Become a digitalPLUS subscriber. 99¢ for 4 weeks.

Peek into Oscars crystal ball

"Oh my God, this is a disaster. Now what are we going to do?" lamented one studio publicist handling a bunch of nominees and potential winners.

No, he wasn't talking about the WGA strike or the Super Tuesday primary results.

It was the just-announced cancellation of the Vanity Fair post- Academy Award party that had him sweating. For a weary flack, the VF soiree was always a reliable place to dump off your nominees and winners, but now what happens?

Stay at the Governors Ball until Wolfgang Puck runs out of chocolate miniature Oscars?

Drop them off at the Beverly Hills Hotel for Norby Walter's Night Of 100 (Aging) Stars?

There's always the Elton John AIDS benefit but you have pay for that.

So just when you think this awards season couldn't get any loopier, Graydon Carterputs the shrimp away in solidarity with the writers. Hollywood has officially entered the Twilight Zone.

This has to be a dream scenario for the academy. First, the Golden Globes implode and now Vanity Fair is voluntarily turning the Governors Ball into the place to be après Oscar.

Even though other Oscar party-givers like Entertainment Weekly, Ed Limato and Dani Janssen are also going AWOL that weekend, the star-studded, press-free, super casual, all A-list " Night Before" party over at the Bev Hills Hotel pool on Saturday the 23rd looks to be an even hotter ticket than usual. Since the pricey tickets benefit the Motion Picture and Television Fund (with some of that going to needy writers), the town can feel good about getting jiggy there at least.

Gotta have some fun, especially after a season that just seems to keep on going until the bitter end.

Ballots have been in academy hands for a week. The Oscar nominee lunch is over. Most guilds have already handed out their award. And yet, still no one is slowing down, even on the Q&A circuit.

"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" had a packed screening and Q&A session at the Pacific Design Center on Tuesday night with producer Kathleen Kennedy and cinematographer Janusz Kaminski.

Kennedy told us she cast her Oscar ballot right away, something other members have been indicating as well. They waited until the last minute for the nomination phase, but for the final vote most seem to be mailing it early (ballots are due Feb. 19).

That possibility doesn't stop anyone from getting out there to press the flesh and talk up their contenders.

Monday night, the below-the-line crew of "There Will Be Blood" hit the Harmony Gold event while down the street at the Chateau Marmont, where "La Vie En Rose" best actress nominee Marion Cotillard was spending the last night of her month-long stay in L.A. at a crowded party thrown in her honor by Chopard and Picturehouse.

The next day, she boarded a plane for Paris but promised to return in 10 days for an extended stay that will include the Oscars and a starring role opposite Christian Bale and Johnny Depp in Michael Mann's "Public Enemies," rolling in March.

Also that night, "Atonement" director and show-biz trouper Joe Wright came to a Landmark screening Q&A at 9:30 p.m. following a 14-hour day spent at the Los Angeles Times building where he was shooting his first American movie, "The Soloist" with Robert Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx.

He was joined by his nominated "Atonement" and "Soloist" art directors, costume designer, editor and cinematographer along with screenwriter Christopher Hampton, who was also out earlier signing copies of his script at Book Soup.

No rest for the weary when you're up for 14 BAFTAS and seven Oscars.

Why do they all keep running, even if most of these films are decided underdogs at the Oscars?

Some consultants and ever-hopeful studio execs are now drifting into denial, pointing for inspiration to the heavily unfavored New York Giants' come-from-behind upset win over the Pats on Super Bowl Sunday.

If Eli Manning can throw a last-minute winner into the end zone, why can't Picturehouse, Focus or Searchlight?

By now, most of the pundits have settled on "No Country For Old Men" to grab Oscars for best picture, director, adapted screenplay and supporting actor (Javier Bardem). Daniel Day Lewis and Julie Christie also appear to be locks, say the pundits.

And "Juno's" got it made for original screenplay.

They (and we) say this confidently, since conventional academy wisdom is rarely wrong.

That conventional wisdom says "No Country" has won most of the critics awards along with key indicators PGA, DGA, SAG and likely WGA awards, so it's a slam-dunk for the Oscar too.

Of course, that kind of thinking is why most prognosticators also picked "Brokeback Mountain" to win over "Crash" in 2005. Or "Reds" to succeed over "Chariots Of Fire" in 1981.

This year, the CW says "Juno" can't win because it's a comedy and no pure comedy has won since "Annie Hall" in 1977.

The CW also says "Atonement" can't win because it didn't get a directing nomination or any key guild noms and no movie with that scenario has won since "Grand Hotel" in 1931-32 before there were any Guilds!

And "Michael Clayton," "Atonement" and "Juno" can't possibly win because none of them are nominated for editing and no film has taken best picture without at least an editing nomination since "Ordinary People" 27 years ago.

That leaves our front-runners "No Country" and "There Will Be Blood," but the CW also says neither of them can win because they are similarly violent dramas from the same companies (Miramax and Paramount Vantage) and producer (Scott Rudin), so they will cancel each other out.

But CW says something's got to win, right? Not necessarily.

Take best director, for instance.

Despite their DGA victory (usually a good sign), the Coen brothers can't win because only once in Oscar history ("West Side Story," 1961) have a directing pair actually won and no brothers have ever done it.

"Diving Bell's" Julian Schnabel won't be victorious because no director of a foreign language film has ever won.

"Juno's" Jason Reitman can't possibly win because no comedy helmer has triumphed since Woody Allen 30 years ago and he's … well ... he's Woody Allen so even that doesn't count. Also, no son of another comedy director has ever won and Jason's father is Ivan Reitman ("Ghostbusters"), so why even bother showing up, Jason?

Paul Thomas Anderson ("There Will Be Blood") can't win because no director with three first names has won unless you count "The Sting's" George Roy Hill, but how many people do you know named 'Hill'?

Tony Gilroy ("Michael Clayton") definitely can't win because no first-time director who wasn't also a superstar actor has ever won.

You get the idea? If you can see what happened in the past, you can easily predict the future. In other words, conventional wisdom says one thing but the facts say something entirely different. Like in best actress.

Julie Christie can't win. No one's won a second Oscar 42 years after their first and she last won for "Darling" in 1965.

Cotillard can't win. No performance in French has ever won.

Ellen Page can't win. No one younger than 21 is even allowed to win best actress. We think it's an unwritten academy by-law.

Cate Blanchett as Elizabeth I can't win. No actress who lost the first time has ever received an Oscar for playing the same role again.

And Laura Linney in "The Savages" can't win because no lead performance not at least also nominated for a SAG award has won in either best actor or actress categories.

So what does all this mean? Conventional wisdom tells us we should change our predictions in the office pool to uh, None Of the Above.

In The Season of uncertainty turned season of certainty, we still think the only certain thing is nothing's certain.

If you don't believe us, just ask Lauren Bacall to show you her Oscar some time.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun