And the Oscar goes to …

Ben Raymond

The writers’ strike is over. Oscarwatchers around the world can finally exhale – we will have our beloved Oscars.

The world’s most talented, powerful and criminally good-looking people will be in attendance. All will be on the edge of their seats, hoping to land their Oscar.

Without further ado, your humble film critic gives you his predictions for the biggest races of the 80th Academy Awards.

Best Supporting Actress

Cate Blanchett for

“I’m Not There”

Ruby Dee for

“American Gangster”

Saoirse Ronan for


Amy Ryan for

“Gone Baby Gone”

Tilda Swinton for

“Michael Clayton”

Ranging in age from 13 to 83 and in performance from iconic musician to bloodthirsty corporate lawyer, the supporting actress category is the most diverse of the awards.

My prediction: Blanchett. There’s no doubt Blanchett gave the year’s best performance. Her spooky-good portrayal of Bob Dylan in “I’m Not There” is in fact the best performance by a supporting actress this decade.

Although she won in this category just three years ago for “The Aviator,” the combination of transgender acting and the might of the biopic will be hard to top.

Spoiler: Dee. Most are picking Dee. It’s difficult – and perhaps silly – to pick against her, as nearly every SAG winner lands the Oscar.

Best Supporting Actor

Casey Affleck for “The

Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford”

Javier Bardem for “No

Country for Old Men”

Philip Seymour Hoffman for “Charlie Wilson’s War”

Hal Holbrook for

“Into the Wild”

Tom Wilkinson for

“Michael Clayton”

This will be the evening’s surest-fired announcement. Everybody is picking Bardem. But is it certain?

The other nominees all have something big going against them.

Hoffman won just two years ago, Wilkinson is in a George Clooney movie and isn’t Clooney, Affleck shares a gene pool with Ben Affleck and Holbrook might literally drop dead if he wins. Can anyone beat the unbeatable Bardem?

My prediction: Bardem. Having already racked up a hefty body count of awards this season, including the Golden Globe and the SAG award, it seems inevitable he will take it.

With matchless menace and eerie composure, Bardem is death incarnate in this classic performance of top-drawer badassitude.

Spoiler: A case can be made for Holbrook. At 83, he’s just old and disoriented enough to fit the auspicious “now or never” archetype. But with no previous nominations, I think he’ll be left quietly sipping his tepid prune juice while Bardem collects the Oscar.

Best Actress

Cate Blanchett for

“Elizabeth: The Golden Age”

Julie Christie for

“Away From Her”

Marion Cotillard for

“La Vie en Rose”

Laura Linney for

“The Savages”

Ellen Page for “Juno”

It doesn’t get any harder than this. The legendary Christie is favored, but two of cinema’s most promising young actresses have a great chance to nab their first Oscar before Christie gets her second.

My prediction: Christie. At 66-years-old, the still-beautiful Christie is the odds-on favorite to win for her performance as an aging woman suffering the ravages of Alzheimer’s in “Away From Her.”

Spoilers: Cotillard and Page. It doesn’t say much for my powers of foresight to predict one actress and then deem another two “spoilers.” But that’s the way this thing is going to go down.

Christie is a legend, and she won the SAG. But the prospect of either of two beautiful young actresses giving teary-eyed, I-can’t-believe-this-is-happening-to-me speeches is impossible to ignore.

Cotillard’s portrayal of tragic chanteuse Edith Piaf is magical. Page’s career-making performance in “Juno” is outstanding and wildly popular. And the Academy might go heavy for “Juno” in general, further helping the chances of the 20-year-old tomboy from Nova Scotia.But I’m sticking with Christie, as I think the separate pushes for Cotillard and Page will split the vote to her favor.

Best Actor

George Clooney for

“Michael Clayton”

Daniel Day-Lewis for “There Will Be Blood”

Johnny Depp for “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street”

Tommy Lee Jones for

“In the Valley of Elah”

Viggo Mortensen for

“Eastern Promises”

This category appears all but locked up. Day-Lewis has won nearly every award this season for his eviscerating performance in “There Will Be Blood.”

