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GOLD DERBY: The race for best picture, director, lead actor and lead actress

November 11, 2009|TOM O'NEIL

With 10 nominees for best picture instead of the usual five, this may be the most exciting Oscar derby in many years. And the most suspenseful. No current academy members can remember what it was like the last time there was so much competition -- 66 years ago. But that doesn't mean some of them weren't around!




"An Education"

"The Hurt Locker"

"Inglourious Basterds"


"Julie & Julia"

"The Lovely Bones"


"Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire"

"The Road"

"A Serious Man"

"Star Trek"


"Up in the Air"

Spotlight: "Precious" looks like this year's "Slumdog Millionaire." Again audiences are flipping for a harsh ghetto drama about downtrodden characters who ache for love. "Precious" leads with the most buzz -- and biggest heart -- but beware: Many rivals are largely still unseen ("The Lovely Bones," "Invictus," "Nine," "Avatar").


"Bright Star"


"District 9"

"The Hangover"

"It's Complicated"

"The Last Station"

"Sherlock Holmes"

"A Single Man"

"The Young Victoria"

Spotlight: When it comes to appreciating comedies, Oscar voters usually don't get the joke and they notoriously pooh-pooh sci-fi and animated flicks in the race for best picture too. However, this year all three genres have top contenders: sci-fi with "Avatar," "District 9," "The Road" and "Star Trek"; humor with "It's Complicated," "The Hangover" and "Julie & Julia"; and animation with "Up."




J.J. Abrams, "Star Trek"

Kathryn Bigelow, "The Hurt Locker"

James Cameron, "Avatar"

Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, "A Serious Man"

Lee Daniels, "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire"

Pete Docter, Bob Peterson, "Up"

Clint Eastwood, "Invictus"

John Hillcoat, "The Road"

Peter Jackson, "The Lovely Bones"

Rob Marshall, "Nine"

Jason Reitman, "Up in the Air"

Lone Scherfig, "An Education"

Quentin Tarantino, "Inglourious Basterds"

Spotlight: Only three women have been nominated for best director over the last 81 years: Lina Wertmuller ("Seven Beauties"), Jane Campion ("The Piano") and Sofia Coppola ("Lost in Translation"). Now all five category spots could be claimed by women: Bigelow, Campion, Ephron, Nancy Meyers, Scherfig.


Neill Blomkamp, "District 9"

Jane Campion, "Bright Star"

Nora Ephron, "Julie & Julia"

Tom Ford, "A Single Man"

Michael Hoffman, "The Last Station"

Nancy Meyers, "It's Complicated"

Guy Ritchie, "Sherlock Holmes"

Jim Sheridan, "Brothers"

Jean-Marc Vallee, "The Young Victoria"

Spotlight: Just weeks ago, most pundits dismissed "Sherlock Holmes" as elementary. Now its buzz is great. Hmmm . . . is it a mere coincidence that Ritchie suddenly rebounds after splitting with nine-time Razzie "winner" Madonna?




Jeff Bridges, "Crazy Heart"

Nicolas Cage, "The Bad Lieutenant"

George Clooney, "Up in the Air"

Matt Damon, "The Informant!"

Daniel Day-Lewis, "Nine"

Robert De Niro, "Everybody's Fine"

Colin Firth, "A Single Man"

Morgan Freeman, "Invictus"

Viggo Mortensen, "The Road"

Jeremy Renner, "The Hurt Locker"

Michael Stuhlbarg, "A Serious Man"

Spotlight: Freeman's role as Nelson Mandela in "Invictus" resembles Ben Kingsley's in "Gandhi." Both portray saintly rebels who battle minority white rule while crusading for nationhood and civil rights. If, like "Gandhi," "Invictus" wins the top Oscar, Freeman will set a record for starring in the most best pictures (four), with "Driving Miss Daisy," "Unforgiven" and "Million Dollar Baby." He's tied with Clark Gable, Jack Nicholson and Dustin Hoffman.


Sharlto Copley, "District 9"

Robert Downey Jr., "Sherlock Holmes"

Ben Foster, "The Messenger"

Joseph Gordon-Levitt, "(500) Days of Summer"

Hal Holbrook, "That Evening Sun"

Tobey Maguire, "Brothers"

James McAvoy, "The Last Station"

Joaquin Phoenix, "Two Lovers"

Sam Rockwell, "Moon"

Michael Sheen, "The Damned United"

Spotlight: Several film websites are campaigning vigorously for Oscar votes for Sam Rockwell's role as an astronaut in "Moon." If he wins, he may become the first to thank "fanboys" in his acceptance speech . . . but probably not the last.




Sandra Bullock, "The Blind Side"

Abbie Cornish, "Bright Star"

Marion Cotillard, "Nine"

Helen Mirren, "The Last Station"

Carey Mulligan, "An Education"

Saoirse Ronan, "The Lovely Bones"

Gabourey Sidibe, "Precious"

Meryl Streep, "Julie & Julia"

Audrey Tautou, "Coco Before Chanel"

Spotlight: Fifteen-year-old Saoirse Ronan could become the youngest lead-actress champ for portraying a hovering ghost in "The Lovely Bones." Current record-holder is Marlee Matlin, who was 21 when she won for "Children of a Lesser God" (1986).


Shohreh Aghdashloo, "The Stoning of Soraya M."

Emily Blunt, "The Young Victoria"

Penelope Cruz, "Broken Embraces"

Zooey Deschanel, "(500) Days of Summer"

Charlotte Gainsbourg, "Antichrist"

Michelle Monaghan, "Trucker"

Catalina Saavedra, "The Maid"

Meryl Streep, "It's Complicated"

Hilary Swank, "Amelia"

Spotlight: Two-time victor Meryl Streep ("Kramer vs. Kramer," "Sophie's Choice") has only half as many statuettes as acting champ Katharine Hepburn, but she holds the record for most nominations (15). Now she has two possibilities -- as the warbly gourmet in "Julie & Julia" and a frisky divorcee in "It's Complicated" -- but her hopes are truly complicated by academy rules: She can be nominated only once per category.



Gold Derby blogger Tom O'Neil predicts the Oscar season for The Envelope. For ongoing discussion of that race and other campaigns for gold -- the Golden Globes, Grammys and more -- visit The

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