Disney / Touchstone
Derek Luke has momentum for "Catch a Fire."
Oscar may shine on Forest Whitaker ("The Last King of Scotland"), Richard Griffiths ("The History Boys"), Aaron Eckhart ("Thank You for Smoking") and, possibly, Abigail Breslin ("Little Miss Sunshine").
The studio has a longshot in Keke Palmer in "Akeelah and the Bee."
The studio has hopes for Samuel L. Jackson in "Home of the Brave."
The campaign should be: Can four-time nominee Kate Winslet ("Little Children") finally have her Oscar, please?
Past Oscar champs Jamie Foxx ("Dreamgirls") and Nicolas Cage ("World Trade Center") are back. "Flags of Our Fathers" soldiers Ryan Phillippe, Adam Beach and Jesse Bradford may get lost in category confusion.
No lead-acting contenders, but voters could boost Brad Pitt up from supporting in "Babel."
Cheery prospects for Will Smith ("The Pursuit of Happyness"), Annette Bening ("Running With Scissors"), Will Ferrell ("Stranger Than Fiction"), Cameron Diaz ("The Holiday"), Kirsten Dunst ("Marie Antoinette") and, because 007 can pull off the impossible, Daniel Craig ("Casino Royale").
A reminder to voters that great performances aren't only in English: Penelope Cruz ("Volver") and Gong Li ("Curse of the Golden Flower").
The little studio enters the big league with Ryan Gosling ("Half Nelson").
20th Century Fox
Meryl Streep could prove evil pays ("The Devil Wears Prada"), Sacha Baron Cohen that he's no fool ("Borat").
Matt Damon as a spooked CIA spook in "The Good Shepherd" is its best shot, but the studio also has Denzel Washington ("Inside Man") and Clive Owen ("Children of Men").
It could be Leo vs. Leo (DiCaprio, that is) in "Blood Diamond" and "The Departed." The latter also stars Matt Damon. The studio could fill up the other best actor slots with Hugh Jackman ("The Fountain"), George Clooney ("The Good German") and Ken Watanabe ("Letters From Iwo Jima").
There are no leads in "Bobby," so Harvey Weinstein's hopes are on Sienna Miller ("Factory Girl") and Renee Zellweger and Ewan McGregor ("Miss Potter").
-- Tom O'Neil