My prediction: Day-Lewis. The best performance of the decade and one of the best performances of all time should and will earn the incomparable Day-Lewis his second Oscar. Day-Lewis’ last nomination came in 2002 for his spectacular performance in “Gangs of New York,” when he famously lost to Adrien Brody in one of the Academy’s most deplorable choices. No such disappointment this year; Day-Lewis wins.

Spoiler: Johnny Depp. Depp is unquestionably one of the finest working actors never to have won an Oscar, and the Academy is dying to give him one – just not this year.

Best Director

Paul Thomas Anderson for “There Will Be Blood”

Joel and Ethan Coen for “No Country for Old Men”

Tony Gilroy for “Michael Clayton”

Jason Reitman for “Juno”

Julian Schnabel for “The

Diving Bell and the Butterfly”

It’ll be hard to top last year’s announcement in the best director category. Martin Scorsese finally earning the Oscar limelight is one of the most memorable moments in Academy history.

My prediction: The Coen brohers. It’s easier to bend a spoon with your brain than to win the DGA and lose the Oscar.

At least, this is what the Coens are betting on. Creators of gems like “Blood Simple.” and “Fargo,” the brothers Coen deliver yet another classic with the enthralling “No Country for Old Men.” Having also edited, written and co-produced the film, it’s easy to see why the Academy will be quick to award their work.

Spoiler: Schnabel. His direction in “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” is nothing short of inspiring. As much as I love the Coens, Schnabel is far-and-away the most deserving.

Best Picture



“Michael Clayton”

“No Country for Old Men”

“There Will Be Blood”

The year 2007 was a great year for cinema. After several years of safe nominations and some iffy winners, the Academy has nominated five praiseworthy films.

Let’s do this thing.

“Atonement” is beautifully photographed, epic-scaled and deliciously romantic. It seems a prime candidate for Oscar glory. Not to mention it received seven nominations, trailing only fellow nominees “No Country for Old Men” and “There Will Be Blood” with eight each.

However, “Atonement” failed to earn nominations in the crucial categories. There was no acting nomination for Keira Knightley or James McAvoy, and director Joe Wright was passed-on as well.

All this adds up to “Atonement” having little to no chance.

“Michael Clayton” also received seven nominations. Add a little corporate greed and a lot of Clooney and you seem to have a recipe for Oscar.

Problem is, “Michael Clayton” has been left completely winless in the precursor awards. With no SAG nomination or other guild wins, “Michael Clayton” is fit to be a nominee but not a winner.

“There Will Be Blood” is my favorite film of the year.

As phenomenal as the film is, it’s too depressing, too despicable and too divisive for Academy voters to go for.

Although “There Will Be Blood” has recently seen a surge in popularity, it’s probably too little too late for one of the lowest-grossing films ever to be nominated for best picture. What chance it has is a small one.

And so it comes down to “Juno” and “No Country for Old Men.”

Will it be the snarky, oddball comedy or the visceral, fatalist crime thriller?

Will the heavily-favored “No Country for Old Men” knock off a win for the Coens?

Or will the underage fetal girth of “Juno” deliver a beautiful baby Oscar?

My prediction for best picture at the 2008 Academy Awards is “No Country for Old Men.” The Coens are long overdue, and with all the awards their film has already received, it’s hard to imagine this isn’t their year.

“No Country for Old Men” won the SAG, WGA, PGA and DGA; altogether the actors, writers, producers and directors comprise over half the AMPAS voters. Does that mean it’s a lock?

Most Oscarwatchers think so. But this is not the case. Although it is hard to envision it losing, beware the sweet, popular and, most importantly, profitable “Juno.”

As counterproductive as it sounds, profitability is a major factor in Academy voting.

“Juno” has made over $124 million domestically, compared to “No Country for Old Men,” which has earned less than half that amount at just under $61 million.

Twice the ticket sales of its competitor and that sugary, super-happy quality Oscar voters melt for could very well vault “Juno” to a huge upset. Despite the threat from “Juno,” I think it’s safe to expect the best picture envelope to read “No Country for Old Men” when the Oscars, hosted by Jon Stewart, air live this Sunday at 8 p.m. on ABC.