80th Academy Awards (2007): The Hopefuls







No Country for Old Men
There Will Be Blood
Into the Wild
Michael Clayton
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
The Bourne Ultimatum
Sweeney Todd

Into the Wild
Sweeney Todd
The Assassination of Jesse James
Away from Her
The Bourne Ultimatum
The Counterfeiters
Lust, Caution
No Country for Old Men
Ochberg’s Orphans
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End
There Will Be Blood

Winner Prediction (c-First Chart Placement, n-Nom Pred Date Set, o-Win Pred Date Set) — Chance at Nomination —
Nominee Prediction (c-First Chart Placement, n-Nom Pred Date Set) — Chance at Nomination —
Alternate Prediction (c-First Chart Placement) — Chance at Nomination —

Assured: It would be a major shock if these selections weren’t nominated. The buzz would be deafening.
Probable: These are selections that I think are pretty certain, but I cannot quite declare them as guarantees.
Fighting: These are the achievements that I think are fighting for the slots not taken up by the others above. None of these selections are safe and could be bumped off by any other title with the “Struggling” description.
Struggling: Contenders like these are trying very hard to stay in play, but are unlikely to achieve that goal.
Doubtful: These are outside contenders that have been in the conversation, but whose prospects have dimmed over time. They remain on the list because sometimes the Academy does some strange stuff.

Best Picture

  • Into the Wild – Art Linson, Sean Penn, William Pohlad (c-10/6, n-1/11, o-1/11) — Fighting —
  • No Country for Old Men – Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, Scott Rudin (c-10/6, n-12/8) — Assured —
  • Michael Clayton – Jennifer Fox, Sydney Pollack, Steve Samuels (c-5/1, n-12/16) — Probable —
  • There Will Be Blood – Paul Thomas Anderson, Daniel Joanne Sellar (c-8/27, n-10/2) — Probable —
  • Juno – Lianne Halfon, John Malkovich, Mason Novick, Russell Smith (c-12/8, n-12/16) — Fighting —
  • American Gangster – Brian Grazer, Ridley Scott (c-5/1) — Fighting —
  • Atonement – Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Paul Webster (c-8/27) — Fighting —
  • The Diving Bell and the Butterfly – Kathleen Kennedy, Jon Kilik (c-12/16) — Fighting —
  • Sweeney Todd – John Logan, Laurie MacDonald, Walter F. Parkes, Richard D. Zanuck (c-5/1) — Fighting —
  • The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford – Jules Daly, Dede Gardner, Brad Pitt, Ridley Scott, David Valdes (c-10/6) — Struggling —
  • Away from Her – Daniel Iron, Simone Urdl, Jennifer Weiss (c-5/1) — Struggling —
  • Charlie Wilson’s War – Gary Goetzman, Tom Hanks (c-5/1) — Struggling —
  • The Great Debaters – Todd Black, Kate Forte, Joe Roth, Denzel Washington, Oprah Winfrey (c-8/27) — Struggling —
  • The Kite Runner – Pippa Harris, William Horberg, E. Bennett Walsh, Rebecca Yeldham (c-8/27) — Struggling —
  • Zodiac – Cean Chaffin, Mike Medavoy, James Vanderbilt (c-5/1) — Struggling —

My Thoughts:
There is only one film guaranteed to show up in this race and that No Country for Old Men. Both Michael Clayton and There Will Be Blood are almost certain and could probably be considered locks if the Academy’s history didn’t throw bizarre wrenches into things. The remaining two slots are a in such turmoil that several films have been mentioned and none of them are any more likely than the next.

American Gangster, Atonement, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Into the Wild, Juno and Sweeney Todd are all conceivable nominees. Although Gangster, Atonement and Todd have hit major stumbling blocks with guild recognition, the remaining three have only grown in luster as the days have gone on. Diving Bell is riding a late-race surge that could very well put it in over Into the Wild or Juno. The latter seems the most vulnerable, but when you consider it may be the only film topping $100 M at the box office before the Oscarcast, it’s chances seem certain. It would also be the only crowd-pleasing comic entry in the race. Into the Wild stumbling block is its incredibly small stature, limited box office and likelihood of being ignored by the techs, which is not a case for Diving Bell. It may be that voters avoid foreign lingo pics, but it’s very possible Bell makes it in over Juno or Wild.

Best Animated Film

  • Ratatouille (c-5/1, n-5/1, o-5/1) — Assured —
  • The Simpsons Movie (c-5/1, n-5/1) — Probable —
  • Persepolis (c-8/27, n-8/27) — Fighting —
  • Alvin and the Chipmunks (c-5/1) — Fighting —
  • Bee Movie (c-5/1) — Fighting —
  • Beowulf (c-5/1) — Fighting —
  • Meet the Robinsons (c-5/1) — Fighting —
  • Shrek the Third (c-5/1) — Fighting —
  • Surf’s Up (c-5/1) — Fighting —
  • Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters (c-5/1) — Struggling —
  • Tekkonkinkreet (c-11/10) — Struggling —
  • TMNT (c-5/1) — Struggling —

All of the Animated Films listed here are Official Selections of the Academy and the final three to five nominees will come only from these selected contenders.
A maximum of three films will be nominated in this category.

My Thoughts:
There’s no question that Ratatouille will be one of the three Oscar nominees in this category. The Simpsons Movie‘s only hindrance is its status as a TV adaptation. It has plenty of critical support, but could animators be turned off by the bulk of the production work being done overseas? I still think it will get in, but isn’t likely to get a nomination.

For the third slot, we have a number of popular films and one critical smash that could figure into the race. Persepolis seems the best fit for the category as the animators have a tendency to recognize at least one non-traditional animated film each year (a few year’s excepted). This year, Persepolis seems a good fit. Then there’s the pro-studio wing of the branch. They often pick a film that critics didn’t love but was produced by a studio that most of them have worked for or against in the past. Bee Movie, Meet the Robinsons and Shrek the Third would fit that bill quite well, though Surf’s Up did surprisingly well with the Annie Awards, so we could see it sweep in as the third pic.

Then there’s the non-traditional studio efforts. Alvin and the Chipmunks was a surprise hit with audiences and could be carried along for that feat, the problem is with a large amount of live action, it could be seen as too little animation. A similar, though harshly different rationale could prevent Beowulf, the only other major contender, from getting recognized. As we’ve seen in recent years, this branch doesn’t want to recognize motion capture films. Beowulf is likely to follow the path of previous efforts Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly, which were critics faves but failed to get nominated. It takes too much creative control away from animators, which puts their future work in jeopardy, thus their tendency towards exclusion.

