Choosing big-category favorites each week for the weekly Envelope Oscar prognosticator chart is not something I look forward to. I sit there and I choose, but it’s like throwing darts. It feels vaguely irritating because I can’t quite give myself over to saying this film or that performance is “better.” Something’s not kicking in. All I’m certain of is that I don’t like the idea of choosing a comfort-blanket movie for Best Picture simply because it’s soothes, caresses and reassures.

The aroma, the prevailing winds and the dandelion pollen hall have all but convinced me that Charlie Wilson’s War and Sweeney Todd are out of the Best Picture race. I know without question that the top seven “best of the best” are American Gangster, Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead, No Country for Old Men, Once, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Things We Lost in the Fire and Zodiac.

And right behind these are I’m Not There, Atonement , The Bourne Ultimatum, Control, In The Valley of Elah (the rough-cut version minus the Annie Lennox song) and Ratatouile.