George Clooney for Michael Clayton
PRO: Who in Hollywood is more beloved for his combination of intellectual cool and smoldering looks, which he brings to this thriller's title role? He's like Brad Pitt with a thesaurus.
CON: The movie's flawed premise -- a lawyer having a moral crisis? C'mon.
Daniel Day-Lewis for There Will Be Blood
PRO: Pro: Another great historical epic from the star of Gangs of New York. Just give this man a disability and a giant hat and he's on his way.
CON: Heavy score + crazy glint in Lewis' eye = Perils of Pauline. Hey Daniel, don't forget to brush the crumbs of scenery out of that mustache.
Johnny Depp for Sweeney Todd
PRO: Creepy haunting turn in movie we call What's Gilbert Grape Eating?.
CON: Trying too hard by doing a period-piece musical about a serial-killing barber. Such obvious Oscar bait!.
Tommy Lee Jones for In the Valley of Elah
PRO: Provides emotional center to film seen as the most gripping of this year's spate of Iraq movies; turned in an equally riveting performance in the Coen Brothers' No Country.
CON: Hardly anyone saw Elah; those who did thought Jones didn't change accents (or even sets) between the two roles.
Viggo Mortensen for Eastern Promises
PRO: Strong, balls-out performance. Three words: naked knife fight.
CON: Oscar voters know nothing about promises; naked knife fight + Soviet Bloc accents = distracting memories of Borat.
Cate Blanchett for Elizabeth the Golden Age
PRO: Reprises nuanced role as one of England's most fascinating royals.
CON: Her role in I'm Not There was a more bravura performance; even Anglophiles fear a stream of sequels like Atonement 2: Atonier and More Remains of the Day.
Julie Christie for Away From Her
PRO: Alzheimer's angle stirs the hearts of a solid voting bloc of elderly Academy members…
CON: … if they remember it.
Marion Cotillard for La Vie en Rose
PRO: Dazzling star turn as wildly charismatic singer with a drug problem -- it's "Ray" en Francais.
CON: French pop: unlistenable then, unlistenable now.
Laura Linney for The Savages
PRO: Third time may be the charm for two-time also ran (2000's You Can Count on Me and 2004's Kinsey); performance as frustrated playwright character wins sympathy vote from Hollywood's striking/starving writers.
CON: Senile-Dad theme may unsettle Academy voters already traumatized by Away From Her, if they remember it.
Ellen Page for Juno
PRO: Shines in role as girl who gets pregnant by an unlikely father, beating out Katie Holmes for the job.
CON: Youngster in indie movie is not the straightest route to Oscar; Academy is more interested in the film's seeing ex-stripper writer on stage.
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