Best Director

  • No Country for Old Men – Ethan Coen, Joel Coen (c-10/6, n-12/8, o-12/8) — Assured —
  • The Diving Bell and the Butterfly – Julian Schnabel (c-12/16, n-12/16) — Probable —
  • There Will Be Blood – Paul Thomas Anderson (c-8/27, n-10/2) — Probable —
  • Into the Wild – Sean Penn (c-10/6, n-1/11) — Fighting —
  • Zodiac – David Fincher (c-1/18, n-1/18) — Fighting —
  • American Gangster – Ridley Scott (c-5/1) — Fighting —
  • Atonement – Joe Wright (c-8/27) — Fighting —
  • Away from Her – Sarah Polley (c-5/1) — Fighting —
  • Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead – Sidney Lumet (c-12/8) — Fighting —
  • Eastern Promises – David Cronenberg (c-9/15) — Fighting —
  • Juno – Jason Reitman (c-12/16) — Fighting —
  • Michael Clayton – Tony Gilroy (c-5/1) — Fighting —
  • Sweeney Todd – Tim Burton (c-5/1) — Fighting —
  • The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford – Andrew Dominik (c-9/15) — Struggling —
  • Charlie Wilson’s War – Mike Nichols (c-5/1) — Struggling —
  • The Great Debaters – Denzel Washington (c-8/27) — Struggling —
  • I’m Not There – Todd Haynes (c-8/27) — Struggling —
  • The Kite Runner – Marc Forster (c-8/27) — Struggling —
  • Lust, Caution – Ang Lee (c-5/1) — Struggling —

My Thoughts:
The DGA has both good and bad tendencies in predicting the Oscar Directing slate. Picking winners isn’t in dispute. With one or two not carrying over typically, it will be interesting to see if we’ll have another 5-for-5 match-up as we did in 2005.

Assured of a nomination are directing brothers Coen for No Country for Old Men. Probable nominees include Paul Thomas Anderson and Julian Schnabel. The remaining two spots are being fought over by DGA noms Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton) and Sean Penn (Into the Wild) and eight other directors, all with passing shots depending on what the members of the Directors Branch like most. Ridley Scott and Joe Wright will only get nominations if their films are also Best Picture contenders. Sarah Polley will get a nod if the Directors decide they want to more regularly recognize women. Sidney Lumet, David Cronenberg, Tim Burton and David Fincher are vying for the veteran filmmaker slot, and Jason Reitman may ride high on a populist Juno wave.

There’s often an odd-man out and it’s seldom that Best Picture and Best Director match. So, I’m pulling Gilroy out of consideration and making Fincher the director to join Penn in the final five. He’s put in a lot of time in the industry and has a good deal of respect from his compatriots. We generally have one left field entry and that entry usually goes to a long-respected director who makes a well-respected film and piques the interest of a Directors branch desirous of standing apart.

Best Actor

  • There Will Be Blood – Daniel Day-Lewis (c-8/27, n-10/2, o-10/2) — Assured —
  • Michael Clayton – George Clooney (c-5/1, n-5/1) — Assured —
  • Eastern Promises – Viggo Mortensen (c-12/24, n-12/24) — Probable —
  • Into the Wild – Emile Hirsch (c-10/6, n-1/11) — Fighting —
  • Starting Out in the Evening – Frank Langella (c-11/23, n-12/8) — Fighting —
  • American Gangster – Denzel Washington (c-5/1) — Fighting —
  • Atonement – James McAvoy (c-8/27) — Fighting —
  • The Diving Bell and the Butterfly – Mathieu Amalric (c-8/27) — Fighting —
  • Lars and the Real Girl – Ryan Gosling (c-1/11) — Fighting —
  • No Country for Old Men – Josh Brolin (c-12/8) — Fighting —
  • Sweeney Todd – Johnny Depp (c-5/1) — Fighting —
  • The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford – Brad Pitt (c-10/6) — Struggling —
  • Away from Her – Gordon Pinsent (c-5/1) — Struggling —
  • Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead – Philip Seymour Hoffman (c-12/8) — Struggling —
  • Charlie Wilson’s War – Tom Hanks (c-5/1) — Struggling —
  • Gone Baby Gone – Casey Affleck (c-8/27) — Struggling —
  • The Great Debaters – Denzel Washington (c-8/27) — Struggling —
  • Man in the Chair – Christopher Plummer (c-12/8) — Struggling —
  • The Savages – Philip Seymour Hoffman (c-8/27) — Struggling —

My Thoughts:
I’d probably have a heart attack if the Academy didn’t nominate Daniel Day-Lewis and George Clooney. Both have earned high prize and critics awards for their work and represent one of the few pairs of locks this year’s competition has. Viggo Mortensen came on strong at the end of the year to pose a serious threat for a nomination. While many hadn’t thought he’d figure in, the Academy are suckers for accents (hence Meryl Streep’s staggering list of nominations), so his inclusion is almost certain.

Fighting for the last two slots, we have eight actors who all want nods, but whom all have detriments that could prevent them from being nominated. The two most likely are Emile Hirsch and Frank Langella. The former is young, hip and could fill the Ryan Gosling/Heath Ledger slot this year. The only hindrance is his work is severely understated and his nomination hinges on the adoration of his film. Langella, on the other hand, doesn’t have that luxury. His film has been largely ignored by audiences and critics and he’s constantly the runner-up in the critics derbies. That’s his downfall. What keeps him in the race is his veteran status and. He’s the only actor in contention that has been in the business more than 30 years and such an absence would be strange indeed.

Also trying to sneak in are Denzel Washington who hopes his film American Gangster is a smash so he can pick up another nomination for the same performance he’s given in countless films. James McAvoy likewise hopes Atonement does well and sweeps him in as a young, hip nominee. Unfortunately, too many people may have forgotten his excellent work in The Last King of Scotland and may recognize him because his perf isn’t terribly showy.

Mathieu Amalric joins Washington and McAvoy as an actor whose chances hinge on his film’s success at the Best Picture race. He won’t be included if Diving Bell doesn’t make Best Picture. Ryan Gosling has gotten surprisingly strong attention for Lars and the Real Girl, a film which most discounted months ago but whom the star and the script seem to be continuously chugging along. Even if No Country for Old Men does well, it’s unlikely Josh Brolin will be carried along unless there’s a major sweep of nominations for the film. The best performance in the film is likely to be sidelined while his compatriots seem strong for recognition.

Then there’s Johnny Depp. He surprised many by getting a nod for Finding Neverland after his loss the previous year for Pirates of the Caribbean. He’s a decent box office draw now (something that couldn’t be said ten years ago), but his murderous barber may get ill marks from actors who can sing well who may feel his vocals didn’t live up to his performance. He also didn’t get a SAG nod, which he got both previous times.

Best Actress

  • Away from Her – Julie Christie (c-5/1, n-5/1, o-5/1) — Assured —
  • Juno – Ellen Page (c-10/6, n-12/8) — Assured —
  • LaVie en Rose – Marion Cotillard (c-8/27, n-9/15) — Assured —
  • AMighty Heart – Angelina Jolie (c-5/1, n-12/16) — Fighting —
  • The Savages – Laura Linney (c-8/27, n-1/11) — Fighting —
  • Atonement – Keira Knightley (c-8/27) — Fighting —
  • Elizabeth: The Golden Age – Cate Blanchett (c-1/18) — Fighting —
  • Enchanted – Amy Adams (c-11/23) — Fighting —
  • Hairspray – Nikki Blonsky (c-5/1) — Fighting —
  • Lust, Caution – Tang Wei (c-12/8) — Fighting —
  • Sweeney Todd – Helena Bonham Carter (c-5/1) — Fighting —
  • The Brave One – Jodie Foster (c-8/27) — Struggling —
  • Margot at the Wedding – Nicole Kidman (c-8/27) — Struggling —
  • Stephanie Daley – Tilda Swinton (c-5/1) — Struggling —
  • Things We Lost in the Fire – Halle Berry (c-8/27) — Struggling —
  • Waitress – Keri Russell (c-5/1) — Struggling —

My Thoughts:
Three actresses are assured slots in the race. Julie Christie, Marion Cotillard and Ellen Page locked up nods some time ago, but the question for this category is who will get the last two slots.

Angelina Jolie and Laura Linney have good shots. Jolie hasn’t had a nod since she won for Girl, Interrupted and some members may want to validate that win with another nomination and others who want to recognize her for her tremendous humanitarian work. Linney doesn’t have either thing going for her. Her shot at the nod hinges on her status as a workhorse actor in Hollywood. She was the lone nominee for Kinsey and seems to be following similar early streaks of actresses like Julianne Moore and Kate Winslet.

Keira Knigtley’s chances are directly related to Atonement. She has a previous nomination, but that won’t be enough to include her. Her presence here depends on how well members love her film. Cate Blanchett knows it’s not her film that will get her nominated. For a time, I considered her out of the race because of the reception of her film, but she keeps picking up nominations and after getting picked at BAFTA, admittedly for playing one of their historical highnesses, she’s still in the running. If she gets nominated, she’ll be the first female actor to earn a nomination for playing the same character in two different films.

Amy Adams and Nikki Blonsky sang their hearts out in their films and hope that their ingenue status might carry them to nominations. Blonsky seems to be earning more and more praise as a rising star and could get nommed for that reason. Adams may get in because she’s a past nominee and didn’t win, though many may have felt she deserved to.

Tang Wei gave a subtle and moving performance in Lust, Caution but her hope at an Oscar nod hinges on how many people saw the film and how many people thinks she should be recognized for her debut. She is probably the least likely to get a nod of those in direct contention. Down, but hardly out, Helena Bonham Carter received decent notices, but suffers from the Mrs. Lovett curse. Angela Lansbury won the Tony for the role on Broadway and ever since, no one has picked up an award since. Despite being the heavy favorite, Patti LuPone lost the Tony for reprising the role. Carter would be lucky to be nominated.

Best Supporting Actor

  • Into the Wild – Hal Holbrook (c-10/6, n-10/6, o-12/24) — Probable —
  • No Country for Old Men – Javier Bardem (c-11/11, n-11/11) — Assured —
  • Michael Clayton – Tom Wilkinson (c-5/1, n-8/27) — Probable —
  • No Country for Old Men – Tommy Lee Jones (c-1/18, n-1/18) — Fighting —
  • The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford – Casey Affleck (c-10/6, n-10/6) — Fighting —
  • Charlie Wilson’s War – Philip Seymour Hoffman (c-5/1) — Fighting —
  • 3:10 to Yuma – Ben Foster (c-12/8) — Fighting —
  • American Gangster – Russell Crowe (c-12/16) — Fighting —
  • The Diving Bell and the Butterfly – Max von Sydow (c-12/8) — Fighting —
  • Sweeney Todd – Alan Rickman (c-5/1) — Fighting —
  • There Will Be Blood – Paul Dano (c-10/2) — Fighting —
  • Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead – Albert Finney (c-12/8) — Struggling —
  • Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead – Ethan Hawke (c-12/8) — Struggling —
  • The Great Debaters – Forest Whitaker (c-8/27) — Struggling —
  • Man in the Chair – M. Emmet Walsh (c-12/8) — Struggling —
  • The Savages – Philip Bosco (c-9/15) — Struggling —
  • Stephanie Daley – Timothy Hutton (c-5/1) — Struggling —

My Thoughts:
Javier Bardem’s domination of the critics awards makes him a lock for a nomination. He’ll probably be joined by Hal Holbrook (a career nod) and Tom Wilkinson. The remaining two slots have come down to a brawl between another eight individuals.

As The Assassination of Jesse James slowly fades, it’s possible Casey Affleck could get left out. He’s got some precursors, but the confusion over his lead/supporting status along with the buzz around his two nearest competitors, might leave him in the dust. Those contenders include past winner Philip Seymour Hoffman who is said to steal the show in Charlie Wilson’s War. After years of ignoring him, the Academy may be likely to jump on the Hoffman bandwagon with no fewer than three high profile films this year. At his side could be Tommy Lee Jones who has come on strong in buzz the past few days for his performance in No Country for Old Men. He also benefits from another performance this year that was moderately high profile. I think of Jones and Hoffman, it could very well be Jones that makes it in beside Affleck, not Hoffman.

However, there are others who aren’t so sure these three can make it. Russell Crowe, Max von Sydow, Alan Rickman and Paul Dano all hope their respective films are huge hits with the Academy and that they can manage a nomination. The most likely is Dano whose performance in There Will Be Blood is getting a lot of talk and with him getting a nod at the BAFTAs, it’s possible he could follow the film to a nomination. Rickman’s been a villain for years and many may not want to reward him, but since he’s the best of the big stars in the film, it wouldn’t be too shocking to see him get a career nomination.

Crowe’s chances all hinge on American Gangster being the next Godfather. The mafia-related film hasn’t been holding up well in recent days and Crowe’s nomination was never a good bet to begin with, but he could be in the film goes over extremely well. Von Sydow’s been on the acting scene for decades and the Academy could throw another old-timer a bone here and nod him alongside or maybe even instead of Hal Holbrook.

Ben Foster had early buzz regarding his performance in 3:10 to Yuma, but he’s flown under the radar and may succumb to the film’s potential snubs. But, if the film does better than expected, he might be up for a nomination.

Best Supporting Actress

  • Into the Wild – Catherine Keener (c-10/6, n-12/16, o-12/24) — Fighting —
  • Gone Baby Gone – Amy Ryan (c-10/6, n-10/6) — Probable —
  • I’m Not There – Cate Blanchett (c-8/27, n-8/27) — Probable —
  • Michael Clayton – Tilda Swinton (c-5/1, n-12/24) — Probable —
  • Atonement – Saorise Ronan (c-10/6, n-1/18) — Fighting —
  • American Gangster – Ruby Dee (c-12/24) — Fighting —
  • Atonement – Vanessa Redgrave (c-5/1) — Fighting —
  • Atonement – Romola Garai (c-9/15) — Fighting —
  • Juno – Jennifer Garner (c-1/18) — Fighting —
  • No Country for Old Men – Kelly MacDonald (c-1/18) — Fighting —
  • Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead – Marisa Tomei (c-12/8) — Fighting —
  • Away from Her – Olympia Dukakis (c-5/1) — Struggling —
  • Charlie Wilson’s War – Julia Roberts (c-5/1) — Struggling —
  • Hairspray – Michelle Pfeiffer (c-5/1) — Struggling —
  • Juno – Olivia Thirlby (c-10/6) — Struggling —
  • Margot at the Wedding – Jennifer Jason Leigh (c-10/6) — Struggling —
  • Stephanie Daley – Amber Tamblyn (c-5/1) — Struggling —
  • The Walker – Lauren Bacall (c-8/27) — Struggling —

