"Babel." 15-1: Even its detractors would admit that Alejandro González Iñárritu's latest offering is a wildly ambitious film, with three interwoven story lines set in the post 9/11 global wilderness. But the film remains a tough sell, hurt by a division among critics, some of whom admired it, others dismissing it as pretentious and predictable.
"United 93" and "World Trade Center." 16-1: Paul Greengrass' "United 93" was more admired by critics, but without recognizable acting talent, it will probably get the same reception the academy's actor's branch gives to documentaries and animated films. "WTC" had a bigger commercial reception, but despite having Oliver Stone at the helm, the film is viewed as being stronger on sentiment than on compelling drama.
"Volver." 18-1: If there were ever an endangered species in the best picture race, it's the foreign film, which, like animation, has been ghettoized in a separate but not equal categorys. Sony Pictures Classics has made a big push for this Pedro Almodóvar film, but it doesn't look to have the depth of support needed.
"Children of Men." 20-1: This dark futuristic thriller from Alfonso Cuarón should get rave reviews for its bravura filmmaking but may have trouble getting enough academy attention.
"The Pursuit of Happyness." 22-1: This will get lots of support from the actor's branch thanks to a strong performance from Will Smith, but it feels more like an audience picture than an academy contender.
"Little Children." 25-1: If only there were an "In the Bedroom" slot for chilling suburban angst, this Todd Field film would sneak in. But despite good reviews, the film seems to have little traction with academy voters.
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"Blood Diamond." 30-1: The academy will probably like this drama set in South Africa more than the critics, but not enough to earn it a best picture slot.
"Bobby." 40-1: Harvey Weinstein has pulled out all the stops for this historical drama, but when the best you can do for your first quote ads are blurbs from Larry King, Liz Smith and Rex Reed, your best picture chances are slim and none.
"Apocalypto." 60-1: Let's just say that it will take the academy a lot longer to forgive Mel Gibson than it did for him to forgive Michael Richards.