Avatar, Zoe Saldana

Twentieth Century Fox

Oscar Watch

Maybe this comes as a surprise only to us, but The Hurt Locker is gaining on Avatar.

We think.

To be sure, if Avatar had never made it out of James Camerons head and onto the screen, Hurt Locker would be the prohibitive Best Picture favorite. Going into the Oscars, it's won everything important and acronym-y (the DGA, the PGA, the WGA, etc.)  It's enough to prompt the question: What ever made us think The Hurt Locker would not win?

Then we remember: Oh, Avatar.

If Kathryn Bigelow hadn't gotten the greenlight for The Hurt Locker, Cameron's latest epic would be the prohibitive Best Picture favorite. And, a month ago, after nominations were announced, it was.

But minds—and lines—are changing.

After last month's BAFTAs—again with the acronyms—the Irish bookmaker Paddy Power revised its odds, dropping Avatar behind The Hurt Locker. On Friday, Bookmaker.com likewise pegged The Hurt Locker as the Best Picture picture to beat.

The apparent momentum shift has not escaped Las Vegas (which, it should be reminded, does not really, truly take bets on awards shows). The town's Oscar guru, Johnny Avello, director of sports race and sports operations for the Wynn and Encore hotels, told us if he were releasing his line today, he'd make a tight Best Picture race even tighter.

"I only have Avatar as a slight favorite, 5-to-6. I might make it 10-to-11," Avello said.

So, what happened?

Maybe nothing. Maybe The Hurt Locker's been on Avatar's heels, if not in front of them, the whole time, and we only just noticed. Maybe Avatar's still out in front, and we're reading too much into Hurt Locker's pre-Oscar trophy collection.

Or maybe we never had a shot at figuring out this thing.

A new voting procedure for Best Picture—it involves rankings, and, for all we know, square roots; best to read up on it here at your leisure—has complicated what, in most years, according to Awards Daily's Sasha Stone, would have been an easy call (for The Hurt Locker, says her).

"It throws things off just enough that we really don't know which direction this race could be headed," Stone said in an email.

Good thing the big show's next weekend. The confusion, even more than the suspense, is killing us.


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