Scoop: “Avatar” Insiders Don't Expect to Win Top Oscar

LOS ANGELES - Despite having 10 nominated films in the best picture category this year, the race has come down to two films: “The Hurt Locker” and “Avatar.” With just hours to go before a winner is announced, “Avatar” insiders are admitting that they have doubts that the best picture prize — or any Oscar — will go to their film.

“We will be shocked if we walk away with anything,” said one person connected to the film. “There seems to be every indication that the statues are going to ‘The Hurt Locker.’ It could be a depressing night.”

In the weeks before the awards, much has been made of the battle between the exes — best director nominees Kathryn Bigelow of “The Hurt Locker” and James Cameron of “Avatar.” It seemed silly to think this could be anything more than a clever headline, but spend a couple days in Los Angeles with film and Oscar insiders, and you’ll come to realize there actually is something to all the talk.

“Battle of the exes might sound a little dramatic, but it’s a good spin on what is really happening, which is industry backlash toward Jim,” said one exec. “He’s so good at what he does, but he’s just not well liked. There are a lot of academy members who are going to have a hard time giving him an Oscar, especially since he’s up against Kathryn, who managed to make this amazing film for what seems like $2.25 compared to Jim.”

Oprah surprises Mo’Nique at lunch
On Saturday, Mo’Nique was honored at a luncheon at West Hollywood restaurant Philippe Chow, and Oprah Winfrey made a surprise appearance to honor the Oscar nominee. Winfrey arrived with as little fanfare as possible, more than an hour after festivities had begun, and beelined for Mo’Nique’s table. She sat with the actress, who had won a Film Independent Spirit Award on Friday night. Also on hand: Alfre Woodard, Natalie Cole and Macy Gray.

The lunch wasn’t just about fawning over Mo’Nique, who seems to have the Oscar locked up. At the lunch, MAC cosmetics presented a $25,000 check in Mo’Nique’s name for Women Alive, a coalition for women of color living with HIV.

Palin backlash continues in L.A.
Sarah Palin’s grabby behavior at an Oscar gifting suite caused quite a stir last week, but now talk has shifted to the reality show she is shopping with “Survivor” creator Mark Burnett. The two shopped the show to ABC and NBC execs, and all are expected to pass on the show.

“There seems to be no clear point to what the show is about, which is one problem. And the other is the obvious conflict of having Palin do a show when she might end up campaigning while it’s still on,” said one insider. “But the real indicator of how little interest there is in the show is that people are passing with Burnett attached to it. That means it must be really bad, because there’s a lot of trust in Burnett in the unscripted programming world. He made a big mistake by taking on Palin and this show.”

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