For the first time in Oscar's eight-decade history, there are 10 Best Picture nominees. But does double the usual number mean this year's ceremony will be twice as good? On Sunday, the world will tune in to find out.
This much we know: Films like "Up," "The Blind Side" and "District 9" typically would not have earned a top slot with the Academy. This much we don't know: Will 10 nominees split key votes and open the door for an underdog to have its day? As the biggest battle in Hollywood reaches its boil, let's take one last look at the 10 movies that are battling it out to be the best of the best:
Some critics have said this is Quentin Tarantino's best film yet -- bold words for the man who gave us the cinematic brilliance that is "Reservoir Dogs," "Pulp Fiction" and the "Kill Bill" flicks. Of course, the Academy will have the final decision, but in the meantime we can take our own bets on this audacious war film, which features Hollywood A-lister Brad Pitt in a not-so-Hollywood performance.
"The Hurt Locker"
Remember when everybody kept looking at films like "Rendition" and saying nobody cared about war movies anymore? It's hard to conceive that a film no one in Hollywood believed in at one point has been nominated for nine Oscars, including Best Picture. For a movie about bombs, this one certainly wasn't -- and on Sunday, the explosion could engulf all of Hollywood.
"The Blind Side"
In what could be Sandra Bullock's best acting performance yet (hey, it's certainly better than "Speed 2: Cruise Control"), we see a real-life story about a homeless boy taken in by a wealthy family. With all the energy and spirit this film possesses, could we see the Academy fall prey to its heart-tugging inspirational message, as so much of America has? Like Michael Oher himself, the film is something of an underdog -- but is a contender that shouldn't be underestimated.
For all of you out there who have strived to accomplish the impossible and failed, this film likely connected with you as few cartoons could. Give it up once again for Pixar, who put out another great effort with the adventure/comedy about a 78-year-old man and a 9-year-old boy who set out on an unlikely, uplifting (no-pun-intended) adventure.
Just thinking about 16-year-old Claireece "Precious" Jones brings a tear to the eye, a lump to the throat and the indelibly sad mental image of her running down the street eating a bucket of fried chicken. The film follows the life of the obese, illiterate black teen living in Harlem, who has undergone rape and abuse from her mother and father. It's a hard one to watch -- and, most shockingly, that difficulty has nothing to do with Mariah Carey's performance -- but if the Academy gives the film a little gold guy on Sunday night, this sad tale will certainly gain a much-deserved happy ending.
Like the prawns themselves, "District 9" was something few anticipated, fewer planned on encountering, but many came to be influenced by. Oscar-night conversations around the TV seem likely to explode about whether rookie filmmaker Neill Blomkamp got more out of his $30 million budget than James Cameron got with 10 times that much. Pound for pound, it's already the year's Best Picture.
"Up in the Air"
Using his now-trademarked mix of humor, drama and everything else but the kitchen sink, Jason Reitman once again made a modern-day Billy Wilder-like instant classic. The film finds George Clooney's character in a permanent state of floating above his life, looking for direction. Unfortunately, the flick might find itself in a similar situation this weekend, as Best Picture might be out of reach -- but don't be surprised if a Best Adapted Screenplay finds itself in Reitman's locked-and-upright position.
Based in the 1960s, this tiny film stars a 16-year-old girl quite the opposite of Precious. Instead of picking between welfare or learning to read, she must choose between studying to go to school in Oxford or choosing to give it all up to be with her much older boyfriend. It just goes to show that life is always greener on the other side -- and a great drama can be found anywhere.
"A Serious Man"
This film doesn't have Brad or George attached to it, but it's still a Coen brothers film that is star-making, silly and quite serious, indeed. The adventures of Larry Gopnik -- a shlubby physics professor grappling with issues of God, family, drugs and one ominous envelope -- certainly isn't the type of thing we're used to seeing at the movies. The film itself has one of the more bizarre endings we've seen in years. On Sunday, win or lose, at least the ending will be a bit more clear.
This unlikely sci-fi box-office juggernaut brought out the largest crowd in history to the movies, but will the blue people bring home the Oscar for Best Picture? Nominated for nine awards, we'll soon see if James Cameron will be the King of the World once again. The filmmaker broke box-office records and made Oscar history with "Titanic" in 1997. If he is able to do it again, let's just hope that he doesn't celebrate with a 12-year vacation.
The 2010 Academy Awards are almost here, and MTV News has it covered every which way -- with photos, interviews, live blogs and more. Be sure to visit MTV.com on Sunday at 7 p.m. ET for our live Oscars red-carpet show, where we'll be talking to everyone from Clooney and Bullock to Kristen and Taylor.
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