Veteran Oscar watchers aver that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences does not usually give a film the Best Picture trophy without giving it one for its director as well. A split like this has happened only 21 times in the Academy’s 81 years. All said and done, it makes little sense to me that the Best Picture has not been helmed ably enough for it to deserve the best direction prize as well. I have never understood this concept of division.
So, it is James Cameron (Avatar), Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker),
Quentin Tarantino (Inglorious Basterds), Lee Daniels (Precious) and Jason Reitman (Up in the Air) whose movies will most likely be the actual contenders for the Best Picture Oscar.
There are other guesses for this award. Often, the top honour goes to a film that has been nominated across several categories, most importantly acting and screenplay or editing or both, apart from directing. Four movies, The Hurt Locker, Inglorious Basterds, Precious, and Up in the Air, have qualified here this time. All of them have won Acting and Screenplay nods. Except for “Up in the Air”, the rest have also been nominated for Editing. Avatar has managed one for Editing, though not for Screenplay or Acting.
However in 1998, Cameron’s Titanic sailed away with the Best Picture statuette without getting a nod for Screenplay in the first place. Slumdog Millionaire (2009) and Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2004) were adjudged Best Pictures in the past decade sans Acting nominations.
Ultimately, it is hard to tell what the 5777 Academy voters will put their rings on. Will it be on the technically superb Avatar or the marvellously historic Jewish fantasy called Inglorious Basterds or the recession driven Up in the Air or the Iraqi nightmare captured in The Hurt Locker? We would never know for sure till March 7, when the envelopes would be opened.