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Oscar derby update: 'The Hurt Locker' may defy the odds to win best picture, Jeff Bridges and Sandra Bullock pull ahead in the lead acting races

January 28, 2010 |  1:17 pm

BEST PICTURE CATEGORY: Now that "The Hurt Locker" has pulled off a jaw-dropper at the Producers Guild of America Awards, all doubters must concede that it could seriously win the top Oscar. Over the past 20 years the PGA has predicted the best-picture Oscar 13 times, and this year the parallel between them is especially significant. Not only did PGA expand its list of contenders to 10 just like the Oscars, but the guild used the same preferential ballot used by the academy.

But beware: "The Hurt Locker" doesn't fit the profile of the typical Oscar champ. In fact, it has four strikes against it.

Hurt locker 22

1. "The Hurt Locker" doesn't feature well-known stars like typical victors "The Departed" (Jack Nicholson, Leo DiCaprio), "Million Dollar Baby" (Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman, Hilary Swank) or "No Country for Old Men" (Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem). Yes, last year's champ, "Slumdog Millionaire," didn't feature known faces either, but it was hugely successful film, earning $377 million worldwide. That leads us to "The Hurt Locker's" next problem.

2. "The Hurt Locker" didn't fare well in theaters. In fact, if it wins the top Oscar, it's going to be the lowest-earning film ever to do so (when all comparative films are adjusted for inflation), having grossed only $12 million in U.S. theaters. How much of that is net revenue? The film cost $11 million to produce. Now add millions more for promotion, advertising and an aggressive Oscar campaign. "The Hurt Locker" could become the first money loser ever to win best picture — at least when measured merely in terms of box-office revenue. Right now "The Hurt Locker" is the top-selling DVD.

3. It's possible that "The Hurt Locker" may have the most nominations but not likely. Having the most bids is usually a key factor. Over the past 20 years, the film with the most bids has won best picture 15 times. If Jeremy Renner gets nommed for lead actor, "The Hurt Locker" is likely to reap eight noms (picture, director, screenplay, editing, cinematography, sound editing, sound mixing). Make that nine if Anthony Mackie makes it into the supporting lineup. "Avatar" will probably score nine nominations; "Inglourious Basterds" nine or 10. But does that really matter? Last year "Slumdog Millionaire" (10 noms) easily squashed "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," which reigned with the second-most bids in Oscar history (13).

4. "The Hurt Locker" is about Iraq. Movies with a Mideast military theme tend to be shunned — not even nominated (remember "In the Valley of Elah"?). But maybe viewers don't think of "The Hurt Locker" as a typical movie about U.S. involvement in Iraq because it doesn't have a political theme. It plays like an action thriller.

BEST ACTOR CATEGORY: By winning both the Golden Globe and Screen Actors' Guild Awards, Jeff Bridges ("Crazy Heart") seems to have squashed any threat from chief rival George Clooney ("Up in the Air"). Clooney's defeat at SAG was devastating considering that he had an edge in the guild race. Paramount had sent out DVD screeners of "Up in the Air" to the full 100,000 membership. Fox Searchlight didn't do the same rollout for "Crazy Heart."

BEST ACTRESS CATEGORY: A week ago, most Oscar pundits believed that Meryl Streep ("Julie & Julia") and Sandra Bullock ("The Blind Side") were neck and neck in the lead-actress race, but Bullock just pulled ahead by winning SAG. The vast majority of lead actors who win both awards go on to win the top acting Oscar. Some industry insiders grumble their belief that "The Blind Side" isn't an Oscar-worthy film. Nonetheless, it's clear that more people within the industry are rooting for Bullock over Streep.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR AND ACTRESS: Christoph Waltz ("Inglourious Basterds") and Mo'Nique ("Precious") now look like Oscar sure bets based upon their consistent sweep of award shows, but beware. When upsets happen at the Oscars, they usually occur in the supporting slots. Mo'Nique seems secure, but Woody Harrelson ("The Messenger") could upset Waltz. It's unlikely, but it's possible.

