I’m scared. Why, you may ask? First, I’m wondering where on earth this year went. It seems like yesterday when Tech Support was beginning the 2011-2012 season. Next week’s wrap-up column will be the last of the season as the Oscars are given out Sunday night!

Second, however, I am scared because I am truly not confident in my predictions in the crafts categories this year. Only four – Art Direction, Makeup and the music categories – have me certain. Beyond that, things are quite open. I fear I may embarrass myself. That said, this does make things more exciting than is the case in the “major” categories!

So now, on to a final analysis!

BEST ART DIRECTION

Even detractors admit “Hugo” looked nothing short of extraordinary. It's the winner of all precursors of note in this category and this is the one place where I think the film is assured a statuette. Dante Ferretti and Francesca Lo Schiavo will be winning their third Oscars Sunday night. Stuart Craig and Stephanie McMillan may garner some sympathy votes but not enough to win. They can take consolation in the fact that their work on the “Harry Potter” franchise is going down in history regardless.

Will Win: “Hugo”

Could Win: “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2”

Should Win: “Hugo”

Should Have Been Here: “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy”

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Oy. As Kris and Guy have noted, this is a seemingly easy category that is also agonizingly difficult to predict.

I am going to go with the flow and predict Emmanuel Lubezki will deservedly triumph here for “The Tree of Life.” It does have much of the look of a classic winner and has won all the precursors except the BAFTA and a couple of small critics’ awards. The Best Picture and Best Director nominations also prove support for it within the Academy. The arguments against it are strong, however: the film is divisive, it will not be sweeping the crafts categories and so many other movies have major factors in their favor.

Even so, despite “The Artist”’s black-and-white status, it isn’t that showy a film cinematographically. “Hugo,” while having a great look to it, hasn’t yet triumphed in this category in a precursor and the Academy tends toward external photography. Jeff Cronenweth should be happy with his nomination for “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.”

Rather, I feel the biggest challenger may actually be “War Horse.” This could be paranoia on my part – I felt the cinematography was ridiculously over-the-top. But it sure looks like a painting and the fact that it won (well, tied) the BFCA may be indicative that those not learned in cinematography may blindly vote for it. I also note that the last time Lubezki was nominated and won the ASC, he lost to a film (“Pan’s Labyrinth”) that had been snubbed by the guild entirely. Could history repeat itself?

Will Win: “The Tree of Life”

Could Win: “War Horse”

Should Win: “The Tree of Life”

Should Have Been Here:Drive

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

I originally assumed this was a race between “The Artist” and “Hugo.” Guy’s thorough analysis in the category last week and Kris’s open musings have made me reconsider my approach to it. I still think “Jane Eyre” would have won the BAFTA if it were going to win this Oscar, and it doesn't have the “royal” or even upper class character of films that have won here in recent years despite minimal nominations. Arianne Phillips’s guild win for “W.E.” did not surprise me given the nature of the work and the respect she commands among her peers. But I doubt enough AMPAS members saw the movie, much less liked it. “Anonymous” has everything going for it on paper, but has the same problems as “W.E.”

Therefore, my head leads me to Mark Bridges, who has won the CDG, BAFTA and BFCA for the Best Picture frontrunner. This seems clear indication in my opinion that he could very well win this award on his long overdue first nomination.

However, I am sticking with my gut and predicting Sandy Powell for "Hugo." Her threads seemed to jump out at you more while watching the movie (black-and-white does not help highlight costumes), and that can make all the difference. I mean, as a small example, is anyone really going to forget Sacha Baron Cohen’s blue suit in any short order?

Will Win: “Hugo”

Could Win: “The Artist”

Should Win: “The Artist”

Should Have Been Here: “My Week With Marilyn”

BEST FILM EDITING

As I wrote on Monday, I think this is tremendously difficult category to predict. Cases could be made for all five. When in doubt, go with the Best Picture frontrunner.

