Suppose they gave out Oscars and nobody came?
That could be the situation come Feb. 24, if the continuing Writers Guild strike disrupts the scheduled 80th annual Academy Awards the same way it derailed the Golden Globes.
For now, however, Academy muckety-mucks insist the show must and will go on.
Which means it's time once again for your humble Oscar prognosticator to unwrap her trusty crystal ball and make a few fearless predictions.
We'll know which of them come true as of 5:30 a.m. Tuesday. For now, however, here are a few trends I'll be tracking during the dawn-patrol announcement:
WILL THERE BE BLOOD?
Of course there will. But just how much blood will seep into the best picture competition? A pair of critics' darlings seem to be virtual locks: "There Will Be Blood" (director Paul Thomas Anderson's adaptation of Upton Sinclair's "Oil!") and Joel and Ethan Coen's "No Country for Old Men," based on Cormac McCarthy's novel.
But "Sweeney Todd" -- director Tim Burton's adaptation of Stephen Sondheim's Broadway musical about a throat-slashing Victorian barber bent on revenge -- may be a bit too bloody for Academy voters, who may prefer the relatively bloodless crimes of the legal drama "Michael Clayton."
That leaves two slots for the remaining contenders, which range from the epic British drama "Atonement" (which captured top Globe honors) to the American odyssey "Into the Wild."
Play it again, Oscar: This year's competition could see more than one previous winner vying to transform a single statuette into a matched pair.
The acting contenders include a host of previous winners, including "There Will Be Blood's" Daniel Day-Lewis (who won for 1989's "My Left Foot") and "Away From Her's" Julie Christie (a best actress winner for 1965's "Darling") as favorites for best actor and actress, respectively.
Joining the second-time-around possibilities: Cate Blanchett (a best supporting actress winner as Katharine Hepburn in 2004's "The Aviator"), playing Bob Dylan (one of them, anyway) in "I'm Not There"; George Clooney (who won for "2005's "Syriana"), a definite contender as "Michael Clayton"; Philip Seymour Hoffman (2005's best actor as "Capote"), who could be nominated for three exemplary performances in "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead," "Charlie Wilson's War" and/or "The Savages"; and Tom Hanks (who won back-to-back best actor awards for 1993's "Philadelphia" and 1994's "Forrest Gump") for his title-role performance in "Charlie Wilson's War."
And let's not forget Angelina Jolie (a supporting actress winner for 1999's "Girl, Interrupted"), a best actress possibility this year for "A Mighty Heart"; Tommy Lee Jones (best supporting actor for 1993's "The Fugitive"), a contender for either "No Country for Old Men" or "In the Valley of Elah"; and Denzel Washington (who already has two Oscars, for 1989's "Glory" and 2001's "Training Day"), a long shot for this year's "American Gangster."
THE BIOGRAPHY CHANNEL
Once again, playing a real-life character provides a fast track to an Oscar nomination. Just ask last year's Oscar royalty, Helen Mirren as "The Queen," Elizabeth II, and Forest Whitaker as "The Last King of Scotland," alias Idi Amin. (Or other previous winners, from Reese Witherspoon and Charlize Theron to Jamie Foxx and the aforementioned Hoffman.)
This year, of course, is no different, with Blanchett, Jolie, Hanks and Hoffman (who plays a jaded CIA agent in "Charlie Wilson's War") in a field that also features sure-thing nominee Marion Cotillard as "La Vie en Rose's" Edith Piaf.
Long shots range from Christian Bale as Vietnam-era POW Dieter Dengler in "Rescue Dawn" to Emile Hirsch as "Into the Wild's" ill-fated wanderer Christopher McCandless and Casey Affleck in "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford." Affleck plays Ford, Brad Pitt plays Jesse James -- and is an even longer shot to earn a nomination, along with his worthy but no-chance "Ocean's Thirteen" pal Don Cheadle, who delivered a knockout portrayal of '60s-era Washington, D.C., radio host Ralph "Petey" Greene in "Talk to Me." Too bad nobody voting for Oscar nominations was listening -- or watching.
Contact reporter Carol Cling at firstname.lastname@example.org or (702) 383-0272.