When Avatar won the Globe, people acted like the Oscar was a done deal. Sorry kids, not when there's still well over a month before the ceremony. Campaigning doesn't work like that. Avatar may have just passed The Dark Knight to become the 2nd highest grossing movie in US box office, it may have popular phenomenon like nothing else this year, but think of who the Academy is: traditional old guys.
Sci-fi is not their tradition. Not in the big picture. Lord of the Rings is the only fantasy film to win the Best Picture Oscar. It still lost twice. I can't/won't see Avatar in the same position, because Lord of the Rings never touted itself as the "future of film." It reimagined the epic through fantasy. That, and James Cameron's had his turn.
Here's why Avatar lost: Star Trek and District 9. You nominate three sci-fi movies for Best Picture at the PGA, the votes split. Were it five nominees instead of 10, I bet Avatar would have won. If the same thing happens at the Oscars, you can bet the votes will split.
But for The Hurt Locker to win this award from THE PRODUCERS shows me that Avatar's reach does exceed its grasp. It will win a plethora of tech guilds and Oscars, but it needs the directors guild. It needs something more important than the Globe or else it ends up being like Babel, statistically speaking.
Likewise, Hurt Locker needs something else. Editing guild, maybe. There's a ferocious competition brewing under the surface, and it's dividing down this line:
Do we award the populist, technological accomplishment? Or do we award the small, "important," critically championed achievement?
Or is it someone completely different?