*Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
James Cameron, Avatar
Lee Daniels, Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire
Jason Reitman, Up in the Air
Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds
Not a clunker in this carload: five worthy nominees. But the big fight, in the media's eyes, is between Bigelow and Cameron "the battle of the exes"; they were married from 1989 to 1991. Though Cameron deserves at least as much Oscar credit here as he got for Titanic (Best Picture, Best Director), he's a long shot vs. Bigelow, who won a slew of critics' awards and, crucially, the top prize from the Directors Guild.
Even Cameron acknowledges his underdog status. In Sunday's 60 Minutes piece on Bigelow, he somewhat grudgingly theorized that the Academy would find it "an irresistible story" to name his ex-wife the first woman to receive an Oscar for directing. (Only three other women have been nominated: Lina Wertmuller for Seven Beauties, Jane Campion for The Piano and Sofia Coppola for Lost in Translation.) In fact, it's as hard to choose one person for this award as it is to decide on Best Picture, since Avatar and The Hurt Locker are ideal examples of utterly opposite forms of moviemaking. But Bigelow will win.
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