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Oscar derby update on the best picture race: Early awards boost 'Up in the Air,' 'Hurt Locker' and 'Inglourious Basterds'

December 17, 2009 | 11:42 am

Here's an update on the Academy Awards' contest for best picture based upon how contenders fared at the precursor prizes unveiled over the past week.

"Inglourious Basterds" pulled off the biggest rally after being dismissed early on by most Oscar pundits as a serious contender. It tied "Nine" for the most Critics' Choice Movie Awards nominations, it reaped bids in the top Golden Globe races, even scored a nod for best ensemble from the SAG Awards. But it didn't land in the top 10 list issued by the American Film Institute.

SAG Awards nominations Up in the Air news

Most pundits (except me) predict "Up in the Air" will win best picture at the Oscars. (I'm still betting that "Basterds" will prevail despite enduring ridicule from other Oscar bloggers for the past month.) "Up in the Air" received the most Golden Globe nominations and did well at the Critics' Choice Awards, but it didn't score a nom for best ensemble from SAG. Usually, the eventual Oscar champ must do that; often it claims that award too. Four of the five films that did reap SAG ensemble bids were able to send nonwatermarked DVDs to all 2,100 members of the SAG nominating committee. "Up in the Air" couldn't, being a new release. It could only send watermarked DVDs to the 1,200 members who signed waivers, but that's also true of "Nine," which made the list. Obviously, SAG nom com members saw "Up" because it garnered three other nominations.

Good week for "The Hurt Locker," winning best picture from the New York Film Critics Circle and Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. That guarantees that it'll be a top Oscar contender for best picture. But maybe its dual victory is a curse upon its hope of actually winning the reigning academy prize. Over the past 25 years, only one of the eight movies that won both critics' awards triumphed as best pic at the Oscars: "Schindler's List" (1993).

"Avatar" followed up on its socko reviews to score top bids for best picture and director from the Golden Globes and Critics Choice Movie Awards, but it got snubbed by AFI.

"Precious" did well at Critics Choice and SAG Awards, but faltered a bit at the Globes. It was nominated for best drama picture, but failed to get a director's bid for Lee Daniels.

"Nine" seems to be critics-proof. Despite poor reviews (30% at RottenTomatoes), it tied "Basterds" for most Critics' Choice Movie Awards noms, did well at the Globes, but director Rob Marshall was skunked across the board.

Terrible week for "Invictus" and "Lovely Bones." Clint Eastwood was nominated at the Globes for helming "Invictus," but it wasn't nominated for best drama picture at the Globes and it was left off of the top 10 list of the American Film Institute. "Invictus" did, however, make the Critics Choice list. "Bones" was shut out of all top contests for best picture.

"A Serious Man" made the AFI list and was nominated for best pic by the Critics Choice Awards, but wasn't nominated for best comedy/musical pic at the Globes and Joel and Ethan Coen were shut out of the directors' race.

"An Education" didn't make the AFI or Globes' list, but it was nominated by Critics Choice.

NOTE: An earlier draft of this article wrongly stated that"Nine" was on the AFI top 10 list. The correction has been made.

Photos (clockwise): "Up in the Air" (Paramount), "The Hurt Locker" (Summit), "Inglourious Basterds" (Weinstein Co.)

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