They have this, right?  Because of course they do.  One of the things that Hollywood uses to sell their films are the images of the insane things stunt people do in front of cameras, so why wouldn't they award the men and women who not only put themselves in harm's way, but the ones who coordinate that mayhem and make sure it can be done with as little real danger as possible.

"Haywire" works because Soderbergh knows how to make it feel like things are about to actually spin out of control.  The high-wire work in "The Amazing Spider-Man" is one of the reasons the character felt like he was really swinging through the city… this time, he was.  The bike messengers in "Premium Rush" got a whole lot of digital help, but there are still some moments in the film where the whole charge comes from knowing some lunatic actually did what we're seeing.  "The Bourne Legacy," "The Expendables 2," and even "Dredd" all did their best to keep the importance of real stunts front and center.

But at the end of the day, there's one film that seems to me to exemplify what it is action fans look for when they see a film that is driven in some way by the quality of its stunt work.  "Skyfall" isn't "Skyfall" without the driving, the fighting on the train, the quick frantic fight in that dark office, or any of a dozen other stunt-driven moments.  Overall, it is one elegant dive from a bridge that I find myself returning to when considering this list, and so this Oscar goes to…

Gary Powell, Diz Sharpe, Roger Yuan, Amy Verge


Again… duh.

Daniel Kleinman


For me, it's hard sometimes to take an image out of context, but we've all seen those moments in a movie where suddenly everything comes together in an image that sums up not only that film, but a bigger idea as well.  In "Take This Waltz," there is a moment with Luke Kirby and Michelle Williams on a sort of a tilt-a-whirl that manages to turn "Video Killed The Radio Star" into the most jubilant and beautiful love song ever written, and there are about 30 different looks that Michelle Williams flashes him in the scene that communicate volumes about desire and attraction and lust.  It is an exceptional moment from an exceptional film, and it totally deserves this award…

"Take This Waltz"
Sarah E. Polley, director


There are so many animated films every year now, and I still think there's a frustrating myopia in our business that makes no sense.  Why did we decide early on, en masse, that animation is strictly for children?  Anything you can imagine, you can draw, and with animation, you can make subtext into image, you can tackle any subject and be as abstract or concrete as you choose, and you can render typical budgetary concerns moot in many ways.  And yet, for the most part, every single animated film seems to be aimed directly at children, with occasional nods made to the adults in the audience almost out of obligation.

I liked many of the animated films that came out this year, but there's one in particular that seemed like it was trying to push the medium forward, even if just in steps.  It was not an adult movie, but it definitely plays older than many films released for that audience, and it played with some fairly sophisticated emotional ideas.  It also stands as an example of an old form that has been revitalized and refined through technology without ever losing the significance of the human touch to the final product.

Sam Fell, Chris Butler


I know "Amour" has been a freight train this year, but that's not even the best French-language film of the year, so it certainly can't win the overall category.  I saw some great movies from around the world this year, but anyone who has been reading this column all year long knows full well what I'm going to pick here, and I'm just happy I got to help correct what would have been looked back on later as a horrifying injustice.  Michael Haneke will have plenty of other invites to the dance, but Leos Carax is one of those Cinema Bigfoots, elusive, only rarely glimpsed, and quite possibly magical.  He certainly delivered one of the year's most exciting and profound films, and so I am pleased to give the Oscar to…

"Holy Motors"


Cinematography is not about making pretty pictures.  It can be if that's the kind of film you're making, but ultimately, this is a discipline that is all about delivering an emotional landscape that is appropriate to the story being told, and the best cinematographers are the ones who deliver the exact world that the director is hoping to bring to life.  Robert Richardson and Roger Deakins are both world-class and deeply respected for the right reasons, and "Django Unchained" and "Skyfall" both glow because those guys did everything right.  Anthony Dod Mantle's grimy work on "Dredd" is very impressive, especially when people are using Slo-Mo, the drug that helps drive the film.  One film, though, featured work so jaw-dropping that every conversation I had about this film began with how it looked, and for once, it's not because of bells and whistles.  It's just because of the muscular visual plan that spun such a persuasive world around the actors in it.  I feel good about this one, and I think looking back, people are going to see this not only as a strong film thematically, but as one of the loveliest moments in the death throes of shooting on film.

"The Master"
Mihai Malaimare, Jr.


How can anyone who was not in the room, looking at the choices available and the footage shot and the various takes from each actor, have any idea how to hand out this award?  Editing, especially when it's flawlessly accomplished, is an invisible art, based on hundreds of things that the audience never sees.

In short, I'm not giving this award out because I maintain most people have no idea why they're voting for whatever they're voting for.
A respected critic and commentator for fifteen years, Drew McWeeny helped create the online film community as "Moriarty" at Ain't It Cool News, and now proudly leads two budding Film Nerds in their ongoing movie education.