By EW Staff
Updated February 27, 2004 at 05:00 AM EST

EDITING Four out of the last five years, this category’s winner hasn’t matched with Best Picture, so don’t count out the urgent City of God or the exciting Master and Commander. Still, though the three-and-a-half-hour Lord of the Rings may seem like the least edited film of the year, a sweep will probably include this prize as well.

ANIMATED FEATURE One thing’s for sure: It won’t be Brother Bear. The delightfully quirky Triplets of Belleville will certainly earn scores of underdog votes, but the commercial and artistic success of Finding Nemo will prevail.

CINEMATOGRAPHY With The Lord of the Rings noticeably absent (even though The Fellowship of the Ring won this trophy), expect the seaborne Master and Commander to trump the landlocked beauty of Cold Mountain and Girl With a Pearl Earring.

ORIGINAL SCORE This year’s composers are all repeat nominees, with 21 nods among them. But just as Howard Shore proved himself lord of the orchestra two years ago with a win for The Fellowship of the Ring, he’ll be the King on Oscar night.

ORIGINAL SONG Cold Mountain’s dual nominations (one for Sting, the other for Elvis Costello and T Bone Burnett) make it the first film in almost a decade to score multiple nods in this race. Which is precisely why it won’t win, splitting its own vote to allow the soaring Return of the King theme, ”Into the West,” sung by Annie Lennox, to pull through.

SOUND/SOUND EDITING Though many people can’t tell these two categories apart, there’s one big difference between them this year: The Lord of the Rings is nominated for only one. Therefore, expect The Return of the King to take the Best Sound trophy, while the startling aural realism of Master and Commander should help it take Best Sound Editing.

ART DIRECTION The Return of the King’s overall momentum should allow it to top The Last Samurai, but don’t discount Girl With a Pearl Earring (which has the virtue of being about an actual artist) as a dark horse.

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM This year, the nominators ignored some very strong films to choose a pack of unknowns. The only film to get an American release so far, Canada’s The Barbarian Invasions, is the presumed front-runner — but anything could happen. (Long-shot fave: Sweden’s boarding-school drama, Evil.)

COSTUME DESIGN ”Best” sometimes means ”Most,” so don’t expect the relative austerity of Girl With a Pearl Earring to triumph here. Instead, we’re predicting a battle between The Return of the King and The Last Samurai — both designed by Ngila Dickson; we think those well-ornamented Samurai duds just might pull an upset here.

MAKEUP Frankly, we’re still wondering why Monster didn’t score a nomination. But in a three-way contest that duplicates the visual-effects race, check off another Return of the King win (though Pirates has a shot).

LIVE ACTION SHORT As the only all-American competitor, Two Soldiers, Aaron Schneider’s adaptation of a William Faulkner story, may have the edge over the American-directed, Czech-shot Most (The Bridge).