By Kit Bowen
TheMovieKit.com

In the most recent development in the award season roundup, the Producers Guild of America picked “The Hurt Locker” as their top film of 2009. Yep, it does indeed look like we’ve got ourselves a real tussle for Oscar’s Best Picture gold.

This past week, there have been three frontrunners to come forward: “Hurt Locker,” which got picked by both the Critics Choice and now PGA; “Inglourious Basterds,” which got the SAGs best cast ensemble award; and “Avatar,” which the Golden Globes shined their light upon. This leaves early buzz-o-meter “Up in the Air” out of the top spot, as well as “Precious” and “An Education,” which were tough calls anyway.

I’m just glad there’s any Oscar race at all, since it looks like the winners in the four acting categories have been decided. If you have to choose one to get excited about, the Best Picture race (which does usually go hand-in-hand with the directors race) is the best, especially now that we have THREE strong contenders instead of the usual one or two. Here’s some pros and cons to their chances of winning the Academy Award:

AVATAR

Pros: It’s got the “Titanic” factor – butt loads of money grossed, all kinds of box office records broken, mostly well received critically and a draw for viewers to watch the Oscars telecast. Plus, the Academy likes James Cameron.
Cons: The film is more about the visual effects than anything else, hence the reason it didn’t get nominated for the SAGs best cast ensemble. Let’s just say, “Avatar” won’t be receiving any nods in the acting or writing categories, unlike “Titanic,” which saw stars Kate Winslet and Gloria Stuart getting nominations. Plus, James Cameron has already won before.

THE HURT LOCKER

Pros: As the opposite to “Avatar,” “Hurt Locker” has superb writing and spot-on acting, along with incredibly tense, thrilling and well-crafted action sequences. And many feel it’s time for a female director to win an Oscar and thus should anoint Kathryn Bigelow accordingly.
Cons: It might be too small of a movie to win the big prize, with not enough big-name actors and/or big-name talent behind it. Bigelow is a true veteran in the directing field, but she’s made movies like “Point Break.” Just not as credible.

INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS

Pros: It’s got the Holocaust factor, a subject matter the Academy voters have historically loved to shower awards upon. But not only just that, also this whole Jewish revenge fantasy in which they get to kill ALL of the top Nazis. If “Avatar” hadn’t been the smash hit it is, I would have put my money on “Basterds.”
Cons: Perhaps director/writer Quentin Tarantino. I just don’t think the Academy knows what to make him and his long-winded, gratuitously violent movies. That isn’t to say they won’t reward him at some point, since they can’t deny he is a talent to be reckoned with.

So, there you have it. If I were to make a guess right now, without further analysis and evaluation, I’d say the Academy will pick “Avatar” for Best Picture and spread the wealth with the other two. Say, for “Hurt Locker,” give director to Bigelow. And for “Basterds,” give supporting actor to Christophe Waltz (already a done deal) and maybe original screenplay to Tarantino. Of course, I’m just shooting from the hip, but it’s something to mull over.

Here is a list of winners at the Producers Guild of America Awards:

BEST PICTURE: The Hurt Locker

BEST DOCUMENTARY: The Cove

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE: Up

STANLEY KRAMER AWARD: Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire

BEST TV COMEDY: 30 Rock

BEST TV DRAMA: Mad Men

BEST TV LONG FORM: Grey Gardens

BEST NON-FICTION TV: 60 Minutes

BEST LIVE ENTERTAINMENT AND COMPETITION: The Colbert Report