BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

BFCA and ADG winner “Anna Karenina” seems like a great bet: lush, period, foreign, noticeable. It also feels like the right time to award Sarah Greenwood. But is it losing steam? I fear so. While I remain confident that it will hold on in Best Costume Design, I feel less assured here.

Eve Stewart’s recent win at BAFTA for “Les Misérables”’s very impressive sets could be a sign that momentum is shifting, or at the very least, an indication of how a wide body views this field. Stewart’s very noticeable period work is also the sort that usually does quite well in this category.

Life of Pi”’s fantastical creations are also a possibility (think of the categories that “Avatar” won), especially in light of its guild win in the fantasy category. But it just doesn’t seem right in the face of the two other nominees. But I’ve never understood the big deal about David Gropman’s work here.

“Lincoln”’s painstaking detail is likely too subtle in the absence of a Best Picture victory. And “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” is a just along for the ride.

Production: “Anna Karenina” (alt. “Les Misérables”)

BEST SOUND EDITING

It takes a special sort of cinephile to get truly excited about the race for Best Sound Editing. But I sure am. Of the 10 crafts categories, this is the most open in my view. This week alone, I’ve had three different films in my head as the projected victor.

Both “Argo” and especially “Life of Pi” are plausible winners. The former could benefit from a sweep overall while the latter could pull a “Hugo” mini-sweep in the crafts categories (it even has “Hugo”’s sound editors!), especially with the effects created by the water and the animals. Kris made a very convincing case for it on Tuesday.

I do have a hunch – and I can’t explain it as any more than that – that Paul N.J. Ottosson could earn his third golden guy this year for “Zero Dark Thirty.” I admit this could be bias, but I found the sound effects stuck out in this film, in a good way. I had a similar hunch about "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" winning Best Film Editing last year and that panned out. And while AMPAS likely does not feel obliged to give the film a win, this is its best chance, in my opinion.

Instead, though, I’m going to go with my original intuition: “Skyfall.” A prestigious action flick sticks out in a category otherwise occupied by Best Picture contenders, but none of which have clearly established themselves as a favorite. It won a big prize at the MPSE Awards on Sunday, and the film is clearly respected. It fits the mold of a winner. I also continue to have a perverse intuition that the movie will win Best Original Song and Best Sound Editing, but lose its other three nominations, where Roger Deakins, Thomas Newman and Greg P. Russell have 37 nominations between them without a win. A more poetic reason to win, as the golden anniversary of Bond is celebrated, is that this franchise’s first win was in this category’s predecessor as “Goldfinger” won Best Sound Effects in 1964.

Finally, Wylie Stateman knows a thing or two about continual nominations without a win. He has more nominations than any other nominee this year (six), but he’s one of only two without a victory. (All eight nominees have been nominated before.) I think he’s least likely to win, alas.

Prediction: “Skyfall” (alt. “Zero Dark Thirty”)

BEST SOUND MIXING

I desperately want to predict Greg P. Russell to win this category for “Skyfall.” Not only do I think the mixing that he and Scott Millan created was the best of the nominees but this is the sort of prestigious action film that can triumph in this category (think “Inception” or “The Bourne Ultimatum”). The film is clearly respected in the industry beyond its crafts elements, which differs this title from many of the films for which Russell has been nominated before.

Alas, Russell knows what it’s like to lose to musicals (“Chicago,” “Ray,” “Dreamgirls”). “Les Misérables,” with a crew anchored by Andy Nelson, has already won the CAS and BAFTA awards. Plus, unlike most musicals, it features not only music – sung live at that – but also the noises of a failed revolution. Nelson is also nominated this year for “Lincoln,” the one film in this category to have no chance whatsoever of winning. But his one previous win (“Saving Private Ryan”) also came in a year when he was double-nominated (“The Thin Red Line”). Like William Goldenberg (the year’s other double-nominated crafts contender), Nelson looks likely to reach the winner’s circle.

Remember this, however: “Walk the Line” missed the win after winning both the CAS and BAFTA seven years ago, as did “King Kong,” a prestigious blockbuster from an Oscar-winning director at that!

“Argo” would need to benefit from the film sweeping. I don’t think that will happen. Does anyone really think this was the year’s best sound mix? But it’s possible. The wins of “Slumdog Millionaire” and “The Last Emperor” (to go way back) spring to mind.  And “Life of Pi”’s extraordinary water noises could lead it to a victory, especially if, as noted above, it accumulates a tally of wins similar to “Hugo.”

Prediction: “Les Misérables” (alt. “Skyfall”)

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

See best Original Song, except moreso. Everything that needs to be said I said in the Oscar Guide for this category. In fact, I likely overstated the chances of the four nominees not titled “Life of Pi.”

Prediction: “Life of Pi” (alt. n/a)

Well that’s it. I don't feel exceptionally confident in my predictions of the major categories this year and feel only slightly better about the crafts…I love it!

So, in summation: two categories (Best Original Song and Best Visual Effects) are locked with the key thrown away. Two more (Best Film Editing and Best Costume Design) may seem locked but I feel the key is around somewhere. Four (Best Cinematography, Best Original Score, Best Sound Mixing and Best Production Design) have easily discernible favorites that I won’t bet against but I still have doubts. And then two more (Best Makeup and Hairstyling and especially Best Sound Editing) are COMPLETELY open.

What do you think? What are your predictions in the crafts fields? Your hopes? Your fears? Let us know below!

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