Last call for 2009's procrastinating filmgoers. 

Director James Cameron: nominated for Avatar

Director James Cameron: nominated for Avatar

Ah, February. The sight of the month's battleship-gray sky, the sounds of migratory birds making your reacquaintance, the feel of freezing weather, the smell of cabin fever — this could all only mean one thing: It's Oscar season!

Out on the Left Coast, the film industry is getting ready for its annual close-up, the Academy Awards, which this year will be handed out on March 7th. A multitude of nominated producers, actors, directors, writers, technical filmmakers, and other artists are holding their breath as they count down the days to the big ceremony, where they will vie with each other for the honor of taking home a statue of a naked gold guy holding a sword.

Ostensibly still smarting from leaving out 2008's critically lauded box-office champ The Dark Knight in last year's Oscar nominations, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences decided to never let that happen again. So this year the Academy has expanded its slate of Best Picture nominees from five to 10.

The good news is that more deserving films have been recognized with a nomination. The bad news (if you can call it that) is that there are now twice as many movies to catch up on for procrastinating filmgoers in the month before the awards show.

The studios are here to help you cross nominated films off your list, re-releasing a few of the nominated films that weren't still hanging around local theaters. The Best Picture nominees you can see in Memphis for at least one more week are Avatar, The Blind Side, An Education, The Hurt Locker, and Up in the Air.

Of these, the film with the most imperative to be seen on the big screen is Avatar. Nominated for nine Oscars and a leading contender for Best Picture, Avatar is an immersive cinematic experience that will likely be dramatically diminished in the home theater (no matter how tricked out). Nominated director James Cameron pulls off a technical achievement worthy of all the press and much of the box office. If you can stomach it, go for the full 3D monty.

Another nine nominations went to The Hurt Locker, which gets a re-release at Malco's Bartlett location — a discount theater, making The Hurt Locker the best value in town. The tense action drama is another Oscar frontrunner, for Best Picture and director Kathryn Bigelow. The Hurt Locker is as constrained in scope as Avatar is hefty — making for a nice Oscar-night counterpoint as the former married couple Cameron and Bigelow are pitted against each other.

Other Oscar nominees screening in Memphis include Crazy Heart, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Lovely Bones, The Princess and the Frog, Sherlock Holmes, A Single Man, and The Young Victoria. Currently available on video are Best Picture nominees District 9, The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds, A Serious Man, and Up. Precious will be released on March 9th.

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