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Best Picture
There Will Be Blood
No Country for Old Men
Michael Clayton

No surprises: Michael Clayton managed to massage every cliche of the law-firm-gone-bad genre into yet another mediocrity. As for Atonement . . . well, read this . Nice to see Juno in the mix. Ellen Goodman must be crying in her NARAL mailer. It’s a race between Blood and No Country .

Best 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 )

No surprises (maybe Jones, who should have been nominated for No Country , the only reason to see that overrated dud). Doesn’t matter: Day-Lewis walks away with it, although I’m glad Mortensen was recognized—wicked performance. The missing names: Don Cheadle for Talk to Me , Emile Hirsch for Sean Penn’s surprisingly not awful Into the Wild , and Frank Langella for Starting Out in the Evening .

Best 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 )

Blanchett is the surprise here: Elizabeth II was generally panned—and denounced by some as anti-Catholic (which, of course, could only help in Hollywood). I think it’s a contest between Christie and Cotilard.

Performance by an actor in a supporting role
Casey Affleck ( The Assassination of Jesse James )
Javier Bardem ( No Country for Old Men )
Philip Seymour Hoffman ( Charlie Wilson’s War )
Hal Holbrook ( Into the Wild )
Tom Wilkinson ( Michael Clayton )

Assume Bardem, who was sufficiently Lurch-like and creepy, but I was sorry that Affleck was nominated for Jesse James and not for the far superior Gone Baby Gone , directed by his brother, Ben, and which presented a moral dilemma that was worthy of intelligent engagement. (Although his Gone role would have put him among the Best Actors, and that category was already stuffed with applicants.)

Performance by an actress in a supporting role
Cate Blanchett ( I’m Not There )
Ruby Dee ( American Gangster )
Saoirse Ronan ( Atonement )
Amy Ryan in “Gone Baby Gone” (Miramax)
Tilda Swinton in “Michael Clayton” (Warner Bros.)

Figure Blanchett for the gender-bender, with Swinton as a close second choice, just to give Clayton something, because it will be blown out of the water once the envelopes are opened.

Best 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 )

So who directed the Best Picture nominated Atonement ? I don’t begrudge Schnabel the nod; it was a fine feat. But dump Michael Clayton and nominate The Diving Bell instead. I wouldn’t be surprised if they gave Best Picture to No Country and Best Director to Anderson. (Remember the Oscars for 1972: The Godfather was Best Picture, but the Best Director was Bob Fosse for Cabaret . I hate when they do that . . . )

Quick note: This was a year for films that gave surprising support for not killing innocent people: Think Juno and Knocked Up , but also The Diving Bell and The Savages , which told stories of people persevering in situations where you would expect the assisted suicide/euthanasia bell to be rung. Into the Wild can also be read as a prose poem on the beauty of life for it’s own sake, despite its pain and disappointments. (It’s also a poignant plea for humility and forgiveness—a lesson learned too late, however.) Even though there is a fine line sometimes between hope and delusion, give hope—and life—a chance. Wow. Can this last? Or will we see the Culture of Death strike back come 2008?

P.S. To make the Oscar presentations more unbearable than usual, Michael Moore’s Sicko was nominated for Best Documentary. Why don’t real documentarians take the Academy to task for consistently nominating films that have more in common with Christopher Guest’s work than with, oh, Shoah ? But figure No End in Sight as the winner.



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