Usually the two top Oscars, best motion picture and best director, go hand in hand. It makes sense: How could the year's best director not turn in the year's best film?
Yet, it happens. In fact, we could see it happen this year.
A quick look at Oscar history: A split decision actually marked the first Academy Awards ceremony in 1929, when the World War I drama "Wings" took best production (now called best picture) and Frank Borzage won best director for the romance "Seventh Heaven." Over the next decade, split decisions happened more often than not.
But as directors gained respect as artists and visionaries, splits grew rarer, about twice a decade, on average. In 1973, for instance, Francis Ford Coppola's "The Godfather" won best picture, but Bob Fosse won best director for "Cabaret." Why? Possibly because Coppola was still a young newcomer while the much-loved Fosse was on a major roll (he won a Tony and an Emmy that same year).
In other words, these decisions are sometimes political - which brings us to 2010.
James Cameron's sci-fi epic "Avatar," which won the Golden Globe for best dramatic film, is the front-runner for the Oscar. But here's a wrinkle: Kathryn Bigelow recently won the Directors Guild of America's top honor for her Iraq war film "The Hurt Locker." That's no small thing, because the DGA has predicted the directing Oscar 54 times in the past 60 years. Statistically, it would seem the academy is getting ready to give a woman the best director Oscar for the first time.