I love awards season!! This is the greatest time of year!!

Is ‘Avatar’ on its way to becoming this season’s ‘Slumdog Millionaire’?
Last year at this time, “Slumdog Millionaire” was such a prohibitive favorite that at some point all the other contenders seemed to take the rest of the season off.
This year hasn’t been nearly as predictable, nor as uniform. Favorites have had a shakier hold on their categories, and no movie has spread as widely across ballots as “Slumdog” did. Which has gotten pundits (at least until recently) excited about the prospect of a left-field phenomenon.
But as the award season moves from confusion to clarity ó as it began to do when ìAvatarî won best film and best director prizes at the Golden Globes on Sunday night ó it also risks veering into certainty. It increasingly looks like this year wonít have a ìCrashî or a ìDeparted,î which each made late, post-Globes surges to win best picture at the Oscars. Much of awards season thrives on suspense, so thatís not exactly a good thing.
Pundits do note a few areas could see drama. By handing best actress prizes to both Meryl Streep and Sandra Bullock, the Globes cleared up nothing on that two-woman race; until SAG chooses between them this weekend, itís almost impossible to handicap a winner. Kathryn Bigelow remains a strong candidate to take the best director prize away from ex-husband James Cameron, especially if the Directors Guild endorses her with its top honors Jan. 30.
This year thereís also a full week between the Hollywood Foreign Press Associationís Globes announcements and the deadline for academy nomination ballots, which means that the HFPA could stir the pot by getting ìThe Hangoverî back on votersí minds and into that 10th best picture slot. Which, given that it could mean Mike Tyson holding court at Kodak Theatre, may or may not be a good thing.
But those are dramas of an underwhelming sort. For all the shrugging and upturned palms this year coming out of the New Hampshire primary of awards season, the Toronto International Film Festival, the surprises are fast dwindling.
Oscar prospects for Jeff Bridges (best actor), Christoph Waltz and Mo’nique (best supporting actor and actress), ìInglourious Basterdsî (original screenplay) and “Up in the Air” (adapted screenplay) are pretty much sure bets. And “Avatar” is looking and more and more steely in the best picture category. There appear to be few opportunities for Jets-like upsets and in turn few great awards-season subplots.
Then again, as counterintuitive as it may seem, ìAvatarî represents a comeback story of its own. Sure, itís not exactly ìSlumdogî ó Fox gave its director just a little bit more leeway (and money) than Warner Bros. did Danny Boyle. And the movie didnít require a last-minute bailout from another studio to see the light of day.
But given that James Cameron disappeared for more than a decade with barely a playful hint as to his professional life outside an ìEntourageî storyline, thereís something oddly left field about his candidacy too. And given initial skepticism about whether his movie would be a commercial and awards-season smash ó let alone match the insanely high bar of ìTitanicî ó the 3-D filmís success lends it a distinctly “Slumdog”-ish, beat-the-odds quality.
ìAt the time of ëTitanic,í when we won the Golden Globe and we were on our way to being No. 1, Iím thinking ëEnjoy this ride; itís never going to happen again,í î Cameron said backstage at the Globes on Sunday night. ìWith ëAvatar,í we thought it was a shameless engine of commerce. Weíre not going to try to impress the critics. And here we are again.î Given the growing inevitability of this race, thatís true in more ways than one.