Is Avatar the one to beat in this year's Best Picture race?

Avatar is favourite for the Best Picture award. (SUPPLIED)

With the nominees of the 82nd Academy Awards being announced last week, all eyes of course are on the Best Picture category, thanks to a former couple going head to head on the night. Directors James Cameron and Kathryn Bigelow, who were married in the 1990s, are both up for the top prize with their films Avatar and The Hurt Locker, respectively.

Obviously, including these two films in the nominations has attracted major publicity for the Oscars, which has been overshadowed in recent years by events such as the 2007-2008 Writers Guild of America or recession era cost cutting.

While both are worthy contenders, it should not be forgotten that the category has been extended from five to 10 nominees for the first time, and so there are eight other films out there, albeit some more deserving the award than others.

Emirates Business takes a look at all 10 films, and takes a shot at predicting which will be making the headlines when the awards ceremony takes place on March 8.

Avatar

If there is any movie out there we feel will never leave the number one spot in the UAE box office, it's Avatar. Since its December release, Cameron's sci-fi epic has taken over and shot down any potential competitors.

With a reported production budget of $500 million (Dh1.83 billion), Avatar has already more than covered its costs, and is now the number one best-selling film of all time, finally beating Cameron's previous blockbuster, Titanic, last week.

Sam Worthington plays Jake, a paraplegic war veteran who is taken to another planet, Pandora, which is inhabited by the Na'vi – a humanoid race with their own language and culture. But those from Earth soon find themselves at odds with the local culture.

UAE release date: December 17, 2009

Total box office takings: $2,111,717,421

UAE box office takings: $5,703,329

Highest charting position at the UAE box office: 1

The Blind Side

Given the huge amount of money it has made and positive response it has generated, filmmaker John Lee Hancock's The Blind Side is not a surprise in the category.

With the film being released in two weeks' time in the UAE, it remains to be seen how well it will do at the box office on this side of the world.

Michael Oher shines as a poor, undereducated 156kg African-American teenager, who is shuffled through the public school system, despite his low grade point average. But he attracts the interest of a wealthy white couple who take him in and groom him both athletically and academically to become one of the top high school football prospects in the country.

Sandra Bullock also stars.

UAE release date: February 18

Total box office takings: $239,796,000

UAE box office takings: Film yet to be released

Highest charting position at the UAE box office: Film yet to be released

District 9

The Awards' only wild card in the list is District 9, considering it is one of those productions that is outside the Academy's comfort zone. However, it could be the surprising results it had at the box-office that helped the chances of director Neill Blomkamp's film.

Featuring a relatively unknown cast, District 9 is a story about how an extraterrestrial race, forced to live in slum-like conditions on Earth, suddenly finds a kindred spirit in a government agent that is exposed to their biotechnology.

UAE Release date: September 17, 2009

Total box office takings: $204,837,324

UAE box office takings: $422,251

Highest charting position at the UAE box office: 3

An Education

Period dramas do not tend to do well in this region, which is perhaps why An Education does not have a UAE release date confirmed.

Written by Nick Hornby, it is the story of a teenage girl's coming-of-age set in 1961 London, a city caught between the drab, post-war 1950s and the glamorous, more liberated decade to come.

UAE release date: None

Total box office takings: $10,882,949

UAE box office takings: Film yet to be released

Highest charting position at the UAE box office: Film yet to be released

The Hurt Locker

Avatar's main competition is The Hurt Locker, which has made nowhere near as much money as the sci-fi epic.

Nonetheless, it has already won numerous accolades, including endless film festival awards, and a coveted Directors Guild of America award for Kathryn Bigelow.

Set to release this week in the UAE, The Hurt Locker is a portrait of the courage of three members of the US army's elite Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) squad who battle insurgents as they search for and disarm a wave of roadside bombs on the streets of Baghdad – in order to try and make the city a safer place.

This is a riveting and thrilling look at the effects of combat and danger on the human psyche is based on the first-hand observations of journalist and screenwriter Mark Boal, who was embedded with a special bomb unit in Iraq.

UAE release date: February 11

Total box office takings: $16,847,947

UAE box office takings: Film yet to be released

Highest charting position at the UAE box office: Film yet to be released

Inglourious Basterds

One of last summer's hits came courtesy of writer and director Quentin Tarantino and his war epic Inglourious Basterds.

Here, a band of US soldiers facing death by firing squad for their misdeeds are given a chance to redeem themselves by heading into the perilous no-man's lands of Nazi-occupied France on a suicide mission for the Allies. Stars Brad Pitt.

UAE release date: September 24, 2009

Total box office takings: $313,585,596

UAE box office takings: $537,908

Highest charting position at the UAE box office: 1

Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire

Although it featured at the 2009 Middle East International Film Festival, a general UAE release date for Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire is nowhere to be seen. Perhaps it is due to the film's content, or maybe it has just been overlooked by distributors, but we are hoping this film will make its way over here as it has received outstanding reviews.

Directed by Lee Daniels, Precious tells the story of an obese, illiterate, African-American 16-year-old Claireece Precious Jones (Gabourey Sidibe), who lives with her dysfunctional mother, Mary (Mo'Nique). Constantly sexually abused by her father, Claireece also suffers long-term physical and mental abuse from her unemployed mother.

UAE release date: None

Total box office takings: $46,934,253

UAE box office takings: Film yet to be released

Highest charting position at the UAE box office: Film yet to be released

A Serious Man

It seems that everything the Coen brothers, Ethan and Joel, touch turns to gold, and their latest release A Serious Man is no exception.

Set in 1967, Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg), a physics professor at a university, has just been informed by his wife Judith (Sari Lennick) that she is leaving him for one of his more pompous colleagues.

With Larry's unemployable brother sleeping on his couch, his son Danny with a discipline problem, and daughter Sarah filching money from his wallet in order to save up for a nose job – all the while his former wife makes new domestic arrangements – Larry struggles for equilibrium.

So he goes to seek advice from three different rabbis – but whether anyone can help him cope with his numerous afflictions and become a righteous person is another question.

UAE release date: None as yet

Total box office takings: $21,738,178

UAE box office takings: Film yet to be released

Highest charting position at the UAE box office: Film yet to be released

UP

Nominated for five statues, this is one of our favourite additions to the category, and only the second animation ever to be nominated for the Best Picture award.

Carl Fredricksen spent his entire life dreaming of exploring the globe. But at age 78, life seems to have passed him by, until a twist of fate (and a persistent Junior Wilderness Explorer named Russell) gives him a new lease on life. We don't think this will win Best Picture, but it will be truly robbed if it misses out on other awards such as Best Animated Feature and Best Original Score.

UAE release date: June 4, 2009

Total box office takings: $723,007,303

UAE box office takings: $1,024,136

Highest charting position at the UAE box office: 1

Up in the Air

Last but not least is director Jason Reitman's drama starring George Clooney.

Clooney plays a corporate downsizer, and the film follows his isolated life on his travels and philosophies along with the people that he meets along the way.

Release date: January 21

Total box office takings: $113,642,651

UAE box office takings: $244,367

Highest charting position at the UAE box office: 3


Films that were snubbed?

According to international media reports, here are some of the films critics are saying should have been nominated for Best Picture:

Crazy Heart

Moon

Star Trek

500 Days Of Summer

Coraline 

- In The Loop

The Lovely Bones

Where The Wild Things Are

- Fantastic Mr Fox

Ponyo

The Hangover


The winner?

James Cameron seems to be the Academy sweetheart, so it is likely the award will go to Avatar. We can't help but wish for a dark horse

 

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