No Country for Old Men Let's begin with a caveat: I'm not very good as this Oscar-guessing thing. So if you're planning to use my predictions to help win your annual Academy Awards pool, you should know that two years in a row now, I've only guessed correctly in 15 out of 24 categories, giving me an average of .625 - a moderately underwhelming record.

Then again, if that were my batting average in professional baseball, I'd be a god, so I'm pressing ahead.

The following are the nominees for the 80th-annual Academy Awards, scheduled to air on ABC affiliate WQAD-TV at 7 p.m. on Sunday, February 24. And while there's much uncertainty about the eventual results in several major categories, at least I'm feeling confident about this year's all-but-inevitable Best Picture - a category I botched last year. And the year before that. And the year before that. (You've been warned.)

Boldface denotes my predictions.






Michael Clayton

No Country for Old Men

There Will Be Blood


Winner of the Producers Guild Award, the Directors Guild Award, and the Screen Actors Guild Award. The last movie to do that? The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, which won 11 Oscars out of its 11 nominations. With its eight nods, I don't see No Country pulling off that kind of 100-percent victory. Seven out of eight seems about right, though.



Daniel Day Lewis in There Will Be Blood BEST ACTOR

George Clooney, Michael Clayton

Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood

Johnny Depp, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Tommy Lee Jones, In the Valley of Elah

Viggo Mortensen, Eastern Promises


And don't be surprised if, while Day-Lewis is holding the Oscar, the statuette actually genuflects.



Marion Cotillard in La Vie en rose BEST ACTRESS

Cate Blanchett, Elizabeth: The Golden Age

Julie Christie, Away from Her

Marion Cotillard, La Vie en rose

Laura Linney, The Savages

Ellen Page, Juno


As Julie Christie is the more obvious front-runner, I'll inevitably pay for this wrong guess. But I'll do it with honor, as Cotillard's performance is the sort of stunningly inspired transformation that won Day-Lewis an Oscar for 1989's My Left Foot. And Cotillard did just win the British Academy Award for Best Actress. After winning a Golden Globe last month. Hmm. Maybe I won't be paying for this guess.



Javier Bardem in No Country for Old Men BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Casey Affleck, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men

Philip Seymour Hoffman, Charlie Wilson's War

Hal Holbrook, Into the Wild

Tom Wilkinson, Michael Clayton


Hey, I'm not betting against him ... .



Ruby Dee and Denzel Washington in American GangsterBEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Cate Blanchett, I'm Not There

Ruby Dee, American Gangster

Saoirse Ronan, Atonement

Amy Ryan, Gone Baby Gone

Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton


Because it would be unthinkable if the Academy didn't reward at least one likable performance this year, and among this lineup, Dee's the only option. And yeah, she only has five minutes of screen time ... and only one big scene ... and she's totally peripheral to the storyline ... but still ... it's Ruby Dee!



Ethan and Joel Coen BEST DIRECTOR

Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood

Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, No Country for Old Men

Tony Gilroy, Michael Clayton

Jason Reitman, Juno

Julian Schnabel, The Diving Bell & the Butterfly


It's quite possible that, in future years, we'll bitch that Anderson was robbed of a Best Director Oscar for There Will Be Blood, the way we still gripe about Scorsese's loss for GoodFellas. And then we'll stop bitching, because we'll remember just how freaking good No Country for Old Men actually is.



Tommy Lee Jones in No Country for Old MenBEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood

Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, No Country for Old Men

Christopher Hampton, Atonement

Ronald Harwood, The Diving Bell & the Butterfly

Sarah Polley, Away from Her


Substitute "Best Adapted Screenplay" for "Best Director," and just re-read the previous commentary.





Brad Bird, Jim Capobianco, and Jan Pinkava, Ratatouille

Diablo Cody, Juno

Tony Gilroy, Michael Clayton

Tamara Jenkins, The Savages

Nancy Oliver, Lars & the Real Girl


Fo shizz.




Beaufort, Israel

The Counterfeiters, Austria

Katyn, Poland

Mongol, Kazakhstan

12, Russia


Normally, the majority of foreign-language Oscar nominees don't reach our area. But this year, they barely made it to anyone's area. With no buzz to rely on, then, I'm going with the Holocaust drama The Counterfeiters, because I can't seem to find an Oscar prognosticator who isn't predicting it. If I'm gonna be wrong, I'm gonna have company.






Surf's Up


A mean-spirited critic finally gets what's coming to him. How could the Academy possibly resist?




No End in Sight

Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience


Taxi to the Dark Side



My brain says No End in Sight, Charles Ferguson's and Audrey Mars' staggeringly smart Iraq war indictment. But, come on, it's an election year ... how could voters resist the urge to give Michael Moore one more crack at the mic?