My Thoughts:
This is an exceedingly cramped race this year. Most years prognosticators find themselves scrambling to fill the five slots with names, but this year, there are so many names we’re likely to hear. No one’s guaranteed at this stage because close voting could affect all of them, but the most probable are guild award/critics leaders Amy Ryan, Cate Blanchett and Tilda Swinton.
Finding themselves alongside these women in contention are Catherine Keener who could be buoyed by a strong showing of actors-favorite Into the Wild. If she gets nominated, her slew of previous nods without a win put her into strong contention to win. Saoirse Ronan didn’t pick up an expected SAG nod, but supposedly the voting members didn’t get screeners in time. By this past weekend, though, Atonement was playing wide enough to get some attention and it’s doubtful Focus wouldn’t have gotten screeners where they needed to go. The Academy has nominated more child performances than most would and the Supporting Actress category is probably the most common place to find them.

Hoping to upset this fivesome are four women with good shots at nominations. Starting off is the beloved acting veteran Ruby Dee who could get the only major career nod in the category. She’s never been nominated, but delivers a great scene in the film American Gangster that many people who hated the film have even talked about. She’s in if American Gangster‘s in for Best Picture, but not likely otherwise.

Vanessa Redgrave and Romola Garai are banking on love for their film to get them to the red carpet. They would benefit from a major outpouring of support for Atonement, though Garai might be left out if they only pick two.

Then there’s the No Country factor. Will the film catch on or will it merely perform respectably like Fargo. Either way, Kelly MacDonald, as the film’s sole female character of significant importance, it’s possible she could sneak into the race and win a nomination.

That leaves the left-field choice of Marisa Tomei. Her film hasn’t done as well as some might have expected with Sidney Lumet’s name attached. However, hers was the one performance from the film that earned the most chatter, so with such close finishes, it’s possible she could end up in the final five.

Best Original Screenplay

  • Juno – Diablo Cody (c-10/6, n-11/11, o-12/16) — Assured —
  • Michael Clayton – Tony Gilroy (c-5/1, n-5/1) — Probable —
  • Ratatouille – Brad Bird, Jan Pinkava (c-5/1, n-5/1) — Probable —
  • Lars and the Real Girl – Nancy Oliver (c-12/8, n-1/11) — Fighting —
  • The Savages – Tamara Jenkins (c-12/8, n-12/8) — Fighting —
  • Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead – Kelly Masterson (c-12/8) — Fighting —
  • Eastern Promises – Steve Knight (c-9/15) — Fighting —
  • Knocked Up – Judd Apatow (c-8/27) — Fighting —
  • Enchanted – Bill Kelly (c-11/23) — Struggling —
  • The Great Debaters – Robert Eisele, Suzan-Lori Parks (c-8/27) — Struggling —
  • I’m Not There – Todd Haynes, Oren Moverman (c-8/27) — Struggling —
  • Once – John Carney (c-12/8) — Struggling —
  • Rescue Dawn – Werner Herzog (c-5/1) — Struggling —

My Thoughts:
There are several thoughts that surround this category. The Academy tends to be less open to the bizarre and yet Lars and the Real Girl has done exceptionally well in the awards derbies. Can it get nominated? It’s certainly possible, but it’s one of the fighters for this category. Only Juno is assured a spot. Michael Clayton and Ratatouille are very likely to get nominated, but will Lars and The Savages be the final nominees or will one of three others fill the spot.

Knocked Up got nominated by the Writers Guild, but the Academy doesn’t like broad humor and with Juno already filling their one generally-open spot, its chances are diminished, but it could easily trade places with Lars and the Real Girl. Eastern Promises is slowly fading, but it’s still trying to eke out a nod, which could happen, but it’s becoming an uphill battle. Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead has also been fading and unless the film receives a surge of last-minute support, I’m not sure newcomer Kelly Masterson can get a nod with so many other first-timers.

Best Adapted Screenplay

  • Into the Wild – Sean Penn (c-10/6, n-1/11, o-1/11) — Fighting —
  • No Country for Old Men – Joel Coen, Ethan Coen (c-9/15, n-10/2) — Assured —
  • There Will Be Blood – Paul Thomas Anderson (c-8/27, n-10/2) — Probable —
  • The Diving Bell and the Butterfly – Ronald Harwood (c-12/16, n-12/16) — Fighting —
  • Zodiac – James Vanderbilt (c-5/1, n-1/18) — Fighting —
  • American Gangster – Steven Zaillian (c-5/1) — Fighting —
  • The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford – Andrew Dominik (c-10/6) — Fighting —
  • Atonement – Christopher Hampton (c-8/27) — Fighting —
  • Away from Her – Sarah Polley (c-5/1) — Fighting —
  • Sweeney Todd – Christopher Bond, John Logan (c-5/1) — Fighting —
  • Charlie Wilson’s War – Aaron Sorkin (c-5/1) — Struggling —
  • The Kite Runner – David Benioff (c-8/27) — Struggling —
  • Lust, Caution – Eileen Chang, Hui-Ling Wang, James Schamus (c-11/26) — Struggling —

My Thoughts:
The battle of the Best Picture all-stars is being fought in the Adapted Screenplay category. No Country for Old Men will get a nomination. If it doesn’t, it will be a huge shock for the film. There Will Be Blood is the only other likely nominee, the remaining three slots are being battled for.

Into the Wild could follow the film’s success to a nod, giving Sean Penn another nomination alongside his director bid. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is a hot topic and the uniqueness of the story paired with its real-life roots should be putty in the hands of Oscar voters. Filling in the fifth slot, making a rare five-for-five match with the WGA, Zodiac may be able to squeeze in.

The chances of five other scripts all hinge on popularity of their films. American Gangster, Atonement and Sweeney Todd all need massive support to get in here. Atonement is the only one of these three that could make it without a corresponding Best Picture bid. Away from Her could benefit from broad support for Sarah Polley’s debut. The Assassination of Jesse James won’t get in unless the film does seriously surprising business with the Academy.

