Iâll be watching the Oscar race particularly closely on Sunday night. Not only will I be live-blogging it, along with Film Critic Felicia Feaster and A&E Editor David Lee Simmons, but this year I've put my money where my predictions are. A colleague of mine bet me a beer that Atonement would win Best Picture, and we shook on it. Although I agree Atonement looks the most like a traditional Best Picture winner, and that front-runners No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood could easily split the vote between them, I just don't see Atonement having that many passionate votes. People like it more than they love it.
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
Likely winner: Day-Lewisâ incendiary work carries a monumental film. George Clooney's across-the-board popularity could mean an upset. Possibly. Maybe. A bit.
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
Likely winner: Christie has the edge in name recognition in a plum "sick-person" role, and her film is in English. Cotillard has an uphill struggle by appearing in a French film, but she gives a grand performance (as a real person, always a plus).
Supporting Actor: Casey Affleck, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford; Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men; Hal Holbrook, Into the Wild; Philip Seymour Hoffman, Charlie Wilson's War; Tom Wilkinson, Michael Clayton
Likely winner: Bardemâs relentless Anton Chigurh is already a classic cinematic creation, although if sentiment sometimes carries the category, Holbrook could be a surprise pick.
Supporting Actress: Cate Blanchett, I'm Not There; Ruby Dee, American Gangster; Saoirse Ronan, Atonement; Amy Ryan, Gone Baby Gone; Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton
Likely winner: Ryan virtually swept the critics awards, but the Academy will probably opt for Blanchettâs transgender stunt (as another real person) over the newcomer. It's the night's tightest race, though, so any of the rest could sneak in, and Dee's a sentimental favorite.
Director: Julian Schnabel, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly; Jason Reitman, Juno; Tony Gilroy, Michael Clayton; Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men; Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood
Likely winner: The Coens, although this might be Anderson's best shot at stealing their thunder.
Foreign Film: Beaufort, Israel; The Counterfeiters, Austria; Katyn, Poland; Mongol, Kazakhstan; 12, Russia
Likely winner: Practically no one has seen any of these. The Counterfeiters is rumored to be not only the most accomplished film, but a Holocaust story, and those have a history of winning Oscars.
Adapted Screenplay: Christopher Hampton, Atonement; Sarah Polley, Away from Her; Ronald Harwood, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly; Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men; Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood
Likely winner: Another Coens vs. Anderson grudge match that favors the brothers. It probably helps that voters have heard of No Country for Old Men, a novel by Cormac McCarthy, a recent "Oprah novelist."
Original Screenplay: Diablo Cody, Juno; Nancy Oliver, Lars and the Real Girl; Tony Gilroy, Michael Clayton; Brad Bird, Jan Pinkava and Jim Capobianco, Ratatouille; Tamara Jenkins, The Savages
Likely winner: Junoâs ex-stripper has it all sewn up, unless Diablo Cody backlash elevates Michael Clayton.
Animated Feature Film: Persepolis; Ratatouille; Surf's Up
Likely winner: Persepolis has a serious shot, but Ratatouille has nominations in two other categories and a reputation as one of 2007âs best films. (Plus, last year Pixarâs Cars lost to Happy Feet.)
Art Direction: American Gangster, Atonement, The Golden Compass, Sweeney Todd the Demon Barber of Fleet Street, There Will Be Blood
Likely winner: Sweeney Todd creates an unforgettably stylized London, but I have a hunch Atonement will squeak through here.
Cinematography: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Atonement, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood
Likely winner: Famed cinematographer Roger Deakins competes with himself, having shot Jesse James and No Country. A split vote could help Blood, but No Country remains the favorite.
Sound Mixing: The Bourne Ultimatum, No Country for Old Men, Ratatouille, 3:10 to Yuma, Transformers
Likely winner: Transformers is expected to sweep the sound categories, although Bourne has popularity and respect.
Sound Editing: The Bourne Ultimatum, No Country for Old Men, Ratatouille, There Will Be Blood, Transformers
Likely winner: Like I said, Transformers is expected to sweep the sound categories, although Bourne has popularity and respect.
Original Score: Atonement, Dario Marianelli; The Kite Runner, Alberto Iglesias; Michael Clayton, James Newton Howard; Ratatouille, Michael Giacchino; 3:10 to Yuma, Marco Beltrami
Likely winner: I just love Ratatouilleâs score, so I think itâs no contest (Giacchino also scored The Incredibles and ABCâs âLost.")
Original Song: "Falling Slowly" from Once, Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova; "Happy Working Song" from Enchanted, Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz; "Raise It Up" from August Rush, Jamal Joseph, Charles Mack and Tevin Thomas; "So Close" from Enchanted, Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz; "That's How You Know" from Enchanted, Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz
Likely winner: Enchantedâs multiple nominations may give the statuette to Once as a sleeper favorite. Who wouldn't want to see Hansard and Irglova sing the song and accept the award?
Costume: Across the Universe, Atonement, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, La Vie en Rose, Sweeney Todd the Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Likely winner: Todd and Elizabeth probably have the most memorable costumes, but Atonement, as the sole Best Picture nominee in the category, will probably pull through.
Documentary Feature: No End in Sight, Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience, Sicko, Taxi to the Dark Side, War/Dance
Likely winner: Michael Moore's Sicko is the more impressive film, but No End in Sight has critical momentum, without Moore's, uh, image problems.
Documentary (short subject): "Freeheld," "La Corona (The Crown)," "Salim Baba," "Sari's Mother"
Likely winner: I have no idea, but "Freeheld" (about a dying New Jersey cop who battles county officials for the right to pass her pension on to her longtime lesbian partner) is supposed to have the edge, being deeply emotional and based on a hot-button issue.
Film Editing: The Bourne Ultimatum, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Into the Wild, No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood
Likely winner: The editing is arguably the star of the esteemed Bourne Ultimatum, but the category tends to go lockstep with the Best Picture winner, and No Countryâs tense, dialogue- and music-free scenes resemble a film editing master class. Did you know the Coens edit their own films under the name âRoderick Jaynesâ? If Jaynes wins, who will accept?
Makeup: La Vie en Rose, Norbit, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End
Likely winner: Not only is Rose a real achievement, itâs up against the third damn Pirate movie and Norbit!
Animated Short Film: "I Met the Walrus," "Madame Tutli-Putli," "Meme Les Pigeons Vont au Paradis (Even Pigeons Go to Heaven)," "My Love (Moya Lyubov)," "Peter & the Wolf"
Likely winner: I think the name recognition of the John Lennon-themed âI Met the Walrusâ will carry the day, but âMy Loveâ (from a previous winner in the category) features ravishingly beautiful images.
Live Action Short Film: "At Night," "Il Supplente (The Substitute)," "Le Mozart des Pickpockets (The Mozart of Pickpockets)," "Tanghi Argentini," "The Tonto Woman"
"The Tonto Woman," a gorgeously shot Western, in English, based on an Elmore Leonard story and starring Anthony Quinnâs son, has a ton of Old Hollywood appeal.
Visual Effects: The Golden Compass, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, Transformers
Transformers might be the dumbest movie in the category, but it shows sights youâve never seen in a movie before. (But whereâs 300, an equally dumb visual feast that breaks more ground?)
Best Picture: Atonement, Juno, Michael Clayton, No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood
Likely Winner: No Country for Old Men. Given its strong showing in the criticsâ and guilds awards, it has Barack Obama-like momentum. Then again, Obamaâs victory is hardly a sure thing. Itâs not over until the last superdelegate is counted.