For a nail-biting couple of months, it looked as if Hollywood might not stage an Academy Awards because of the writers' strike. Luckily, the labor dispute is likely to be resolved in time. With the Oscars' red carpet ready to roll, here's my list of nominated performances and films I think most deserve to win. They won't all triumph—though most are good bets—but they're the ones I'd love to see take home a golden boy on Feb. 24 (ABC, 8 p.m. ET).

BEST PICTURE

Atonement

Juno

Michael Clayton

No Country for Old Men

bgwhite    



There Will Be Blood

There's not a clunker on the list, meaning it was a swell year for moviegoers. Atonement was a classy literary adaption (and could yet turn out to be the surprise winner), Juno chirpy fun, Michael Clayton an elegant, smart thriller and There Will Be Blood a bold, singular vision. I'm pulling, though, for No Country for Old Men, a modern day western about what happens after a man finds a suitcase stuffed with cash. Easily directors Joel and Ethan Coen's most mature film, this darkly comic drama balanced unbearable suspense with laughs, all the while building inexorably to an emotionally devastating finale.

George Clooney
Michael Clayton

Daniel Day-Lewis
There Will Be Blood

bgwhite    



Johnny Depp
Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Tommy Lee Jones
In the Valley of Elah

Viggo Mortensen
Eastern Promises

Pity his talented fellow nominees. Even if they had stood on their heads, naked, reciting Shakespeare for their entire movies, they'd still have found it impossible to top Daniel Day-Lewis's volcanically intense performance as a determined oilman in There Will Be Blood.

Cate Blanchett
Elizabeth: The Golden Age

Julie Christie
Away from Her

bgwhite    



Marion Cotillard
La Vie en Rose

Laura Linney
The Savages

Ellen Page
Juno

The ever radiant Christie was heartbreaking as a woman losing herself to Alzheimer's in Away from Her. And how cool would it be for the four-time nominee to nab a second Oscar a record 43 years after winning in 1965 for Darling?

Cate Blanchett
I'm Not There

Ruby Dee
American Gangster

Saoirse Ronan
Atonement

Amy Ryan
Gone Baby Gone

bgwhite    



Tilda Swinton
Michael Clayton

Portraying a beer-chugging single mom in Gone Baby Gone, Broadway veteran Amy Ryan was able vividly to squeeze a whole lifetime of hurt and hard times into just a few riveting scenes.

Casey Affleck
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Javier Bardem
No Country for Old Men

bgwhite    



Philip Seymour Hoffman
Charlie Wilson's War

Hal Holbrook
Into the Wild

Tom Wilkinson
Michael Clayton

Javier Bardem's implacable killer, armed with a pneumatic gun and sporting that incongruous Buster Brown do, was the scariest bad guy to stalk a screen in years. But what really distinguished his turn in No Country for Old Men was the wry humor he brought to the role, as if his maniac was in on a cosmic joke everyone else failed to appreciate.

Best Director Brothers: Joel and Ethan Coen, who've never won an Oscar for directing in a two-decade career, deserve to take home gold for No Country for Old Men.

Best Original Song: This one's a breeze: any one of the three nominated songs from Enchanted, though the catchy toe-tapper "That's How You Know" is my personal favorite.

Best Animated Feature: For compelling story plus visual panache, it's hard to beat Ratatouille. Now if only Remy, its master chef rodent hero, would come over to my house to cook.

DEFINITELY, MAYBE Baby-faced Ryan Reynolds none too convincingly plays a divorcing father who, while telling his young daughter (Abigail Breslin) about the three great romances of his life (Elizabeth Banks, Rachel Weisz and Isla Fisher), finally figures out which woman he really loves. Though uneven and meandering, this one is snappier than those recent wretched romantic comedies Fool's Gold and Over Her Dead Body—but not by much. (PG-13)

bgwhite bgwhite   



JUMPER Brevity—it's only 88 minutes long—is the biggest plus going for this soulless sci-fi action movie about a young man (a robotic Hayden Christensen) who can magically teleport himself from one location to another in an instant. While likely to appeal to teen audiences, adult filmgoers will feel that they've seen it before, and done more cleverly. Rachel Bilson, Michael Rooker, Jamie Bell, Samuel L. Jackson and Diane Lane costar. (PG-13)

bgwhite bgwhite   



THE SPIDERWICK CHRONICLES Twins (Freddie Highmore, playing dual roles) discover the house they've moved into is under attack by a horrible monster (Nick Nolte). This fantasy tale is well-acted (a special shout-out to Mary-Louise Parker as the boys' mom) and affecting, but it's way too scary for kids under 8. So what if there's no swearing or nudity? Any film where a kid knifes his dad (knowing he's really a demon in disguise) should be at least PG-13. (PG)

bgwhite bgwhite