2012," Paul N. Ottosson
"This Is It," Tricia Linklater

"Avatar," Christopher Boyes, Gary Summers, Andy Nelson, Tony Johnson
"District 9," Ken Saville, Michael Hedges, Gilbert Lake
"The Hurt Locker," Ray Beckett, Paul N.J. Ottosson
"Inglourious Basterds," Mike Minkler
"Nine," Jim Greenhorn, Roberto Fernandez, Mike Prestwood Smith, Richard Pryke
"The Princess and the Frog," David E. Fluhr, Dean Zupancic, Doc Kane
"Star Trek," Anna Behlmer, Peter J. Devlin, David Giammarco, Andy Nelson, Paul Massey
"This Is It," Paul Massey, David Giammarco
"Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen," Geoffrey Patterson, Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers

SPOTLIGHT: While musicals have made a comeback in a category they once dominated with recent wins for "Chicago," "Ray" and "Dreamgirls" and war pictures like "Saving Private Ryan" and "Black Hawk Down" continue marching to victory, the juggernaut that was the "Transformers" sequel could finally win Greg P. Russell an Oscar on a lucky 13th nomination.

"2012," Jeffrey J. Haboush, Michael Keller, Rick Kline, Michael McGee
"Up," Michael Semanick, Tom Myers, Doc Kane
"Where the Wild Things Are," Gary Wilkins, Mark Weingarten, Michael Semanick, Juan Peralta, Ren Klyce

SPOTLIGHT: Oscar's biggest loser, Kevin O'Connell ("Public Enemies"), returns after 20 previous defeats. Rick Kline ("2012") has struck out 11 times. Pixar returns with "Up" after previous losses for "The Incredibles," "Rataouille" and "Wall-E."

"A Christmas Carol"
"District 9"
"Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince"
"Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen"
"Star Trek"
"Where the Wild Things Are"

SPOTLIGHT: Perhaps producer Peter Jackson's magic touch -- three consecutive wins for the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy -- can boost "District 9" into the final three. However, the innovations of "Avatar," the pedigree of "Star Trek" (the original contended 30 years ago) and the success of the "Transformers" sequel could prove overwhelming.

"G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra"
"Sherlock Holmes"
"Terminator Salvation"

NOTE: An earlier version of this article incorrectly listed "Precious" song "i Can See in Color" as an Oscar contender.

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The comments to this entry are closed.


this is what should have happened: "yo, really happy for gonna let you finish.but Avatar is the best movie of all time.the best movie of all time!"

You can make March 7, 2010 a day to affirm social justice, diversity and tolerance instead of a day of corporate greed and heterosexual preconceptions.

America needs progress and change and Americans finally have a President who is intelligent enough to make it happen. Health Care is a basic human right. Gay Marriage is a basic human right. Diversity is a basic human right. Support President Obama and change and we can win over intolerance and right-wing bigotry and stupidity.

We received many wonderful ideas and suggestions as to how to protest on March 7. After a lot of soul-searching and substance absorption, these are the ideas for protest we ask you to consider:

* Paint yourself using gold body paint and walk the streets of your community in the nude. The display of your genitalia will send a counter-message to Oscar’s sexual denial.
* Hold an empty picture frame in front of your face. This will symbolize what American TV programs and films fail to show.
* Do not watch the Oscars on your television. Watch progressive programming instead.
* Invite people to your home or speak with them in public about sexuality and Evolution.

Direct protest:

For those in the Los Angeles area you can certainly protest in the traditional manner at the location of the Oscars ceremony. We only ask that you be peaceful and non-confrontational.

We have gotten offers from people who work in the film industry to disrupt the ceremony itself during its live broadcast. While we do not call for such actions, we understand why they would be justified.

Message to the Academy:

If you wish to avoid the protest we ask the following: Rescind all nominations for Avatar. The film should not be awarded anything. We also ask that you give Brokeback Mountain the Oscar award for Best Film that it was denied a few years ago. Everyone knows that Brokeback Mountain is a better and more significant film than Crash.

We thank you for you time.


Lara, Royce and Linda

It's rumored that the sequel to Avatar will even have three-dimensional characters.

only thing good about avatar was the special effects, in 3D other wise movie was boring. especially last hr of a never ending fight scene....

Avatar will win 4 of those 9 if it wins best pic I will be pissed the basic story is a ripoff of Pocahontas and a 1957 book called "Call Me Joe" I cannot believe people like that movie so much. As for the visuals they are awesome but in all honesty the motion capture of Gollum looks just as good as Avatar and I thought the World created by Avatar was to similar to what we have seen before while star wars and Lord of The rings Look like nothing I have ever seen before. But That is just my opinion

you have no idea what your talking about do you?
if u think that the hang over is even margenally possible to receive a best picture nomination your an absoloute joke
avatar doesnt deserve best picture and wont win it
its acting was week and dialog embarassing at best. it willl win best special effects maybe soundtrack but not much else

Because of the screenplay of Avatar, I think Hurt Locker may win the best picture oscar. Besides, golden globes don't define oscar as we saw the proofs in the past. Brokeback Mountain, Atonement, The Aviator, ...

Avatar is possibly the best movie I have seen in many, MANY years. People have been saying that the plot wasn't that original, but can you honestly compare it to movies like the "Last Samuri". "Avatar" WAS original. The entire universe was original, the creatures, the people, the story was only about humanities inherit aggression toward weaker people. Is that such a bad thing? I am sure that more intellegent people at the awards cerimony will take into consideration that this movie has captured the minds of more movie watchers then all other "plot related movies" of its type combind.

I think Avatar will easily win a majority of those awards.
And if not, I don't care at all, Its still one of my favorite movies. EVER.

