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The Oscars: The Best Picture Nominees Make Their Cases

Atonement
The case for the Oscar: It's the most Oscar-y of any of the nominated films: a sweeping, romantic epic, based on a beloved British novel. It racked up seven nominations, the second-highest total of the year. It was well reviewed, and its box office has been excellent ($32 million) in limited release. And it's been the front-runner since the fall.

The case against the Oscar: Seven nominations, sure, but none for its leads, and none for director Joe Wright. The only time since 1932 a movie won Best Picture without its director being nominated for the Oscar? Driving Miss Daisy, in 1989.

Odds: 7 to 1.

Juno
The case for the Oscar: The little comedy that could showed surprising strength this morning, garnering not only the expected Picture and Screenplay nominations but also nods for star Ellen Page (sort of a shock) and director Jason Reitman (a major shock). And, as expected, it's the only Best Picture nominee that doesn't make audiences want to kill themselves — and they've not wanted to kill themselves to the tune of $87 million, the highest total of any Best Picture nominee by far.

The case against the Oscar: Remember last year, when everyone thought Little Miss Sunshine might pull off the upset because it was so darn adorable? Well, the dark drama with all the bloody murders won instead. Comedies don't win Best Picture.

Odds: 6 to 1.

Michael Clayton
The case for the Oscar: It's a well-respected, well-liked film that got excellent reviews. It's a throwback to the seventies, when big studios made gritty dramas that addressed real issues with intelligence and wit. And, in George Clooney, Michael Clayton has the biggest star of any of the top five nominees going to bat for his movie big-time.

The case against the Oscar: Warner Bros. is taking the film back out wide this weekend after a disappointing box office take ($39 million) its first time around. And while everyone likes it, does anyone really love it?

Odds: 6 to 1.

No Country for Old Men
The case for the Oscar: It's the most critically acclaimed film of the year by many measures, and the one that racked up the most critics'-association awards. Few can deny the movie's craft and consummate professionalism, impeccably made as it is by beloved, quirky auteurs who returned to commercial and artistic form after several subpar films. And it's the Coens' biggest hit ever!

The case against the Oscar: But it's awfully cold — far chillier than the Coens' previous nominee, Fargo, which itself was too arch to win the big prize. And though it's made solid box office ($48 million), right now all across America angry audience members, pissed off at the movie's non-ending, are more irritated about this nomination than any other.

Odds: 5 to 1.

There Will Be Blood
The case for the Oscar: Well, we're the wrong people to guess, because we never thought it'd get nominated. But certainly Paul Thomas Anderson's epic hasn't lacked for critical acclaim. Academy members, taking their commitment to history seriously, may reward the one film among these five that isn't afraid to aim for the stars. Could an Oscar be the first step in There Will Be Blood's canonization? Plus, it's already spawned a handy catchphrase!

The case against the Oscar: We already made it, and we were wrong, so we're hardly gonna bet against it here.

Odds: 4 to 1.