Best Original Song

  • Once – Falling Slowly (c-12/12, n-12/12, o-12/12) — Fighting —
  • Enchanted – That’s How You Know (c-12/12, n-12/12) — Fighting —
  • Grace Is Gone – Grace Is Gone (c-12/12, n-12/12) — Fighting —
  • Hairspray – Come So Far (Got So Far to Go) (c-12/12, n-12/12) — Fighting —
  • Into the Wild – Guaranteed (c-12/12, n-12/12) — Fighting —
  • Enchanted – Happy Working Song (c-12/12) — Fighting —
  • The Golden Compass – Lyra (c-12/12) — Fighting —
  • Into the Wild – Rise (c-12/12) — Fighting —
  • Once – If You Want Me (c-12/12) — Fighting —
  • Ratatouille – Le Festin (c-12/12) — Fighting —
  • Transformers – Before It’s Too Late (Sam and Mikaela’s Theme) (c-12/12) — Fighting —
  • Waitress – Baby Don’t You Cry (c-12/12) — Fighting —
  • The Water Horse – Back Where You Belong (c-12/12) — Fighting —
  • American Gangster – Do You Feel Me (c-12/12) — Struggling —
  • Arctic Tale – At the Edge of the World (c-12/12) — Struggling —
  • August Rush – Someday (c-12/12) — Struggling —
  • August Rush – This Time (c-12/12) — Struggling —
  • August Rush – Raise It Up (c-12/12) — Struggling —
  • August Rush – Break (c-12/12) — Struggling —
  • Beowulf – A Hero Comes Home (c-12/12) — Struggling —
  • The Bucket List – Say (c-12/12) — Struggling —
  • December Boys – December Boys (c-12/12) — Struggling —
  • Enchanted – So Close (c-12/12) — Struggling —
  • Into the Wild – Society (c-12/12) — Struggling —
  • Love in the Time of Cholera – Despedida (c-12/12) — Struggling —
  • Meet the Robinsons – Little Wonders (c-12/12) — Struggling —
  • Meet the Robinsons – Another Believer (c-12/12) — Struggling —
  • Music and Lyrics – Way Back into Love (c-12/12) — Struggling —
  • Music and Lyrics – PoP! Goes My Heart (c-12/12) — Struggling —
  • Music Within – Ordinary People (c-12/12) — Struggling —
  • Shrek the Third – Royal Pain (c-12/12) — Struggling —
  • Stardust – Rule the World (c-12/12) — Struggling —
  • Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story – Beautiful Ride (c-12/12) — Struggling —
  • Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story – Walk Hard (c-12/12) — Struggling —
  • Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story – Let’s Duet (c-12/12) — Struggling —
  • 56 Drops of Blood – Atkozott Egy Elet (c-12/12) -Out-
  • 56 Drops of Blood – O, Atyam! (c-12/12) -Out-
  • 56 Drops of Blood – Eleg! (c-12/12) -Out-
  • Badland – Nothing’s There (c-12/12) -Out-
  • Badland – The Devil’s Lonely Fire (c-12/12) -Out-
  • Berkeley – The Stars of Orion (c-12/12) -Out-
  • Dan in Real Life – To Be Surprised (c-12/12) -Out-
  • Dan in Real Life – My Hands Are Shaking (c-12/12) -Out-
  • Dan in Real Life – I’ll Be OK (c-12/12) -Out-
  • Freedom Writers – A Dream (c-12/12) -Out-
  • Good Luck Chuck – Shut Me Out (c-12/12) -Out-
  • Good Luck Chuck – I Was Zapped by the Lucky Super Rainbow (c-12/12) -Out-
  • Good Luck Chuck – Good Luck Chuck (c-12/12) -Out-
  • Grace Is Gone – Lullabye for Wyatt (c-12/12) -Out-
  • The Heartbreak Kid – The Tale of the Horny Frog (c-12/12) -Out-
  • Honeydripper – China Doll (c-12/12) -Out-
  • The Hottest State – It Will Stay With Us (c-12/12) -Out-
  • The Hottest State – Never See You (c-12/12) -Out-
  • Larry Flynt: The Right To Be Left Alone – First Amendment Blues (c-12/12) -Out-
  • The Last Mimzy – Hello (I Love You) (c-12/12) -Out-
  • Lucky You – Huck’s Tune (c-12/12) -Out-
  • Nancy Drew – Pretty Much Amazing (c-12/12) -Out-
  • Resurrecting the Champ – Land of Quiet Poems (c-12/12) -Out-
  • September Dawn – Love Will Still Be There (c-12/12) -Out-

All of the Songs listed here are Official Selections of the Academy and the final three to five nominees will come only from these selected contenders.

My Thoughts:
This category is so often a crapshoot, that it’s difficult to even make predictions. Most of the best songs never see the light of day and we’re left with tedious, lyrically superficial melodies that work only because they’re hummable. This year, however, I hope that trend stops. The five songs I’ve picked out are all likely, but I fully expect something to go wrong.
“Falling Slowly” is the anthem of the critically acclaimed Once. Its exclusion would be a sad thing indeed as it’s a beautiful song that deserves some recognition. The same can be said for the song from the otherwise forgettable Enchanted. “That’s How You Know” is an upbeat and interesting expression of musical diversity. It may be included solely because it reminds us of how Disney used to be able to create catchy tunes…it’s no surprise then that this is all thanks to Alan Menken who’s back in top form.

“Guaranteed” may get Eddie Vedder a nod mainly on the strength of the chances of Into the Wild. I’m not a fan of the music from the film, but it seems to have legs. A song that came virtually out of nowhere and has made its mark on the race is “Grace Is Gone” from the film of the same name. It’s Clint Eastwood’s work, so that may be enough for the Music Branch to give him the nod.

That leaves the only new song from the summer blockbuster musical Hairspray. “Come So Far (Got So Far to Go)” isn’t as good as the numbers in the film/stage musical, but it may hold the stage-to-screen berth that Sweeney Todd might have taken had it added and not taken away music.

Other contenders include: “Happy Working Song” from Enchanted, “Lyra” from The Golden Compass, “Rise” from Into the Wild, “If You Want Me” from Once, “Le Festin” from Ratatouille, “Before It’s Too Late (Sam and Mikaela’s Theme)” from Transformers, “Baby Don’t You Cry” from Waitress, “Back Where You Belong” from Water Horse or any of the other 40+ songs eligible for the award. Who knows what will get nominated, I’ve made my best guesses, but I’m hardly sure of any of these.

Best Original Score

  • Lust, Caution – Alexandre Desplat (c-5/1, n-8/27, o-12/16) — Fighting —
  • Atonement – Dario Marianelli (c-9/15, n-9/15) — Fighting —
  • Zodiac – David Shire (c-5/1, n-1/21) — Fighting —
  • The Kite Runner – Alberto Iglesias (c-12/16, n-1/20) — Fighting —
  • Ratatouille – Michael Giacchino (c-1/18, n-1/20) — Fighting —
  • American Gangster – Marc Streitenfeld (c-5/1) — Fighting —
  • The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford – Nick Cave, Warren Ellis (c-1/18) — Fighting —
  • Charlie Wilson’s War – James Newton Howard (c-5/1) — Fighting —
  • Lions for Lambs – Mark Isham (c-5/1) — Struggling —
  • Rescue Dawn – Klaus Badelt (c-5/1) — Struggling —
  • Reservation Road – Mark Isham (c-5/1) — Struggling —

My Thoughts:
The big question haunting this category is “what about Original Song Score?” The seldom-used category that last appeared in the ’80s has received a number of capable productions that could make it a viable category this year. Whether it makes it in or not, I don’t know, but two of my listed nominees for Original Score would be eligible in that category instead if they choose to use it. It’s also possible that the category won’t exist, but Once and Into the Wild will be disqualified If that happens, I have several contingency plans.

