You won’t find Cloud Atlas on the top rosters of too many Oscar pundits, but at this stage, the alternately thrilling and unwieldy three-hour epic is the season’s closest thing to a wild card. Just as there are enough nasty reviews to ward off on-the-fence filmgoers, there are a whole lot of factors playing into the movie’s major nomination potential. The biggest—and most cited—benefit is the sheer ambition of Tom Tykwer and the Wachowski siblings’ undertaking, which compelled the ever-influential Roger Ebert to call their baby “one of the most ambitious films ever made.” The whole project may be a very mixed bag in terms of artistic success, but most evaluators are at least somewhat united by the awe that it inspires, however fleeting that awe might be. The flaws of Cloud Atlas, which include a lack of profundity and clarity the filmmakers themselves seem unaware of, aren’t so bothersome when watching it, as the experience is a brisk and spectacular diversion. Even in his barely-positive critique, A.O. Scott observed that this “may be the most movie you can get for the price of a single ticket,” and despite a lackluster opening weekend, that virtue shouldn’t be counted out. This sprawling spiritual odyssey, which covers six genres in its translation of David Mitchell’s celebrated novel, should be taken seriously as a Best Picture contender, and not just a magnet for technical nods.