Photo credit: Summit Entertainment

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Let's take a closer look at Avatar and the Hurt Locker.

Avatar is all special effects, bad dialogue, nice rehashed story yet entertaining good vs. evil but no real substance.

The Hurt Locker is suspensful in some instances but honestly over all I found it to be quite dull. The acting and direction is well-done. The story is quite poignant but it didn't engage me all that much. Kinda left me like Crash did..shrug..ho-hum.

Inglorious Basterds was so-so, but also dull around the edges. The only excitement came at the finale of the picture but not much else to get Lady GaGa (har, har) over.

Precious comes off as more of a Lifetime chick-flick of the week. Women and Oprah fans love it of course because Oprah is GOD!

Preferably I would like to see Best Picture go to something else other than these two films. My preferred choices are either Up or District 9 or even the Fantastic Mr. Fox (if nominated). The Hangover would be a shocking surprise! But the Academy takes itself too seriously, so scratch that ever happening.

All these comparisons remind me of JUNO vs. the other 4 very dark, serious films nominated that year. Roger Ebert was having orgasms over a possible JUNO (light-weight, pro-life propaganda crap) win, but luckily, and THANK GOD! No Country For Old Men won Best Pic.

Though I thought "The Blind Side" to be a problematic film, Sandra Bullock's performance is very good in it. I think her peers are proud of her for stepping up her game and let us not forget that she is also well liked in the industry. Meryl Streep is synonymous with greatness and that is what could work against her in the race this year. She was delightful in "Julie and Julia," but when taking her own greatness into account, her work in the film might come off as "Meryl Streep lite," good as it is. Will the Academy want to honor her a third time for this movie or wait for something more substantial, though wouldn't this be a great year for her to have been nominated for "The Devil Wears Prada"??!! I could be wrong and I would bet any money here because Streep is a acting maelstrom and everyone knows it. Still, Sandra Bullock really comes into her own in "The Blind Side." If we can award a Nobel Peace Prize on potential (and I am a Democrat and Obama supporter), certainly an Oscar can be awarded for fulfilling one's potential as well.

I guess ultimately what we have to remember is that the Oscars are not "critics" awards. They are film industry awards. I just have a problem seeing Hollywood award a film (The Hurt Locker) that did nothing for the industry. As a matter of fact, lost money. Hollywood loves to pat themselves on the back as the ultimate monopoly of the film industry. This is why Titanic won best picture in 1998 even though many thought L.A. Confidential was the best movie of the year. Perhaps it was, but Titanic was the industry movie of the year in terms of box office and appeal.

I'm still laughing at all the Sandra Bullock cry babies. Will you really kill yourself if she wins Oscar? Or get nauseous?"The Blindside" was awful...hardly. Sandra has tied Critics Choice, won Golden Globe and SAG. Some act like her chances for an Oscar would come out of the blue. She may not win the Oscar, but to claim she is unworthy is ridiculous. Some are acting like Angeline is trumping Katherine Hepburn. Big Box office does not preclude Oscar award wins. This argument suggests "Titanic" winning the best film Oscar should be a "dark spot" in Oscar history. "Avatar" could also win this year. If so should we move to Europe?We have also given Oscars to actors who have done garbarge. I suppose we should take Halle Bery's Oscar back because she did "Catwoman."

Why do you keep framing Oscar discussions against The Hurt Locker? In terms of awards and critics, Hurt Locker is the slam dunk. It's Avatar that would have to "defy the odds" at this point...

And who cares about the box office. The Oscar is NOT a People's Choice Award.

Meryl Streep won the SAG last year so I wasn't very surprised that she didn't win it this year - that would have been a sensation if she had. No one have won the category "Best Actress" two years in a row when it comes to the SAG.
And Streep did win the Golden Globe, as well as a lot of other important awards (such as the NYFCC as well as the Kansas Film Critcs Award) and Sandra and Meryl split for the Critics' Choice Awards.
Which makes the "Sandra Bullock will win" argument a bit foggy.

