BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. - Hollywood's big question - which movies will compete at the Academy Awards? - is about to be answered. But a bigger, more vexing one is still casting a shadow over Tuesday's nominations announcement: Will there be any kind of recognizable Oscars show if the writers strike continues?
Rolling out the list of nominees normally sets the stage for a month of hugs and kisses leading up to the Oscars on Feb. 24 as Hollywood's elite congratulate themselves on a job well done. But as writers shut down the town's biggest parties to force management back to the negotiating table, awards shows have become the latest casualties.
One needed only to have tuned into the rushed and tepid Golden Globes "ceremony" to realize that the Oscars could be in trouble, too. But like with the Globes, there are awards to hand out, strike or no strike.
In the acting categories, potential nominees include past Oscar winners Cate Blanchett for "I'm Not There" and possibly "Elizabeth: The Golden Age"; George Clooney for "Michael Clayton"; Angelina Jolie for "A Mighty Heart"; Julie Christie for "Away From Her"; Jodie Foster for "The Brave One"; Daniel Day-Lewis for "There Will Be Blood"; and Julia Roberts and Philip Seymour Hoffman for "Charlie Wilson's War."
Among other contenders are Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter for "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street"; Javier Bardem for "No Country for Old Men"; and some relative newcomers, Marion Cotillard for "La Vie En Rose," Ellen Page for "Juno" and Nikki Blonsky for "Hairspray."
No clear favorite has emerged in the best-picture category, whose nominees might include "There Will Be Blood," "No Country for Old Men," "Juno" and "Sweeney Todd" along with "Atonement," "American Gangster" and "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly."
A lot of crossed fingers will accompany the adulation this Oscar season, which is jeopardized by the same dispute that already snuffed the Golden Globes.
On strike since Nov. 5, the Writers Guild of America refused to let its members work on the Globes, which prompted stars to steer clear of the show in solidarity. Globe organizers were forced to scrap their glitzy telecast, instead announcing winners in a swift, humdrum news conference, without anyone on hand to accept their prizes.
Guild leaders have said that if the strike continues, they will not allow writers to work on the Oscars, either, which might leave nominees and other celebrities forced to choose between attending the biggest night in show business or staying home to avoid crossing picket lines.
Oscar organizers insist their show will go on, with or without the writers.
A glimmer of hope arose late last week as the Directors Guild of America reached a deal with producers for a new contract. Many in Hollywood are counting on that deal to help resuscitate negotiations between writers and producers, who walked away from the table Dec. 7, and sources say informal talks may resume this week.
If the two sides settle their differences in time for the Oscars, the ceremony would become a dual celebration, honoring the best in Hollywood from the previous year and marking an end to a season of labor discontent that idled TV shows, delayed some movies and threw thousands of production workers into unemployment.
The tentative contract for directors addressed a key issue for writers - pay for films and TV shows that end up on the Internet and other new media. But whether the terms of the directors' deal would satisfy writers remains uncertain.
Nominees are chosen in most categories by specific branches of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, such as actors, writers and directors. The academy's full membership of about 5,800 was eligible to vote for best-picture nominations and can cast ballots for the winners in all categories at the Oscar ceremony itself.
Assuming the show comes off as scheduled, ABC will broadcast the Oscars live Feb. 24 from Hollywood's Kodak Theatre. Jon Stewart - who recently resumed "The Daily Show" on Comedy Central, but without the help of his striking writers - will serve as Oscar host, a job he previously did two years ago.