Hey, look! It’s an Oscar ceremony in March, just like we used to have every year. With all the attention on the Best Picture and acting races as usual, I’m running my third annual rundown of some of the lesser-known categories to help you with your Oscar pool. Just like in previous years, if these picks turn out to be totally wrong, I will personally refund you the newsstand price of this issue.
Cinematography: Mauro Fiore would seem to have the inside track for his work on Avatar, though I’d argue that the look of the film is more down to the special effects than the photography. The other nominees boast some beautiful visuals as well, especially Christian Berger’s haunting black-and-white job on The White Ribbon and Bruno Delbonnel’s deep shadows on Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (not the sort of movie that often gets noticed in this category). The director of photography who got hosed here is Eric Steelberg, who did a phenomenal job on three different movies in 2009. He imparted a bright, burnished look to Up in the Air that was completely different from the sun-drenched, ethereal visual style that he brought to (500) Days of Summer. Throw in the scruffy look that he gave to Bandslam, and he clearly should have been recognized. Perhaps the first two movies split the vote, or maybe his relative youth worked against him. Also deserving: Darius Khondji’s blindingly bright Chéri, Rodrigo Prieto’s work with light and shade in Broken Embraces, Larry Fong’s lush, icy photography on Watchmen, and even Lawrence Sher’s pleasing work on The Hangover.