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Oscars derby update: Can 'Avatar' triumph at Golden Globes and Critics' Choice Awards to emerge as official front-runner?

January 14, 2010 |  1:46 pm

Now that "Avatar" has proven its enduring might with fans ($440 million at the U.S. box office after four consecutive weeks at No. 1) and film critics (82 score at RottenTomatoes), and "The Hurt Locker" just swept the film critics trifecta -- wining best picture from the journos in New York, Los Angeles and in the National Society of Film Critics --  they both must battle "Up in the Air," "Precious" and "Inglourious Basterds" this weekend at the Critics Choice Awards and Golden Globes.

Those five films recently established themselves officially as the most serious rivals to win the top prize at the Oscars by reaping nominations from the Directors' Guild of America  -- the most important Academy Awards omen.

Avatar Golden Globes Critics Choice awards news

But how accurate are the Critics' Choice Awards and Golden Globes? What will we learn from seeing who wins this weekend? (The Critics' Choice Awards are on VH1 on Friday, the Golden Globes on NBC on Sunday.)

Let's examine what's happened over the past 10 years. The Globes have two sets of awards, remember — drama and comedy/musical. One of their two best pictures repeated at the Oscars six times since 1999. That percentage is slightly lower than the Globes' average over the past 50 years, so maybe their level of agreement with Oscar will rally soon.

Critics' Choice is much higher: 80% over the past decade. In 2005, members of the Broadcast Film Critics Assn. opted for "Brokeback Mountain" over "Crash" and, in 2004, "Sideways" over "Million Dollar Baby."

The Critics Choice Award also has a better history predicting best actor and actress than the Golden Globe over the past decade. Seven of the 10 best-actor prizes bestowed by BFCA repeated at the Oscars. Only five of the 20 best actors crowned by the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. went on to Oscar glory.

The Critics Choice voters aren't so savvy forecasting the lead actress champs. Their percentage is only 60% in 10 years. Globers hailed eight Oscar winners in one of their two lead-actress categories; nine if you count Kate Winslet, who won in lead at the Oscars for "The Reader" and in supporting at the Globes. Of course, Winslet also won the lead Globe race too, for "Revolutionary Road."

The reason that these two awards are so good at predicting the Oscar is because they actually influence academy voters, who tune in to view the precursor award shows on TV. Winners must give performances on the podium just as amazing as the film turns that got them there. Hilary Swank and Jamie Foxx won Oscars for "Boys Don't Cry" and "Ray" largely because they were so amazing on the Globes' stage sharing stories of their tearful struggle to make it in showbiz (Swank) and love of a grandmother (Foxx).

Giving a knockout performance on the podium is easy for an ole pro like Meryl Streep, who always wows, but the pressure is really on young stars like Carey Mulligan ("An Education") and Gabourey Sidibe ("Precious"), who don't have experience at this. Lucky for them both, they're not competing at the Globes against Streep, who is pushed off into that separate race for comedies/musicals. If one of the young new stars can get past veteran Sandra Bullock ("The Blind Side") in the race for best drama actress, she has the chance of a lifetime to become an Oscar-bound superstar.

Memo to Mulligan and Sidibe, whoever wins: Keep the laundry list of names short. Go for a knockout punch to TV viewers' guts, breaking our hearts. Share your dream, tell us a story, and don't be afraid to cry. Genuine, triumphant tears are perfect for the occasion. Kate Winslet shed a river of them at the Globes last year, and they helped to float her to Oscar victory.

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