The ten Best Picture slots

A breakdown of the noms if the Acad stays true to form

Niche pics pound Oscar’s gold ceiling | The ten Best Picture slots | The British are (finally) coming | Social media boosts kudocasts | Award Season calendar

An expanded slate accommodates a wider spectrum of voters’ tastes. Many genres have vied for the big prize, and now there’s room for them all:

  1. THE BLOCKBUSTER
    Though not capital-A Art, an “Avatar” or “Gladiator” regularly muscles its way in, as “Inception” could this year.
  2. THE AUDIENCE PLEASER (HEAVY)
    Frequently tapped is popular fare leavened by gravitas, like “Michael Clayton,” last year’s “Inglourious Basterds” and 2006 champ “The Departed.” “The Social Network” could get its “Like” here.
  3. THE AUDIENCE PLEASER (LITE)
    Feel-good seriocomedies often nab a slot (“The Blind Side”) and sometimes prevail (“Terms of Endearment”). If “Secretariat” finishes in the money, this is its post position; if not, “How Do You Know” may know better.
  4. THE SERIOUS INDIE
    Highish purpose can score with lowish budget: “A Serious Man,” “Capote” and 2007 winner “No Country for Old Men.” “The King’s Speech” could do some big talking.
  5. THE WHIMSICAL INDIE
    The likes of “Sideways,” “Juno” and “An Education” often dominate in acting and writing, too. “The Kids Are All Right” could make out all right all around.
  6. THE EDGY INDIE
    Passionate devotees backed “Fargo,” “Brokeback Mountain” and “Precious,” and felt no pain with “The Hurt Locker.” Audiences may feel pain watching “127 Hours” but this would be its slot.
  7. THE ANIMATED SMASHEROO
    A hearts-and dollars grabber like “Up” — or “Toy Story 3” or “How to Train Your Dragon,” perhaps? — can transcend its outlying category.
  8. THE SHOWPIECE IMPORT
    Either wholly foreign (“Crouching Tiger”; “Life Is Beautiful”) or heavily laden with overseas patina (“The Reader”; last year’s “District 9”; 2008’s winner “Slumdog Millionaire”). Talk is that “Biutiful” could be a biutiful entry.
  9. THE ZEITGEIST REFLECTOR
    Addresses important contempo issues: “Milk”; “Munich”; “Traffic”; 2005’s splash with “Crash.” The right doc could slip in here, quite possibly “Inside Job.”
  10. LAST-MINUTE AWARD BAIT
    Usually of tony literary origin (“Atonement”; “There Will Be Blood”; “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”). Many BP noms but few trophies. Do voters resent the hype, or just reject the heft? If “True Grit” has true grit at year’s end, we may find out.

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