There will be evil at this year’s Academy Awards

Alfred Hitchcock once said, "The more successful the villain, the more successful the picture." He couldn’t have been more right than he will be Oscar Sunday. Not since Hannibal Lector dominated the Oscars in the early ’90s did the villain reign supreme on the red carpet. From the obsessively dangerous oil tycoon of There Will Be Blood and the serial killer barber on Fleet Street Sweeney Todd to the silent hand of death Anton Chigurh of No Country for Old Men to the outlaw Bob Ford in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, one thing is for certain this Sunday. Evil will dominate.

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

This is easily one of the best Oscar Best Picture lineups in quite some time, which also makes it one of the most difficult to judge. While Atonement was the most tragically beautiful, Michael Clayton the most savagely intelligent, Juno the most genuinely heartfelt and There Will Be Blood the most hauntingly epic, No Country for Old Men swept me away from Tommy Lee Jones’ bleak opening narration, and it hasn’t left my side since. While it’s quite possible that Blood will prove to be history’s winner, No Country will be Sunday’s. And rightfully so.

Will win: No Country for Old Men Should win: No Country for Old Men

Best Director Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, No Country for Old Men Tony Gilroy, Michael Clayton Jason Reitman, Juno Julian Schnabel, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

The Coen Brothers have managed to secure a solid niche in the cinematic universe with their dark humor and sadistic violence that seeps through their films. After winning the Oscar for writing Fargo, they are likely to take home their first statues for directing. Still, Anderson should not be overlooked, as there is something to be said of making what could potentially be the next great American epic.

Will win: Ethan and Joel Coen Should win: Paul Thomas Anderson

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 Mortenson, Eastern Promises

While Clooney and Mortenson gave impressively strong performances and Depp’s singing, throat-slicing barber would have garnered him his well-deserved first Oscar any other year, this category is no competition. In what is easily the best performance delivered so far this century, Daniel Day-Lewis is seemingly possessed by the devil that the oil tycoon Daniel Plainview grows to become. A strong submergence into hell, Day-Lewis’ Plainview will be the foundation of which many up-and-coming actors will be striving for years to come.

Will win: Daniel Day-Lewis Should win: Daniel Day-Lewis

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

In a category commendable for more heartbreaking performances rather than ones of pure evil, unlike the male categories, Christie’s tragic turn as an Alzheimer patient who falls out of love with her husband and in love with another patient is most likely to take home the gold. But Page’s heart-filled performance as the pregnant teen pulls on the heartstrings like no other in the category ? a harder feat than the Academy likes to give credit for.

Will win: Julie Christie Should win: Ellen Page

Best Supporting Actor 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

Easily one of the more talented categories this year, this race was finished as soon as the nightmare-inducing murderer Anton Chigurh found his way into our souls. Bardem’s soul-shaking turn at the cattleprod-wielding serial killer is easily the most haunting screen presence since Hannibal Lector. While Affleck is mesmerizing, it was Bardem who haunted my dreams long after I left the theater.

Will win: Javier Bardem Should win: Javier Bardem

Best Supporting Actress Cate Blanchett, I’m Not There Ruby Dee, American Gangster Saoirse Ronan, Atonement Amy Ryan, Gone Baby Gone Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton

In what has become the messiest category of the year, this award is easily the hardest to call in a year full of near shoe-ins. While Dee shook up the category by winning the Screen Actors Guild Awards, which gives her a strong edge since the Academy is made up mostly of actors, and Ryan’s authentically brilliant and saddening performance was considered an early favorite, Blanchette’s uncanny turn as the Bob Dylan-inspired rock star was more than any other actor, male or female, could have done with the role.

Will win: Cate Blanchette Should win: Amy Ryan

Best Adapted Screenplay Atonement Away From Her The Diving Bell and the Butterfly No Country for Old Men There Will Be Blood

The Coen brothers’ adaptation of the depressingly bleak novel by Cormac McCarthy is tightly wound and commendably loyal, sticking to that ambiguous and controversial ending. Still, the dialogue is nearly word-for-word from the novel, proving that they did far less work than they’re getting credit for. While Anderson’s masterful adaptation of Upton Sinclair’s Oil! (Plainview’s "milkshake" speech is already garnering cult status) is different enough so that his screenplay for There Will Be Blood should have found it’s place in the category of Original Screenplays, it is strong enough to make it one of the most compelling screenplays this year.

Will win: No Country for Old Men Should win: There Will Be Blood

Best Original Screenplay Juno Lars and the Real Girl Michael Clayton Ratatouille The Savages

While Tony Gilroy’s Michael Clayton was one of the sharpest and most intelligent thrillers in recent memory, it is Diablo Cody’s authentically genuine work whose unconventional dialogue and seemingly simple construction makes for a great piece of screenplay literature.

Will win: Juno Should win: Juno

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