In nominations named Tuesday, There Will Be Blood, which follows a ruthless tycoon’s pursuit of oil, and No Country for Old Men, a bloody contemporary Western, lead the best-picture pack with eight each. Two other top-picture contenders, Atonement (distraught lovers) and Michael Clayton (deceitful lawyers), are close behind with seven each. The light spot on the list is Juno, the sweet story of a precocious, pregnant teenager, which got four nominations.
While no front-runner has emerged, No Country for Old Men has won the most critics’ awards, including those from the National Board of Review and the New York Film Critics Circle. There Will Be Blood was cited as best picture by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and the National Society of Film Critics. Atonement won the Golden Globe among dramas. None of them is a box-office blockbuster.
Leading Blood and Clayton are best-actor nominees Daniel Day-Lewis as the oilman and George Clooney as a law firm’s fixer. An unexpected entry is Tommy Lee Jones playing the father of a missing soldier in In the Valley of Elah. The other nominees are Johnny Depp, Sweeney Todd, and Viggo Mortensen, Eastern Promises.
Cate Blanchett earned her second best-actress nomination for playing Queen Elizabeth I. She got the first as the young British monarch in 1998’s Elizabeth. She portrays the mature queen in Elizabeth: The Golden Age.
Julie Christie, suffering from Alzheimer’s in Away From Her, and Marion Cotillard, the tragic French singer Edith Piaf in La Vie en Rose, were considered locks in the actress category. Joining them is Laura Linney, who cares for an aging father in The Savages. Again, Juno injects levity into a serious lot. Its 20-year-old sensation, Ellen Page, tops off the list.
Blanchett’s name appears again in the supporting-actress category for her role as Bob Dylan in I’m Not There. Also nominated are Ruby Dee, American Gangster; Saoirse Ronan, Atonement; Amy Ryan, Gone Baby Gone; and Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton.
In a big surprise, Juno‘s Jason Reitman was nominated in the directing category after being snubbed by the Directors Guild of America. In turn, Into the Wild‘s Sean Penn, a guild nominee, was shunned by Oscar voters.
Other nominated directors include Julian Schnabel, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly; Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood; Tony Gilroy, Michael Clayton; and Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men. The Coens are the first sibling team to be nominated.
If there is a sure bet in the supporting-actor category, it may be No Country for Old Men‘s Javier Bardem, who has won many critics’ awards. He is up against Casey Affleck, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford; Philip Seymour Hoffman, Charlie Wilson’s War; Hal Holbrook, Into the Wild; and Tom Wilkinson, Michael Clayton.