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NOV
18
4 YEARS

The Race: How to Win 101

A case study on what late entry "The Fighter" must do to land best film

Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale
JoJo Whilden/Paramount
"The Fighter's" Mark Wahlberg (left) and Christian Bale.

Can The Fighter possibly win the Oscar for best picture?

On the surface, the movie -- based on the true story of junior welterweight "Irish" Micky Ward's battle to earn a championship title -- has a massive amount going against it. For one thing, it entered the game oh-so-late, screening for the first time Nov. 10 as an AFI Fest sneak. For another, it inevitably will be compared to boxing classics like Rockyand Raging Bull. For a third, director David O. Russell (Three Kings) is hardly Mr. Popular -- he's famous for getting into fights with the likes of George Clooney.

But the picture, from Paramount, Relativity and Mandeville Films, not only has a good chance of getting nominated, it could even win -- if it follows the right strategy. Here's how:

1. Play to the voters
Among the Academy's 5,770 voting members, 1,184 are actors. Never underestimate them. Lionsgate certainly didn't four years ago, and its bold decision to send DVDs of Crashto all 100,000-plus SAG members in advance of Oscar balloting helped sway that crowd, leading to a best picture upset over Brokeback Mountain. With arguably the best ensemble cast of any movie this year -- led by Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Melissa Leo and Amy Adams, all with shots at nominations -- the picture should follow Crash's strategy of winning over the thespians, using them to help position it as the underdog when bigger titles have played out.

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