Best Art Direction
Atonement boasts the classic British period sets, but since the Academy often goes with the most lavish production, the advantage goes to the elaborate Sweeney Todd.
We suspect veteran director of photography Roger Deakins may get the most votes this year. But since they’ll be split between his two nominated films, No Country for Old Men and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Robert Elswit’s painstaking work on There Will Be Blood has a good chance of striking it rich.
Best Film Editing
This race often matches up with Best Picture, so No Country (edited by the Coen brothers under their alias, Roderick Jaynes) should top the frenetically masterful Bourne Ultimatum.
Best Original Score
Ratatouille‘s Michael Giacchino is a possible winner here, but Dario Marianelli’s typewriter-inflected score for Atonement may have most solidly ingrained itself in voters’ minds.
Best Original Song
Of the three nominated ditties from Enchanted, the buoyant ”That’s How You Know” has the best shot. But just as Dreamgirls‘ hat trick of nods led to fatal vote splitting last year, we’re thinking the lilting ”Falling Slowly” from Once will end up singing a happy tune on Oscar night.
Best Documentary Feature
Michael Moore’s Sicko is sure to affect some voters, but the favorite here is No End in Sight, a searing account of the Bush administration’s shortsighted planning for post-invasion Iraq.
Best Documentary Short
A close call. Sari’s Mother follows an AIDS-afflicted boy in Iraq, but the edge goes to Freeheld, a moving drama about a dying New Jersey cop who battles county officials for the right to pass her pension on to her longtime lesbian partner.
Best Foreign Language Film
Austria’s The Counterfeiters is a shoo-in: Not only is it the strongest of this year’s crop of nominees, but it’s set during the Holocaust (telling the true story of Jews recruited by the Nazis to help forge British pounds and U.S. dollars).
Best Animated Feature
The black-and-white French-language memoir Persepolis could earn some amour, but voters will ultimately pick up the tab for Pixar’s gastronomic charmer, Ratatouille.
Best Animated Short
Oscar will remeet the Beatles with the whimsically illustrated I Met the Walrus, based on a 14-year-old Beatles fan’s 1969 reel-to-reel tape interview with John Lennon. But other strong contenders are the Canadian train-travel allegory Madame Tutli-Putli, with its arresting animation (but confusing story), and a touching stop-motion adaptation of Sergei Prokofiev’s classic Peter & the Wolf.
Best Live Action Short
A bit of a toss-up. At Night, which follows three young women in a Danish cancer ward, is moving but conventional, while The Tonto Woman, the lone English-language nominee, is a gorgeously shot Western based on an Elmore Leonard story. Our pick (despite a shaky track record in this category) is the charming O. Henry-ish Tanghi Argentini, about a middle-aged office shlub in Belgium who enlists the help of his colleague in order to learn the tango.
Best Costume Design
Yes, Keira Knightley’s green dress in Atonement was a stunner. But Oscar tends to favor over-the-top flashiness of the sort found in Sweeney Todd.
It should be a French kiss for the La Vie en Rose team, who made 32-year-old Marion Cotillard into the legendary singer Edith Piaf — and then took her from age 19 to her death at a haggard 47.
Best Visual Effects
Unless Pirates of the Caribbean pulls an upset, Transformers is optimally primed to take the prize.
Best Sound Mixing
Expect a showdown between the classily austere soundscape of No Country for Old Men and noisier blockbusters like Transformers and The Bourne Ultimatum. For sheer aural bombast, our money’s on Transformers, which would give 20-time nominee Kevin O’Connell his first-ever win.
Best Sound Editing
For the last 40 years, every time the Sound Mixing winner has also gotten a nod in Sound Editing, it’s won for Sound Editing, too. Looks like we’ll be going with Transformers, then!
Best Original Screenplay
Diablo Cody’s first script wasn’t just a hoot — it managed to include a smart, moving, and relatable story amid all the instantly quotable dialogue.
It’s still just her first script.
Lars and the Real Girl
Nancy Oliver (another first-time screenwriter) created a whimsical utopia that believes in all kinds of love.
It’s the worst-reviewed movie of the bunch.
With Tony Gilroy a long shot in the director category, this is where voters could reward his meticulous creation.
He’s taken a backseat to Cody throughout the awards season.
Brad Bird’s delightful comedy humanized a rat, tweaked critics, and proved again that Bird’s a master of words and visuals.
He’ll be taken care of with a win for Best Animated Feature.
Tamara Jenkins managed to wring laughs and pathos out of an all-too-topical subject: caring for a sick elder.
Fox Searchlight hasn’t campaigned as hard for the film as it has for Juno.
Best Adapted Screenplay
Sharp playwright Christopher Hampton was the perfect match for author Ian McEwan’s modern period romance.
Literary-adaptation fans have several other options on the ballot.
Away From Her
Actress/filmmaker Sarah Polley scored a surprise nod for her sensitive script about a woman facing Alzheimer’s disease.
Nominated star Julie Christie stands a better chance at winning.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Ronald Harwood’s emotional adaptation pulled an upset over No Country at the BAFTAs.
Will his ambitious, penetrating work translate through subtitles?
There Will Be Blood
Paul Thomas Anderson mined an Upton Sinclair novel to create some of 2007’s most indelible lines and images.
The film’s extended silences divert attention from the script.
No Country for Old Men
Joel and Ethan Coen perceptively brought Cormac McCarthy’s acclaimed novel to the screen.
Can the Coens really win four awards in one night?