THIS year has huge drama in the cinematography race, where the legendary Roger Deakins has triple the average chance to finally win the Oscar that he's been due for a long time. This year, he shot three distinctive films: "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford," "No Country for Old Men" and "In the Valley of Elah." Then there's that cliffhanger in the costume design race: Can "Elizabeth: The Golden Age" pull off a "Marie Antoinette" and survive some negative reviews to reign supreme on Oscar night? Only time -- and maybe a couple early awards -- will tell.

ANIMATED FEATURE

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"Persepolis"

"Ratatouille"

"The Simpsons Movie"Spotlight: "The Simpsons Movie" has secret advantages. Its surprise success at the box office was a triumph for old school, hand-drawn animation, which appeals to the traditionalists in the academy. And many branch members have no doubt worked at some point in their careers on "The Simpsons," the longest-running animated series in TV history (18 years) and second-longest-running comedy (after "Saturday Night Live"). Possible"Beowulf"

"Shrek the Third"Spotlight: If "Beowulf" gets nominated, that'll be important news: Hollywood's animation establishment fully accepts the latest advance in technology that makes films look so real that they don't seem animated. Establishment pros miss the old hand-drawn days and begrudgingly have accepted CGI; motion-capture animation really tests their patience. Nonetheless voters have nominated one example in the past for animated feature ("Monster House") and a CGI film with lots of performance-capture animation ("Happy Feet's" dance numbers) has even won. But those movies looked cartoonish, not creepily real. Long shots

"Alvin and the Chipmunks"

"Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters"

"Bee Movie"

"Meet the Robinsons"

"Surf's Up"

"Tekkonkinkreet"

"TMNT"

ART DIRECTION

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"The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford," Patricia Norris, Janice Blackie-Goodline

"Atonement," Sarah Greenwood, Katie Spencer

"Elizabeth: The Golden Age," Guy Dyas, Richard Roberts