Jay A. Fernandez has crunched the votes from more than 20 critics' groups but finds that predicting this year's Oscar winner for best picture remains a "head-scratcher." The Hurt Locker has gotten the most votes for its tense tale of an elite group of soldiers who disarm bombs, but Fernandez thinks the Oscar calculus will result in a win for the George Clooney vehicle Up in the Air. It's "clearly the more Academy-friendly film," with "greater scope, more fun, (and) a wider range of praiseworthy elements."
Fernandez thinks Hurt Locker director Kathryn Bigelow, however, will take the prize for best director, becoming the first female to do so. "Perhaps the best predictive analog for this year is 1999, when Steven Spielberg won the prize for directing Saving Private Ryan while Shakespeare in Love took the picture win," writes Fernandez at the Hollywood Reporter. "Note the pattern when these awards are split: The edgier critical pick walks away with the directing prize while the more digestible, broader, mainstream offering gets the top slot." (Read more Oscars stories.)