One of the more difficult Oscars to predict this category is filled with some of the most beautiful films of the year. These five entries are among some of the best working photographers in motion pictures today. Any one of these nominees has a pretty good shot at winning, but there may be one stand out entry as being the favorite among the voters.
 

Seamus McGarvey – Anna Karenina  

Seamus McGarvey has just one nomination in this category previously for his work on Atonement.  It’s surprising that he hasn’t been nominated more from his strong past work. Shooting everything from period dramas (The Hours), to contemporary (High Fidelity), this Irish cinematographer has had quite the 2012.  Shooting The Avengers for Joss Whedon he got his second Oscar nomination for Anna Karenina. Known for long elaborate takes, lush imagery, and eye for lighting, his work in Karenina shows that he’s the real deal when it comes to photographing costume dramas. Joe Wright’s film was quite high concept by taking Leo Tolstoy’s novel, and setting it in a theater.  While many of its critics had problems with the showy direction everyone could agree on how great it looked.  This movie might have more of a chance at taking home the top honors in production or costume design.

 

Roger Deakins – Skyfall

Does the Academy just assume the great Roger Deakins already has an Oscar?  With a whopping ten nominations with no wins Deakins is one of the best cinematographers working today without an Oscar win.  He’s shot films such as A Serious Man, The Reader, Revolutionary Road, No Country For Old Men, A Beautiful Mind, and The Shawshank Redemption. This is an impressive resume of films, and his work in the new James Bond film Skyfall is no exception. It’s certainly one of the most beautifully photographed Bond films ever made. Deakins’s long over due for a win. An Oscar for him wouldn’t just be a career make up for all the times he’s lost this category, but one that would deserve a win.  Sadly this might not be his year yet again since action films usually don’t take home this prize.
 

Daniel-Day-Lewis

Janusz Kaminski – Lincoln

As Steven Spielberg’s secret weapon Janusz Kaminski has won two Oscars for cinematography, and was nominated just last year for War Horse. His work in Lincoln is exquisite film making.  It would have been a daunting task taking on this material. The strength of the dialogue driven script has a lot of room to be upstaged by it’s phenomenal performances, but Kaminski being the pro that he is made it work by making it a visually memorable experience for its audience. It’s nothing that we wouldn’t expect from a guy who has worked with Spielberg for the past 20 years. Kaminski always has a good shot at taking home another Oscar.

 
Django-Unchained

Robert Richardson – Django Unchained

Robert Richardson won in this category last year for Hugo, and he’s worked on many of Quentin Tarantino’s films from Inglorious Basterds, to the Kill Bill films.  Tarentino’s revisionist western may not be Richardson’s most impressive work, but it’s still one of the best of the year. One of the many strengths of Richardson is that he knows how to masterfully execute a director’s precise vision, which is probably why he works so well with Tarentino. This would be an underdog pick for the Oscar, but one that very well could win him a third.

 
Life-of-Pi

Claudio Miranda – Life of Pi

The strongest nominee has to be Claudio Miranda’s breathtaking camera work in Ang Lee’s Life of Pi. Miranda’s cinematography is a landmark visual achievement.  Many thought the Yan Martel’s bestseller was unfilmable, what with working in the tight space of a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger. (I couldn’t tell what was a real tiger, and what was CGI. In the end does it really matter?) A must see 3D viewing is essential with Pi, and it truly was an emotional experience watching it. Much of this is a testimony to the strengths of Miranda’s camera work.

 

Prediction: Any of these nominees would deserve a win, but Life of Pi will probably get the most responses from voters.  Miranda has had just one nomination before Pi, being for David Fincher’s Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and it’s likely he’ll be recognized for executing the groundbreaking visual achievement of Ang Lee’s film.
 

Road to the Oscars Series

January 14: Best Visual Effects – Ian Murphy

January 16: Best Sound Editing – Ian Murphy

January 18: Best Sound Mixing – Michael Benedict

January 21: Best Cinematography – Scott Youngbauer

January 23: Best Costume Design – Ian Murphy

January 25: Best Makeup and Hairstyling – Rebecca Susmarski

January 28: Best Film Editing – Dan Schindel

January 30: Best Production Design – Scott Youngbauer

February 1: Best Animated Feature – Carlos Aguilar

February 4: Best Documentary Feature – Dan Schindel

February 6: Best Documentary Short Subject – Dan Schindel

February 7: Best Live Action Short – Carlos Aguilar

February 8: Best Animated Short – Kit Bowen

February 10: Best Foreign Language Film – Carlos Aguilar

February 11: Best Original Score – Adam Spunberg

February 12: Best Original Song – Adam Spunberg

February 13: Best Original Screenplay – Dan Schindel

February 14: Best Adapted Screenplay – Jeremy Martin

February 16: Best Supporting Actor – Angela Stern

February 17: Best Supporting Actress – Hiko Mitsuzuka

February 18: Best Actress – Andrew Payne

February 19: Best Actor – Kit Bowen

February 20: Best Director – Andrew Payne

February 21: Best Picture – Kit Bowen

February 24: 85th Annual Academy Awards