Predicting Oscar winners each year seems more and more redundant.

Oh, it's a film critic's annual ritual (ranking somewhere between yearly compilations of "top 10" movies and box office tallies), and far be it from me to fly in the face of tradition. But by the time you read this, you've likely been so inundated with Oscar specials on radio, television and in print that you might not care if the Academy Awards ceremony was canceled.Besides, it's really just a crap shoot, these critics' predictions. The question becomes, will the Academy remain traditional and do the same old boring thing we expect, or will it surprise us somehow?

If we really thought there'd be any surprises, more of us would tune in instead of allowing Oscar ratings to slip a little lower each year.

So first, the only sure bets: The mega-production numbers will be dull, Cher will wear something ridiculously outrageous, Doris Day will get a standing ovation and the show will go on too long.

Some critics are suggesting the sexiest women to stride on stage will be Melanie Griffith, Kim Basinger and Michelle Pfeiffer.

Nah. They'll be put to shame by Kim Novak, Angie Dickinson and Jessica Rabbit.

Everything else is ostensibly up for grabs, but I predict:

"Rain Man" will sweep every category in which it is nominated, Glenn Close will get an Oscar for "Fatal Attraction" (they'll announce "Dangerous Liaisons," but don't you believe it) and someone will will say something pompous about the importance of it all (is Charlton Heston on this year?).

And as for the specific categories:

BEST PICTURE

Rain Man, because it has everything going for it - popularity, social significance, a powerhouse central performance by Dustin Hoffman and . . . dare I suggest . . . it really was the best film of 1988.

Other nominees are "Mississippi Burning," which has become too controversial; "The Accidental Tourist," which is too quirky; and "Working Girl" and "Dangerous Liaisons," which are really little more than slight comedies, despite the enormous popularity of the former and the opulence of the latter.

BEST ACTRESS

Glenn Close, for "Dangerous Liaisons," because she lost last year for "Fatal Attraction." The Academy loves to kiss and make up - ever since James Stewart lost for "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" and won the next year for "The Philadelphia Story."

If Close loses, however, it would probably be to Jodie Foster for "The Accused," a wonderful performance in a flawed film, and a child actress who has made good as an adult. Other nominees, Melanie Griffith for "Working Girl," Meryl Streep for "A Cry in the Dark" and Sigourney Weaver for "Gorillas in the Mist" are less likely.

BEST ACTOR

Dustin Hoffman, for "Rain Man," and it will be well deserved for his complex, touching portrayal of an autistic savant.

His closest competition is Gene Hackman for a great, multileveled role in "Mississippi Burning," but the film has lost favor recently. The other three nominees are all dark horses: Tom Hanks for "Big," Edward James Olmos for "Stand and Deliver" and Max von Sydow for "Pelle the Conqueror."

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Sigourney Weaver, for "Working Girl," not because she was best, but because she's nominated in two categories and every time that has happened in the past it's gone to that nominee in this category (the most recent example being Jessica Lange, a best actress nominee for "Frances" and winner of best supporting actress in "Tootsie").

Joan Cusack for "Working Girl," Geena Davis for "The Accidental Tourist" (who really had a lead, not a supporting role), Frances McDormand for "Mississippi Burning" and Michelle Pfeiffer for "Dangerous Liaisons" were all very good, but won't win.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Martin Landau, for "Tucker: The Man and His Dream," because he's a talented veteran who's been in bad B-movies for so long he may never get another chance. And he was excellent in "Tucker."

His closest competition is probably Dean Stockwell, another child actor who has become a successful adult actor, for "Married to the Mob," but he probably will have another chance in the future. Kevin Kline, for "A Fish Called Wanda," and River Phoenix, for "Running on Empty," were actually leads in their respective films.

BEST DIRECTOR

Barry Levinson, for "Rain Man," for all the previously stated "Rain Man" reasons, and because he did a wonderful job with a delicate story that could have been blown by the wrong director.

Veteran director Charles Crichton, for "A Fish Called Wanda," is a sentimental vote, and Martin Scorsese, for "The Last Temptation of Christ," is a nod to a talented director for a very controversial film. Mike Nichols' "Working Girl" is too slight and Alan Parker's "Mississippi Burning" is too controversial.

-THOSE ARE MY predictions for the six major categories. As for the rest? Who knows?

After all, I've pompously put my opinions on the line so why look for more areas in which to be deflated.

The envelopes will be opened Wednesday night, and you can watch it at 7 p.m. on Channel 4.

Self-deflating begins Thursday on the cover of the Today Section.