In theory, if I correctly predicted every single Oscar race, nobody could ever outguess me.
Alas, that has never, ever happened, and it's unlikely again this year, because as usual I will allow my heart to outsmart my brain in one or two races, which is my annual downfall.
Here, for what they're worth, here are my Academy Award predictions in a year rich with wonderful films.
My heart cries out "Juno! Juno! Juno!," but my brain dashes a pail of cold water and sternly corrects me: "No Country for Old Men." To be sure, "There Will Be Blood" cleaned up a lot of the critics' prizes, but is a little too dark and odd for the Academy. "Atonement" and "Michael Clayton" are excellent, but don't have the buzz.
Here I cannot see the odds for predicting anyone but Daniel Day-Lewis, period, for "There Will Be Blood." It's a powerful performance, almost in disguise, with that greasy, oily voice, and it's a way to honor an ambitious, respected film. My vote might go to Tommy Lee Jones, who was so fine in "In the Valley of Elah," but I'm pleased enough he got a nomination.
Ellen Page for "Juno." OK, here's where my heart takes over. My brain says Julie Christie will win, both for her career achievement and for the quality of her work. But my heart says Page made me want to hug Juno in a performance that was much more difficult than it might have appeared.
Javier Bardem in "No Country for Old Men," don't you think? His killer with the unpronounceable name and the compressed-air cow stunner made an indelible impression. And it wasn't just for the violence, but for the timing of scenes like his exchange with the gas station owner.
Ruby Dee for "American Gangster." I think the race is between Cate Blanchett, playing Bob Dylan in "I'm Not There," and the beloved Dee, the mom of the "American Gangster." Supporting actress has a way of throwing a curveball. Does that mean Dee, or maybe Amy Ryan?
Joel and Ethan Coen for "No County for Old Men," and a lot of other great films. The Coens won the Directors Guild Award, and that winner automatically becomes the Oscar front-runner.
Diablo Cody for "Juno." She looks like a sure thing. The film benefits so mightily from its screenplay, which is so unconventional in its dialogue that we hardly notice how sure it is in its construction.
The Coens, for "No Country for Old Men," with their laconic, subtly funny, economical yet quirky dialogue, with a big assist from Cormac McCarthy's original novel.
"Ratatouille," hands-down. Period. Case closed. Despite the charm and originality of "Persepolis."