Will Win: “The Artist”

Could Win: “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”

Should Win:Moneyball

Should Have Been Here: “Drive”

BEST MAKEUP

Barring a sympathy vote for “Harry Potter” (as did occur at the BFCA), “The Iron Lady” has everything going for it: old age, transforming a famous actress into a famous person, precursor attention. I’d be very surprised if it did not win.

Will Win: “The Iron Lady”

Could Win: “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2”

Should Win: “The Iron Lady”

Should Have Been Here: “War Horse”

BEST MUSIC (ORIGINAL SCORE)

For reasons I stated in my Oscar Guide analysis, I believe “The Artist” will win this handily. Its subsequent winning of the BAFTA only increases my confidence.

Will Win: “The Artist”

Could Win: “War Horse”

Should Win: “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy”

Should Have Been Here: “Jane Eyre”

BEST MUSIC (ORIGINAL SONG)

We have a 50% chance of getting this category right! I think they’ll go for the funny song from the popular film, which leaves Bret McKenzie in very good shape. Sympathy for the non-nominated songs from “The Muppets” can only help matters.

Will Win: “Man or Muppet” from “The Muppets”

Could Win: “Real in Rio” from “Rio”

Should Win: “Man or Muppet” from “The Muppets”

Should Have Been Here: “Life’s a Happy Song” from “The Muppets”

BEST SOUND EDITING

The sound categories usually go together and when they do not, the winner of one is almost always not nominated in the other: 2008’s “Slumdog Millionaire”/”The Dark Knight” split is the only exception since 1967. It seems as though the Academy as a whole does not know much about the distinction between them. Therefore, I am going to mostly analyze them together and come to the same prediction. (I also have a “once burned” reason for doing this, having predicted “The Dark Knight” to win Sound Mixing but not Sound Editing three years ago – I ended up missing both categories as a result.)

“Drive” can likely be safely ruled out, as a sole nominee. I also have difficulty believing the Academy will look past the (lack of) quality of “Transformers: Dark of the Moon,” a.k.a. “Michael Bay blows stuff up.” This is unfortunate, because it has superb sound work. “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” seems too subtle to win here in my opinion.

Therefore, I think this is between “War Horse” and “Hugo.” “War Horse” certainly has the showier sound work, even more so for editing than for mixing. This has been reflected in its success at the MPSE. If I were to predict a split, I’d say “War Horse” takes this and “Hugo” takes Best Sound Mixing. That said, “Hugo” is clearly preferred overall by the Academy. The fact that it has won both BAFTA and the CAS leads me to think it’ll take these categories at the Oscars. That said, the aural work is not as noticeable or memorable as most winners in these categories, so I think it remains quite beatable.

Will Win: “Hugo”

Could Win: “War Horse”

Should Win: “Drive”

Should Have Been Here: “Rango”

BEST SOUND MIXING

For reasons basically stated above, I’m going to go with “Hugo.” The arguments for “War Horse” are weaker here than in Best Sound Editing. While “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” should win, and perhaps Greg Russell’s prominence will pay off, I am doubtful. (The names of the individual nominees are not listed on the ballot.)  I’d love to be wrong about this.

Will Win: “Hugo”

Could Win: “War Horse”

Should Win: “Transformers: Dark of the Moon”

Should Have Been Here: “Super 8”

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

As I said last week, I feel people’s confidence in “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” may be misplaced. Its failure to have any other nominations, and “Hugo”’s status as a Best Picture nominee, are strong marks against it. Given that I feel “Hugo” will be blindly ticked off in many categories, I suspect this will be among them and, unfortunately, the “Apes” will come up short. If “Hugo” simply does not have showy enough visual effects, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2” is still a contender, probably being preferred by AMPAS to “Apes.” Who knows, though? Maybe I have simply overanalyzed a category that should be easy to predict because it is easy to predict.

Will Win:  “Hugo”

Could Win: “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”

Should Win: “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”

Should Have Been Here: “The Tree of Life”

So that’s it. Here’s hoping I don’t embarrass myself Sunday night!  I’ll be back early next week for a final wrap-up of Oscar season 2012.

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