Oscar Nods Arrive; Will a Show Follow?

As Oscar nominees are announced, uncertainty remains over the fate of the annual ceremony. The ongoing writers' strike could short-circuit the awards show.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

The Oscar nominations will be announced this morning, and this year there's more drama than usual. With the writers strike underway, the Academy Awards ceremony may look quite different. No red carpet, no glamorous stars, unless the Writers Guild and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers agree on a new contract. Informal talks are likely to resume today.

NPR's Kim Masters joins us to talk about how all things Oscar are shaping up.

Good morning, Kim.

KIM MASTERS: Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: Let's begin with the big award. For best picture, what films do you expect to get the nod?

MASTERS: Well, I think there are several films that are likely to get the nod. It's a kind of a murky year, just as in politics. I think we're looking at a nomination for "There will be Blood," probably "Michael Clayton," possibly "Juno," a very engaging comedy that's done incredibly well at the box office. Also maybe "Diving Bell and Butterfly"; "Into the Wild," Sean Penn's movie. And I think the likeliest nominee and probable eventual winner is a very dark movie, "No Country for Old Men."

MONTAGNE: So you're not going for "Atonement," the big…

MASTERS: No.

MONTAGNE: …Hollywood-style movie?

MASTERS: You know, people thought that was going to be Academy bait, but it has been snubbed by every guild that matters - the Screen Actors Guild, the Directors Guild. So I think that "Atonement" could get in there but it's a long shot.

MONTAGNE: And a controversy surrounds the best foreign film category this year - as it often does.

MASTERS: Yeah. This was a really big one, though, because there were a couple of movies in particular - a Romanian film called "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days," and of course the French film "Persepolis." Those films were considered sort of locks for nominations. There's a short list in this category that emerges before the nominations. And they have been totally snubbed, so there is a quite an outcry over the foreign language category.

MONTAGNE: Okay. Let's go to the acting races. Best actor.

MASTERS: Well, we have several likely nominees. Maybe George Clooney, possibly Johnny Depp for this performance…

(Soundbite of movie, "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street")

Ms. HELENA BONHAM CARTER (Actress): (As Mrs. Lovett) Well, can't say the years have been particularly kind to you, Mr. Barker.

Mr. JOHNNY DEPP (Actor): (As Sweeney Todd) No, not Barker. That man is dead. It's Todd now, Sweeney Todd. And he will have his revenge.

MONTAGNE: And he sings.

MASTERS: Yeah, he sings. But the guy who's probably going to get the nomination and win is Daniel Day-Lewis for "There Will Be Blood," in which he plays a money-crazed oilman.

MONTAGNE: And who are you betting on for best actress?

MASTERS: Well, I think we'll see a nomination for a newcomer, Ellen Page in "Juno." But again, I'm going to save my probable winner pick until after we hear Ellen Page's lovely performance as a young pregnant girl.

(Soundbite of movie, "Juno")

Ms. ELLEN PAGE (Actress): (As Juno) If I could just have the thing and give it to you now, I totally would. But I'm guessing it looks probably like a sea monkey right now. We should let it get a little cuter, right?

Ms. JENNIFER GARNER (Actress): (As Vanessa Loring) Great.

Mr. JASON BATEMAN (Actor): (As Mark Loring) Keep it in the oven.

MASTERS: So that was a great performance, but I think the contest is between Julie Christie in "Away from Her," and Marion Cotillard for sort of channeling Edith Piaf in "La Vie En Rose."

MONTAGNE: And Kim, what will - given a striking writers union - what do you expect the Academy Awards to look like this year?

MASTERS: Well, I don't know yet. I know that the Academy has been very clear that the show will go on in some shape or form. They might have to use a lot of film clips. You know, with the Golden Globes, the screen actors, who are supporting the writers thus far, refused to turn out across the board. They announced that no one would show up. Now, whether they maintain that with the Oscars, it's too early to say. It was a disaster with the Golden Globes. I don't know if the Academy can do better.

MONTAGNE: And how much of a hit will this be for the corporations that the Writers Guild is really trying to get to with this strike?

MASTERS: They will hit ABC, which means hitting Disney, which is one of the main members of the small group of people who control the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. And there is no way the Writers Guild would want to give ABC and Disney the millions of dollars that one of the biggest TV shows of the year brings in in ad revenue.

MONTAGNE: Kim, thanks very much.

MASTERS: Thank you, Renee.

MONTAGNE: NPR's Kim Masters on Oscar nominations, which will be announced later this morning.

This is NPR News.

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Highlighting the Oscar Nominees

Highlights of 80th annual Academy Award nominations announced Tuesday:

Best Picture: Atonement, Juno, Michael Clayton, No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood.

Best Actor: George Clooney (Michael Clayton); Daniel Day-Lewis (There Will Be Blood); Johnny Depp (Sweeney Todd the Demon Barber of Fleet Street); Tommy Lee Jones (In the Valley of Elah); Viggo Mortensen (Eastern Promises).

Best Actress: Cate Blanchett (Elizabeth: The Golden Age); Julie Christie (Away from Her); Marion Cotillard (La Vie en Rose); Laura Linney (The Savages); Ellen Page (Juno).

Supporting Actor: Casey Affleck (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford); Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men); Hal Holbrook (Into the Wild); Philip Seymour Hoffman (Charlie Wilson's War); Tom Wilkinson (Michael Clayton).

Best Supporting Actress: Cate Blanchett (I'm Not There); Ruby Dee (American Gangster); Saoirse Ronan (Atonement); Amy Ryan (Gone Baby Gone); Tilda Swinton (Michael Clayton).

Best Director: Julian Schnabel (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly); Jason Reitman (Juno); Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton); Joel Coen and Ethan Coen (No Country for Old Men); Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood).

— Associated Press

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