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2007 Oscar Watch: Predicting the Noms

With such a strong showing in 2007, it’s definitely been difficult pinpointing five nominees for each category. Maybe the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences should consider expanding, you know, like they do for the Golden Globes. Yeah, fat chance. As Oscar hopefuls wait on pins and needles for the Academy to announce the 80th Academy Award nominations Jan. 22 at 5:30 a.m. PST, we’re taking a guess as to who will at least snag nods.

Best Picture 
Michael Clayton 
No Country for Old Men 
There Will Be Blood

What a great year it was for movies in 2007–which makes pinpointing just five an arduous task. The small-time crime drama No Country for Old Men seems to be taking the lead with the most awards racked up so far, but it failed to snag the Golden Globe. That award went to the lush period film Atonement, which should also be a strong Oscar contender as well as the sweeping There Will Be Blood, which is gaining momentum. Rounding out the top five should be the legal thriller Michael Clayton and the quirky indie darling Juno.

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Also for your consideration: Then again, the poignant French film The Diving Bell and the Butterfly might get a nod since it wasn’t submitted for the foreign language category, as well as the grim musical Sweeney Todd, which took home the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture-Musical or Comedy.

Best Actor
[IMG:L]George Clooney, Michael Clayton
Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood
Johnny Depp, Sweeney Todd
Viggo MortensenEastern Promises
Denzel WashingtonAmerican Gangster

Although all five nominees did a worthy job, the clear frontrunner in the Best Actor race is Day-Lewis for his searing performance as a greedy oil tycoon in There Will Be Blood. He’ll be next to impossible to beat since he has collected most of the awards to date, but giving him a run for his money should be: Clooney, for his turn as a beleaguered lawyer in Michael Clayton; Depp, for his deadly singing barber in Sweeney Todd; Mortensen, for his raw performance as a henchman to a Russian mob leader in Eastern Promises; and finally Washington, for his larger-than-life drug dealer in American Gangster.

Also for your consideration: Emile Hirsch could sneak in for his turn as the wandering philosopher in Into the Wild or Ryan Gosling for his mild-mannered working man in love with a life-sized doll in Lars and the Real Girl.

Best Actress
[IMG:L]Cate BlanchettElizabeth: The Golden Age
Julie ChristieAway From Her
Marion CotillardLa Vie En Rose
Angelina JolieA Mighty Heart
Ellen Page, Juno

Much like Daniel Day-Lewis, Christie’s graceful performance as an Alzheimer’s patient in Away From Her is practically a shoo-in for the Oscar. It has been 42 years since the veteran actress won her first Oscar (for her turn in the 1967 Darling), so her winning again is just the type of comeback scenario the Acad eats up. But there will still be some fierce competition from the likes of newbies Page, as a quippy pregnant teen in Juno, and Cotillard, as the reincarnation of Edith Piaf in La Vie En Rose. As well, Oscar-winners Blanchett and Jolie should get nods for playing Queen Elizabeth I in The Golden Age and the widow of a slain journalist in A Mighty Heart, respectively.

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Also for your consideration: Keira Knightley, however, could easily bump off one of the other four nominees for her portrayal of young women struggling with newfound love in Atonement. And although the shine has faded a bit, Amy Adams may still get a nod for her endearing princess come-to-life in Enchanted.

Best Supporting Actor

[IMG:L]Casey AffleckThe Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men
Philip Seymour HoffmanCharlie Wilson’s War
Hal Holbrook, Into the Wild
Tom Wilkinson, Michael Clayton

This is a fairly solid list–although, once again, there’s a frontrunner: Bardem for his cold-blooded killer in No Country. He’ll be tough to beat, but the other nominees will surely try, including: Affleck as the coward Robert Ford in The Assassination of Jesse James; Hoffman as a sardonic–and overworked–CIA agent in Charlie Wilson’s War; Holbrook as a lonely old man in Into the Wild; and Wilkinson as the corporate lawyer who grows a conscience in Michael Clayton.

Also for your consideration: Tommy Lee Jones may get a nod for his portrayal of crusty old cop in No Country for Old Men, as might Paul Dano for his turn as the budding evangelist in There Will Be Blood.

Best Supporting Actress
[IMG:L]Cate BlanchettI’m Not There
Ruby Dee, American Gangster
Saoirse Ronan, Atonement
Amy RyanGone Baby Gone
Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton

This category is not so clear cut, but there are two who stand out: Blanchett and Ryan. Having just won the Golden Globe for the role, Blanchett will probably be looking at a second nomination in the same year for her version of Bob Dylan in I’m Not There. Ryan, on the other hand, has been the critics’ favorite, having picked up most of the other awards for her turn as a drug-addled single mother in Gone Baby Gone. Also vying for the supporting actress prize should be young Ronan as the determined girl who perpetuates the deception in Atonement; Swinton as a corrupt corporate climber in Michael Clayton; and veteran actress Dee for her turn as Denzel Washington’s tough mom in American Gangster. If Dee gets the nod, it will be her first in a long-standing career.

Also for your consideration: Don’t rule out Golden-Globe nominee Julia Roberts for her performance as a Southern aristocrat in Charlie Wilson’s War, as well as Vanessa Redgrave’s brief but memorable appearance as the older version of Ronan’s character in Atonement.

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Best Director
[IMG:L]Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood 
Joel and Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men
Tony Gilroy, Michael Clayton
Julian Schnabel, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Joe Wright, Atonement

Another really tough category to pick just five nominees, but we feel confident about our choices. The Coen boys’ take on small-time crime with No Country are must-haves on the list, as is Anderson for There Will Be Blood’s intense vision, even if he failed to snag a Golden Globe nod. Then there’s Gilroy’s tight direction with Michael Clayton, Wright’s grand yet intimate scope with Atonement–and the fellow who could upset it all: Golden Globe winner Schnabel for his mesmerizing The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.

Also for your consideration: Let’s not forget Sean Penn for his stirring and beautiful Into the Wild, and Tim Burton’s quirky and grim version of the Broadway musical Sweeney Todd.

Best Original Screenplay
[IMG:L]Michael Clayton (Tony Gilroy)
Juno (Diablo Cody
Knocked Up (Judd Apatow
Lars and the Real Girl (Nancy Oliver
The Savages (Tamara Jenkins

Cody seems to be the favorite going into the original screenplay race for her snarky Juno script, but joining her should be: Gilroy’s riveting Michael ClaytonApatow’s hilariously poignant Knocked UpOliver’s unique Lars and the Real Girl; and Jenkins’ intimate The Savages.

Also for your consideration: Brad Bird’s endearing Ratatouille and Kelly Masterson’s darkly gripping Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead.

Best Adapted Screenplay
[IMG:L]Atonement (Christopher Hampton)
Into the Wild (Sean Penn)
No Country for Old Men (Joel and Ethan Coen)
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Ronald Harwood)
There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson)

If the Coen boys don’t win the whole shebang this year, they should at least win in the adapted screenplay category with their idiosyncratic take on Cormac McCarthy’s novel No Country . But their competition should come from: Hampton’s lush adaptation of Ian McEwan’s novel Atonement; Penn’s eloquent take on Jon Krakauer’s book Into the Wild; Harwood’s top-notch adaptation of Jean-Dominique Bauby’s novel The Diving Bell and the Butterfly; and finally Anderson’s taut There Will Be Blood, based on Upton Sinclair’s sprawling novel Oil!.

Also for your consideration: James Vanderbilt’s gripping take on Robert Graysmith’s book Zodiac and Aaron Sorkin’s rapid-fire Charlie Wilson’s War, based on a book by George Crile.

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