There is no score that’s got a lock on this category. As with the Original Song category, there are any number of surprising omissions and nominations that have come out. My predictions are the subdued scores for Atonement and Lust, Caution and the strange score of There Will Be Blood, though the music may be too strange for the Academy. Into the Wild and Once are my choices to fill out the category, but if either is ineligible because of the Song Score issue, then I’m sure The Kite Runner will fill one slot and Ratatouille may fill the other. Other potentials are American Gangster, The Assassination of Jesse James and Zodiac.

Addendum: It has finally been revealed that Enchanted and Into the Wild were ruled ineligible for predominant use of songs and There Will Be Blood has been declared ineligible because there wasn’t a sufficient enough portion of the score that was original and not adapted. I’m going to assume since Once did not have anything but songs that it is also ineligible. The Variety article doesn’t flat out say this, but I also assume that Song Score will NOT be a category this year. I have removed the below nominations/winners from the list of tallies, but if by some miracle the category is filled, the below would be my nominations.

Best Original Song Score

  • Once – Glen Hansard, Marketa Irglova (c-1/20, n-1/20, o-1/20) — Fighting —
  • Into the Wild – Michael Brook, Kaki King, Eddie Vedder (c-1/20, n-1/20) — Fighting —
  • Enchanted – Alan Menken (c-1/20, n-1/20) — Fighting —
  • Music and Lyrics – Adam Schlesinger (c-1/20) — Fighting —
  • Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story – Michael Andrews (c-1/20) — Fighting —
  • August Rush – Mark Mancina (c-1/20) — Fighting —

My Thoughts:
See Above, under Original Score.

Best Editing

  • The Bourne Ultimatum – Christopher Rouse (c-8/27, n-10/6, o-1/11) — Assured —
  • No Country for Old Men – Roderick Jaynes (c-11/11, n-12/8) — Probable —
  • Into the Wild – Jay Lash Cassidy (c-10/6, n-1/11) — Fighting —
  • Juno – Dana E. Glauberman (c-5/1, n-1/11) — Fighting —
  • There Will Be Blood – Tatiana S. Riegel, Dylan Tichenor (c-8/27, n-10/2) — Fighting —
  • American Gangster – Pietro Scalia (c-5/1) — Fighting —
  • The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford – Curtiss Clayton, Dylan Tichenor (c-10/6) — Fighting —
  • Atonement – Paul Tothill (c-8/27) — Fighting —
  • The Diving Bell and the Butterfly – Juliette Welfling (c-12/16) — Fighting —
  • Hairspray – Michael Tronick (c-1/18) — Fighting —
  • Michael Clayton – John Gilroy (c-5/1) — Fighting —
  • Sweeney Todd – Chris Lebenzon (c-5/1) — Fighting —
  • Away from Her – David Wharnsby (c-5/1) — Struggling —
  • Charlie Wilson’s War – John Bloom (c-5/1) — Struggling —
  • Elizabeth: The Golden Age – Jill Bilcock (c-5/1) — Struggling —
  • Lust, Caution – Tim Squyres (c-5/1) — Struggling —
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End – Stephen Rivkin, Craig Wood (c-1/18) — Struggling —

My Thoughts:
Following some of the recommendations of the American Cinema Editors, I’ve cobbled together a list that seems quite likely. Usually this category is filled on Oscar morning with Best Picture nominees and one or two non-contending films. This year, I’m certain that The Bourne Ultimatum will be in the final five. I also believe it’s the only sure thing for a nomination in this category.

It’s probable that No Country for Old Men will get nominated, but the remaining spots are up for grabs. Juno may be the only comedy entry from the Eddies to carry over to the Oscars, Into the Wild may benefit form the late surge of support, and There Will Be Blood is another strong Best Picture contender that should get a corresponding nomination.

Others that have a strong chance depending on the film performance are American Gangster, The Assassination of Jesse James, Atonement, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Hairspray, Michael Clayton and Sweeney Todd.

Best Cinematography

  • The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford – Roger Deakins (c-10/6, n-1/11, o-1/11) — Probable —
  • The Diving Bell and the Butterfly – Janusz Kaminski (c-1/11, n-1/11) — Probable —
  • There Will Be Blood – Robert Elswit (c-10/2, n-10/2) — Probable —
  • Atonement – Seamus McGarvey (c-9/15, n-9/15) — Fighting —
  • No Country for Old Men – Roger Deakins (c-11/11, n-12/24) — Fighting —
  • 300 – Larry Fong (c-5/1) — Fighting —
  • Across the Universe – Bruno Delbonnel (c-5/1) — Fighting —
  • American Gangster – Harris Savides (c-5/1) — Fighting —
  • Into the Wild – Eric Gautier (c-10/6) — Fighting —
  • Lust, Caution – Rodrigo Prieto (c-5/1) — Fighting —
  • Sweeney Todd – Dariusz Wolski (c-5/1) — Fighting —
  • Zodiac – Harris Savides (c-5/1) — Fighting —
  • Elizabeth: The Golden Age – Remi Adefarasin (c-5/1) — Struggling —
  • The Golden Compass – Henry Braham (c-5/1) — Struggling —
  • Michael Clayton – Robert Elswit (c-5/1) — Struggling —
  • Rescue Dawn – Peter Zeitliner (c-5/1) — Struggling —

My Thoughts:
This category could be one of the most outstanding and competitive in years. Roger Deakins has a good shot at picking up two nods, one for Best Picture nominee No Country for Old Men and the other for The Assassination of Jesse James. While No Country may suffer from the seldom-achieved double nomination which has not occurred in more than twenty years, there are two other films that are highly probable to stand aside Assassination. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly and There Will Be Blood have each earned high praise. I’ll fill out the category with No Country and Atonement.

A slew of films could show up on Oscar morning instead of these including 300, Across the Universe, American Gangster, Into the Wild, Lust, Caution, Sweeney Todd and Zodiac.

Best Art Direction

  • Sweeney Todd – Dante Ferretti, Francesca Lo Schiavo (c-5/1, n-5/1, o-5/1) — Probable —
  • Atonement – Sarah Greenwood, Katie Spencer (c-9/15, n-9/15) — Probable —
  • Elizabeth: The Golden Age – Guy Dyas, Richard Roberts (c-5/1, n-5/1) — Probable —
  • The Golden Compass – Dennis Gassner, Anna Pinnock (c-5/1, n-1/11) — Fighting —
  • There Will Be Blood – Jack Fisk, Jim Erickson (c-8/27, n-10/2) — Fighting —
  • 300 – James D. Bissell, Paul Hotte (c-5/1) — Fighting —
  • 3:10 to Yuma – Andrew Menzies (c-8/27) — Fighting —
  • American Gangster – Arthur Max, Sonja Klaus, Leslie E. Rollins, Beth A. Rubino (c-5/1) — Fighting —
  • Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford – Patricia Norris, Janice Blackie-Goodine (c-8/27) — Fighting —
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – Stuart Craig, Stephanie McMillan (c-5/1) — Fighting —
  • Lust, Caution – Lai Pan (c-5/1) — Fighting —
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End – Rick Heinrichs, Cheryl Carasik (c-5/1) — Fighting —
  • Across the Universe – Mark Friedberg, Ellen Christiansen (c-5/1) — Struggling —
  • Amazing Grace – Charles Wood, Eliza Solesbury (c-5/1) — Struggling —
  • Charlie Wilson’s War – Victor Kempster, Nancy Haigh, Alessandra Querzola (c-5/1) — Struggling —
  • Enchanted – Mona May (c-11/23) — Struggling —
  • Hairspray – David Gropman, Gordon Sim (c-5/1) — Struggling —
  • Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium – Therese DePrez, Clive Thomasson (c-5/1) — Struggling —
  • La Vie en Rose – Olivier Raoux, Stephane Cressend, Petra Kobedova, Cecile Vatelot (c-1/18) — Struggling —

My Thoughts:
These two categories often share common films. Three or four generally match. I see the only probable pairing as Sweeney Todd. The other two most likely pairs are Atonement and Elizabeth: The Golden Age.

Film matches could go to the following films, but I only see each making only one category. There Will Be Blood isn’t likely to pick up Costume Design, but could definitely make Art Direction. The Golden Compass may fill out Art Direction with Blood, but also isn’t certain to pick up Costume Design recognition.
La Vie en Rose may pick up one of the remaining Costume slots, but its hopes for Art Direction aren’t high. Enchanted should take the final Costume Design nomination, but its modern Art Direction will most likely be ignored.

Other pairs that could show up, but are unlikely to in either category are 300, 3:10 to Yuma, The Assassination of Jesse James, American Gangster and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and Lust, Caution are in strong contention for Art Direction bids, and Hairspray could come up from behind and pick up a Costume Design nod.

Best Costume Design

  • Sweeney Todd – Colleen Atwood (c-5/1, n-5/1, o-8/27) — Probable —
  • Atonement – Jacqueline Durran (c-9/15, n-9/15) — Fighting —
  • Elizabeth: The Golden Age – Alexandra Byrne (c-5/1, n-5/1) — Fighting —
  • Enchanted – Mona May (c-5/1, n-12/16) — Fighting —
  • La Vie en Rose – Marit Allen (c-1/18, n-1/18) — Fighting —
  • 300 – Michael Wilkinson (c-5/1) — Fighting —
  • 3:10 to Yuma – Arianne Phillips (c-8/27) — Fighting —
  • American Gangster – Janty Yates (c-5/1) — Fighting —
  • Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford – Patricia Norris (c-8/27) — Fighting —
  • The Golden Compass – Ruth Myers (c-5/1) — Fighting —
  • Hairspray – Rita Ryack (c-5/1) — Fighting —
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End – Liz Dann, Penny Rose (c-5/1) — Fighting —
  • Across the Universe – Albert Wolsky (c-5/1) — Struggling —
  • Amazing Grace – Jenny Beavan (c-5/1) — Struggling —
  • Charlie Wilson’s War – Albert Wolsky (c-5/1) — Struggling —
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – Jany Temime (c-5/1) — Struggling —
  • Lust, Caution – Lai Pan (c-5/1) — Struggling —
  • Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium – Christopher Hargadon (c-5/1) — Struggling —
  • There Will Be Blood – Mark Bridges (c-8/27) — Struggling —

My Thoughts:
See Above, under Art Direction.

Best Makeup

  • Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (c-5/1, n-5/1, o-5/1) — Fighting —
  • Sweeney Todd (c-5/1, n-5/1) — Probable —
  • The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (c-1/7, n-1/18) — Fighting —
  • 300 (c-1/7) — Fighting —
  • Norbit (c-1/7) — Fighting —
  • La Vie en Rose (c-1/7) — Fighting —
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (c-5/1) — Struggling —

All of the Films listed here are Official Selections of the Academy’s Makeup branch and the final three nominees will come only from these selected contenders.

My Thoughts:
There are only seven contenders for Best Makeup. Any one of them could end up nominated, though I think Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is highly unlikely. Sweeney Thing is the closest the category comes to a lock, but even that isn’t sealed. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Norbit, 300 and La Vie en Rose are also likely. What works in Diving Bell‘s favor is that it’s a strong contender for Best Picture. However, the opposite can be said for Norbit whose hopes hinge on Rick Baker getting his umpteenth nomination. The Hair and Makeup folk love to recognize heavy use of prosthetic makeup instead of slight uses of makeup and hair design (hence why Hairspray might be absent from the list).

Best Sound Mixing

  • Transformers (c-9/15, n-9/15, o-1/11) — Probable —
  • The Bourne Ultimatum (c-5/1, n-1/11) — Probable —
  • Hairspray (c-5/1, n-5/1) — Fighting —
  • No Country for Old Men (c-1/11, n-1/11) — Fighting —
  • There Will Be Blood (c-10/2, n-1/11) — Fighting —
  • 300 (c-5/1) — Fighting —
  • Once (c-8/27) — Fighting —
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (c-5/1) — Fighting —
  • Spider-Man 3 (c-5/1) — Fighting —
  • Sweeney Todd (c-5/1) — Fighting —
  • Across the Universe (c-5/1) — Struggling —
  • Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (c-8/27) — Struggling —
  • Atonement (c-9/15) — Struggling —
  • Enchanted (c-11/23) — Struggling —
  • The Golden Compass (c-5/1) — Struggling —
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (c-5/1) — Struggling —
  • Into the Wild (c-1/18) — Struggling —
  • Lust, Caution (c-5/1) — Struggling —

My Thoughts:
Musicals used to do well in this category, but they’ve been finding harder time getting nominated and the Cinema Audio Society neglected to nominate any. However, the popularity that surrounds Hairspray might earn it a nod, though it’s fighting with several other films for a nod. Transformers and The Bourne Ultimatum are very likely to get in for their loud use of sound, while No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood may be in based on their excellent use of Sound Mixing and to keep the category tied to Best Picture, which it often accomplishes.

Other films hoping for a chance at gold include 300, Once, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, Spider-Man 3 and Sweeney Todd.

Best Sound Editing

  • Transformers (c-9/15, n-9/15, o-1/11) — Probable —
  • 300 (c-5/1, n-5/1) — Probable —
  • The Bourne Ultimatum (c-5/1, n-8/27) — Probable —
  • No Country for Old Men (c-1/11, n-1/11) — Fighting —
  • There Will Be Blood (c-5/1, n-12/16) — Fighting —
  • Atonement (c-9/15) — Fighting —
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (c-5/1) — Fighting —
  • Spider-Man 3 (c-5/1) — Fighting —
  • Fantastic Four 2 (c-5/1) — Struggling —
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (c-5/1) — Struggling —
  • Live Free or Die Hard (c-5/1) — Struggling —
  • Rescue Dawn (c-5/1) — Struggling —

My Thoughts:
Now that they’ve taken away the bakeoff, it’s really difficult to make predictions here. However, the best options are usually the action flicks. So, Transformers, 300 and The Bourne Ultimatum should make the list. The remaining two slots, since it’s not as regimented as in previous years may see the No Country/There Will Be Blood pairing filter through to give it some much-needed Best Picture relevance.