Avatar is a revolutionary film. Beautiful in art, the love between Neytiri and Jake, the music. All elements of a masterpiece are present. There are many wonderful messages throughout and at the very least Avatar deserves many nominations.

Avatar will dwarf Titanic.

Avatar will sweep the Academy Awards.

It's the way the game is played.

The only reason Avatar will get nommed for best picture is because there are now 10 slots. It will surely win for special effects but it's a boring film with a predictable plot, silly acting (Weaver doing Ripley 20 years later)...pretty bad really. It's a hyped film but only good for its visual effects...

Unless Harry Knowles starts handing out Oscars, Avatar isn't winning Best Picture. The Academy is smarter than that. They aren't 25 year old video game obsessed, smart phone addicts that count down the days until the new Spider Man movie comes out.

Avatar has a mediocre story. The real star are the special effects that Cameron spent hundreds of millions of dollars on. Wow. Congrats. You outspent everybody.

Avatar is a classic scenario you've seen in Hollywood epics from Dances With Wolves, Dune, District 9 and The Last Samurai, where a white guy manages to get himself accepted into a closed society of people of color and eventually becomes its most awesome member.

If we think of Avatar and its ilk as white fantasies about race, what kinds of patterns do we see emerging in these fantasies?

A white man who was one of the oppressors switches sides at the last minute, assimilating into the alien culture and becoming its savior.
These are movies about white guilt. Our main white characters realize that they are complicit in a system which is destroying aliens, AKA people of color - their cultures, their habitats, and their populations.

The whites realize this when they begin to assimilate into the "alien" cultures and see things from a new perspective. To purge their overwhelming sense of guilt, they switch sides, become "race traitors," and fight against their old comrades. But then they go beyond assimilation and become leaders of the people they once oppressed.

This is the essence of the white guilt fantasy, laid bare. It's not just a wish to be absolved of the crimes whites have committed against people of color; it's not just a wish to join the side of moral justice in battle. It's a wish to lead people of color from the inside rather than from the (oppressive, white) outside.

In all my years of watching movies, I have never wanted to be part of the world that was created as I was in the master piece of "Avatar"
The imagination, creativity and the story is the best escape from this world I have ever experienced.

Congratulation, truly a master piece.


have to agree with mostly everyone....I seen avatar last night and it was amazing...I was thinking the entire time I was watching the movie "is this what it was like to see Star Wars for the first time?"

To me it was that ground-breaking.....I couldn't take my eyes off the screen, just a beautiful, magnificent film. Definitely has my vote for best picture.

Also I think the Hangover has a shot at best picture....why not? It was the best Comedy of the year...though I Love You, Man is very, very close too. I think Star Trek needs to be in Oscar talks too....truely a great movie!

"Avatar" has already won visual effects.

Dear Tom, in the visual effects category, you put Transformers before Star Trek, when we all know t comes after s.

Having a hard time saying this since I want This is It to take many awards, as well as Clint Eastwood's Invictus however, Avatar was incredible!! Groundbreaking. Best movie hands-down in a long time. While not easily impressed with special effects or plots, this movie had me sitting on the edge of my seat through the entire film-- even eating popcorn nervously through scenes. Loved the underlying theme of saving our planet now and the visual creativity was out of this world!

Fantastic job Cameron and crew. Wll definitely go see this again and add it to the home collection when it is released. You deserve many awards for your vision and creativity!

We saw Avatar last night. It's frickin' awesome. Bring on the Awards!

you for serious? The Hangover as a possible for best picture. I was going to keep reading your list, but man... that's absurd.

I would love to see Avatar take the Oscar for Art Direction. While I didn't much get into the plot, the creation of the world of Pandora onscreen was fantastic. I have such respect for the vision of the film.

I hope, hope the Academy will nominate Jarvis Cocker's Petey Song, just for the lulz. It had one win already so that idea of making it to the Oscars is not far-fetch anymore.

One more thing, Tom: "Dreamgirls" actually had FOUR new songs; the fourth, "Perfect World", was a short Jackson 5-style snippet for the Rainbow Records 10th-anniversary special (inspired by Motown 25 and replacing the Democratic fundraiser as the scene of Jimmy Early's breakdown).

Of course, I've also been waiting for "The Princess and the Frog" ever since Anika Noni Rose got the role of Tiana right after "Dreamgirls". (JHud was also reportedly in contention, but her voice is clearly too big to be an effective Disney princess; Anika was the right choice.) And PATF was only the second film I've ever seen a theater audience applaud at the end; IIRC (and ironically), the first was "Dreamgirls".

Q: Since Michael Giacchino's "Star Trek" score obviously incorporates elements from the past work of both Alexander Courage (TOS theme) and Jerry Goldsmith (movie & TNG themes), does that make him ineligible for that movie? Especially since he's almost certainly in for "Up", clearly an original score?

Tom, "I Can See In Color" is NOT on the BOS submission list; though the Music Branch Executive Committee is allowed to supplement the list by 12/31, in practice that never happens. (The theory on the boards is that it didn't appear long enough in "Precious" to qualify; though the rules don't state any specific length of time, it just barely appeared in one scene so that may well be the problem.) That certainly narrows the field; it makes it more likely both "The Princess and the Frog" & "Nine" will bag their limits of two noms.

Also, a FYC poster for "Invictus" (posted to the forum BOS thread in response to my complaints about the 3-writer limit) dropped Emile Welman as a writer of "Invictus 9,000 Days", almost certainly to comply with the 3-writer limit for BOS--the same reason "Winter" is now credited to just Bono & The Edge (not all of U2 as in its Globe nom), and why Scott Shields was left off for "Only You". However, Linkin Park (6 members) still has a problem with the limit on their TF:ROTF song, as does They Might Be Giants (5 members) on "Other Father Song" from "Coraline".




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