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'The Hurt Locker' sweep: Is it 'Slumdog' or 'Brokeback'?

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With wins at the Producers Guild, Directors Guild, Writers Guild, and British Academy Awards, The Hurt Locker has clearly been racking up the major pre-Oscar prizes in the last month. In fact, with the exception of a couple big-ticket losses at the Golden Globes and SAG Awards, Kathryn Bigelow’s film has nearly accomplished the same sweep that Slumdog Millionaire pulled off last year. By that yardstick, the film seems like a sure thing to win the Best Picture Oscar on March 7, particularly because those two high-profile losses came at the hands of two different films (Avatar at the Globes, Inglourious Basterds at SAG) rather than one.

But then I started looking at Brokeback Mountain‘s pre-Oscar record from four years ago and I found some striking similarities. Brokeback managed the rare feat of winning Best Picture and Best Director at both the New York and Los Angeles film critics awards; so did Hurt Locker. Brokeback also picked up those two big prizes at the Broadcast Film Critics Awards; so did Hurt Locker. Brokeback won the trifecta of PGA, DGA, and WGA trophies; so did Hurt Locker. Brokeback won 4 BAFTAs, including Best Film, Director, and Screenplay; Hurt Locker picked up 6 awards, including Best Film, Director, and Screenplay. And of course, Brokeback lost the SAG cast award, and so did Hurt Locker. (The main difference between the two films’ tallies is that Brokeback did win four Globes, including Best Drama and Best Director, while Hurt Locker went 0 for 3.)

All of this is on my mind right now because we’re about to put our Oscar Odds issue to bed (it’ll be on stands this Friday), and it’s really making me think twice about my prediction that The Hurt Locker will emerge victorious on March 7. There’s still a distinct possibility that Hurt Locker will mirror Brokeback yet again and win three Oscars (let’s say Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Editing) but lose the big one to a more easily-digestible rival, in this case Avatar. But I’m swayed by the argument (best articulated by Steve Pond over at The Wrap) that even if Avatar scores the most No. 1 votes, The Hurt Locker is likely to perform better in subsequent rounds of voting, since Bigelow’s film may have more No. 2 and No. 3 rankings than Avatar will. So, fully knowing that I may end up being wrong, I’m sticking with The Hurt Locker. I leave it to you all to tell me if I’m right or wrong. Oh, and to follow me on Twitter (@davekarger) as the Oscar season finally comes to an end.