Here's what "Life of Pi" looked like before visual effects… (Peter Sorel / 20th Century…)
Gold Standard writer Glenn Whipp is sweeping through all 24 Oscar categories this week, assessing the races, predicting the winners and helping you prevail in your Oscar pools. He looked at the shorts categories here and the sound races here. Now he looks at five craft categories rewarding eye-pleasing work.
"Anna Karenina," Seamus McGarvey
"Django Unchained," Robert Richardson
"Life of Pi," Claudio Miranda
"Lincoln," Janusz Kaminski
"Skyfall," Roger Deakins
And the winner is ... "Life of Pi." Voters may not be able to distinguish the line between Miranda's photography and the film's visual effects work, but that probably won't matter. More than any other movie of the season, "Pi" has been hailed for its gorgeous visuals as well as its striking use of 3-D. All those beautiful images were likely dancing in academy members' minds when they filled out their ballots.
Unless ... voters finally decide to reward 10-time nominee Deakins for the wall-to-wall visual splendor in "Skyfall." Deakins took the top prize from the American Society of Cinematographers, but that particular honor hasn't translated into love from the academy on his prior two ASC wins. "Skyfall's" absence in the best picture slate doesn't help Deakins' cause, either.
"Anna Karenina," production design: Sarah Greenwood; set decoration: Katie Spencer
"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," production design: Dan Hennah; set decoration: Ra Vincent and Simon Brigh
"Les Misérables," production design: Eve Stewart; set decoration: Anna Lynch-Robinson
"Life of Pi," production design: David Gropman; set decoration: Anna Pinnock
"Lincoln," production design: Rick Carter; set decoration: Jim Erickson
And the winner is ... "Anna Karenina" won the Art Directors Guild Award, and deservedly so. Even detractors who griped about the movie's artifice were more than happy to celebrate the intricate design and imagination that Greenwood and Spencer brought to "Anna's" theatrical vision of reality.
Unless ... not enough voters saw "Anna," which would probably mean another below-the-line victory for the "Pi" team.
"Anna Karenina," Jacqueline Durran
"Les Misérables," Paco Delgado
"Lincoln," Joanna Johnston
"Mirror Mirror," Eiko Ishioka
"Snow White and the Huntsman," Colleen Atwood
And the winner is ... We'll go with "Anna Karenina" here too, where it's on even more solid footing in a category that often goes to the most lavish work. Three-time nominee Durran should score her first win.
Unless ... voters go with best picture nominee "Les Miserables," which was sumptuous itself, albeit mostly in a grimy, tattered, revolutionary chic kind of way.
MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING
"Hitchcock," Howard Berger, Peter Montagna and Martin Samuel
"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," Peter Swords King, Rick Findlater and Tami Lane
"Les Misérables," Lisa Westcott and Julie Dartnell
And the winner is ... "The Hobbit." Gandalf's beard casts a long shadow.
Unless ... voters decide that since two of the three "Lord of the Rings" movies also won this Oscar, it's time to move in another direction. Then, tear-soaked visions of an aged, dying Jean Valjean probably give the nod to "Les Miz."
"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton
and R. Christopher White
"Life of Pi," Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan De Boer and Donald R. Elliott
"Marvel's The Avengers," Janek Sirrs, Jeff White, Guy Williams and Dan Sudick
"Prometheus," Richard Stammers, Trevor Wood, Charley Henley and Martin Hill
"Snow White and the Huntsman," Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, Philip Brennan, Neil Corbould and Michael Dawson