Dave Karger
February 26, 2010 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Nominees
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
A Serious Man
Up in the Air
The Blind Side
District 9
An Education

This year’s supersize Best Picture race also brings with it a new voting procedure. Rather than simply check off one of the 10 nominees, Academy members are being asked to rank the contenders from 1 to 10. After all the first-place citations are counted, the film with the fewest votes will be eliminated, and those voters’ second choices will count instead. The process will continue until one film has more than 50 percent of the vote. The upshot? The film with the most No. 1s won’t necessarily win. How might the process go? Avatar, Inglourious Basterds, and The Hurt Locker all have strong core fan bases and may get a similar number of No. 1 votes (of the four voters we polled in our story about Academy members’ Oscar picks, three have Avatar at the top, while one went with Locker). They’ll be followed closely by Up in the Air and Precious, which both also received multiple acting nominations. An Education and District 9, meanwhile, will be a bit further back. (Pixar’s Up is considered a better bet in the animated category, and A Serious Man and The Blind Side will likely be two of the first contenders to be eliminated.) In the all-important subsequent rounds, however, the more polarizing Avatar and Basterds stand to lose out to The Hurt Locker, whose overall support is evidenced by its wins at the Producers Guild, Directors Guild, and American Cinema Editors ceremonies, all of which have voting bodies that overlap with the Academy. In a close race, then, give the edge to Kathryn Bigelow & Co., who may just outlast their higher-grossing competition.

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