The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford


The Diving Bell & the Butterfly

No Country for Old Men

There Will Be Blood


In addition to No Country, perpetual Oscar also-ran Roger Deakins has also been nominated for The Shawshank Redemption, Fargo, Kundun, O Brother Where Art Thou?, The Man Who Wasn't There, and The Assassination of Jesse James. Just give it to him, already!




"Falling Slowly," Once

"Happy Working Song," Enchanted

"Raise It Up," August Rush

"So Close," Enchanted

"That's How You Know," Enchanted


Without question, the decade's most idiosyncratic category. (Winners since the 2000 Oscars: Bob Dylan, Randy Newman, Eminem, Annie Lennox, Jorge Drexler - for a song performed in a foreign language - Three 6 Mafia, and Melissa Etheridge.) Expect the Irish acoustic number to win, and deserve to win, over Enchanted's clever animated-musical parodies and whatever August Rush song I've blocked from memory.




The Bourne Ultimatum

The Diving Bell & the Butterfly

Into the Wild

No Country for Old Men

There Will Be Blood


If the Coen brothers' editing alias Roderick Jaynes wins this one, and the Coens also win the Picture, Director, and Adapted Screenplay awards they're likely shoo-ins for, they'll have made history, tying for the record of most Oscars received in a single year. The four-time winner they'd share that acknowledgment with? Walt Disney. And if anyone ever opens a CoenBrothersland, I'm there.




The Golden Compass

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End



A Michael Bay-directed adaptation of a toy, for Pete's sake ... and a pretty damned good one! Academy members should feel no guilt about voting for Transformers here.




The Bourne Ultimatum

No Country for Old Men


3:10 to Yuma



Or here. Which should be great news to nominated mixer Kevin O'Connell, currently on his 20th nomination without a win. Last year, referencing his likely (and eventual) loss for Apocalypto, I wrote, "The 20th time has to be the charm, right?" It just might be.




The Bourne Ultimatum

No Country for Old Men


There Will Be Blood



For the devastating precision of those bullets during the hotel attack. And for that same scene's quiet unscrewing of a light bulb. And the distantly ringing telephone. And for the transponder. And for the comedic scratch of a woman's fingernails against an emery board. And for the ... .




Across the Universe


Elizabeth: The Golden Age

La Vie en rose

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street


There are only a handful of truly iconic dresses in cinema history. Keira Knightley's emerald-green number is one of them.




American Gangster


The Golden Compass

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

There Will Be Blood


Atonement's decorations - particularly in that famed six-minute tracking shot - were pretty iconic, too. Too bad that director Joe Wright never lets you forget it for an instant.




Atonement, Dario Marianelli

The Kite Runner, Alberto Iglesias

Michael Clayton, James Newton Howard

Ratatouille, Michael Giacchino

3:10 to Yuma, Marco Beltrami


Once upon a time, about a decade ago, winning Best Costume Design, Art Direction, and Score would mean a fait accompli Best Picture win. (See Shakespeare in Love, Titanic, The English Patient ... .) Not so much now. Evolution in progress, my friends.



Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's EndBEST MAKEUP

La Vie en rose


Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End


As much as I'd love to back La Vie en rose here - and really, from a voter's perspective, isn't it the least embarrassing choice? - I'm betting on Pirates' Ve Neill and Martin Samuel. They helped create dozens of monsters, while La Vie's Didier Lavergne and Jan Archibald basically lent their talents to ... well, one.





La Corona (The Crown)

Salim Baba

Sari's Mother


The subject matter in this frequently downbeat category includes AIDS, the Iraq War, and a mismanaged health-care system ... and that's just Sari's Mother. Call me insensitive, but seriously, how can it lose?




At Night

Il Supplente (The Substitute)

Le Mozart des Pickpockets (The Mozart of Pickpockets)

Tanghi Argentini

The Tonto Woman


I love that parenthetical "The Mozart of Pickpockets" more than I can say. Apparently, we wouldn't have been able to translate the film's foreign-language title without it. It's a total shot in the dark, but I'm predicting a Tonto Woman win here, as it's based on a story by some writer named Elmore Leonard. I hear he's good.




I Met the Walrus

Madame Tutli-Putli

Même Les Pigeons Vont au Paradis (Even Pigeons Go to Heaven)

My Love (Moya Lyubov)

Peter & the Wolf


I Met the Walrus features a previously unheard interview with John Lennon. Peter & the Wolf has all that Prokofiev music. Can I be honest, though? I'm really hoping some ill-prepared young star - Hayden Christensen or Jessica Alba, maybe - is forced into saying "Tutli-Putli" in front of a billion people.

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