Andy Bockelman: It's Oscar time


— As Sunday nears, Oscar fever reaches its highest fervor.

The 80th annual Academy Awards should prove to be one of the most memorable, with a high-quality cross-section of nominees. Here is a rundown of some of the most noteworthy films and their likelihood of winning.

'Michael Clayton'

As the designated "fixer" for a high-power law firm, the title character (George Clooney) has to keep a remorseful colleague (Tom Wilkinson) from destroying everything in one of the firm's biggest cases. "Clayton" has seven nominations, including Best Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress (Tilda Swinton), but the film is likely to walk away empty-handed thanks to being outweighed in each category.

'There Will Be Blood'

Early 1900s oil-man Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) finds the biggest potential claim of his career, escalating his natural greed to unbelievable levels. Day-Lewis's acting teeters at the very brink of being absolutely hammy, but his ability to keep it just under control is what practically guarantees him the Best Actor trophy. Had the Coen brothers' "No Country for Old Men" not been released in the same year, Paul Thomas Anderson might have had the opportunity to take home Best Picture, Director and Adapted Screenplay, but the dynamic duo will definitely best him in Picture/Director, with Screenplay still up in the air.

'I'm Not There'

The life of Bob Dylan is reflected by six very different actors (Marcus Carl Franklin, Ben Whishaw, Heath Ledger, Cate Blanchett, Christian Bale, Richard Gere). Each of them convey an abstract viewpoint of the musician's career, but Blanchett's portrayal of Dylan during his transitional period is what captured the attention of the Academy. Though she may not be the best choice for Best Supporting Actress (Ruby Dee should win for "American Gangster"), it would be worth it to see her win because of her unusual history with the Oscars. Not only is she also nominated this year for Best Actress for "Elizabeth: The Golden Age" (her second nomination for playing Queen Elizabeth I, a role which Judi Dench won Best Supporting Actress for in the same year as Blanchett's initial nomination), but winning this time around would mean a second win for playing an Oscar winner (the first being Katharine Hepburn in "The Aviator"), since Dylan won in 2001 for his musical score for "Wonder Boys."

'The Diving Bell and the Butterfly'

After suffering from a debilitating stroke that leaves him almost completely paralyzed and unable to speak, French fashion editor Jean-Dominique Bauby (Mathieu Amalric) works to complete a book about his experiences, able to communicate only by blinking. This is the type of inspirational story that should be guaranteed one award or another at Oscar time, but is overshadowed by more mainstream projects. At the very least, one would hope that Le Scaphandre et le Papillon (its French title) wins Best Cinematography for its daring camerawork.

'Away from Her'

When his wife Fiona (Julie Christie) starts to succumb to Alzheimer's Disease, Grant Anderson (Gordon Pinsent) must place her in a nursing home. When she begins to forget their marriage and latches onto another resident (Michael Murphy), Grant has to learn to accept his diminished role in her life. Classic actress Christie is a shoo-in for Best Actress; her statuette from 1965s "Darling" will soon have a companion.

These are by no means all the films that deserve consideration; selections like "Juno," "Atonement," "The Savages," "Into the Wild" and more have respectable cheering sections behind them. There are plenty more up for the less-sung awards, even if the phrase "Academy Award nominee 'Norbit'" (Makeup) just sounds wrong, but be sure to tune in on Sunday for the ceremonies.


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