Is Ang Lee's "Life of Pi" poised to become this year's "Hugo," the CG-heavy movie that scores a host of crafts nominations on its way to a seat at the best picture table? Let's consult the Oscar 8-Ball, that magical portal into the minds and hearts and, in the rare, applicable instance, the souls of academy members and how they'll be voting this awards season.
It is decidedly so: Like "Hugo," "Pi" uses its 3-D and dazzling visual effects in the service of emotional storytelling. That makes it not just a sure-fire VFX nominee, but also the winner of the category since best pic nominees have beaten fanboy favorites there four years running. And, yes, we see "Pi" making the cut for best picture since, along with visual effects, it's likely to score nominations for Claudio Miranda's cinematography (so essential to the film's success), Mychael Danna's multicultural score and in both the sound editing and sound mixing categories. It's also a strong contender for production design and editing. That's seven solid possibilities, and that kind of below-the-line support typically translates into glory for the film itself.
Outlook good: A best picture nomination would bode well for Lee, a past winner for "Brokeback Mountain." But some of his main competitors either have Oscars of their own (Steven Spielberg, Kathryn Bigelow, Tom Hooper) or have been nominated in the past (David O. Russell, Paul Thomas Anderson) or belong to the well-populated actor's branch and have been steadily building a fine career behind the camera (Ben Affleck). Lee could well make the cut, both for the quality of the work and the ambition of tackling such a difficult adaptation.