I'm saving my beloved category Costume Design for its own post. For now let's talk Cinematography, Production Design, Editing and Visual Effects. At the Oscars Life of Pi is up for all of these categories. It can pick up all of those statues if it can fend off viable threats from Skyfall, Anna Karenina, Argo and The Avengers respectively. Is it likely to? I'd say no but it's a safe bet that it won't go home empty-handed come Oscar night. If Anne Hathaway can use her Golden Globe as "a weapon against self-doubt" than orphaned Pi can surely use an Oscar as blunt heavy object to fend off that tiger. (Life of Pi isn't up for all four of those prizes at The Film Experience's own awards but then no film is.)
We're definitely living in some kind of golden age of cinematography. There are so many great DPs working right now in the 21st century that it feels downright ungrateful each January when only five are held up as the gold standard. So I'm happy to honor an at least partially different list in my own awards. Don't talk to me about Greig Frasier, one of the single brightest stars who this year alone lit Snow White and the Huntsman, Killing Me Softly and Zero Dark Thirty, still being nomination-free --- I CAN'T! Other relative newbies I'm personally excited about are Radium Cheng (Starlet), Bradford Young (Middle of Nowhere), and Mihai Malaimare Jr. (The Master) And that's just scratching the surface of cinematographers who Oscar didn't notice this year. There are so many longtime giants still walking the earth in this field that Oscar couldn't even find room for a talent as big as Darius Wolski (Prometheus) or any of the exciting newbies.
Oscar Nominated: Seamus McGarvey (Anna Karenina), Robert Richardson (Django Unchained), Claudio Miranda (Life of Pi), Roger Deakins (Skyfall) and Janusz Kaminski (Lincoln)
Should Win: McGarvey
Will Win: Miranda -- Pi looks gorgeous through and through and cinematography has lately become the province of vfx epics... though it's hard to tell where computers take over for DPs these days in post
Spoiler Possibility: Skyfall is stunning eye candy which might help Roger Deakins. He's more likely to win for sentimental reasons than for the best-looking Bond. It's ridiculous that he's still waiting for an Oscar at 63 after 10 nominations and such an amazing influential career.
(formerly titled Art Direction at the Oscars)
My guess is that Anna Karenina is headed for the eye candy double (Costumes + Production Design) that I've come to think of as "The Moulin Rouge! Awards" But it's possible that they'll throw this bone to a Best Picture nominee instead.
Oscar Nominated: Anna Karenina (Sarah Greenwood), The Hobbit (Dan Hennah), Life of Pi (David Gropman), Lincoln (Rick Carter), Les Misérables (Eve Stewart)
Should Win: Anna Karenina
Will Win: Anna Karenina
Spoiler Possibility: Life of Pi
We can all agree that this Oscar category will land safely in the hands of Life of Pi, can't we? Damn but that tiger alone, right. Even Hulk can't smash its Oscar dreams.
In a piece about Argo's Oscar chances I already detailed my feelings about this race. I think Argo will take it but if you ask me William Goldenberg (double-nominated) did much stronger work on Zero Dark Thirty so he'll win for the wrong film -- which won't be any kind of Oscar first ;). Goldenberg's work Zero is the only Oscar nominee that crossed over into my ballot.