One week after James Cameron's "Avatar" won the Golden Globe for best dramatic picture, the question remains: Is it a shoo-in for the Oscar?

The answer is - so to speak - up in the air. In the past 20 years the best picture Globe award has predicted its Oscar counterpart 11 times. Some of the discrepancies have been doozies: In 2008, the Globes chose "Atonement" over the Oscars' "No Country for Old Men."

Then again, the last time Cameron delivered such an attention-grabbing movie - 1997's "Titanic" - it won the Globe and the Oscar. Those who think "Avatar" doesn't stand a chance may be underestimating Cameron's standing in Hollywood.

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But here's another factor: No sci-fi film has ever won the Oscar. "2001: A Space Odyssey," the unrivaled masterpiece of the genre, wasn't even nominated. Peter Jackson's "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" won in 2003 - and like "Avatar" it relied heavily on computer-aided effects - but that was a fantasy film, closer in spirit to sword-and-sandal Oscar winners like "Gladiator" and "Ben-Hur."

All told, "Avatar" enters the Oscars as a front-runner. But "Up in the Air," a comedy-drama starring George Clooney, could triumph. Its themes of economic recession and coldhearted capitalism have struck a chord with audiences. That's the intangibility factor, and there's no sure way to quantify that.