Keira Knightley, Atonement by Alex Bailey/Focus Features Keira Knightley, Atonement by Alex Bailey/Focus Features
If you haven't seen most (or any) of the Best Picture nominees, have no fear: Neither have most of your friends. So here's a quick primer - an Oscars cheat sheet, if you will, to Hollywood's top prize. - Steve Pond
Atonement "

Themes: Love, guilt, war, memory, obligation... and, well, atonement. " Covers six decades, using three actresses (Saoirse Ronan, Romola Garai and Vanessa Redgrave) to play the lead character. " Adapted by Christopher Hampton from the novel by Ian McEwan, an award-winning British writer who, between writing acclaimed novels, also penned the screenplay for the 1993 Macaulay Culkin flop The Good Son. " Acting style inspired by British movies of the '30s and '40s, especially Brief Encounter. " Made use of all eight World War II vintage British ambulances still known to exist. " Includes a mammoth, uninterrupted five-and-a-half-minute tracking shot that covers the British evacuation of Dunkirk; director Joe Wright said he was forced to do the single shot because he couldn't afford to keep the 1,000 extras long enough to do multiple setups. Juno " Themes: Teen pregnancy, growing up, fitting in, smart talk, indie rock. " Written by onetime stripper Diablo Cody (real name: Brook Busey) while sitting in a Target store in Minneapolis. " The cheapest of the Best Picture nominees ($7.5 million to make), and by far the most profitable ($100 million plus gross). " Directed by Best Director nominee Jason Reitman, son of Ivan ( Ghostbusters) Reitman, who's made 15 movies without a best-director nomination. " Title character's decision to have her baby lauded by conservatives and liberals alike. " Soundtrack reached No. 1; key song, the Moldy Peaches' "Anyone Else But You," suggested by star Ellen Page. Michael Clayton " Themes: Business ethics, corporate responsibility, sleazy lawyers, selling your soul and getting it back. " First-time director Tony Gilroy cowrote all three Bourne movies and Armageddon. " Inspired by Gilroy's research into New York law firms while writing the Al Pacino film The Devil's Advocate. " Title role of law firm "fixer" turned down by George Clooney for years, until he and Gilroy had a 10-hour meeting and bonded over their mutual love for '70s dramas such as Network and The Parallax View. " The other two nominated actors (Tom Wilkinson and Tilda Swinton) are Brits playing Americans. " Swinton says she ate "quite a few pies" before filming because she pictured her lawyer character with a potbelly. No Country for Old Men " Themes: Drugs, money, violence, the nature of evil, bad haircuts. " Based on, and sticks very closely to, the Cormac McCarthy novel. " Hugely controversial ending, more because of what doesn't happen than what does. " Directors Joel and Ethan Coen also nominated for editing under pseudonym "Roderick Jaynes." " Title comes from the William Butler Yeats poem Sailing to Byzantium; the country Yeats was referring to when he wrote "that is no country for old men" was probably his native Ireland. " Coens wanted to cast Heath Ledger; Josh Brolin won the role only after pal Quentin Tarantino shot a screen test for him. There Will Be Blood " Themes: Oil, greed, religion, family, milkshakes. " Officially adapted from the Upton Sinclair novel Oil!, though it really only uses one speech ("If I say I'm an oil man, you got to agree") and a handful of characters and incidents from a portion of the book. " Daniel Day-Lewis based the voice of rapacious oilman Daniel Plainview on film director John Huston. " Paul Dano, originally cast in the small role of Paul Sunday, was also drafted to play the central part of Paul's evangelist brother Eli Sunday only after filming had already begun. " Reached the top 20 on IMDB's list of the top 250 films ever made (based on fan votes), passing Citizen Kane and Psycho, in late January. " Despite the title, doesn't contain much blood. Related: " Five Burning Oscar Questions Answered! " McDreamy, Miley and More to Present at the Oscars Inside TVGuide.com's Oscars special: " A complete list of nominees " A series of fab photo galleries " Videos of this year's nominees " Maitland and Ken reveal their picks to grab gold " Vote for your favorites to win! Remember, come back here Sunday night to chime in during our live Oscars blog!