Estimating Oscar 2008

While a darker tone pervades many of the films nominated at the 80th Academy Awards, there is a discernable lack of high-profile directors, with last year's Scorseses and Eastwoods missing from the roster. Come Sunday, Feb. 24, the winners will be announced on ABC. Below are some prognostications on who will probably win, who should win, and who doesn't have a chance at winning, but deserves one.

Best Picture: In all likelihood, No Country for Old Men will win the coveted prize. While Atonement won the best picture honor at the Golden Globes and is nominated here, it missed garnering a best director nomination, a sure sign that there is trouble for the film. There could be an upset here between the two, but it's unlikely. Juno and Michael Clayton are minor pictures that should relish a nomination on their own. It's the magnificent There Will Be Blood that should win, but probably won't, due to its undersized, late release.

Best Director: Once again, No Country for Old Men directors Joel and Ethan Coen will win this award along with best picture for their concise and critically-acclaimed direction work. Tony Gilroy and Jason Reitman, for Michael Clayton and Juno, respectively, will have to simply enjoy the nomination. Paul Thomas Anderson's work in There Will Be Blood is a tremendous advancement for the director, but it is Julian Schnabel's work in the enchanting and heart-wrenching fantasia The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, that should win the award.

Best Actor: Riding a slew of pre-Oscar awards, Daniel Day-Lewis will win the trophy for his dominating work in There Will Be Blood. George Clooney (Michael Clayton), Johnny Depp (Sweeney Todd), and Tommy Lee Jones (in the lesser-known In the Valley of Elah) have little chance against Day-Lewis' achievements. Had Day-Lewis not been in the running, however, Viggo Mortensen should have won for his continually bold work in Eastern Promises.

Best Actress: This year is host to some remarkable - if little-seen - work from veteran actresses. As to who will win, it's a true toss-up between Marion Cotillard for La Vie en Rose as the French singer Edith Piaf, and Julie Christie in Away From Her, as an Alzheimer's patient. Christie should win, with Laura Linney (The Savages), Ellen Page (Juno) and Cate Blanchett (Elizabeth: The Golden Age) basking in nominations for smaller work.

Supporting Actor: There is little doubt that Javier Bardem will win and should win the award for his turn as the brutal villain in No Country for Old Men.

Supporting Actress:

Blanchett (like Bardem) is an almost unanimous favorite for her role as a Bob Dylan allegorical figure in I'm Not There. She will win, and should win, for this remarkable transformation.

Notable Snubs: Joe Wright, director of Atonement, and Sean Penn, director of Into the Wild, as well as Wild for Best Picture.