So if Avatar is really a global phenomenon, as it appears to have become, what does this mean for our friends in the Academy, many of whom are on record for saying they want this year's show to draw in ratings by trying to nominate independent and mainstream films? Knowing how much of suckers they are, I'm actually starting to think Avatar could win Best Picture. "Follow the money" isn't always the most reliable method for predicting them (Dark Knight did get snubbed, after all), but Avatar's the return of an Oscar-winning director, has been touted as a "game changer," has major nominations from the Critics Choice, Golden Globes, Producers Guild, and Directors Guild.
Of course, it's also been fighting from behind against early frontrunners The Hurt Locker and Up in the Air. Avatar and Inglourious Basterds seem - to me - to be on the same level right now. Lots of people love them, but they have a giant question mark about how many people will actually vote for them. And with the expansion to 10 Picture nominees, the Academy hasn't been shy about wanting to get MORE populist than it can already be (that wonderful year that was 2007 feels so far away).
Could Avatar win Best Picture, Hurt Locker win Best Director, Up in the Air win Best Actor, and Inglourious Basterds win Best Original Screenplay? You bet, and I'm starting to think it might happen.
Next weekend are the Critics Choice and the Golden Globes. Those might help push one of these four films into the front of the pack.