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John Wick

The film breathes exhilarating life into its tired premise, thanks to some dazzling action choreography, stylish visuals and–most importantly–a vintage anti-hero performance from Keanu Reeves.

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Low Down

Preiss' movie does a consistently excellent job of explaining the lure of jazz, and the psychology of addicts, their enablers and their children, without explaining…

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Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

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Ebert's predix, Oscar's results

In theory, if I correctly predicted every single Oscar race, nobody could outguess me, and by default, I would win the prize. Alas, that has never, ever happened, and it's unlikely again this year, because as usual I will allow my heart to outsmart my brain in one or two races, which is my annual downfall. In any event, for what they're worth, here are my Academy Award predictions in a year rich with wonderful films.

Prediction: My heart cries out "Juno! Juno! Juno!," but my brain dashes a pail of cold water and sternly corrects me: "No Country for Old Men." To be sure, "There Will Be Blood" cleaned up a lot of the year-end critics' prizes, but is a little too dark and odd for the academy. "Atonement" and "Michael Clayton" are excellent, but don't have the buzz.

Dark horse: "Juno," because the Academy may go for an upbeat audience pleaser. Besides, according to me, it really is the best film of the year.

Winner: "No Country for Old Men"

Prediction: Here I cannot see the odds for predicting anyone but Daniel Day-Lewis, period, for "There Will Be Blood." It's a powerful performance, almost in disguise, with that greasy, oily voice, and it's a way to honor an ambitious, respected film. My vote might go to Tommy Lee Jones, who was so fine in "In the Valley of Elah," but I'm pleased enough he at least got a nomination; pleased, too, by Viggo Mortensen, George Clooney and Johnny Depp, in a strong field. But don't bet against Day-Lewis. In this race, I don't think there is a dark horse.

Winner: Daniel Day-Lewis

Prediction: Ellen Page for "Juno." OK, here's where my heart takes over. My brain says Julie Christie will win, both for her career achievement and for the quality of her work. But my heart says Ellen Page made me want to hug Juno in a performance that was much more difficult than it might have appeared. To deliver Diablo Cody's high-voltage dialogue with such breezy authority and to make the character loveable and three-dimensional was a genuine achievement.

Dark horse: Marion Cotillard in "La Vie en Rose."

Winner: Marion Cotillard

Prediction: Javier Bardem in "No Country for Old Men," don't you think? His weirdo killer with the unpronounceable name and the compressed-air cow stunner made an indelible impression. And it wasn't just for the heartless violence, but for the droll timing of scenes like his exchange with the gas station owner. The other four nominees seem sort of overshadowed, wonderful as they were.

Dark horse: Philip Seymour Hoffman for "Charlie Wilson's War."

Winner: Javier Bardem

Prediction: Ruby Dee for "American Gangster." I think the race is between Cate Blanchett, playing Bob Dylan in "I'm Not There," and the beloved veteran Ruby Dee," the mom of the "American Gangster." The supporting actress has a way of throwing a curveball some years. Does that mean Dee will win? Or maybe Amy Ryan?

Dark horse: Amy Ryan in "Gone Baby Gone."

Winner: Tilda Swinton, "Michael Clayton"

Prediction: Joel and Ethan Coen for "No County for Old Men," and a lot of other great films. The other nominees are all in one sense or another not Hollywood insiders. Well, neither are the Coens, for that matter, but they're better known. Plus, the Coens won the Directors Guild Award last month, and that winner automatically becomes the Oscar front-runner.

Dark horse: Paul Thomas Anderson for "There Will Be Blood."

Winner: Joel Coen and Ethan Coen

Prediction: Diablo Cody for "Juno." She looks like a sure thing. The film benefits so mightily from its screenplay, which is so unconventional in its dialogue that we hardly notice how sure it is in its construction. Here again, I don't see a dark horse.

Winner: Diablo Cody

Prediction: "Ratatouille," hands-down. Period. Case closed. Despite the charm and originality of "Persepolis."

Winner: "Ratatouille"

Prediction: The powerful, irrefutable "No End in Sight," which does some real reporting and obtains useful interviews with insiders who discuss what went wrong with the Iraq invasion.

Dark horse: "War/Dance," kids in an African war zone, being kids.

Winner: Taxi to the Dark Side

The following categories are not on the Outguess Ebert ballot, but here are my fearless picks, anyway.

Prediction: The Coens, for "No Country for Old Men," with their laconic, subtly funny, economical yet quirky dialogue, with a big assist from Cormac McCarthy's original novel.

Dark horse: Paul Thomas Anderson for "There Will Be Blood."

Winner: Joel Coen and Ethan Coen

Prediction: Roger Deakins for his elegant, measured vision and wide open spaces in "No Country for Old Men," commencing with the hypnotic opening shots.

Dark horse: Seamus McGarvey, for "Atonement" and its astonishing tracking shot (no special effects) in the Dunkirk scene.

Winner: Robert Elswit, "There Will Be Blood"

Prediction: Christopher Rouse for "The Bourne Ultimatum." Well, it sure had the most edits, didn't it? Even though the microscopic average shot length gave some viewers the heaves.

Dark horse: Roderick Jaynes for "No Country for Old Men." The award will be accepted on his behalf by the Coen brothers (in-joke).

Winner: "The Bourne Ultimatum"

Prediction: "Falling Slowly" from "Once," not just for the song but for the manner of its presentation. The three nominees from "Enchanted" will cancel one another out.

Dark horse: "Raise It Up" from "August Rush."

Winner: "Falling Slowly"

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