Every year, we try to outsmart the Academy, and those who compete with us in Oscar pools, by picking a couple of surprises in our Oscar ballot. When Little Miss Sunshine comes out of nowhere, we think, rubbing our hands together with glee, we'll be the only ones who predict it, and therefore we will win! But of course Little Miss Sunshine doesn't win. Little Miss Sunshine never wins. And the person who takes home the money in our Oscar pool is the person who just picked the movies everyone thinks are going to win, because the conventional wisdom is almost always right.
So this year we're picking the chalk nearly everywhere, and saving our minor upsets for minor categories. Will this pay off in our first Oscar-pool victory since we grumpily picked Forrest Gump for everything? Only time will tell!
No Country for Old Men
There Will Be Blood
There are cases to be made for There Will Be Blood (so genius!) and Atonement (so Oscary!) and Juno (so lovable!) and Michael Clayton (so unhateable!), but No Country for Old Men looks so unstoppable — and no one will be picking against it, so your ballot is safe either way. After a flirtation with choosing Blood, we're chickening out and going with the front-runner.
Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood
Ethan and Joel Coen, No Country for Old Men
Tony Gilroy, Michael Clayton
Jason Reitman, Juno
Julian Schnabel, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
If last year was Marty's year, this year looks to be the Coens'. At least their acceptance speeches will be mercifully brief.
George Clooney, Michael Clayton
Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood
Johnny Depp, Sweeney Todd
Tommy Lee Jones, In the Valley of Elah
Viggo Mortensen, Eastern Promises
This has been Daniel Day-Lewis's race to lose since the fall, and only a moron — or a cheating employee of PriceWaterhouse — would pick against him.
Cate Blanchett, Elizabeth: The Golden Age
Julie Christie, Away From Her
Marion Cotillard, La Vie en Rose
Laura Linney, The Savages
Ellen Page, Juno
Some talk up the chances of Page or Cotillard, but we think it's unlikely that Page will become the youngest Best Actress winner ever, or that Cotillard will become only the second actress to win for a foreign-language performance. And seriously — you think the Academy is going to pass up a chance to give an Oscar to Julie Christie?
Cate Blanchett, I'm Not There
Ruby Dee, American Gangster
Saoirse Ronan, Atonement
Amy Ryan, Gone Baby Gone
Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton
This might be the toughest major category to predict; Blanchett's is the most technically accomplished performance, while Ronan and Swinton are their Best Picture–nominated films' best chances to pick up a major award. And Ruby Dee is like a million years old! But we're sticking with the critics' prize winner here, who happens in this case to have given the performance we loved the most in this category: Amy Ryan.
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 everyone! Is your name Javier Bardem? If not, you are useless to us.