THE Oscars' acting races are turning into a real drama. Consider, for example, Cate Blanchett ("Elizabeth: The Golden Age"), who began award season as a reigning contender for actress in addition to supporting ("I'm Not There"). Soon, however, she was dethroned by bad reviews for "Elizabeth," but now she's back after receiving nominations last month from the Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild. Denzel Washington reaped a Globe bid for "American Gangster," but subsequently was snubbed by the guild, possibly due to vote-splitting as support grew for his rival role in "The Great Debaters."
George Clooney, "Michael Clayton"
Daniel Day-Lewis, "There Will Be Blood"
Johnny Depp, "Sweeney Todd"
Ryan Gosling, "Lars and the Real Girl"
Emile Hirsch, "Into the Wild"
James McAvoy, "Atonement"
Viggo Mortensen, "Eastern Promises"
Denzel Washington, "American Gangster" / "The Great Debaters"
SPOTLIGHT: Now that Emile Hirsch is back in the race as a strong contender thanks to a SAG bid, he could make Oscar history if he wins. At age 22, he'd set a new record for youngest champ in this category, eclipsing Adrien Brody, who was 29 when he triumphed for "The Pianist" (2002). Youngest nominee was 9-year-old Jackie Cooper for "Skippy" (1931).
Mathieu Amalric, "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly"
Josh Brolin, "No Country for Old Men"
John Cusack, "Grace Is Gone"
Russell Crowe, "3:10 to Yuma"
Tom Hanks, "Charlie Wilson's War"
Philip Seymour Hoffman, "The Savages"
SPOTLIGHT: About two dozen performances in many foreign languages have been nominated, but, strangely, only ones in Italian have won (Roberto Benigni, "Life Is Beautiful"; Sophia Loren, "Two Women"). If best-picture support continues to rise for his movie, Mathieu Amalric could get a lift on the wings of "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly."
Christian Bale, "3:10 to Yuma"
Don Cheadle, "Talk to Me"
Morgan Freeman, "The Bucket List"
Tommy Lee Jones, "In the Valley of Elah"
Frank Langella, "Starting Out in the Evening"
Jack Nicholson, "The Bucket List"
Brad Pitt, "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford"
Will Smith, "I Am Legend"
Cate Blanchett, "Elizabeth: The Golden Age"
Helena Bonham Carter, "Sweeney Todd"
Marion Cotillard, "La Vie en Rose"
Julie Christie, "Away From Her"
Angelina Jolie, "A Mighty Heart"
Keira Knightley, "Atonement"
Laura Linney, "The Savages"
Ellen Page, "Juno"
SPOTLIGHT: Julie Christie could set a new record for longest gap between two Oscar wins. By February, nearly 42 years will have passed since she prevailed for "Darling." The record now is held by Helen Hayes: 38 1/2 years separated her victories for "The Sin of Madelon Claudet" (best actress, 1931) and "Airport" (supporting, 1970).
Amy Adams, "Enchanted"
Jodie Foster, "The Brave One"
Nicole Kidman, "Margot at the Wedding"
SPOTLIGHT: Golden Globe nominee Amy Adams was snubbed by SAG, but raves from critics and the success of "Enchanted" at the box office (nearly $100 million) could provide the magic touch. She has proven support within the academy (supporting actress nomination two years ago for "Junebug").
Halle Berry, "Things We Lost in the Fire"
Keri Russell, "Waitress"
Charlize Theron, "In the Valley of Elah"
Tang Wei, "Lust, Caution"
Casey Affleck, "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford"
Javier Bardem, "No Country for Old Men"
Paul Dano, "There Will Be Blood"
Philip Seymour Hoffman, "Charlie Wilson's War"
Hal Holbrook, "Into the Wild"
Tommy Lee Jones, "No Country for Old Men"
John Travolta, "Hairspray"
Tom Wilkinson, "Michael Clayton"
SPOTLIGHT: Paul Dano has been overlooked on the award scene so far, but that might be due to the late release of "There Will Be Blood." Firebrand-preacher roles have been nominated (Robert Duvall, "The Apostle") and won (Burt Lancaster, "Elmer Gantry").
Sacha Baron Cohen, "Sweeney Todd"
Russell Crowe, "American Gangster"
Alan Rickman, "Sweeney Todd"
Max von Sydow, "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly"
SPOTLIGHT: Sacha Baron Cohen holds an IOU from Oscar voters. They failed to nominate him despite best-actor wins for "Borat" at the Golden Globes and L.A. Film Critics Assn. Now he may finally get under their skins as the flamboyant, razor-wielding nemesis of a demon barber.
Philip Bosco, "The Savages"
Vincent Cassel, "Eastern Promises"
Ben Foster, "3:10 to Yuma"
Ethan Hawke, "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead"
Robert Downey Jr., "Zodiac"
Albert Finney, "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead"
Vlad Ivanov, "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days"
Armin Mueller-Stahl, "Eastern Promises"
Forest Whitaker, "The Great Debaters"
Cate Blanchett, "I'm Not There"
Ruby Dee, "American Gangster"
Catherine Keener, "Into the Wild"
Vanessa Redgrave, "Atonement"
Saoirse Ronan, "Atonement"
Amy Ryan, "Gone Baby Gone"
Tilda Swinton, "Michael Clayton"