Dear Dana and Kim,
To answer the initial questions: No, I don't find that this year's Oscar run-up has a surprising amount of juice. No, I'm not entirely surprised that something connected with the Oscars could have juice at all. Consider, for starters, the all-liquid diets that actresses adopt in preparation for the red carpet.
I fail to feel completely juiced for the 80th Academy Awards—the octogintennial Oscars—for reasons precisely having to do with the predictability Dana describes. The lock Helen Mirren had on her prize last year now looks like a mere diary clasp compared with Day-Lewis' deadbolt. Or, to put it another way, if you will permit me to abuse his film's signature line of dialogue just this once, that milkshake has been drunk.
By the same token, No Country for Old Men is shooting toward victory faster than a bolt out of a pneumatic cattle gun. Sorry, sorry—I know I'm dallying in noxiously trite figures of speech, but I've been immersing myself in the work of Oscar prognosticators and that can be the tone of the language. (It's more addicting than the morphine that ravaged Edith Piaf, played by the relative newcomer and possible dark horse Marion Cotillard in La Vie en Rose!) Some persons in those quarters are saying that Juno is making a late sprint for the best picture prize. The film's supposed assets include accessibility, box-office success, and its uplift, as compared with films about bottomless greed, primal evil, the Battle of Dunkirk, and George Clooney battling primal greed.
Whatevs, as Miss MacGuff would surely say. No way does the academy—which, as everyone knows, is a prestige-mongering trade group dominated by the senescent—bite for that relative trifle. That said, if Juno does pull off an upset, I will gladly take Dana up on that laundry offer. This includes delicates, right?
I would argue that No Country is a far greater film than There Will Be Blood—not least because Day-Lewis' performance in its second half epitomizes the kind of insistent, hyperbolic, flamboyantly actorly turn for which the academy regularly swoons—and I would be happy to debate the matter over dinner with either of you. You bring the wine, and if the gorgeously constructed Michael Clayton fails to win best original screenplay, I'll bring an irrational sense of resentment. Message: Icare. Just a little, like very many people, helplessly hoping to bask in some glamour, trying again to connect with a moviegoing emotion, hungry for cotton candy.
To take a stab at some subsequent questions: Sarah Polley is a bohemian intellectual who does not much sweat this kind of nonsense. Alba and Blanchett will look about as pregnant as Juno MacGuff in the sixth reel. I have an unfounded hunch that matters of presidential politics will be confined to Stewart's monologue and the speeches of one or two muckraking documentary makers.
Suggested tiebreaker for betting pools: How many strike jokes?