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'No Country', 'Blood' Lead Oscar Nominations

"No Country for Old Men" and "There Will Be Blood" led with eight Academy Awards nominations each Tuesday, among them best picture and acting honors for Daniel Day-Lewis and Javier Bardem -- but it remained in doubt whether any stars would cross striking writers' picket lines to attend the ceremony.

"No Country for Old Men," a crime saga about a drug deal gone bad, and "There Will Be Blood," a historical epic set in California's oil boom years, will compete for best picture against the melancholy romance "Atonement," the pregnancy comedy "Juno" and the legal drama "Michael Clayton."

"Atonement" and "Michael Clayton" trailed with seven nominations each, including best actor for George Clooney in the title role of "Clayton." The lead players in "Atonement," Keira Knightley and James McAvoy, were shut out on nominations, however, with teenager Saoirse Ronin the only performer nominated for that film, for supporting actress.

Past Oscar winner Cate Blanchett had two nominations as best actress for the historical pageant "Elizabeth: The Golden Age," and as supporting actress for the Bob Dylan tale "I'm Not There."

On strike since Nov. 5, the Writers Guild of America refused to let its members work on the Globes, which prompted stars to avoid the show in solidarity. Globe organizers were forced to scrap their glitzy telecast and instead announce winners in a swift, humdrum news conference, without anyone on hand to accept the 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.

"I would never cross a picket line ever. I couldn't," said Tony Gilroy, a directing nominee for "Michael Clayton." "I'm a 20-year member of the Writers Guild. I think whatever they work out is going to be one way or the other but no, I could never cross a picket line. I think there's a lot of people who feel that way."

The acting categories generally played out as expected -- with a few surprises, including best actress nominee Laura Linney for "The Savages" and best-actor nominee Tommy Lee Jones for "In the Valley of Elah." Neither performance had been high on the awards radar so far this Oscar season.

Best actress looks like a two-person duel between Julie Christie, an Oscar winner for "Darling," as a woman succumbing to Alzheimer's in "Away From Her" and Marion Cotillard as singer Edith Piaf in "La Vie En Rose." Both won Golden Globes, Christie for dramatic actress, Cotillard for musical or comedy actress. Yet they face strong competition from Blanchett, Linney and relative newcomer Ellen Page as a whip-smart pregnant teen in "Juno."

Day-Lewis, an Oscar winner for "My Left Foot," grabbed another best-actor nomination as a flamboyant oil baron in "There Will Be Blood," for which he could emerge as the favorite.

Along with Day-Lewis, Clooney and Jones, the other nominees were Johnny Depp, who won the Globe for musical or comedy actor as the vengeful barber in "Sweeney Todd," Viggo Mortensen as a Russian mob member in "Eastern Promises."

With a Golden Globe and universal acclaim for his performance as a relentless killer, Bardem looks like the closest thing to a front-runner this Oscar season, which is unusually wide open for best picture and other top categories.

Bardem 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"; Tom Wilkinson, "Michael Clayton."

Joining Blanchett and Ronin in the supporting actress category were Ruby Dee for "American Gangster," Amy Ryan for "Gone Baby Gone" and Tilda Swinton for "Michael Clayton."

Snubbed along with Knightley and McAvoy was "Atonement" director Joe Wright. The directing nominees were Paul Thomas Anderson, "There Will Be Blood"; Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, "No Country for Old Men"; Gilroy, "Michael Clayton"; Jason Reitman, "Juno"; and Julian Schnabel, "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly."

The Coens and Anderson also were nominated for writing the screenplay adaptations of their films.

The wide-open awards season had left the field up in question, and some other notable prospects were shut out, including past Oscar winner Angelina Jolie for "A Mighty Heart," Helen Bonham Carter for "Sweeney Todd," and Emile Hirsch for "Into the Wild." Sean Penn also missed out on a directing nod for "Into the Wild," as did Eddie Vedder, who was shut out in music categories.

Also left out of the Oscars completely was the hit musical "Hairspray."

'No Country' was a Miramax-Paramount venture. Paramount Vantage is a unit of Viacom . Miramax Films is a unit of Walt Disney . Warner Bros. Pictures is a unit of Time Warner . "Juno" was released by Fox Searchlight, a unit of News Corp.. "Atonement" was released by Focus Features, a unit of General Electric's NBC Universal, which also owns CNBC and CNBC.com.

"Michael Clayton" was relased by Warner Brothers.

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