Oscar’s Best Picture Race Muddled

Which film is this year’s Academy Award front-runner?

According to a report in Variety, this is a very tough question. With the glut of year-end heavy hitters and the major film critics’ choices all over the place, it’s hard to say which film will win the coveted Best Picture Oscar this year.

The 1950s melodrama Far From Heaven, for example, was named best picture by a few critics’ groups, including the New York Film Critics Circle, but it failed to receive a Golden Globe nomination. On the other hand, while Chicago dominated the Globe nods, none of the film critics picked the musical for best of the year.

To add to the mix, the Los Angeles Film Critics named the quirky About Schmidt as best film, while the Boston and San Francisco groups chose the Holocaust drama The Pianist. The National Board of Review, which kicked off the award season earlier this month, picked the intense drama The Hours.

Even the critics organizations’ two foreign language favorites–Mexico’s Y Tu Mama Tambien and Spain’s Talk to Her— won’t have the chance to compete for the Oscar in the same category. Each country submitted different films to represent them at the Academy Awards (Mexico chose The Crime of Father Amaro and Spain picked Los lunes al sol).

Then there’s the crop of year-end heavyweights, far larger than usual. Of the 10 films nominated Dec. 19 by the Golden Globes in both the drama and comedy categories, exactly half had not yet opened in theaters (Chicago, Gangs of New York, The Hours, Nicholas Nickleby and The Pianist), Variety reports.

Oscar voters often look toward the other awards being handed out to give them a clue about which movies to see before they make their choices–and a wide variety doesn’t make their difficult task any easier.

“There’s so much competition for people’s attention, it’s inevitable that some very good work is going to be passed over,” New York Film Critics Circle president Marshall Fine told Variety. “I’m worried that some of these films won’t be given the time they need to gain an audience.”

The Academy Award nominations will be announced Feb. 11, 2003.