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February 22, 2008

There will be Oscars: No Country for Old Men should sweep three major categories

[img id="80343" align="alignleft"] I’ve been predicting the Oscars every year since The Return of the King swept the awards in 2004. For me, it is not just a ceremony but the pinnacle of a season that reminds the public about the very best in cinema. It is not only the high-fashion, mass-celebrity congregation that make the Oscars TV’s second most watched event (the Super Bowl being number one), but also the 80-year folklore that the Oscars offer: a plethora of famous wins, infamous losses, and many memorable television moments. The following are my predictions and thoughts on the potential Oscar winners in the major categories. Predicted winners are bolded.

Best Picture

Atonement

Juno

Michael Clayton

No Country for Old Men

There Will Be Blood

Ever since Crash’s unprecedented—and outrageous—upset over Brokeback Mountain in 2006, there is always anticipation of an upset of the established frontrunner. No Country for Old Men has won most of the major precursor awards, so I doubt that any of these films will unseat its well deserved Best Picture win. However, No Country for Old Men is not typical Oscar fare. It is violent, there are problems presented without solutions, and it is incredibly nihilistic. Oscar voters tend to be old fashioned and vote with their hearts, and that may give Juno an advantage. It is the only movie of these five that leaves you charmed and feeling good about yourself. I won’t be shocked if Juno upsets, but, in spite of the Crash precedent, I still will not overrule decades of awards history. No Country for Old Men will—and should—take home the Oscar.

Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will be Blood

Joel and Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men

Tony Gilroy, Michael Clayton

Jason Reitman, Juno

Julian Schnabel, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Joel and Ethan Coen won the Directors Guild of America award, which has matched Oscar 53 out of 59 times. Even though I think Anderson’s work on Blood is slightly more ambitious, the Coens do some of their most restrained and finest work, and I will not complain when they ascend the Kodak stage.

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 Mortenson, Eastern Promises

Even George Clooney has publicly conceded the Oscar to Daniel Day-Lewis, who gives one of the great screen performances of all time. The Oscar voters will simply not be able to ignore an acting event like this—it’s the equivalent of Marlon Brando in The Godfather or Robert De Niro in Raging Bull.

Cate Blanchett, Elizabeth: The Golden Age

Julie Christie, Away from Her

Marion Cotillard, La Vie En Rose

Laura Linney, The Savages

Ellen Page, Juno

Next to Best Supporting Actress, this is the most difficult race to call. While Julie Christie has won most of the precursors, her obvious ambivalence about the award season could hurt her. Ellen Page is young and is the most popular of all the Oscar contenders, playing a role that will probably endure much longer than Christie’s Alzheimer’s victim. Also waiting in the wings is Marion Cotillard’s transformation into Edith Piaf, which has been getting endorsements from important members of the actors’ branch, like Forest Whitaker and Daniel Day-Lewis. However, Julie Christie has one major advantage: She is a living legend and conjures up nostalgia in the voters. Ellen Page is only 21, and older voters may want to award her later. Cotillard’s performance is in French, and only two foreign language performances have won Oscars in the past. Julie Christie should win based on the handicaps of her two major adversaries.

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

Javier Bardem swept the precursor circuit this year, and for good reason. His Anton Chigurh is one of the screen’s greatest monsters. His lines and mannerisms became instantly iconic among cinema buffs and are bleeding into popular culture. He should win by a landslide.

Cate Blanchett, I’m Not There

Ruby Dee, American Gangster

Saoirse Ronan, Atonement

Amy Ryan, Gone Baby Gone

Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton

This is easily the most difficult to predict of the major categories, since all the Oscar precursors have chosen a different winner. Saoirse Ronan doesn’t have a chance, even though she is my personal favorite in this category.

Amy Ryan was the early critical favorite for Gone Baby Gone, but she hasn’t won anything in over a month—she is the Oscar’s version of Hillary Clinton, in a sense. Ruby Dee is 83 and has never won, but she barely has any screen time in American Gangster. Cate Blanchett has the great gimmick of playing a man, but she just won the prize three years ago.

I’m calling a surprise win for Tilda Swinton, mainly because she won the BAFTA. Dee and Blanchett may split the vote; this category is notorious for surprise winners, like Marissa Tomei in My Cousin Vinny and Marcia Gay Harden in Pollock.