Clint Eastwood for Letters from Iwo Jima
PRO: Hollywood favorite (Unforgiven, Million-Dollar Baby) makes two incredible movies (see also Flags of Our Fathers) looking at Greatest Generation's war.
CON: Wait, wait … the Japanese were responsible for one of the wars in the world? Didn't Clint get Mel Gibson's memo?
Stephen Frears for The Queen
PRO: Portrait of chilly London insider is this year's (Tony) Blair Witch Project.
CON: No kids-in-peril or show-stopping dance numbers.
Paul Greengrass for United 93
PRO: This is the category where the Academy could reward gripping-yet-sensitive 9/11 movie, which many critics call the best movie of the year.
CON: Director's strong, dedicated vision sabotaged by product placement in title.
Alejandro González Iñárritu for Babel
PRO: Compelling interwoven stories from director of 21 Grams just won Golden Globe.
CON: After Traffic and Crash, this "three movies in one" quasi-documentary trend is getting seriously old.
Martin Scorsese for The Departed
PRO: It's time: As Jon Stewart noted, "Three 6 Mafia, one Oscar, Martin Scorsese, Zero Oscar"
CON: There's only room for one old sentimental favorite, and this year it's Eastwood.
After the Wedding (Denmark)
Days of Glory (Algeria)
The Lives of Others (Germany)
Pan's Labyrinth (Mexico)
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