Original Screenplay: Mark Boal’s Zero Dark Thirty fuses journalism with storytelling but got mired in repeated controversies (sometimes unfairly). Meanwhile, Michael Haneke’s Amour script wins over hearts and minds with its elegant end-of-life love story.
Adapted Screenplay: Tony Kushner should win for expanding on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals with Lincoln, capturing both the grandiloquence of the time and its rougher edges. But Chris Terrio’s Argo could sneak across the line.
Film Editing: Argo melds elements of thriller and comedy so deftly that William Goldenberg (who holds another nod in the category for Zero Dark Thirty) is likely to win.
Cinematography: Claudio Miranda’s vivid, sometimes surreal camera work in Life of Pi is our pick, but the Skyfall imagery of Roger Deakins (an Oscarless 10-time nominee) runs a close second.
Production Design: Lincoln production designer Rick Carter and set decorator Jim Erickson, who re-created the shadowy backrooms of Civil War-era Washington, D.C., have the best shot.
Original Score: Mychael Danna mixes Indian instruments, New Age style, and a Western symphony for Life of Pi, making it the clear favorite.
Original Song: Adele and Paul Epworth’s Skyfall theme is licensed to kill.
Sound Editing: We feel the peril of 007’s world thanks to the aural effects created by Skyfall‘s Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers.
Sound Mixing: Combining lip-synched tracks would have been challenging enough, but blending live-sung performances should put the Les Misérables team over the top.
Costume Design: Expect Jacqueline Durran’s stylized version of czarist Russian fashion in Anna Karenina to win the gold, though there could be an uprising by Les Misérables‘ Paco Delgado.
Makeup and Hairstyling: It takes a lot of work to make Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman look as ugly as they do in Les Misérables. Credit Lisa Westcott and Julie Dartnell.
Visual Effects: Anyone who doesn’t think Life of Pi deserves this prize should be forced to sit in a lifeboat with a real Bengal tiger.
Foreign Language Film: Amour is a sure thing.
Documentary Feature: The AIDS doc How to Survive a Plague could pull an upset, but the feel-good Searching for Sugarman is the safer bet.
Documentary Short: A toss-up. But we give the edge to Inocente, the moving story of a homeless teenage artist in California, over Kings Point, about a Florida retirement community.
Animated Feature: Wreck-It Ralph will get the high score.
Animated Short: Disney’s Paperman is a stunner, but voters historically favor indies like Adam and Dog, by a Disney animator who worked on the wordless fable in his spare time.
Live Action Short: We pick the steampunkish sci-fi yarn Death of a Shadow. Possible spoilers: Asad, with a cast of Somali refugees, and Henry, the Amour-like story of an aged French pianist.