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Even if the right envelope is read at the end of Sunday night's Oscars, the night's final moment will be one of high drama.Rarely, if ever, has the Academy Awards seen such an open field of contenders for its top award. Behind them all is the same development: No one knows what an "Oscar movie" is anymore.Even the historic upset of "Moonlight" over "La La Land" confirmed the predictive sway of the SAG ensemble nomination: "Moonlight" had it, "La La Land" didn't.Actors are easily the largest branch of the academy and their choice this year appears to be Martin McDonagh's "Three Billboards," which won best ensemble from SAG and best film bestowed at the British film academy awards, the BAFTAs. Jordan Peele's "Get Out" and Greta Gerwig's "Lady Bird" are both first-feature films that could make history for either African Americans or women. Yet neither earned a craft nomination, and they usually lost to either "Shape of Water" or "Three Billboards" in precursor awards. It aims to be the first film in 85 years to win best picture without receiving a screenplay or acting nomination.What most bedevils the increasingly round-the-clock awards-season prediction machine is the preferential ballot reinstituted eight years ago when the best picture category expanded from five to up to ten nominees.The season has seen film after film vie for the most compelling, of-the-moment story line.
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