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The Oscar nominations came out this week, and for once the talk about who got the nods might actually be overshadowed by speculation about whether the writers’ strike will derail the show.

Since the major categories (acting, writing, directing, and Best Picture) will be analyzed to death over the next few weeks by everyone else, let’s focus on the less-heralded nominations. It’s my way of recognizing movie people who did astonishing work behind the camera in 2007. It’s also my way of helping you with your Oscar pool, and if it doesn’t, I’ll give you a full refund. (Editor’s note: There is no implied contract here. Save your breath.)

Cinematography: None of the five nominees were on my personal list of the year’s best cinematography jobs, though I find four of the choices defensible. (The bad pick is Seamus McGarvey’s undistinguished work on Atonement. Don’t be surprised, though, by the nomination of The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, a dull Western that’s nevertheless beautifully photographed by Roger Deakins.) The top contenders figure to be No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood, two sun-drenched nightmares shot near Marfa by Deakins and Robert Elswit, respectively. Which movies did I think were better photographed? Sunshine (Alwin Küchler) and 300 (Larry Fong) for starters, though maybe voters figured they were too heavy on special effects. The same can’t be said for Robert Yeoman’s take on India in The Darjeeling Limited or Ed Lachman’s evocation of ’60s film styles in I’m Not There. None of those were as stone gorgeous as the riotously colorful Thai musical Western Tears of the Black Tiger, too obscure to hope for an Oscar nod but still the most eye-popping film of ’07.

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