It’s often said that the Oscar race always changes once the nominees are announced. And the science-fiction heavy Producers Guild of America’s top 10 list, announced earlier today, raises an interesting question: What if Avatar, District 9, and Star Trek all repeat and score Oscar nominations for Best Picture? Could Avatar, which is widely considered to be the frontrunner at this point, actually be hurt by all the sci-fi love? It certainly seems logical that James Cameron’s opus would lose more votes to District and Trek than it would to, say, smaller indies like A Serious Man or The Messenger. In such a tight race as this year’s, something like that could make all the difference.

Cameron himself acknowledges the three films will affect each others’ chances. As he told my colleague Carrie Bell at the Avatar premiere: “I hope the existence of Avatar doesn’t negate the hard work of a few other directors on some really great genre films this year, like District 9 or Star Trek. But I fear that if [Oscar voters] do get over the historical bias once, they won’t feel the need to do it again in the same year.” So should Avatar fans now be praying that District 9 and Star Trek don’t make it in to the Academy’s top 10? Or is Avatar so far ahead of Up in the Air and The Hurt Locker that one or two other action flicks won’t make a significant enough dent in its lead? I’m thinking the Na’vi can handle one other sci-fi competitor. But if both District and Trek make it in, there could be a problem.

UPDATE In response to several commenters who are mystified by my calling Avatar the Oscar frontrunner of the moment: Believe it, folks. I’ve been resistant to the idea over the last few weeks, but nearly every Academy member I’ve talked to is calling the race over already. As a big fan of The Hurt Locker, Precious, Inglourious Basterds, and Up in the Air (not to mention someone who isn’t a fan of boring, predictable Oscar seasons), I’d like to think it’s closer than they say, but I’m just here to report to all of you what’s going on in the awards battle.

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