"Avatar 3D" Rules the Box Office, But Can It Win a Best Picture Oscar?

Whoo-hoo! The last weekend of the box-office year was a record breaker ($278 million). OK, megabucks were taken in by the shoddy likes of Sherlock Holmes ($65 million) and Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel ($50 million).

But the big news is the humongous $75 million jackpot for Avatar in its second week, a scant drop of 2.5 percent from its debut. Most blockbusters drop 40-to-50 percent when it comes to second helpings. Translation: Avatar 3D is officially a word-of-mouth phenom. People talk to me of little else. The reviews have been glowing with most critics (me included) willing to overlook the film's clunky dialogue in the face of the film's visual astonishments.

Once again, director James Cameron is having the last laugh. His previous feature, Titantic, drew predictions of doom before it opened in 1997 and went on to earn $600 million in the U.S. alone and become the biggest moneymaker of all time. Avatar also opened amid rumors of disaster. A reported $300 million being spent on a three-hour 3D movie about blue people — who the hell wants to see that? Turns out, almost everyone. With $212 million in the till in just two weeks, Avatar has limitless possibilities. With the decline in DVD sales, Hollywood needs something to save its financial future and get asses back into theater seats. What could be better than an epic that needs to be seen in theaters, preferably in 3D IMAX where the tickets cost more? Cameron may not be king of the world yet, but Avatar 3D sure gets him the crown in Hollywood.

Which brings me to the question of the day: Can Avatar follow Titanic by winning the Oscar as Best Picture? And more to the point, should it? The other major Oscar contenders this year — Up in the Air, Precious, The Hurt Locker — are all human scaled. Does Avatar 3D deserve to stand in that company much less stand above it? It's your turn to weigh in.