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A roundup of films that are likely to be getting a nod from the Academy next month. By Iain Blair As the 82nd Academy Awards approach, it's impos- sible to ignore just what a strange year it's been. Many of the biggest and most profitable hits — Dis- trict 9,The Hangover, Paranormal Activity,The Twilight Saga:The New Moon (from an indie outfit, no less) and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen — had either no A-list stars or no stars at all.And if that mystified the studios (OK, Transformers was a no-brainer as long as 15-year-old boys roam the planet, and ditto for Twilight and 17-year-old girls) there's an even bigger mystery looming on the horizon — whether by expanding the field from five to 10 nominees for Best Picture, the Academy will now give Oscar recognition to films that normally might not receive that kind of attention, such as District 9. Predicting likely nominations (to be announced Feb. 2) and eventual winners is made even trickier by that fact that, as usual, many of the heavyweight contenders — The Lovely Bones, Avatar, Nine, Invictus — were at press-time were just starting to be reviewed. The Golden Globes, usually a reliable indicator of Oscar potential, also unveiled their nominees at press-time, and the big winners — including direc- tors Clint Eastwood, Jim Cameron, Kathryn Bigelow, Jason Reitman and Quentin Tarantino, and dramas Up In the Air,The Hurt Locker, Avatar, Inglouri- ous Basterds and Precious — all look likely to mine Oscar gold. With all that in mind, we now present our annual top picks list of likely nominees.

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