This is not like last year when Kate Winslet's win was more or less obvious(she had been nominated 5 times without a win), this is more tricky. I do not think it's that obvious that Sandra Bullock will win.
Nor is it obvious that Streep will win.
But she could have a good chance, she hasn't won one in 27 years - which makes it almost ridiculous to nominate her again without giving it to her.

I think this will be mystery until they present the award on March 7. Anything could happen.
(Don't forget Meryl is nominated for a BAFTA as well, that's also an important award when you're talking about Oscar buzz).

Re: Best Actress. How about actually giving the award to the best performance. I love Sandy, but an Oscar, come on. Merryl was fine, but don't give it to her like they did with an undeserved Oscar to Nicholson ten years ago for As Good As It Gets, ie., she has been nominated so many times we ought to give her another one. Although she has no chance of winning, Helen Mirren is the real best actress in the world and her nuanced performance in The Last Station easily trumps either Bullock or Streep. And speaking of Academy absurdities, Mirren's incredible and subtle performance in Gosford Park was one of the greatest in the last 50 years, but no Cigar. Denny

I just watched "The Hurt Locker".

Wow what a huge disappointment this was. Some have noted it the best film of the decade. Say what?! This was one long, overdrawn and BORING film! The alleged "intense" opening was peanuts compared to the scenes in "Black Hawk Down" and "Saving Private Ryan". The artistry and cinematography people are getting orgasmic chills over pales in comparison to "The Thin Red Line".

I am seeing "Avatar" tomorrow in 3D in the Imax. So far "Up" still remains my favorite film of 2009, with "Precious" right behind it. "The Hurt Locker" sadly is one of the most overhyped movies of the year, and I think its too bad. I had big hopes for this one.

Oh- and Streep is winning Best Actress. Have we not learned that just because you win the SAG does NOT mean you win the Oscar! (Though I have not seen "The Blind Side" yet, so if I see it and love Bullock, I might be less inclined to throw myself into oblivion when if she wins)

Ah, c'mon. This contrived Best Actress suspense is just that: contrived. Bullock was honored by her peers with a SAG, but it's Streep who will cart home the gold. Like the supporting categories, Best Actress is so obvious it's not even worth the anxiety.

Meryl Streep is much better than Sandra Bullock. If Sandra Bullock won the Oscar, injustice has occurred.

BEST PICTURE is going to fun to's not set in stone but THE HURT LOCKER could change all the norms of what the Academy has done in the past. I think it's a sure bet that Kathyrn Bieglow will get Best Director...but her film will have competition from other worthy films..Inglorious Basterds, Up in the Air, even Precious..can still upset. AVATAR already has it Award...Highest money maker of all time. BEST ACTOR, BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR AND SUPPORTING ACTRESS is pretty much secure as written here. The real race and again a fun horse race that is going to the wire will be BEST ACTRESS. Though I'm a big fan of Sandra Bullock type of acting (funny and light) she's no Meryl Streep and I really believe that the Academy members will say that her nomination this year is the Prize but the actual OSCAR should be and will go to FINALLY, MERYL STREEP. Because she deserves was a fun and stunning portrayal (as always) and she due for all the great performance she has given audiences the past 30 yrs or so and since her last win in 1982 (SOPHIES CHOICE). She is barnone the one to beat really. I think the academy will remember that DOUBT was another great performance and will make it up to her by giving it to Kate Winslet instead. If she doesn't get it...the Academy will be hearing large groans from the public for their oversight.

