Don't mess with Oscar

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No one messes with the Oscars.

The Academy Awards have been as certain as the sunrise. Ceremonies may have been postponed, but the show has gone on despite wars, assassinations and the fickleness of Mother Nature.

This year, the Writers Guild of America strike was poised to cancel the 80th Annual Academy Awards. But with two weeks to go before the ceremony, the WGA settled the strike and voted to go back to work.

And the show will go on tonight as scheduled at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood.

There are several favorites for Oscar gold including Daniel Day-Lewis for best actor for "There Will Be Blood" and Julie Christie in the best actress category for "Away From Her." And the iconoclastic Joel and Ethan Coen may actually win four awards Sunday evening -- for best film, screenplay, editing and director for their darkly savage contemporary western "No Country for Old Men."

But with the many Oscar surprises and upsets over the last few years -- including "Crash" winning the best film award two years ago over the highly favored "Brokeback Mountain" -- the only thing that is certain is there is no sure thing.

George Clooney is developing as Day-Lewis' main competition for best actor for his performance in "Michael Clayton." French actress Marion Cotillard may pull an upset over the veteran Christie for her performance as Edith Piaf in "La Vie En Rose." And Academy voters may want to bestow long overdue Oscars to octogenarians Hal Holbrook ("Into the Wild") and Ruby Dee ("American Gangster"), who are both contenders in the supporting categories.

And will plucky little indie comedy "Juno" continue its Cinderella ways and sweep the major awards? It's nominated for four awards including best picture, best actress for Ellen Page, best original screenplay for Diablo Cody and best director for Jason Reitman.

The pre-show hosted by Regis Philbin begins at 5 p.m., with the Academy Awards following at 5:30 p.m. on ABC. "The Daily Show's" Jon Stewart returns for his second stint as host.

susan.king@latimes.com

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