Then again, look for either of them to be replaced with the technical films Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, Spider-Man 3, and the most surprising contender, only to get in if the pic does well, Atonement. The film uses the typewriter sound as emphasis and while that might fit more into Sound Mixing, I have a small suspicion it could appear in Sound Editing instead.

Best Visual Effects

  • Transformers (c-5/1, n-8/27, o-8/27) — Assured —
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (c-5/1, n-5/1) — Probable —
  • I Am Legend (c-1/4, n-1/18) — Fighting —
  • 300 (c-12/24) — Fighting —
  • The Golden Compass (c-8/27) — Fighting —
  • The Bourne Ultimatum (c-1/4) — Struggling —
  • Evan Almighty (c-1/4) — Struggling —

All of the Films listed here are Official Selections of the Academy’s Visual Effects branch and the final three nominees will come only from these selected contenders.

My Thoughts:
There are only seven films in contention here, thanks to the bakeoff that still exists for some very unnecessary reasons. The Bourne Ultimatum and Evan Almighty are unlikely to earn nods. The former because it’s hard to even tell there are visual effects being used. The latter because it’s a box office dud and largely criticized for its unnecessarily cartoonish visual effects.

Transformers is the only film assured a nomination. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End is quite probable for the second slot thanks to the epic ship battle sequence at the end. I Am Legend picked up a lot of support late in the year, so it may be in for its semi-futuristic view of New York City. 300 could figure in thanks to its overabundance of effects, and The Golden Compass making it to the derby means that it has a shot. The effects are quite good and there are a lot of them, and that’s something this branch often takes into account when choosing.

Best Foreign Language Film

  • The Counterfeiters – Austria (c-10/2, n-1/15, o-1/15) — Probable —
  • Days of Darkness – Canada (c-10/2, n-1/15) — Probable —
  • Mongol – Kazakhstan (c-10/18, n-1/15) — Fighting —
  • The Year My Parents Went on Vacation – Brazil (c-10/18, n-12/8) — Fighting —
  • 12 – Russia (c-10/18, n-12/8) — Fighting —
  • Beaufort – Israel (c-10/18) — Fighting —
  • Katyn – Poland (c-10/18) — Fighting —
  • The Trap – Serbia (c-10/18) — Fighting —
  • The Unknown – Italy (c-10/2) — Fighting —

These are the nine semi-finalists for the Academy Award for Foreign Language Film. The five nominees will come from the above list. For a list of all submitted foreign films, click here.

My Thoughts:
This category is probably the most mystifying. This is largely due to the fact that the three most critically acclaimed films in the list aren’t in the final nine. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, Persepolis and The Orphanage all sport controversial subjects or are of genres the Academy doesn’t tend to like. That explains their absence, but to choose the best potential nominees, you have to find the least controversial that make the most Academy members feel better about themselves.

The Counterfeiters is certainly less controversial and it features two of Oscar’s favorite topics: World War II and the oppression of Jews. Days of Darkness is the third film in Denys Arcand’s trilogy that won him an Oscar for The Barbarian Invasions. Mongol is an epic spectacle of period nature, which may appeal to the voters’ appreciation for pageantry. The Year My Parents Went on Vacation is about a boy alone in a Jewish neighborhood in Brazil. 12 is supposed to be akin to 12 Angry Men.
The other four films may also pose a threat for a nomination. Beaufort is Israel’s entry after their first choice was rejected because it didn’t meet Academy criteria. The replacement is said to be completely innocuous and could very well get in on that basis alone. I couldn’t find any synopsis on Katyn so I’m disinclined to believe it will be nominated. The Trap is a film noir, which may appeal to older academy voters.

And the last film is one of only two purely European entries (Russia’s Eastern European and doesn’t necessarily share cinematic commonalities with the rest of the continent). Europe has always dominated this category and if the voters realize they are excluding another European film, they may choose Italy’s The Unknown.

Best Documentary Feature

  • Sicko (c-8/27, n-11/19, o-11/19) — Fighting —
  • Autism: The Musical (c-11/19, n-11/19) — Fighting —
  • Lake of Fire (c-5/1, n-11/19) — Probable —
  • No End in Sight (c-8/27, n-12/24) — Probable —
  • War/Dance (c-11/11, n-11/11) — Fighting —
  • Body of War (c-11/19) — Fighting —
  • For the Bible Tells Me So (c-11/19) — Fighting —
  • Nanking (c-5/1) — Fighting —
  • Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience (c-5/1) — Fighting —
  • Please Vote for Me (c-11/19) — Struggling —
  • The Price of Sugar (c-11/19) — Struggling —
  • A Promise to the Dead: The Exile Journey of Ariel Dorfman (c-11/19) — Struggling —
  • The Rape of Europa (c-11/19) — Fighting —
  • Taxi to the Darkside (c-11/19) — Fighting —
  • White Light/Black Rain (c-11/19) — Fighting —

All of the Documentary Features listed here are Official Selections of the Academy and the final five nominees will come only from these selected contenders.

My Thoughts:
Controversy can actually get some films nominated an in recent years, this branch has made great strides in getting more popular and critically beloved films in the ranks. The subject is more important often than the presentation.

There are several finalists and any one of them could get in. Only Please Vote for Me, A Promise to the Dead and The Price of Sugar lack major title recognition and are likely to be ignored.

Lake of Fire and No End in Sight seem the most probable nominees. SiCKO would be in that list if Michael Moore hadn’t hijacked the stage when he won for Bowling for Columbine. Autism: The Musical seems to be less bleak and more optimistic than the others and may be able to. The last slot may go to another hope-filled entry War/Dance which seems to appeal best to socially conscious voters.

Other strong contenders are Body of War, For the Bible Tells Me So, Nanking, Operation Homecoming, The Rape of Europa, Taxi to the Darkside and White Light/Black Rain.

Best Documentary Short Subject

  • Ochberg’s Orphans (c-10/11, n-11/11, o-11/11) — Fighting —
  • Sari’s Mother (c-10/11, n-11/11) — Fighting —
  • Body & Soul (c-10/11, n-11/11) — Fighting —
  • Salim Baba (c-10/11) — Fighting —
  • Freeheld (c-10/11) — Fighting —
  • La Corona (The Crown) (c-10/11) — Fighting —
  • If It Happens (c-10/11) — Fighting —
  • Portraits of a Lady (c-10/11) — Fighting —

All of the Short Subjects listed here are Official Selections of the Academy and the final three to five nominees will come only from these selected contenders.

My Thoughts:
Though they don’t always pick controversial subjects, they have been trying in recent years. I think Ochberg’s Orphans because it seems thematically similar to Schindler’s List should make it in. Sari’s Mother appeals to women voters while Body & Soul appeals to older voters. Salim Baba and Freeheld are the only other two I was able to find anything about, so they are certainly contenders, but so could be La Corona, If It Happens and Portraits of a Lady.

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