Enough with the ridiculous Sandra-defending ...They were a fluke. They were influenced with PR and box office (and drawing an A-list star, and all that comes with it: attention, ratings, and ad buys). People would be more apt to see "The Blind Side" rather than, say, "Precious" or "An Education". And Meryl Streep in dreck like "Julie & Julia" only makes matters worse (or in this case better for Sandra Bullock). Box office means jack and squat in terms of meriting ART. Stop using that as a defense. Box office and damn good high-caliber films are apples and oranges.

I personally believe this year's Oscar race is simple and at the same time kinda of tricky. For best movie the contenders don't seem to leave a single moment to be considered "the one".
*Up in the Air, started like that way too Up but suddenly people have realized that as a story it works, but as best picture, mmmm you have to consider Jerry Mcguire (96) personal dilema. So having this comparison it may be given to a supporting actress. Yes! and I am just focusing on the fact that surprises are part of the ceremony itself. Tom has mentioned the audacity of old members picking out cute girls with nice bodies and who tend to appear nude (a key factor Vera Farmiga fits the role), and not to mention that Jason Reitman could probably take home the best adapted screenplay.
* Inglorious Bastards, this one is quite easy. One the most memorable films in the year could take Tarantino's vision with two secure awards, Best original screenplay as well as best supporting actor (Waltz, no doubt) It seems like beyond his performance, Academy members love nazi, germany, jews stories. Why not recognizing it? Im sure they will.
* The hurt locker vs Avatar. I believe that it will go as simple as the Bigelow-Cameron's rupture. One gets the director and the other one the Movie.
Kathryn Bigelow get the director, a woman winning is something new edge society wants to see. Cameron as a gentelman goes with the Oscar as best pic.

Why Avatar will win best pic?
Hollywod needs to scream that not just Bollywood can make fantasies that can take box offices worldwide, at the end its all about money..


Nonetheless, it's clear that more people within the industry are rooting for Bullock over Streep.

More people in SAG! But SAG has many, many voters, who don't have a job and aren't really Oscar voters.

I believe Meryl will win the Oscar. And she deserves it.

enough with the bullock hatings. . . you cant really say that an oscar win for bullock is undeserving. . . she has won all the precursor awards so far(critics's choice, golden globes and SAG), not to mention the $235++million box office recipts, so you cant really say that she is undeserving. it is as if saying that the afformentioned award-giving bodies are all fluke.

Not only is the Blind Side film not Oscar worthy but Bullock's performance in it is not Oscar worthy. It is simply awful. An Oscar to Bullock for this performance would be ludicrous. I don't think AMPAS wants a blunder of Bullock Oscar winner for Blind Side to linger in Oscar history for years and years to come...

I strongly feel that the Oscar for best picture should go to the film that is well-made, and has a big cultural impact, worldwide, not just in the U.S. One should be able to remember the movie 10 or 15 years down the road and how it was a benchmark film. I just don't see The Hurt Locker as that film. The movie cost $15 million to make, and didn't even break even worldwide. I have a feeling that the its either going to be Avatar or Inglourious Basterds. I'm personally hoping for Avatar, because I thought it was delightful, and unlike anything I've ever seen on the big screen. So the dialogue wasn't great or poetic, big deal, but if that were a requirement for being a good movie, heck, Star Wars would be one of the worst movies of all time.

I am hearing more insiders are picking Streep for the win.

I have seen mostly every movie nominated and think that The Hurt Locker should win. As well as Meryl Streep not just because she deserves a third but her portrayl of Julia Child was oustanding. She embraced every aspect of that character. Though I love Sandra Bullock, and think she was amazing in The Blind Side; and think this is probably a once in a lifetime shot for her to win, I think Meryl should win, and hopefully she does.

Bullock over Streep? I feel nauseous.

No one is going to beat Christoph Waltz he has this one in the bag. I amnot buying the fact that Sandra Bullock winning because I don't think that she has earned her stripes even though she has a successful year.

if bullock wins the oscar it's gonna be the most undeserivng win in the century!
i'm killing myself then!
no way in hell she is deserving it!



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