Here we go again. A week from today, the nominees for the 86th annual Academy Awards will be announced. Here at Tech Support, we've analyzed each of the 10 crafts categories, and interviewed several of the contenders. It's now a waiting game with final calls to be made. Today, we take a final look at the fields of cinematography, music, makeup and hairstyling and visual effects.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY (Tech Support Analysis)

Perhaps the most high profile of the crafts categories has already had three precursors give their nominations, in the ASC, BAFTA and the BFCA. Emmanuel Lubezki ("Gravity"), tremendously respected by his peers and also nominated for each of these three awards, is a mortal lock for a nomination and will be difficult to beat for the statuette.

After that, Sean Bobbitt ("12 Years a Slave"), Bruno Delbonnel ("Inside Llewyn Davis") and Phedon Papamichael ("Nebraska") have also been nominated for each award, each with a Best Picture contender and each offering gorgeous work. "Inside Llewyn Davis" has been disappointing with the guilds but this branch truly respects Delbonnel, to say nothing of the Coens. "Nebraska," meanwhile, may not be that showy, but Papamichael is overdue for a first nod, and I'd be very surprised if a black-and-white Best Picture contender failed to make the cut. Finally, Bobbitt is not as known as his fellow contenders, but he's behind an epic Best Picture frontrunner. All told, I'm confident predicting these four.

The last slot becomes tricky, and the fact that the ASC nominated seven titles doesn't help matters.
Barry Ackroyd's lensing of "Captain Phillips" was top-notch and BAFTA- and ASC-nominated. But I cannot help but wonder if it's a tad subtle in this group of contenders. Philippe Le Sourd's collaboration with Wong Kar-wai on "The Grandmaster" is the opposite of subtle, however, a full-on visual feast. That it got nominated for the guild award is highly impressive, especially as AMPAS tends to be more favorable to foreign films than the guild. So why doesn't it feel right?

Instead, I'll go with the old standby: Roger Deakins for "Prisoners." Though the film isn't likely to score anywhere else, Deakins is Deakins, cited by the BFCA and his peers in the guild. The lighting and use of rain was pivotal in capturing the mood in this film. There usually is a non-guild nominee to make the cut but there usually aren't seven guild nominees. Plus, the alternatives seem to be struggling. Hoyte Van Hoytema's time will come but "Her"'s cleverness seems outside this branch's comfort zone. Anthony Dod Mantle's work on "Rush" is gorgeous and certainly has its fans but lack of precursor attention is troubling.

Final Predictions
"Inside Llewyn Davis"
"12 Years a Slave"
(alt.: "Captain Phillips")


As per usual, this branch went out on its own limb at the bake-off stage, leaving off seemingly likely nominees such as "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug," "Rush," "12 Years a Slave" and "Lee Daniels' The Butler" in favor of left-field titles such as "The Lone Ranger," "Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters" and "Bad Grandpa." Shortlisting "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" where its predecessor came up short was odd, leaving only "American Hustle" and, to a much lesser extent, "The Great Gatsby" and "Dallas Buyers Club" as typical contenders. To be abundantly clear, I'm not complaining – I love this branch's originality and we foresaw "The Lone Ranger" and "Bad Grandpa" as being contenders.

The branch's originality does not end at the bakeoff stage. I could easily see any of the seven ending up in the final three. I will nonetheless predict the seemingly likeliest nominee – "American Hustle" (the only contender cited by the BFCA and BAFTA). The '70s glam makeup was top-notch but even more important was the hairstyling. While hairstyling frequently takes a backseat in this category, this seems like it could prove an exception. I expect first nominations for this crew.

In second, in my view, would be "Bad Grandpa." Though odd to think of this film as an Oscar nominee, the makeup done on Johnny Knoxville (and, to a lesser extent, Catherine Keener), was absolutely integral and detailed to the nth degree. I suspect the branch will appreciate that. And if you've seen the movie, you'll know that the pre-credits scene has some of the most memorable prosthetics in film history. The team would also be first-time nominees.

As for the last spot? All of the remaining contenders have their pros and cons, but I'm settling on "The Lone Ranger." The film features period, action and battle wounds in a way that other contenders really don't. And the work on Johnny Depp's Tonto, particularly in aging, was top-notch. This is the sort of singular transformation that I suspect the branch will appreciate as they watch the pitches from each film. So I'll put my money on Joel Harlow (who won this award for "Star Trek") and Gloria Pasqua Casny to end up back in the race.

Final Predictions
"American Hustle"
"Bad Grandpa"
"The Lone Ranger"
(alt: "Dallas Buyers Club")