If you've seen our safe, cowardly predictions for Sunday's Oscar winners, you'll know that we think this race is already locked up and decided (we've heard rumors that all supporting-actor nominees not named Javier Bardem are skipping the ceremony to play Rock Band at Hal Holbrook's house). Still, what's the point of entering an Oscar pool if your ballot looks like everyone else's? And if you want to win, the key is guessing one or two of the night's improbable surprises. Who might pull off an upset? Our hedged bets after the jump!
No Country for Old Men
There Will Be Blood
Sure, No Country For Old Men has swept the critics and guild awards, but so did Brokeback Mountain before it lost to Crash two years ago. Of the other four nominees, Juno is presumed to have the best shot of drinking the Coens' milkshake since it's the year's only nondepressing Oscar movie and it's practically outgrossed Star Wars — but we think Michael Clayton could do it too. It's slick, well made, and the rare film that nobody seems to have a problem with (it's also the one that both Vulture editors completely agree on). That it scored seven nominations at all indicates support is there. If the Oscars were the Grammys (which they're not, we don't think), Michael Clayton would be Herbie Hancock.
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
It's tough to imagine this Oscar going to anyone but the Coens, but Paul Thomas Anderson and Julian Schnabel do have devoted followings. Plus, who doesn't want to see Schnabel accept an award in his pajamas?
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
Daniel Day-Lewis is a lock (even more so than he was when he lost to Adrian Brody in 2002), but could George Clooney pull of an upset? Again, Michael Clayton does have seven nominations, and the Academy probably wants to reward it somewhere. Clooney's the standard-bearer for old-school Hollywood, and most Oscar voters are old.
Cate Blanchett, Elizabeth: The Golden Age
Julie Christie, Away From Her
Marion Cotillard, La Vie en Rose
Laura Linney, The Savages
Ellen Page, Juno
Only a crazy person would bet against Julie Christie here. Still, Marion Cotillard was the early favorite, and Juno's box-office success could give Ellen Page an edge, making her the category's youngest-ever winner. And barring a Schnabulous victory, she's probably our only shot at a fun acceptance speech.
Cate Blanchett, I'm Not There
Ruby Dee, American Gangster
Saoirse Ronan, Atonement
Amy Ryan, Gone Baby Gone
Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton
In the only major category without a clear winner, Cate Blanchett, Ruby Dee, or Amy Ryan would all be logical choices — so how about Tilda Swinton? Obviously the Academy enjoyed Michael Clayton, and her performance was mesmerizing.
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
Sorry to disappoint, but Javier Bardem has this one in the bag. The New York Giants stand a better chance of winning this award than any of the other nominees.