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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

Favorites

"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

"The Golden Compass," Dennis Gassner, Anna Pinnock

"Hairspray," David Gropman, Gordon Sim

"Sweeney Todd," Dante Ferretti, Francesca Lo Schiavo

"There Will Be Blood," Jack Fisk, Jim EricksonSpotlight: It took production designer Dante Ferretti seven nominations and set decorator Francesca Lo Schiavo six before they finally won for "The Aviator." Now they probably will be back in the running for a designer's dream job: creating nightmarish scenes of old London where bloodthirsty Sweeney Todd lurks in shadow and fog, plotting revenge. Possible

"Charlie Wilson's War," Victor Kempster, Nancy Haigh, Alessandra Querzola

"The Great Debaters," David J. Bomba, Patrick Cassidy

"Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," Stuart Craig, Stephanie McMillan

"Mr. Magorium's Magic Emporium," Therese DePrez, Clive Thomasson

"Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End," Rick Heinrichs, Cheryl Carasik

"3:10 to Yuma," Andrew Menzies, Jay HartSpotlight: "The Great Debaters' " David J. Bomba won the Art Directors Guild Award two years ago for getting the period and place details just right in "Walk the Line." Now he could receive his first Oscar bid for capturing the regional nuances of this true story pitting the impassioned students of a Texas college against Harvard University in 1935. Long shots

"American Gangster," Arthur Max, Leslie E. Rollins and Beth A. Rubino

"The Darjeeling Limited," Mark Friedberg, Suzanne Caplan Merwanji, Aradhana Seth

"Enchanted," Stuart Wurtzel, George DeTitta Jr.

"The Kite Runner" Carlos Conti, Maria Nay, Caroline Smith

"Love in the Time of Cholera," Wolf Kroeger, Elli Griff

"Lust, Caution," Lai Pan

CINEMATOGRAPHY

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"The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford," Roger Deakins

"Atonement" Seamus McGarvey

"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly," Janusz Kaminski

"Into the Wild," Eric Gautier

"The Kite Runner," Roberto Schaefer

"Lust, Caution," Rodrigo Prieto

"No Country for Old Men," Roger Deakins

"Sweeney Todd," Dariusz Wolski

"There Will Be Blood," Robert Elswit

Spotlight: After five failed nominations, Roger Deakins is overdue to win, but this time he may be facing his toughest foe of all: himself. The esteemed British director of photography has two prominent films in the race: "Jesse James" and "No Country." "Jesse" is the kind of sprawling period epic that voters adore, but some film critics went gunning for it, and it took a hit at the box office. If "No Country" lands in the best picture race, that film could be Deakins' best shot. There's a remote chance he also could be nominated for "In the Valley of Elah." Possible"American Gangster," Harris Savides

"Charlie Wilson's War," Stephen Goldblatt

"The Golden Compass," Henry Braham

"The Great Debaters," Philippe Rousselot

"3:10 to Yuma," Phedon PapamichaelSpotlight: "Charlie Wilson's War" is still unseen, but promises to have the wide scope that Oscar voters value in this category, spanning multiple locales (Afghanistan, Pakistan, Israel, Texas and Washington, D.C.) and big ideas as it tracks a covert plan to oust the Russians from Afghanistan in the 1980s. Stephen Goldblatt was nominated for "Batman Forever" and "The Prince of Tides." Long shots

"The Bourne Supremacy," Oliver Wood

"The Darjeeling Limited," Robert Yeoman

"Elizabeth: The Golden Age," Remi Adefarasin

"In the Valley of Elah," Roger Deakins

"I'm Not There," Edward Lachman

"Michael Clayton," Robert Elswit

"300," Larry Fong

"Youth Without Youth," Mihai Malaimare Jr.

"Zodiac," Harris Savides

COSTUME DESIGN

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"The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford," Patricia Norris

"Atonement" Jacqueline Durran

"Elizabeth: The Golden Age," Alexandra Byrne

"The Golden Compass," Ruth Myers

"The Great Debaters," Sharen Davis

"Hairspray," Rita Ryack

"Sweeney Todd," Colleen Atwood

Spotlight: Among Alexandra Byrne's three nominations was one for the first "Elizabeth," so there's a good chance she'll be recognized again for her regal designs in its sequel, "The Golden Age." The movie's disappointing response from critics and moviegoers doesn't matter to Oscar voters who traditionally hail ornate period costumes, the more sumptuous and frilly the better. Possible"Charlie Wilson's War," Albert Wolsky

"Darjeeling Limited," Milena Canonero

"Love in the Time of Cholera," Marit Allen

"Lust, Caution," Lai Pan

"There Will Be Blood," Mark Bridges

"300," Michael Wilkinson

"3:10 to Yuma," Arianne Phillips

Spotlight: After previous wins for "Chariots of Fire" and "Barry Lyndon," Milena Canonero claimed a third career Oscar last year for "Marie Antoinette." In "Darjeeling Limited" she captures the clash of east-meets-west when three Yankee brothers take a soul-searching trek through exotic India. Long shots

"Across the Universe," Albert Wolsky

"Becoming Jane," Eimer Ni Mhaoldomhnaigh

"Enchanted," Mona May

"The Kite Runner," Frank Fleming

"La Vie en Rose," Marit Allen

"The Namesake," Arjun Bhasin

"Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End," Penny Rose

"Stardust," Sammy Sheldon

"Zodiac," Casey Storm

FILM EDITING

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"Atonement," Paul Tothill

"Sweeney Todd," Chris Lebenzon

"American Gangster," Pietro Scalia

Spotlight: Usually, three or more of the nominees in this race line up with contenders for best picture, and winners of both categories often agree. If you're predicting "Atonement" to win the top prize, then you're backing Paul Tothill, who's never been nominated by Oscar voters, but should've been for "Pride & Prejudice." (He was recognized with an ACE Eddie bid.) Possible

"Before the Devil Knows You're Dead," Tom Swartwout

"Charlie Wilson's War," John Bloom

"The Golden Compass," Anne V. Coates

"The Great Debaters," Hughes Winborne

"In the Valley of Elah," Jo Francis

"Into the Wild," Jay Cassidy

"The Kite Runner," Matt Chesse

"Michael Clayton," John Gilroy

"No Country for Old Men," Roderick Jaynes (Ethan and Joel Coen)

"There Will Be Blood," Dylan Tichenor

"3:10 to Yuma," Michael McCusker

Spotlight: "American Gangster" tested the talents of two-time past winner Pietro Scalia ("JFK," "Black Hawk Down"), who successfully patched together more than 150 speaking roles featured in more than 100 scenes in New York and New Jersey. Long shots

"The Bourne Ultimatum," Christopher Rouse

"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly," Juliette Welfling

"Youth Without Youth," Walter Murch

"Zodiac," Angus Wall

MAKEUP

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"Elizabeth: The Golden Age," Jenny Shircore

"Hairspray," Jordan Samuel, Judi Cooper-Sealy, Tony Gardner

"La Vie en Rose," Didier Lavergne, Loulia Sheppard

"Sweeney Todd," Peter Owen, Ivana Primorac

Spotlight: The surprise nomination of "Click" last year was a powerful reminder of how much voters appreciate films that convincingly show characters getting old. "La Vie en Rose" spans the whole life and death of Edith Piaf, who didn't weather tragedy well. It doesn't matter that this is a foreign-language art flick. Others have won ("Pan's Labyrinth" last year) and been nominated ("The Sea Inside" in 2004). Possible"Charlie Wilson's War," Luisa Abel, Janice Alexander

"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly," Myriam Hottois

"Fred Claus," Lisa Westcott

"The Golden Compass," Peter King, Janine Schneider-Marsan

"Love in the Time of Cholera," Matthew W. Mungle, John E. Jackson, Peter Tothpal

"Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End," Ve Neill, Martin Samuel

"There Will Be Blood," John Blake, Linda Flowers

Spotlight: Julia Roberts insisted that meticulous attention be paid to capturing the accuracy of the extravagant hair and makeup touches of the flamboyant Texas socialite she portrays in "Charlie Wilson's War." A best picture nomination for "Charlie" could help the film get recognized here. Long shots

"Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," Nick Dudman, Amanda Knight

"Enchanted," Rick Baker, Nicki Ledermann

"I Am Legend," Toy R. Van Lierop, Cici Campbell

"Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium" Jordan Samuel, Jennifer O'Halloran

"No Country for Old Men," Jean Black, Christien Tinsley, Paul LeBlanc

"The Namesake," Kelly Gleason, Peg Schierholz

"Stardust," Fae Hammond

SOUND EDITING

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"Beowulf," Dennis Leonard

"Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End," Christopher Boyes, George Watters II

"Spider-Man 3," Paul Ottosson

"Transformers," Mike Hopkins, Ethan Van der Ryn

Spotlight: Winners of this category tend to be the loudest blockbusters, so that bodes well for the crashing steel and sonic kabooms in "Transformers." Two-time champs Hopkins and Van der Ryn ("King Kong," "Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers") never have lost. Possible

"The Golden Compass," Glenn Freemantle

"Ratatouille," Michael Silvers, Randy Thom

"3:10 to Yuma," Donald Sylvester

"300," Scott Hecker

Spotlight: Westerns used to ride high in the saddle in this category, back when "Unforgiven" and "Legends of the Fall" were nominated and "Dances With Wolves" and "Last of the Mohicans" won. Now they could come galloping back thanks to the starpower and the gunslinging bang-bang of Russell Crowe and Christian Bale in "3:10 to Yuma."

Long shots

"American Gangster," Karen Baker Landers, Per Hallberg

"The Bourne Ultimatum," Karen Baker Landers, Per Hallberg

"Into the Wild," Martin Hernandez

"No Country for Old Men," Skip Lievsay

"Sweeney Todd," David Evans

"There Will Be Blood," Matthew Wood, Christopher Scarabosia

SOUND MIXING

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"Sweeney Todd," Michael Semanick, Tom Johnson

"Transformers," Kevin O'Connell, Greg P. Russell

"Spider-Man 3," Kevin O'Connell, Greg P. Russell, Joseph GeisingerSpotlight: At least things can't possibly get worse for Oscar's biggest loser, Kevin O'Connell, after what he suffered last year. He not only lost for the 19th time ("Apocalypto"), but his mother died in his arms on Oscar night while the category's winner bashed O'Connell to reporters backstage. Now he may be nominated twice ("Transformers," "Spider-Man 3"). Ironically, if he loses, it'll probably be to "Sweeney Todd," a job he turned down because he was too busy with "Transformers" and "Spidey."

Possible"Beowulf," Tom Johnson, William Kaplan, Dennis Sands

"Enchanted," Tod A. Maitland

"Hairspray," Ron Bartlett, Rick Kline, D.M. Hemphill

"Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End," Paul Massey, Christopher Boyes, Lee Orloff

"3:10 to Yuma," David Giammarco, Paul Massey

"The Golden Compass," Neil Kingsbury, Tony Dawe

"300," Frank Montano, Chris Jenkins

Spotlight: Loud, action-packed blockbusters dominate both sound categories, but this race attracts big musicals too. Three have won in the last five years ("Dreamgirls," "Ray" and "Chicago"). If "Sweeney Todd" flops, "Hairspray" may fluff up its bouffant and head to the podium on Oscar night singing, "Mama, I'm a Big Girl Now!"

Long shots

"Across the Universe," Todd Maitland, Lee Dichter, Robert Fernandez

"American Gangster," Michael Minkler, Bob Beemer

"Into the Wild," Edward Tise, Michael Minkler, Lora Hirschberg

"La Vie en Rose," Marc Doisne

"No Country for Old Men," Skip Lievsay

"Ratatouille," Randy Thom, Michael Semanick, Vince Caro, Doc Kane

"There Will Be Blood," Michael Semanick, Tom Johnson

VISUAL EFFECTS

Favorites

"The Golden Compass," Michael Fink, Bill Westenhofer

"Spider-Man 3," Scott Stokdyk, John R. Frazier, Spencer Cook, Peter Nofz

"300," Chris Watts, Grant Freckelton, Derek Wentworth, Daniel Leduc

"Transformers," Scott Farrar, John Frazier, Richard Kidd

Spotlight: Blockbusters with fantasy elements dominate this category. That could mean good things for "The Golden Compass," a fantastical epic featuring parallel universes, flying witches and armored ice bears that leap through the air.

Possible

"Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End," John Knoll, Hal Hickel, Charles Gibson, John Frazier

"Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," Tim Burke, John Richardson, Paul Franklin, Greg Butler

Spotlight: Last year many Oscar watchers wrote off the chances of "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" after the first installment of the film franchise, "Curse of the Black Pearl," lost in 2003. Yet, part two pulled off a surprise win. Typically, third installments don't do well, but "At World's End" might be an exception. Long shots

"The Bourne Ultimatum," Peter Chiang, Charlie Noble, David Vickery, Mattias Lindahl

"I Am Legend," Janek Sirrs, Jim Berney, David Schaub, David A. Smith

"The Mist," Rifaat Dagher Rif

"Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium," Kevin Tod Haug

"Sunshine," Tom Wood

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