BEST MUSIC - ORIGINAL SONG (Tech Support Analysis)

Always the most difficult category to predict, perhaps Best Original Song will be less so this year given the recent rule changes? Hard to say.

Adele’s haunting “Skyfall” should (not that that always matters) become the first Bond title since “For Your Eyes Only” to find a home here – both the film and tune are more AMPAS-friendly than the ditties that have been snubbed in the meantime. The narrative-friendly placement of “Suddenly” in “Les Misérables” results in it sitting pretty as well, especially as it is a way to acknowledge these giants of composing. And Pixar films have a good track record here, so I’d give the edge to “Learn Me Right” over “Touch the Sky” from “Brave” (though I wouldn’t rule out the latter).

After those three, I find the category becomes tricky, though the idea of giving Ennio Morricone & Elisa a nomination for “Ancora Qui” from “Django Unchained” strikes me as irresistible and I’m guessing AMPAS will feel the same way. But Morricone is not the only vet the branch has the opportunity to cite, as Paul Williams contributed “Still Alive” to the documentary “Paul Williams Still Alive.” It would seem a good way to round out the final five (assuming there is a final five), but Williams has had an even longer time away from a nomination than Morricone. And did the film resonate with anyone?

The chance to go for a reliable old star such as Dolly Parton (“From Here to the Moon and Back” from “Joyful Noise”) or a reliable modern star such as Keith Urban (“For You” from “Act of Valor”) could be AMPAS’s cup of tea. Most likely, however, is the prominent “Pi’s Lullaby” from “Life of Pi.” I do have reservations about its failure to garner precursor citations despite prominent placement in a very prominent film. Of course, I realize the same could be said about “Ancora Qui,” but “Pi’s Lullaby” doesn’t have Morricone on board.

Final Predictions:
"Learn Me Right" from "Brave"
"Ancora Qui" from "Django Unchained"
"Suddenly" from "Les Misérables"
"Pi's Lullaby" from "Life of Pi"
"Skyfall" from "Skyfall"
(alt. "Still Alive" from "Paul Williams Still Alive")

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN (Tech Support Analysis)

The Art Directors Guild nominated 15 titles between period, fantasy and contemporary productions, so its omissions are more telling than its nominees. “Anna Karenina,” “Les Misérables” and to a lesser extent “Lincoln” all strike me as locks for nods. Given the film’s reception from critics and audiences, and the opportunity to honor the late J. Michael Riva, I’d bank on “Django Unchained” showing up here as well. That said, the reliance on exteriors, as well as the difficulties in handicapping Tarantino movies with Oscar (none have been nominated in this category) mean it is far from a lock. All four titles were among the guild nominees in the period category.

There is usually a fantasy title nominated so I’d look to “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” to complete the quintet. But it’s no lock, and I would say the fantastical (if not exactly “fantasy”) “Life of Pi” is breathing down its neck.

Sharon Seymour’s design of “Argo” was meticulous, but I can’t help but feel it’s too subtle to score with so much showiness around. The guild nomination is a boon, however. “Cloud Atlas” and “The Master” are sorely deserving of placements here but the former seems to be poised to survive in few categories and I’m doubtful this will be first among them, while Jack Fisk (behind the former) has only been nominated once in his career despite doing great work for decades. The lack of a guild nomination is especially troubling.

Final Predictions:
“Anna Karenina”
“Django Unchained”
“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”
“Les Misérables”
(alt. “Life of Pi”)

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS (Tech Support Analysis)

“Life of Pi,” “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” and “The Avengers” all have respected visual effects crews, prestige and/or box office, not to mention very noticeable effects. I’d be very surprised if any of the three, which led the way among the nominees of the Visual Effects Society, came up short.

The Dark Knight Rises” has effects slightly more subtle but still very respectable, in a respected film, from a respected crew. I’d say it’s just behind the three leading titles. And I think “Cloud Atlas” which has the “most” visual effects of almost any film of 2012, is best poised to complete the quintet. Though the divisive nature of the film, and the quibbling with some of the work, could pose a problem.

“Prometheus” would be my alternate – the “Alien” series has done very well here and it was cited a few times by the Society. And anomination for Ridley Scott’s movie would result in a variance with the BFCA nominees. But I’m predicting a 5/5 matchup.

“Skyfall,” finally, may be respected but the effects seem too subtle, while “John Carter” has a plethora of effects but seems too floppy. “The Amazing Spider-Man” and “Snow White and the Huntsman” seem too…underwhelming.

Final Predictions:
“The Avengers”
“Cloud Atlas”
“The Dark Knight Rises”
“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”
“Life of Pi”
(alt. “Prometheus”)

That rounds us out today. Check back tomorrow for the conclusion and my full list of predictions in all categories!

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