03/03/2010 5:43PM

Forget it, Jake


Bogie Can you hear it? Can you feel it? Can you smell it? That's Oscar buzz, filling the air, and everybody seems to care. Never mind that this was the worst year for movies since movies were invented--including the year "Oilver!" won for Best Picture. So grim was the list in 2009 that instead of quality, the Academy went for quanitity and nominated 10, yes 10, movies for Best Picture. The winner will be anounced Sunday night, and how that ultimate winner was chosen is more complicated than filling out a Form 27B-stroke-6 (subreference, "Brazil"). The process was tackled and untangled with his usual aplomb by Hendrik Hertzberg in a recent issue of The New Yorker: (www.newyorker.com/talk/comment/2010/02/15/100215taco_talk_hertzberg).

Still, 10 nominees? That's like a track meet for 6-year-olds. Everybody gets a ribbon. Since none of those 10 has the slightest connection to horse racing--unless you count the one that's named for the winner of the 1975 Belmont Stakes (here's the race... www.youtube.com/watch?v=ldqYWlQcpyI )--I am turning the microphone over to my good friend and razor sharp wit Mark Ratzky, handicapper and host of the Los Alamitos satellite betting site and a nut for movies for at least as long as Warren Beatty has been making them. Mark also had a hard time taking this year's crop seriously (I'd make an exception for "The Hurt Locker" and "District 9"), so he had some fun instead...

Mark's nominees are:

The Hurt Locker -- This gripping tale of synthetic tracks and the people who care for them will have you on the edge of your seat, weather permitting.

Precious -- A pair of unlikely heroes emerge in this inspiring story of a front-running, turf marathoner and his underdog trainer. Four stars, two hankies and 12 furlongs.

An Education -- Two stories in German, with subtitles. He's successful in business, breeding and racing horses, but discovers owning racetracks is an entirely different story. The second lives the American dream before coming close to terminating an entire state.

Avatar -- This one cost a fortune, is beautiful to look at, but ultimately there is nothing there. Original title, "The Green Monkey."

The Blind Side -- Horseplayers in the Bluegrass State wake up to find they're going to get a little bit less back on each winning wager.

Up in the Air -- Sidney Lumet directs this powerful tale of corruption, incompetence and greed with an entire sport hanging in the balance. In the tradition of "Serpico" and "Dog Day Afternoon," this is another fascinating look at the workings of the Big Apple.

Ratzky came up four nominees short of the wire, and I considered that a challenge. Here goes:

A Serious Man -- Todd Pletcher is serious about winning the Kentucky Derby. Very serious. So serious that he ends up with 15 of the 20 starters. The drama turns daffy when a gate malfunction...well, why spoil the ending?

Up -- Mike Leigh's cinema verite look at the rough and tumble world of steeplechase racing, featuring a memorable performance by Tobey Maguire as Jonathan Sheppard's assistant's cousin's former brother-in-law Miles Barrier.

Inglourious Basterds -- A cross between "Pulp Fiction" and "Akelah and the Bee." Quentin Tarantino gives the blood and splatter treatment to the spellcheckers at The Jockey Club who were just fine with Plugged Nickle, Deputed Testamony and Prince of Thieves.

District 9 -- Real science fiction, not that pretty 3D green girl in the forest stuff, the one with the tail to die for. This entry from South Africa, or maybe South Dakota, creates a world in which horses rule and humans scurry around on all fours, complaining and looking for an edge.

And the winner is...