1. Best Foreign Language Film
Like the Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress categories, this one’s all sewn up.
A Royal Affair (Denmark)
War Witch (Canada)
Should win: War Witch (starring Congolese actress Rachel Mwanza as a child soldier who can see the dead) and No (starring Gael García Bernal as a fictionalized ad man behind the real-life campaign to remove Chile’s dictator Augusto Pinochet from power) are both terrific films. But weeks after seeing writer-director Michael Haneke’s stark portrait of an elderly husband and wife trapped by the latter’s inexorable physical decline, we’re still thinking about, and getting a wee bit weepy over, Amour.
Will win: Every film that has been nominated for both Best Picture and Best Foreign Language Film in the same year (1969’s Z; 1998’s Life is Beautiful; and 2000’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) has won the latter category. Amour will be no different.
2. Best Feature Documentary
The first four nominees tackle difficult, knotty topics: The Israeli occupation of the West Bank; the history of Israel’s war on terrorism from the men who ran it; the early days of the AIDS crisis; and the epidemic of rape in the U.S. military. The last is a heartwarming story about the uncommon comeback of a Detroit musician. Which one do you think is the favorite to win?
5 Broken Cameras, Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi
The Gatekeepers, Dror Moreh, Philippa Kowarsky, and Estelle Fialon
How to Survive a Plague, David France and Howard Gertler
The Invisible War, Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering
Searching for Sugar Man, Malik Bendjelloul and Simon Chinn
Should win: How to Survive a Plague is a vital reminder of a literal life-or-death struggle that many younger gay men likely know little about. The Invisible War calls attention to a horrific (and horrifically underreported) problem. But The Gatekeepers makes actual history: Director Dror Moreh somehow got the six former heads of Israel’s intelligence agency Shin Bet — who have never been interviewed before — to give candid and riveting accounts of Israel’s constantly fraught struggle for peace and security.
Will win: Searching for Sugar Man — about forgotten Motown musician Sixto Rodriguez, and how he was rediscovered by two South Africans desperate to find the man who was still a legend in their country — is such a crowd pleaser that most have pegged it as the favorite to win. We won’t stand in its way. (But The Gatekeepers could be a good surprise winner for your ballot.)
4. Best Cinematography
Cinematographers (a.k.a. directors of photography, or DPs) work tirelessly with an arsenal of lenses, lights, and filters while strategizing with camera placement and movement, all to fulfill the director’s vision. And usually all audiences will think to themselves is “sooooooo preeeeeeetty.”
Anna Karenina, Seamus McGarvey
Django Unchained, Robert Richardson
Life of Pi, Claudio Miranda
Lincoln, Janusz Kamiński
Skyfall, Roger Deakins
Should win: This is a tough one. Life of Pi’s Claudio Miranda had to figure out how to shoot a lifeboat as if it was really floating in the Pacific Ocean (instead of a studio soundstage in front of giant greenscreens). Anna Karenina’s Seamus McGarvey had to execute director Joe Wright’s bold decision to shoot most of the film as if it was all taking place on stage. But we’re pulling for Roger Deakins’ stunning work on Skyfall, which reinvented how a James Bond film could look without ever losing how a Bond film should feel.
Will win: Skyfall’s Deakins has been nominated a whopping ten times now with no win, so there could be enough “it’s time” sentiment to pull the votes to his favor. But probably not. Plan on Life of Pi taking this one.