Most handicappers predict that come Oscar time Kathryn Bigelow's present-tense war drama The Hurt Locker and James Cameron's futuristic space opera Avatar will be best director and best picture front-runners. Which would make it (by my reckoning) the first time in Academy history that onetime spouses (Bigelow and Cameron were married in the 1990s) raced against each other in the gold derby.
Both are terrific and suspenseful war stories, textbook examples of an intimate independent and a studio epic. Artistically speaking, Bigelow's is as detailed as a Persian miniature while the scope of Cameron's 3-D extravaganza is panoramic and larger-than-life. Her movie about elite soldiers who defuse improvised explosive devices engages the guts and mind; his movie about American colonists drilling for minerals and upsetting the ecosystem and inhabitants of a faraway planet engages the heart. I like both films enormously, but, as you can read, comparing them amounts to comparing apples to mangoes.
Except for 1941, when sisters Olivia de Havilland (Hold Back the Dawn) and Joan Fontaine (Suspicion) competed for the best actress statuette (Fontaine won, but today de Havilland owns two best actress statuettes to Fontaine's singleton), I can't think of many other relatives by blood or marriage who competed against each other at Oscar time. (The collaborating Coen brothers -- Oscars for Fargo and No Country for Old Men -- work together, as did Philip and Julius Epstein, who co-wrote the Oscar-winning screenplay for Casablanca.) Perhaps the Sylbert brothers, Paul and Richard, who are legendary art directors? Or the screenwriting Goldman brothers, James and William, who respectively won Oscars for The Lion in Winter and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid?