Here's a guilty admission: I didn't even watch the Academy Awards last year. Instead, I was taking a much-needed, deserved vacation in Florida and was nowhere near a television at the time.
That didn't stop me from making a few, Oscar-centric predictions before I left, though. And I did check later to see how I did. For those who are wondering, I correctly picked 13 of 18 races, which is pretty good, considering how many of them were supposed to be wide open.
But I will be watching this year. And I'll be hoping for big things from Sunday's ceremonies, which will be hosted by Jon Stewart, from Comedy Central's "The Daily Show." This will be his second stint.
Here are my picks in 18 of the 24 Oscar categories.Best Picture
Nominated: "Atonement," "Juno," "Michael Clayton," "No Country for Old Men," "There Will Be Blood."
Will win: "No Country for Old Men" goes in as the favorite, but there seems to be a sudden groundswell of support for "Juno."Should win: I'd be amused to see The Little Comedy That Could, "Juno," knock off the big boys.
Nominated: 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."
Will win: Day-Lewis, for his fascinating turn as a greedy oilman.Should win: Day-Lewis, despite the silly, over-the-top turn at the end of the movie.
Nominated: Cate Blanchett, "Elizabeth: The Golden Age"; Julie Christie, "Away From Her"; Marion Cotillard, "La Vie en Rose"; Laura Linney, "The Savages"; Ellen Page, "Juno."
Will win: Christie and Linney are co-favorites, but the third time may be the charm for Linney.Should win: Christie was absolutely heartbreaking as an Alzheimer's patient.
Best Supporting Actor
Nominated: 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."
Will win: Bardem's menacing "No Country" character is probably the most memorable of this lot.Should win: Octogenarian Holbrook is a sentimental favorite.
Best Supporting Actress
Nominated: Cate Blanchett, "I'm Not There"; Ruby Dee, "American Gangster"; Saoirse Ronan, "Atonement"; Amy Ryan, "Gone Baby Gone"; Tilda Swinton, "Michael Clayton."
Will win: Ryan has won most of the pre-Oscar awards, but octogenarian Dee is a sentimental favorite as well.Should win: Ryan, for making an unsympathetic character sympathetic.
Nominated: 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."
Will win: The Coens, though Anderson could make it a close race.Should win: Artist-turned-filmmaker Schnabel, for the challenging but worthwhile "Diving Bell."
Other 'sure' bets
Best Adapted Screenplay: Ethan and Joel Coen, "No Country for Old Men"
Best Animated Feature: "Ratatouille"
Best Animated Short: "Moya Lyubov (My Love)"
Best Art Direction: Dante Ferretti and Francesca Lo Schiavo, "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street"
Best Costume Design: Colleen Atwood, "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street"
Best Documentary Feature: "War Dance"
Best Live-Action Short: "Om Natten (At Night)"
Best Makeup: "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End"
Best Original Score: Dario Marianelli, "Atonement"
Best Original Screenplay: Diablo Cody, "Juno"
Best Original Song: "That's How You Know," from "Enchanted"Best Visual Effects: "Transformers"
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