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All about Oscar: few sure bets

This undated publicity phoreleased by DreamWorks Twentieth Century Fox shows Daniel Day-Lewis center rear as Abraham Lincoln scene from film

This undated publicity photo released by DreamWorks and Twentieth Century Fox shows, Daniel Day-Lewis, center rear, as Abraham Lincoln, in a scene from the film, "Lincoln." “Lincoln” opens in limited release Nov. 9, 2012, and nationwide Nov. 16, just after the U.S. presidential election. (AP Photo/DreamWorks, Twentieth Century Fox, David James)

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Updated: March 20, 2013 6:25AM

About two weeks ago I went on camera and predicted Academy Award wins for Emmanuelle Riva for best actress and “Lincoln” for best picture.

Don’t listen to that guy. He would have been wrong. I’m changing my picks in those two categories for this, my final final FINAL ballot for the 85th Annual Academy Awards.

With some of the closest races in a generation, this is an extremely tough year — which makes it all the more fun. There have been years in which the winners in all the major categories were foregone conclusions, but with the Oscars less than a week away, there’s still no consensus for best picture, actress or supporting actor.

Not to mention the live action short category. Talk about a cliffhanger!

The key to winning your Oscar pool is to pile up the wins in the “lesser” and technical categories. If you rack up victories in the sound mixing, sound editing and animated short competitions, it gives you a little cushion when your upset call of Joaquin Phoenix for best actor doesn’t pan out.

Here we go.

Director: I’m still trying to figure out how the popular Ben Affleck didn’t get a nomination for “Argo.” Even more egregious was the omission of Kathryn Bigelow, who turned in the directing job of the year for “Zero Dark Thirty.”

With Affleck out of the running, the path is clear for Steven Spielberg to in for “Lincoln.” Spielberg is Hollywood royalty, and it’s been 15 years since he won for “Saving Private Ryan” and 20 years since he took home Oscar for “Schindler’s List.”

Supporting actor: All five nominees already have Oscars on their mantles, so there’s no sentimental or overdue candidate. It comes down to Tommy Lee Jones in “Lincoln” and Robert De Niro in “Silver Linings Playbook.” If not Jones being a notorious crab-ass, an act that has long since worn thin, he would win here. I think De Niro gets his first Oscar since “Raging Bull.”

Supporting actress: The the overwhelming favorite here is Anne Hathaway. Why? She sang a couple of songs and died! Hathaway didn’t even give the best supporting performance by an actress in this movie. But she is going to win.

Here’s hoping Ms. Hathaway eschews the whole breathless, shocked-beyond-belief routine. Come on, how surprised can you be at this point? There are only five humans in the world with a chance of winning, and you’ve taken home the prize in nearly every awards competition show leading up to the Oscars. You can’t be THAT stunned if your name is called.

Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis pretty much won Best Actor when the poster for “Lincoln” was unveiled. He’s the best living actor in the world, and it will be a monumental upset if anyone else wins. Going up against Day-Lewis is the acting equivalent of making the NBA Finals when Michael Jordan was in his prime. You know you’re destined for runner-up status. Hugh Jackman is the closest contender. But Day-Lewis should win and will win.

Actress: Jessica Chastain gives the performance of the year and I hope she wins, but it feels as if “Zero Dark Thirty” is losing steam. Up until a week ago, I figured the academy would vote for the 85-year-old Emmanuelle Riva for “Amour.” But now it feels as if the likable and talented Lawrence is the one to beat. The academy doesn’t release vote totals, but I’m thinking Lawrence will just narrowly edge out Riva, with Chastain and Naomi Watts receiving a decent percentage of votes as well.

Best picture: In the 84-year history of the Academy Awards, only three films have won best picture without the director even getting a nomination. The last time it happened was in 1990, when “Driving Miss Daisy” won. (It also happened with “Wings” in 1929 and “Grand Hotel” in 1932.)

This year will make it four. Of the nine candidates, it’s a two-picture race between “Lincoln” and “Argo.” I’m predicting “Argo” will nose out “Lincoln” in one of the closest best picture races of all time.

The rest of my Oscar ballot:

Original screenplay: Michael Haneke, “Amour.”

Adapted screenplay: Tony Kushner, “Lincoln.”

Animated film: “Wreck-It Ralph.”

Documentary: “Searching for Sugar Man.”

Foreign film: “Amour.”

Cinematography: “Life of Pi.”

Song: “Skyfall.”

Score: “Life of Pi.”

Costume design: “Anna Karenina.”

Makeup and Hairstyling: “Les Miserables.”

Visual effects: “Life of Pi.”

Production design: “Les Miserables.”

Editing: “Zero Dark Thirty.”

Sound mixing: “Les Miserables.”

Sound editing: “Zero Dark Thirty.”

Live action short: “Curfew.”

Documentary short: “Open Heart.”

Animated short: “Paperman.”

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