Best Actor in a Leading Role

Phillip Kurdunowicz
Paramount Vantage
Phillip Kurdunowicz
Samuelsmedia

George Clooney, “Michael Clayton”

Daniel Day-Lewis, “There Will Be Blood”

Johnny Depp, “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street”

Tommy Lee Jones, “In the Valley of Elah”

Viggo Mortenson, “Eastern Promises”

Should Win: Daniel Day-Lewis

Will Win: Daniel Day-Lewis

Daniel Day-Lewis is a sure thing this year. The “There Will Be Blood” lead actor has swept all the major critics awards, and he rightfully deserves his statuette for creating the most original movie character of the year in the narcissistic oilman Daniel Plainview. Then again, Clooney’s performance as a corporate “fixer” in “Michael Clayton” is being called the best of his career, and Mortenson’s bare-all mobster in “Eastern Promises” certainly has its admirers. But no matter, since Day-Lewis will surely drink the competition up.

Andrew Lapin

Best Actress in a Leading Role

Ellen Page: “Juno”

Marion Cotillard: “La Vie en Rose”

Julie Christie: “Away From Her”

Cate Blanchett: “Elizabeth: The Golden Age”

Laura Linney: “The Savages”

Should Win: Ellen Page

Will Win: Julie Christie

This year’s crop of nominees is undeniably talented, and in a weaker year, any of these performances would be an easy front-runner. This year’s battle comes down to a star on the rise and someone everyone considered past her prime. Julie Christie will undoubtedly walk away with the statue on Oscar night, especially because the Academy loves to reward former movie stars coming out of semi-retirement. But (scoff if you want) Ellen Page gave the most real, luminous and star-making turn of the bunch. Thankfully, she has many years ahead of her to earn another nomination and perhaps a win.

Sheri Jankelovitz

Best Adapted Screenplay

“Atonement”

“Away from Her”

“Le Scaphandre et le Papillon” (a.k.a. “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”)

“No Country for Old Men”

“There Will Be Blood”

Should Win: “No Country for Old Men”

Will Win: “No Country for Old Men”

As deeply contemplative and esoteric as its source material (a novel by Cormac McCarthy) and yet superb by every conventional standard of drama, the Coen Brothers’ screenplay for “No Country for Old Men” should emerge as a winner from the tight race in the Best Adapted Screenplay category. Featuring the three most talked-about films at the awards (“Atonement,” “No Country for Old Men” and “There Will Be Blood” – all nominated for at least seven Oscars, including Best Picture), this category could very well be a preview of things to come later in the night. The buzz for “There Will Be Blood” is considerable, but “No Country for Old Men” is the (slightly) more accessible, easily appreciable choice between two near-equals.

Imran Syed

Best Director

Nominees:

Jason Reitman, “Juno”

Tony Gilroy “Michael Clayton”

Joel and Ethan Coen, “No Country for Old Men”

Julian Schnabel, “The Diving Bell & the Butterfly”

Paul Thomas Anderson, “There Will be Blood”

Who Should Win: Joel and Ethan Coen

Who Will Win: Joel and Ethan Coen

It’s great seeing first-time nominees P.T. Anderson, Tony Gilroy and Jason Reitman get a shot at the golden guy. But they’re all a tad green, and they can return. Julian Schnabel’s been gaining momentum, and his cerebral opus “Diving Bell” might just pull out an upset. But it’s the Coen brothers – like Scorsese last year – who have been making too many good films for too long to be ignored for directing (and editing, for that matter). As previous winners in screenwriting, these two display true filmic competence and craft in “No Country” that deserves recognition.

Blake Goble

Best Picture

“Atonement”

“Juno”

“Michael Clayton”

“No Country for Old Men”

“There Will Be Blood”

Should Win: “300” but I’ll settle for “No Country.”

Will Win: “No Country,” but watch out for “Atonement.”

We finally have a good selection to choose from this year. That said, let’s start with “Juno.” It’s cute that it’s nominated, but a travesty considering “Superbad,” a true comic masterpiece that doesn’t feature the phrase “honest to blog,” also came out this year. Moving on to real contenders . “Michael Clayton” is probably the most overlooked movie of the year and won’t win. “There Will Be Blood” could take it, but Daniel Day Lewis is that movie, so it’ll be enough when he wins Best Actor. “Atonement” could be the sleeper to upset clear favorite “No Country for Old Men,” and stranger upsets have occurred (“Crash”? Seriously?).

Paul Tassi

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Casey Affleck – “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford”

Javier Bardem – “No Country for Old Men”

Philip Seymour Hoffman – “Charlie Wilson’s War”

Hal Holbrook – “Into the Wild”

Tom Wilkinson – “Michael Clayton”

Should Win: Javier Bardem

Will Win: Javier Bardem

It’s been a good year for bad boys. Bardem has already picked up a Golden Globe and SAG Award for his portrayal of psychopathic assassin Anton Chigurh, and it’s looking like momentum will carry him to the big win. Dark-horse Casey “Ben’s Brother” Affleck and Philip Seymour Hoffman are nipping at Bardem’s heels, but this is really the Spaniard’s trophy to lose. Anyone that can make a convincingly terrifying killer – while rocking that haircut – deserves nothing less.

Annie Levene

Best Original Screenplay

“Juno” – Diablo Cody

“Lars and the Real Girl” – Nancy Oliver

“Michael Clayton” – Tony Gilroy

“Ratatouille” – Brad Bird

“The Savages” – Tamara Jenkins

Will Win: “Juno” – Diablo Cody

Should Win: “The Savages” – Tamara Jenkins

Say what you want about the greatness of “Juno,” but you have to acknowledge the grating dialogue and the annoyingly ubiquitous plotline. “Juno” will win because it will make the Academy seem cool and progressive, but it bypasses one of the most honest scripts in ages. “The Savages” is bleak, true and more real than all of its competitor’s pseudo-hipness and hamburger phone.

Sarah Schwartz

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Cate Blanchett, “I’m Not There”

Ruby Dee, “American Gangster”

Saoirse Ronan, “Atonement”

Amy Ryan, “Gone Baby Gone”

Tilda Swinton, “Michael Clayton”

Should Win: Cate Blanchett

Will Win: Amy Ryan

It’s easy to look at Cate Blanchett’s portrayal of Jude Quinn – one of the six personas of Bob Dylan – as gimmicky. Cross-gender roles are often easy targets for scrutiny. That said, she embodies the iconoclastic musician during one of his most emotionally inauspicious periods, combining director Todd Haynes’s vision with her diverse abilities and taking the role to a new career pinnacle. Amy Ryan, however, playing a distraught mother and drug dealer, doesn’t go without merit. Her accent and demeanor are authentically South Bostonian. With her recognition as a gifted newcomer, she may take the statue.

Noah Dean Stahl

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